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Battle of the Giants in Greek Mythology

battle-of-the-gods-and-the-giantsAccording to the myth the Giants had sprang from the spilt blood that fell to earth when Cronus castrated his father Uranus.

As their name depicts, they were huge, frightful creatures, with an unbeatable power. Having the form of humans, with bushy beards that writhed with serpents, their legs ended in a dragon-like tail.

Unlike the Titans who were immortal, the Giants were mortal beings and, it is said, human beings descended from this race. Although Gaea had initially supported Zeus in the war with the Titans she was extremely angry with him for the severe punishment that he had dealt to her children, the Titans.  As a result, she plotted with the Giants and urged them to spring a surprise attack on the gods in their home at the summit of Mount Olympus. So began the Battle of the Giants which created turmoil throughout the Cosmos.

The Giants were twenty four in number and included their leader, Alcyoneus, and the frightful, goat-like Pallas, Enceladus, Polybutes, Ephialtes, Peloreus, Eurymedon (the king of the Giants according to Homer), Porphyrion (one of the strongest Giants),

Theodamas, Leon (the lion-headed Giant), Aristaeus and many others. As they marched towards the gods on Mount Olympus they tore up any obstacle in their way, mountains were demolished causing the ground to shake and tremble, rivers were moved which caused the sea to encroach and engulf the lands. These actions, which seem to reflect the many geological changes that occurred in the region during pre-historical times, caused the gods to be very fearful.

giants-battleThe population of the gods had increased with new deities having born to swell the numbers of the original Olympians and Zeus gathered them altogether ready for war. Leading parts in the war were played by Zeus’ own children, Athena and the twins Artemis and Apollo as well as the warlord Ares, Poseidon, the swift-footed Hermes messenger of the gods and Dionysus with the Sileni and the Satyrs as well as countless others.

However, even with this swell in numbers they knew they could not subdue the Giants by themselves. They fought bravely but the Giants could not be overpowered. It was then, that the gods recalled a prophecy which had told them that in order to win they should enlist the support of a mortal being, the lion-skin clad Heracles, who was famed for his superhuman strength. Zeus’ daughter, Athena was despatched to bring Heracles and with his support the gods felt more confident that victory would be on their side.

The battle then began in earnest. Heracles began by shooting a poisoned arrow at the leader of the Giants, Alcyoneus. As it pierced his flesh, Alcyoneus fell to the ground as if slain. However, as soon as his body hit the earth, Alcyoneus sprang to life again, regaining his powers from the earth from which he had been born. On Athena’s instruction Heracles picked up the Giants’ leader and hurled him away from the boundaries of his native land where he then clubbed him to death.

battle-of-heracles-against-the-giantsAnother Giant, Enceladus, tried to escape by swimming west across the Mediterranean. Athena pursued him and hurled a great disc at him, crushing and burying him at the bottom of the sea. His bulk with the disc on top becoming the island of Sicily. The frequent earthquakes on this island are attributed to Enceladus rolling on his injured side beneath the mountain and the volcanic fires of Etna to be his laboured breath. Poseidon chased the Giant, Polybutes, across the Aegean Sea, throwing a massive rock from the island of Kos, which hit its target, pounding him to the ocean depths.

This is how the island of Nisyros in the Dodecanese was formed with the Giant’s remains buried beneath it. Athena killed Pallas and, gruesomely, skinned him and made her famous shield (aegis) out of his hide. From that day, she has been known as Pallas Athene. The god, Ares, killed the Giant Peloreus whilst Zeus slaughtered Eurymedon and Porphyrion. Heracles with the help of Apollo fought off and slew Ephialtes and single-handedly killed Leon, Porphyrion, Peloreus,

Theodamas and the leader of the Giants, Alcyoneus, making Heracles the most important of the Giant slayers. So one by one, all the giants were destroyed, save one, Aristaios, who was transformed into a dung beetle by Gaea in order to keep him safe from the wrath of the gods. With all the Giants wiped out the Olympians were left as the sole masters of all who lived there. However, there was one more enemy to be overcome before this could happen and this enemy was the serpent monster, Typhon.