Andromeda. Odilon Redon. 1912. Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock.
Polydectes, king of the island of Seriphos, lusted for Danae, the mother of Perseus. Wishing to pursue the mother unchallenged, the king devised a way to be rid of her son. He held a banquet where he required from each guest the gift of a horse. Perseus had none and so promised to bring some other offering instead. Polydectes demanded the head of the Medusa.
The Medusa was once a beautiful woman who fell in love with Poseidon. They had a tryst in the temple of Athena and when the goddess found the pair, she transformed her into a Gorgon. A Gorgon was a winged beast who had a tangle of serpents for hair and whose visage was so monstrous that it turned the beholder into stone. Since no mortal had ever survived a battle with the Medusa, Polydectes was certain that this quest would be the death of Perseus. However, before he left, Athena and Hermes gave Perseus two weapons especially suited for the battle: a highly polished shield and the adamantine sword.
In order to locate the Medusa, Perseus first visited the Graeae, the three blind sisters of the Gorgons. The Graeae shared one eye and one tooth. As they were passing the eye back and forth, Perseus seized it. He agreed to return it in exchange for the location of the Gorgons. The sisters reluctantly complied and our hero embarked for the lair of the Medusa.