Why does looking at Medusa with a mirror work?

  • Medusa is known for being so ugly that if men even look at her face, they would immediately be turned into stone statues. Perseus was somehow able to overcome this challenge of killing her by looking at her reflection in a mirror. Even though he was technically looking at her, just with a mirror, he did not turn into stone.

    So how does looking at Medusa's reflection in a mirror prevent men from turning into stone? Technically he should have turned into stone as he looked at her, but this time indirectly.

  • yannis

    yannis Correct answer

    7 years ago

    It was looking directly into Medusa's eyes that would turn a mortal to stone, not the whole of her face. Using the shield as a mirror meant that even if Medusa's gaze fell upon Perseus, it would be at an angle. Not that it mattered in the end, as Perseus was lucky enough to catch Medusa and her sisters sleeping:

    But the Gorgons had heads twined about with the scales of dragons, and great tusks like swine's, and brazen hands, and golden wings, by which they flew; and they turned to stone such as beheld them. So Perseus stood over them as they slept, and while Athena guided his hand and he looked with averted gaze on a brazen shield, in which he beheld the image of the Gorgon,5 he beheaded her. When her head was cut off, there sprang from the Gorgon the winged horse Pegasus and Chrysaor, the father of Geryon; these she had by Poseidon.

    Source: Apollod. 2.4.2

    It should be noted, however, that Hesiod doesn't mention the shield at all:

    And again, Ceto bore to Phorcys the fair-cheeked Graiae, sisters grey from their birth: and both deathless gods and men who walk on earth call them Graiae, Pemphredo well-clad, and saffron-robed Enyo, and the Gorgons who dwell beyond glorious Ocean in the frontier land towards Night where are the clear-voiced Hesperides, Sthenno, and Euryale, and Medusa who suffered a woeful fate: she was mortal, but the two were undying and grew not old. With her lay the Dark-haired One in a soft meadow amid spring flowers. And when Perseus cut off her head, there sprang forth great Chrysaor and the horse Pegasus who is so called because he was born near the springs of Ocean; and that other, because he held a golden blade in his hands. Now Pegasus flew away and left the earth, the mother of flocks, and came to the deathless gods: and he dwells in the house of Zeus and brings to wise Zeus the thunder and lightning

    Source: Hes. Th. 280

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM