Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.


A picture is worth a thousand words.

~Napoleon Bonaparte

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Ceto, Gorgons, Medusa, Echidna, Scylla, Ladon, the Graia

Since many painters were attracted to Medusa, including many contemporary artists, I took another look at her myth.

Ceto was a marine goddess who personified the dangers of the sea. She was more specifically a goddess of whales, large sharks, and sea-monsters (Greek ketea). She consorted with her brother, the sea-god Phorcys, and produced a brood of awful monsters : Echidna, Scylla, Ladon, the Graia, and the Gorgons (the Terrible Ones).

Phorkys and Ceto


Stasinus of Cyprus or Hegesias of Aegina, Cypria Fragment 21 (from Herodian, One Peculiar Diction) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th or C6th B.C.) :
"By him [Phorkys] she [Ceto] conceived and bare the Gorgons, fearful monsters who lived in Sarpedon, a rocky island in deep-eddying Oceanus."

GORGO and GO′RGONES. Homer knows only one Gorgo, who, according to the Odyssey (xi. 633), was one of the frightful phantoms in Hades: in the Iliad (v. 741, viii. 349, xi. 36; comp. Virg. Aen. vi. 289), the Aegis of Athena contains the head of Gorgo, the terror of her enemies. Euripides (Ion, 989) still speaks of only one Gorgo, although Hesiod (Theog. 278) had mentioned three Gorgons, the daughters of Phorcys and Ceto, whence they are sometimes called Phorcydes or Phorcides. (Aeschyl. Prom. 793, 797; Pind. Pyth. xii. 24; Ov. Met. v. 230.) The names of the three Gorgons are Stheino (Stheno or Stenusa), Euryale, and Medusa (Hes. l. c.; Apollod. ii. 4. § 2), and they are conceived by Hesiod to live in the Western Ocean, in the neighborhood of Night and the Hesperides.

They are described (Scut. Here. 233) as girded with serpents, raising their heads, vibrating their tongues, and gnashing their teeth; Aeschylus (Prom. 794. &c., Choëph. 1050) adds that they had wings and brazen claws, and enormous teeth. On the chest of Cypselus they were likewise represented with wings. (Paus. v. 18. § 1.)

A striding Gorgon is depicted with double wings, a broad round face, wide mouth, protruding tongue, beard, staring eyes, and head of serpentine locks. ca 550 - 500 BC

 A Gorgon's head. The rounded face of the Gorgon is depicted with large staring eyes, studded ears, a broad tusked mouth and protruding tongue. It is surrounded by a ring of coiled serpents. ca 460 BC

In older motifs the Gorgones were probably connected with Demeter  Erinyes (the Fury) and the three Erinyes.

 The ghostly, blue faces of two Kakodaimones (Evil Spirits) or Erinyes (Fury Demons) gaze with staring eyes and gaping mouths.Imperial Roman

                                   John Singer Sargent - Orestes Pursued by the Furies

Medusa, who alone of her sisters was mortal, was, according to some legends, at first a beautiful maiden, but her hair was changed into serpents by Athena, in consequence of her having become by Poseidon the mother of Chrysaor and Pegasus, in one of Athena's temples. (Hes. Theog. 287, &c.; Apollod. ii. 4. § 3; Ov. Met. iv. 792; comp. Perseus.) Her head was now of so fearful an appearance, that every one who looked at it was changed into stone. Hence the great difficulty which Perseus had in killing her; and Athena afterwards placed the head in the centre of her shield or breastplate. There was a tradition at Athens that the head of Medusa was buried under a mound in the Agora. (Paus. ii. 21. § 6, v. 12. § 2.) Athena gave to Heracles a lock of Medusa (concealed in an urn), for it had a similar effect upon the beholder as the head itself. When Heracles went out against Lacedaemon he gave the lock of hair to Sterope, the daughter of Cepheus, as a protection of the town of Tegea, as the sight of it would put the enemy to fight. (Paus. viii. 47. § 4; Apollod. ii. 7. § 3.)

