Braun, Graham

Project title: Defiant Maidens: The Social Role of Medusa and Gorgons in Art and Literature

Department: Greek and Roman Studies

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Brendan Burke and Dr. Trevor Van Damme

"In this comprehensive analysis, the monstrous gorgons that appear in Ancient Greek art and literature are analyzed and placed into their social context and roles in society. With Medusa and the myth of Perseus as a template, this project aims to present a new definition to the word “gorgon,” suggesting that gorgons represented women who refused to be objectified and treated like property in their patrilineal traditions. As a result, they were vilified and demonized because of their threat to the patriarchal system in Greece. With this definition in mind, I inquire about the gorgon’s connection to various other figures, especially Artemis, Apollo, and Athena, specifically looking at the archaeology of important sanctuaries and temples. By comparing archaeological find contexts, typological styles, and the development of gorgon images in Archaic Greece with certain literary sources and evidence, this holistic study of the gorgon around the 7th and 6th Centuries BC shows that Medusa and gorgons represented more than just monsters but demonized social actors. As a result, their connection to other mythological characters can be rationalized by examining their qualities and attributes based on this new definition."