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Dragons in Greek Mythology

Dragons in Greek Mythology

Dragons in Greek mythology are different from the winged creatures described in popular tales and legends that we are used to know. They looked more like serpentine monsters, the majority of which do not have the ability to fly like the classical dragons. The Greeks divided the dragons into three family categories:

?The Dragons: Giant snakes, usually with deadly venom and many heads.
?The Cetea: sea monsters that often appear in myths where the hero rescues a princess.
?The Dracaena: these creatures display the characteristics of a woman and a snake, or a female dragon.


Heroes are undoubtedly part of the best known part of Greek mythology, but what makes a hero? In the mythological sense, a legendary hero is distinguished by his actions and feats. Monsters have to be fought and defeated at the risk of their lives to make an impression.

Luck (or misfortune), the myths of ancient Greece are full of creatures and monsters, each stranger than the next. Both fantastic and terrifying, these mythical beings are very numerous. From Dragons, Giants, Demons and Ghosts, to hybrid creatures such as the Sphinx, Minotaur, Centaurs, Manticores and Chimera. ?

In this article, we will focus on dragons in Greek mythology. Their stories, their appearances, their kinship with the gods and their purposes. You will learn remarkable facts and elements about these many mythical monsters of Ancient Greece.

Typhon Dragon

In Greek mythology, Typhon was considered to be the most powerful and deadly evil deity. He is the last offspring of the Goddess Gaia and the God Tartarus. He was designed to prevent the gods of Olympus from defeating the Titans in the Titanomachy. According to certain myths (Homeric Hymns), it is an evil being born by Hera with the sole purpose of defeating Zeus.

Known under the epithet of “father of all monsters”, Typhon was a fire-breathing being whose name alone was enough to arouse fear and awe. In Greek legends, you should know that his physical description of the dragon Typhon differs from one story to another.

typhon

Typhon was a colossal winged beast with the head and body of a man. It was a giant so enormous that it brushed against the stars. Typhon had a hundred dragon heads sprouting from his shoulders, he also had snake heads on his fingertips. From the waist down, a hundred venomous snakes formed the mass of his body. Typhon’s ears were pointed, and his hair and beard were tangled and dirty.

From the eyes, mouth, and nostrils of each of his heads gushed out of the flames. Each mouth had its own horrible voice and his eyes never closed. The shape of the typhon was nebulous in nature. In summary, most descriptions attribute to Typhon a giant waist, the tail of a snake, multiple dragon or snake heads, dark tongues, eyes of fire, and a thunderous voice.

typhon greek mythology

Gaia was furious with Zeus for imprisoning her children, the Titans, in Tartarus. She rallied her other children, the Giants, to avenge the injustice, but they too were defeated. Consequently, she created Typhon as Zeus’ ultimate adversary. For this reason, Typhon is sometimes classified as a giant. In one version of the story, Typhon is said to have defeated the supreme god face to face.

When the gods of the Pantheon saw Typhon approaching, they fled in terror. One tradition says that they either ran to Egypt, where they were transformed into animal figures that symbolized Egyptian deities, or they transformed themselves into animals. Athena, the goddess of wisdom, persuaded them to return to Greece, while Zeus stayed behind to face the dragon Typhon. ⚡

typhon vs zeus

Typhoon, the living nightmare of the gods of Olympus, never slept. He wanted to gain the sovereignty of gods and mortals, but he was subdued by the lightning of Zeus after a frightening struggle. Zeus enclosed him under Etna, a volcano where the forges of the god Hephaestus are located.

If Typhon seized Olympus, the home of the gods, he would have become the master of the world, and Zeus could not allow it. Typhon was married to Echidna, who was considered the “mother of all monsters. They both had many famous offspring, including :

?The Sphinx
?The Lion of Nemea
?The Cerberus

The Lernaean Hydra

In Greek mythology, the Lernaean Hydra was a gigantic nine-headed water snake that haunted the marshes of Lerna. It is one of the twelve works of Heracles. Sent to defeat the creature, for every head he decapitated, two more grew. He asked for the help of his nephew, Iolaos, who applied flaming firebrands to the severed heads, cauterizing the wounds and preventing the regeneration of the Hydra of Lerna.

Hera, who had raised the monster specifically to kill Heracles, sent a giant crab to the Hydra’s rescue. During the battle, Heracles crushed the crab beneath its foot. The Hydra and the Crab were then placed among the stars by Hera as the Constellation of the Hydra and the Constellation of Cancer.

lernaean hydra vs hercules

The Hydra of Lerna was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna. This mythical creature was sometimes regarded as the demon of darkness and drought. The Hydra of Lerna lived in the marshes and swamps of Lerna in Argolida. It ravaged the local province of Argos.

