Five more gigantic creatures worth mentioning will be presented in this week's blog.
Typhon (/ˈtaɪfɒn, -fən/; Greek: Τυφῶν, Tuphōn [typʰɔ̂ːn]), also Typhoeus (/taɪˈfiːəs/; Τυφωεύς, Tuphōeus), Typhaon (Τυφάων, Tuphaōn) or Typhos (Τυφώς, Tuphōs) was the deadliest monster of Greek mythology. The last son of Gaia, fathered by Tartarus, he was known as the "Father of All Monsters"; his wife Echidna was likewise the "Mother of All Monsters." Τυφῶν Tuphōn comes from the Greek verb τύφω tuphō "to make smoke, fume, singe, burn slowly" from Proto-Indo-European *duh2- by means of an enlargement Typhon was described in Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke, as the largest and most fearsome of all creatures. His human upper half reached as high as the stars, and his hands reached east and west. Instead of a human head, a hundred dragon heads erupted from his neck and shoulders (some, however, depict him as having a human head, with the dragon heads replacing the fingers on his hands). His bottom half consisted of gigantic viper coils that could reach the top of his head when stretched out and constantly made a hissing noise. His whole body was covered in wings, and fire flashed from his eyes, striking fear even into the Olympians.
Typhon attempted to destroy Zeus at the will of Gaia, because Zeus had imprisoned the Titans. Typhon overcame Zeus in their first battle, and tore out Zeus' sinews. However, Hermes recovered the sinews and restored them to Zeus. Typhon was finally defeated by Zeus, who trapped him underneath Mount Etna.
In the alternative account of the origin of Typhon (Typhoeus), the Homeric Hymn to Apollo makes the monster Typhaon at Delphi a son of archaic Hera in her Minoan form, produced out of herself, like a monstrous version of Hephaestus, and whelped in a cave in Cilicia and confined there in the enigmatic Arima, or land of the Arimoi, en Arimois (Iliad, ii. 781–783). It was in Cilicia that Zeus battled with the ancient monster and overcame him, in a more complicated story: It was not an easy battle, and Typhon temporarily overcame Zeus, cut the "sinews" from him and left him in the "leather sack", the korukos that is the etymological origin of the korukion andron, the Korykian or Corycian Cave in which Zeus suffers temporary eclipse as if in the Land of the Dead. The region of Cilicia in southeastern Anatolia had many opportunities for coastal Hellenes' connection with the Hittites to the north. From its first reappearance, the Hittite myth of Illuyankas has been seen as a prototype of the battle of Zeus and Typhon. Walter Burkert and Calvert Watkins each note the close agreements. Watkins' How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics (Oxford University Press) 1995, reconstructs in disciplined detail the flexible Indo-European poetic formula that underlies myth, epic and magical charm texts of the lashing and binding of Typhon.
Typhon fathered several children by his wife-niece, Echidna, daughter of Phorcys and Ceto:
- Orthrus, a fearsome two-headed hound. Theogony, 306ff. Orthrus, and his master, Eurytion, son of Ares and the Hesperid Erytheia, guarded the fabulous red cattle of Geryon. Both were slain, along with Geryon, when Heracles stole the red cattle.
- The Sphinx was sent by Hera to plague the city of Thebes. She was the most brilliant of Typhon's children, and would slay anyone who could not answer her riddles (possibly by strangling them). When Oedipus finally answered her riddle, she threw herself into the ocean in a fit of fury and drowned.
- The Nemean Lion was a gigantic lion with impenetrable skin. Another legend claimed that the beast is the son of Selene and Zeus. Heracles was commanded to slay the Lion as the first of his Twelve Labors. First, he attempted to shoot arrows at it, then he used his great club, and was eventually forced to strangle the beast. He would then use the Lion's own claws to skin it, whereupon he wore its invulnerable hide as armor.
- Cerberus, another one of Typhon's sons was a three-headed dog that was employed by Hades as the guardian of the passage way to and from the Underworld. According to Hesiod, he was the son of Orthrus and Echidna.
- Ladon was a serpentine dragon, known as a drakon. According to Hesiod, Ladon was the son of Phorcys and Ceto, instead of Typhon and Echidna. Regardless of his parentage, Ladon entwined himself around the tree in the Garden of the Hesperides at the behest of Hermes, who appointed him its guardian. He was eventually killed by Heracles.
- The Lernaean Hydra, another one of Typhon's daughters, terrorized a spring at the lake of Lerna, near Argos, slaying anyone and anything that approached her lair with her noxious venom, save for a monstrous crab that was her companion. She was originally thought to have nine heads, and any neck, if severed, would give rise to two more heads; her ninth head was immortal. She and her crab were slain by Heracles as the second of his Twelve Labors - he cut off her heads and burnt the stumps so that she could not regenerate, and crushed her ninth head under a rock. (The crab was crushed underneath Heracles' heel when it tried to stop him.)
- The Caucasian Eagle — An eagle that every day ate the liver of Prometheus.
