Greek Mythology >> Heroes >> Perseus >> Perseus Page 2


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Destroyer (persô)

Perseus, Andromeda and the slain Sea-Monster | Greco-Roman mosaic from Zeugma | Gaziantep Museum, Turkey
Perseus, Andromeda and the slain Sea-Monster, Greco-Roman mosaic from Zeugma, Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology

PERSEUS was one of the most celebrated of the Greek heroes.

This second page in the Perseus series begins with the story of his rescue of Andromeda from the Sea-Monster and continues with the tale of his rise to power in Greece. The appendices provide additional information on his descendants and historical hero-cult.




ANDROMEDA. An Aithiopian (Ethiopian) princess, daughter of Kepheus, bride of Perseus.
KEPHEUS (Cepheus). King of Aithiopia (Ethiopia), father-in-law of Perseus.
KASSIEPEIA (Cassiepie). Queen of Aithiopia, wife of King Kepheus.
PHINEUS. The brother of Kepheus, betrothed of Andromeda.
NEREIDES. Goddess-nymphs of the sea.
POSEIDON. God-King of the sea.
KETOS (Cetus). A sea-monster sent by Poseidon to punish the Aithiopians.
AITHIOPES. Men of Aithiopia (Ethiopia), allies of Phineus slain by Perseus.


AITHIOPIA (Ethiopia). A kingdom on the Red Sea coast of Africa, south of Egypt.
LIBYA. The Greek name for the continent of Africa.
JOPPA. The port city of Judaea, sometimes identified as the home of Kepheus and Andromeda.
ORACLE OF AMMON. An oracle at an oasis in the Saharan desert, west of Egypt.


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 43 - 44 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Arriving in Aithiopia (Ethiopia), which Kepheus (Cepheus) ruled, Perseus came upon his daughter Andromeda laid out as a meal for a Ketos (Cetus, Sea-Monster). It seems that the king's wife Kassiepeia (Cassiopeia) had challenged the Nereides in beauty, boasting that she outdid them all. As a result the Nereides were in a rage, and Poseidon in sympathetic anger sent a flood-tide upon the land and a Ketos (Sea-Monster) as well. The oracle of Ammon prophesied an end to the trouble if Kassiepeia's daughter Andromeda were served up to the monster as a meal, so Kepheus, pushed to it by the Aithiopians, tied his daughter out on a rock. When Perseus saw her it was love at first sight, and he promised to kill the Ketos (Sea-Monster) and rescue the girl in return for her hand. Oaths were sworn, after which Perseus faced and slew the monster, and set Andromeda free.
Kepheus' brother Phineus, who was previously engaged to Andromeda, conspired against Perseus, but Perseus learned of the plot, and by displaying the Gorgo [Medousa's head] to Phineus and his colleagues in the conspiracy, turned them instantly to stone."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 64 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Cassiope claimed that her daughter Andromeda's beauty excelled the Nereids'. Because of this, Neptunus [Poseidon] demanded that Andromeda, Cepheus' daughter, be offered to a sea-monster. When she was offered, Perseus, flying on Mercurius' [Hermes] winged sandals, is said to have come there and freed her from danger. When he wanted to marry her, Cepheus, her father, along with Agenor, her betrothed, planned to kill him. Perseus, discovering the plot, showed them the head of the Gorgon, and all were changed from human form into stone. Perseus with Andromeda returned to his country."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 224 :
"Mortals who were made immortal . . . Perseus, son of Jove [Zeus] and Danae, put among the stars."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 9 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Euripides and the rest have shown that he [King Cepheus] was the son of Phoenix, king of the Aethiopians (Ethiopians), and father of Andromeda, the girl exposed to the sea-monster, according to the well-known tale. Perseus freed her from danger and made her his wife. And so, that the whole family be commemorated, the gods numbered Cepheus, too, among the constellations."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 10 :
"Euripides and Sophocles and many others have said of her that she boasted that she excelled the Nereids in beauty. For this she was put among the constellations, seated in a chair [?]. On account of her impiety, as the sky turns, she seems to be carried along lying on her back."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 12 :
"They say she [Andromeda] was put among the constellations by the favour of Minerva [Athena], on account of the valor of Perseus, who freed her from danger when exposed to the sea-monster. Nor did he receive less kindness from her in return for his good deed. For neither her father Cepheus nor her mother Cassiepia could dissuade her from following Perseus, leaving parents and country. About her Euripides has written a most excellent play with her name as title."

Euripides and Sophocles both wrote plays entitled Andromeda. Another was attributed to the Hellenistic poet-scholar Lycophron.

Perseus, Andromeda and King Cepheus | Apulian red-figure krater C5th B.C. | The J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu
Perseus, Andromeda and King Cepheus, Apulian red-figure krater C5th B.C., The J. Paul Getty Museum


Lycophron, Alexandra 838 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"The towers of Kepheus (Cepheus) and the place that was kicked by the foot of Hermes Laphrios, and the two rocks on which the petrel leapt in quest of food, but carried off in his jaws, instead of a woman, the eagle son of the golden Sire--a male with winged sandals [Perseus] who destroyed his liver. By the harvester's blade shall be slain the hateful whale dismembered. The harvester who delivered of her pains in birth of horse and man the stony-eyed weasel whose children sprang from her neck. Fashioning men as statues from top to toe he shall envelop them in stone--he that stole the lamp of his three wandering guides"
[N.B."The petrel" is the sea-monster; "the eagle" and "the harvester" are Perseus; "the weasel" is Medousa; "men as statues" are the Ethiopians; and "the wandering guides" are the Graiai]

Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 35. 9 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Red water, in color like blood, is found in the land of the Hebrews near the city of Joppa. The water is close to the sea, and the account which the natives give of the spring is that Perseus, after destroying the Sea-Monster, to which the daughter of Kepheus (Cepheus) was exposed, washed off the blood in the spring."

Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 29 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[Ostensibly a description of an ancient Greek painting at Neapolis (Naples) :] Perseus. No, this is not the Red Sea (thalassa Erythra) nor are these inhabitants of India, but Aithiopes (Ethiopians) and a Greek man in Aithiopia. And of the exploit which I think the man undertook voluntarily for love, my boy, you must have heard--the exploit of Perseus who, they say, slew in Aithiopia a Ketos (Cetus, Sea-Monster) from the Atlantikos (Sea of Atlas), which was making its way against herds and the people of this land. Now the painter glorifies this tale and shows his pity for Andromeda in that she was given over to the Ketos (Sea-Monster). The contest is already finished and the Ketos (Sea-Monster) lies stretched out on the strand, weltering in streams of blood--the reason the sea is red--while Eros (Love) frees Andromeda from her bonds. Eros is painted with wings as usual, but here, as it not usual, he is a young man, panting and still showing the effects of his toil; for before the deed Perseus put up a prayer to Eros that he should come and with him swoop down upon the creature, and Eros came, for he heard the Greek's prayer.
The maiden is charming in that she is fair of skin though in Aithiopia (Ethiopia), and charming is the very beauty of her form; she would surpass a Lydian girl in daintiness, an Attic girl in stateliness, a Spartan in sturdiness. Her beauty is enhanced by the circumstances of the moment; for she seems to be incredulous, her joy is mingled with fear, and as she gazes at Perseus she begins to send a smile towards him. He, not far from the maiden, lies in the sweet fragrant grass, dripping sweat on the ground and keeping the Gorgo's [Medousa's] head hidden lest people see it and be turned to stone.
Many cow-herds come offering him milk and wine to drink, charming Aithiopes (Ethiopians) with their strange colouring and their grim smiles; and they show that they are pleased, and most of them look alike, Perseus welcomes their gifts and, supporting himself on his left elbow, he lefts his chest, filled with breath through panting, and keeps his gaze upon the maiden, and lets the wind blow out his chlamys, which is purple and spattered with drops of blood and with the flecks which the creature breathed upon it in the struggle. Let he children of Pelops perish when it comes to a comparison with the shoulder of Perseus! for beautiful as he is and ruddy of face, his bloom has been enhanced by his toil and his veins are swollen, as is wont to happen when the breath comes quickly. Much gratitude does he win from the maiden."
[N.B. Philostratus locates this myth on the Atlantic coast of Africa rather than the Red Sea--"Aithiopes" was a generic term meaning black African.]

