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Typhon and Echidna: Monster Makers of Greek Mythology


Sep 24, 2022

Greek mythology is stuffed with horrible monsters. Though it’s troublesome to decide on the worst or most horrible of the Greek monsters, Typhon and Echidna are sturdy contenders. Each have been large behemoths answerable for birthing an unlimited variety of extra monsters collectively. As a workforce, they have been so highly effective, they even challenged Zeus for supremacy of the cosmos. Their historical past is lengthy and complex with a number of variations, so let’s try to straighten all of it out.

Typhon and Echidna’s Household Tree

There are a number of origin tales for Typhon, however they’re all variations on a theme: ladies being mad at Zeus. Typhon was normally created as a weapon in opposition to Zeus, however who really birthed him adjustments from delusion to delusion.

Typhon is mostly depicted because the youngest son of Gaia. In Hesiod’s Theogony, it was said Typhon was the son of Gaia (Earth) and Tartarus (principally Greek hell). Apollodorus, a Greek mythographer from the first Century AD, fleshed out the parable. He added that Gaia had Typhon as a result of she was mad at Zeus for destroying the giants, Gaia’s older kids. Different variations of this delusion had Gaia conceiving Typhon on her personal, with no assist from Tartarus.

However, the Homeric Hymn to Apollo from the Sixth century BC said that Hera, Zeus’ spouse, was the mom of Typhon. On this model, Hera was mad at Zeus for birthing Athena on his personal. Hera prayed to the Titans, Gaia and Uranus, for assist and have become pregnant with Typhon. She then gave the newborn Typhon to the serpent monster Python to lift.

A fifth century BC Etruscan foot ingredient within the type of Typhon ( Public Domain )

A later model of the parable appears to mix each variations. It had Cronus (Zeus’ father) as the daddy of Typhon. Gaia, mad at Zeus for the demise of giants, slandered Zeus to Hera. Hera then went to Cronus to ask for assist. He gave her two eggs coated in his semen to bury underground, telling her out of one in all them would come a being sturdy sufficient to defeat Zeus.

Hera did as she was advised, and certain sufficient, Typhon was born. Nevertheless, by that point Hera had cooled down and forgiven Zeus, so she warned him that an amazing risk was coming. Whichever model one chooses to take a look at, the final themes of Typhon’s beginning have a tendency to remain the identical.


Echidna isn’t fairly as vital as her companion in crime, and so her family tree wasn’t given fairly as a lot consideration. Echidna’s household tree additionally tended to vary from writer to writer. In response to Hesiod, Echidna was born to a “she”, which isn’t significantly useful. Students imagine this “she” was the ocean goddess Ceto, most likely making her father the ocean god Phorcys.

Or the “she” might have been an Oceanid known as Callirhoe, wherein case her father could be Chrysaor, son of Medusa. Conversely, Echidna has been described because the daughter of the Oceanid Styx (goddess of the river Styx). She has additionally been described because the daughter of Tartarus and Gaia, very similar to Typhon.

Not like her companion in crime, no nice significance was attributed to Echidna’s parentage. In comparison with her extra highly effective companion, she was simply one other monster, and so Greek writers would change her family tree to suit no matter narrative they have been telling.

Author descriptions of Echidna differed, but everyone agreed she was hideous to look at (Dina / Adobe Stock)

Writer descriptions of Echidna differed, however everybody agreed she was hideous to take a look at ( Dina / Adobe Inventory)

Monstrous Depictions of Typhon and Echidna

Typhon and Echidna are each described as monsters with a capital M. Nearly all the things else about them adjustments from writer to writer, however tends to observe related darkish themes.


Hesiod described Typhon as “horrible, outrageous, and lawless”. In response to Hesiod, Typhon was massively highly effective. He had 100 snake heads, every of which might breathe fireplace. Pindar and The Homeric Hymn to Apollo each echo Hesiod’s depiction.

A contemporary depiction of Typhon, with snakes for legs and arms. Along with his companion Echidna, fathered a bunch of monsters ( Matiasdelcarmine / Adobe Inventory)

A Chalcidian Hydria (540-530 BC) goes into extra element. It has Typhon as a winged humanoid from the waist however with snake tails for legs. Essentially the most detailed description nonetheless comes from Nonnus’s Dionysiaca. Nonnus doubled down on the serpent imagery for his depiction of Typhon.

In response to Nonnus, Typhon had a “tangled military of snakes”. His head, legs, toes, and hair have been all made up of snakes. Every of those snakes might belch nice clouds of poisons into the air, in addition to fireplace. Alongside together with his snakeheads, Nonnus gave Typhon many different animal heads, starting from cows and canines to leopards and lions. Lastly, whereas different authors had given Typhon as much as 100 arms, Nonnus doubled the depend to 200.

