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All of those great leaps in the advancement of art made by the ancient Greeks were little more than clever use of gorgon heads. The “Golden Ratio”? More like the “Gorgon Ratio”.

Don’t feel too bad if you didn’t know about this sort of thing, it’s secret art school stuff. We learn it in our first semester art history class.

The story of Medusa is a tragic one, as is the case for many of the monsters of myth, though the early tales spoken of her in Ancient Greece were more simple (they state that she was one of the offspring of marine deities, born as a monster and lived as a monster), there is a more compelling version related by Ovid in his Metamorphoses. It goes like this:

At one time, Medusa was one of the loveliest young women in all the land and her hair was what she loved the most. Being such a fetching creature, she caught the attention many men, but none so powerful as the mighty lord of the seas, Poseidon. One day, whilst visiting the temple of Athena, for she was a priestess to the goddess, Medusa encountered the God of the oceans and a terrible event occurred that would change her life forever. Poseidon and Medusa lay together there in the temple, a sacrilegious act in the eyes of the Goddess of Wisdom. The enraged Athena, a strong and willful woman, decided to have revenge.

There was little Athena could do to another member of the Pantheon of gods. Poseidon was a powerful deity and a rival of hers, but this human woman who dared to enter her temple, to don the mantle of the priesthood, and to violate it with such crude acts would be punished. By the will of Athena, Medusa became a gorgon, scaled and hideous to behold, her mouth full of serpent’s fangs, her eyes would turn men to stone, and her hair, her beautiful hair that she had loved so much, became a mass of writhing snakes, each with a mind of its own, always snapping, always restless. Medusa would never again pride herself on her looks and that pride would never lead her to commit such acts before the eyes of the goddess again.

For many years, Medusa lived ashamed and horrified by her appearance. Her rare visitors were immediately turned to stone before her petrifying gaze, until the arrival of the great hero Perseus. It was he, with the magical gifts received from Athena over the course of his adventures, who ended the life of Medusa, beheading her and stuffing her head in a sack.

The story says that heroic Perseus eventually offered the head to Athena who placed it on her shield, the Aegis, and that it became emblazoned with the head of the deadly Gorgon woman.

I suppose that could be true, but maybe that head got around a little bit more, eventually making its way to the art world where it really made a splash.

You know what they say, nothing is truly set in stone.

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