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~Napoleon Bonaparte

Friday, 18 November 2011

Typhon, Hercules, Nemean Lion, Hydra, Cerberus

Typhon was the last son of Gaia, fathered by Tartaus, and the most deadly monster of Greek mythology. He was known as the "Father of all monsters"; his wife Echidna was likewise the "Mother of All Monsters."
In classic mythology, below Uranus (sky),Gaia  (earth), and Pontus (sea) is Tartarus, or Tartaros, (a deep place). It is a deep, gloomy place, a pit, or an abyss used as a dungeon of torment and suffering that resides beneath the underworld.

Zeus darting its lightning on Typhon.  ca. 550 BC.
Typhon attempts to destroy Zeus at the will of Gaia, because Zeus had imprisoned the  Titans. Typhon initially overcame Zeus in their first battle, and tore out Zeus' sinews. However, Hermes recovered the sinews and restored them to Zeus. Typhon was finally defeated by Zeus, who trapped him underneath Mount Etna.
Typhon fathered several children by his niece, Echidna, daughter of Phorcys and Ceto:
Orthrus, a fearsome two-headed hound. Theogony, 306ff. Orthrus, and his master, Eurytion, son of Ares and the Hesperid Erytheia, guarded the fabulous red cattle of Geryon. Both were slain, along with Geryon, when Heracles stole the red cattle.
The Sphinx was sent by Hera to plague the city of Thebes. She was the most brilliant of Typhon's children, and would slay anyone who could not answer her riddles (possibly by strangling them). When Oedipus finally answered her riddle, she threw herself into the ocean in a fit of fury and drowned.

The Nemean Lion was a gigantic lion with impenetrable skin. Selene, the moon goddess, adored the beast. Heracles was commanded to slay the Lion as the first of his Twelve Labors. First, he attempted to shoot arrows at it, then he used his great club, and was eventually forced to strangle the beast. He would then use the Lion's own claws to skin it, whereupon he wore its invulnerable hide as armor.

Cerberus, another one of Typhon's sons was a three-headed dog that was employed by Hades as the guardian of the passage way to and from the Underworld. According to Hesiod, he was the son of Orthrus and Echidna.

ladon was a serpentine dragon, known as a drakon. According to Hesiod, Ladon was the son of Phorcys and ceto, instead of Typhon and Echidna. Regardless of his parentage, Ladon entwined himself around the tree in the Garden of the Hesperides at the behest of Hera, who appointed him the garden's guardian. He was eventually killed by Heracles.

The Lemaen Hydra, another one of Typhon's daughters, terrorized a spring at the lake of Lerna, near Argos, slaying anyone and anything that approached her lair with her noxious venom, save for a monstrous crab thatwas her companion. She was originally thought to have nine heads, and any neck, if severed,would give rise to two more heads, her ninth head was immortal. She and her crab were slain by Heracles as the second of his Twelve Labors - he cut off her heads and burnt the neck so that she could not regenerate,and crushed her ninth head under a rock, (the crab being accidentally crushed underneath Heracles' heel).

Typhon's last child was his daughter, Chimera. Chimera resembled a tremendous, fire-breathing lioness with a goat's head emerging from the middle of her back, and had a snake for a tail. She roamed the ancient kingdom of Lycia, particularly around Mount chimera (possibly near Yanartas), bringing bad omens and destruction in her wake, until she was slain by Bellerophon and Pegasus at the behest oflobates.

 ECHIDNA, a daughter of Tartarus and Ge (Apollod. ii. 1. § 2), or of Chrysaor and Callirrhoë (Hesiod. Theog. 295), and according to others again, of Peiras and Styx. (Paus. viii. 18. § 1.) Echidna was a monster, half maiden and half serpent, with black eyes, fearful and bloodthirsty.

