Guest Author - Phyllis Doyle Burns
In ancient Greek mythology, Perseus is the hero who killed Medusa and took her head away with him, as he had sworn to do to save his mother, Danae, from marriage to the evil King Polydectus. On his way home, with the head of Medusa safely tucked away in a protective bag, Perseus happened to see a lovely woman chained to a rock by the turbulent seas of Aethiopia. He falls in love with this woman, Andromeda, and rescues her from certain death.
Andromeda is the daughter of King Cepheus of Aethiopia, and his wife, Queen Cassiopeia. Like her mother, Andromeda is exquisitely beautiful. Having such beauty is a gift and not to be the cause of arrogance or vanity. However, Cassiopia was very vain and boasted that she and her daughter were more beautiful than even the Nereids. This was a huge mistake on her part -- for it raised the wrath of Posiedon, the major sea god. The Nerieds are sea nymphs, the daughters of Nereus who is also a sea god, and brother to Posiedon.
To punish the vain Cassiopeia, Posiedon sent the sea monster, Cetus, to wreak havoc on Aethiopia's coast and destroy the kingdom. King Cepheus, in desperation, turned to the Oracle of Apollo. When he consulted the Oracle, he was told that the only way to save the kingdom was to sacrifice Andromeda, his daughter, to the sea monster.
Stripped of all her refinement, Andromeda was chained to the rocks by the sea, where Cetus could easily find and devour her. This is when Perseus came upon the sight of the lovely princess. Puzzled and concerned for the young maiden, Perseus inquired who she was and the reason for her punishment. He was told the story of how the Queen Cassiopeia had angered the sea gods. By this time, Perseus had fallen in love with the innocent young woman and did not want to see her die.
Perseus still had the helmet from Hades that would make him invisible. He put the helmet back on and, standing by Andromeda, waited for Cetus to appear from the depths of the now violent sea which the monster had stirred up. When Cetus saw the young maiden chained as sacrifice to appease him, he quickly changed course to claim her.
As Cetus approached Andromeda, Perseus attacked and slew the monster. Perseus then released Andromeda from her chains and returned her to the king and queen, claiming his right to marry her. Cepheus and Cassiopeia agreed and preparations were made for the wedding.
However, there was one more problem Perseus had to contend with before he could marry his beloved. It seems that Andromeda had been promised in marriage to her uncle, Phineus, who was not about to release Andromeda from the agreement. As the wedding ceremony was about to begin, Phineus challenged Perseus to win back Andromeda. A great quarrel ensued and a battle was sure to take place. Having already battled with the sea monster, Perseus was not about to enter another.
If Phineus had showed some honor and chivalry by slaying Cetus himself, he could have rightfully claimed Andromeda -- yet he did not. Concealing the head of Medusa from himself, Andromeda and all other present, Perseus held out the horrible face of the Gorgon to Phineus, who looked at it and was immediately turned to stone.
Perseus and Andromeda were married and journeyed to his home of Seriphos, where his mother, Danae awaited him. After rescuing Danae from the clutches of her father, Acrisius, and King Polydectus, Perseus and Andromeda settled at Tiryns in Argos.
In time, Perseus founded and fortified Mycenae, near Argos, and became the king of the Perseid Dynasty. King Perseus and Queen Andromeda had seven sons and two daughters. Their eldest son, Perses, formed his own kingdom and is the ancestor of the Persians.
Many years later, after the death of Andromeda, the goddess Athena placed her in the heavens as a constellation, next to the constellation of Perseus. The Perseids are the sons of Perseus and Andromeda.