I read a short paragraph on Medusa's wikipedia page about the myth representing a historical event.

A number of early classics scholars interpreted the myth of the Medusa as a quasi-historical - "based on or reconstructed from an event, custom, style, etc., in the past", or "sublimated" memory of an actual invasion.

As I understood it, a Joseph Campbell suggests a temple with priestesses wearing gorgon masks, essentially, was invaded by King Perseus' Hellenes around 13th century BC, which would have been Mycenaean Greece I guess.

Is there any more info of this? Is anything known about these ancient snake priestesses/godesses/religions? How far back could this go? Proto-Indo-European, even? Or was she just based on a very early greek goddess/cult that was discarded?

2 Answers 2


The Gorgoneion is a likely origin for the priestess masks. The practice of these amulets as aspects of the Mother Goddess dates back to the Neolithic Age. The oldest Gorgon mask is from Greek Sesklo culture before 6000 BC, but they have been excavated in many places from Etruskia to the Black sea coast.


Pausanias has a euhemeristic explanation about the myth in Description of Greece:

Not far from the building in the market-place of Argos is a mound of earth, in which they say lies the head of the Gorgon Medusa. I omit the miraculous, but give the rational parts of the story about her. After the death of her father, Phorcus, she reigned over those living around Lake Tritonis, going out hunting and leading the Libyans to battle. On one such occasion, when she was encamped with an army over against the forces of Perseus, who was followed by picked troops from the Peloponnesus, she was assassinated by night. Perseus, admiring her beauty even in death, cut off her head and carried it to show the Greeks.

But Procles, the son of Eucrates, a Carthaginian, thought a different account more plausible than the preceding. It is as follows. Among the incredible monsters to be found in the Libyan desert are wild men and wild women. Procles affirmed that he had seen a man from them who had been brought to Rome. So he guessed that a woman wandered from them, reached Lake Tritonis, and harried the neighbours until Perseus killed her; Athena was supposed to have helped him in this exploit, because the people who live around Lake Tritonis are sacred to her.

Paus. 2.21.5 and 2,21,6

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