                                         Karel Dujardin, Pallas Athena Visits Invidia


Homer, Iliad 11. 36 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Depicted on the shield of Agamemnon:] And he took up the man-enclosing elaborate stark shield, a thing of splendor. There were ten circles of bronze upon it, and set about it were twenty knobs of tin, pale-shining, and in the very center another knob of dark cobalt. And circled in the midst of all was the blank-eyed face of the Gorgon with her stare of horror, and Deimos (Fear) was inscribed upon it, and Phobos (Terror)."

 The glaring face of a serpent-haired Medusa. Imperial Roman


Homer, Odyssey 11. 633 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Odysseus, summoning ghosts of the dead in the Underworld, took fright and retreated:] I feared that august Persephone night send against me from Aides' (Hades') house the Gorgo (Gorgon) head of some grisly monster."

Aristophanes, Frogs 475 ff (trans. O'Neill) (Greek comedy C5th to 4th B.C.) :
"[Aiakos (Aeacus), doorsman of Haides, threatens Dionysos in the Underworld:] ‘The black hearted Stygian rock and the crag of Akheron dripping with gore can hold you; and the circling hounds of Kokytos and [Ladon] the hundred-headed echidna (serpent) shall tear your entrails; your lungs will be attacked by [Echidna] the Myraina Tartesia (the Tartesian Eel), your kidneys bleeding with your very entrails the Gorgones Teithrasiai (Tithrasian Gorgons) will rip apart.’"

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 123 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When he [Herakles] reached Lakonian Tainaron (Laconian Taenarum), where the entrance to the descent into Hades' realm is located, he entered it. All the souls who saw him ran away, except Meleagros (Meleager) and Medousa (Medusa) the Gorgo. Herakles drew his sword against the Gorgo, assuming her to be alive, but from Hermes he learned that she was an empty wraith."

Virgil, Aeneid 6. 287 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"Many monstrous forms besides of various beasts are stalled at the doors [of Hades], Centauri (Centaurs) and double-shaped Scylla, and the hundredfold Briareus, and the beast of Lerna, hissing horribly, and the Chimaera armed with flame, Gorgones and Harpyiae (Harpies), and the shape of the three-bodied shade [Geryon]."

                                                                 Rubens Medusa

                                                                Medusa, Caravaggio

                                                               Jean Delville,  Medusa


Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 770 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"But Perseus, with the snake-haired monster's head, that famous spoil, in triumph made his way on rustling pinions through the balmy air and, as he hovered over Libya's sands, the blood-drops from the Gorgoneum (Gorgon's Head) dripped down. The spattered desert gave them life as snakes, smooth snakes of many kinds, and so that land still swarms with deadly serpents to this day."

Pindar, Pythian Ode 10. 44 ff :
"The son of Danaë, Perseus, who slew the Gorgo, and brought her head wreathed with its serpent locks to strike stony death to the islanders."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 45 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[After Perseus had rescued Andromeda from the sea-monster:] Kepheus' (Cepheus') brother Phineus, who was previously engaged to Andromeda, conspired against Perseus, but Perseus learned of the plot, and by displaying the Gorgon to Phineus and his colleagues in the conspiracy, turned them instantly to stone."

                                       Fernand Khnopff, The Blood of Medusa


Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 144 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"As a surgeon Asklepios (Asclepius) became so skilled in his profession that he not only saved lives but even revived the dead; for he had received from Athene the blood that had coursed through the Gorgo's veins, the left-side portion of which he used to destroy people, but that on the right he used for their preservation, which is how he could revive those who had died."

Seneca, Medea 828 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[The witch Medea employs a variety of fabulous ingredients in a spell of magical fire:]
I have gifts from Chimaera's middle part, I have flames caught from the bull's scorched throat, which, well mixed with Medusa's gall, I have bidden to guard their bane in silence."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 44. 198 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"She [one of the Erinyes] brought the blood of Gorgon Medusa (Medusa), scraped off into a shell fresh when she was newly slain, and smeared the tree with the crimson Libyan drops."

