“…the finest example of archaic temple sculpture extant.”
New York Times
The word Gorgon is derived from the ancient Greek word ‘gorgos’, meaning ‘dreadful’. It normally refers to three sisters who had hair made of living, venomous snakes and could turn those who looked at them into stone. Whilst her two sisters were immortal, the third – Medusa – as most of us know from Greek mythology, was slain by the demigod and hero Perseus.
In Corfu we are fortunate enough to have the oldest stone pediment in Greece on display at the island’s Archaeological Museum – the Gorgon pediment from the nearby Doric Temple of Artemis, which is dated to 590-580 BC and is the earliest example of Greek sculpture carved entirely in stone.
The central figure is the Gorgon Medusa, depicted wearing a skirt with snakes in her hair, wings and a girdle made of serpents. She is also depicted in flight, her legs and arms are at angles suggesting movement and possibly indicating that she was fleeing Perseus who intended to kill her.
Compared to later pediments, the sculpture is colossal and it may be that the snake-haired Medusa was intended to ward off evil from the temple.
Most people are familiar with the mythological creature Medusa, with her dreadful powers, and her demise at the hands of Perseus. Seeing this magnificent pediment can help make Greek mythology come alive.