The myth of Perseus and Andromeda is one of the best known and longest survival, in fact, wearing another garment, it continues today.
Around the hero Perseus articulate several myths and elements, some very old dating back to prehistoric times, to the days of Paleolithic hunters, and more recent Neolithic and early monarchies. If its origin is very old, its survival up to today, in some myths, such as the famous "St. George and the Dragon" and other Germanic and Saxon (Beowulf, Siegfried …). It will accumulate many elements common in myths and folk tales of monsters, captive princesses and savior heroes.
First we summarize briefly the myth, then propose a fundamentally remade myth reading on Ovid's version in his Metamorphoses and finally do some annotations, which more than provide a narrative explanation of the tale, what they do is open doors to the complexity that all myths contain.
Summary: it is predicted to a king to be precisely his offspring who end his life; to stop it, he encloses his daughter in a camera, but she nevertheless conceives a son of a god; mother and son are thrown into the water, but survive and are bred by their savior in another country; adult once the hero must to fulfill a job or target impossible to avoid the king's desire to take his mother; achieves with the help of other gods fulfill the task ; on the return trip frees a maiden, daughter of the king of Ethiopia, whom a sea monster has chained and thus ends the threat and permanent desolation that the monster causes to the country of the maiden; in return receives the hand of the princess; later participates in athletic games and throws a disk fatally hitting his grandfather, thus fulfilling the unavoidable initial prophecy.
Acrisius, king of the mighty city of Argos, in ancient Greece, longed to have children and asked the oracle, which announces the future, how could have children. But the god of the oracle, the handsome and radiant Apollo, enigmatic answered:
–Your daughter Danae will give you a grandchild, strong and courageous, to be the cause of your own death.
Scared Acrisius built a bronze underground chamber in which locked his daughter Danae, trying to prevent the fulfillment of the terrible advertisement.
But the measures and precautions of men which oppose the plan of the gods are useless. Danae was impregnated by Zeus, by Jupiter himself, the father of the gods, converted in golden shower, and gave birth to a beautiful child. The rain of metal that buys hearts and opens all doors, also penetrated through the cracks bronze chamber, seemingly inaccessible, and the seductive god almighty, unfaithful again his wife, the goddess Juno, fathered the argive girl the hero Perseus, as such are the status of descendants of gods and mortals, they are heroes.
Born in the secret underground chamber, the child grew up healthy and strong for a few months without his grandfather could know of its existence. One day, the playful child screamed and that Acrisius heard aback. But soon, knowing what happened and aware of future danger, refused to admit the divine intervention of seductive Zeus, locked in a wooden chest his daughter Danae and his grandson Perseus and cast them into the sea. The chest, tossed by the waves, went to the island of Seriphos. The fisherman Dictys, Polidectes brother, the king of the island, took to his house the poor castaways. Dictis raised Perseus like a son, who became a beautiful teenager of extraordinary courage.
Meanwhile the king Polidectes had fallen passionately the beautiful Danae, but the young Perseus, protector of his mother prevented him from satisfying his mad passion. One day the king held a banquet and invited to the table their own noble friends and Perseus. Asked by King about what gift the guests thought to offer him, all felt that the most appropriate gift for a king was a horse, but the young Perseus, proud and daring, swashbuckling answered
– Not present either a fast and agile horse, but I would bring my sovereign the head of the Gorgon herself if need be.
The next day all noble princes brought to the king the promised horse while the reckless Perseus came up with empty hands. Irritated Polidectes ordered to march immediately for the Gorgon's head and added
– Otherwise, if you come back without the terrible monster head, I will seize your mother by force.
The purpose was very difficult, even impossible to perform, even for a hero like Perseus. But the gods Hermes and Athena, solicitous of the offspring of Zeus and therefore his father's brother, came to his aid and told him how to achieve their purpose.
On the advice of the gods, Perseus went in search of the three Graeae (Enyo, Pemphredo and Deino) daughters of sea god Forcis, who were born "old" and were never young and living at the evening home where the sun never shines.
The Phorcydes had one eye and a tooth for the three that they used in turn and Perseus skillfully stole them and refused to return them until they show him the path that would lead him to the palace of the "Nymphs", possessing magic tools that will be very useful and will reveal the procedure to end with the terrible Gorgon.