 Albrecht Durer, Male Nude with a Glass and Snake, so-called Asclepius


Homer, Iliad 5. 738 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Across her [Athena's] shoulders she threw the betasselled, terrible aigis (aegis), all about which Phobos (Terror) hangs like a garland, and Eris (Hatred) is there, and Alke (Battle Strength), and heart-freezing Ioke (Onslaught) and thereon is set the head of the grim gigantic Gorgo (Gorgon), a thing of fear and horror, portent of Zeus of the aigis."


                                                      Gustav Klimt - Pallas Athena


Nonnus, Dionysiaca 18. 294 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"He [Perseus] carried the head which had topped Gorgonos Medousa (Medusa) whom no eye may see."

Nonnus, Dionsyiaca 25. 80 ff :
"Perseus killed a Ketos (Cetus) (Monster of the Sea); with Gorgo's eye he turned to stone a leviathan of the deep! . . . [and] Polydektes (Polydectes), looking upon deadly Medousa's (Medusa's) eye, changed his human limbs to another kind and transformed himself into stone."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 47. 478 :
"[Hera urges King Perseus to make war on Dionysus when the god arrives in the kingdom of Argos:] ‘Make war on the Satyroi (Satyrs) too: turn towards battling Lyaios [Dionysus] the deadly eye of snakehair Medousa (Medusa), and let me see a new Polydektes (Polydectes) made stone . . . Kill the array of bull-horned Satyroi (Satyrs), change with the Gorgon's eye the human countenances of the Bassarides into like images selfmade; with the beauty of the stone copies adorn your streets, and make statues like an artist for the Inakhian (Inachian) market-places.’ . . .
Perseus of the sickle was champion of the Argives; he fitted his feet into the flying shoes, and he lifted up the head of Medousa which no eyes may see. But Iobakkhos [Dionysos] marshalled his women with flowing locks, and Satyroi with horns. Wild for battle he was when he saw the winged champion coursing through the air. The thyrsos was held up in his hand, and to defend his face he carried a diamond, the gem made stone in the showers of Zeus which protects against the stony glare of Medousa, that the baleful light of that destroying face may do him no harm."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 47. 665 ff :
"He [Perseus in his battle with Dionysus] shook in his hand the deadly face of Medousa (Medusa), and turned armed Ariadne into stone. Bakkhos (Bacchus) was even more furious when he saw his bride all stone . . . [Perseus] one who killed the Keteos (Sea-monster) and beheaded horsebreeding Medousa."


                    Luca Giordano,Perseus Turning Phineus and his followers to Stone


                               Edward Burne-Jones, The Death of Medusa

                                             Franz von Stuck , Medusa

                                                        Carlos Schwabe, Medusa

                                                   Arnold Bocklin, Medusa 

                                                           Jacek Malczewski, Medusa

                                                        Maxmilián Pirner, Medusa

CHRYSAOR (Chrusaôr). A son of Poseidon and Medusa, and consequently a brother of Pegasus. When Perseus cut off the head of Medusa, Chrysaor and Pegasus sprang forth from it. Chrysaor became by Callirrhoë the father of the three-headed Geryones and Echidna. (Hesiod, Theog. 280, &c.; Hygin. Fab. Praef. and 151.)

 Edward Burne Jones  Birth  of Pegasus and Chrysaor  from the Blood of Medusa

Heracles battles the three-bodied giant Geryon. The hero wears his usual lion-skin cape and brandishes a sword. At his feet lies Eurytion, the fallen herdsman of Geryon. The giant himself is drawn as three men standing side by side, each armed with a shield, helm and spear. The foremost shield is emblazoned with a Gorgon, the face of Geryon's own grandmother Medusa. ca 550 - 540 BC

Geryon from Inferno ( Italian for Hell), Dante's Divine Comedy.

                                                  William Blake, Geryon

                                                      Gustave Doré, Geryon 

                                                      John Flaxman, Geryon

In Greek mythology, the Phorcydes occasionally rendered Phorcyades in modern texts, were the children of Phorcys and Ceto.

