Ancient Greek mythology is all about mighty gods and goddesses and brave heroes, such as Hercules and Odysseus. But the heroes’ adventures would be a walk in the park without the presence of the mythical beasts that challenged them on their journey. Here is Helinika’s list of the most vicious ancient Greek monsters.
Top 10 Monsters in Ancient Greek Myths | Greek Beasts
- Typhon & Echidna
- Lernaean Hydra
- Scylla and Charybdis
- Colchian Dragon
- Lamia & Empusa
If you have read the book “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” or watched the movie with the same name, then you might remember “Fluffy”, the three-headed dog that guarded a secret trapdoor. This character was inspired by a mythical creature that guarded another entrance: the gate of Hades.
Cerberus was the multi-headed dog that prevented the dead and the living from exiting and entering the ancient Greek underworld. He was much more fearful than Fluffy; he had a serpent’s tail and multiple snake heads all over his body. The ancient Greek monster was the offspring of two other beasts we will see on this list. Cerberus was once captured by the legendary hero Heracles who needed to complete 12 labors.
#9 Lamia & Empusa
You may remember Lamia and Empusa from Helinika’s video on ancient Greek vampires. They are both women who turned into monsters and started attacking humans for their flesh and blood. Lamia wanted vengeance for the killing of her children by goddess Hera.
Empusa, on the other hand, was sent by the chthonic goddess Hecate to scare or warn the living. She could shape-shift into different animals and, in her original form, she had multiple legs.
Half-bull, half-human, the Minotaur was the mythical beast that resided in the… real labyrinth of Knossos in Crete. You may have heard of him from Helinika’s video on the story of the Athenian hero Theseus.
Every year, a group of young Athenian men and women were sacrificed in Crete to feed and appease the son of the queen of Knossos who had slept with a magical bull. Only Theseus was able to destroy this creature and end this awful custom.
#7 Colchian Dragon
Another myth we have seen on this channel is the Argonautica. Jason, prince of Iolcos, sails with a group of skilled seamen and his mythical boat, Argo, towards the kingdom of Colchis. His goal? To obtain the golden fleece and return to Iolcos as the rightful king. But the fleece of the winged ram Chrysomallos was guarded by a dragon, a giant serpent that resided in the sacred grove of Ares in the city of Colchis.
The Colchian dragon was terrifying, and, for some reason, it had three separate tongues. Even a hero such as Jason couldn’t fight such a beast. That’s why he asked a local witch, Medea, to use her potions to make the dragon unconscious. According to some variations of the myth, with the additional help of Orpheus music, the dragon was put to sleep and Jason escaped with the golden fleece and Medea. You can watch the entire story later in Helinika’s channel.
In the Odyssey, the cunning king of Ithaca comes across various obstacles. During his homecoming trip, Odysseus and his crew make a stop at a beautiful island. But they soon realize that it is the home of gigantic one-eyed monsters – the Cyclops.
According to various myths, these creatures helped build the Cyclopean walls of Mycenae – which are still standing in the archaeological site with the same name. In Hesiod’s Theogony, they were the ones who created Zeus’ powerful weapon, the thunderbolt. Some of the Cyclops were the sons of Gaia and Uranus, others were the sons of Poseidon – including Polyphemus, the not-so-bright Cyclops that captured Odysseus and his crew members. You can learn more about them in Helinika’s playlist narrating the Odyssey.
Odysseus, however, also witnessed another kind of deadly ancient Greek monster: the Sirens. The Sirens were encountered by several other Greek heroes, such as Jason. In ancient Greek myths, they were described as terrifying and definitely unattractive.
Half-birds, half-humans, they sang beautifully to attract seamen onto their rocky island. As soon as the humans approached them to listen to their hypnotic song, they attacked. In the Middle Ages, the legend of the Sirens survived but they were now portrayed as beautiful but evil mermaids.
#4 Scylla & Charybdis
Scylla and Charybdis are two terrifying sea monsters that sat on opposite sides of the Strait of Messina, between Sicily and Calabria. Charybdis was a monster that resembled a giant whirlpool that consumed whole vessels in no time. Scylla was a six-headed serpentine sea creature that attacked the paddlers that passed near it.
Being stuck between Scylla and Charybdis is a disaster. No matter which direction the seamen choose, they will be at a loss. But, according to the Odyssey, choosing to sail a bit closer to Scylla is the wise thing to do. Charybdis will sink the ship and the whole crew. Scylla, on the other hand, can only attack six members of the crew with her six heads. A sacrifice that needs to be made.
#3 Lernaean Hydra
The Lernaean Hydra is a mythical water monster that terrified the people of Argolid. Its lair was the nearby lake of Lerna, one of the entrances to Hades. Once again, the monster was described as a giant serpent with several heads. The worst part? It could regenerate itself. A local hero would cut off one of its heads and several more would grow.
The Hydra, which was the offspring of the monsters in the first position, was finally killed by Heracles; it was required to do so to complete his 12 labors. The Greek hero asked for the help of his nephew, Iolaus, to destroy the beast. They cut off its heads and used fire to burn down its neck.
Chimera was a terrifying hybrid that terrorized a part of Asia Minor. It was a beast that was half-goat, half-lion, and half snake. It was also able to breathe fire. It goes as no surprise that it was the sibling of Hydra and other monsters we mentioned in this list.
The legendary Chimera was destroyed by a hero named Bellerophon who rode the flying horse Pegasus and attacked the beast from the sky. Today, its name is given to things that consist of parts that do not match.
#1 Typhon & Echidna
The father and mother of all monsters are no other than Typhon and Echidna – the most powerful and terrifying beasts in ancient Greek mythology. Typhon was the offspring of either Gaia and Tartarus or of Hera. The beast was a giant serpent-human hybrid that tried to overthrew Zeus but ended up buried underneath Mount Etna. The difference to all the other monsters is that it was not only easily provoked and deadly but also cunning. According to Hesiod, he could breathe fire and produce terrifying sounds. Typhon was lawless and outrageous and was able to destroy entire areas, just like a typhoon.
Echidna was the female partner of Typhon. The half-woman, half-snake creature lived alone in a cave and ate the flesh of humans. She despised both the gods and the humans. She preferred living alone in the darkness.
Which is the most terrifying ancient Greek monster, according to your opinion? Feel free to share it in the comment section. And don’t forget to check Helinika’s channel, website, and social media for more free content like this. You will find some helpful links in the description, including your Udemy discount for learning Greek. Till next time!