- Typhon's last child was his daughter, Chimera. Chimera resembled a tremendous, fire-breathing lioness with a goat's head emerging from the middle of her back, and had a snake for a tail. She roamed the ancient kingdom of Lycia, particularly around Mount Chimaera (possibly near Yanartaş), bringing bad omens and destruction in her wake, until she was slain by Bellerophon and Pegasus at the behest of Iobates.
Typhon started destroying cities and hurling mountains in a fit of rage. With the exception of Zeus, Dionysus, and Athena, the gods of Olympus fled to their home to Egypt, where they hid themselves by taking the forms of various animals. When Athena accused Zeus of cowardice, he regained his courage and attacked the monster. The battle raged, ending when Zeus threw one hundred well aimed lightning bolts on top of Typhon, trapping him.
- The inveterate enemy of the Olympian gods is described in detail by Hesiod as a vast grisly monster with a hundred serpent heads "with dark flickering tongues" flashing fire from their eyes and a din of voices and a hundred serpents for legs, a feature shared by many primal monsters of Greek myth that extend in serpentine or scaly coils from the waist down. The titanic struggle created earthquakes and tsunami. Once conquered by Zeus' thunderbolts, Typhon was either cast into Tartarus, the common destiny of many such archaic adversaries, or confined beneath Mount Etna (Pindar, Pythian Ode 1.19–20; Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 370), where "his bed scratches and goads the whole length of his back stretched out against it", or in other volcanic regions, where he is the cause of eruptions. Typhon is thus the chthonic figuration of volcanic forces, as Hephaestus (Roman Vulcan) is their "civilized" Olympian manifestation.
- Typhon is also the father of hot dangerous storm winds which issue forth from the stormy pit of Tartarus, according to Hesiod. Likewise, the rumblings of Typhon emitted from deepest Tartarus could be clearly heard within the underground torrent near Seleuceia, now in Turkey, until his presence was neutralized by the building of a Byzantine church nearby.
Alternatively Talos could be figured as a sacred bull. His bronze nature suggested to the author of Bibliothēkē that he may have been a survivor from the Age of Bronze, a descendant of the brazen race that sprang from meliae "ash-tree nymphs" according to Argonautica 4. The conception that Hesiod's men of the Age of Bronze were actually made of bronze is extended to men of the age of gold by Lucian for humorous effect.
The pseudo-Platonic dialogue Minos rationalized the myth, thrice yearly showing at each village in turn the laws of Minos inscribed on brass tablets.
In the Cretan dialect, talôs was the equivalent of the Greek hêlios, the Sun: the lexicon of Hesychius of Alexandria notes simply "Talos is the Sun". In Crete, Zeus was worshipped as Zeus Tallaios, "Solar Zeus", absorbing the earlier god as an epithet in the familiar sequence. The god was identified with the Tallaia, a spur of the Ida range in Crete. On the coin from Phaistos (illustration) he is winged; in Greek vase-paintings and Etruscan bronze mirrors he is not. The ideas of Talos vary widely, with one consistent detail: in Greek imagery outside Crete, Talos is always being vanquished: he seems to have been an enigmatic figure to the Greeks themselves.
Talos is described by Greeks in two versions. In one version, Talos is a gift from Hephaestus to Minos, forged with the aid of the Cyclopes in the form of a bull. In the other version, Talos is a gift from Zeus to Europa. Or he may have been the son of Kres, the personification of Crete; In Argonautica Talos threw rocks at any approaching ship to protect his island. In the Byzantine encyclopedia called the Suda, it is said that when the Sardinians did not wish to release Talos to Minos, he heated himself – by jumping into a fire – and clasped them in his embrace.
Talos had one vein, which went from his neck to his ankle, bound shut by only one bronze nail. The Argo, transporting Jason and the Argonauts, approached Crete after obtaining the Golden Fleece. As guardian of the island, Talos kept the Argo at bay by hurling great boulders at it. According to pseudo-Apollodorus' Bibliotheke, Talos was slain when Medea the sorceress either drove him mad with drugs, or deceived him into believing that she would make him immortal by removing the nail. In Argonautica, Medea hypnotized him from the Argo, driving him mad with the keres she raised, so that he dislodged the nail, and "the ichor ran out of him like molten lead", exsanguinating and killing him. Peter Green, translator of Argonautica, notes that the story is somewhat reminiscent of the story regarding the heel of Achilles.
Geryon was often described as a monster with human faces. According to Hesiod Geryon had one body and three heads, whereas the tradition followed by Aeschylus gave him three bodies. A lost description by Stesichoros said that he has six hands and six feet and is winged; there are some mid-sixth-century Chalcidian vases portraying Geryon as winged. Some accounts state that he had six legs as well while others state that the three bodies were joined to one pair of legs. Apart from these bizarre features, his appearance was that of a warrior. He owned a two-headed hound named Orthrus, which was the brother of Cerberus, and a herd of magnificent red cattle that were guarded by Orthrus, and a herder Eurytion, son of Erytheia.
In the fullest account in the Bibliotheke of Pseudo-Apollodorus, Heracles was required to travel to Erytheia, in order to obtain the Cattle of Geryon (Γηρυόνου βόες) as his tenth labour. On the way there, he crossed the Libyan desert and became so frustrated at the heat that he shot an arrow at Helios, the Sun. Helios "in admiration of his courage" gave Heracles the golden cup he used to sail across the sea from west to east each night. Heracles used it to reach Erytheia, a favorite motif of the vase-painters. Such a magical conveyance undercuts any literal geography for Erytheia, the "red island" of the sunset.
