I have always been fascinated by Greek mythical creatures. The only downside is that there was a lack of pictures to depict how they really look. Thankfully, the design community has stepped in to re-imagine how these fantasy creatures look like. Most of the pictures are really awesome so I want to showcase my favorite Greek mythology creatures with pictures.
Centaurs are a well known race of mythology creatures who had the upper body of a man and the lower body of a horse. They were featured in the story of Theseus during their battle with Lapiths. In this story, the centaurs were invited to the wedding of Hippodamia, who was part of the Lapiths clan. In their drunken state, the centaurs took a liking to Hippodamia and attempted to steal her from the wedding. The Lapiths fought back, and with the help of Theseus, manged to drive the centaurs from the wedding.
Cerberus is the famous three headed hell dog that guarded the entrance of the underworld. Appearing in both Greek and Roman mythology, Cerberus has also been depicted numerous times in various game titles. According to the Greek legend, Cerberus was was given birth by Echidna, a hybrid half-woman and half-serpent, and Typhon, which we will will cover later in the article. Cerberus was featured in the stories of Hercules as the last labor in which the hero must captured the monster alive with no tools.
There are currently some disagreement over the representation of the three heads. Some said that they represent past, present and future while others have argued that they represent birth, youth and old age.
Charybdis was interpreted as either a sea monster or as a large whirlpool in the Greek mythology. In the former, she was portrayed as the daughter of the sea god Poseidon and goddess of Earth, Gaia. In this interpretation, she had a mouth for a face and had to swollen huge amounts of water each day. When Charybdis belch the water back, it lead to the formation of large whirlpools.
Charybdis was featured in the story of Odysseus, who had to cross a narrow channel in the Strait of Messina. On one side of the channel lies Charybdis while the other side lays a hydra monster by the name of Scylla. To cross the channel successfully, Odysseus had to balance the ship’s navigation well. This give arise to the modern saying of “‘between Scylla and Charybdis’”, which means that choosing between 2 dangers.
Chimera is a Greek mythology creature that comprise a lion, a goat and a snake. Similar to Cerberus, Chimera parents were Typhon and Echidna. In the literature, Chimera is often depicted as a female creature, that is capable of breathing fire.
Chimera was eventually killed by the Greek hero Bellerophon, with the help of another Greek mythology creature. the Pegasus. Due to Pegasus’s ability to fly, it kept Bellerophon away from the fire breath of the Chimera. The killing blow is said to be a spear that was thrown by Bellerophon. The spear contained a lump of lead that was melted by Chimera’s fire breath and killed the creature.
Source: God of War
The name taken by the leader of the famous X Men comics, Cyclops is a Greek mythology monster that is well known for their one eye. In most Greek stories, cyclops were often depicted as giants. According to the Greek story, cyclops were the weapon makers for Zeus to help him overthrow the rule of Cronus. In fact, they were also the makers of many God’s weapons including Poseidon’s trident, Artemis’s bow and arrow of moonlight and Hades’s helmet of darkness.
Empusa is a less well known Greek mythology creature. She was first introduced as a demi goddess who was birthed by the goddess Hecate and the spirit Mormo. Her physical characteristic is her beautiful flaming hair and her bronze foot. Empusa feeds on mens’ blood and flesh by seducing them in their sleep. However, it is clear that Empusa is definitely not a vampire.
In later stories, Empusa was portrayed as a species of Hecate whose duties was to guard important roads and devour any travellers who might stumbled onto them.
The Erinyes were known to be entities of vengeance. They were born out of the blood of Uranus when Cronus castrated him. It is unknown how many Erinyes were there although their physical attributes were unmistakeable. They had serpents around their waist and had blood dripping from their eyes.
In the Greek mythology, they appeared to Orestes and try to hunt him when he killed his sisters on the orders of Apollo, the god of sun. Eventually, Orestes managed to escape to Athena template where he was given a trial, attended by both the Erinyes and Apollo. Orestes was later found to be not guilty and was released from pursuit by the Erinyes.
Unknown to many, Medusa is not the only Greek mythology monster with snakes as hair. The general name of such a monster was known as the Gorgons. Throughout history, there have been many interpretations and stories of how the Gorgons came about and what were their roles. The most famous was of course the version with the three sisters, otherwise known as Stheno (the mighty), Euryale (the far-springer), and Medusa (the queen).
In this version of the story, Medusa was the only Gorgon who was not immortal. As such, King Polydectes sent Perseus to deal with Medusa in the hope that he would be killed. Fortunately, Perseus was armed with the shield of Athena, the goddess of war, and used it as a mirror to avoid glazing into the eyes of Medusa. Perseus eventually cut off Medusa’s head and presented it to Athena, who then used it to turn Atlas into a stone mountain that supports the heaven and earth.
Graeae are the three sisters who shared one eye and one mouth. They were birth by Phorcys and Ceto and were in fact sisters to the Gordons (See above). The names of the three Graeae sisters are Deino, Enyo and Pemphredo. Although mot stories portrayed the Graeae sisters as old hags, some poets actually described them as beautiful creatures.
The Graeae sisters appeared in many pop culture including the second book of Percy, as well as in the 2010 movie, Clash of the Titans. In the Greek legend, it was the Graeae sisters who directed Perseus on how to kill the Medusa, although the hero did steal the eye from them before they are willing to do so.
Made famous by the Harry Potter series of book, Griffin is the Greek mythology creature that give arise to Harry’s house called Gryffindor. The creature itself is an amalgamation of two creatures, the body of a lion, and the wings and head of an eagle. Given that both the lion and the eagle are kings of animals and birds respectively, it is said that the Griffin was the king of all creatures. Interestingly, there is actually no Greek stories that featured Griffin but it is known to be featured in ancient Greek drawings and literature.
Harpies are the daughters of Thaumas and Electra. They were featured in the story about Phineas, who was punished by Zeus for revealing too much of god’s secrets. The punishment involved putting Phineas in an island that always had good food but which he cannot touch. This is because the harpies would come down and steal all the good food before Phineas can have a chance to eat. This continued until the arrival of Jason and the Argonauts. Among them, the Boreads, who can fly, helped to drive the harpies away.
Hippalectryon is a relatively unknown Greek mythology creature because it was not featured in any of the legends or folktales. However, hippalectryon can be found in sculptures and ceramics thus proving that it indeed was part of the Greek mythology. Part roaster part horse, it is one of the strangest creature that I have come across.
Seahorses were referred to as the hippocamps in Greek mythology. They were not featured strongly in any legends but they were always depicted as Poseidon’s ride.
This is the famous 9 headed serpant that made appearances in movies such as Percy and the Lighting Thief. Hydra was not a creature of nature as it was raise to Earth by Hera, one of Zeus’s wife. Its sole purpose was to kill Hercules as part of his 12 labors.
In the second labor, Hercules was tasked to kill Hydra. However, the beast had the ability to regrow any of the heads that Hercules had cut off. Finally, Hercules recruited the help of his cousin, Iolaus, who came up with the idea of burning the stump after the head was cut off. This idea worked and Hercules managed to cut off all the Hydra’s heads.
Lamia was once the beautiful queue of Libya but was later transformed into a man eating demon with a serpent tail. The reason for this transformation has been the subject of much interpretation. One story told how this was caused by Hera forcing Lamia to eat her own children. Others said that Hera directly gave Lamia the monster appearance. Whatever the origin, Lamia has been used extensively in many folktales and stories.
The manticore is a creature that reassebles the Sphinx as it also possessed the body of a lion and the head of a human. The manticore started as a Persian mythology creature but was later reflected in the Greek mythology. Due to the many versions of how the creature looks, the manticore might be depicted as having wings and/or having a scorpion tail.
Minotaur is the well known creature that is half bull and half man. What is less known is its origin. The story started with the King of Crete, Minos, praying to Poseidon for support. As sign of this support, Poseidon would send Minos a white bull which he had to killed as a sacrifice. However, Minos loved the white bull so much that he attempted to swap the white bull for one of his own. Furious at this action, Poseidon ordered the goddess of love to casted a spell on Mino’s wife, Pasiphaë, to fall in love with the Cretan Bull. They mated and their offspring was Minotaur. However, this half man, half beast devoured man for food. Minos thus had no choice but to order Daedalus to build a large maze which could contained Minotaur.
In the Greek legend, Minotaur was slayed by the hero Theseus. The latter volunteered himself as the sacrifice on behalf of the people of Athen. On arriving on Crete, the daughter of Minos fell in love with Theseus and helped him to navigate the maze to find Minotaur. However, upon slaying the beast, Theseus eventually choose the other daughter of Minos, Phaedra, as his wife.
Ophiotaurus was a Greek mythology creature that isn’t very well known. In fact, I only got to know about it because this creature was mentioned in the third book of Percy and the Olympians. Ophiotaurus had the head of a bull and the body of a sea serpant. It was a vastly powerful creature that was birthed from the same Chaos that give arise to Gaia, Mother of Earth. It is believed Ophiotaurus’s entrails can grant the welder the power to defeat gods.
Pegasus is the famous winged horse of the Greek mythology. In most literature, Pegasus was given birth by the blood of Medusa, one of the three Gordon sisters mentioned above. Bellerophon captured Pegasus who agreed to help the hero is his battle against the Chimera. Bellerophon, however, eventually died as he fell off the back of Pegasus when they were trying to reach Mount Olympus.
Satyr are half goat, half men characters that have seen many cultural appearances including being the side kick of Percy in the movie. Satyr are mostly known as creatures of pleasure and passion, although some modern day artist have created darker sides of the Satyr characters. Despite their popularity, Satyr were not featured prominently in any Greek mythology.
Sirens are beautiful creatures that used their voices to lure sailors to their hideout at the cliffs where they would crash to their deaths. Most of the literature depicted Sirens as having a bird’s body but the artist rendition used a fish body instead. It is said that if anybody heard the sirens’ voice and survive, they would kill themselves.
Sirens was featured in the story of Odysseus. To hear the sirens’ voices without dying, Odysseus ordered his men to stuff their ears with bees’ wax while he himself was tied to the ship. When the ship was within the range of the Sirens’ voices, Odysseus begged his men to go to the voice but they ignored him. Once the ship was outside the influence of the voices, Odysseus woke up from his obsession and sailed away unharmed. The Sirens then flung themselves to the water and perished.
Sphinx has the head of a woman, the body of a lion and the wings of a bird and might be the sister to Chimera and Cerberus. In the Greek mythology, there was one sphinx who guarded the road to the city of Thebe. To all travelers who used this road, the Sphinx would ask the following riddle “Which creature walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?” Anyone who can’t answer this riddle correctly was devoured. The riddle was eventually solved by Oedipus who gave the correct answer: “man”. It was said that the Sphinx either jumped off a cliff or devoured herself when the riddle was solved.
The Stymphalian Birds were the sixth labor of Hercules, who was tasked to kill all the birds in the swamp. These birds were characterized by their beaks of steel and appetite for human flesh. In this labor, Hercules was helped by Hephaestus, the god of technology, who gave a rattle to the hero. With it in hand, Hercule frightened the birds into the air from where he quickly fired arrows to kill them off.
Typhon is one of the most powerful Greek mythology creature. Together with Echidna, it gave birth to many of the monsters that were featured above including Chimera, Cerberus, Sphinx etc.
Typhon is said to be really huge. Its upper body is human like and is said to be taller than a mountain. His bottom half comprised of large vipers that can reach far out in any directions.
In the battle between Gaia and Zeus, Typhon was sent by Gaia as the last resort to destroy the Gods. In the first battle with Zeus, Typhon actually won by capturing Zeus’ sinews. Fortunately, the god of speed recovered the sinews. In the second battle, Zeus managed to defeat Typhon and sealed him under Mount Etna.