The Hydra was sacred to Hera, but the dragon tormented the inhabitants of the Argolid so much that King Eurysthaeus ordered Heracles to kill it. The Hydra of Lerna left her home only to consume livestock or destroy crops. Its breath reeked of venom, and its fetid exhalations poisoned the air.

hercules vs lernaean hydra

The last head of the Hydra of Lerna, the middle one, was immortal, but Heracles succeeded in destroying it using the golden sword that the goddess Athena had given him. Heracles placed the head, still alive and writhing, under a large rock on the sacred path between Lerna and Eleanor. Then he dipped all the tips of his arrows in the poisonous blood of the Hydra.

This action will later mark the end of the hero, for Heracles will wear the Tunic of Nessus on which the blood of the centaur had mingled with the blood of the Hydra of Lerna. This will cause him unbearable pain, and he will end up cremated on Mount Oeta.

Dragon of Thebes

In Greek mythology, the dragon of Thebes, also called the Ismeian dragon, was a giant snake that guarded the sacred spring of Ares near the city of Thebes. According to Theban legend, the hero Cadmos, after triumphing over the dragon, became the founder and first king of Thebes.

On the instructions of the oracle of Delphi, Cadmos followed a special cow that he sacrificed for Athena or Zeus. The place of the animal’s sacrifice marked the birth of the city of Thebes and its acropolis, Cadmus. To carry out this project, he sent some companions to draw water.

Cadmus kill dragon

Unfortunately, the water source was guarded by a dragon, one of the sons of Ares, who killed his men. The dragon of Thebes was in turn slain by Cadmos. Cadmos was ordered by Athena to sow the dragon’s teeth into the earth, from which armed warriors, called the Spartans, sprang forth. Cadmos, terrified, threw a stone at them. They thought they were being attacked, and killed each other, and only five survived:

?Echion
?Udaios
?Chthonios
?Hypérénor
?Peloros


Later, these five Spartes helped Cadmos to build the Greek city of Thebes and the Theban Acropolis. They became the founders and then the ancestors of the noblest families of the city of Thebes. The dragon was sacred in the eyes of Ares, so the god imposed Cadmos to do penance for eight years by serving him. After that, Athena assigned him the government of Thebes, and Zeus offered him Harmony, his daughter, as his wife.

dragon of Thebes

The Colchid Dragon

In Greek mythology, the dragon of Colchis, the offspring of Typhon and Echidna (or Gaia), was the guardian of the Golden Fleece in the sacred grove of Ares. Jason, a Greek hero, claims from his uncle Pelias, son of Poseidon, the throne of his father Eson, former king of Iolcos, who was dispossessed by the latter. Pelias promised to give it back to him on condition that he brings back to him the famous Golden Fleece which is in Colchis.

From then on, Jason embarks on the Argo, a galley, with the Argonauts in search of the fur. Once arrived, Jason claims the Golden Fleece to Summer, the king of Colchis. Aeëtes in turn promised to give it to him only if he could accomplish certain tasks. First, Jason had to plow a field with fire-spitting oxen that he had to harness himself.

golden fleece jason

Next, Jason was to sow the teeth of a dragon in the same field that was the sacred domain of Ares. The teeth germinated and an army of warriors came out of the earth. Jason thought about it and before they attacked him, he threw a stone into the crowd. Unable to determine where the projectile had come from, the soldiers clashed and killed each other. This story is quite similar to that of Cadmos and the Dragon.

Eventually, Summer forced Jason to fight and kill the dragon Colchis, an insomniac creature who kept the golden fleece. Jason succeeded in defeating the beast, he retrieved the fleece and embarked with Medea, a sorceress/magician, daughter of Summer. She had helped Jason in his quest and had fallen madly in love with him. Another version tells that Jason was swallowed and spit out before he defeated the dragon of Colchis.

dragon Colchis

Ladon the Dragon

In Greek mythology, the Dragon Ladon, also known as the Dragon of Hesperides, was the guardian of the golden apples in the Garden of Hesperides. This massive hundred-headed dragon was one of the monstrous offspring of Typhon and Echidna. Ladon is associated with the eleventh of the twelve labors of Heracles. Having already defeated many monsters, Heracles took his bow and simply killed the dragon with a poisoned arrow.

Ladon Dragon

This dragon of Ancient Greece, with a hundred heads and a hundred votes, had a penchant for gold. The goddess Hera, tired of seeing the Pleiades, daughters of the Titan Atlas, come to the garden and steal golden apples, persuaded the dragon Ladon to watch over the apple tree.

From then on, Ladon wrapped himself around the tree and began to watch in all directions at once. When one of his heads was asleep, the others were awake, so it was impossible to surprise the Hesperides dragon. Because of Hera’s resentful nature, Ladon also had the secondary task of tormenting the Titan Atlas, which stood nearby, holding the sky on his shoulders.

dragon Ladon

Ladon met his fate when Heracles was charged with bringing back golden apples from the garden. The beast was killed with the bow and arrows that the Greek hero possessed. The dragon remained in the throes of death for a long time, and the Hesperides mourned the loss of their protector. This drew Jason and the Argonauts into the garden the very next day, where they witnessed the last moments of the Dragon of the Hesperides.