                                             Elihu Vedder, The Phorcydes

Hesiod, Theogony 270 & 332 ff : (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"And to Phorkys (Phorcys) Keto (Ceto) bore the Graiai (Graeae), with fair faces and gray from birth, and these the gods who are immortal and men who walk on the earth call Graiai, the gray sisters, Pemphredo robed in beauty and Enyo robed in saffron . . . and the Gorgons who, beyond the famous stream of Okeanos (Oceanus), live in the utmost place toward night, by the singing Hesperides: they are Sthenno, Euryale, and Medusa . . .

But [Ceto] she bore another unmanageable monster like nothing human nor like the immortal gods either, in a hollow cave. This was the divine and haughty Ekhidna (Echidna), and half of her is a Nymph with a fair face and eyes glancing, but the other half is a monstrous snake . . . [and] Keto, joined in love with Phorkys, mothered the youngest of the deadly Drakones (Dragon-Serpents) . . . that one which guards the all-golden applies."

LADON was a hundred-headed  Drakon which guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides and tormented the Titan Atlas as he held the heavens on his shoulders. The creature was slain by Hercules when the hero was sent to recover the golden apples, and placed amongst the stars as the  Constellation Draco. There he is entwined around the northern pole (which was perhaps imagined as a tree, or even as the tree of the Hesperides itself).

LADON (Ladôn). The dragon, who was believed to guard the apples of the Hesperides. He is said to have been able to assume various tones of voice, and to have been the offspring of Typhon and Echidna; but he is also called a son of Ge, or of Phorcys and Ceto. He had been appointed to watch in the gardens of the Hesperides by Juno, and never slept; but he was slain by Heracles; and the image of the fight was placed by Zeus among the stars. (Hes. Theog. 333; Apollon. Rhod. iv. 1396; Serv. ad Aen. iv. 484; Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 6.)

Hesiod, Theogony 333 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Ceto, joined in love with Phorkys, mothered the youngest of the deadly Drakones (serpents), that one who at the gloomy great hidden limits of the earth guards the all-golden apples."

The Twelve Labors of Hercules: the hero plucks the golden apples from the tree of the Hesperides. He wields a club against the guardian drakon coiled around the trunk.  C3rd AD

                                 Frederic Leighton,  The garden of Hesperides

 Edward Coley Burne-Jones - The Garden of the Hesperides

                                          Hercules and the Dragon Ladon
GRAEAE (Graiai), that is, "the old women," were daughters of Phorcys and Ceto. They had grey hair from their birth. Hesiod (Theog. 270, &c.) mentions only two Graeae, viz. Pephredo and Enyo; Apollodorus (ii. 4. § 2) adds Deino as a third, and Aeschylus (Prom. 819) also speaks of three Graeae. The Scholiast on Aeschylus (Prom. 793) describes the Graeae, or Phorcides, as he calls them, as having the figure of swans, and he says that the three sisters had only one tooth and one eye in common, which they borrowed from one another when they wanted them. It is commonly believed that the Graeae, like other members of the family of Phorcys, were marine divinities, and personifications of the white foam seen on the waves of the sea.

Athena, with whom Medusa had ventured to contend for the prize of beauty, first showed to Perseus the head of Gorgon in images, near the town of Diecterion in Samos, and advised him to be unconcerned about the two immortal Gorgons, Stheno and Euryale. Perseus then went first to the Graeae, the sisters of the Gorgons, took from them their one tooth and their one eye, and did not restore them to the Graeae until they showed him the way to the nymphs; or he cast the tooth and the eye into lake Triton, so that the Graeae were no longer able to guard the Gorgons (Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 12). The nymphs provided Perseus with winged sandals, a bag, and the helmet of Hades, which rendered him invisible, Hermes with a sickle, and Athena with a mirror (Hes. Scut. Her. 220, 222 ; Eurip. Elect. 460; Anthol. Palat. ix. 557; comp. Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 12; Theon, ad Arat. p. 29). Being thus armed, he went to the Gorgons, who dwelt near Tartessus on the coast of the Ocean, whose heads were covered, like those of serpents, with scales, and who had large tusks like boars, brazen hands, and golden wings. He found them asleep, and cut off the head of Medusa, looking at her figure through the mirror, for a look at the monster herself would have changed him into stone. Perseus put her head into the bag which he carried on his back, and as he went away, he was pursued by the winged Gorgons (Hes. Scut. Here. 230 ; Paus.)

