Greek mythology monsters

The monsters of Greek mythology are non-existent, unreal creatures, created entirely by the unbridled human imagination. As a rule, they are mixed, that is, they combine realistic elements of various existing creatures; for example, Pegasus is a horse with wings, a griffin is a creature with the body of a lion with the head and wings of an eagle.

The monsters move in the realm of the unreal but sometimes meets the real or more correctly the plausible world, in the liminal area where the great heroes act and the gods of ancient Greek mythology live.

There, in this fantastic land of Greek myth, monsters live their own lives. They are born and die in special ways and in the same special way they spend their lives. They seem to set the rules, to oppress people, but in reality they are chasing their own destiny and are usually called upon to defend their very existence when a determined hero stands in their way.

The monsters of Greek mythology are essentially tragic creatures. Their destiny is to enthusiastically embody the face of fear and menace, but as a rule they seem to simply assert their right to life.

Following the complex routes of the cycles of the Greek myth, one encounters a large number of monsters, who usually appear in secondary roles, but win the show with their eerie presence. Today I present a part of the peculiar troupe of Greek monsters, wanting to demonstrate the impressive diversity that the personification of the awesome had for the ancient Greeks. This is not an exhaustive list, the monsters are actually much more, but a representative gallery.


The Minotaur was born when Poseidon decided to take revenge on Minos for his disrespect in not sacrificing a beautiful white bull to him. God caused Minos’s wife Pasiphae to mate with this bull and thus this terrible child was born, a man with the head of a bull. The Minotaur spent his entire life imprisoned in the Labyrinth built for him by Minos, annually devouring 7 young men and 7 young women from Athens, until he was exterminated by Theseus.



Typhon was the last child born to Gaia and Tartarus and is considered the strongest of all the monsters of Greek mythology. He had the upper part of a man, had wings, and his lower part consisted of a hundred writhing serpents. When he began destroying cities, hurling mountains, and bullying even the Olympian gods themselves, Zeus confronted him by hurling 100 thunderbolts at him and trapping him under Mount Etna. Before Typhon died with his partner Echidna they made sure to populate the world with a bunch of other monsters like the Sphinx, the Chimaera, the Lernaean Hydra and Cerberus.



Triton is the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, half man and half fish. He is his father’s messenger, ruler of the sea, and often plays the role of the wise old man in mythology. According to some traditions, he helped the Argonauts when they were lost somewhere on the coast of Asia Minor.



The centaurs had the upper torso of a man and the body of a horse and lived in Thessaly. Once they had the bad idea to steal Hippodamia, on the day of her wedding to Peirithos and to kidnap the other women of the Lapiths who also lived in the area. The battle was inconclusive but Theseus decided the outcome by helping the Lapiths. This battle in ancient Greek art symbolizes the conflict between civilization and barbarism and that is why it was chosen as a theme for the Parthenon metopes


The sphinx has the body of a lion, the wings of a bird and the head of a woman. As is well known, she spent her time stalking innocent bystanders about Thebes whom she devoured relentlessly because they did not know how to answer the riddle she posed to them. “What is that which has a voice, whose legs are at first four, then two, and finally three?” Oedipus was the only one who knew how to answer.



The Harpies were women with bird wings and even according to Hesiod they had beautiful long hair. Their role was to torture Phineus, the old king of Thrace, whom Zeus had not only blinded but he had also condemned him not to be able to eat anything because the Harpies would take it from him. When the Argonauts once reached Phineus, he asked the Boreans, who could also fly like the sons of Borias that they were, to kill them. They, acting wisely so as not to anger Zeus, simply drove them away, and Phineas escaped, put a morsel in his mouth, and helped the Argonauts by his advice to continue their journey in safety.



The Sirens were bird-like with a woman’s head. They were creatures of the sea, and not only were they not terrible in appearance, but they were beautiful and had a charming voice. But they had the bad habit of seducing the sailors who passed by their island with their song and devouring them. Odysseus passing by, alerted by Circe, had closed the ears of his sailors with wax and tied himself to the mast to enjoy the beautiful song.



Medusa had a horrible form, instead of hair she had snakes on her head and turned anyone who looked at her to stone. She was one of the three Mermaids – the others being Stheno and Euryalico – daughters of Forky and Cetus who were sea deities. Once Polydeuces, king of Serifos, asked the hero Perseus to bring him the head of Medusa, hoping that the young man would fall victim to it. But he managed with Athena’s help to decapitate her using his shield as a mirror. At the moment he was cutting off her head, Pegasus and Chrysaor sprang out of her. Later Perseus offered Medusa’s head to Athena and she attached it to her shield.



The griffin has the body of a lion, but the wings and head of an eagle, i.e. it combines the two most emblematic animals of nature and perhaps that is why it was considered a suitable companion for gods and kings. Herodotus records a tradition according to which the griffins were guardians of the gold in the mountains of the North, and their neighbours the one-eyed Arimaspi would attack them on their horses to steal their treasures.



Scylla was also the daughter of Forki and Cetus, once a beautiful nymph who was lusted after by Poseidon. The jealous Amphitrite turned her into a monster by poisoning the water in which she bathed. Scylla had the body of a fish, a woman’s upper torso, and dog heads protruding from her chest. In Homer, Scylla together with Charybdis guard a strait through which Odysseus must pass with his ship. Scylla swallows six of his men alive, but the hero manages to pass unharmed.

The Lernaean Hydra

The Lernaean Hydra was the daughter of Typhon and Echidna, a hideous aquatic monster with reptilian features and many heads – snakes. In fact, when someone cut one, two others would grow in its place. She lived in Lerna in the Argolis and spent her time tormenting the world and guarding a gate to the Underworld, until Heracles, sent by Eurystheus, killed her.



Pegasus was a winged horse, the son of Poseidon and Medusa, from whom he sprang when she lost her head. When he once went down to Corinth to the Pirrhine fountain to drink water, there he was captured and tamed by the hero Bellerophon and together they did many feats, such as the extermination of the Chimaera.



The Chimaera was a three-headed being: it had the body and head of a lion, a tail that ended in a snake’s head, and in the middle of its back came the neck and head of a goat. Daughter of Typhon and Echidna, she spewed fire from her mouth according to Homer and Hesiod. Bellerophon was able to kill her because he was at a safe distance on Pegasus.



Cerberus was a three-headed dog with a serpent’s tail, the fearsome guardian at the entrance to Hades who would not let the souls out and the living pass through. The extermination of Cerberus is the last labor of Hercules, the most difficult, the one for which the hero was first initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries. Heracles went down to Hades (where he even met his friends Theseus and Peirithos) and asked permission from the lord of the Underworld to bring Cerberus to Eurystheus.