Top 5 Bad Ass Monsters From Greek Mythology

Top 5 Monsters From Greek Mythology

Our love affair with monsters is not a completely new thing; the fertile imagination of the ancient Greeks had given rise to many terrifying beings. While these ancient mythical monsters may not have been the results of cloning, nuclear tests, or even deep sea mining, they certainly were as good, if not better than present-day, computer generated ones. And these monsters have staying power, for they have continued to influence writers and artists over thousands of years. I seriously doubt that the Cloverfield monster (as cool as it was) will be remembered a few centuries from now.

So, let’s take a look at five of the most iconic monsters from ancient Greek mythology, and some of the interesting influences they have had on popular culture.

The Lernaean Hydra

Monster Origins:

The Lernaean Hydra  was the spawn of Echidna – the mother of all monsters, and Typhon, a monster with a hundred serpent heads and legs.   

Hercules and The Hydra

Image Credit: JSS Gallery.

Appearance and Powers:

The Hydra was a vicious serpentine beast with numerous heads, and a breath poisonous enough to kill. If one of her heads was cut off, she had the power to regenerate two in its place.

Story:

According to Greek mythology, the Hydra guarded the subterranean passage to Hades. Hercules  managed to defeat this monster by  severing the heads, while his nephew seared off the bloody stumps by burning them, thus preventing them from growing again. Slaying this many-headed monster with regenerative powers, was one of the 12 labors of Hercules.

Interestingly, the Hydra was similar in appearance to the wicked looking Kaliya, a huge snake from Indian mythology.

Kaliya

Kaliya lived in the river Yamuna, poisoning it with venom as a consequence, and rendered it uninhabitable by other life. It was finally defeated by Krishna, a Hindu avatar, who danced on Kaliya’s many heads, gave it a splitting headache, and subdued the snake.

Interesting Pop Trivia:

HYDRA is an evil terrorist organization in the Marvel Comics universe.

 HYDRA from the Marvel Universe

Though the organization is repeatedly wiped out by S.H.I.E.L.D, new "heads" keep rising in the original’s place.

The Minotaur

I included the Minotaur on the list, as he has one of the most interesting origins among these hideous beings.

 

Minotaur - A Painting by Boris Vallejo

Appearance and Powers:

The Minotaur was a hybrid; he was half-man and half-bull. He was sometimes shown holding a huge axe.

Origins:

The mother of the Minotaur was Queen Pasiphaë, who gave birth to it after a, uh, wild night of passion with the handsome royal bull.

Queen Pasiphaë accomplished this by ordering Daedulas, the best architect of her time, to build a special wooden cow for her to climb into, and consummate* the beastly union.

Queen Pasiphae entering the wooden cow  Queen Pasiphaë entering the wooden cow. Painting by Giulio Romano, c.1530

Story:

Worried by the ferociousness of his adulterous wife’s illicit progeny, her husband, King Minos, had the Minotaur locked up in an almost inescapable labyrinth.  There, he was regularly fed with the choicest food available to monsters at that time – seven Athenian youths and seven maidens.  One such young man, Prince Theseus, who did not particularly relish the idea of being eaten by cattle (and dying without getting laid), slew the Minotaur,  before finding his way out through the labyrinth with the aid given by a clever princess.

*Disclaimer: It’s impossible for a woman to get pregnant by any bull, even if it’s the sacred papal bull, for that matter. 

Interesting Pop Trivia:

Cyberdemon form the Original Doom Game

The Cyberdemon, the Hell Knight, and the Barons of Hell, iconic villains  in the original Doom game series, all look "inspired" by the original man-bull.

 

The Chimera

Origins: She was the offspring of Echidna and Typhon, and the sibling of the Lerneaen Hydra and Cerberus.

Appearance & Powers:

The Chimera was an ancient beast with heads of a lion, a goat, and a vicious serpent. She could also breath fire from her mouth.  

Chimera, Bellerophon, Pegasus

Story: Bellerophon (later changed to Perseus during the renaissance) defeated the Chimera by staying out of range with the help of Pegasus, the winged horse.

Interesting Pop Trivia :

Chimera was the code name given to the virus in the John Woo directed Mission Impossible 2. Interestingly, Bellerophon was the name given to the cure to the virus in the movie.

 

Polyphemus – The Cyclops

Appearance and Powers: The cyclops were a race of gigantic, ungainly, one-eyed monsters with an appetite for human flesh.

 

Polyphemus - The Cyclops

Origins: Polyphemus was the son of sea god Poseidon and a nymph.

Story: The most famous of the cyclops was Polyphemus. Greek hero  Odysseus and his crew were trapped by the cyclops Polyphemus, who kept them in his cave for later consumption. Odysseus cunningly plied Polyphemus with wine, and when the monster fell asleep, blinded him by driving a large stake through his only eye.

As the story goes, Odysseus later escaped captivity from the now-blinded Giant’s cave by tying himself to the underside of one of the Cyclops’ sheep, which was let out by the giant for pasture. Or, that’s what Odysseus told  people who found him cavorting with a sheep.

Interesting Pop Trivia: 


This one-eyed Kitty was named Cy (for Cyclops), which, sadly,
died within a day of its birth

In the Masters of the Universe cartoon series, Tri-Klops was a three-eyed villain, who, funnily enough, could use only one eye at a time.

 

Cerberus – The Original Hell Hound

Appearance and Powers: Cerberus has been described as having three dog heads and a serpents tail.

 

Origins:

Cerberus was the son of  Typhon and Echidna (the horny twosome, again), and a sibling of the Hydra and the Chimera.

Story:

Cerberus was a huge watch dog guarding the gates to Hades.  Subduing this giant mutt was one of the most difficult labors of Hercules. According to the legend, Hercules wrestled the vicious beast into submission and made him his lap-dog.

In yet another version, Orpheus, the Father of songs, played his golden Lyre and soothed the breast of the savage beast.

Interesting Pop Trivia:

Fluffy, the ferocious, three-headed guard dog in J.K. RowlingsHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a complete rip-off of the original hell hound.

And as with Cerberus, Fluffy remained sleeping until a mystical harp was playing in the background.

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