Perseus steals the single eye and tooth from the ancient Graiai hags. The hero wears the winged boots of Hermes and the cap of Hades. Period: Classical

                                           Illustration from a collection of myths

                                         Edward Burne-Jones Perseus and Graiai

                                 Henry Fuseli, Perseus Returning the Eye of the Graiai

The Scholiast on Aeschylus (Prom. 793) describes the Graeae, or Phorcides, as he calls them, as having the figure of swans.

                                                    Walter Crane, The Swan Maidens

Echidna  was half woman half snake, known as the "Mother of All Monsters" because most of the monsters in Greek myth were mothered by her.

Ceto and Echidna were both the mothers of a huge brood of monsters, including other dragon-like creatures. Ceto, according to Hesiod, gave birth to Echidna, as well as Scylla and Ladon, the dragon of the Hesperides. Also according to Hesiod, Echidna gave birth to the Chimrea, Cerberus, Orthrus, Nemean Lion, Sphinx, and the Hydra. (Other ancient authors, such as Hyginus, attribute even more monsters as children of Echidna, such as the Caucasian eagle, Crommyonian sow Colchian dragon Scylla, and Charbdis.

Hesiod, Theogony 295 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"But she [Ceto] bore [to Phorcys] another unmanageable monster like nothing human nor like the immortal gods either, in a hollow cave. This was the divine and haughty Echidna, and half of her is a Nymph with a fair face and eyes glancing, but the other half is a monstrous serpent (ophis), terrible, enormous and squirming and voracious, there in earth's secret places. For there she has her cave on the underside of a hollow rock, far from the immortal gods, and far from all mortals. There the gods ordained her a fabulous home to live in which she keeps underground among the Arimoi, grisly Echidna, a Nymph who never dies, and all her days she is ageless."

Homer, Iliad 2. 780 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Zeus who delights in thunder were angry, as when he batters the earth about Typhon, in the land of the Arimoi [Arimaspoi], where they say Typhon lies prostrate [this is the same underground home given to Echidna by Hesiod, above]."

Apollo, seated on the omphalos stone of Delphi, and beside the Delphic tripod, shoots arrows at the monster Python, the old guardian of the shrine. The beast is depicted with a woman's head and breast, matching the poet Hesiod's description of Echidna. Period:Archaic

HesiodTheogony 306 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Men say that Typhon the terrible, outrageous and lawless, was joined in love to her [Echidna], the maid with glancing eyes. So she conceived and brought forth fierce offspring; first she bare Orthos the hound of Geryones, and then again she bare a second, a monster not to be overcome and that may not be described, Cerberus who eats raw flesh, the brazen-voiced hound of Hades, fifty-headed, relentless and strong. And again she bore a third, the evil-minded Hydra of Lerna, whom the goddess, white-armed Hera nourished, being angry beyond measure with the mighty Herakles . . . She was the mother of Chimera who breathed raging fire, a creature fearful, great, swift-footed and strong, who had three heads, one of a grim-eyed lion; in her hinderpart, a dragon; and in her middle, a goat, breathing forth a fearful blast of blazing fire. Her did Pegasus and noble Bellerophontes slay."

 Typhon, a monstrous giant with one human and ninety-nine animal heads, two hundred hands each tipped with fifty serpents, a pair of serpent tails for legs, giant wings, and a fire-breathing maw. He was buried beneath Mt Etna by Zeus.

