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The Unicorn, a Mythological Investigation, by Robert Brown, [1881], at

p. 47



FROM the Triple-moon and the Unicorn-horse-moon I pass on to the Serpentine-full-moon, the victim of the solar Perseus, another version of the oft-recurring story. Careful study of the Homerik Poems reveals the intrinsically archaic nature and high antiquity of the majority of their ideas, and in the consideration of any mythic personage a passage in Homer, if available, almost always supplies an excellent starting-point. It is generally, but not quite accurately stated that 'Homer knows only one Gorgo.' The passages are as follows;—

'On it [the aigis of Athenaiê] was a Gorgeian head of a dreadful portent.' 1

'Hektôr, having the eyes of a Gorgô.' 2

'An awful-looking Gorgô' 3 was the device upon the shield of Agamemnôn.

Odysseus fears 'lest Persephoneia from Hades should send a Gorgeian head of a dreadful portent.' 4

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From these passages we gather:—

1. That whilst there was certainly one Gorgô, there may also have been others.

2. That its eye constituted the chief terror of the appearance. 1

3. That this appearance, originally portentous, 2 became, or was considered to be, monstrous. 3

4. That, though having a bright eye, it is connected with Darkness and the Underworld. And

5. Was used heraldically as arms upon a shield.

Fick would connect the obscure word Gorgô with the European root garg, 'to cry,' and compares the Sk. garj, 'to emit a deep sound;' 4 but the idea of sound is so truly out of place in the myth (a circumstance which we are bound to consider), that I am compelled to reject this derivation. I had deemed the term as possibly an intensive variant of orgê, 'natural impulse,' primarily 'swelling' (first physics, then meta-physics), as applied to the swollen, full-faced Moon; for from Homer alone it is not very

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difficult to gather that Gorgô = Luna. But the detail of a myth is the true test by which to try various etymologies of the name of its protagonist, especially when in the abstract several distinct derivations appear to have an almost equal claim to acceptance. Now the Gorgon-power (as will more fully appear) = Nocturnal-darkness + Moon, not darkness merely or the moon merely. Darkness, it will be remembered, is frequently (like Chaos) depicted in monstrous form; but especially is it a Devourer or Swallower. 1 The Proto-Aryan root gar, 'to swallow, gulp,' appears in the intensive form gargar2 the Gk. variant of which would be Gorgô, the earliest form of the word in that language. Gorgô is 'the Swallower,' the devouring darkness which has a bright head—the Moon, a head capable of being cut off. Hence the combined beauty and horror (hideousness) of the Gorgô, a hideousness which does not arise in the first instance from the lunar-serpent-rays, and hence the open mouth, so marked a feature in the Gorgoneion and one not in the least lunar. Mr. Dennis observes;—

The most remarkable type on the coins of Populonia is the Gorgoneion; not here "the head of the fair-cheeked Medusa" 3

"A woman's countenance with serpent locks,"

as it is represented by the sculptors of later Greece

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and of Etruria; but a monstrous fiend-like visage, with snaky hair, gnashing tusks, and tongue lolling out of

"The open mouth that seemed to containe
 A good full peck within the utmost brim,
 Appearing like the mouth of Orcus griesly grim." 1

[paragraph continues] From this open mouth issue two huge curved teeth, the lunar horns. The protruded tongue and gnashing teeth were familiar to the author (probably Hesiod 2) of the Aspis Herakleous3 And this leads us to the Hesiodik phase of the myth, according to which 4 there are three Gorgones (= Hekatê Triformis), Medousa 'the Ruler' (= the King or Queen-moon), Stheinô or Sthenô 'the Strong' (= the general Nocturnal-potency), and Euryalê 'the Wide-wandering' (= the Moon 'wandering companionless' 5), a phase which corresponds with the solar Bellerophôn in the same Aleian Field. 6 Do not hastily charge the intricate myth with inconsistency. The Night is dark and not-dark, lunar and not-lunar; and so is the Gorgô; so are the Gorgones. And that the Gorgô is one as well as three, is shown clearly by a writer as late as