Ovid, Metamorphoses 5. 1 - 238 (trans. Brookes More) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Perseus bound his wings upon his feet, on each foot bound he them; his sword he girt and sped wing-footed through the liquid air. Innumerous kingdoms far behind were left, till peoples Ethiopic and the lands of Cepheus were beneath his lofty view. There Ammon, the Unjust, had made decree Andromeda, the Innocent, should grieve her mother's tongue. They bound her fettered arms fast to the rock. When Perseus her beheld as marble he would deem her, but the breeze moved in her hair, and from her streaming eyes the warm tears fell. Her beauty so amazed his heart, unconscious captive of her charms, that almost his swift wings forgot to wave.--Alighted on the ground, he thus began; ‘O fairest! whom these chains become not so, but worthy are for links that lovers bind, make known to me your country's name and your's and wherefore bound in chains.’
A moment then, as overcome with shame, she made no sound : were not she fettered she would surely hide her blushing head; but what she could perform that did she do--she filled her eyes with tears. So pleaded he that lest refusal seem implied confession of a crime, she told her name, her country's name, and how her charms had been her mother's pride. But as she spoke the mighty ocean roared. Over the waves a monster fast approached, its head held high, abreast the wide expanse.--The virgin shrieked;--no aid her wretched father gave, nor aid her still more wretched mother; but they wept and mingled lamentations with their tears--clinging distracted to her fettered form.
And thus the stranger spoke to them, ‘Time waits for tears, but flies the moment of our need : were I, who am the son of Regal Jove [Zeus] and her whom he embraced in showers of gold, leaving her pregnant in her brazen cell,--I, Perseus, who destroyed the Gorgon, wreathed with snake-hair, I, who dared on waving wings to cleave etherial air--were I to ask the maid in marriage, I should be preferred above all others as your son-in-law. Not satisfied with deeds achieved, I strive to add such merit as the Gods permit; now, therefore, should my velour save her life, be it conditioned that I win her love.’
To this her parents gave a glad assent, for who could hesitate? And they entreat, and promise him the kingdom as a dower. As a great ship with steady prow speeds on; forced forwards by the sweating arms of youth it plows the deep; so, breasting the great waves, the monster moved, until to reach the rock no further space remained than might the whirl of Balearic string encompass, through the middle skies, with plummet-mold of lead. That instant, spurning with his feet the ground, the youth rose upwards to a cloudy height; and when the shadow of the hero marked the surface of the sea, the monster sought vainly to vent his fury on the shade. As the swift bird of Jove [Zeus], when he beholds a basking serpent in an open field, exposing to the sun its mottled back, and seizes on its tail; lest it shall turn to strike with venomed fang, he fixes fast his grasping talons in the scaly neck; so did the winged youth, in rapid flight through yielding elements, press down on the great monster's back, and thrust his sword, sheer to the hilt, in its right shoulder--loud its frightful torture sounded over the waves.--So fought the hero-son of Inachus.
Wild with the grievous wound, the monster rears high in the air, or plunges in the waves;--or wheels around as turns the frightened boar shunning the hounds around him in full cry. The hero on his active wings avoids the monster's jaws, and with his crooked sword tortures its back wherever he may pierce its mail of hollow shell, or strikes betwixt the ribs each side, or wounds its lashing tail, long, tapered as a fish. The monster spouts forth streams--incarnadined with blood--that spray upon the hero's wings; who drenched, and heavy with the spume, no longer dares to trust existence to his dripping wings; but he discerns a rock, which rises clear above the water when the sea is calm, but now is covered by the lashing waves. On this he rests; and as his left hand holds firm on the upmost ledge, he thrusts his sword, times more than three, unswerving in his aim, sheer through the monster's entrails.--Shouts of praise resound along the shores, and even the Gods may hear his glory in their high abodes. Her parents, Cepheus and Cassiope, most joyfully salute their son-in-law; declaring him the saviour of their house. And now, her chains struck off, the lovely cause and guerdon of his toil, walks on the shore.
The hero washes his victorious hands in water newly taken from the sea : but lest the sand upon the shore might harm the viper-covered head, he first prepared a bed of springy leaves, on which he threw weeds of the sea, produced beneath the waves. On them he laid Medusa's awful face, daughter of Phorcys;--and the living weeds, fresh taken from the boundless deep, imbibed the monster's poison in their spongy pith : they hardened at the touch, and felt in branch and leaf unwonted stiffness. Sea-Nymphs, too, attempted to perform that prodigy on numerous other weeds, with like result : so pleased at their success, they raised new seeds, from plants wide-scattered on the salt expanse. Even from that day the coral has retained such wondrous nature, that exposed to air it hardens.--Thus, a plant beneath the waves becomes a stone when taken from the sea.
Three altars to three Gods he made of turf. To thee, victorious Virgin [Athena], did he build an altar on the right, to Mercurius [Hermes] an altar on the left, and unto Jove [Zeus] an altar in the midst. He sacrificed a heifer to Minerva [Athena], and a calf to Mercurius, the Wingfoot, and a bull to thee [Zeus], O greatest of the Deities.
Without a dower he takes Andromeda, the guerdon of his glorious victory, nor hesitates.--Now pacing in the van, both Cupidus (Love) [Eros] and Hymen wave the flaring torch, abundant perfumes lavished in the flames. The houses are bedecked with wreathed flowers; and lyres and flageolets resound, and songs--felicit notes that happy hearts declare. The portals opened, sumptuous halls display their golden splendours, and the noble lords of Cepheus' court take places at the feast, magnificently served.
After the feast, when every heart was warming to the joys of genial Bacchus, then, Lyncidian Perseus asked about the land and its ways about the customs and the character of its heroes. Straightway one of the dinner-companions made reply, and asked in turn, ‘Now, valiant Perseus, pray tell the story of the deed, that all may know, and what the arts and power prevailed, when you struck off the serpent-covered head.’
[Perseus tells the story of Medousa, see "Chapter 2", previous page.] . . .
While Perseus, the brave son of Jupiter [Zeus], surrounded at the feast by Cepheus' lords, narrated this, a raging multitude with sudden outcry filled the royal courts--not with the clamours of a wedding feast but boisterous rage, portentous of dread war. As when the fury of a great wind strikes a tranquil sea, tempestuous billows roll across the peaceful bosom of the deep; so were the pleasures at the banquet changed to sudden tumult. Foremost of that throng, the rash ring-leader, Phineus, shook his spear, brass-tipped of ash, and shouted, ‘Ha, 'tis I! I come avenger of my ravished bride! Let now your flittering wings deliver you, or even Jupiter [Zeus], dissolved in showers of imitation gold.’
So boasted he, aiming his spear at Perseus. Thus to him cried Cepheus : ‘Hold your hand, and strike him not! What strange delusions, O my brother, have compelled you to this crime? Is it the just requital of heroic worth? A fair reguerdon for the life of her you loved? If truth were known, not Perseus ravished her from you; but, either 'twas the awful God [Poseidon] that rules the Nereides; or Ammon, crowned with crescent horns; or that monstrosity of Ocean's vast abyss, which came to glut his famine on the issue of my loins. Nor was your suit abandoned till the time when she must perish and be lost to you. So cruel are you, seeking my daughter's death, rejoicing lightly in our deep despair.--And was it not enough for you to stand supinely by, while she was bound in chains, and offer no assistance, though you were her lover and betrothed? And will you grieve that she was rescued from a dreadful fate, and spoil her champion of his just rewards? Rewards that now may seem magnificent, but not denied to you if you had won and saved, when she was fettered to the rock. Let him, whose strength to my declining years restored my child, receive the merit due his words and deeds; and know his suit was not preferred to yours, but granted to prevent her certain death.’
Not deigning to reply, against them Phineus stood; and glancing back from him to Perseus, with alternate looks, as doubtful which should feel his first attack, made brief delay. Then vain at Perseus hurled his spear, with all the force that rage inspired, but, missing him it quivered in a couch. Provoked beyond endurance Perseus leaped forth from the cushioned seats, and fiercely sent that outwrenched weapon back. It would have pierced his hostile breast had not the miscreant crouched behind the altars. Oh perverted good, that thus an altar should abet the wrong! But, though the craven Phineus escaped, not vainly flew the whizzing point, but struck in Rhoetus' forehead. As the barb was torn out of the bone, the victim's heels began to kick upon the floor, and spouting blood defiled the festal board. Then truly flame in uncontrolled rage the vulgar crowd, and hurl their harmful darts. And there are some who hold that Cepheus and his son-in-law deserved to die; but Cepheus had passed forth the threshold of his palace : having called on all the Gods of Hospitality and Truth and Justice to attest, he gave no comfort to the enemies of Peace.
Unconquered Pallas [Athena] is at hand and holds her Aegis to protect her brother's life; she lends him dauntless courage. At the feast was one from India's distant shores, whose name was Athis. It was said that Limnate, the daughter of the River Ganges, him in vitreous caverns bright had brought to birth; and now at sixteen summers in his prime, the handsome youth was clad in costly robes. A purple mantle with a golden fringe covered his shoulders, and a necklace, carved of gold, enhanced the beauty of his throat. His hair encompassed with a coronal, delighted with sweet myrrh. Well taught was he to hurl the javelin at a distant mark, and none with better skill could stretch the bow. No sooner had he bent the pliant horns than Perseus, with a smoking billet, seized from the mid-altar, struck him on the face, and smashed his features in his broken skull.
And when Assyrian Lycabas had seen his dear companion, whom he truly loved, beating his handsome countenance in blood. And when he had bewailed his lost life, that ebbed away from that unpiteous wound, he snatched the bow that Athis used, and said : ‘Let us in single combat seek revenge; not long will you rejoice the stripling's fate; a deed most worthy shame.’ So speaking, forth the piercing arrow bounded from the cord, which, though avoided, struck the hero's cloak and fastened in its folds.--Then Perseus turned upon him, with the trusted curving sword, cause of Medusa's death, and drove the blade deep in his breast. The dying victim's eyes, now swimming in a shadowous night, looked 'round for Athis, whom, beholding, he reclined upon, and ushered to the other world,--sad consolation of united death. And Phorbas the descendant of Methion. Who hailed from far Syene, with his friend Amphimedon of Libya, in their haste to join the battle, slipped up in the blood and fell together : just as they arose that glittering sword was driven through the throat of Phorbas into the ribs of his companion.
But Erithus, the son of Actor, swung a battle-ax, so weighty, Perseus chose not combat with his curving blade. He seized in his two hands a huge bowl, wrought around with large design, outstanding from its mass. This, lifting up, he dashes on his foe, who vomits crimson blood, and falling back beats on the hard floor with his dying head. And next he slew Caucasian Abaris, and Polydaemon--from Semiramis nobly descended--and Sperchius, son, Lycetus, long-haired Elyces, unshorn, Clytus and Phlegias, the hero slew;--and trampled on the dying heaped around.
Not daring to engage his enemy in open contest, Phineus held aloof, and hurled his javelin. Badly aimed--by some mischance or turned--it wounded Idas, who had followed neither side; vain-hoping thus to shun the conflict. Idas, filled with rage, on Phineus gazed with futile hate, and said, ‘Since I am forced unwilling to such deeds, behold, whom you have made your enemy, O savage Phineus! Let your recompense be stroke for stroke.’ So speaking, from the wound he drew the steel, but, faint from loss of blood, before his arm could hurl the weapon back, he sank upon his knees. Here, also, lies Odytes,--noblest of the Cephenes, save Cepheus only,--slaughtered by the sword of Clymenus. And Prothoenor lies the victim of Hypseus; by his side Hypseus slaughtered by Lyncidas falls.
And in the midst of this destruction stood Emathion, now an aged man, revered, who feared the Gods, and stood for upright deeds. And, since his years denied him strength for war, he battled with his tongue, and railed, and cursed their impious weapons. As that aged man clings to the altar with his trembling hands, Chromis with ruthless sword cuts off his head, which straightway falls upon the altar, whence his dying tongue denounces them in words of execration : and his soul expires amid the altar flames.
Then Broteas and Ammon, his twin brother, who not knew their equals at the cestus, by the hand of Phineus fell; for what avails in deed the cestus as a weapon matched with swords. Ampycus by the same hand fell,--the priest of Ceres [Demeter], with his temples wreathed in white. And O, Iapetides not for this did you attend the feast! Your voice attuned melodious to the harp, was in request to celebrate the wedding-day with song,--a work of peace; as you did stand aside, holding the peaceful plectrum in your hand, the mocking Pettalus in ridicule said, ‘Go sing your ditties to the Stygian shades.’ And, mocking thus, he drove his pointed sword in your right temple. As your limbs gave way, your dying fingers swept the tuneful strings : and falling you did chant a mournful dirge.--You to avenge enraged Lycormas tore a huge bar from the door-post, on the right, and dashing it against the mocker crushed his neck-bones: as a slaughtered bullock falls--he tumbled to the ground. Then on the left. Cinyphian Pelates began to wrench an oak plank from the door-post, but the spear of Corythus, the son of Marmarus, pinioned his right hand to the wooden post; and while he struggled Abas pierced his side.--He fell not to the floor, but dying hung suspended from the door-post by his hand.
