Tuesday, 10 February 2015

10 creatures from Greek mythology

In mythologies all over the world we can find, more or less, strange creatures, which can represent the combination of different creatures or combination of animals and people. Anyway, probably the most famous creatures comes from the Greek mythology and even they were probably some kind of attempt to explain natural phenomena or creatures that seemed illogical, they have unshakable place in the world of myths and legends. We´ll look on some of them.


This creature is usually described with body of a lion and with head and breast of a woman, wings of a griffin or an eagle and serpent tail. Hera send this creature as a curse on the city  of Thebes and Sphinx started to guard the only access to the Fort. Anyone who wanted to walk around the place must solve the riddle. If someone didn´t answer it right, Sphinx killed him. The riddle was: What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three at close of the day?

Overall this creature can killed more than thousands of people. Also because of this fact was Sphinx considered as demon of death and bad luck. The hero, who answered right on Sphinx´s riddle was Oidipous, who answered that the creature from the riddle is a man, who as a baby crawls on four legs, then as an adult walks on two legs and in old age walks with crutch as a third leg.

 It should be noted that Oedipus also killed her, because the fate of Sphinx was to don´t survive the right answer on the riddle. After Oedipus answer it, creature jump from the rock into the sea.

Cerberus is overall know from Greek mythology as three - headed dog, but we must also say that although overall had Cerberus three heads, sometimes we can find his describtion with one, two but also with 50 or 100 heads, with a serpent´s tail, mane of snakes and lion´s claws. The main aim of this creature was to guard the entrance into the realm of the dead – Underworld. Only dead may go there, nobody can go away and Cerberus tasks was to prevent souls of people from leaving this place. 

We can find Cerberus in different myths. For example capturing Cerberus was the final labour assigned to Heracles by King Eurystehus. Hercules get to the underworld, where after death go souls of every people, through cave from Taenarum in Laconia. Heracles met Hades, who allowed him to lead the animal to the surface, but only if he will use his power and strength, not weapons. Heracles was succesful, brought Cerberus to the surface, where creature scared Eurystehus, who begged hero to take creature back into the Underworld.

Another hero who met Cerberus was Orpheus, who get into Underworld thanks to music, which makes creature fall asleep. Orpehus was searching for his dead wife Eurydice, but he do not fulfilled one condition – don´t look back. When he did it, Eurydice dissapeared and never returned into live.


Chimera was a fire-breathing creature, which was in fact combination of three animals – goat, lion and a snake. Chimera had the main head of lion, and it also had his strength, body of goat and also its head, which rised from her back, and serpent tail with the snake head. She lived in the mountains of Lycia, concretelly in the gorge of volcano, where she guarded the entrance to the Underworld. From this place, where she dwelt, she was terrorizing surroundings, killing cattle and setting fires. When Chimera felt human, she grind out fire so powerful that it was able to melt also the weapons.

Chimera was at last killed on command of king of Lycia by hero Bellerophon, who was in fact afraid of this creature. Bellerophon received from gods bow, arrows, spear with leaden tip and the winged horse Pegasus, which take the hero to the Chimera. It should be meant that Bellerophon get the Pegasus thanks to Athena´s help, who gave to hero golden bridle, whereby tamed the Pegasus. First, Bellerophon shot arrows at Chimera and when was creature tired, he killed her with the spear.


Sirens are one of the few creatures that are often portrayed quite differently than they were described by myths and legends. Many people can Sirens described as mermaids but in fact they were part women, part birds creatures with beautiful voices inhabiting the rocks on the sea- shore.

Story, which is trying to explain the transformation of beautiful maidens into the creatures of half women, half birds creatures, is talking about time when Hades kidnapped Persephone to the Underworld. Sirens were transformed into these creatures but they could not find her. As people in their search did not help them, they retaliated to them, when they lured sailors, with their beautiful voices, to shipwreck on their coasts without regret.

Sirens are associated also with Argonauts, who sailed around their Island after getting the golden fleece. There were saved from death by Orpehus, whose singing and playing on lyre surpassed Sirens. Another story, where can be Sirens found, is on of the ways of Odysseus, who, on the advise by the sorceress Circe, taped ears of his men by wax and firmly tie himself to the mast. One of the latest stories used to say that after one of these failures, Sirens jumped down from the rocks to the sea (similarly to Sphinx, when someone resisted their songs, their fate was death).


Medusa was in Greek mythology most famoust Gorgon. Overall there were three Gorgon sisters - Medusa, Stheno and Euryale – who had scaly bodies, bronze arms and gold wings. Medusa was unlike her sisters mortal and originally beautiful women with silky hair, but she felt in love with Poseidon and desecrated the Athena´s temple, so she turned her hair into hissing serpents. Medusa is known mainly because of her ability to turn into stone everyone she gazed upon.

Medusa was at last killed by the hero Perseus, who made it on command of King Polydektes. Perseus use the reflective shield, in which he looked to see the reflection of Medusa, curved sword, winged boots and magic helmet. As stated Vojtech Zamarovský Perseus used head of Medusa for three times „first time, when was insulted by giant Atlas, second time when he was attacked by Fíneus (refused suitor of Perseus´ wife) and for third time when he avenge to the king Polydektes for acts, which he committed to his mother Danae.“ Then was the head of Medusa gave to Athena and she fixed it to her breastplate. 


Cyclopes were crude and uneducated giants, cannibals with one eye in the middle of their foreheads living in caves of Hypereia, although they were initially hid by their father Uranus, due to their appearance in the Underworld, but they escape with the assistance of their mother Gaia.