 In Rome and the modern West, he is known as Hercules. Extraordinary strength,  courage, ingenuity, and sexual prowess with females were among his characteristic attributes. Many popular stories were told of his life, the most famous being The Twelve Labours of Heracles. Heracles was commanded by the Delphic oracle to perform tvleve labours for King Eurystheus of Mycenae. Hercules was worshiped throughout Greece in the classical age as a god.

The core of the story of Hercules has been identified by Walter Burkert as originating in Neolithic hunter culture and traditions of shamanistic crossings into the netherworld.
1.    To kill the Nemean lion.
2.    To destroy the  Lemaen Hydra.
3.    To capture the Ceryneian Hind.
4.    To capture the Erymanthian Boar.
5.    To clean the Augean Stables.
6.    To kill the Stymphalian Birds.
7.    To capture the Cretan Bull.
8.    To round up the Mares of Diomedes.
9.    To steal the Girdle of Hyppolite.
10. To herd the Cattle of Geryon.
11. To fetch the Apples of Hesperides.
12.To capture Cerberus. 

Heracles as a boy strangling a snake (marble, Roman artwork, 2 nd century CE)

Gilded bronze Roman 'Hercules of the Theater of Pompey" Vatican

Herkules, Bertel Thorvaldsen, 1843

Château de Versailles, salon d'Hercule
Hercules Protects Painting from Ignorance and Envy, Cornelis Lens
Hercules, and Ceres, Paolo Veronese

Hans von Aachen
The first of his Twelve Labours- HERACLES & THE NEMEIAN LION
Hesiod, Theogony 327 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"The Nemeian Lion whom Hera, the queenly wife of Zeus, trained up and settled among the hills of Nemeia, to be a plague to mankind. There he preyed upon the tribes of the indwelling people, and was as a king over Tretos and Apesas and Nemeia. Nevertheless, the force of strong Heracles subdued him."
Callimachus, Fragment 108 (from Scholiast on Pindar’s Nemean Ode 10. 1) : 
"[The Nemean Lion] to whom [Hera] the wrathful spouse of Zeus gave Argos to keep, albeit it was her own possession, to the end that it might be a stern labour for [Herakles] the bastard offspring of Zeus."
Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 2 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) (trans. Pearse) (Greek mythographer C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"Alexandros of Mindos says that a serpent born of Ge (Earth) fought with Herakles against the Nemean lion; fed by Heracles, it accompanied him to Thebes and stayed in a tent."     

Heracles and the Nemean Lion. Side A from a black-figure amphora, 560–540 BC

Francisco de Zurbarán

Hercules and the Nemean lion in Villa Farnesina ceiling, Rome

Beham, (Hans) Sebald Hercules killing the Nemean Lion 1548

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 24 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[Constellation] Leo. He is said to have been put among the stars because he is considered the king of beasts. Some writers add that Hercules’ first Labour was with him and that he killed him unarmed. Pisandrus and many other writers have written about this."


Herkules von Giuseppe Volpini, 1717

Hesiod’s's Theogony and  Aeschylus’ Prometheus Unbound both tell that Heracles shot and killed the eagle that tortured Prometheus (which was his punishment by Zeus for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mortals). Heracles freed the Titian from his chains and his torments. Prometheus then made predictions regarding further deeds of Heracles.
During the course of his life, Heracles married four times. His first marriage was to Megara, whose children he murdered in a fit of madness.
His second wife was Omphale, the Lydian queen or princess to whom he was delivered as a slave.
Hercules and Deianira, painting by Jan Gossart. 
His third marriage was to Deianira, for whom he had to fight the river god Achelous (upon Achelous' death, Heracles removed one of his horns and gave it to some nymphs who turned it into the comucopia.) Soon after they wed, Heracles and Deianira had to cross a river, and a centaur named Nessus offered to help Deianira across but then attempted to rape her. Enraged, Heracles shot the centaur from the opposite shore with a poisoned arrow (tipped with the Lernaean Hydra's blood) and killed him. As he lay dying, Nessus plotted revenge, told Deianira to gather up his blood and spilled semen and, if she ever wanted to prevent Heracles from having affairs with other women, she should apply them to his vestments. Nessus knew that his blood had become tainted by the poisonous blood of the Hydra, and would burn through the skin of anyone it touched.
Later, when Deianira suspected that Heracles was fond of lole, she soaked a shirt of his in the mixture, creating the poisoned shirt of Nessus. Heracles' servant, Lichas, brought him the shirt and he put it on. Instantly he was in agony, the cloth burning into him. As he tried to remove it, the flesh ripped from his bones. Heracles chose a voluntary death, asking that a pyre be built for him to end his suffering. After death, the gods transformed him into an immortal, or alternatively, the fire burned away the mortal part of the demigod, so that only the god remained. After his mortal parts had been incinerated, he could become a full god and join his father and the other Olympians on Mount Olympus. He then married Hebe, his fourth and last wife.