The hero Perseus received from the nymphs their winged sandals and a scrip or wallet, and the helmet of Hades that makes invisible whom was wearing it to protect his head. Hermes also gave him a hard and sharp flint sickle.
Equipped in this way, Perseus came flying to the mansion of the three Gorgons (Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa) , next to the blue ocean in the Atlantic coast of Spain. These were terrible bright-eyed monsters with snakes around his head, with huge fangs similar to those of wild boar, with a huge tongue coming out of their mouths and hard Dragonscale protecting their neck. Their hands were of shiny bronze and had gold wings that allowed them to fly from one place to another. Their glance turned to stone those who dared to look at them from the front. Of the three sisters only Medusa was mortal.
The work seemed impossible if Perseus had not had divine help. He stepped always back and stealthy flying with his winged sandals and found them sound asleep and confident. Athena came to the aid of the hero and held in appropriate position her shield of burnished bronze in which Perseus saw the face of Medusa reflected as in a mirror, thus avoiding the direct gaze that would have petrified and with accurate cut severed his head with the sharp flint sickle.
From her hurt neck instantly sprang Pegasus, the winged horse, and the giant Chrysaor, "he of the golden sword", both children of intercourse with the god Poseidon when Gorgon was beautiful in a temple of Athena. The desecration of sacred temple was punished by her terrible appearance.
Perseus fast picked head of the Gorgon Medusa and inserted it into the bag, avoiding any cross of his eyes with the eyes of decapitated monster and started back, protected by Hades helmet that made him invisible to the sisters who furious sought him.
Perseus quickly undertook the long way back, which led him first to the country where Atlas reigned in the far West, where it was the garden of the golden apples, the apples of the Hesperides, the Western. The giant Atlas faced Perseus fearing that he will carry the golden apples and tried to oust him.
Perseus extracted from the sac Medusa's head that even after death retained its petrifying power and back turned shows it to Atlas, who at the time was turned into the Atlas mountain range in northwest Africa. This mountain holds since heaven with its stars.
On his way back, while he furrowed the thick air, passing through the torrid Ethiopia, warned by piercing cries for help, he saw from the top a beautiful blond hair young girl who was tied to a rock off the coast, exposed to the dangers of deep and violent sea. The hero, sensible to the charms of beautiful young, turned the course of his journey and came up with decision, impelled by passion that arose in his heart.
– What is your name, beautiful girl with that your parents and neighbors recognize you among all? Who has tied up with such cruelty and hardness your frail arms to that naked rock and exposes you to the dangers of the monsters that inhabit the deep sea? What reason can exist for such disproportionate punishment, forgetting your beauty and youth?
Perseus asked anxiously and impatiently heard plaintive and sorrowful voice saying to him:
– I'm Andromeda, daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, kings of this fiery country called Ethiopia. I pray you do not add to my pain and suffering so useless question. I'll just say that I pay, by punishment from the gods, a guilt that is not mine.
The nearby Cepheus sighed, whom, while retaining his royal handsomeness, his eyes became moist with sadness, hugging his beautiful wife Cassiopeia, whose extraordinary beauty was the cause of these many misfortunes.
Indeed, the reckless and vain queen Cassiopeia, proud of her beauty, overcome boasted beauty herself and her daughter all the Nereids, the fifty daughters of Nereus, Ocean granddaughters, all beautiful, who live at the bottom of sea and having fun swimming in the waves with her hair in the wind. He claimed in his madness be more beautiful than Thetis, mother of Achilles, or than Amphitrite Poseidon's wife, or gentle Galatea. The jealous Nereids, asked Poseidon, god of the seas, who runs the oceans making waves with his car, that avenge this insult and so proud claim.
And God sent a terrible sea monster, a cetacean of enormous dimensions
– Go, Cetacea, to the country of Cassiopeia, devastate its land, flood its coast and kill its people and its livestock.
The monster did it again and again. The people, frightened, asked the king to save them. Cepheus consulted the oracle and he told him:
– Miserable king, there is only one possible salvation. You must offer your daughter Andromeda in sacrifice as expiation. She should be chained at the sea and wait for the terrible monster to devour her.