ORTHROS or Orthus was a two-headed, serpent-tailed dog, a brother of monsters such as  Cerberus and the Chimers. He mated with the latter, siring the Sphinx and Nemean Lion. His master was the three-bodied giant  Geryon, king of the sunset isle of Erytheia.

Detail of the two headed hound Orthros from a painting depicting Herakles battling the giant Geryones. The dog lies dead on its back pierced with arrows. It has twin dog-heads and a serpent-headed tail. Late Archaic

HYDRA LERNAIA was a gigantic, nine-headed  water serpent, which haunted the swamps of Lerna.

                                               John Singer Sargent, Hercules

                                                                Gustav Klimt, Hydra

Cerberus was the gigantic hound which guarded the gates of Hades.

 Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights , right panel

                             Stradanus, Illustration of Dante's Inferno, Canto 6

Chimera was a monstrous beast which ravaged the countryside of Lykia in Anatolia.It was a composite creature, with the body and maned head of a lion, a goat's head rising from its back, a set of goat-udders, and a serpentine tail.


                                                       Gustave Moreau, Chimera

Homeric Hymn 3 to Apollo 356 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th - 4th B.C.) :
"Straightway large-eyed queenly Hera took him [her child, the monster Typhon] and bringing one evil thing to another such, gave him to the Drakaina [Echidna-Python]; and she received him. And this Typhaon used to work great mischief among the famous tribes of men."

Aristophanes, Frogs 475 ff (trans. O'Neill) (Greek comedy C5th to 4th B.C.) :
"[Aiakos, the doorman of Hades, threatens Dionysus in the Underworld :] `The black hearted Stygian rock and the crag of Akheron dripping with gore can hold you; and the circling hounds of Kokytos and [Typhon or Ladon] the hundred-headed echidna (Serpent) shall tear your entrails; your lungs will be attacked by [Echidna] the Myraina Tartesia (the Tartesian Eel), your kidneys bleeding with your very entrails the Tithrasian Gorgon's Teithrasiai will rip apart.'"

Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 500 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[The Erinys] Tisiphone brought with her poisons too of magic power [to invoke madness] : lip-froth of Cerberus, the Echidna’s venom, wild deliriums, blindnesses of the brain, and crime and tears, and maddened lust for murder; all ground up, mixed with fresh blood, boiled in a pan of bronze, and stirred with a green hemlock stick."

SCYLLA  was a monstrous sea goddess who haunted the rocks of certain narrow strait. Ships who sailed too close to her rocks would lose six men to her ravenous, darting heads. Homer describes Scylla as a creature with twelve dangling feet, six long necks and grisly heads lined with a triple row of sharp teeth. Her voice was likened to the yelping of dogs. This description of Scylla is probably derived from the imagery of words associated with her name : namely, "hermit-crab" (Greek skyllaros), "dog" and "dog-shark" (skylax), and "to rend" (skyllô). In classical art she was depicted as a fish-tailed sea-goddess with a cluster of canine fore-parts surrounding her waist.
According to Homer, Scylla,  was a daughter of Crataeis, Later traditions represent Scylla as a daughter of Phorcys or Phorbas, by Hecate Crataeis (Apollon. Rhod. iv. 828, &c., with the Scholiast), or by Lamia; while others make her a daughter of Triton, or Poseidon and Crataeis ( Hom. p. 1714), or of Typhon and Echidna (Hygin. Fab. praef.).

Homer, Odyssey 12. 126 (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Invoke Krataiis (Crataeis); she is Skylla's (Scylla's) mother; it is she who bore her to plague mankind."
Scylla is here depicted as a sea-goddess with serpentine fish-tail in place of legs, and a pair of dog-fores ringing her waist. She wields a fish-knife in her hand. Period:ca 450 - 425 BC
 The sea-monster Scylla. Terracotta plaque, Melos, 460–450 BC. Found on Aegina.
Virgil, Aeneid 6. 287 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"Many monstrous forms besides of various beasts are stalled at the doors [of Hades], Centauri (Centaurs) and double-shaped Scylla, and the hundredfold Briareus, and the beast of Lerna, hissing horribly, and the Chimera armed with flame, Gorgones and Harpyiae (Harpies), and the shape of the three-bodied shade [Geryon]."

