Greek Mythology

Greek Creatures

Greek mythology is full of strange and often terrifying creatures, some born at the very beginning of the cosmos. Many of these creatures terrorized mortals until they were slain by brave gods or heroes.

Greek Creatures Hero

Top Questions

  • Were all the Greek creatures enemies of the gods and heroes?

    Many of the Greek myths describe battles between a fearsome creature and a god or hero—between Typhoeus and Zeus, for example, or Medusa and Perseus, or the Chimera and Bellerophon. But some creatures, including the Centaur Chiron or even some of the Cyclopes, were friends and benefactors of gods and mortals.

  • Were any Greek mythical creatures immortal?

    Though many creatures could be killed, others were immortal, including Cerberus (the guard dog of the Underworld), the Hecatoncheires, the elder Cyclopes, and the centaur Chiron.

  • Were creatures ever worshiped in ancient Greece?

    The ancient Greeks generally did not worship creatures or monsters from myth, though some of them were associated with the chthonic gods who presided over death and the subterranean world.

Overview

Greek mythology is full of fantastic and terrifying creatures, many of whom were born at the dawn of creation. The one-eyed Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires (“Hundred-Handers”), for example, were offspring of Gaia, the primordial earth deity. But there were countless other creatures in Greek mythology, diverse in appearance and abilities.

These creatures were often enemies of the gods and heroes. They represented a class of “chthonic” gods associated with death, darkness, and the earth—the antithesis of the Olympians, who stood for life, light, and the heavens.

Because of this, many of these creatures were killed by either the Olympians themselves or by the heroic mortals they championed. Typhoeus, for example, was killed by Zeus; Python by Apollo; Medusa by Perseus. Heracles was especially notable among the Greek heroes for his monster-slaying prowess, which cleared the path for the beginnings of civilization.

List of Greek Creatures

  • Cerberus

    The three-headed guard dog of the Greek Underworld

    Cerberus, the terror-inspiring offspring of the primordial monsters Typhoeus and Echidna, was the guard dog of the Greek Underworld. In most literary and artistic representations, Cerberus had three heads and a mane of snakes.

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    cerberus-greek-creature
  • Charybdis

    Sea monster who took the form of an insatiable whirlpool

    Charybdis was a sea monster inhabiting one side of a narrow strait, just opposite the monster Scylla. Three times a day, Charybdis would swallow up the waters of the sea, only to throw them up again.

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  • Chimera

    Hybrid monster slain by the hero Bellerophon.

    The Chimera was a monster with a hybrid body: part lion, part snake, and part goat. The hero Bellerophon tracked the Chimera to its remote mountain lair and killed it with the help of his winged steed Pegasus.

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  • Cyclopes

    Huge, one-eyed creatures associated with smithing, husbandry, and masonry.

    The Cyclopes were huge creatures whose defining characteristic was a single large eye in the middle of their forehead. There were three different kinds of Cyclopes: the Uranian Cyclopes, who fashioned Zeus’ lightning bolts; the savage Sicilian Cyclopes; and the Cyclopes who built the walls of cities such as Mycenae.

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  • Hecatoncheires

    The “Hundred-Handers”—fearsome creatures born at the dawn of creation

    The Hecatoncheires, also called the “Hundred-Handers,” were three children of Gaia and Uranus, named Cottus, Briareus, and Gyges. With fifty heads and one hundred arms each, these creatures were a force to be reckoned with and played an important role in the war between the Titans and Olympians.

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  • Hydra

    Many-headed serpent slain by the Greek hero Heracles

    The Hydra, a child of the Greek monsters Typhoeus and Echidna, was a creature with multiple serpent heads. It lived in the swamps of Lerna in Greece, where it terrorized the region’s inhabitants until it was slain by the mighty Heracles.

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    Hydra, Greek Creature (3x2)
  • Medusa

    The most fearsome of the Gorgons, whose gaze turned people to stone

    Medusa, one of the three monstrous Gorgons, was a snake-haired female who turned anybody who looked upon her to stone. She was finally killed by the hero Perseus, who used her severed head as a weapon against his enemies.

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    Medusa, Greek Creature (3x2)
  • Minotaur

    The half-bull, half-man monster of the Labyrinth

    The Minotaur was a hybrid monster (half-bull, half-man) born of the unorthodox union between the queen of Crete and a beautiful bull. The Minotaur was hidden from the world in the Labyrinth, a giant maze, where it was eventually slain by the Athenian hero Theseus.

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  • Pegasus

    The immortal winged horse of Bellerophon.

    Pegasus was an immortal winged horse who sprang to life from Medusa’s blood after she was slain. He was eventually tamed and bridled by the hero Bellerophon, who rode him into battle against the Chimera.

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  • Polyphemus

    Savage Cyclops who terrorized Odysseus and his men

    Polyphemus was a son of Poseidon and one of the feared Sicilian Cyclopes. He was eventually blinded by Odysseus.

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  • Scylla

    Man-eating monster with many heads and the body of a serpent or a fish

    Scylla was a multi-headed, hybrid monster who haunted a narrow strait opposite the whirlpool Charybdis. With her darting heads and sharp teeth, Scylla would pick off unwary sea creatures or sailors who passed too close.

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  • Uranian Cyclopes

    The three Cyclopes who fashioned Zeus’ thunderbolts.

    The Uranian Cyclopes—named Brontes, Steropes, and Arges—were children of Gaia and Uranus and loyal allies of the Olympians. Master craftsmen, they frequently fashioned weapons, armor, and ornaments for the gods—most famously, Zeus’ thunderbolts.

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