Acrisius married Aganippe and by her had a daughter, the lovely Danae. But what
he wanted even more was a son to succeed him on the throne; and so, anxious to
learn if he would ever be blessed with one, he went to the oracle at Delphi.
Apollo’s answer was as follows:
“Hear my words, Acrisius, son of Abas! Though you will never beget a son to hand
your kingdom down to, in his place there will rule a mighty hero to whom your
daughter shall give birth. But know this: it is written by the Fates that this
grandson of yours shall kill you.”
When Acrisius heard the answer he was terrified. Only one thought now possessed
him – how to escape his destiny. To do so, he would stop at nothing. His only
problem was, how could he make sure that he would never have a grandson?
Driven by fear, he built an underground prison with heavy bronze doors and there
he shut up his daughter, Danae. To him, this seemed the perfect way of making sure
she would not marry and thus never bear a child.
But Danae was so beautiful that Zeus himself had fallen in love with her, and no
jail, however strong, was proof against the desires of the ruler of gods and men.
And so Zeus entered Danae’s dark prison, slipping through the chinks in the
shuttered window in a shower of golden rain; and nine months afterwards the
daughter of Acrisius gave birth to Perseus, son of Zeus.
A few days later, Acrisius was passing his daughter’s cell when he heard a baby
crying. Although he was sure his ears were playing tricks on him, he opened the
bronze door and stood rooted to the spot with astonishment when he saw Danae
clasping a baby to her breast.
Frightened out of his wits, and unable to imagine for an instant that this infant
might be the son of Zeus, his suspicions immediately fell – where else? – upon his
hated brother, Proetus. This suspicion soon hardened into certainty, and with it his
hatred for his brother swelled. To be revenged upon him, and at the same time rid
himself of this mortally dangerous grandson, he decided to kill both his daughter
and her child. But at the last moment, his nerve failed him and he held back. In the