• Perseus and Medusa - Mythology of Serifos

Perseus, Medusa & the frog of Serifos

The myth of Perseus begins from an oracle in Delphi and it contains many fantastic elements, such hideous witches, a flying horse and a monster with snakes for hair.

Curious to find out whether he was about to have a male offspring, Argos’s King Akrisios resorts to Pythia. What he finds out instead, though, is that he will be killed by his own grandson, the son that Danae will one day have. He decides to imprison his daughter, in order for her not to get pregnant. However, Zeus, captivated by Danae’s charm, manages to get close to her. A few months later Perseus is born. Aiming to prevent the verification of the oracle and not wanting to kill them, Akrisios locked Danae and the baby in a wooden chest (called “larnaca”), which he threw in the Aegean Sea, leaving them in the mercy of gods. Many days later the chest was washed up on a shore of Serifos, where it was found by the kind-hearted fisherman Diktis, brother of the ruthless king of the island, Polydektis.

Years passed by and Perseus became a strong young man. In the meantime, Polydektis fell for Danae and considered her son to be an obstacle in their love. Thus he assigned him a feat that was considered impossible for anyone to accomplish: to find and decapitate Medusa, a gorgeous mermaid who was cursed by goddess Athena and was transformed in a monster with snakes instead of hair and a gaze that petrified any mortal who looked at her.

Perseus started his journey with the help of goddess Athena, Hermes and the Nymphs, who offered him a pair of winged sandals, a sharp sword, a shiny shield, a magic sack and the helmet of Hades that made anyone who wore it invisible. Furthermore, they showed him the way to the “Graias” (=οld women), three witches who shared one single eye and knew Medusa’s whereabouts.
As he reached the old witches’ cave, he managed to grab their only eye and, after trading it for the information he needed, he rushed to encounter the gruesome monster. Invisible, he approached her, and looking through the reflection of his shield so as to avoid her gaze, he cut Medusa’s head and put it in the sack. The myth has it that the decapitation of Medusa created the giant Chrysaor and Pegasus, the winged horse that, according to one interpretation, Perseus straddled on his way back home.

Back to Serifos, unable to believe Perseus’s achievement, Polydektis demanded to see Medusa’s head - which in turn petrified the King and his followers when they looked at her, giving the island its rocky landscape.

Then, it is said that when Perseus lie down to get some rest, exhausted by his adventure, the noise that the frogs of the island made annoyed him so much, that he asked from Zeus to steal their voice. This is, according to one version, where the idiom “Serifian frog” or “frog from Serifios” came from - a famous ancient Greek proverb that was used to describe a foolish person, without any rhetorical ability.

Symbols of Perseus, Medusa and the frog are met in ancient coins of the 6th century B.C., linking Serifos’s mythology and history to some material substance.