The Gorgons Stheno Medusa and Eryale

Before gargoyles protected the buildings of Europe, the fearsome Gorgons served a similar purpose. The Gorgons were monsters, whose faces turned those who saw them to stone. They protected Greek buildings, as carvings or mosaics, and in smaller versions, they served as protective amulets.

The three Gorgons, Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa, were sisters, but only two were immortal. Medusa could be killed, and was, by the hero Perseus, a son of the great god Zeus. 

All three terrible sisters had brass hands, fangs, golden wings, and sometimes serpent skin or even serpent bodies. Their hair was all snakes, or else snakes twined and hissed among their hair. Their glare, of course, was deadly.

They were born in the caverns beneath Mount Olympus (except Medusa perhaps). Their father was Phorcys, a primordial merman-seagod. Their mother was Ceto, a sea monster after whom the Cetaceans, the whales and their kin, are named. Both parents were the children of Gaia, the earth, and Pontus, the encircling sea.

A Gorgon head on the outside of each of the Vix-krater's three handles, from the grave of the Celtic Lady of Vix, 510 BC


Medusa was originally a ravishingly beautiful maiden, "the jealous aspiration of many suitors."

Poseidon, the Lord of the Sea and brother to Zeus, laid eyes on the beautiful Medusa and immediately wanted to possess her.

However, Medusa was a chaste woman and wanted nothing to do with Poseidon and took refuge in the temple of Athena, hoping that the virgin goddess would protect her.

Aspecta Medusa: 1867 Dante Gabriel Rossett

The legend of Theseus and the Minautor Master of Cassoni Campana - beginning opf the 16th century.

Italian Painting Avignon in four panels and more than six meters length, the Master of Cassoni Campana tells the legend of Theseus and the Minautor. This masterpiece abounds with details and can be read like a modern comic strip. 

Passions of  Pasiphae

The Defeat of Athens by Minos, King of Crete, from the Story of Theseus

Ariadne in Naxos, from the Story of Theseus

Theseus and the Minotaur, from the Story of Theseus


Atalanta was a virgin huntress, unwilling to marry, and loved by the hero Meleager.

Atalanta was a disappointment to her father because she was a girl, so he exposed her, but the goddess Artemis favored and protected her. Atalanta grew to be a top athlete.

Peleus and Atalanta wrestling, black-figured hydria, c. 550 BC, Staatliche Antikensammlungen (Inv. 596).

She was such a fast runner that Aphrodite had to provide her opponent with a trick to enable him to beat her. 

The Race between Atalanta and Hippomenes, by Nicolas Colombel (1644-1717), Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna. Atalanta is slowed as she picks up the golden apples rolled down by her rival
She was one of the many Greek heroes known as Argonauts who went with Jason to fetch the Golden Fleece.

When Artemis was forgotten at a sacrifice by King Oineus, she was angered and sent the Calydonian Boar, a wild boar that ravaged the land, men, and cattle and prevented crops from being sown. Atalanta joined Meleager and many other famous heroes on a hunt for the boar. 

Many of the men were angry that a woman was joining them, but Meleager, though married, lusted for Atalanta, and so he persuaded them to include her. Atalanta was incredibly fast and accurate with missiles. She was first to strike the Calydonian Boar.  After Meleager finally killed the boar with his spear, he awarded the skin (or head) to Atalanta. 

Meleager Presenting The Head of the Calydonian Boa to Atalanta, Crosato Giovanni Battista

Theseus and Pirithous and the Calydonian Boar

Theseus and Pirithous were among the company of heroes that hunted the Calydonian Boar.  The Calydonian Boar is one of the monsters of Greek mythology that had to be overcome by heroes of the Olympian age.

The Calydonian hunt. Tondo of a Laconian black-figure cup, ca. 555 BC.

King Oeneus ("wine man") of Calydon, an ancient city of west-central Greece north of the Gulf of Patras, held annual harvest sacrifices to the gods on the sacred hill. One year the king forgot to include Great "Artemis of the Golden Throne" in his offerings Insulted, Artemis, the "Lady of the Bow", loosed the biggest, most ferocious boar imaginable on the countryside of Calydon. It rampaged throughout the countryside, destroying vineyards and crops, forcing people to take refuge inside the city walls (Ovid), where they began to starve.

Oeneus sent messengers out to look for the best hunters in Greece, offering them the boar's pelt and tusks as a prize

Calydonian Boar Hunt , Frieze from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Theseus and Pirithous

Theseus and Pirithous fight a centaur attempting  to steal a bride from a wedding party

Thousands of years before there were "Buddy Films" in Hollywood, such as the "Lethal Weapon" series, "Men In Black", etc, there was Theseus and Pirithous.

Pirithous was said to be a prince of Lapith. Having heard much of Theseus, he decided to test the Athenian's mettle by stealing his cattle. When Theseus showed up in hot pursuit, the two men faced off…and found they liked each other. And thus began a friendship that was akin to that of Achilles and Patrocles. Theseus and Pirithous were brothers thereafter and fought shoulder-to-shoulder, battling drunken Centaurs at a wedding party, kidnapping a young Helen of Troy, and even raiding the realm of Hades to steal his bride, Persophene.