Heracles and his child Telephos. Marble, Roman copy of the 1st–2nd century CE

HYDRA This monster, like the lion, was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna, and was brought up by Hera. It ravaged the country of Lernae near Argos, and dwelt in a swamp near the well of Amymone: it was formidable by its nine heads, the middle of which was immortal. Heracles, with burning arrows, hunted up the monster, and with his club or a sickle he cut off its heads; but in the place of the head he cut off, two new ones grew forth each time, and a gigantic crab came to the assistance of the hydra, and wounded Heracles. However, with the assistance of his faithful servant Iolaus, he burned away the heads of the hydra, and buried the ninth or immortal one under a huge rock. Having thus conquered the monster, he poisoned his arrows with its bile, whence the wounds inflicted by them became incurable. Eurystheus declared the victory unlawful, as Heracles had won it with the aid of Iolaus. (Hes. Theog. 313, &c.; Apollod. ii. 5. § 2; Diod. iv. 11; Eurip. Herc. Fur. 419, 1188, Ion, 192; Ov. Met. ix. 70; Virg. Aen. viii. 300; Paus. ii. 36. § 6, 37. § 4, v. 5. § 5; Hygin. Fab. 30.)

Heracles fighting the Lernaean Hydra. Caeretan black-figure hydria, ca. 525 BC.

Valencia, Spain201 and 250 AD
Antonio Pollaiuolo,  Hercules and the Hydra
Francisco  de Zurbaran

John Singer Sargent, Hercules

Cornelis Cort, Engraving about the second labour of Heracles: slay the Lernaean Hydra
Beham, (Hans) Sebald (1500-1550): Hercules slaying the Hydra

Via the Greco- Buddhist culture, Heraclean symbolism was transmitted to the far east. An example remains to this day in the Nio guardian deities in front of Japanese Buddhist temples. Herodotus connected Heracles both to Phoenician god Melgart and to the Egyptian god  Shu. Temples dedicated to Heracles abounded all along the Mediterranean coastal countries. For example the temple of Heracles Monoikos(i.e. the lone dweller), built far from any nearby town upon a promontory in what is now the Côte d'Azur, gave its name to the area's more recent name, Monaco.

The protector Vajrapni of the Buddha is another incarnation of Heracles (Gandhara, 1st century CE)

Cerberus  in Greek and Roman mythology, is a multi-headed hound (usually three-headed) which guards the gates of the Underworld, to prevent those who have crossed the river Styx.

Cerberus was the offspring of Echidna, a hybrid half-woman and half-serpent, and Typhon, a fire-breathing giant whom even the Olympian gods feared.  from ever escaping. 

Heracles, Cerberus and Eurystheus. Side A from a black-figured Caeretan hydria, ca. 525 BC.

Illustration of Dante's Inferno, Canto 6
William Blake

Cerberus - Extract to G. Doré in Dante, Inferno: Canto 6, lines 24-26

 Relief of Cerberus on portico of castle Friedrichsfelde in Tierpark Berlin zoo, Berlin, Germany.

Cerberus guarding the entrance to the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm