Skip to content

Creatures of Greek Mythology

Greek mythology is full of tales of daring heroes and terrible monsters, many of which feature in Age of Mythology. Here you can find some background info on many of the creatures that feature in the Greek culture in AoM.

 


Centaur.

The centaurs of Greek mythology were creatures that were part human and part horse. They are usually portrayed with the torso and head of a human, and the body of a horse. Centaurs are the followers of the wine god Dionysus and are well known for drunkenness and carrying off helpless young maidens. They inhabited Mount Pelion in Thessaly, northern Greece.

The race of Centaurs was begotten in a strange story of convultions between Zeus and Hera. Ixion, the king of Lapithae (Thessaly) fell in love with Hera, and agreed to meet her. But Zeus, discovering this, foiled Ixion's plan and deceived him into thinking he had succeeded by creating a cloud in Hera's shape and commanding it to meet the mortal king in Hera's place.

Centaurs were typically xenophobic, belligerent and aggressive creatures, who kept to themselves in the wilds, though there are tales of other Centaurs, such as the kind and wise centaur Chairon, the teacher of the Greek heroes Jason and Achilles.


View full image

Chimera.

One of the children of Typhon and Echidna, Chimera was a hideous monster with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a serpent. It had three heads and could breathe fire.

In the tale of Bellepheron, the Chimera terrorised the region of Lycia as each night it swept down upon the valley and carried off women, children, and livestock, leaving the bones of his many victims lay strewn along the mountainside. The Greek hero Bellepheron, seeking to destroy the beast, had to tame the magnificent winged horse Pegasus in order to get close to the nimble monster and avoid his flaming maw in order to drive a spear into his chest, its only weak point.


View full image

Cyclops.

The Cyclopes were giants, many times the size of a man with a single, distinctive eye in the middle of their foreheads. There are two different generations of Cyclopes in Greek mythology, both very different.

The first generation of Cyclopes were born from the union of Gaia and Uranus. (Earth and sky.) These were stubborn but generally wise and intelligent creatures. Imprisoned by their father Uranus from birth, they were freed by Zeus during the war of the titans, and proved to be inventive blacksmiths who created such wonders as Zeus’ thunderbolts, Poseidon’s trident, and Hades’ cap of invisibility. They were eventually slain in an act of revenge by Apollo, who was angry at Zeus slaying Asclepius - Apollo’s son - for having brought a person back from the underworld. Apollo was outraged and killed the Cyclopes who had forged the deadly thunderbolt which instrumented the deed. The ghosts of Brontes, Steropes, and Arges are said to dwell in Mt. Etna, an active volcano that smokes as a result of their still burning forges.

The second generation descended from Poseidon and the sea nymph Thoosa. These were by nature they were stubborn, belligerent and dwelt heavily on thoughts of violence and power. Dwelling in Sicily, the second generation of Cyclopes was little more than a band of lawless shepherds. The best known featuring of these creatures in mythology is in Homer's Odyessy, where the hero Odysseus and his crew landed on the shores of the realm of the Cyclopes. He and a few of his best men were trapped by the Cyclops Polyphemus, and became prisoners in his cave, waiting to be eaten. Odysseus eventually escaped by blinding the Cyclops and tricking him from calling for help so he could escape.


View full image

Griffin.

The Griffin is a legendary creature with the head, beak and wings of an eagle, the body of a lion and occasionally the tail of a serpent or scorpion. While their origin is obscure, most tales say they belonged to Zeus and followed his bidding, but were attributed to a number of cheeky to downright malevolent acts. Theyare best known for stealing gold from the stream of Arimaspias, belonging to the Hyperboreans.


View full image

Hydra.

Another monster spawned by Typhon and Echidna, the Hydra was a great serpent with nine heads. It lived in the swamps near to the ancient city of Lerna in Argolis, and terrorised the locals constantly, stealing livestock and destroying houses. The people, simple peasants, could do nothing to stop the beast, and while many heroes died trying to defeat it, they could do nothing since whenever one of the Hydra's heads was cut off, another grew back in its place.

The Hydra was defeated in the tale of Heracles; slaying the beast was one of the twelve tasks laid out for the Olympian hero. In order to stop the heads regrowing as he cut them off, he cauterised the severed stumps with a flaming brand. When he failed to cut off the final head, which turned every stroke of his blade, he knocked the beast out with his club and buried it under a pile of boulders.


View full image

Manticore.

The Manticore was a creature with the torso of a lion, the hindquarters of a scorpion and a head with human resemblance. It was typically blamed for the mysterious dissapearance of a person, since it was well known that it fed only on human flesh and ate even the clothing and possessions of its victim. While there are no tales that describe one, it was generally considered to have three rows of razor-sharp teeth and its scorpion like tail allowed it to fire poisonous darts. When a villager has completely disappeared, this is considered proof of the presence of a manticore.


View full image

Medusa.

Medusa was originally a beautiful maiden. However, after desecrating Athena's temple by lying there with Poseidon, Athena turned Medusa into a monster. Like the other Gorgons, Medsua was a monstrous creature covered with impenetrable scales, with hair of living snakes, and clawed hands made of brass. And like the other Gorgons, if a mortal creature looked into her eyes, they would be instantly be turned into stone.

Medusa was eventually killed by the hero Perseus who carried a reflective shield. Medusa, on seeing her own reflection, was instantly paralyzed, allowing Perseus to cut her head off. Medusa's severed head retain its property of turning mortals to stone however, and after Perseus gave it to Athena, she chose to mount it on her Aegis. As a result it was common for soldiers of Athens to have a design of a head with writhing snakes [symbolic of Medusa] on their shields, believing it would give them the same protection as the Aegis Shield.


View full image

Minotaur.

Angry at being deceived by Minos, king of Crete, Poseidon made Pasipha, his wife fall in love with a white bull. The offspring of their love was a monster called the Minotaur. The creature had the head and tail of a bull on the body of a man.

The minotaur terrorised the populace of Crete. No one could slay the beast and no prison could hold it, so the great architect Daedalus came up with a plan not to imprison the Minotaur through means of four solid walls, but through means of a maze so confusing it could not escape. The result was the labyrinth, from which escape would be impossible, and so the Minotaur was captured and locked inside. Rather than enrage it by starving the creature Minos sent seven youths and seven maidens into the labyrinth upon which he would feast - tribute from the city of Athens.

When the Greek hero Theseus learned of the Minotaur and the sacrifices, and wanted to end it. He volunteered to go to Crete as one of the victims. With the help of Ariadne, Minos' daughter, he tied a piece of string to the entrance to the labyrynth so he could find his way out, then ventured into the maze and slew the beast.

Nemean Lion.

One of the children of Typhon and Echidna, the Nemean Lion was twice as great as any normal lion and had a roar so terrifying any mortal man would flee in terror on hearing it. It roamed the Nemean forest, devouring any human it came upon.

The first of the twelve tasks of Heracles was to slay the beast. However, after grappling with the beast for some time, he realised that no weapon could pierce its skin, so changing his approach, he stunned the lion with his club, and then strangled it to death. Using the lion's own claws to cut the skin from the creature, he fashioned the cloak which he is characteristically seen wearing; which retained the property that it was unpiercable by any weapon.


View full image

Pegasus.

Pegasus was the great, winged horse born from the union of Medusa and Poseidon. When Medusa's head was cut of by the Greek hero Perseus, the horse sprang forth from her pregnant body.

Pegasus features in numerous tales of Greek heroes, the most prominent being the tale of Bellerophon; where he used a golden bridle gievn to him by Athena to capture and tame the horse in order to use it to defeat the monstrous Chimera. The gods then gave him Pegasus for killing Chimera, but when he attempted to mount the horse it threw him off and rose to the heavens, where it became a constellation of stars.

Scylla.

Scylla was a nymph, daughter of Phorcys. The fisherman-turned-sea-god Glaucus fell madly in love with her, but she fled from him onto the land where he could not follow. Despair filled his heart. He went to the sorceress Circe to ask for a love potion to melt Scylla's heart. As he told his tale of love to Circe, she herself fell in love with him. She wooed him with her sweetest words and looks, but the sea-god would have none of her. Circe was furiously angry, but with Scylla and not with Glaucus. She prepared a vial of very powerful poison and poured it in the pool where Scylla bathed. As soon as the nymph entered the water she was transformed into a frightful monster with twelve feet and six heads, each with three rows of teeth. Below the waist her body was made up of hideous monsters, like dogs, who barked unceasingly. She stood there in utter misery, unable to move, loathing and destroying everything that came into her reach, a peril to all sailors who passed near her. Whenever a ship passed, each of her heads would seize one of the crew.

Images are used with permission and are subject to copyright of their respective owners.

Return to the articles section