History Hit goes on a remarkable journey with classicist Natalie Haynes to the beautiful Greek island of Corfu to discover the truth behind the myth of Medusa: a woman who both beguiles and terrifies us.
In this first episode, Natalie explores the roots of the extraordinary myth and follows it to the brink of its violent conclusion. We investigate sites closely connected to the myth, including Corfu’s spectacular Gorgon pediment, a gigantic early image of Medusa that once protected a magnificent Archaic era temple to Artemis.
And Natalie sets the myth in its historic context, as Greek power spread across the Mediterranean to the edges of the known world, and considers what lies at the heart of this story about a woman raped by a god, punished with snakes for hair and cursed with a deadly gaze, only to be killed by a young man on a murderous mission.
Medusa’s story has always captured the imaginations of artists, from antiquity to the modern day. But what do we know about Medusa’s origins and about her life beyond the repeated tropes - where are the sources, and what do we really know about her thought-provoking story? Natalie investigates the early texts, from the early Greek of Hesiod to the later Romans, and sees how the elements we take for granted, from snakey hair to stoney gaze, were added to the myth to create a familiar image that hides an incredible story.
To learn more about the archaic Temple of Artemis, and the stunning pediment that gives us one of our earliest images of Medusa, check out: https://archaeologicalmuseums.gr/en/museum/5df34af3deca5e2d79e8c162/archaeological-museum-of-kerkyra
For more from Natalie Haynes, rock star mythologist (Washington Post), visit: https://nataliehaynes.com/. In her most recent novel Stoneblind (longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2023 and an immediate Sunday Times bestseller), Natalie brings Medusa's story to life as you've never seen her before. There's also a wonderful chapter about Medusa, and about lots of other misunderstood women from Greek mythology, in Pandora's Jar.