When Heracles reached Erytheia, no sooner had he landed than he was confronted by the two-headed dog, Orthrus. With one huge blow from his olive-wood club, Heracles killed the watchdog. Eurytion the herdsman came to assist Orthrus, but Heracles dealt with him the same way.
On hearing the commotion, Geryon sprang into action, carrying three shields, three spears, and wearing three helmets. He pursued Heracles at the River Anthemus but fell victim to an arrow that had been dipped in the venomous blood of the Lernaean Hydra, shot so forcefully by Heracles that it pierced Geryon's forehead, "and Geryon bent his neck over to one side, like a poppy that spoils its delicate shapes, shedding its petals all at once".
Heracles then had to herd the cattle back to Eurystheus. In Roman versions of the narrative, on the Aventine Hill in Italy, Cacus stole some of the cattle as Heracles slept, making the cattle walk backwards so that they left no trail, a repetition of the trick of the young Hermes. According to some versions, Heracles drove his remaining cattle past a cave, where Cacus had hidden the stolen animals, and they began calling out to each other. In others, Caca, Cacus' sister, told Heracles where he was. Heracles then killed Cacus, and according to the Romans, founded an altar where the Forum Boarium, the cattle market, was later held.
To annoy Heracles, Hera sent a gadfly to bite the cattle, irritate them and scatter them. The hero was within a year able to retrieve them. Hera then sent a flood which raised the level of a river so much, Heracles could not cross with the cattle. He piled stones into the river to make the water shallower. When he finally reached the court of Eurystheus, the cattle were sacrificed to Hera.
Ancient sources tell several different stories about Orion. There are two major versions of his birth and several versions of his death. The most important recorded episodes are his birth somewhere in Boeotia, his visit to Chios where he met Merope and was blinded by her father, Oenopion, the recovery of his sight at Lemnos, his hunting with Artemis on Crete, his death by the bow of Artemis or the sting of the giant scorpion which became Scorpio, and his elevation to the heavens. Most ancient sources omit some of these episodes and several tell only one. These various incidents may originally have been independent, unrelated stories and it is impossible to tell whether omissions are simple brevity or represent a real disagreement.
In Greek literature he first appears as a great hunter in Homer's epic the Odyssey, where Odysseus sees his shade in the underworld. The bare bones of his story are told by the Hellenistic and Roman collectors of myths, but there is no extant literary version of his adventures comparable, for example, to that of Jason in Apollonius of Rhodes' Argonautica or Euripides' Medea; the entry in Ovid's Fasti for May 11 is a poem on the birth of Orion, but that is one version of a single story. The surviving fragments of legend have provided a fertile field for speculation about Greek prehistory and myth.
Orion served several roles in ancient Greek culture. The story of the adventures of Orion, the hunter, is the one on which we have the most evidence (and even on that not very much); he is also the personification of the constellation of the same name; he was venerated as a hero, in the Greek sense, in the region of Boeotia; and there is one etiological passage which says that Orion was responsible for the present shape of the Straits of Sicily.
Orion is mentioned in the oldest surviving works of Greek literature, which probably date back to the 7th or 8th century BC, but which are the products of an oral tradition with origins several centuries earlier. In Homer's Iliad Orion is described as a constellation, and the star Sirius is mentioned as his dog. In the Odyssey, Odysseus sees him hunting in the underworld with a bronze club, a great slayer of animals; he is also mentioned as a constellation, as the lover of the Goddess Dawn, as slain by Artemis, and as the most handsome of the earthborn. In the Works and Days of Hesiod, Orion is also a constellation, one whose rising and setting with the sun is used to reckon the year.
The legend of Orion was first told in full in a lost work by Hesiod, probably the Astronomia; simple references to Hesiod will refer to this, unless otherwise stated. This version is known through the work of a Hellenistic author on the constellations; he gives a fairly long summary of Hesiod's discourse on Orion. According to this version, Orion was likely the son of the sea-god Poseidon and Euryale, daughter of Minos, King of Crete. Orion could walk on the waves because of his father; he walked to the island of Chios where he got drunk and attacked Merope, daughter of Oenopion, the ruler there. In vengeance, Oenopion blinded Orion and drove him away. Orion stumbled to Lemnos where Hephaestus — the lame smith-god — had his forge. Hephaestus told his servant, Cedalion, to guide Orion to the uttermost East where Helios, the Sun, healed him; Orion carried Cedalion around on his shoulders. Orion returned to Chios to punish Oenopion, but the king hid away underground and escaped Orion's wrath. Orion's next journey took him to Crete where he hunted with the goddess Artemis and her mother Leto, and in the course of the hunt, threatened to kill every beast on Earth. Mother Earth objected and sent a giant scorpion to kill Orion. The creature succeeded, and after his death, the goddesses asked Zeus to place Orion among the constellations. Zeus consented and, as a memorial to the hero's death, added the Scorpion to the heavens as well.