Perseus (pûrˈsēəs, –sŏs) [key], in Greek mythology, son of Zeus and Danaë. His grandfather, Acrisius, had been warned by an oracle that his grandson would kill him and therefore put Perseus and his mother in a chest and threw it into the sea. It drifted to Seriphus, where King Polydectes befriended the two. After a time Polydectes fell in love with Danaë but was embarrassed by the presence of her full-grown son. He sent Perseus to fetch the head of the Gorgon Medusa, thinking that Perseus would die in the attempt. The gods, however, loved Perseus. Hermes gave him a curved sword and winged sandals, Athena a mirrorlike shield, and Hades a helmet that made Perseus invisible. Thus armed, Perseus slew Medusa. While fleeing the other Gorgons, Medusa's sisters, Perseus asked Atlas for help. Atlas refused, and Perseus, by means of the Medusa head, promptly turned him into a mountain of stone. On his way home Perseus rescued Andromeda from a sea monster and married her. When he arrived in Seriphus, he killed Polydectes and his followers. He then gave the Medusa head to Athena. He went with his mother and his wife to Argos. There, while competing in a discus contest, Perseus accidentally killed his grandfather. Thus the prophecy was fulfilled. Perseus was the father of Electryon, who was the grandfather of Hercules. The famous figure of Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini stands in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Folklore and Mythology