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Maidens, fillies and the death of Medusa on a seventh-century pithos

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 November 2010

Kathryn Topper
University of Washington
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A well-known relief pithos in the Louvre (CA 795) shows Perseus confronting a Gorgon whose human torso terminates in the body of a horse. Her equine features have proven difficult to explain, and earlier discussions of the scene have appealed to lost narratives, seventh-century artistic conventions and broad symbolic associations between Gorgons and horses. Focusing on her combination of equine and maidenly characteristics, this article interprets Medusa's unusual form with reference to a series of ancient Greek metaphors connecting maidens, horses and Gorgons. It argues that recognizing the metaphorical logic of the image allows us to understand Medusa's form as a sympathetic comment upon her death, which has parallels in the sacrifices of maidens in Greek art and literature.

Research Article
Copyright © The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies 2010


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