The three Gorgons – Euryale, Stheno, and Medusa – were hideous female creatures with golden wings and tusks like boars; their glances could turn men to stone. Euryale and Stheno were immortal, but Medusa was not. Athena had turned Medusa’s lovely hair into a writhing mass of snakes, as punishment for sleeping with the sea god Poseidon in her temple.
When King Polydectes of Seriphos invited Perseus, the son of Zeus and Danae, to dinner the hero vowed to bring Medusa’s head to the king as a gift. The gods aided him: nymphs brought Perseus winged sandals and a bag; Hades lent him his helmet of invisibility; Hermes gave him an adamantine sickle; and Athena lent him her shield of polished bronze. By observing the Gorgons in the mirrored shield Perseus waited until the sisters were asleep. He cut off Medusa’s head using the sickle and stuffed it into his bag. From Medusa’s severed neck were born two children by Poseidon, the winged horse Pegasus and Chrysaor. Perseus used the helmet of invisibility and the winged sandals to escape vengeance.
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