Cerberus, Minotaur and Echidna
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The watchdog of the realm of Hades, generally described as being a three-headed dog with a serpent tail, and on his back innumerable snakes' heads. He is believed to be the son of Echidna and Typhon. Chained in front of the gates of the Underworld, he terrorizes souls upon their entering. You can catch a glimpse of him in Virgil's Aeneid, Book VI (Aeneas' journey into the underworld) and in Dante's Inferno. In other stories, Cerberus was bested by men such as Heracles and Orpheus.
Once a beautiful woman, Medusa was the child of Phorcys and Ceto. Of the three "gorgons", Medusa was the only mortal. Their hair was a mass of serpents; they had huge tusks, hands of bronze, and golden wings enabling them to fly. Anyone who encountered their gaze was turned to stone immediately from a horrible fear and loathing. Poseidon was the only immortal not fearful of Medusa since he fathered a child with her. Medusa was defeated by Perseus, who managed to chop off her head by looking at her through a looking-glass, which was most likely a bronze shield. This story can be found in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Athena made use of Medusa's head by fixing it to the center of her shield or her aegis.
Is the mixture of a serpent and a woman, a beautiful fair-faced nymph from the waist up, but a horrible serpent below. She grew up in her cave and used her beautiful head and torso to lure men but once they were trapped, her serpent nature took over and she ate them raw. Echidna mated with the storm god Typhon and gave birth to a great lot of famous monsters: Chimaera, the Hydra of Lernae, the dragons of Colchis and the garden of the Hesperides, the Gorgons, the eagle that eats Prometheus’ liver, Cerberus and its brother Orthrus. The hundred-eyed Argos kills Echida in her sleep to prevent her from eating him as she has eaten other travelers.
A snake with numerous heads that were sometimes said to be human as well. It was brought up near the source of the river Amymone in order to provide a test for Heracles. The breath of the Hydra was so venomous that anyone who approached it would die, even if the monster was sleeping. Heracles thought to destroy it by cutting off its heads, but as soon as he did so more heads grew in their place. Therefore Heracles seared the bleeding necks of the monster with a torch in order to prevent growth that way. According to some legends one of the heads was immortal, but Heracles cut it off anyway and buried it deep in the earth. Heracles also dipped his arrowheads in the Hydra's blood and made them extremely poisonous.
Winged horse of Bellerophon. He was the offspring of Poseidon and the Gorgon Medusa. The winged steed was born when the blood fell into sea from Medusa's neck. Pegasus was born at the same time as Chrysaor. Bellerophon was only able to tame the steed when Athena gave the hero a golden bridle. Bellerophon used Pegasus in all his adventure: killing the monster Chimaera, defeating the Solymi and Amazons. When Bellerophon thought to fly Pegasus to Olympus, the home of the gods, they send a gadfly to sting Pegasus. Bellerophon was thrown off his horse; the hero became lame for his misdeed. After this, Pegasus lived in the stable in Olympus offering his service to Zeus, carrying his thunderbolts.
Birds with the heads of women, long claws, faces pale with hunger, which leave behind filth and stench. They were originally sent by Zeus/Jove to torment a blinded soothsayer, Phineas. Driven away by the heroes of the Argonaut expedition, they took refuge on an island on which that Aeneas lands in Virgil's Aeneid, Book III. Aeneas and his men see goats and oxen first, and so slaughter a batch and plan a barbecue, being sure to say grace: "Then call the gods for partners of our feast". The Harpies "snatch the meat, defiling all they find, (...) and parting leave a loathesome stench behind." In other words, every time Aeneas tries to get the picnic going, the Harpies crap all over the food. So they prepare an all-out war with the birds.
These beings are giants with one enormous eye in the middle of their forehead. In Hesiod, the three sons--Arges, Brontes, and Steropes--of Uranus and Gaea, the personifications of heaven and earth, were Cyclopes. They were thrown into the underworld by their brother Cronus, one of the Titans, after he dethroned Uranus. Zeus released the Cyclopes from the underworld and they gave him the gifts of thunder and lightning. In Alexandrine poetry, the Cyclopes were considered merely as subordinate spirits: smiths and craftsmen who made the weapons for the gods. They forged Zeus' lightning bolts. In Homer's Odyssey, the Cyclopes are shepherds from Sicily. They are lawless, savage and cannibalistic. They fear neither gods nor humans. In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus is trapped in the cave of the Cyclops Polyphemus, a son of Poseidon. In order to escape from the cave Odysseus blinds him, incurring further wrath from Poseidon.
Griffin or Gryphon was a giant creature with the head and wings of an eagle, but the body and hindquarters of a lion. There are only a few references of the griffins in the Greek mythology. The Greek historian, Herodotus, who claimed they come from the land of the Hyperboreans. The griffins were most likely of Asiatic origin.
In his play Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus mentioned the griffins with their sharp beaks. Aeschylus says that the griffins lived around the river rolling gold alongside with the hounds of Zeus and the mounted one-eyed Arimaspians. The geographer Pausanias reported that the griffins were seen guarding their hoards of gold from the thieving one-eyed Arimaspians, their neighbours. However, there are many depictions of griffins in paintings, both in Bronze Age Crete and Greece, as well as in classical Greece. In the Minoan civilisation (Bronze Age), seals have been found, where naked woman or goddess held a griffin by the ear. This goddess was known as the Mistress of Animals, who was later identified with the Artemis, goddess of hunting and wild creatures.
The Hecatoncheires or the Hundred-Handed were offspring of Uranus and Gaea; they were brothers named Briareus, Cottus and Gyges. They had hundred hands and fifty heads. Their gigantic size and their ugliness frightened their father, Uranus, who was ruler of the universe. Uranus threw his sons into Tartarus, the deepest region of the Underworld. This caused great pain to Gaea. When Gaea gave birth to another set of ugly, giant sons, the Cyclops were met with similar fates as their elder brothers. The Cyclopes were also imprisoned in Tartarus. Only the Titans, who were fairer in looks, escaped the fates of imprisonment. Cronus, the youngest of the Titans, overthrown his father and became supreme ruler of the universe. Gaea had hoped that Cronus would release her sons who were imprisoned in Tartarus. Cronus refused to release them, so Gaea foretold that he would meet a similar fate as his father.
War broke out between the Titans and the sons of Cronus, known as the Olympians. The Olympians were the younger gods, led by the younger brother Zeus. The Cyclops made weapons for the Olympians. The Titans and Olympians were evenly matched, until Zeus released the Hecatoncheires from Tartarus. With the help of the Hecatoncheires, Zeus and his brothers were able to throw Cronus and the other male Titans into prison. Zeus set the Hecatoncheires to watch and guard the Titans, who were imprisoned in Tartarus.
Somewhat vampirical, this was a female monster who was thought to steal children and drink their blood. She was thought to have a woman's head and breasts, but a serpent's body. In some accounts she was one of Zeus' lovers who bore him children. Hera, in fits of jealousy, caused each child that was born to die. In despair, Lamia became a monster jealous of mothers more fortunate than herself. So she devoured their children. Female spirits which attached themselves to children in order to suck their blood were also called Lamiae.
The Minotaur was a beast that had the body of a man and the head of a bull. Legend has it that King Minos of Crete tried to cheat Poseidon by begging for a beautiful white bull for sacrifice to the gods. However, when Minos got hold of this bull he put it in with his own herds. Very angry, Poseidon caused Minos' wife to fall in love with the bull and become its lover. The Minotaur was the result of this weird union. The Labyrinth was built in order to house the beast and each year he was fed with seven boys and seven girls who were the tribute exacted by Minos from Athens. Theseus was able to defeat the Minotaur with the help of Ariadne, King Minos' daughter. She gave him a skein of thread and a sword so that he might kill the monster and then retrace his steps back through the labyrinth.
Further reading: "Open minded or twisted sexual behaviour ?"
The six-headed monster that resided at the Strait of Messina. Scylla was originally a beautiful maiden who was loved by a minor sea god named Glaucus. The sorceress Circe was in love with Glaucus, but the sea god did not return her love. In a jealous rage, Circe poured one of her potion into area where Scylla normally bathed. Scylla was transformed into a monster with six long necks, with the head of ugly hounds.
Scylla's lair was on the opposite side of the strait, where a giant whirlpool, the Charybdis, bring complete destruction to any ship sailing nearby. To escape both Scylla and Charybdis was virtually impossible. If the ship sailed near Scylla, they would lose sailors, but sailing too close to Charybdis would destroy the entire ship.
However, the Argonauts did manage to pass through Scylla and Charybdis, because of the sea goddess Thetis. Her husband, Peleus was one of the Argonauts. In the Odyssey, Odysseus lost six of his men to Scylla, the first time his ship passed through the strait. A month later, Odysseus lost his entire ship and crew, when the gods send strong winds, driving his ship back to the strait. This time, Charybdis swallowed his ship. Odysseus was the only survivor.
Further reading: "Caught between Scylla and Charybdis"
The satyrs were woodland spirits, often depicted in arts with head and upper body of man, horns and pointy ears, and goat legs. They were also depicted with large erect phallus. They were often seen accompanying Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy. They were shown in drunken revelry and orgy, dancing with Dionysus' female followers, the maenads.
Pan, the god of shepherd was a satyr, so was probably Silenus or Seilenus. Silenus was one of the loyal followers of Dionysus, who brought up the wine god.
The Sphinx was a creature with a head and chest of a woman, body and legs of lion and wings of an eagle. The Sphinx was an offspring of Echidna and either Orthus or Typhon. The Sphinx lived on the road west of Thebes. It was custom of the Sphinx to tell the riddle to travelling heading towards Thebes. If the traveller answers the riddle correctly, the traveller would be allowed to pass her. Giving the wrong answer, the Sphinx would kill and devour the traveller.
