Study Guide

Perseus in The Metamorphoses

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Even though Perseus is a famous hero and all, he's a pretty one-dimensional character. We guess being a sensitive, reflective soul might not be part of the monster-killer's job description. In any case, Perseus isn't even that tough himself. What gives him his power is his equipment: his winged sandals and, after he kills her (with the help of Minerva), the head of Medusa the Gorgon. This Gorgon head is his most prized possession; Now that he has it, whenever somebody messes with him, he can easily turn them to stone by making them look at it. We first see him do this to Atlas, the Titan who guards the Apples of Hesperides—before Perseus turned him into a mountain, that is.

Once Perseus kills the sea monster and gets Andromeda's hand in marriage, it's the same old story. Granted, he was provoked when Phineus, Andromeda's uncle, claimed that she belonged to him, and threw a spear at Perseus in the middle of the wedding ceremony. All the same, Perseus doesn't seem to have any problem with coming back swinging; In the end, when Phineus begs him for mercy, Perseus pretends to agree—and then turns him to stone by putting the Gorgon head in front of his face. In any case, Perseus doesn't stick around to be with his new bride; instead, he continues traveling the world, gleefully increasing the world's collection of human statues.

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