A fifteenth century drawing of Typhon by Wenceslaus Hollar, with harpies in background ( Public Domain )


Echidna is described as monstrous, but not quite as horrifying as her partner. Hesiod described Echidna as being half beautiful woman and half terrible snake. He ascribes her habit of eating raw flesh to her snake half. This has been interpreted as meaning Hesiod’s version of Echidna had a human head on her human half and a snake head on her snake half.

Aristophanes (5th century BC) gave her one hundred snake heads, so that she matched Typhon. Other authors gave her just one head but the body of a snake from the neck down. Finally, Nonnus simply described her as “hideous”.

Echidna as depicted on a set of modern tarot cards (samiramay / Adobe Stock)

Echidna as depicted on a set of modern tarot cards ( samiramay / Adobe Inventory)

Typhon and Echidna: Proof That Love is Blind

Apparently, within the case of Echidna and Typhon, magnificence is certainly within the eye of the beholder. Hesiod described Typhon as “joined in love” with Echidna, which is surprisingly candy for 2 such monsters. We by no means get way more data than that on how they met; the mythology jumps straight to them making monstrous infants.

Typhon and Echidna’s listing of youngsters reads like a ‘who’s who’ of historical Greek monsters. Their offspring have been in probably the most commonly-known myths, fueling kids’s nightmares. As time went on, Greek authors simply saved attributing increasingly monsters to the coupling of Typhon and Echidna.

Hesiod’s Theogony kinds the idea for many Greek writers’ illustration of Typhon and Echidna’s kids. In response to him, their first little one was Orthrus, the two-headed canine. He was adopted by the notorious Cerberus, the three-headed canine who guarded the doorway to Hades. Third, that they had the Lernaean Hydra, the many-headed serpent that grew again two heads for every one it misplaced.  Lastly, Hesiod gave them the Chimera, the part-lion, part-goat, part-snake monster that would breathe fireplace.

Engraving of the second labor of Hercules: slaying the Lernaean Hydra, child of Typhon and Echidna (Alagos / Public Domain)

Engraving of the second labor of Hercules: slaying the Lernaean Hydra, little one of Typhon and Echidna ( Alagos / Public Area)

Later authors saved including to this unusual little menagerie. Within the Sixth century BC, the mythographer Acusilaus added the Caucasian Eagle to the brood. This was the eagle that ate the liver of Prometheus every single day. One other mythographer known as Pherecydes added Ladon, a dragon, and the poet Lasus of Hermione added the well-known riddling Sphinx.

Many later authors retained the above monsters, however would add different monsters to Typhon and Echidna’s festering nest of a household, such because the Gorgon (mom of snake-headed Medusa), the Colchian Dragon that guarded the Golden Fleece , and the harpies, together with others.

All in all, the offspring of Typhon and Echidna seem in a large quantity of Greek tales. The 2 are answerable for producing the vast majority of the monsters that Greek heroes like Hercules, Jason, and Odysseus needed to struggle.

Echidna in Mythology

For probably the most half, Echidna doesn’t seem often in mythology. Her function is that of a background character. She is barely actually often known as the lover of Typhon and the monster child manufacturing unit.

Hesiod described her as ageless and immortal. Most historical Greek writers tied her demise to that of Typhon. When Typhon was lastly defeated, he and his lover have been both banished to Tartarus or buried beneath one of many nice mountains.

Apollodorus, nonetheless, had a special destiny in thoughts for Echidna. In his model of occasions, after Typhon was defeated, Echidna remained alive, residing in a cave and preying on passing vacationers. Hera acknowledged the risk that Echidna posed and hatched a plan. She despatched her loyal servant, the large Argus Panoptes, to kill Echidna. Argus snuck into Echidna’s cave and killed her whereas she was sleeping.

Some later tales point out heroes interacting with an echidna . Echidna appears to have grow to be a catch-all time period for a number of completely different snake-woman hybrids. In these myths, it’s by no means clear if the author is referring to the unique Echidna or a copycat.

Typhon and Zeus

Not like Echidna, Typhon performed a significant function in Greek mythology, particularly on the finish of the succession story, the Titanomachy. The Titanomachy is principally the origin story of the Olympian gods, similar to Zeus and Hera .

It’s a protracted and winding story, however merely put, it revolved across the battle between Zeus and the sooner gods, the Titans. Zeus defeated his father, the Titan Cronus, freed his siblings, and have become king of the gods.

Typhon got here as the ultimate risk Zeus needed to face to consolidate his energy. As talked about earlier, Typhon’s parentage is up for debate, however he was normally depicted as being born with the only real goal of defeating Zeus.

Typhon was first talked about in Homer’s Iliad, which referenced Zeus placing the bottom after defeating Typhon. It was Hesiod who gave the primary detailed account of Zeus and Typhon’s assembly and battle. On this model of the story, when Zeus and Typhon fought, the complete earth and sky shook.

Nevertheless, in Hesiod’s model, the battle was fairly temporary, and Zeus had little hassle taking Typhon down. Zeus merely attacked Typhon at vary, hurling thunderbolt after thunderbolt on the monster. In response to Hesiod, ultimately, Typhon succumbed to Zeus’ bolts and was burnt to a crisp. Zeus then threw Typhon into Tartarus.

Epimenides (Seventh-Sixth century BC) had a special take. In response to him, Typhon took a sneakier strategy. Fairly than danger an all-out struggle with the mighty Zeus, Typhon selected to creep into Zeus’ palace and assault whereas he slept. Sadly for him, Zeus awoke simply in time and killed Typhon with a thunderbolt.

Different variations of the story upped the risk that Typhon posed to the gods. Nicander and Pindar claimed that Typhon offered such a risk that every one the Olympians besides Zeus and Athena fled from Typhon by reworking into animals. These variations sought to show the prevalence of Zeus. Whereas the opposite gods fled, Zeus at all times managed to kill Typhon with a bolt.

Later variations turned the battle right into a extra dramatic affair. Fairly than Zeus merely smiting Typhon with a thunderbolt from afar, these variations turned the battle right into a multi-stage affair. In most of those variations, Zeus had the higher hand and repeatedly gave Typhon a thrashing. Every time Typhon was defeated, he ran away and hid. The battle acted as a sightseeing tour of historical Greece and its neighbors.

Zeus in combat with Typhon, partner of Echidna. Stamp created from image on 6th century BC pottery (Lefteris Papaulakis / Adobe Stock)

Zeus in fight with Typhon, companion of Echidna. Stamp created from picture on Sixth century BC pottery ( Lefteris Papaulakis / Adobe Inventory)

Nonnus and Apollodorus gave probably the most in-depth narrations of the battle. They nonetheless disagreed on fairly a couple of particulars, however the broad strokes have been the identical. Of their variations, Typhon was way more of a match for Zeus. Each variations of the story handed Zeus an early victory by pelting Typhon with thunderbolts. Nevertheless, in these variations, when Zeus closed in for the kill, he was outsmarted by Typhon. In each, Typhon managed to sever the sinews in Zeus’s legs and arms, leaving him unable to defend himself. Zeus was then left in a cave by Typhon. Though the small print assorted between variations, in each different Olympians then used trickery to come back to Zeus’s support, tricking Typhon into handing over Zeus’s sinews. Totally restored, Zeus then defeated Typhon in a single final mighty conflict.

What occurred to Typhon after his defeat by the hands of Zeus largely trusted who was telling the story. Earlier variations had the only ending. In response to them, Typhon was thrown into Tartarus together with Echidna, and there they have been left for eternity.

Others had Zeus burying Typhon beneath numerous mountains, mostly Etna. In these variations, Typhon repeatedly rallied in opposition to his imprisonment by sending fireballs into the sky and shaking the earth beneath the mountains. Typhon was used to elucidate the native volcanic exercise. Eruption or earthquake? That’s Typhon displaying his displeasure.


Typhon and Echidna are two of the extra fascinating minor characters from Greek mythology. Typhon acted as one final trial for Zeus earlier than he might actually be declared king of the gods. One of many issues which makes Greek gods fascinating is their humanity, and their sheer fallibility. Later variations of the Typhon delusion present this. Zeus solely survived by the pores and skin of his enamel and with the assistance of his household.

Echidna, alternatively, is a extra minor character. Nevertheless, her affect on fashionable popular culture is tough to dispute. Anybody who has watched a fantasy movie, learn a fantasy guide, or performed video video games has most likely encountered one in all Echidna’s brood.

Some of the spectacular issues about Greek mythology is that nothing stands by itself. The whole lot is interconnected; each character and monster has an origin story. This might not be more true than within the case of Echidna and Typhon; with out them, many of the Greek heroes would have had nothing to struggle.

Prime Picture: Typhon and Echidna have been mother and father to a pantheon of Greek monsters. Statue of Echidna in Parco dei Mostri, Bomarzo, Italy  Supply: Public Domain

By Robbie Mitchell

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