When Creon became regent at the death of King Laius, he offered the kingdom of Thebes and his beautiful sister, Jocasta (newly widowed) in marriage. When Oedipus correctly answered the riddle, the Sphinx killed itself by jumping off the cliff. Oedipus became king, and unwittingly married his mother (Jocasta) and became father of their children.
In Egyptian mythology, the Sphinx appeared to be wingless.
Further reading: "Oedipus and Narcissus"
Triton was a fish-tailed sea god, the son and herald of Poseidon, king of the seas. He stilled the waves with the blow of a conch-shell trumpet. Triton was also described as the god of the giant, Libyan, salt-lake Tritonis. When the Argonauts were stranded in the desert he assisted them in finding passage from the lake back to the sea.
Trtion was depicted in Greek vase painting as fish-tailed merman, sometimes bearded, sometimes youthful. In Greek sculpture and mosaic he was often given twin fish or dolphin tails. As Poseidon's herald, he had a winged brow and conch-shell trumpet.
Typhon was a giant winged monster with a hundred heads. Typhon was an offspring of Gaea ("Earth") and Tartarus. Typhon was a gigantic winged monster that was part man and part beast. Typhon was also taller than the tallest mountain. Under Typhon's arms there was a hundred dragon-heads. Below his thighs were the massive coils of vipers. Typhon was a terribly horrifying sight and was deadly since flame would gush from his mouth.
Typhon fathered many monsters upon Echidna: Cerberus, Chimaera, Orthus, the Hydra, Nemean Lion, Sphinx, Caucasian Eagle, Crommyonian Sow and vultures. According to Hyginus, Typhon was said to be father of Scylla.
Even though the Olympians had recently won the war against the Titans, the younger gods feared to face the monsters. Zeus tried to fight Typhon, until the monster cut off Zeus' sinews from his hands and feet. This prevented Zeus from using his thunderbolts, Zeus' most deadly weapon. Zeus was helpless and could not prevent Typhon from imprisoning Zeus in a cave. After some time, Hermes, the son of Zeus, recovered the sinews and rescued his father. When the sinews were restored to Zeus, he returned to fight Typhon with his thunderbolts. Zeus killed the monster by blasting his thunderbolts at Typhon, before burying the creature under Mount Aetna (Etna) or the entire island of Sicily.
Argus Panoptes was a watchman with a hundred eyes. Hera had set Argus to watching Io, who had been transformed into a cow. Hera wanted to keep Zeus away from Io. With a hundred eyes watching Io, Zeus had no hope of spiriting Io away without detection from Argus. Even when Argus slept, some of his eyes would continue to watch, while the rest of the eyes were closed.
Zeus decided to send his resourceful son, Hermes. Hermes was dressed as a shepherd. Hermes lulled Argus to sleep, before the god killed the watchman with his sword. Hera rewarded Argus for his service, by placing his eyes on the tail of the peacock, which was her favourite bird.
The Centaurs were a tribe of half-man and half-horse, living in Magnesia, a coastal region in Thessaly. The Centaur was depicted in arts to have a head, chest and arms of a man, while the rest of his body was that of a horse.
There were several different stories of their origin. One version says that the Centaurs were said to be descendants of Centaurus, the son of Apollo and Stilbe, thus brother of Lapithus, who became descendants of the Thessalian tribe, known as the Lapiths. A more popular version say that this Centaurus was a son of Ixion, the king of Thessaly, and the the cloud, possibly named Nephele, who was created by Zeus, made to look like Hera. In both version, Centaurus mated with the mares from Magnesia, southern Thessaly, which produced half-horse, half-man offspring. The Centaurs were also known as Hippocentaurs.
The Centaurs were known for their inability to drink alcohol. They become unruly when drunk. There were frequent clashes between the Lapiths and the Centaurs. The height of conflict was reached during the wedding of Peirithoüs & Hippodameia. Peirithoüs (Peirithous) was king of the Lapiths and friend of Theseus. Two of the Centaurs were prominent at the wedding, Eurytion and Nessus; Heracles would killed them later. With the help of some of Peirithoüs' guests, they were able to drive the Centaurs out of Thessaly. Most fled to Arcadia where they encountered Heracles, during his 4th Labour.
There were two friendly Centaurs to humans, Cheiron and Pholus.
Himera (or Chimaera) was a fire-breathing monster that lived in the mountains around Lycia. Chimaera was another monstrous offspring of Typhon and Echidna. Chimaera had the head and body of a lion, legs of a goat, and had a snake instead of a tail. Some images of the Chimaera showed it has a head of goat as well as that of the lion.
Iobates, king of Lycia, received a message from his son-in-law, King Proëtus (Proetus) of Tiryns, to kill Bellerophon, an exiled Corinthian prince. The gods frowned upon host who killed a guest, so Iobates decided to send Bellerophon to his death, requesting the hero to kill the monster Chimaera for him. To avoid the fire from Chimaera, Bellerophon won and tamed Pegasus, the winged steed. Bellerophon was able to kill Chimaera with his bow and arrows, at a safe distance from the monster.
Texts were taken and adjusted from Timeless Myths, Washington State University and Theoi Greek Mythology