Stesichorus, Fragment 220 (from Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric III) (Greek lyric C7th to 6th B.C.) : 
"Stesikhoros in his Skylla says that Skylla (Scylla) is the daughter of Lamia (the Shark).”
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 825 (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"Ausonian Skylla (Scylla), the wicked monster borne to Phorkys (Phorcys) by night-wandering Hecate, whom men call Kratais (Crataeis)."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 151 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"From Typhon the giant and Echidna were born . . . Scylla [in a list of monsters].


Homer, Odyssey 12. 54 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Kirke (Circe) warns Odysseus of the dangers he will face on his journey:] ‘When your crew have rowed past the Seirenes (Sirens), I will not expressly say to you which of two ways you ought to take; you must follow your own counsel there; I will only give you knowledge of both. On the one side are overshadowing rocks against which dash the mighty billows of the goddess of blue-glancing seas. The blessed gods call these rocks the Wanderers . . . On the other side are a pair of cliffs. One of them with its jagged peak reaches up to the spreading sky, wreathed in dark cloud that never parts. There is no clear sky above this peak even in summer or harvest-time, nor could any mortal man climb up it or get a foothold on it, not if he had twenty hands and feet; so smooth is the stone, as if it were all burnished over. Half-way up the cliff is a murky cave, facing Erebos, and doubtless it is past this, Odysseus, that you and your men will steer your vessel. A strong man's arrow shot from a ship below would not reach the recesses of that cave. Inside lives Scylla (Scylla), yelping hideously; her voice is no deeper than a young puppy's but she herself is a fearsome monster; no one could see her and still be happy, not even a god if he went that way. She has twelve feet all dangling down, six long necks with a grisly head on each of them, and in each head a triple row of crowded and close-set teeth, fraught with black death. Sunk waist-deep in the cave's recesses, she still darts out her head from that frightening hollow, and there, groping greedily round the rock, she fishes for dolphins (delphines) and for sharks (kynes) and whatever beast (ketos) more huge than these she can seize upon from all the thousands that have their pasture from loud-moaning Amphitrite. No seaman ever, in any vessel, has boasted of sailing that way unharmed, for with every single head of hers she snatches and carries off a man from the dark-prowed ship. You will see that the other cliff lies lower, no more than an arrow's flight away. On this there grows a great leafy fig-tree; under it, awesome Kharybdis (Charybdis) sucks the dark water down . . . No, keep closer to Scylla's cliff, and row past that as quickly as may be; far better to lose six men and keep your ship than to lose your men one and all.’
So she spoke, and I answered her: ‘Yes, goddess, but tell me truly--could I somehow escape this dire Kharybdis and yet make a stand against the other when she sought to make my men her prey?’
So I spoke, and at once the queenly goddess answered: ‘Self-willed man , is your mind then set on further perils, fresh feats of war? Will you not bow to the deathless gods themselves? Scylla is not of mortal kind; she is a deathless monster, grim and baleful, savage, not to be wrestled with. Against her there is no defence, and the best path is the path of flight. If you pause to arm beside that rock, I fear that she may dart out again, seize again with as many heads and snatch as many men as before. No, row hard and invoke Krataiis (Crataeis); she is Scylla's mother; it is she who bore her to plague mankind; Krataiis will hold her from darting twice.’"

                                          Johann Fussli, Odysseus in front of Scylla 

 This is a painting of Odysseus's boat passing between the six-headed monster Scylia and the whirlpool Charybdis. Scylla has plucked six of Odysseus's men from the boat. The painting is an Italian fresco dating to 1560 C.E.

Head of Athena right wearing Corinthian helmet decorated with Scylla hurling sotne 390-340

                                                              420-380 BC

                                                       Gustav Klimt - Water Serpents I

                                                 Gustav Klimt - Water Serpents II