By sacredness or consecration I mean, e.g., the making of someone into a priest.

The specific context in which I'm asking this is in connection with a different Question of mine, in Mythology&Folklore, having to do with the notion generally held (at least on the Internet) that the snake-haired Gorgon monster Medusa was, in Greco-Roman myth, originally a priestess of the goddess Athena (or Minerva as the Romans called her).

From what I can find, however, this idea may well be a modern invention, although perhaps I've stumbled upon an older source for it in Servius' Commentary on Virgil's Aeneid 2.616, the end of which passage reads (in the Georgius Thilo & Hermannus Hagen edition, Leipzig: Teubner, 1881) as follows, with my own emphasis on the most relevant portion thereof:

sed alia fabula refert, Medusam mirae parsimoniae virginem fuisse, et ob hoc acceptam Minervae. quae compressa a Neptuno Pegasum equum dicitur edidisse: quod posteaquam Minerva cognovit, eius caput dicitur amputasse et suo adfixisse pectori, eique tribuisse vim, ut quidquid vidisset mutaret in saxum.

As I note in the linked Myth Question, the closest thing that I've encountered in ancient sources to something that looks like Medusa being Minerva's priestess is that, in Ovid's Metamorphoses 4.799-800, Medusa encounters Neptunus in Minerva's temple, when Hanc pelagi rector templo vitiasse Minervae dicitur. (There is no explanation of why this takes places at this location, much less any explicit mention of Medusa being a priestess of anyone.)

So when Servius (above) has it that Medusa acceptam Minervae, is this translatable as "was accepted by Minerva" merely in the most generic sense of the equivalent English terminology? Servius's narration here offers no further context as to the nature of this acceptance, as far as I can tell. Taken per se, is there a way that acceptam, as used here, logically or necessarily means something like "turned her into a sacerdotal figure"?

Or is it just like with English accept, which has a very broad semantic range covering the same or similar meanings as those of [to] take and [to] receive, with the specific usages of the word determining in just what sense someone or something is being accepted/taken/received?

Or in short, is there any obvious interpretation of Servius' highlighted text that should amount to: Ergo, Minerva made Medusa into her priestess? Or could it just as well indicate, more simply, that the goddess became well-disposed towards her, the same way we would say, e.g., that a school student was accepted by the cool kids in the class?

I've looked at several instances of acceptam as used in Latin literature, particularly the Vulgate Bible, which seem to point to the latter option: that it's the basic equivalent of mundane English accept/ take/ receive, such as the offer for Raphael to take payment in Tobiae 12.5; someone running to fetch a sponge at Jesus' Crucifixion in Matthaeus 27.48; Paul having received (acceptis) gifts delivered by Epaphroditus, which he then declares to be a sacrifice acceptable (acceptam) and pleasing to God in Philippenses 4.18; and the addressees of Hebraeos 10.26 receiving (acceptam) the knowledge of the truth.

1 Answer 1


acceptus, -a, -um means "welcome, agreeable" and is often used with the dative, e.g. senatui, plebi, populo Romano, but also diis et hominibus, deo, etc. It is similar in meaning to gratus and frequently combined with it, e.g. munus gratum acceptumque. Of course, acceptus is the perfect participle of accipere, but in these cases it is used adjectively with a specialized meaning.

The quote from Phil 4:18 is an example of this usage: hostiam acceptam, placentem Deo. (Placens is also a participle that's used adjectively here.)

I would therefore translate this as:

But another story reports that Medusa was a young lady of marvellous frugality, and that for this reason Minerva took a liking to her.

I haven't found in any dictionary any indication that it had anything to do with priestly offices.

  • Thanks for the response, & for your translation to go with it.
    – Adinkra
    Jul 24, 2023 at 15:27

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