Perseus is one of the most famous legendary Greek heroes, but how much do you know about him? Here, we share 5 interesting facts about Perseus, some of which may surprise you!
5 Facts about Perseus
Greek mythology is packed full of heroes who liked to do nothing more than slay monsters, rescue people, and live full but sometimes tragic lives. Perseus is no exception, and is one of the most famous of the Greek heroes.
Even today, people write books and make films about his exploits – some of which are not entirely true to the real Greek mythology! These 5 interesting facts about Perseus will help set the record straight, and give you some background knowledge before your next vacation in Greece.
1. His father was Zeus not Poseidon
A generation of kids brought up with the Percy Jackson books may be surprised to discover that Poseidon is not the father of Perseus. Instead, Zeus takes that honour as his father, and the mortal Danaë was his mother. There is a connection to the sea though. Danaë’s father cast both his daughter and newly born son Perseus into the ocean in a locked chest, as he was scared that the son would eventually come back and kill him as was predicted in a prophecy. They eventually washed up on a shoreline where they were rescued, so perhaps Zeus did ask Poseidon to protect them after all! As a demigod, Perseus was stronger than ordinary men, but had no special abilities in the same way that Percy of the Percy Jackson books does.
2. He was the half-brother and great-grandfather of Herakles
Perseus was also related to another famous Greek hero – Herakles. You might better know him by his Roman name Hercules. They shared the same father (Zeus), and in fact Perseus was also the great-grandfather of Herakles as well. The legendary succession (which the Ancient Greeks believed to be an historical fact), went like this – Perseus, Electryon, Alcmena, and Heracles. Many cities and their tribes traced their ancestry back to mythological beginnings, and Perseus founded a line of ancestors that became known as The Perseids.
3. Perseus killed Medusa
After making a rash promise, Perseus had to set out and kill Medusa, who was the only mortal Gorgon. With the help of the Gods (Zeus gave him a sword and Hades’ helm of darkness. Hermes lent Perseus a pair of winged sandals. Athena gave him a polished shield), Perseus set off for the lair of Medusa using the sandals. Knowing that one direct look from her might turn him to stone, he used the polished shield to see where she was in the reflection, and cut her head off with the sword. Several drops of blood fell to the ground, and in some myths Pegasus the winged horse sprang up from them.
4. Perseus never tamed Pegasus
Although you may have images in your mind of Perseus flying on the mythological winged horse Pegasus, he was not the original character involved in that legend. The lesser known hero Bellerophon, who in many ways may have been a proto-type of Hercules, was the original character. From classical times onward, he was slowly replaced by Perseus though, a transition which was later finished by the painters and poets of the Renaissance period of Europe.
5. He founded the city of Mycenae
Pausanias, who was arguably the first travel writer in the world, lived in the second century AD. His travels took him all over the known ancient world, and one of the places he visited was Mycenae. Even then, it was more of a ruin than an inhabited city, but he records that local legends and myths describe how it was founded by Perseus. You can discover more about Mycenae during a Greek Mythology Tour!
Interested in learning about Greek Mythology?
There’s no better place to learn about Greek Mythology than in Greece itself! The myths and legends are often connected with ancient cities and the landscape itself, and visiting the areas gives greater context to the stories. We offer a range of mythological tours in Greece, which combine visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites with expert guides, storytelling, and even episodes taken from the Percy Jackson books! Contact our team through the website for more details.