Myths of the Gorgon tell us the tales of a terrifying snake-haired creature who could petrify its enemies with one single glance. This myth was already being told by Homer by the end of the 8th century B.C., who told of a Gorgon named Gorgo residing in the underworld. The poet Hesiod speaks of three gorgons: Steno, Euryale and Medusa. All three are daughters of the primordial goddess Gaia, which makes them pre-Olympian. The gorgons are hideous creatures, their mouths lines with wild boar tusks, their hands bronzed, with mighty golden wings on their backs.
The best-known story is that of Medusa, the deadly gorgon. As always is the case with the Greeks, there are several versions of the same myth, which differ according to region, author and era.
In certain versions, Medusa is a ravishing young woman living on the island of Sériphos. “Among all her attractions, what charmed the eyes above all, was her hair,” the poet Ovid tells us. Intoxicated by her own beauty, she dared compare herself to the goddess Athena, who responded by turning her into a terrifying snake-haired monster.
For others, Medusa was abused by Poseidon in the very heart of the temple Athena. He unfairly punishes this mortal girl by transforming her into a monster.
Cursed, she will spend the rest of her days with the other two gorgons on the shores of the ocean in the far western world, where the sun disappears each day. Some see the gorgons as an embodiment of winter, the dark night of Ouranos, of whom they are the offspring.
Medusa would eventually be struck down by Perseus, who uses the reflection of his shield to avoid her petrifying gaze.
The mask of the gorgon is omnipresent in ancient iconography, and can be found on anything from everyday objects to the shields of soldiers. The myth of Medusa and Perseus has many interpretations. Some see it as a cosmological myth where light conquers winter’s petrifying gaze. Christian interpretations of the ancient myth would see it as the victory of virtue aided by Wisdom over perverse tendencies.
Additionally, the figure of Medusa aims to ward off bad luck. It is present on many Greek shields. In the 6th century, the Eastern Romans carved two gigantic gorgonian heads into the famous Cistern Basilica of Constantinople in order to protect the city’s water. It is in this spirit that we created our engraving, thinking of the Medusa creature as being a protective talisman; of a myth embodied in an image; of a piece of ancient culture decorating our walls and bringing them to life.