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[paragraph continues] Euripides. 1 The home of the Gorgones lies as of course in or beyond the western darkness; 2 with the Euemerism which first connected them with Libyê 3 as a western region, and has subsequently identified them with apes of some kind, gorilla or ourang-oötan, I am not here concerned. An early Vase shows the solar Herakles, who for the purpose is the equivalent of the solar Perseus, 'killing the threefold Gorgon.' 4

As Hekatê is Perseis or Perseia 5 and daughter of Perses, so Hekatos is Perseus, 'the solar hero, son of Zeus (heaven), in the form of a gleaming golden shower, and his son Perses is the mythic sire of the Persians, the lords of the "sun-stricken plains" 6 of the East.' 7 Perseus naturally engages to attack the Gorgô as the Lion the Unicorn; and assisted by

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[paragraph continues] Athenê (the Dawn-light) and Hermes (the Wind-power upon the clouds 1), sets forth upon the perilous expedition. The helmet of Hades ('the Unseen') renders him invisible, i.e. the condition of the Nocturnal-sun as concealed in the Underworld; and from the two Graiai 2 he seizes the solar eye 3 and lunar tooth, 4 which he will not restore until they tell him where to find the implements necessary to complete his task. This eye and tooth the sisters are wont to hand from one to the other, i.e. from morn to eve, from eve to morn. The hero having obtained the other requisites, 'Hermes added the knife (harpê) with which he had cut off the head of Argos;' 5 and this same potency which put out the starry eyes, now puts out the lunar eye, or, to change the imagery, cuts off the bright head of the dark Gorgô; but the light veiled for a moment, soon reappears on the aigis of the

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[paragraph continues] Dawn-queen. The Sun has done the deed—technically called the Gorgotomy—but he has to fly, pursued by Euryalê, the Reappearing-moon; and Stheinô, whom Sir G. W. Cox well describes as 'the eternal abyss of darkness.' 1 The petrifying stare of Medousa is the moon-glare on the darkness when the colour, sound, and motion of the world of day have gone.

This myth alone might well form the subject of a monograph, but I can "here only notice one other of its many incidents—the weapon of Perseus, the harpê, in shape a sickle or scimetar. Now the tradition that this was the special weapon used on the occasion, is a very ancient one, for Pherekydes, B.C. 540, who 'according to the concurrent testimony of antiquity was the teacher of Pythagoras,' and 'did not receive instruction from any master but obtained his knowledge from the secret books of the Phoenicians,' 2 expressly names it as used by Perseus in the Gorgotomy. 3 It is the same 'portentous sickle' (πελώριον ἅρπην) which Kronos took in his right hand when he assailed Ouranos, 4 for one of 'his peculiar adjuncts is the crescent-shaped sickle, which he somewhat singularly holds over his head in a scene where he is

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receiving from Rhea the stone supposed to be Zeus.' 1 Lastly, we find that 'the scimetar with which Merodach [or Bel] is armed [when about to fight with the Dragon] is shown by the cylinders and bas-reliefs to have been of the shape of a sickle, and is therefore [as had also occurred to me] the same as the harpê or khereb with which the hero Perseus was armed.' 2 Now Bel and Merodach fight against chaos and also against darkness, and the chief weapon of the god who maintains nocturnal kosmic order is, as of course, the sickle-shaped moon. Perseus, in accordance with the Principle of Reduplication above noticed, armed with the crescent-moon cuts off the Gorgô-head or full-moon; just as another mighty Babylonio-Akkadian divinity is described as being armed with the sun. 3 It is evident therefore that Perseus, who was supposed to have slain the sea-monster at Joppa, and who in a passage of Herodotos, difficult to explain, is said to have had a temple and ritual in Egypt, 4 was more or less connected with the non-Aryan East. Lenormant 5 gives an extract from a Babylonian Fragment of which he says, 'C’est le prototype de l’histoire de Persée et d’Andromède;' and he thinks that Perseus may be another variant form of the word represented by the Parsoudos of

