We are of course far more enlightened in the current era, but in classical times – and well before it – women often occupied an unpleasant place in mythology.
Take the story of Medusa, who is currently being celebrated at the Metropolitan Museum, in an exhibit called “Dangerous Beauty.”
Unbeknownst to us, we had just seen the most celebrated Medusa in classical antiquity several weeks ago, in Munich (above). The Rondanini Medusa is considered to be the first beautiful Gorgon in Greek art. Goethe admired it in 1786, and it is renowned for the way the classical era combined the horror of the gorgon with lovely features that the classicists favored.
But not all interpretations in the exhibit are from that era. The monstrosity that Medusa represents was often portrayed in a less flattering pose. One is no longer turned to stone by looking at their faces, but a small shudder may result.
And then there are the sphinxes, often found guarding tombs, as well as the sirens, who will sing you to your death. Do not mess with either of them.
All these lovelies remind us that there were dangers all about in the ancient world. Our current crop of threats just looks different.