Medusa: the most common thought would be a hideous woman with snakes for hair. Believe it or not, Medusa was not always like this. Her story is a long and heartbreaking one.
There is no clarification in Greek mythology on when Medusa was born. Medusa was one of three sisters known as the Gorgons. Medusa was the only mortal of the three sisters. Medusa’s sisters were Stheno and Euryale. According to Greek sources, they were all children of the sea deities: Phorkys and his sister, Keto. Before Medusa turned into the ugly snake-for-hair monster, she was actually a very beautiful priestess. She was just as beautiful as Athena – Goddess of war and wisdom. Many even believed she was prettier. Athena often overheard the mortals talking about Medusa, eventually she grew envious of her, but she never acted on the jealousy she had for Medusa. Men wanted Medusa to be their wife. Women were resentful of her. But Medusa paid no attention to the emotions being thrown at her. She wanted to remain a virgin like the Goddess Athena. Medusa also worked as a priestess in Athena’s temple.
Poseidon – God of the Sea and Uncle of Athena – saw Medusa and felt attracted to her, Medusa however was not interested. Poseidon tried, many times, but every time, Medusa rejected him. Poseidon was furious. He kept trying and she kept rejecting, until one day he tried to force himself onto her. Medusa managed to escape from him. She ran to Athena’s temple, hoping to seek protection from the Goddess. But Poseidon caught up to her and violated her in the temple. Athena saw this and became furious, not at Poseidon, but at Medusa. Athena then cursed Medusa into a hideous monster.
Medusa was horrified and went into hiding. People went looking for her but when they found her and looked her in the eye, they would all turn to stone. Word about Medusa began to spread. She became a monster that was feared by all people. She stayed this way but still prayed to Athena, begging her to have mercy and turn her back to her true form. Athena sent the infamous Perseus, demi-god – Son of Zeus and a mortal Danae to Medusa. Athena gifted the hero with a bronze shield. He used the reflection of the shield like a mirror to behead Medusa. Perseus then took the head of Medusa and used it for many things, such as killing Greek monsters.
Today, Medusa's true story is not well-known. Many people take her as a hideous monster, but they never really take time to understand her story. She was misunderstood. In Ancient Greece, adults would use her story to scare children into behaving well. Now, her story is just another myth in Greek mythology.
[Sources: World History Encyclopedia; Medusa Facts For Kids]