Though one of the first, the buddy story of Theseus and Pirithous was not the first. 

That nod goes to "The Epic of Gilgamesh". Taken from cuneiform tablets, it is the possibly the earliest work of literature known to man. 

Gilgamesh, the king of Ur in ancient Mesopotamia, seeks to capture a "wild man" called Enkidu. Enkidu was created by the gods to counter the powerful Gilgamesh because they feared his strength. But instead of a counter to the burgeoning might of men, Enkidu and Gilgamesh become best friends. When the gods kill Enkidu because Gilgamesh spurns the advances of a goddess,  Gilgamesh embarks on a quest to defeat death, and encounters Noah and his wife, the only two people the gods granted immortality (The story of God, Noah, and the Ark predates the Bible). Gilgamesh finally learns that the lot of man is death, and comes to terms with it.

Arthur Evans and the Ruins at Knossos

Sir Arthur Evans (far left)
Sir Arthur John Evans was an English archaeologist most famous for unearthing the palace of Knossos on the Greek island of Crete and for developing the concept of Minoan civilization from the structures and artifacts found there and elsewhere throughout the eastern Mediterranean

Evans also took to heart the myths of Homeric epics.  These stories led Arthur Evans to Crete guided by the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur. Following up on a lead of Minos Kalokairinos who had uncovered ruins at Knossos a few years, Evans started excavating in 1899. The finds at Knossos proved to be spectacular, revealing an intricate maze of buildings, pottery, pillars and frescoes. In keeping with Homeric myth, Evans dubbed the ruins at Knossos the “Palace of Minos” and gave the name “Minoan” to the civilization of Bronze Age Crete. 

By the end of 1903 he had uncovered most of the palace and began his work on the surrounding area, completing the reconstruction of the palace in 1938. 

Throne room before reconstruction 

Throne room after reconstruction

Griffin couchant (lying down) facing throne

PASIPHAE: Mother of the Minotaur

PASIPHAE was an immortal daughter of the sun-god Helios. She was the mother of "starlike" Asterion, called by the Greeks the Minotaur, after a curse from Poseidon caused her to experience lust for and mate with a white bull sent by Poseidon.

Pasiphae and The Wooden Cow

Queen Pasiphae seated on a throne attended by a maiden and old Trophos (her nurse?) receives the wooden cow from the artisan Daidalos. Eros, the winged god of love, plays with the head of the crafted beast beneath her throne.

Mosiac,  Imperial Roman, Gaziantep Museum, Gaziantep, Turkey

The skillful craftsman Daedalus shows the wooden cow to Pasiphae. Pompeii, House of the Ancient Hunt - Naples Arc

Pasiphae entrers in Daedalus wooden cow, Giulio Romano c.1530.


The creature had the head and tail of a bull on the body of a man.

Before he ascended the throne of Crete, Minos struggled with his brothers for the right to rule. Minos prayed to Poseidon to send him a snow-white bull, as a sign of approval by the gods for his reign. He promised to sacrifice the bull as an offering, and as a symbol of subservience. A beautiful white bull rose from the sea, but when Minos saw it, he coveted it for himself. He assumed that Poseidon would not mind, so he kept it and sacrificed the best specimen from his herd instead.

Daedalus presents the artificial cow to Pasiphaƫ: Roman fresco in the House of the Vettii, Pompeii, 1st century CE.
When Poseidon learned about the deceit, he made Pasipha, Minos' wife, fall madly in love with the bull. She had Daedalus, the famous architect, make a wooden cow for her. Pasipha climbed into the decoy and fooled the white bull. The offspring of their lovemaking was a monster called the Minotaur.

Did Maximinus I Have Acromegaly?

 Maximinus I: The Giant Who Ruled Rome, 235-238 AD

Ancient Rome was a turbulent place, and a variety of Emperors attempted to consolidate and expand the empire, with variable results. Among them was the first of the “barracks emperors”: Maximinus Thrax, also known as Maximinus I.

Maximinus was said to be a huge man and was a soldier and general before he became emperor. One ancient source puts his height at over 8 feet tall, though this is likely an exaggeration. In any event, he was said to tower over his contemporaries, had a frightening visage and his hands were so large that he wore his wife’s bracelet on this thumb like a ring. Famous for his legendary appetite for food and drink, he was a violent man that was eventually killed by his own troops.

There has been speculation that Maximinus I suffered from acromegaly. A pituitary tumor will sometime secrete growth hormone. Before puberty, the excess growth hormone will give the person giganticism (think Andre the Giant). After puberty, the growth plates in most bones fuse so there no more enlargement, but the hands, feet, and face can continue to grow. Acromegaly is the condition where the face becomes misshapen from the prominent brow and jaw that gives rise to the “leonine facies”: Lion-like facial features common in acromegaly. The hands and feet continue to grow out of proportion to the body and can become enormous.


The tumor can do more than affect growth. If it expands, it can compress the optic chiasm where our visual fibers run. The vision gradually becomes constricted from both sides until there is only pinpoint vision left, then blindness. There may be pain as well, including a severe form of nerve pain called trigeminal neuralgia.

Did Maximinus I have acromegaly? No one will ever know unless his skull is discovered, but certainly the coins and busts showing his features support the diagnosis.