Zeus admired the fight so much that he elevated Ladon into the night sky as the Constellation of the Dragon (Draco). Another legend tells that it was Hera who placed his portrait among the stars for the devotion of the dragon to his garden, and his efforts to kill Heracles.

ladon greek mythology

The Dragon Cychreides

The Dragon Cychreides was a giant snake that terrorized the island of Salamis, a Greek island located in Attica. According to some, he was killed by Cycheus who became king thanks to this exploit. According to others, Cycloe would have raised the beast that would have been driven off the island by the hero Eurylochus, a companion of Ulysses. The dragon then swam across the sea to Eleusis, where he became the pet of the goddess Demeter.

The Dragon Cychreides

According to another story, Cychea himself was called a dragon because of his wild nature. Banished from Salamis by Eurylochus, he was received by Demeter at Eleusis to be appointed priest in his temple. Legend has it that during the Battle of Salamis, a dragon appeared on one of the Athenian ships and an oracle declared it to be Cychedra. ?

Python the Dragon

In Greek mythology, Python was a monstrous snake-dragon charged by his mother Gaia, the goddess of the earth, to protect the oracle of Delphi. According to some accounts, the creature was born from the decaying mud left behind by the Flood of Deucalion.

According to Greek legend, Zeus laid and impregnated the goddess Leto with twin gods, Artemis and Apollo. The Dragon Python is said to have been sent by Hera to drive out Leto to prevent her from giving birth, because the latter was jealous and mad with rage because of Zeus’ infidelity.

python the dragon

Apollo, wanting to avenge his mother for having been pursued by the dragon relentlessly during her pregnancy, armed himself with a bow and arrows made in a forge, to the god Hephaestus. He in turn chased the dragon to his cave, Mount Parnassus, and a legendary battle ensued between the god and the monster.

Python was not an easy opponent for Apollo to defeat, but by shooting a hundred arrows, Python eventually succumbed to his wounds. Later, Apollo claimed the oracle of Delphi, which was renamed “Pythia”.

Apollo vs python

Sources tell that Apollo had to engage in a period of servitude for eight years after the murder of Gaia’s child, and that he would have established the Pythic Games as an act of penance. The god could also have decreed these Delphic Games as a celebration of his victory over Python. The Homeric hymn to Apollo and some ancient Greek arts equate Python with Echidna.

Andromeda and the Sea Monster

In Greek mythology, Andromeda is an Ethiopian princess, daughter of King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia. Her mother boasted that she and her daughter were the most beautiful among the Nereids, the nymphs and daughters of the old sea god Nereus. The latter went to Poseidon to complain, provoking the wrath of the God of the Sea upon the kingdom of Ethiopia.

The punishment took the form of a great tsunami that destroyed much property and farmland. Poseidon also sent Ceto, a sea monster, who swept the unwary to the shore. In despair, King Cepheus consulted the oracle of Amen, who told him that no respite could be found until he sacrificed his daughter to the sea monster. Andromeda was chained to a rock to await her death.

ANDROMEDA AND THE SEA MONSTER

Fortunately, however, the hero Perseus was nearby, and he prevented Andromeda’s imminent death. When the monster emerged from the sea, he succeeded in killing it, either with his sword or by exposing it to the head of Medusa and turning it to stone.

Thus, Andromeda was saved from the sea monster. Perseus married her and she followed him on his journey back to Greece. They had nine children together. After her death, the goddess Athena placed her in the sky as the Constellation of Andromeda, near her beloved husband Perseus and her mother Cassiopeia.

Perseus Andromeda

Hesione and the Dragon

In Greek mythology, Hesione is a princess, she is the daughter of the king of Troy, Laomedon and the nymph Strymo. She is also the granddaughter of Ilus, the mythical founder of Troy. She was going to be sacrificed to the keto, a sea monster sent by Poseidon, who devastated the region until Heracles freed her from his chains. This legend is very similar to that of Andromeda and the sea monster.

The main myth of Hesione and the Dragon tells that the gods Apollo and Poseidon were angry with King Laomedon. King Laomedon did not recognize the deities and did not pay them their due as promised after they built the walls of Troy. In retaliation, Apollo sent the plague on Troy, while Poseidon sent a sea monster, nicknamed the Trojan Keto, to terrorize the coasts.

Hesione dragon

To appease the sea monster, the Trojans were forced to sacrifice a young girl, leaving her chained to a rock on the shore. With the sacrifices being drawn by lot, the name Hesione was chosen to be the next victim of the Trojan sea monster.

