I have never been thought of as beautiful. That is why I turn myself into a sparrow so often, that plain bird, for I am not known for my beauty. I'm the clever one, the brave one, the glorious one. Not the beautiful one.
She was beautiful. She had hair as golden as Helios' sunlight and skin the bronze of pure olive oil. Her eyes were a green as the sea from which she came. Not gray like mine. My eyes are uncommon, but not beautiful. Hers were glorious. But her hair was the most wonderful part about her. It was always smooth and shining, falling in graceful waves down her back.
I saw her first sitting on a rock, as if she was one of the Sirens, creatures of sea and song and temptation. I told her that once, and she laughed, saying that she never could sing. But then she sobered. "The Sirens are my sisters." I knew what she meant, but I did not comment. She had lured many men to heartbreak over her refusals. Handsome men, strong, winners of the games, heroes. She toyed with them for a time, and then left them to sorrow. There was no one who she cared about.
I was in my sparrow form when I saw her. I was instantly captivated by her beauty. So perfect, untouched. She could have reminded me of Aphrodite, but Aphrodite had none of that innocence, none of the grace. No, this girl was different. I circled about her, calling out in a bird's shrill voice. She smiled, and held out her finger for me to perch on. I did, though it was unlike me. I was astonished at my own daring.
She knew who I was almost instantly. "Athena," she said, laughing, "so the great goddess of wisdom has decided to reward me with her presence. I am greatly honored, my Lady. But what could the goddess of knowledge have to do with such an ignorant girl as me?"
I transformed back into my accustomed form. I said beside her and spoke to her. I was enamored of her, and my only weapon was words. I felt clumsy and awkward beside her. She was so graceful, so perfect. And I was the clever one, the smart one. Not the beautiful.
I normally did not keep the company of mortals who were not particularly intelligent or brave, but I returned to her time and time again. We talked or many things, even though we were so different. She was more forward then I was. Once we talked of love. I told her that I was a virgin not only because I preferred to be independent, without the company of a man, but because I loved women. She smiled, and heard my unspoken words.
She leaned over and kissed me. I kissed her back, astonished. It was the most passionate experience I had ever had. Afterwards I fingered her fine golden hair. It was a smooth as silk and as soft as I had always imagined it. I thought she loved me.
We had arranged to meet at my temple. I was more happy then I had ever been. Many of the other gods wondered at my joy, for I was not often so happy. But I did not care about their opinions anymore. I was ecstatic. I was in love!
But when I went to my temple to meet her, my eyes were met with a sight which astonished me. On the floor of my temple she lay, in the arms of Poseidon, of all people! Poseidon, my greatest enemy! I had loved her, and she betrayed me in such a manner, with my enemy and in my temple! My revenge was swift and sure.
I wept as I changed her, changed her to a gorgon as her sisters. Her hair, yes her hair was what I had to change. I changed that hair, that beauty, to a coiled mass of snakes. And her face was such that any who looked at her would turn to stone. No one else would be able to behold that beauty and live.
She fled then, scared and confused, to the rocky isle where her sisters dwelled. She lived then a life of solitude, except for them, a life of fear and hatred and anger. She lived a life that I had decreed for her, though I thought that I never could have been so cruel as to give her such a life. But I had. In jealousy and betrayal, I had.
I realized my mistake soon afterwards. I realized that I had created a monster, who would kill hundreds. She had to die. As much as I hated it, she had to die.
A youth, Perseus, brave and strong I chose for this task. He was a strange lad, a son of Zeus and the mortal woman Danne, kept captive by a jealous father until Zeus entered her chamber. Now, after many misadventures, the cruel King Polydectes wanted Danne to marry him. And Perseus was to bring a great wedding gift, preferably one he would die in getting of.
I whispered into Polydectes' ear, "Let the boy fetch the head of Medusa. Surely he will die in such an errand." And Polydectes heeded my advice. He gave that command to Perseus. And when Perseus sat alone, despairing of ever fulfilling his task, I came and told him what he needed to do to complete this impossible mission. And he did.
In my sparrow form I flew beside him as he went to kill her. I knew that she recognized me. After all, it was as a sparrow that I had first met her. She knew that it was me as her head was cut off. She understood.
I now always wear her head on my breastplate, as a tribute to beauty lost.