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Abas of Argos had twin sons, Proetus and Acrisius, who began quarreling in the womb and continued their rivalry into their adult years, inventing shields and bucklers in the process. In one tradition Proetus was the father of Perseus, and in another he seduced Acrisius' daughter Danaë. Proetus ruled Argos for 17 years, but Acrisius deposed him; he fled to Lycia and married king Jobates' daughter. Jobates invaded Argos to restore Proetus but only succeeded in forcing Acrisius to cede Tiryns and the eastern half of Argolis to his brother. When Bellerophon (whom the Greeks also associated with Pegasus) went to Proetus to be purified of a murder, he spurned the advances of Proetus' wife; she falsely accused him of trying to seduce her, so Proetus sent Bellerophon to Jobates with a letter requesting his murder. Instead, Jobates challenged him to several seemingly impossible tasks, which Bellerophon completed. In Argos, Acrisius received a prophecy that he would be killed by his daughter's son, so he imprisoned Danaë in a bronze chamber in the courtyard of his palace, where Zeus came to her as a shower of gold. After the birth of Perseus (whose name may have derived from the Greek "perthein," to waste, ravage, sack, destroy) Acrisius cast his daughter and grandson into the sea in a wooden chest; washed ashore on Serifos, they were taken in by the fisherman Dictys ("fishing net"), the brother of king Polydectes ("he who receives/welcomes many"). When Perseus reached adulthood he opposed Polydectes' efforts to marry Danaë and was tricked into promising to present him with the head of Medusa, a daughter of chthonic marine monsters Phorkys and his sister Keto, As punishment for having sex with Poseidon in the Temple of Athena, the goddess made her mortal, grew golden wings from her head, changed her beautiful hair into living venomous snakes, and caused her face to turn anyone who looked at it into stone.
To equip Perseus in his task Athena instructed him to find Medusa's sisters Pemphredo ("alarm"), Enyo ("horror," the waster of cities), and Deino ("dread"); these Graeae (probably derived from the adjective "graia," old womanly) were gray-haired old women whom Hesiodos ironically described as being "fair-cheeked" and Aeschylus claimed were half-swan. They were so old they shared one eye and one tooth, which they took turns using. By stealing their eye while they were passing it among themselves, Perseus forced them to tell him where he could find the Hesperides, the evening nymphs of the golden light of sunset, the daughters of Nyx (Night) and Erebus (Darkness) [although in other accounts they too were Medusa's sisters or the daughters of Zeus, Atlas, or of Hesperus the evening star (Venus) the son of Eos the dawn goddess and half-brother of Phosphorus the morning star (also Venus)] who tended Hera's orchard. From the Hesperides he received a knapsack to safely contain Medusa's head. Then Zeus or Hephaestus gave him a sword, Hades a helmet of invisibility, Hermes a pair of winged sandals, and Athena a polished shield.
Thus armed he proceeded to Medusa's cave on Sarpedon, an island near Cisthene. While she was sleeping he viewed her reflection in his shield and beheaded her. From her neck sprang Poseidon's offspring the flying horse Pegasus ("he who sprang") and Chrysaor, a giant wielding a golden sword who was leter killed by Perseus' great-grandson Herakles (who, as a son of Zeus, was also Perseus' half-brother). Medusa's immortal sisters Stheno ("the mighty") and Euryale ("the far-springer", or "of the wide sea") pursued Perseus but, invisible, he escaped. Mounted on Pegasus he flew past Atlas holding up the sky and, in self-defense, used Medusa's head to turn him into the Atlas mountains. He continued on to Ethiopia, whose queen Cassiopeia had angered Poseidon by denigrating the beauty of the Nereids, the sea-nymphs in his retinue. In revenge Poseidon sent the monster Cetus to ravage the kingdom. To appease the god Cassiopeia's child was stripped and chained to a rock Jaffa as a sacrifice. Generally this child has been identified as Andromeda (from andromede, "ruler of men"), but Leonard has chosen to portray this person as a young man. Invisible, Perseus slew Cetus, but, having put Medusa's head on the shore, her blood spilled onto seaweed, creating the corals of the Red Sea; and he then used Medusa's head to turn into stone his rival for Andromedus' affections. Medusa's spilled blood was also the genesis of the amphisbaenae, the ant-eating serpents with a head at each end which Julius Caesr's rival Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis reputedly encountered in the Libyan desert (the beasts fed off the corpses left behind). Perseus then returned to Seriphos, turned Polydectes into stone just in time to prevent his marriage to Danaë, and made Dictys king. According to Pausanias, Perseus then went to Larissa and introduced quoits, a sport which involves throwing metal, rope, or rubber rings over a set distance to land near or over a spike in the ground; his grandfather Acrisius was visting the athlectic contest being held there and was killed when he stepped into the trajectory of a quoit being thrown by Perseus; or, when Perseus returned to Argos, Acrisius fled into exile in Pelasgiotis, where the king of Larissa later held funeral games for his father -- throwing the discus at those games, Perseus accidentally killed Acrisius. In another version Acrisius was driven into exile by his brother Proetus, whom Perseus turned into stone before restoring Acrisius, but Acrisius accused him of lying about killing Medusa, so Perseus showed him the head, thus also turning Acrisius into stone. Then he returned the gods' gifts and gave Medusa's head to Athena, who placed it on her shield, the Aegis. Having killed Acrisius, Perseus, ashamed of becoming king of Argos by inflicting death, gave the kingdom to Proetus' son Megapenthes ("great mourning") in exhange for his kingdom of Tiryns. Later he dropped his cap or found a mushroom (both called "myces") and thus founded Mycenae and made it his capital. After a long, successful reign he was killed by Megapenthes.
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