Heracles, back from the Amazon country, promised that he would save Hesione and kill the sea monster on condition that Laomedon would give the divine horses. Zeus had donated them to Laomedon as compensation for the abduction of Ganymede. Laomedon accepted the deal without hesitation.

Thus, Heracles killed the sea monster and broke the chains of Hezione, then returned it to Laomedon. But once again, the king of Troy refused to pay for the services rendered. Heracles did not have time to care for the king at this time, but the Greek hero swore to return.

The Dragons of Medea

In Greek mythology, Medea was the daughter of Esteus, king of Colchis, and the wife of the mythical hero Jason. According to legend, the witch Medea had a chariot, the Medea Chariot, which was harnessed by dragons. Medea’s dragons were two dragons that pulled the witch’s flying chariot. She summoned them to take her away from Corinth following the murder of King Creon, her daughter Creusa, and her children she had with Jason.

DRAGONS OF MEDEA

Echidna: the Mother of All Monsters

In Greek mythology, Echidna is a creature half woman, half snake. She is the daughter of Gaia and Tartarus and the wife of Typhon. Echidna is nicknamed the “mother of all monsters” because she gave birth to most of the mythical creatures of Ancient Greece.

The famous couple attacked the Olympian Divinities, but Zeus succeeded in repelling them, burying Typhon under Etna. Echidna and her children were spared to continue defying the future heroes. Echidna was later killed by the giant Argus Panoptes while sleeping.

According to Hesiod’s poems, Echidna was immortal, he thought that the “mother of monsters” continued to live in his cave, sometimes devouring the unwary who passed by its entrance.

Echidna

Echidna and Typhon have found a home on earth, the couple resides in an underground in Cilicia, in the land of the Ariads. They will give birth to a series of monstrous descendants. Among the most famous children of Echidna and Typhoon are :

?Cerberus: the three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hell and the kingdom of Hades.
?The Hydra of Lerna: the dragon-snake with multiple heads that grow back.
?The Gorgon Sisters: Euryale, Stheno and the most famous of which is Medusa.
?The Chimera: a creature half lion and half goat, with a snake or dragon tail.
Echidna via Orthos (two-headed dog) and the Chimera, would be the grandmother of the famous Sphinx and the terrible Lion of Nemea.

echidna greek mythology

Greek accounts describe Echidna as half nymph and half snake in appearance. The upper half of her body, from the waist down, was female, while the lower half consisted of a single or double snake tail. In addition to her monstrous appearance, Echidna also had other monstrous characteristics; she was said to have developed a taste for raw human flesh. ?

Dracaena Monster

In Greek mythology, Dracaena is one of the famous monstrous creatures (drakaira in Greek), a female dragon or serpent woman. It appears in relatively few ancient texts, this is due to its link with Titanomachy, the war between the Titans that lasted ten great divine years (several human centuries). A story from Greek mythology where no source has survived.

It is generally considered that Campé was the child of the primordial deities, Tartarus, the pit of hell, and Gaia, the Earth. Nonnos of Panopolis, a Greek poet, would call Dracaena the Nymph of Tartarus. Thus, it is to the hells of Greek mythology that the dracaena was mainly associated. It was responsible for keeping the Hecatonchires and Cyclops locked up in Tartarus.

Dracaena monster

However, when the Olympian Gods began their fight against the Titans, Zeus descended into the underworld to kill the monster Dracaena in order to free the prisoners of Tartarus. The latter helped him win the battle against Chronos, the god of space-time and destiny.

For the physical description, Dracaena had the head and upper body of a beautiful woman, the lower body of a dragon or snake, and the poisonous tail of a scorpion. She also had snakes wrapped around her ankles and the heads of various animals at her waist. ??

The Chimera Dragon

In Greek mythology, the Chimera is a hybrid monster, child of Typhon and Echidna. He is the brother of Cerberus and the Hydra of Lerna. This fantastic creature was evil, its body was that of a lion and a goat. It had a lion’s head and a goat’s head on its back, and its tail was shaped like a snake or a dragon.

Famous and fearsome, the Chimera was a female, and according to the genealogy of the Greek deities of Hesiod (Theogony), the Chimera would mate with Orthos to give birth to two other monsters, the Lion of Nemea and the Sphinx.

chimera dragon

He lived in Lycia, a place in Asia Minor, where he ravaged the land with his breath of fire. He was killed by Bellerophon, assisted by Pegasus, when the latter was solicited by King Iobates of Lycia. Bellerophon rode on the back of Pegasus, a horse that could fly, and he shot arrows at the Chimera from the air.

This list of dragons in Greek mythology is coming to an end. You will have learned a little more about the famous creatures, deities and monsters of Ancient Greece. If you want to go even further, you can tame the beast by appropriating the dragon chimera. ?

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