Perseus - Part 1
This article was written by Saoirse C-W, Year 11
I know what you’re thinking, what kind of mother names her kid Perseus? An ancient Greek mother, that’s who. Perseus means ‘Destroyer’ which I guess raises even more questions about her mental state, but trust me…If you had her father, you would name your kid Destroyer too…
Now before we meet the dad of the year, it’s important to remember that back in the day, Greece wasn’t one country; it was split into different kingdoms. So people didn’t say they were Greek. They were Athenian or Spartan and so on. This meant that kingdoms could start wars with each other or if you broke the law in one kingdom, you could run away to another and seek asylum and the king couldn’t do anything about it (unless of course they were allies, in which case…good luck!).
Our story starts in Argos, a city in the mainland of Greece. It wasn’t the biggest or the most powerful but was still respected. The king was called Acrisius, yeah he was about as nice as trying to pronounce his name. You guessed it, he’s the dad, yay!
Acrisius had a beautiful daughter called Danaë but apparently that wasn’t good enough for him. I mean, are we even surprised at this point? Back then you needed a son to carry on the family name, inherit the crown, the kingdom, the bad attitude etc. He kept pestering his wife, ‘I want a son! Why haven’t you given me a son yet? I WANT A SON!’ And it worked!
Haha! Did you really think it was that simple? Nope! She unfortunately died (probably from stress) but was the king mourning her? Noo…he was more worried about the fact that he still didn’t have a son and that meant that his younger brother Proteus would take over the kingdom when he died. They hated each other so he didn’t want that. So he did what any reasonable man would (because he’s definitely reasonable) and took a trip to the Oracle of Delphi to get his fortune read.
What is the Oracle you ask? Well she was a veiled lady who lived in a cave. She obviously inhaled too much volcano smoke because she saw visions of people’s futures. I know, crazy. Acrisius went to her cave and gave an offering to the priest and went to ask her a question. ‘O Oracle, why can’t I have sons? Like, what’s the deal with that?’
He then braced himself for the usual riddle of an Oracle answer, ‘You’ll never have a son but your daughter will! But he’ll kill you and become king. Thank you for your offering, come again!’ I mean, what could that mean? (I promise they usually are a lot more complicated).
‘Father what’s wrong? What did she say?’ His daughter came running through the door because that’s the kind of amazing girl she was. She had long, silky dark hair and lovely brown eyes.
Many men had already asked to marry her but now Acrisius was more focused on the prophecy. ‘You traitor! How could you get your son to kill me?!’ Danaë looked around nervously, was her dad going insane? Sorry, I meant was her dad going even more insane? ‘The Oracle said that you will betray me! GUARDS, take this hideous creature to the dungeon’
Danaë didn’t understand; she was the perfect daughter. Why would her dad think she was a traitor? Obviously he didn’t tell her. He just sent her to the underground cell where she had a stone slab for a bed, a room the size of a broom cupboard. There was only one air vent that let her breathe, every day she got two dry pieces of bread and a glass of water. Nothing else. You might be wondering, if Acrisius was so worried about her having a son, why didn’t he have her killed? Well, my evil friend, it was a big no-no to kill family in Ancient Greece. If you did, you would get a special punishment from Hades in the Underworld. Acrisius, being the wonderful dad he is, managed to find a loophole. If you conveniently forgot that you locked your daughter in a dungeon then it was fine! (This is too weird to make up, promise).
She prayed to the gods everyday and after a couple of months, she got their attention…Well, she got Zeus’s attention, which isn’t always a good thing. He looked down and thought: ‘OMG! Why is she locked in a cell?! She is too beautiful for that.’ I’m making that up but you could see him saying that right? Anyway, he started thinking of ways he could go down to meet her since she was locked in a cell with guards. He came up with the absolute genius plan of transforming into a shower of gold to get through the air vent, like I said, genius. ‘Hey girl, what’s up? I’m Zeus and you look good, wanna hang?’ How could she decline such a gentlemanly request?
A few months later…
I feel bad for Danaë’s guard. That poor guy went to give her bread one day and was instead met with the sound of a crying baby. HOW? Acrisius was not happy, neither am I for having to spell his name again.
‘My Lord, I have been visited by the god Zeus.’ A pleased grin spread across her face, ‘this is our son. His name is Perseus.’ Remember what I told you at the start, how Perseus means destroyer and avenger, judging from the look on Danaë’s face…It was pretty clear who she wanted to destroy and honestly, me too. Acrisius’s face instantly paled; he had tried so hard to avoid the prophecy that he had actually made it true.
Luckily for Acrisius, he happened to have a wooden box big enough to fit a woman and a child. I don’t know what kind of food he was ordering but anyway. He decided to put them into the box, he drilled a few holes in the top because he’s nice like that and then he threw them into the ocean. You’re probably having those evil thoughts again, ‘but why didn’t he kill them?’ Well Mr/Ms Demon-in-disguise, if it was frowned upon before, it was definitely frowned upon now. Not only was it family, it was a child of a god. And not just any god, no Danaë needed special revenge, Perseus’s father was Zeus, Lord of the Sky, God of Lightning…The King of the Gods. So it was bye bye Danaë, bye bye Perseus, I hope you don’t accidently drown because that would be horrible wink wink
Come back next time to meet Medusa and find out what happens to Danaë, our favourite Avenger Perseus and the dad we all wish we had, Acrisius…