Panel in high relief depicting Perseus, Athena, Medusa, and Pegasus

Archaic. Cast of the original relief in the Regional Archaeological Museum, Palermo. Metope from a temple in Selinute, a Greek Colony on the Southern Coast of Sicily, 6th-5th Centuries BCE.

This cast, taken from a metope of Doric Temple C in Selinus, depicts the hero Perseus as he cuts off the head of the monster Medusa. Perseus, the central figure, is identified by his winged sandals and the soft cap of invisibility, which were given to him by the god Hermes. He looks out toward the viewer as he slays Medusa, who has one knee on the ground in a posture that conveyed flight in Archaic art, at the right side of the work. According to myth, Pegasus was born as Medusa was killed. You can see Medusa embrace the newborn Pegasus who has just been born from her neck as she is slain by Perseus. Athena, the goddess who aided Perseus in this task, stands on the opposite side of the Greek hero.  Athena is larger than Perseus, emphasizing her divinity. She places her hands on his shoulder, demonstrating her role as his supporter.

Archaic in style, the sculpture reveals the early iconography of Medusa. Most viewers today uniformly imagine snake hair when picturing the monster Medusa. However, snake hair was not important in early representations of Medusa. During the Archaic period, Medusa was often represented as a single figure with a broad face, a wide grin that bared large teeth, and a protruding tongue.  Snake hair was not essential to the iconography of Medusa during the Archaic era and this example does not include what would become Medusa’s most defining feature.

  • ancient greece
  • archaic
  • athena
  • cast gallery
  • greek
  • Greek mythology
  • medusa
  • pegasus
  • perseus
  • relief