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[paragraph continues] Ktesias, and is therefore in origin a Babylonian name. Very likely; but I do not doubt that it is also an Aryan name, that is to say, here probably, as in many other instances, an Aryan and a non-Aryan name, of somewhat similar sound, have become united like a double star. The sire of Andromedê, 1 Kepheus the Aithiop king and son of Belos, 2 is a personage altogether non-Aryan and Euphratean; and Hellanikos, B.C. 490-10, chief of the Greek logographers, mentions Kepheus and the Kephenians (Ethiopians or Kushites) in connexion with Babylon. 3

Lastly, in the dread Gorgô, originally Darkness + Moon, then more distinctly lunar, we have the origin of the myth of the Face in the Moon. We know otherwise that this myth was archaic, for Epigenes of Sikyôn, 'the most ancient writer of tragedy,' 4 in a lost work called The Poetry of Orpheus, says that the Theologer called 'the moon Gorgonian on account of the face in it;' 5 and Serapiôn, an Alexandrine physician of the third century B.C., thought that 'the Face seen in the moon is the soul of the Sibylla.' 6

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[paragraph continues] According to the doctrine set forth by Plutarch, 1 evil souls, on attempting to enter the tranquil lunar region, are driven away by the dread Face in the Orb. 2

With respect to Gorgonian art, Sir G. Wilkinson is of opinion that 'the monster Medusa evidently derived its form from the common Typhonian figure of Egypt;' 3 and M. Clermont-Ganneau, in a most interesting work, has elaborated a theory which connects a beautiful female Gorgon with Hathor and Tanit, and a hideous male Gorgon with the Kamic Bes. 4

Speaking of Etruscan temple-tombs, Mr. Dennis observes, 'The pediments terminate on each side in a volute, within which is a grim, grinning face, with prominent teeth, a Gorgon's head, a common sepulchral decoration.' 5 On the hollowed bottom of the famous Etruscan bronze lamp in the Museum of Cortona is 'a huge Gorgon's face, all horror. The visage of a fiend, with eyes starting from their sockets, a mouth stretched to its utmost, with gnashing tusks—and the whole rendered more terrible by a wreath of serpents bristling around it.' 6 Well may Mr. Dennis add, 'It is a libel on the fair face of Dian, to say that this hideous visage symbolises the moon.' This difficulty I have fully explained.

On the ceiling of a chamber in the cemetery of Perugia is 'an enormous Gorgon's head, hewn from

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the dark rock, with eyes upturned in horror, gleaming from the gloom, teeth bristling whitely in the open mouth, wings on the temples, and snakes knotted over the brow.' 1 The Etruscans evidently fully shared in the Akkadian horror of darkness.

On the back of the late Mr. Cooper's edition of Lenormant's Chaldean Magic is represented (I presume from some Chaldean original) a Gorgoneion, apparently a black face, radiate, with wide and open grinning mouth. This presents a remarkable combination of moon and darkness.

Greek vases were occasionally moulded in the shape of the leg of Gorgô. 2 A Vase in the British Museum 3 shows a Gorgô in connexion with Lions. She holds upon either side a lion by the fore paw; the lions standing on their hind legs, fling back their heads. The design may of course be mere sportive art, but it appears to be Assyrian in origin 4 and may signify the Gorgonian Night stationed harmoniously between two leonine Days.

Another Vase 5 shows Perseus, wearing the petasos and talaria, plunging the harpê, which he holds in his right hand, into the neck of the Gorgô, who has four wings, two snakes on each side of her head, and two round her waist. 'Her face has the usual Gorgon type, with curls symmetrically ranged [an Assyrian characteristic], and a wide, open mouth showing the

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teeth and tongue.' Another Vase 1 shows the rare design of Perseus flying over the Libyan mountains, pursued by Stheinô and Euryalê. 'The wild pursuit of the immortal Gorgons seems to be the chase of Darkness after the bright Sun who, with his golden sandals, just escapes their grasp as he soars into the peaceful morning sky.' 2

In Canon Spano's very interesting work, Mnemosine Sarda ossia Ricordi e memorie di varii Monumenti Antichi con altre rarita dell’ isola de Sardegna (Cagliari, 1864), several good examples of the Gorgon-type are given, the most remarkable of which shows three Gorgon-faces radiate, with open mouths and protruded tongues, in a circle—the lunar orb. Here the three Gorgon sisters are connected with the one Moon.


47:1 Ilias, v. 741. The phase δεινοῖο πελώρου occurs again in the same connexion (Od. xi. 634). It is not necessary to render πέλωρ 'monster.' The essential meaning of the word is 'portent' (cf. Il. ii. 321: πέλωρα θεῶν, 'portents sent from the gods'). That which is portentous is often monstrous, the appearance of monsters being particularly connected with the anger of heaven.

47:2 Il. viii. 349.

47:3 Ibid. xi. 36.

47:4 Od. xi. 634-5.

48:1 Cf. the prominent unicorn-eye (sec. III. Nos. V. XIII. XXX).


              'As when the sun new risen
Looks through the horizontal misty air
Shorn of his beams, or from behind the moon
In dim eclipse disastrous twilight sheds.'
                               Paradise Lost, i. 594-7.

48:3 As Hekatê.

48:4 Wörterbuch, i. 565. A g sound appears to have been considered suitable to express the increasing, rounded (cf. γογόλος), humpbacked gib-bous-moon. In Akkadian gub means 'to wax' as the moon (vide R. B. Jr., Language and Theories of its Origin, 1881, sec. xvi. Occult Imitation).

49:1 Vide my remarks on the unique Etruscan demon Tuchulcha (R.M.A. Appendix D) whose enormous open beak = 'the jaws of vacant darkness' (Tennyson, In Memoriam, xxxiv.).

49:2 Fick, Wörterbuch, i. 70; vide R. B. Jr., R.M.A. sec. xix, The Law of Reduplication.

49:3 Pindar, Pyth. xii. 28.

50:1 C.C.E. ii. 221. 'The Manducus, a symbolic effigy with gaping jaws, was borne aloft in Roman games and processions to represent the underworld' (Rev. Is. Taylor, Etruscan Researches, i. 121).

50:2 Vide Mahaffy, Hist. of Clas. Gk. Lit. 1880, i. 112-3.

50:3 Λίχμαζον δ᾽ ἄρα τώγε· μένει δ᾽ χάρασσον ὀδόντας (v. 235).

50:4 Theog. 278.

50:5 The true poet, whether a 'modern-ancient,' as Shakspere, Shelley, or Wordsworth; or an ancient-modern, like many a Kamic, Babylonian or Vedic bard of unknown name, takes essentially the same stand-point.

50:6 Alê is a homeless, endless roaming, the ceaseless journey of the heavenly bodies in the field of space.

51:1 Iôn, 989.


Γοργοῦς θ᾽, αἳ ναίουσι πέρην κλυτοῦ Ὠκεανοῖο,
ἐσχατιῇ πρὸς νυκτὸς (Theog. 274-5).

[paragraph continues] Vide my remarks on the Assyrian eribu, 'to descend' as the, sun, ereb, 'the west,' arab, erebos, originally the gloom after sunset, Europé, the western or sunset side of the world (R.Z. 17, note 2).

51:3 Herod. ii. 91; Diod. iii. 69; Paus. II. xxi. 6. According to an account given by Pausanias, Medousa, queen of the inhabitants near the Tritonian Lake, when opposing the Peloponnesian army of Perseus, was slain in the night by stratagem. Perseus admiring her beauty, cut off her head to show it to the Greeks. Pausanias himself, however, prefers the account given by Proklos a Karthaginian, that Medousa was one of the wild men and women of Africa who, wandering northwards and assailing the inhabitants, was slain by Perseus, who is said to have been assisted by Athena because the goddess is worshipped near the Tritonian Lake. (For a notice of Athenê Tritogenaia, and the family of the Vedic Trita, vide R. B. Jr., Poseidon, sec. xx.) Medousa having thus become a wild woman, it is only another step to turn her into a gorilla, and this has been taken by the learned Dr. Levezon of Berlin.

51:4 Birch, Ancient Pottery, 193.

51:5 Orphik Hymn, i. 4.

51:6 Euripides, Bakchai, 14.

51:7 G.D.M. i. 279.