And of the friends of Perseus, Melaneus was slain, and Dorylas whose wealth was large in Nasamonian land. No other lord, as Dorylas, such vast estates possessed; no other owned so many heaps of corn. The missile steel stood fastened in his groin, obliquely fixed,--a fatal spot--and when the author of his wound, Halcyoneus the Bactrian, beheld his victim thus, rolling his eyes and sobbing forth his soul, he railed : ‘Keep for yourself of all your lands as much as you can cover.’ And he left the bleeding corpse. But Perseus in revenge hurled after him a spear, which, in his need, he ripped out from the wound, yet warm, and struck the boaster on the middle of his nose. The piercing steel, passed through his nose and neck,--remained projecting from the front and back. And while good fortune helped his hand, he slew Clanis and Clytius, of one mother born, but with a different wound he slaughtered each : for, leveled by a mighty arm, his ashen spear drove through the thighs of Clytius, right and left, and Clanis bit the javelin with his teeth. And by his might, Mendesian Celadon and Atreus fell, his mother of the tribes of Palestine, his father was unknown. Aethion, also, who could well foresee the things to come, but was at last deceived by some false omen. And Thoactes fell, the armour-bearer of the king; and, next, the infamous Agyrtes who had slain his father. These he slew; and though his strength was nearly spent, so many more remained : for now the multitude with one accord conspired to slaughter him. From every side the raging troops assailed the better cause.
In vain the pious father and the bride, together with her mother, fill the halls with lamentations; for the clash of arms, the groans of fallen heroes drown their cries.--Bellona [Enyo] in a sea of blood has drenched their Household Gods, polluted by these deeds, and she endeavours to renew the strife. Perseus, alone against that raging throng, is now surrounded by a myriad men, led on by Phineus; and their flying darts, as thick as wintry tail, are showered around on every side, grazing his eyes and ears.--Quickly he fixed his shoulder firm against the rock of a great pillar, which secured his back from danger, and he faced his foes, and baffled their attack.
Upon his left Chaonian Molpeus pressed, and on his right a Nabathe an called Ethemon pressed.--As when a tiger from a valley hears the lowing of two herds, in separate fields, though hunger urges he not knows on which to spring, but rages equally for each; so, Perseus doubtful which may first attack his left or right, knows not on which to turn, but stands attentive witness to the flight of Molpeus, whom he wounded in the leg. Nor could he choose--Ethemon, full of rage, pressed on him to inflict a fatal wound, deep in his neck; but with incautious force struck the stone pillar with his ringing sword and shattered the metal blade, close to the hilt; the flying fragment pierced its owner's neck, but not with mortal wound. In vain he pled for mercy, stretching forth his helpless arms : Perseus transfixed him with his glittering blade, Cyllenian. But when he saw his strength was yielding to the multitude, he said, ‘Since you have forced disaster on yourselves, why should I hesitate to save myself?--O friends, avert your faces if ye stand before me!’ And he raised Medusa's head. Thescelus answered him; ‘Seek other dupes to chase with wonders!’ Just as he prepared to hurl the deadly javelin from his hand, he stood, unmoving in that attitude, a marble statue. Ampyx, close to him, exulting in a mighty spirit, made a lunge to pierce Lyncides in the breast; but, as his sword was flashing in the air, his right arm grew so rigid, there he stood unable to draw back or thrust it forth. But Nileus, who had feigned himself begot by seven-fold Nile, and carved his shield with gold and silver streams, alternate seven, shouted : ‘Look, look! O Perseus, him from whom I sprung! And you shall carry to the silent shades a mighty consolation in your death, that you were slain by such a one as I.’ But in the midst of boasting, the last words were silenced; and his open mouth, although incapable of motion, seemed intent to utter speech. Then Eryx, chiding says : ‘Your craven spirits have benumbed you, not Medusa's poison.-- Come with me and strike this youthful mover of magician charms down to the ground.’--He started with a rush; the earth detained his steps; it held him fast; he could not speak; he stood, complete with arms, a statue. Such a penalty was theirs, and justly earned; but near by there was one, Aconteus, who defending Perseus, saw Medusa as he fought; and at the sight the soldier hardened to an upright stone.--Assured he was alive, Astyages now struck him with his long sword, but the blade resounded with a ringing note; and there, astonished at the sound, Astyages, himself, assumed that nature; and remained with wonder pictured on his marble face. And not to weary with the names of men, sprung from the middle classes, there remained two hundred warriors eager for the fight--as soon as they could see Medusa's face, two hundred warriors stiffened into stone.
At last, repentant, Phineus dreads the war, unjust, for in a helpless fright he sees the statues standing in strange attitudes; and, recognizing his adherents, calls on each by name to rescue from that death. Still unbelieving he begins to touch the bodies, nearest to himself, and all are hard stone. Having turned his eyes away, he stretched his hands and arms obliquely back to Perseus, and confessed his wicked deeds; and thus imploring spoke : ‘Remove, I pray, O Perseus, thou invincible, remove from me that dreadful Gorgon : take away the stone-creating countenance of thy unspeakable Medusa! For we warred ot out of hatred, nor to gain a throne, but clashed our weapons for a woman's sake.--Thy merit proved thy valid claim, and time gave argument for mine. It grieves me not to yield, O bravest, only give me life, and all the rest be thine.’
Such words implored the craven, never daring to address his eyes to whom he spoke. And thus returned the valiant Perseus; ‘I will grant to you, O timid-hearted Phineus! as behoves your conduct; and it should appear a gift, magnanimous, to one who fears to move.--Take courage, for no steel shall violate your carcase; and, moreover, you shall be a monument, that ages may record your unforgotten name. You shall be seen thus always, in the palace where resides my father-in-law, that my surrendered spouse may soften her great grief when she but sees the darling image of her first betrothed.’ He spoke, and moved Medusa to that side where Phineus had turned his trembling face : and as he struggled to avert his gaze his neck grew stiff; the moisture of his eyes was hardened into stone.--And since that day his timid face and coward eyes and hands, forever shall be guilty as in life.
After such deeds, victorious Perseus turned, and sought the confines of his native land; together with his bride."

Ovid, Heroides 15. 35 ff (trans. Showerman) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"If I am not dazzling fair, Cepheus' Andromeda was fair in Perseus' eyes, though dusky with the hue of her native land. Besides, white pigeons oft are mated with those of different hue."

Ovid, Heroides 18. 151 ff :
"Let another fix his eyes on [the constellations] Andromeda and the bright Crown [i.e. of Ariadne], and upon the Parrhasian Bear that gleams in the frozen pole; but for me, I care not for the loves of Perseus, and of Liber [Dionysos] and Jove [Zeus], to point me on my dubious way."

Propertius, Elegies 2. 28 (trans. Goold) (Roman elegy C1st B.C.) :
"Andromeda was vowed as sacrifice to the Monster of the Deep (Monstris Marinis) : she, none other, became the famed wife of Perseus."

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 5. 69 (trans. Rackham) (Roman encyclopedia C1st A.D.) :
"Joppa [now the Israeli town of Jaffa] is said to have existed before the flood; it is situated on a hill, and in front of it is a rock on which they point out the marks made by the chains with which Andromeda was fettered; here there is a cult of the legendary goddess Ceto (the Sea-Monster)."

Seneca, Hercules Furens 4 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[Hera complains about the mistresses and sons of Zeus placed amongst the stars as constellations :] ‘I must dwell on earth, for harlots hold the sky . . . Here Orion with threatening sword terrifies the gods, and golden Perseus has his stars; the bright constellation of the twin Tyndaridae [Gemini] shines yonder.’"

Anonymous, Appeal to a Roman General (trans. Page, Vol. Select Papyri III, No. 143) (Greek poetry C5th A.D.) :
"Of old . . winged journey, another Perseus . . ((lacuna)) Perseus returned home even after his visit to Neilos (the Nile) [i.e. Aithiopia (Ethiopia)]."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 8. 88 8 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Behold the Ketos (Cetus, Sea-Monster), the sickle of Perseus, the figure of Andromeda, the glare of Gorgon Medousa, whom Kronides will establish in Olympos [as constellations] by and by."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 18. 294 :
"Perseus killed the Ketos (Sea-Monster) beside the Erythraian Sea [the Red Sea]."

Nonnus, Dionsyiaca 25. 80 ff :
"Perseus killed a Ketos (Monster of the Sea); with Gorgon's eye he turned to stone a leviathan of the deep!"

Nonnus, Dionsyiaca 30. 273 ff :
"The Monster of the Deep (Thera Thalassios) turned to stone [by Perseus] . . . the Nereides tremple before Andromeda's husband."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 31. 10 ff :
"Seeing the heap of Andromeda's broken chains beside the Erythraian Sea [the Red Sea], and that rock lying on the sand, Earthshaker's [Poseidon's] monstrous lump [i.e. the Sea-Monster turned to stone by Perseus]."

Nonnus, Dionysaica 47. 510 ff :
"Perseus turned into stone a whole huge Monster of the Deep (Ketos) . . . and on the wing loosed the chains of Andromeda and offered the stone seamonster as a worthy bridal gift."


Perseus, Andromeda and the Sea-Dragon | Roman fresco from the Imperial Villa at Boscotrecase C1st B.C. | Metropolitan Museum of Art
Perseus, Andromeda and the Sea-Monster, Roman fresco from Villa at Boscotrecase C1st B.C., Metropolitan Museum of Art


POLYDEKTES (Polydectes). King of the island of Seriphos.
DIKTYS (Dictys). Brother of Polydektes, foster-father of Perseus.
DANAE. The mother of Perseus.
AKRISIOS (Acrisius). King of Argos, grandfather of Perseus.
TEUTAMIDES. King of the Pelasgians.
MEGAPENTHES. King of Tiryns, and later of Argos, and first cousin of Perseus' mother.


SERIPHOS. A small island in the Aegean Sea, south of the Greek mainland.
ARGOS (1). A kingdom of the Greek Peloponnese.
ARGOS (2). The chief town of Argos.
TIRYNS. A fortified town of Argos.
MYKENAI (Mycenae). A fortified town of Argos.
MIDEIA. A fortifed town of Argos.
LARISSA. A town of the Pelasgians, either in Anatolia (Turkey) or Greek Thessaly.


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 45 - 46 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When he reached Seriphos, Perseus found that his mother [Danae] along with Diktys (Dictys) had sought refuge at the altars from the violence of Polydektes (Polydectes), so he entered the royal palace where Polydektes was entertaining his friends, and with his own face turned aside he displayed the Gorgo's [Medousa's] head. When they looked at it, each one turned to stone, holding the pose he happened to have been striking at that moment. Perseus made Diktys king of Seriphos, and gave the sandals, kibisis, and helmet back to Hermes, and the Gorgo's head to Athene. Hermes returned the aforementioned articles to the Nymphai, and Athene placed the Gorgon's head in the centre of her shield. (It is affirmed by some that Medousa was beheaded because of Athene, for they say the Gorgon had been willing to be compared with Athene in beauty.)"

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 47 - 48 :
"Perseus with Danae and Andromeda hurried on to Argos in order to get a look at Akrisios (Acrisius). But as soon as Akrisios learned of this, he left Argos, still fearful of the oracle, and moved to the Pelasgian land. When Teutamides, king of the Larisaians, staged an athletic contest to honor his departed father, Perseus was on hand to enter the competition. He competed in the pentathlon, but while throwing the discus he hit Akrisios on the foot and killed him then and there. When he understood that the oracular promise had been fulfilled, he buried Akrisios outside the polis, and then, too ashamed to enter Argos and claim the estate of the man who had died because of him, he went to Proitos' son Megapenthes at Tiryns and made a trade with him, handing him Argos. So Megapenthes ruled the Argives, and Perseus ruled Tiryns, as well as Mideia and Mykenai, both of which he walled."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 63 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When Acrisius discovered they [Perseus and Danae] were staying at Polydectes' court, he started out to get them, but at his arrival Polydectes interceded for them, and Perseus swore an oath to his grandfather that he would never kill him. When Acrisius was detained there by a storm, Polydectes died, and at his funeral games the wind blew a discus from Perseus' hand at Acrisius' head which killed him. Thus what he did not do of his own will was accomplished by the gods. When Polydectes was buried, Perseus set out for Argos and took possession of his grandfather's kingdom."

Hyginus, Fabulae 64 :
"Perseus with Andromeda returned to his country. When Polydectes saw that Perseus was so courageous, he feared him and tried to kill him be treachery, but when Perseus discovered this he showed him the Gorgon's head, and he was changed from human form into stone."

Euripides wrote a play entitled Acrisius which probably told the story of the old king's death.


Pindar, Pythian Ode 12. 8 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"When Perseus o'er [Medousa (Medusa)] the third of those fell sisters launched his cry of triumph, and bropught fatal doom to Seriphos by the sea--doom for that isle and for her people. Yes, for he had made blind the grim offspring of Phorkys, and bitter the wedding-gift he brought to Polydektes (Polydectes), thus to end his mother's long slavery and enforced wedlock."

Pindar, Pythian Ode 10. 45 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Perseus, who slew the Gorgo, and brought her head wreathed with its serpent locks to strike stony death to the islanders [of Seriphos]."

Aeschylus, Polydectes (lost play) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
The third play of Aeschylus' Perseus trilogy, Polydectes told the story of the hero's return to Seriphos after the slaying of the Gorgon.

Lycophron, Alexandra 838 (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"Fashioning men as statues from top to toe he [Perseus] shall envelop them in stone."

Strabo, Geography 10. 5. 10 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Perseus was reared there [on Seriphos], it is said, and when he brought the Gorgon's head there, he showed it to the Seriphians and turned them all into stone. This he did to avenge his mother, because Polydektes (Polydectes) the king, with their cooperation, intended to marry his mother against her will. The island is so rocky that the comedians say that it was made thus by the Gorgo."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 22. 6 - 7 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"On the left of the gateway [of the Akropolis of Athens] is a building with pictures. Among those not effaced by time I found . . . Perseus journeying to Seriphos, and carrying to Polydektes (Polydectes) the head of Medousa (Medusa), the legend about whom I am unwilling to relate in my description of Attika."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 15. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The Greeks are aware that the founder of Mykenai (Mycenae) was Perseus, so I will narrate the cause of its foundation."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 16. 2 - 3 :
"The sons of Abas, the son of Lynkeus (Lynceus), divided the kingdom between themselves; Akrisios (Acrisius) remained where he was at Argos, and Proitos (Proetus) took over the Heraion (Heraeum, Temple of Hera), Mideia, Tiryns, and the Argive coast region. Traces of the residence of Proitos in Tiryns remain to the present day. Afterwards Akrisios, learning that Perseus himself was not only alive but accomplishing great achievements, retired to Larisa on the Peneios (Peneus). And Perseus, wishing at all costs to see the father of his mother and to greet him with fair words and deeds, visited him at Larisa. Being in the prime of life and proud of his inventing the quoit, he gave displays before all, and Akrisios, as luck would have it, stepped unnoticed into the path of the quoit. So the prediction of the god to Akrisios found its fulfillment, nor was his fate prevented by his precautions against his daughter and grandson. Perseus, ashamed because of the gossip about the homicide, on his return to Argos induced Megapenthes, the son of Proitos, to make an exchange of kingdoms; taking over himself that of Megapenthes, he founded Mykenai (Mycenae). For on its site the cap (mykes) fell from his scabbard, and he regarded this as a sign to found a city. I have also heard the following account. He was thirsty, and the thought occurred to him to pick up a mushroom (mykes) from the ground. Drinking with joy water that flowed from it, he gave to the place the name of Mykenai."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 15. 3 :
"Above Nemea [in Argolis] is Mount Apesas, where they say that Perseus first sacrificed to Zeus of Apesas."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 5. 738 ff (trans. Brookes More) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"After such deeds, victorious Perseus turned, and sought the confines of his native land; together with his bride; which, having reached, he punished Proetus--who by force of arms had routed his own brother from the throne of Argos. By his aid Acrisius, although his undeserving parent, gained his citadels once more : for Proetus failed, with all his arms and towers unjustly held, to quell the grim-eyed monster, snake-begin. Yet not the valour of the youth, upheld by many labours, nor his grievous wrongs have softened you, O Polydectes! king of Little Seriphus; but bitter hate ungoverned, rankles in your hardened heart--there is no limit to your unjust rage. Even his praises are defamed by you and all your arguments are given to prove Medusa's death a fraud.--Perseus rejoined : ‘By this we give our true pledge of the truth, avert your eyes!’ And by Medusa's face he made the features of that impious king a bloodless stone. Through all these mighty deeds Pallas, Minerva [Athena], had availed to guide her gold-begotten brother."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 25. 80 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Polydketes (Polydectes), looking upon deadly Medousa' eye, changed his human limbs to another kind and transformed himself into stone."


Perseus and Andromeda | Greco-Roman fresco from Pompeii C1st A.D. | Naples National Archaeological Museum
Perseus and Andromeda, Greco-Roman fresco from Pompeii C1st A.D., Naples National Archaeological Museum


PERSEUS. King of Argos.
DIONYSOS (Dionysus). The god of wine.
ARIADNE. A Cretan Princess, wife of Dionysos.
KHOREA (Chorea). Leader of the Bakkhantes (Bacchantes) of Dionysos.


ARGOS. Chief town of Argolis.

There was some disagreement amongst the ancient writers as to which King of Argos opposed Dionysos when he visited the city. King Proitos (Proetus) is usually mentioned by the Epic poets or, more rarely, his son Megapenthes (literally "Great Sorrow," perhaps just a duplication of the more famous Theban Pentheus, "Sorrow"). In the local Argive legends and cults it was Perseus.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 20. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The tomb near this [the temple of Zeus Nemeios at Argos] they call that of the maenad Khorea (Chorea), saying that she was one of the women who joined Dionysos in his expedition against Argos, and that Perseus, being victorious in the battle, put most of the women to the sword. To the rest they gave a common grave, but to Khorea they gave burial apart because of her high rank."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 22. 1 :
"The temple of Hera Anthea (Flowery) [in Argos] . . . before it is a grave of women. They were killed in a battle against the Argives under Perseus, having come from the Aegean Islands to help Dionysos in war; for which reason they are surnamed Haliai (Women of the Sea)."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 23. 7 - 8 :
"The Argives have other things worth seeing [in their town]; for instance . . . [the] temple of Kretan (Cretan) Dionysos. For they say that the god, having made war on Perseus, afterwards laid aside his enmity, and received great honors at the hands of the Argives, including this precinct set specially apart for himself. It was afterwards called the precinct of the Kretan god, because, when Ariadne died, Dionysos buried her here. But Lykeas (Lyceas) says that when the temple was being rebuilt an earthenware coffin was found, and that it was Ariadne's. He also said that both he himself and other Argives had seen it."

Nonnus' Dionysiaca has an entire chapter dedicated to the war of Perseus and Dionysos. I have not reproduced this here, except for the following two short extracts.

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 47. 665 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Hera urges on Perseus in his war against Dionysos :] ‘Make war on the Satyroi (Satyrs) too: turn towards battling Lyaios (Lyaeus) the deadly eye of snakehair Medousa (Medusa), and let me see a new Polydektes (Polydectes) made stone . . . Kill the array of bull-horned Satyroi, change with the Gorgon's eye the human countenances of the Bassarides into like images selfmade; with the beauty of the stone copies adorn your streets, and make statues like an artist for the Inakhian market-places.‘ . . . Perseus of the sickle was champion of the Argives; he fitted his feet into the flying shoes, and he lifted up the head of Medousa which no eyes may see. But Iobakkhos (Iobacchus) [Dionysos] marshalled his women with flowing locks, and Satyroi with horns. Wild for battle he was when he saw the winged champion coursing through the air. The thyrsos was held up in his hand, and to defend his face he carried a diamond, the gem made stone in the showers of Zeus which protects against the stony glare of Medousa, that the baleful light of that destroying face may do him no harm."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 47. 665 ff :
"He [Perseus in his battle with Dionysos] shook in his hand the deadly face of Medousa (Medusa), and turned armed Ariadne into stone. Bakkhos (Bacchus) was even more furious when he saw his bride all stone . . . [Perseus] one who killed the Keteos (Sea-Monster) and beheaded horsebreeding Medousa."

For MORE information on this god see DIONYSOS



PROITOS (Proetus). King of Argos, great-uncle of Perseus.
MEGAPENTHES. King of Argos, son of Proitos, first cousin of Perseus' mother.

The only reference to Perseus' death is a very obscure legend recounted by Hyginus.

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 244 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Men who killed their relatives . . . Megapenthes, son of Proetus, killed Perseus, son of Jove [Zeus] and Danae on account of the death of his father."



Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 49 - 53 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"With Andromeda before coming to Hellas Perseus had a son Perses, whom he left behind with Kepheus (Cepheus)--from Perses reputedly stems the line of Persian kings--; and in Mykenai (Mycenae) he had Alkaios (Alcaeus), Sthenelos (Sthenelus), Heleios (Heleius), Mestor, and Elektryon (Electryon), and a daughter Gorgophone, whom Perieres married.
Alkaios and Pelops' daughter Astydameia had Amphitryon and a daughter Anaxo. Some say the mother was Laonome, daughter of Gouneus, and other that she was Hipponome, daughter of Menoikeus (Menoecius).
Mestor and Pelops' daughter Lykidike (Lycidice) were parents of Hippothoe . . .
Sthenelos and Pelops' daughter Nikippe (Nicippe) had two daughters, Alkyone (Alcyone) and Medousa (Medusa), and alter a son Eurystheus, who also became king of Mykenai (Mycenae)."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 87 :
"Perieres [son of Aiolos] took over Messene and married Gorgophone, the daughter of Perseus, by whom he had sons named Aphareus, Leukippos (Leucippus)and Tyndareus."

Herodotus, Histories 7. 61. 1 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"They [the Persians] were formerly called by the Greeks Kephenes (Cephenes). . . When Perseus son of Danae and Zeus had come to Kepheus (Cepheus) son of Belos and married his daughter Andromeda, a son was born to him whom he called Perses, and he left him there; for Kepheus had no male offspring; it was from this Perses that the Persians took their name."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 1. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Kynortas (Cynortas) [king of Sparta] had a son Oibalos (Oebalus). He took a wife from Argos, Gorgophone the daughter of Perseus, and begat a son Tyndareus."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 4. 2. 4 :
"Perieres had issue by Gorgophone the daughter of Perseus, Aphareus and Leukippos (Leucippus), and after his death they inherited the Messenian kingdom. But Aphareus had the greater authority. On his accession he founded a city Arene, named after the daughter of Oibalos (Oebalus), who was both his wife and sister by the same mother. For Gorgophone was married to Oibalos."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 21. 7 :
"In Argos, by the side of this monument of the Gorgon, is the grave of Gorgophone (Gorgon-kilIer), the daughter of Perseus. As soon as you hear the name you can understand the reason why it was given her. On the death of her husband, Perieres, the son of Aiolos (Aeolus), whom she married when a virgin, she married Oibalos (Oebalus), being the first woman, they say, to marry a second time; for before this wives were wont, on the death of their husbands, to live as widows."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 2. 2 :
"The Kynourians (Cynurians) [of Sparta] are said to be Argives by descent, and tradition has it that their founder was Kynouros (Cynurus), son of Perseus."


Homer, Iliad 19. 97 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Hera who is female deluded even Zeus in her craftiness on that day when in strong wall-circled Thebe Alkmene (Alcmena) was at her time to bring forth the strength of Herakles (Heracles). Therefore Zeus spoke forth and made a vow before all the immortals : ‘. . . This day Eileithyia of women's child-pains shall bring forth a man to the light who, among the men sprung of the generation of my blood, shall be lord over all those dwelling about him.’
Then in guileful intention the lady Hera said to him : ‘You will be a liar, not put fulfilment on what you have spoken. Come, then, lord of Olympos, and swear before me a strong oath that he shall be lord over all those dwelling about him who this day shall fall between the feet of a woman, that man who is born of the blood of your generation.’
So Hera spoke. And Zeus was entirely unaware of her falsehood, but swore a great oath, and therein lay all his deception. But Hera in a flash of speed left the horn of Olympos and rapidly came to Argos of Akhaia (Achaea), where she knew was the mighty wife of Sthenelos (Sthenelus), descended of Perseus. And she was carrying a son, and this was the seventh month for her, but she brought him sooner into the light, and made him premature, and stayed the childbirth of Alkmene, and held back the birth pangs. She went herself and spoke the message to Zeus, son of Kronos (Cronus) : ‘Father Zeus of the shining bolt, I will tell you a message for your heart. A great man is born, who will be lord over the Argives, Eurystheus, son of Sthenelos, of the seed of Perseus, your generation. It is not unfit that he should rule over the Argives.’ She spoke, and the sharp sorrow struck at his deep heart."

Euripides, Alcestis (trans. Vellacott) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"I wish you joy [Herakles], son of Zeus and child of Perseus' blood."

Theocritus, Idylls 24. 70 (trans. Rist) (Greek bucolic C3rd B.C.) :
"Be of good cheer [Alkmena (Alcmena)], O seed of Perseus, thou mother of noblest offspring."

Theocritus, Idylls 25. 173 :
"For his [Herakles'] lineage the man was of Perseus."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 9. 1 - 4 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"This, then, is the story as it has been given us: Perseus was the son of Danaê, the daughter of Akrisios (Acrisius), and Zeus. Now Andromeda, the daughter of Kepheus (Cepheus), lay with him and bore Elektryon (Electryon), and then Eurydikê (Eurydice), the daughter of Pelops, married him and gave birth to Alkmenê (Alcmena), who in turn was wooed by Zeus, who deceived her, and bore Herakles . . . When the natural time of pregnancy [for Alkmene] had passed, Zeus, whose mind was fixed upon the birth of Herakles, announced in advance in the presence of all the gods that it was his intention to make the child who should be born that day king over the descendants of Perseus; whereupon Hera, who was filled with jealousy, using as her helper Eileithyia her daughter, checked the birth-pains of Alkmenê and brought Eurystheus forth to the light before his full time."


Some of the royal dynasties and heroes descended from Perseus were:--
(1) The royal family of Mykenai (Mycenae) which included Perseus' sons King Alkaios (Alcaeus), King Elektryon (Electryon) and King Sthenelos, grandson King Eurystheus, and great-granddaughter Queen Klytaimnestra (Clytemnestra);
(2) The royal family of Elis such as his son King Heleios (Heleius), and grandson King Augeias (Augeas);
(3) The royal family of the Taphian Islands such as the kings Taphos and Pterelaus;
(4) The royal family of Messenia which included his daughter Queen Gorgophone, grandsons King Aphareus and King Leukippos (Leucippus), and great-grandsons Idas and Lynkeus (Lynceus);
(5) The royal family of Sparta which included his daughter Queen Gorgophone, grandson King Tyndareus, and great-grandchildren (in fact, or putatively) the Dioskouroi (Dioscuri) and Queen Helene (also known as Helen of Troy).
(6) The kings of Persia, from his son Perses;
(7) Herakles, and his descendants, who eventually assumed power throughout the Peloponnese.

The full genealogy of the descendants of Perseus can be found in the Library of Apollodorus (not reproduced on this page).


Perseus | Athenian red-figure calyx krater C5th B.C. | Agrigento Archaeological Museum
Perseus, Athenian red-figure calyx krater C5th B.C., Agrigento Archaeological Museum

I. ATHENS Chief Town of Attica (Southern Greece)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 18. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The greatest honors are paid to him [Perseus] in Seriphos and among the Athenians."

II. ARGOS Chief Town of Argolis (Southern Greece)

Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 830 ff (trans. Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[Example of an Argive invocation to the ancestral hero Perseus.] Chorus of Argive Elders : ‘Raise up Perseus' spirit within my breast [i.e. summon up my ancestral courage].’"