 One of the famous Cyclopes was the Polyphemus, son of the Sea God Poseidon, who is known also because of that he felt in love with Galatea and killed his rival in love. Polyphemus is also mentioned in Homer´s Odyssey, where this Cyclop met Odysseus. Once, Odysseus with his expedition, found himself in a cave, which later proved to be the home of this Cyclop. Polyphemus blocked the entrance to the cave and started to eat the men. Odysseus drunk and blind him and with the rest of his men get away from the cave throgh the attachment to the bellies of sheeps, which backs Cyclop controlled. 

Althought were Cyclopec generally evil, cruel, without respect for the law or gods, they were proficient blacksmiths, who made thunderbolt for Zeus (this weapon concretely made three Cyclops – Brontes, Steropes and Arges), Helmet of invisibility for Hades and they were also metal workers and assist to a blacksmith Hephaestus.


Hydra, ancient serpent-like monster with nine heads. Interesting thing is that one of these heads was immortal and, if somebode cut the other head of Hydra, instead of it grew two more heads. So, for average people it was unreal to kill this terrible creature, which ravaged wide surroundings.  Similarly to Cerberus, killing Hydra was on the Heracles tasks. In fight with creature, which lived in the swamps of Lerna in Argolis, helped Heracles his friend Iolaos and with his sword cut Heracles the immortal head of Hydra. Also, according to Ron Leadbetter when Heracles realized that after cutting of head are growing two heads he „called help from Iolaus (...) who cauterized the open wounds with the flaming torch preventing them from growing again.“  Even Heracles killed the creature, Eurystheus wasn´t satisfied and told Heracles it should not be count as his victory, because Iolaus helped him.

Although it might seem that Hydra, like other mythical creatures dissappeared in the ancient times, it is not true. As reported by Vojtech Zamarovský „nearly seventy times occurs on inscriptions of paintings, plastics and sculptures from ancient times until today. (...) also in the literature we encounter, for example, with Hydra of War, Hydra of bureaucratise,“ and others.


This creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man, was according to the legend son of Pasiphae, the wife of King Minos, and the Cretan bull, to which she fell in love. Maybe because of the danger posed by Minotaur or because his looks, Minotaur dwelt at the center of the Creatan Labyrinth, which was designed by the architect Daedalus and his son Icarus, on the command of Minos. We should also mention that to Daedalus and Icarus attaches also legend that Minos after the final works on labyrinth for Minotaur , did not want to let them go. So they made wings from bird feathers and glue but, Icarus flew to high, so sun melted the glue and then he fell into the sea, where he drowned.

Another interesting fact attaching to Minotaur is, that he was fed by the human flesh. He was annualy fed by seven (some sources states five or twelve) youth and maidens from Athens. This terrible habit stopped only the hero Theseus, who get help from Ariadne, the daughter of Minos.  Ariadne gave to Theseus the sword and ball of string, which should help him to find the way out of the Labyrinth. Theseus tied the tread to the enter of the Labyrinth. When he heard the terrified screams of one youth, he run to that place to kill the creature. Later, together with others, Theseus came out of the labyrinth where was Ariadne waiting on him. 


Centaurus/hippocentaurs can be best described as a half-man, half-horse. Concretely, Centaurs had torso, arms and head of man and body and legs of horse.  These creatures with wild, savage and lustful nature, dwelt in the mountains and forests of Magnesia, region in Thessaly, but there were more tribes. There are also different explanation of their existence. One of them states that the ancestor of these creatures was a son of Apollo and the nymph Stible, another that it was a son of Ixion and cloud, which looks like Hera, that made Zeus to test wife´s testimony.

Probably the best known Centaur was Chiron, only immortal centaur, which his mother Phylira due to his look rebuffed and care for him tooked god Apollo, who taught him fishing, divining or treating. Even in some cases sources states that he was Hercules´ teacher, other sources states that Hercules poisoned Chiron by arrow dipped in the blood of Hydra what caused serious injury.

Although was Chiron a wise teacher, another well-known centaurs was Eurytion, who was the most strong. With this centaur related unpleasant incident, which was mainly caused by the inability of the centaurs to drink alcohol. According to Vojtech Zamarovský „at the invitation of King of Lapiths Eurytion attended with comrades his wedding (...) where in drunkenness caused the battle and tryed to kidnap the wife of the king. The other centaurs followed his example (...) However, the Greeks protected their women and in fight almost all Centaurs killed.“


Although is probably the most famous dog of myths of Ancient Greece Cerberus, we can meet here also his brother Orthrus, which was a two-headed dog with sharp edged teeth and serpent tail. From his other siblings we can also mention Chimera, Hydra, which were already mentioned. Another sibling could be also Sphinx, but some sources mentioned, that it was her father. Unlike his siblings, who guarded the important building or entrances to the Underworld, Orthrus lived on the Island of Erytheia, where he served to the three-bodied giant Geryon. Orthrus guarded herds of cattle.

Similarly as other less known creatures, Orthrus can be find mainly in the myth of Heracles´ 12 labours, in which on the order of king Eurystheus Heracles should take the herds of cattle, which were guarded by Orthrus, to Mycenae. During this journey Heracles met in Africa giant Antais, the son of Mother Earth, whose Herakles defeated only when he lifted him into the air. Orthrus fiercely resisted cattle and finally Heracles killed him in the battle.

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