previous next

6.

Such is the legend of Demeter. But Earth, vexed on account of the Titans, brought forth the giants, whom she had by Sky.1 These were matchless in the bulk of their bodies and invincible in their might; terrible of aspect did they appear, with long locks drooping from their head and chin, and with the scales of dragons for feet.2 They were born, as some say, in Phlegrae, but according to others in Pallene.3 And they darted rocks and burning oaks at the sky. Surpassing all the rest were Porphyrion and Alcyoneus, who was even immortal so long as he fought in the land of his birth. He also drove away the cows of the Sun from Erythia. Now the gods had an oracle that none of the giants could perish at the hand of gods, but that with the help of a mortal they would be made an end of. Learning of this, Earth sought for a simple to prevent the giants from being destroyed even by a mortal. But Zeus forbade the Dawn and the Moon and the Sun to shine, and then, before anybody else could get it, he culled the simple himself, and by means of Athena summoned Hercules to his help. Hercules first shot Alcyoneus with an arrow, but when the giant fell on the ground he somewhat revived. However, at Athena's advice Hercules dragged him outside Pallene, and so the giant died.4 [2] But in the battle Porphyrion attacked Hercules and Hera. Nevertheless Zeus inspired him with lust for Hera, and when he tore her robes and would have forced her, she called for help, and Zeus smote him with a thunderbolt, and Hercules shot him dead with an arrow.5 As for the other giants, Ephialtes was shot by Apollo with an arrow in his left eye and by Hercules in his right; Eurytus was killed by Dionysus with a thyrsus, and Clytius by Hecate with torches, and Mimas by Hephaestus with missiles of red-hot metal.6 Enceladus fled, but Athena threw on him in his flight the island of Sicily7; and she flayed Pallas and used his skin to shield her own body in the fight.8 Polybotes was chased through the sea by Poseidon and came to Cos; and Poseidon, breaking off that piece of the island which is called Nisyrum, threw it on him.9 And Hermes, wearing the helmet of Hades,10 slew Hippolytus in the fight, and Artemis slew Gration. And the Fates, fighting with brazer clubs, killed Agrius and Thoas. The other giants Zeus smote and destroyed with thunderbolts and all of them Hercules shot with arrows as they were dying. [3]

When the gods had overcome the giants, Earth, still more enraged, had intercourse with Tartarus and brought forth Typhon in Cilicia,11 a hybrid between man and beast. In size and strength he surpassed all the offspring of Earth. As far as the thighs he was of human shape and of such prodigious bulk that he out-topped all the mountains, and his head often brushed the stars. One of his hands reached out to the west and the other to the east, and from them projected a hundred dragons' heads. From the thighs downward he had huge coils of vipers, which when drawn out, reached to his very head and emitted a loud hissing. His body was all winged12:unkempt hair streamed on the wind from his head and cheeks; and fire flashed from his eyes. Such and so great was Typhon when, hurling kindled rocks, he made for the very heaven with hissings and shouts, spouting a great jet of fire from his mouth. But when the gods saw him rushing at heaven, they made for Egypt in flight, and being pursued they changed their forms into those of animals.13 However Zeus pelted Typhon at a distance with thunderbolts, and at close quarters struck him down with an adamantine sickle, and as he fled pursued him closely as far as Mount Casius, which overhangs Syria. There, seeing the monster sore wounded, he grappled with him. But Typhon twined about him and gripped him in his coils, and wresting the sickle from him severed the sinews of his hands and feet, and lifting him on his shoulders carried him through the sea to Cilicia and deposited him on arrival in the Corycian cave. Likewise he put away the sinews there also, hidden in a bearskin, and he set to guard them the she-dragon Delphyne, who was a half-bestial maiden. But Hermes and Aegipan stole the sinews and fitted them unobserved to Zeus.14 And having recovered his strength Zeus suddenly from heaven, riding in a chariot of winged horses, pelted Typhon with thunderbolts and pursued him to the mountain called Nysa, where the Fates beguiled the fugitive; for he tasted of the ephemeral fruits in the persuasion that he would be strengthened thereby.15 So being again pursued he came to Thrace, and in fighting at Mount Haemus he heaved whole mountains. But when these recoiled on him through the force of the thunderbolt, a stream of blood gushed out on the mountain, and they say that from that circumstance the mountain was called Haemus.16 And when he started to flee through the Sicilian sea, Zeus cast Mount Etna in Sicily upon him. That is a huge mountain, from which down to this day they say that blasts of fire issue from the thunderbolts that were thrown.17 So much for that subject.


1 According to Hesiod (Hes. Th. 183ff.), Earth was impregnated by the blood which dropped from heaven when Cronus mutilated his father Sky (Uranus), and in due time she gave birth to the giants. As to the battle of the gods and giants, see Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 63; Hor. Carm. 3.4.49ff.; Ov. Met. 1.150ff.; Claudian, Gigant.; Sidonius Apollinaris, Carm. xii.15ff., ed. Baret; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. pp. 4, 92 (First Vatican Mythographer 11; Second Vatican Mythographer 53). The account which Apollodorus here gives of it is supplemented by the evidence of the monuments, especially temple-sculptures and vase-paintings. See Preller-Robert, Griechische Mythologie, i.67ff. Compare M. Mayer, Die Giganten und Titanen, (Berlin, 1887). The battle of the gods and the giants was sculptured on the outside of the temple of Apollo at Delphi, as we learn from the description of Euripides (Eur. Ion 208ff.). On similar stories see Frazer's Appendix to Apollodorus, “War of Earth on Heaven.”