Knowing Perseus of that is happened and inflamed his heart with love, proposed to Cepheus:
Unfortunate, I will deliver your daughter Andromeda and will save her from the monster which is already seen in the distance if you give me that she were my wife.
Cepheus agreed immediately Cepheus and Perseus set out ready to fight. The monster Cetacea appeared in the distance, cocking its head into the waves and swam to shore as fast. Perseus rose swiftly with his winged sandals to project on it and nail over and over deadly sword in the scaly back. Blood dyed red water. With an upward, dodged the fiery dragon attack and fell again to plunge the sword deep in his heart. Mortally wounded, the monster Cetacean sank forever in deep waters, being free Andromeda and her country from announced destruction.
Cepheus, in compliance with the agreement, gave his daughter to the hero Perseus. But the sweet Andromeda was destined before to marry her uncle Phineus, who did not accept the wedding and angrily confronted the hero. Perseus defended bravely himself and drew from his sack the head of the terrible Medusa in front of the large number of enemies who attacked him and they were immediately turned to stone those who incautiously looked at.
Perseus went with his wife Andromeda to Seriphus to meet his mother Danae. Polidectes, unable to suppress hisr desires, would eventually take over Danae by force, who was forced to take refuge at the inviolable altar. Perseus took revenge from Polidectes and his friends, whose the sight of Medusa also made stone statues.
He gave the kingdom of Seriphus to his adoptive father Dictis, returned the winged sandals to Hermes, and the bag and the helmet of Hades which made him invisible to the Nymphs. The goddess Athena, who usually is armed from head to foot, meanwhile placed Medusa's head in the center of her aegis or shield, custom indeed have imitated since then the brave soldiers to petrify those facing in the fight.
Perseus went later with Andromeda to Argos, his homeland, to be reunited with his grandfather Acrisius, who, fearing the fulfillment that oracle which announced his death at the hands of his grandson, had fled to the neighboring country of the Pelasgians. Their king had organized funeral games in honor of his deceased father.
The young hero Perseus in turn came to participate in the games looking for the honor of victory. When his turn came tensed his strong and flexible muscles, fast turned on itself and threw forcefully the discus in the distance, with such bad luck that struck his grandfather Acrisius, sitting among the spectators of the games, causing his death and thus fulfilling the unfailing oracle that no one can escape.
He paid homage to his grandfather, but not wanting to return to Argos changed its throne by that one of Tiryns, where his cousin Megapenthes reigned. Perseus, who still lived for many years in the company of Andromeda, founded and fortified the city of Mycenae, whose walls were built by the Cyclops with large stones. Their first child, Perse, gave rise to the people of Persia.
By the uniqueness of his birth and his glorious deeds Perseus was raised to the heavens by the goddess Athena and there is still, holding in his hand the monstrous head of Medusa, which petrifies the beholder, with his eye, the star Algol, blinking, looking intermittently. With him also Athena honored sweet Andromeda with a place among the stars.
Cetacea, the sea monster, is also there, waiting and eternally chasing Andromeda, whom Perseus protects.
Poseidon also wanted to honor Cepheus and his reckless wife Cassiopeia, in view of mortals, who have to take good account of the consequences of inappropriate behavior.
Some explanatory or merely suggestive notes:
Some of the items would go back to the days of Paleolithic hunters and totem culture, for examploe, the helmet of Hades which makes invisible, as befits to the realm of the dead, the realm of shadows; nymphs who show the way, monsters at the entrance of hell, magical instruments, etc..
Others, like monster ravaging crops and lands of Ethiopia, correspond to the days of agriculture.
To the heroic age of warring families correspond elements such as the locked princess, the secretly raised son, the question of succession, etc..
They are typical elements of these stories the subject of hero who must make a difficult undertaking purpose: frequently travel to an unfamiliar place (usually the journey to the other world); the intermediaries who help him with magical instruments to carry out your purpose (the helmet of Hades, god of the underworld, which makes invisible, the sack, the shield, the ax that the nymphs provide him), the help of someone who shows the way (the Graeae), monstrous looking fierce beings (in this case with one eye and one tooth) protecting and preventing access to the world of the dead.