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 21. 5 - 7 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Not far from the building in the market-place of Argos is a mound of earth, in which they say lies the head of the Gorgon Medousa (Medusa) . . . In Argos, by the side of this monument of the Gorgon, is the grave of Gorgophone (Gorgon-kilIer), the daughter of Perseus."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 23. 7 :
"The Argives have other things worth seeing [in their town]; for instance, an underground building over which was the bronze chamber which Akrisios (Acrisius) once made to guard his daughter. Perilaus [historical], however, when he became tyrant, pulled it down. Besides this building there is . . . a temple of Kretan Dionysos."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 10. 5 :
"Opposite them [at Delphoi (Delphi)] are other statues, dedicated by the Argives who helped the Thebans under Epaminondas to found Messene. The statues are of [Argive] heroes: Danaus, the most powerful king of Argos, and Hypermnestra, for she alone of her sisters kept her hands undefiled. By her side is Lynkeus also, and the whole family of them to Herakles, and further back still to Perseus."

Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks 3 (trans. Butterworth) (Greek Christian writer C2nd A.D.) :
"These temples . . . are called by a fair-sounding name, but in reality they are tombs . . . In the temple of Athena in the Akropolis at Larissa there is the tomb of Akrisios (Acrisius)."

See also War Against Dionysos (above) for cultic relics in Argos relating to that myth

III. MYCENAE (MYKENAI) Town of Argolis (Southern Greece)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 18. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"By the side of the road from Mykenai (Mycenae) to Argos there is on the left hand a hero-shrine of Perseus. The neighboring folk, then, pay him honors here, but the greatest honors are paid to him in Seriphos and among the Athenians."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 16. 6 :
"In the ruins of Mykenai (Mycenae) is a fountain called Persea [of Perseus]."

IV. MT APESAS Hill in Argolis (Southern Greece)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 15. 3 :
"Above Nemea [in Argolis] is Mount Apesas, where they say that Perseus first sacrificed to Zeus of Apesas."

V. SERIPHOS Island (Greek Aegean)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 18. 1 :
"The greatest honors are paid to him [Perseus] in Seriphos and among the Athenians, who [i.e. the Seriphians] have a precinct sacred to Perseus and an altar of Diktys (Dictys) and Klymene (Clymene), who are called the saviours of Perseus."


Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 462 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"The city of ancient Perseus, for whom Teukros (Teucer), fleeing [to Kypros (Cyprus)] from Salamis before the wrath of Telamon, fortified the younger Salamis so renowned." [N.B. The connection between Perseus and the island of Kypros is otherwise unattested.]



Herodotus, Histories 6. 53. 1 - 54. 1 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"I follow the Greek report, and hold that the Greeks correctly recount these kings of the Dorians as far back as Perseus son of Danae--they make no mention of the god [Zeus as father]--and prove these kings to be Greek; for by that time they had come to be classified as Greeks. I said as far back as Perseus, and I took the matter no further than that, because no one is named as the mortal father of Perseus, as Amphitryon is named father of Herakles. So I used correct reasoning when I said that the Greek record is correct as far back as Perseus; farther back than that, if the king's ancestors in each generation, from Danae daughter of Akrisios (Acrisius) upward, be reckoned, then the leaders of the Dorians will be shown to be true-born Egyptians . . . Thus have I traced their lineage according to the Greek story; but the Persian tale is that Perseus himself was an Assyrian, and became a Greek, which his forebears had not been; the Persians say that the ancestors of Akrisios had no bond of kinship with Perseus, and they indeed were, as the Greeks say, Egyptians."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 2. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"When Ekhestratos (Echestratus), son of Agis, was king at Sparta [historical], the Lakedaimonians (Lacedaemonians) removed all the Kynourians (Cynurians) of military age, alleging as a reason that freebooters from the Kynourian territory were harrying Argolis, the Argives being their kinsmen, and that the Kynourians themselves openly made forays into the land. The Kynourians are said to be Argives by descent, and tradition has it that their founder was Kynouros (Cynurus), son of Perseus."


Herodotus, Histories 7. 61. 1 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"They [the Persians] were formerly called by the Greeks Kephenes (Cephenes), but by themselves and their neighbors Artaei. When Perseus son of Danae and Zeus had come to Kepheus (Cepheus) son of Belos and married his daughter Andromeda, a son was born to him whom he called Perses, and he left him there; for Cepheus had no male offspring; it was from this Perses that the Persians took their name."

Herodotus, Histories 7. 150. 1 - 3 :
"There is a story told in Hellas that before Xerxes set forth on his march against Hellas, he sent a herald to Argos, who said on his coming (so the story goes), ‘Men of Argos, this is the message to you from King Xerxes. Perses our forefather had, as we believe, Perseus son of Danae for his father, and Andromeda daughter of Kepheus (Cepheus) for his mother; if that is so, then we are descended from your nation. In all right and reason we should therefore neither march against the land of our forefathers, nor should you become our enemies by aiding others or do anything but abide by yourselves in peace. If all goes as I desire, I will hold none in higher esteem than you. The Argives were strongly moved when they heard this, and although they made no promise immediately and demanded no share, they later, when the Greeks were trying to obtain their support, did make the claim, because they knew that the Lakedaimonians would refuse to grant it, and that they would thus have an excuse for taking no part in the war.’"

Herodotus, Histories 6. 54. 1 :
"I traced their lineage [of the Persians] according to the Greek story; but the Persian tale is that Perseus himself was an Assyrian, and became a Greek, which his forebears had not been; the Persians say that the ancestors of Akrisios (Acrisius) had no bond of kinship with Perseus, and they indeed were, as the Greeks say, Egyptians."


Herodotus, Histories 2. 91. 1 - 6 :
"The Egyptians shun using Greek customs, and (generally speaking) the customs of all other peoples as well. Yet, though the rest are wary of this, there is a great city called Khemmis (Chemmis), in the Theban district, near the New City. In this city is a square temple of Perseus son of Danae, in a grove of palm trees. Before this temple stand great stone columns; and at the entrance, two great stone statues. In the outer court there is a shrine with an image of Perseus standing in it. The people of this Khemmis say that Perseus is seen often up and down this land, and often within the temple, and that the sandal he wears, which is four feet long, keeps turning up, and that when it does turn up, all Egypt prospers. This is what they say; and their doings in honor of Perseus are Greek, inasmuch as they celebrate games that include every form of contest, and offer animals and cloaks and skins as prizes. When I asked why Perseus appeared only to them, and why, unlike all other Egyptians, they celebrate games, they told me that Perseus was by lineage of their city; for Danaus and Lynkeus (Lynceus), who travelled to Greece, were of Khemmis; and they traced descent from these down to Perseus. They told how he came to Khemmis, too, when he came to Egypt for the reason alleged by the Greeks as well--namely, to bring the Gorgo's head from Libya--and recognized all his relatives; and how he had heard the name of Khemmis from his mother before he came to Egypt. It was at his bidding, they said, that they celebrated the games."

Herodotus, Histories 2. 15. 1 :
"Now if we agree with the opinion of the Ionians, who say that only the Delta is Egypt, and that its seaboard reaches from the so-called Watchtower of Perseus forty schoeni to the Salters' at Pelusium."






A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.