2 Compare Ov. Met. 1.184, Tristia, iv.7.17; Macrobius, Sat. i.20.9; Serv. Verg. A. 3.578; Claudian, Gigant. 80ff.; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. p. 92 (Second Vatican Mythographer 53). Pausanias denied that the giants were serpent-footed (Paus. 8.29.3), but they are often so represented on the later monuments of antiquity. See Kuhnert, in W. H. Roscher's Lexikon der griech. und röm. Mythologie, i.1664ff.; M. Mayer, Die Giganten und Titanen, pp. 274ff.

3 Phlegra is said to have been the old name of PalleneStephanus Byzantius, s.v. Φλέγρα). The scene of the battle of the gods and giants was laid in various places. See Diod. 5.71; Strab. 5.4.4, 6, Strab. 6.3, 5, Strab. 7 Fr. 25, 27, Strab. 10.5.16, Strab. 11.2.10; Paus. 8.29.1, with my note. Volcanic phenomena and the discovery of the fossil bones of large extinct animals seem to have been the principal sources of these tales.

4 Compare Pind. N. 4.27, Pind. I. 6.31(45) with the Scholia; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 63. The Scholiast on Pind. I. 6.32(47), mentions, like Apollodorus, that Alcyoneus had driven away the oxen of the Sun. The reason why Herakles dragged the wounded giant from Pallene before despatching him was that, as Apollodorus has explained above, the giant was immortal so long as he fought on the land where he had been born. That, too, is why the giant revived when in falling he touched his native earth.

5 Compare Pind. P. 8.12(15)ff., who says that the king of the giants (Porphyrion) was shot by Apollo, not Herakles. Tzetzes agrees with Apollodorus (Scholiast on Lycophron 63).

6 According to Eur. Ion 215ff., Mimas was killed by Zeus with a thunderbolt; according to Ap. Rhod., Argon. iii.122ff. and Claudian, Gigant. 87ff., he was slain by Ares.

7 Compare Verg. A. 3.578ff. The combat of Athena with Enceladus was sculptured on the temple of Apollo at Delphi. See Eur. Ion 209ff.

8 According to one account the Pallas whom Athena flayed, and whose skin she used as a covering, was her own father, who had attempted her chastity. See Clement of Alexandria, Protrept. ii.28, p. 24, ed. Potter; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 355; Cicero, De natura deorum iii.23.59.

9 Compare Strab. 10.5.16.

10 The helmet of Hades was thought to render the wearer invisible. Compare Hom. Il. 5.844ff.; Hes. Sh. 226ff.

11 As to Typhon, or Typhoeus, as he is also called, who was especially associated with the famous Corycian cave in Cilicia, see Hes. Th. 820ff.; Pind. P. 1.15ff.; Aesch. PB 351ff.; Ant. Lib. 28; Ov. Met. 5.321ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 152; Mela i.76, ed. G. Parthey; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. pp. 4, 29, 92 (First Vatican Mythographer 11, 86; Second Vatican Mythographer 53). As to the Corycian cave, see Adonis, Attis, Osiris, 3rd ed. i.152ff. According to Hesiod (Hes. Th. 821), Typhoeus was the youngest child of Earth.

12 Or “feathered.” But Ant. Lib. 28 speaks of Typhon's numerous wings.

13 Compare Ant. Lib. 28; Ov. Met. 5.319ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 152; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. p. 29 (First Vatican Mythographer 86). The story of the transformation of the gods into beasts in Egypt was probably invented by the Greeks to explain the Egyptian worship of animals, as Lucian shrewdly perceived (Lucian, De sacrificiis 14).

14 According to Nonnus, Dionys. i.481ff., it was Cadmus who, disguised as a shepherd, wheedled the severed sinews of Zeus out of Typhon by pretending that he wanted them for the strings of a lyre, on which he would play ravishing music to the monster. The barbarous and evidently very ancient story seems to be alluded to by no other Greek writers.

15 This story of the deception practised by the Fates on Typhon seems to be otherwise unknown.

16 Haemus, from haima (blood); hence “the Bloody Mountain.” It is said that a city of Egypt received the same name for the same reason (Stephanus Byzantius, s.v. ἡρώ).

17 As to Typhon under Mount Etna see Aesch. PB 363ff.; Pind. P. 1.17(32)ff; Ovid, Fasti iv.491ff.; Ov. Met. 5.352ff.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Sir James George Frazer)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Pallene (4)
Egypt (Egypt) (3)
Cilicia (Turkey) (3)
Sicily (Italy) (2)
Haemus (2)
Delphi (Greece) (2)
Aetna (Italy) (2)
Thrace (Greece) (1)
Syria (Syria) (1)
Nysa (Turkey) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (29 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), FALX
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (28):
    • Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, 351
    • Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, 363
    • Euripides, Ion, 208
    • Euripides, Ion, 209
    • Euripides, Ion, 215
    • Hesiod, Shield of Heracles, 226
    • Hesiod, Theogony, 821
    • Hesiod, Theogony, 183
    • Hesiod, Theogony, 820
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.29.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.29.3
    • Pindar, Pythian, 1
    • Pindar, Isthmean, 6
    • Pindar, Nemean, 4
    • Pindar, Pythian, 8
    • Strabo, Geography, 10.5.16
    • Strabo, Geography, 11.2.10
    • Strabo, Geography, 7.fragments.25
    • Homer, Iliad, 5.844
    • Strabo, Geography, 5.4.4
    • Strabo, Geography, 6.3.5
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1.184
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 5.321
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 5.352
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 5.319
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 3.578
    • Servius, Commentary on the Aeneid of Vergil, 3.578
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1.150
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: