Study Guide

Perseus and Medusa Athena

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Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, appears in just about every Greek hero myth. She's kind of a hero groupie. Athena was Odysseus' special divine friend and also provided key advice and assistance to Heracles, Jason, and, of course, Perseus.

Really, where would Perseus be without Athena? Probably hanging out the in the Gorgons' cave – as a statue. Athena, along with Hermes, guides the young hero to the Graeae, where he gets information that leads him to the Nymphai, who provide him with essential magical tools (Hades' helmet of invisibility, Hermes' winged shoes, and the kibisis). Athena also warns Perseus to only look at Medusa through the reflection in his shiny shield. That clever tip definitely saved his life. Perseus shows his appreciation for Athena's help by giving her Medusa's head after he's finished using it.

But why does Athena help Perseus? That's a good question. It could be that:

  1. Athena is the goddess of heroic endeavors, and Perseus is definitely setting off on a heroic mission.
  2. Athena and Perseus actually have the same dad, so she's his half-sister. But, hey, Zeus sleeps around so much that maybe it doesn't mean much to Athena that she's related to the mortal hero.
  3. Athena has an old grudge against Medusa. She's actually the one who turned Medusa into a hideous Gorgon (see our analysis of Medusa for more on that).

Why do you think Athena helped Perseus out?

For more on the patron goddess of heroes, click here.

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