*Disclaimer: This post mentions extensive discussion of abuse, especially sexual abuse and suicide. Please be mindful of the content below*
If you are looking for a book that makes you question everything you know about Greek mythology, then I recommend picking up Rosie Hewlett’s debut novel MEDUSA!
This book is a brilliant addition to the legend of Medusa. It provides readers with a fresh perspective they rarely get to encounter. This novel tells the famous tale of Medusa through the many eyes of the snake haired maiden. Experience Greek mythology from the female ’villain’ perspective to understand the ongoing hardships women continue to face daily. If you are brave enough, get stunned to stone with Medusa’s personal story.
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After reading this book it has shifted the way I look at the gods of antiquity. We all know there are two sides to every story, that includes the legends of the gods. We have viewed them throughout history as benefactors who wish to help those in need and punish those who go against their wishes. If you are familiar with the legends of Greek mythology you know that not all actions inflicted by the gods were righteous. Maybe we still fear the wrath of the gods, but it is time we hold them accountable for their unjust actions. Thanks to Rosie Hewlett novel I have found the first subject I wish to throw in the accused chair of unreasonable divine actions; all rise for the divine entrance of Athena.
Sorry in advance to any Percy Jackson fans reading this who have fallen in love the Grey eyed goddess. I am not sorry for the blunt allegations I wish to acknowledge to the Amused Angel courtroom. Members of the court and jury I wish to state that the accused ‘Athena’ is one big divine bitch!
*Audience gasp* Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Let us take a moment to reflect on why I claim such slanderous accusations against this wise ass goddess. All victims mentioned in this court case where once humans who are now unable to state their case. I shall retell highlighted crimes committed by Athena to the court.
Exhibit A: MEDUSA
She was an orphaned female who dedicated her live to the servitude of the goddess Athena. Medusa could not help that she was gifted by the gods with blinding beauty that garnered unwanted attention. Unfortunately, Medusa got into a terrible altercation with the putrid fish breathed god Poseidon. Poseidon and Athena have a history from an old land dispute for the city of Athens which Poseidon never got over. Medusa was physically assaulted by the lust crazed god who could not be denied of his desires. The chaste priestess was assaulted in the temple of the eternal virgin goddess Athena. Medusa swore her purity to the goddess before she became a priestess but her solemn vow was destroyed by Poseidon. Athena was furious that her sacred vow was broken, and she punish Medusa for not staying true to her promise.
In all fairness Medusa did not break her vow intentionally, she was raped by Poseidon who did not have the priestess’s consent. The divine punishment bequeathed by Athena onto Medusa was done with unfair cause. Athena had no right to turn the mortal into a monster, her punishment was too severe. The most extreme form of punishment should have been the removal of the priestess’s title. Medusa was innocent and did not need to be punished for being a victim of assault. If anyone is to be punished for the breaking of the sacred vow it is Poseidon. He should be put to trail and held accountable for his actions but that is cause for a new trail. In the case of Medusa, we see how she was unjustly punished by Athena for actions she did not commit.
To make matters worse, Athena then tried to cover up her wrongful actions by sponsoring the hero Perseus who was told to kill the ravenous blood thirsty monster known as Medusa. Athena aided the supposing hero to help kill the monster of she created. With help of other Olympians Perseus was able to end the life of Medusa. The evidence of Athena’s misdoings to Medusa were then removed from this earth further examination.
Exhibit B: ATHENA IS A SORE LOSER
One could only imagine the atrocities Athena would have committed if she lost the land dispute battle, she had with Poseidon. We have evidence on a smaller scale of Athena’s actions to outcomes she did not favour. First form of evidence is the tale of Arachne, who was a mortal with a simple upbringing. Arachne like Medusa was gifted by the gods but her gift was the ability to waive like that of the divine. Arachne knew her waiving abilities could rival the gods but she did the mistake of getting too cocky. Athena heard of this great waiver and tried to call Arachne’s bluff by dressing in disguise. All mortal know that they should not provoke the gods and if Athena showed herself in her true form from the beginning maybe Arachne would have been humbler with her execution of conversation. Athena challenged Arachne in guise to see her true potential. Once the challenge was over Athena was baffled to see that Arachne work was just as seamless as the grey-eyed goddess’s work. I call upon a witness to state Athena’s actions to the result of the contest.
*Ovid takes the stand to state his case*
“Incensed at such success the warrior goddess, golden-haired, tore up the tapestry, those crimes of heaven, and with the boxwood shuttle in her hand (box of citrus) three times, four times, struck Arachne on her forehead. The poor wretch, unable to endure it, bravely placed a noose around her neck; but, as she hung, Pallas in pity raised her.”
What we can gather from this is that Athena was filled with rage at her loss, that she not only destroyed the items of the contest for further review but went ahead and inflicting physical harm on the victim for playing a fair game, which may I add was not fair on Athena part as she entered the contest under false pretenses.
Arachne not only suffered blunt trauma to the head, but she endured emotional abuse from the goddess which led the victim to take her own life. Athena was shocked at the ripple effect of her once again too severe actions and used her divine intervention to resurrect the poor women as a spider to hide the fact that she ruined yet another innocent mortal life.
Shall we briefly mention that this is not the first time Athena was defeated in a competition where she sought wrongful vengeance to the contest contenders. We go back to the contest of the fairest divine maiden by the judgement of the Trojan prince Paris. Athena and Hera lost to Aphrodite in being the fairest of the Greek goddesses and Athena planned a terrible strategy to destroy the prince and his beloved land. The Greeks and Trojans went to war over the outcome of the contest, but Athena had harboured a grudge against the Trojans and their prince. Her vengeance did not commence until many years after the contest results. Athena took similar actions like that of Medusa and favoured the Greek hero Odysseus to help bring down the Trojan legacy. She helped to aid the cunning Greek hero to devise a plan which would lead the fall of Troy and the unwarranted death of thousands of people. There are many contributing factors to the fall of Troy but Athena’s vengeance for her initial loss in the ‘fair maiden’ contest was a key player to the death of many mortals.
We have heard these ancient Greek stories countless times, but I hope this trail helps to shed some ethical justice to the crimes committed by the Olympian we know as Athena. These stories have traveled down a millennium of generations and have been spun into twisted tales and rumors. As Rosie Hewlett stated in her novel, that rumors can be terrible and “like a disease passing from person to person, mutating into all kinds of hideous things.” The beings we grew up thinking were monsters actually turn out to be innocent mortals who were unjustly punished. The real monsters are the gods who live their eternal lives inflicting divine justice with unethical motives blinded by mortal sins. Next time you read a tale of gods and monsters; stop to think who the true villain is.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 1 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.)
Hewlett, Rosie (2021). Medusa. SILVERWOOD BOOKS.