Perseus or Perseus (Greek: Περσεύς, transl. : Perseus), in Greek mythology, is a demigod known to be the founder of the mythical city-state of Mycenae, half-brother of Heracles, and patron of both the royal house of Perseus and the Persian dynasty, having been an ancestor, according to mythology, of the emperors of Persia and famous for having beheaded the Gorgon Medusa, a monster who turned into stone anyone who looked into his eyes.
As a demigod, Perseus was the son of Zeus, who in the form of a golden rain, entered the bronze tower and impregnated Perseus' mother, the mortal Dânae or Danai, daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos.
Acrisius, king of Argos, was married to Eurydice, daughter of Lacedemon, and had a daughter, Dânae, but no male children. When Acrisius asked the oracle how his daughter could have male children, the answer was that Dânae would have a son who would kill him.
Dânae was locked in an underground bronze chamber and put under guard, but she was either seduced, according to some authors, by Black, Acrisius' brother and rival, or by Zeus, who took the form of a golden rain.
Lactantius, a Christian author who lived around the year 300, influenced by Evemerism, says that this "rain of gold" was actually a large sum of money that the immortal king Zeus poured over Dânae's lap to compensate for the dishonor he had done her, and that later poets adopted the rain of gold as a figure of speech, just as "rain of iron" refers to a large quantity of darts and arrows.
Acrisius, not believing that his daughter was pregnant with Zeus' child, put her in a chest, which was thrown into the sea. The basket reached the island of Seriphos, where it was found by Dictis, who raised the child.
Perseus became a great man, strong, ambitious, brave, adventurous, and protective of his mother. Polydectus, afraid that Perseus' ambition would lead him to usurp his throne, proposed a tournament in which the winner would be the one who brought back Medusa's head, Perseus' adventurous instinct would not let him refuse.
In another version of the same myth, all the guests at a tribute to the king were supposed to give him a gift; since Perseus was poor he offered to bring Medusa's head as a gift.
Perseus, knowing his mother, said he would take part in the tournament, but did not say he would face Medusa, for fear that she would stop him. From the battle against Medusa he emerged victorious thanks to the help of Athena, Hades and Hermes.
Athena gave him a shield so well polished that, like a mirror, you could see the reflection when looking at it. Hades gave him a helmet that makes the wearer invisible, and Hermes gave him his winged sandals, three objects that were definitive in Perseus' victory.
The Roman poet Ovid tells that Medusa was originally a beautiful maiden, "the jealous aspiration of many suitors," priestess of the temple of Athena.
One day she is said to have yielded to the onslaughts of the "Lord of the Seas," Poseidon, and to have lain with him in the temple of the goddess Athena herself; the goddess then, in a rage, turned the maiden's beautiful hair into serpents, and left her face so hideous that anyone who looked at her would be turned into a stone statue.
Then Perseus, guided by the reflection in the shield, without looking directly at Medusa, defeated her by cutting off her head, which he offered to the goddess Athena.
Legend says that when Medusa was killed, the winged horse Pegasus and the giant Crisaor emerged from her belly. Medusa's other two sisters, Estheno and Eurylus, pursue Perseus, but Perseus escapes due to Hades' helmet, which makes him invisible to the Gorgons.
On his way back he passed through the land of the Hesperides, where the titan Atlas, who was condemned to hold the heavenly vault on his shoulders, was staying.
Seeing that the place was very beautiful, Perseus asked Atlas if he could sleep in the vicinity that day, telling the titan, "If you see a person for his family, know that I am the son of Zeus, and if, however, you value great deeds, know that I killed the Gorgon Medusa."
Atlas replies, "You, mortal, killed the queen of the Gorgons? No mortal could have done such a thing. Very angry at not being believed by Atlas, Perseus shows Medusa's head to the huge titan, the latter when he faces the eyes of the Gorgon begins to have his whole body petrified, his bones become a mountain, his beard a forest and his head the summit.
Continuing his way home, he passes by an island where he sees a beautiful woman chained in the middle of the sea. Perseus asks the young woman what she did to deserve such a punishment, the girl then tells him: "I am Andromeda, my mother Cassiopeia dared to compare her beauty with the daughters of Posidon, the sea nymphs, and we were punished for it.
Posidon sent a monster from Ceto to destroy our city for my mother's mistake, and I was offered as a sacrifice." Perseus says that he will save the beautiful girl if she promises to marry him, but before he gets the answer, a big wave opened in the middle and the sea monster appeared.
Without a second thought Perseus goes against the monster and, taking advantage of his flying advantage, wins the bloody battle. Andromeda's parents grant him their hand and Perseus returns home with her.
When he arrives home he sees a disorder, the king of Seriphos, Polyidecto, and his followers, go after Dânae, Perseus' mother, to rape her. Perseus summons his friends to fight with him, but the king and his loyalists were far outnumbered. When the battle seemed lost, the hero remembers what happened to Atlas when he stared into the petrifying gaze of the Gorgon Medusa and says, "Those who are my friends, let them close their eyes.
Those who believed then close their eyes and Perseus raises Medusa's head. All those who were against him (including some unbelieving friends) are petrified, except the king, who realized what was going to happen and turns his face away;
he then asks Perseus for mercy: "Please, O Perseus, let me live, I recognize that you are stronger and that you killed the Gorgon, so don't kill me too. The Argian replies, "I will treat you well, Polydectus, I will leave you in my house to never forget the cowardice you show me now."
Perseus turns Medusa's face toward him, petrifying him, in the position of cowardice he showed himself in, taking the statue home, never forgetting what happened.
Fulfillment of the prophecy
According to the prophecy, Perseus ended up murdering his grandfather during a sports competition in which he was participating in the discus-throwing contest. Making a disastrous throw, he accidentally hit his grandfather without knowing that he was there; thus the prophecy that Acrisius feared most was fulfilled.
Despite this Perseus refused to rule Argos (exchanging kingdoms with Megapente son of Black) and ruled Tiryns and Mycenae (the city he founded), establishing a family of seven sons: Perseides, Perses, Alceu, Helios, Mestor, Sthenelus, and Electrion, and a daughter, Gorgophon.
Their descendants also ruled Mycenae, from Electriam to Eurystheus, after whom Atreus conquered the kingdom, such descendants also included the great hero Heracles. Following this mythology, Perseus is also the ancestor of the Persians.
The 1981 film Fury of Titans, directed by Desmond Davis, was a cinematic attempt at adapting the myth, which was, however, highly modified and merged with other myths: such as the Pegasus, from the myth of Bellerophon, the giant scorpions, similar to those that kill the hunter Orion, but a great adaptation was the exchange of the monster Ceto for the giant squid, Kraken, the latter being part of Scandinavian mythology, not Greek mythology.
In 2010, the production got a 3D remake, with significant changes to the script of the first version and direction by Louis Leterrier. The success of the remake led to a sequel also in 3D, entitled Fury of Titans 2, released in 2012 and directed by Jonathan Liebesman, remembering, however, that, like the first film, the sequel is not a reference to the myth.