Perseus is a major hero from Greek mythology best known for his clever decapitation of Medusa, the monster who turned all who looked at her face into stone. He also rescued Andromeda from the sea monster. Like most of the mythological heroes, the genealogy of Perseus makes him the son of a god and a mortal. Perseus is the legendary founder of the Peloponnesian city of Mycenae, home of Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek forces in the Trojan War, and the father of the legendary ancestor of the Persians, Perses.
Family of Perseus
The mother of Perseus was Danae, whose father was Acrisius of Argos. Danae conceived Perseus when Zeus, taking the form of a golden shower, impregnated her.
Electryon is one of Perseus's sons. Electryon's daughter was Alcmena, Hercules' mother. The other sons of Perseus and Andromeda are Perses, Alcaeus, Heleus, Mestor, and Sthenelus. They had one daughter, Gorgophone.
Infancy of Perseus
An oracle told Acrisius that a child of his daughter Danae would kill him, so Acrisius did what he could to keep Danae from men, but he couldn't keep out Zeus and his ability to shift into different forms. After Danae gave birth, Acrisius sent her and her son away by locking them in a chest and putting it to sea. The chest washed up on the island of Seriphus which was ruled by Polydectes.
The Trials of Perseus
Polydectes, who was trying to woo Danae, thought Perseus a nuisance, so he sent Perseus on an impossible quest: to bring back the head of Medusa. With the help of Athena and Hermes, a polished shield for a mirror, and some other useful items the one-shared-eyed Graeae helped him locate, Perseus was able to cut off the head of Medusa without being turned to stone. He then enclosed the severed head in a sack or wallet.
Perseus and Andromeda
On his travels, Perseus fell in love with a maiden named Andromeda who was paying for the boasts of her family (like Psyche in Apuleius's Golden Ass) by being exposed to a sea monster. Perseus agreed to kill the monster if he could marry Andromeda, with some predictable obstacles to overcome.
Perseus Returns Home
When Perseus came home he found King Polydectes behaving badly, so he showed the king the very prize he had asked Perseus to fetch, the head of Medusa. Polydectes turned to stone.
The End of the Medusa Head
The Medusa head was a powerful weapon, but Perseus was willing to give it up to Athena, who placed it in the center of her shield.
Perseus Fulfills the Oracle
Perseus then went to Argos and Larissa to compete in athletic events. There, he accidentally killed his Grandfather Acrisius when a wind swept away a discus he was holding. Perseus then went to Argos to claim his inheritance.
Since Perseus had killed his grandfather, he felt bad about reigning in his stead, so he went to the Tiryns where he found the ruler, Megapenthes, willing to exchange kingdoms. Megapenthes took Argos, and Perseus, Tiryns. Later Perseus founded the nearby city of Mycenae, which is in the Argolis in the Peloponnese.
Death of Perseus
Another Megapenthes killed Perseus. This Megapenthes was a son of Proteus and a half-brother of Perseus. After his death, Perseus was made immortal and put among the stars. Today, Perseus is still the name of a constellation in the northern sky.
Perseus and His Descendants
The Perseids, a term referring to the descendants of Perseus and Andromeda's son Perses, is also the name of a summer meteor shower that comes from the constellation of Perseus. Among the human Perseids, the most famous is Hercules (Heracles).
- Parada, Carlos. "Perseus." Greek Mythology Link.