Stheno – The Other Gorgon Sister

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In Greek mythology, Stheno is one of the horrible Gorgon sisters. While she’s nowhere near as famous as her sister Medusa, Stheno is an interesting character in her own right. Here’s a closer look.

Who is Stheno?

Stheno, Medusa and Euryale were three Gorgons, whose parents were Phorcys and Ceto. Depending on the writer of the myth, Stheno lived in the Western Ocean, on the Island of Cisthene or in the Underworld.

According to some accounts, Stheno was born a hideous monster. However, in some other accounts, she was a beautiful woman turned into a Gorgon by Athena for trying to save her sister Medusa from getting raped by Poseidon, god of the seas.

As the story goes, Medusa was a beautiful woman who attracted the eye of mortals and gods alike. She was coveted by Poseidon who wanted to sleep with her. Medusa sought shelter from Poseidon in Athena’s temple, but Poseidon chased her and had his way with her. On discovering this, Athena was angry and punished Medusa by turning her into a monster, along with her sisters who had tried to stand with Medusa.

When Perseus came to cut off Medusa’s head, Stheno and Euryale were unable to save their sister because Perseus was wearing Hade’s cap, which rendered him invisible.

What Did Stheno Look Like?

Gorgon origins
Depiction of a Gorgon

Stheno, like her sisters, is described as a thin gorgon monster, with red, venomous snakes for hair.  In earlier accounts of Stheno’s appearance, she’s described as having brass hands, claws, a long tongue, tusks, fangs and a scaly head.

Unlike Medusa, Stheno was immortal. She was also the most independent, the deadliest and most vicious of the three sisters and is said to have killed more people than both her sisters combined. Her name means strong, and she lived up to it. Some accounts state that, like Medusa, she could also turn people to stone with her stare.

There is some contention that Stheno was inspired by the cuttlefish, known for its strength, while Medusa was inspired by the octopus (characterized by its intelligence) and Euryale was based on the squid (known for its ability to jump out of the water). This could be possible as the Greeks based many of their myths on real-world phenomenon, but there’s no evidence to confirm this.

Stheno Facts

  1. Who were Stheno’s parents? Ceto and Phorcys.
  2. Who were Stheno’s siblings? Medusa and Euryale.
  3. What happened to Stheno? While we know what happened to Stheno up till Medusa’s death, what happened to her afterwards is unclear.
  4. What does Stheno mean? It means forceful and strong.
  5. How did Stheno become a Gorgon? She was either born as a Gorgon or turned into one by Athena for trying to save her sister from getting raped.

Wrapping Up

While not as famous as her sister Medusa, Stheno is a powerful and independent female character of Greek mythology. Whether there was more to her story which got lost with time, or whether the writers of the myths simply relegated her to a minor character, she remains an interesting personality and a part of the horrible trio of sisters.