Top 10 Popular Creatures of Greek Mythology
Founded in myth, and carved from legend; we're counting down 10 of the most dreaded, powerful and fearsome creatures of Greek mythology.
Rounding off our list is the fiercest, strongest creature in Greek mythology, Typhon. The last son of Gaia, fathered by Tartarus, Typhon was, with his mate Echidna, the parents to a great deal of the famous monsters of Greek legends. Typhon is said to be "terrible, outrageous and lawless", with shoulders constructed of one hundred snake heads, that emitted fire and every kind of noise; according to Hesiod. He is portrayed as "fell" and "cruel", and neither god nor man like. Some poems describe Typhon as a hundred-headed being, while others state he has only fifty, though the former would become the standard. A winged humanoid from waist up, consisting of two snake tails below. Another fire-breather, this colossal creature was said to "brush the stars" with its head, with fire flashing from his eyes. Said to surpass all the offspring of the Earth in both size and strength. Typhon would challenge the gods to rule of the cosmos; with all but Zeus backing down from the fight. In the end Zeus would emerge the victor of the hard fight, the required ten thunderbolts to typhoons face, before he could cast the mangled remnants of Typhon beneath Tartarus, where he would be punished and imprisoned with the other Titans, including Cronos himself.
The "hound of Hades" or "guardian of the underworld" monstrous multi-headed dog Cerberus is set to guard the gates of the underworld to prevent the dead from leaving Hades. The son of Typhon and Echidna, and usually thought to have three heads, the standard serpent of a tail and snakes jutting out all over its body. Cerberus is most commonly known for the tale of its capture by Heracles during his twelve labours. The large hound with fire in its eyes was dragged from the underworld against its will after Heracles wrestled it down. Some accounts go on to say that Heracles paraded the captured Cerberus through the streets of Greece. He then showed his captured quarry to Euystheus and as commanded, he returned Cerberus to its rightful place in the underworld.
The Erinyes, also known as the Furies, were female deities of vengeance; even called "infernal goddesses", are chthonic punishers of broken oaths that sprang forth when the titan Chronus had castrated his father Uranus, and cast his genitalia into the depths of the ocean. The Erinyes, as well as the Meliae nymphs emerged from the drops of blood as it fell onto Gaia, according to Hesiod's Theogony. The Erinyes live in Erebus, and are more ancient deities than any of the Olympian pantheon. They are tasked to hear complaints of mortals against the insolent young against the elderly, and the switch - to punish these crimes, by hounding culprits relentlessly to the verge of madness. The Erinyes varies in description depending upon the author, described as having snakes for hair, dog's heads or bat's wings, with bloodshot eyes.
The grotesque, monstrous, fire-breathing creature of Lycia is a hybrid fusion of multiple parts of more than one creature. Chimera is usually depicted as a lion, with both a goat and lion head and a snake for a tail and is child of Typhon and Echidna and brother of Cerberus and the Lernaean Hydra. Though genealogies differ, most versions state the Chimera mated with her brother, the two-headed dog Orthrus, and later birthed the famed Sphinx and Nemean lion of lore. A sighting of the Chimera was often considered to be an omen or foreshadow of storms, shipwrecks and other natural disaster occurrences. She would come to meet her end, as most monsters in Greek mythology seem to do, by the hands of a hero; this time Bellerophon, with a little help from Pegasus.
Another Greco-Roman creature of myth, the Harpy is always portrayed as a female monster in a birdlike form with a human face. Known to steal food from the hands of their victims before they could get nourishment, as well as carry off those of great evil to face judgment from the Erinyes. Hesiod goes to call them "lovely-haired" creatures, and depicted them as beautiful women with wings. The most famous tale involving the harpy is that of King Phineus of Thrace; whom abused his gift of prophecy and betrayed Zeus by giving away the secret plan of the gods. Zeus would then punish him by blinding and banishing him to an island filled with food he could never eat before the harpies could get to it.
The half man, half bull monster; famous for its tales of Theseus and the Minotaur. The creature came to be after Minos prayed to Poseidon, the sea god, send him a snow-white bull as a sign of support; this bull otherwise known as the Cretan Bull was meant to be a sacrifice to show honor to the deity, but instead decided to keep it and sacrifice one of his own. To punish Minos for his disrespect, Poseidon made Pasiphae, Minos's wife, fall deeply, madly in love with the Cretan Bull. She would petition the craftsman Daedalus to design a hollow cow, so she could climb in and mate with the bull. The offspring of the union was the monstrous Minotaur, nursed by his mother until he became too ferocious, and being that of the unnatural union of woman and the beast, it had no natural source of nourishment, so it turned to devouring human flesh. Minos would seek advice from the oracle at Delphi and would have Daedalus construct a massive labyrinth to contain the beast, keeping its location near the Minos's palace in Knossos. It was sometime after this that Theseus would arrive into the story, he would gain the love of Minos' daughter, Ariadne, who would help him traverse the labyrinth, and find his way back. Many accounts claim she had gifted him a ball of yarn to mark his route. He would confront the monitor near the center of the maze, where he'd use the sword of Aegeus to slay it for good.
Argus Panoptes, the 100-eye primordial giant, guardian of the heifer-nymph Lo, son of Arestor and servant of Hera. Ever vigilant, ever watching the "all-seeing" one; a fierce warrior who rested only a few eyes at a time so that he may always have wakeful alertness. His foremost and greatest service to the Olympian pantheon was slain Echidna, the mother of monsters in her cave as she slept. Hera's defining task for him was to guard the white heifer Lo from Zeus, by keeping her chained to the sacred olive tree at the Argive Heraion. In order to free Lo, Zeus would send Hermes to slay Argus, which he would do under disguise of a shepherd. Hermes would use spoken charms to put all of the Argus' 100 eyes to sleep, before killing him with a rock. To commemorate his faithful watchman, Hera would place his hundred eyes upon the peacock's tail to preserve him forever.
From Greco-Roman mythology, Arachne was a talented mortal woman, who challenged Athena; the goddess of wisdom and crafts, to a tapestry weaving contest. Upon her winning, or losing pending on what version is being told; she was cursed, transforming into a large spider with Arachne's torso attached to the top. The traditional telling is that of Ovid's as it appears in the Metamorphoses. To sum it up, Arachne was boisterous about her skill as a weaver, claiming she could even show the gods a thing or two. Athena overheard and took offense, the two would engage in a contest; Athena's tapestry showing four different times mortals had challenged the gods and were punished. Arachne's showed the many ways the gods had misled and abused mortals, Zeus in particular, by tricking and seducing women. When Athena saw what Arachne had spun, she thought it not only insulted the gods, but was in fact more beautiful than Athena's own; enraged, she shredded Arachne's tapestry and cursed her for wanting to be on par with a god.
Once a beautiful and loving queen of Libya, Lamia would eventually become a child-eating daemon of legendary proportion. According to myth, Lamia was a mistress of Zeus, earning his famously jealous wife Hera's scorn. Hera decided to kill all of Lamia's children and transform Lamia herself into a monster that lures, hunts and eats the children of others. The final part of Hera's "punishment" to Lamia was taking away her ability to close her eyes, so that she may always obsess over her dead children images. Later taking pity for her misfortune and bereavement, Zeus would bestow upon her the "gift" of removing her eyes; so she may be appeased in her grief over the loss of her children, and finally allow her some rest.
Medusa of the Gorgon sisters
In Greek mythology, a Gorgon referred to one of three, sister; Stheno, Euryale and probably the most famous sister, Medusa. The name Gorgon derives from the ancient Greek; gorgós, meaning "dreadful". While descriptions of Gorgons vary across Greek literature; the term commonly refers to one of the three sisters; described as having hair made of venomous snakes, as well as a horrifying visage that turned those who beheld them to stone. In early myths, Medusa would become the only one of the three to not be immortal, meeting her demise at the hands of Perseus. Armed with gifts of the gods, a scythe from Hermes, and a polished mirror shield from Athena; that he may view his quarry without fear of her petrifying gaze. Upon her death, the blood from her neck gave birth to her two sons Pegasus and Chrysaor. Her head would be given to Athena by Perseus, where she would adorn it to the mirrored shield thus creating Aegis.