Study Guide

The Birth of Perseus Context

Context

The story of Perseus is by far one of the most famous in Greek mythology. He's actually thought to be the oldest of all the Greek heroes. Theseus, Heracles, and Odysseus were all trying to step to the awesomeness that was the P-dog (as his friends called him). The tale of his miraculous conception in a shower of gold was told by bunch of the heavy hitters in ancient poetry scene. Apollodorus, Hyginius, Nonnus, and Ovid all took a swing at the myth. The three big dogs of Athenian tragedy— Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles— all wrote plays about it as well, but unfortunately the scripts have been lost. Maybe they're floating around in a box at sea somewhere.

The image of Zeus coming to Danae, mother of Perseus, in a shower of gold has also been a continual inspiration for painters. Gustav Klimt' s "Danae" is particularly awesome, but his isn't the only painting to do an amazing job of capturing this miraculous conception. Rembrandt, Goltzius, Chantron, Tiepolo and many more kicked out their version of the scene. John William Waterhouse actually painted a picture of Danae and baby Perseus arriving on Serifos, which was so cool that somebody stole it. Now, all we have is a black and white picture to remember it by.

The story has of Perseus has continued to be popular even today. In 1981, it was turned into a movie called Clash of the Titans, which featured the amazing stop-motion animation of special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen. Clash of the Titans was remade in 2010 starring Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Gemma Arterton, among other Hollywood stars. Because people just couldn't get enough Perseus action, the remake was recently followed up with Wrath of the Titans. But whatever... Even if Hollywood totally loses interest in Perseus, all you have to do is look up to the constellation named after him to know he's a star. (Ho ho ho!)

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