Dragons in Greek Mythology
Dragons are well known in Greek mythology, although almost all cultures have some lore of dragons. Although there are many, four dragon-like beasts are more well-known than all the rest — Typhon, who is the father of all monsters. Lernaean Hydra, also known as the hydra and plays a part in many movies and books, is known for having heads that multiply when one is cut off. Python who lived in the center of the earth. Finally, Ladon known for guarding Golden Apples.
Typhon is the most fearsome monster in Greek mythology and is the father of all Monsters. He was considered not only a god, but the most powerful fearsome god of all Greek mythology, born to Gaia, the earth goddess, and Tartarus, a murderous bottomless pit. Supposedly Hera wanted a god that was more powerful than Zeus, so encouraged these two to mate. He married Echidna, who is the mother of all monsters.
He not only was fearsome but looked the part as well. He was sooty black and downright filthy. His torso was that of a man, except covered in hundreds of wings. His legs and arms were hundreds of snake coils that hissed at those who came near. He had a hundred heads that looked like snakes or more traditional dragon-like, while other myths claimed that his heads resembled all different types of fearsome animals. He was so tall that his heads touched the stars. His eyes glowed red, terrifying everyone who saw them. He breathed fire from powerful jaws.
He had many children. His most famous children include:
- Sphinx, known for her riddles
- Nemean lion, who had impenetrable skin
- Cerberus, the three-headed dog and guardian of the underworld
- Orthrus, two-headed dog who lived with giants
- Ladon, a serpent-like dragon
- Lernaean hydra, which had multiple heads that would multiply if anyone dare cut one off
- Caucasian Eagle that ate the liver of Prometheus every day
- Chimera, a fire-breathing animal with the head of a goat, body of a lion, and a tail of a snake
Typhon is known for his numerous fights with Zeus and destroying cities. All the Olympic gods were frightened of him and would turn into their animal form, all except Athena, Zeus, and Dionysius. Zeus was defeated by Typhon, despite sending thousands of thunderbolts at the beast. Typhon dragged Zeus into a cave and removed his tendons so he could never escape, and Typhon could torture him forever. Hermes and Pan rescued him, popped his muscles in place, and Zeus's immortality healed him.
Zeus eventually defeated him, throwing him into Tartarus, yes, the bottomless pit that was also his father. He then moved Mount Etna over the hole to trap Typhon forever. Legend has it that Typhon is the cause of all hurricane eruptions and earthquakes.
Other names he is known by are Typhoeus, Typhaon, Typhos, and Typho.
Lernaean Hydra was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna. It had many heads, and anytime a person dare cut one of its heads off, its neck would sprout two new heads. Rick Riordan popularized this creature when his fictional character Percy Jackson encountered this creature in The Lightning Theif. The Hydra lived in the lake Lerna in the region of Argolid in the Peloponnese.
Legend has it that Hera created the Lernaean Hydra to defeat the demigod Hercules, also known as Heracles. One day, the king of Tiryns sent the Hercules to slay this dragon-like beast, to redeem himself after he killed his wife Megara and children in a fit of rage. Hercules covered his nose with a cloth to protect himself from the poisonous gases that the Hydra breathed.
He was able to lure the monster out of the lake and cut off his heads to kill him, not realizing what would happen. He was able to escape and sought the help of his nephew Iolaus who used fire to to cauterize the necks after Hercules cut off a head. Hera was upset by the success, so she sent a giant crab to help the Hydra. He was able to kill the giant, but the last head of the Hydra was immortal. Fortunately, Athena had given him a golden sword that was the only thing capable of cutting that head off.
Despite Hercules's success, it was the Hydra who ultimately caused the death of Hercules. Hercules decided to dip his arrows in the Hydra's poisonous blood. Unknowingly, the shirt of Nessus, which was supposed to protect him, was covered in the blood. The blood seeped through, causing him unbearable pain and eventually, his death.
Python, also known as Pytho, was a medieval dragon that lived in the center of the earth from his mother, Gaia. Hera created Python after she learned that the goddess Leto was pregnant by Zeus with two gods Apollo and Artemis. Hera hoped that Python would be able to prevent the birth of the twin gods and sent him to defeat Leto.
The twins were born anyway, though Leto suffered a lot of trouble at the hands of Python. When Apollo was grown, he wanted to avenge his mother's struggles. He sought Python at the center of the earth and killed it with his arrows, unfortunately upsetting many of the other gods. Zeus became angry with Apollo and forced him to present the Pythian Games as penance for his awful act.
Ladon was the guardian of the Golden Apples in the garden of Hesperides. He was also another child of Typhon and Echidna. Although some myths will say, he is the child of Gaia with no father or Ceto and Phorcys.
Like Python, he crossed paths with Hercules. Hercules was given the task by Tiryns to steal one of the golden apples that Ladon guarded. Hercules succeeded in this task, killing Ladon and stealing a golden apple.
There is a different version of the story where Hercules never went to the garden. Instead, he met Hesperides, who was the father of the Titan god Atlas. Hercules tricked Hesperides into doing the task for him. Hesperides succeeded and returned the apple to Hercules so that Hercules could take credit for the heroic act.
© 2019 Angela Michelle Schultz