To the previous case is added another mythical story as second part, whose subject is the release of Princess and the fall in love of the girl or daughter of the king and marry her as a prize upon release the country from the jaws of the monster (sea monster in this case and thus also connected to the underworld). This issue of the release of the princess is of Eastern origin; in Greece does not appear until VI century BC.
Generally the hero occupies the throne of the father of his wife when he marries (the throne is passed through the maternal line), sometimes as in this myth, once again taking over the throne of his country with his new wife. In any case so arises and is solved the replace of the old king who has lost his (magic) powers.
That the king's death is announced with an oracle reflects a later stage to one in which the old king's death was a given preset, but now when power passes from father to son, his death is unnatural …
The theme of abduction by a monster is initially closely linked to hunting as economic base, from which comes this reason: the kidnapper takes the kidnapped. Here she is given instead. The forms of this delivery correspond to the rite of presentation of maidens to water demons and gods, in order to influence the country fertilization. (Andromeda).
The dragon, the sea monster, the fabulous and fantastic animals (dragon or snake, Egyptian sphinx, centaurs, etc..) are a more recent phenomenon; these fantasy animals are the product of later culture and even urban culture, when the man had begun to lose their intimate and organic connection to animals, although before it is possible to find embryonic forms of compounds animals.
The serpent, the dragon, appears more or less together with anthropomorphic gods. The totemic ancestor in animal type is not a god in the sense that it is the anthropomorphic Zeus or amorphous Holy Spirit. The divinity is developed from the animal.
With the advent of agriculture and cities the home motley totemic animal world begins to lose its reality. It is verified an anthropomorphization process. Things are changing over to regulate agriculture, to the breeding of cattle and to early state formation. The anthropomorphic gods are created in this phase. For the farmer it is important that his gods were governing the waters and so his gods have human aspect.
The animals are acquiring body of a man, in some cases the last thing to disappear is the nose of the animal (wolf-headed Anubis, hawk Orus …). Also the souls of the dead are represented as birds with human heads.
The anthropomorphic process is almost done in the figure of certain heroes like Hermes or Mercury, who keeps a little wings on his feet until the animal finally becomes an attribute of God: and so Zeus is depicted with an eagle.
Human sacrifice, very old, (subject related to the human flesh tribute) survived even in classical Greek and Roman times, although the slaughtered are now prisoners of war.
But human sacrifices conflict with the ways of agriculture and social life forms that have developed and with family relations corresponding to them. Also they collide with the forms of religion that has already begun to create the gods.
Moreover, with the emergence of the land property comes a new form of family relationships. The love of parents can not handle the sacrifice of a child and to prevent it, appears the stranger hero who frees the maiden. (Perseus, Andromeda).
The most basic allegorical interpretation of episode of Zeus fertilizing Danae, is to identify Jupiter and rain, and Danae locked in the basement is the fertilized ground. The anthropologists Frazer and Sternberg have long demonstrated that sex between a human and a god served to increase the yield of the land.
Often this myth is symbolized also the omnipotent power of money, which opens the tightly closed doors, making the myth a reading moralizing.
More complex readings of the myth have been made, as psychological, according to Jung, in which the knight fight with himself to rescue his unconscious feminine side.
The dragon can also mean space and rugged wilderness versus civilized space of the city. Sometimes the dragon is gone and taken as a domestic animal, an integrated into the urban order animal, as with St. Martha, who dominated the dragon Tarasque with holy water, and let it to the city,bound with his own belt (James of Voragine tells it in his Legenda aurea (golden Legend).
Moreover, Andromeda, also known as The Chained Maiden, was one of the oldest constellations, which probably was named in the Mesopotamian region. It is bordered to the north by Cassiopeia and Perseus, on the east by Perseus, to the south by the Fish and the Triangle and on west by Lacerta and Pegasus, a sign and a guide for sailors with her white outstretched in the sky arms.
The eye of the head of Medusa is Algol, the demon in Arabic, that blinks to be obscured by another nearby star.
Cetus, Cetacea, is also in ancient Mesopotamia the cosmic dragon Tiamat facing the hero.
Cepheus, the King, is also one of the oldest constellations. The Chinese see it as the famous coachman about 950 BC. The nomadic Arabs see it as a shepherd with his dog and cattle.
Cassiopeia is known as the celestial "W" or "M".
Another version tells that Cassiopeia was chained to the throne by his vanity and placed towards the polar star, but sometimes it hangs upside down in an undignified position as a warning to all.
Interestingly the Romans knew her as "the wife of Carro" and Arabs as "woman in the car."
Pegasus, the winged horse, was raised by Athena as a constellation. Pegasus works in several myths, in it of the Perseus and especially in it of the Bellerophon. In the myth of Perseus, Pegasus was born from severed neck of Gorgon or from fertilized land fertilized by the blood of Gorgon falling from head that Perseus carried in his knapsack after killing her.
Regarding to Bellerophon, Athena led the horse by the bridle to Bellerophon. With this horse Bellerophon could kill the Chimera (monster part lion and part goat bouncing flames by mouth) and defeat the Amazons ( women descended from Ares, god of war and Harmony; (α-μαζών, a-mazon = which does not have breast).
After the death of Bellerophon, Pegasus returned to Olympus, the abode of the gods. When the singing contest that pitted the daughters of Piero (Pierides) with the Muses on Mount Helicon, took place, this, glad, was swelling to threaten to get to heaven. By Order of Poseidon, Pegasus struck the mountain with one of their helmets to order him to return to their ordinary dimensions. The Helicon obeyed, but a spring sprang in the place where Pegasus had given the blow. It is named Hippocrene or Fountain of the Horse, which is the source of all poetic inspiration.
Atlas is the mythical giant, become the Atlas holding the sky. He is often represented with his divine-human figure, holding the sky on his shoulders. So the celestial charts are named "atlas" and by extension also the land maps and other graphics.
The oracle is the answer that the mediums and priests pronounced as given by the god Apollo to queries put to him. The oracles are inescapable, always met, but often the man tries to prevent its realization in a irrational or absurd human attempt, because, as it is suggested by Ruiz Elvira, or the oracles are true and then not be avoided or are not true and then there must be credible and it is not to do anything to avoid them. But the irrationality of trying to avoid them is very human, and logic distrusting man submit blindly himself to desire of not were happened what is advertised as if the single will could more than the destination, ie the hope which makes actuate. (ie, we have an important irrational component …)
We will also cite the Perseids or meteor shower. Every year in August, the meteor shower, named the Perseids, comes. This time, the show seems assured. The Perseids comes from the comet Swift-Tuttle whose tail cuts the Earth's orbit. They are the rest of the tail which, on entering the Earth's atmosphere, produced this interesting phenomenon. Predictions are that will be one or two meteors per minute at maximum. Of course, the fragments are small in size and mass, and pose no danger.
Many elements of this myth or myths are certainly originated in Mesopotamia. It is clear the resemblance to the monstrous Tiamat, with whom Marduk fight.
In Greek mythology there are other beings also monstrous, like Typhon, but this legend of Perseus and Andromeda has had a huge presence in all ages and times in the interest of citizens, in literature and in art.
So in Roman age, Flavius Josephus, Pliny, Strabo, Jerome located the rescue of Andromeda in Jaffa (Iope) in Palestine.
Pliny tells us that Marcus Scaurus in 58 BC brought to Rome the bones of the beast that would devour Andromeda and its size was about 13 meters higher than ribbed elephant tusks and spine thickness of 45 centimeters. It is not difficult to see in these bones fossil elements of existing beings, like dinosaurs or ancient elephants, which feed the credulity or imagination of the ancients. Naturally, keep popping giant reptile fossils, like the Pliosaur which measured fifty feet and weighed 45 tons.
The legend has its hagiographic extension in it of the St. George and the Dragon, although many are unaware of the myth of Andromeda and they do not identify their origin and relationship. Jacobus de Voragine in the thirteenth century offers us in his "Legenda Sanctorum" (Lectures on saints) which will become known as "Legenda aurea" (Golden Legend) the exact version, which was a huge success in the knightly environment of the Middle Ages. St. George is the paradigm of the medieval knight fighting or defending a maiden.
Its success and popularity explains its importance and presence in all the arts until today, including of course the movies.