52:1 Vide Ruskin, Q.A. i. secs. xxv.–xxix.

52:2 'The well-clad Pephrêdô,' the evening-power, and 'Enyô clad-in-saffron-mantle,' the warlike (cf. Enyalios) dawn or morning-power, Krokopeplos like Eôs. The Graiai, the 'Gray,' Dawn and Gray Twilight, 'with fair faces, but hair gray from their birth'—how wonderfully the myth describes the fact—can originally have been but two.

52:3 This is an instance of the Principle of Reduplication in myths, for of course Perseus himself is the solar eye. Similarly Herakles with his arrows attacks Helios. These incidents are frequently the necessary results of anthropomorphism. As Mr. F. A. Paley remarks, 'It is the unconscious blending of two modes of representation' (Origin of Solar Myths, in the Dublin Review, July, 1879, p. 109).

52:4 Here the tooth is most undoubtedly the lunar crescent, a fact which is the absolute justification of my explanation of the teeth of the Gorgoneion, a view which might otherwise have appeared too fanciful or far-fetched.

52:5 Murray, Manual of Mythology, 248. For treatment of the famous myth of Hermes Argeiphontes, vide Ruskin, Q.A. i. 28; R. B. Jr., G.D.M. ii. 83; R. M. A, sec. iii.

53:1 M.A.N. ii. 350. Dr. Tylor (P.C. i. 318) appears to regard the Gorgons as in some way representing period, and remarks, 'The deathless past and future cannot save the ever-dying present.' The real basis of the myth, however, is purely physical.

53:2 Smith, Dict. of Gk. and Rom. Biog. and Mythol. In voc. Vide in illustration of this statement, Lenormant, Les Origines, Appendice III. Fragments de la Cosmogonie de Phérécyde.

53:3 Ἀποτέμνει τῇ ἅρπῃ κεφαλὴν (Frag. xxvi).

53:4 Theog. 179. Cf. the Homerik use of the same πέλωρ in this connexion, as above noticed (p. 47, note 1).

54:1 G.D.M. ii. 129. In this work I have illustrated the Semitic character of Kronos.

54:2 Prof. Sayce in Smith's C.A.G. 113.

54:3 'The sun of fifty faces, the lofty weapon of my divinity, I bear. The hero that striketh the mountains, the propitious sun of the morning, that is mine, I bear' (Hymn, ap. Sayce in C.A.G. 86).

54:4 Vide sec. XII. subsec. 3.

54:5 Les Premières Civilisations, ii. 24-5.

55:1 Perhaps originally Antar-ma-da, i.e., 'Sky-cutting-from-Media,' or eastern dawn-light. Her mythic position authorises a non-Aryan explanation of her name. Names subsequently applied to elaborations, e.g., constellations, were probably in numerous cases primarily applied to far simpler phenomena.

55:2 Herod. vii. 61, 150.

55:3 Persika, Frag. iii. The star-group of Kepheus, Kassiopeia, Andromedê and Perseus points to Chaldean influence.

55:4 Souidas, in voc. Thespis.

55:5 Ap. Clem. Alex. Stromata, v. 8.

55:6 Ibid. i. 15. Sibylla, i.e., 'Council-of-Zeus,' is a general name given to various shadowy and prophetic females of Classical antiquity, to whom the composition of divers late and anonymous verses was attributed.

56:1 Concerning the Face in the Moon's Orb.

56:2 On this myth, vide Rev. S. Baring-Gould, Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, The Man in the Moon.

56:3 Rawlinson's Herodotus, ii. 125.

56:4 L’Imagerie Phénicienne, 136 et seq.

56:5 C.C.E. i. 199.

56:6 Ibid. ii. 404.

57:1 C.C.E. ii. 441-2.

57:2 Birch, Ancient Pottery, 169; vide sec. sec. III. Nos. IV. VI.

57:3 Vase Catalogue, No. 1852.

57:4 Vide

57:5 Brit. Mus. Cat., No. 641.

58:1 Brit. Mus. Cat. No. 548.

58:2 Cox, M.A.N. i. 102.

Next: VIII. Inô and Melikertes