A race of creatures composed of part human and part horse.  They are depicted with the torso of a human joined at the waist to the horse's withers, where the horse's neck would be.

This half-human and half-animal composition has led many writers to treat them as liminal beings, caught between the two natures, embodied in contrasted myths, both as the embodiment of untamed nature, as in their battle with the Lapiths, or conversely as teachers, like Chiron.

The centaurs were usually said to have been born of Ixion and Nephele (the cloud made in the image of Hera). Another version, however, makes them children of a certain Centaurus, who mated with the Magnesian mares. This Centaurus was either the son of Ixion and Nephele (instead of the Centaurs) or of Apollo and Stilbe, daughter of the river god Peneus. In the latter version of the story his twin brother was Lapithus, ancestor of the Lapiths, thus making the two warring peoples cousins.

Centaurs were said to have inhabited the region of Magnesia and Mount Pelion in Thessaly, Mount Pholoe in Arcadia and the Malean peninsula in southern Laconia.

The Centaurs are best known for their fight with the Lapithae, caused by their attempt to carry off Hippodamia and the rest of the Lapith women, on the day of her marriage to Pirithous, king of the Lapithae, himself the son of Ixion. The strife among these cousins is a metaphor for the conflict between the lower appetites and civilized behavior in humankind. Theseus, a hero and founder of cities, who happened to be present, threw the balance in favour of the right order of things, and assisted Pirithous. The Centaurs were driven off or destroyed. Another Lapith hero, Caeneus, who was invulnerable to weapons, was beaten into the earth by Centaurs wielding rocks and the branches of trees. Centaurs are thought of in many Greek myths as wild as untamed horses. Like the Titanomachy, the defeat of the Titans by the Olympian gods, the contests with the Centaurs typify the struggle between civilization and barbarism.


The three-headed watchdog who guards the entrance to the lower world, the Hades. It is a child of the giant Typhon and Echidna, a monstrous creature herself, being half woman and half snake.

Originally, the dog was portrayed having fifty or hundred heads but was later pictured with only three heads (and sometimes with the tail of a serpent). Cerberus permitted new spirits to enter the realm of dead, but allowed none of them to leave. Only a few ever managed to sneak past the creature, among which Orpheus, who lulled it to sleep by playing his lyre, and Heracles, who brought it to the land of the living for a while (being the last of his Twelve Labors).


A member of a primordial race of giants, each with a single eye in the middle of its forehead. The name is widely thought to mean "circle-eyed".

 In Hesiod's Theogony, Zeus releases three Cyclopes, the sons of Uranus and Gaia, from the dark pit of Tartarus. They provide Zeus' thunderbolt, Hades' helmet of invisibility, and Poseidon's trident, and the gods use these weapons to defeat the Titans. In a famous episode of Homer's Odyssey, the hero Odysseus encounters the Cyclops Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon and a nereid (Thoosa), who lives with his fellow Cyclopes in a distant country. The connection between the two groups has been debated in antiquity and by modern scholars.[2] It is upon Homer's account that Euripides and Virgil based their accounts of the mythical creatures.

In the Theogony by Hesiod, the Cyclopes – Arges, Brontes, and Steropes – were the primordial sons of Uranus (Sky) and Gaia (Earth) and brothers of the Hecatonchires. They were giants with a single eye in the middle of their forehead and a foul disposition. According to Hesiod, they were strong, stubborn, and "abrupt of emotion". Collectively they eventually became synonyms for brute strength and power, and their name was invoked in connection with massive masonry. They were often pictured at their forge.

Uranus, fearing their strength, locked them in Tartarus. Cronus, another son of Uranus and Gaia, later freed the Cyclopes, along with the Hecatonchires, after he had overthrown Uranus. Cronus then placed them back in Tartarus, where they remained, guarded by the female dragon Campe, until freed by Zeus. They fashioned thunderbolts for Zeus to use as weapons, and helped him overthrow Cronus and the other Titans. The thunderbolts, which became Zeus' main weapons, were forged by all three Cyclopes, in that Arges added brightness, Brontes added thunder, and Steropes added lightning.

These Cyclopes also created Poseidon's trident, Artemis's bow and arrows of moonlight, Apollo's bow and arrows of sun rays, and the helmet of darkness that Hades gave to Perseus on his quest to kill Medusa. According to a hymn of Callimachus,[4] they were Hephaestus' helpers at the forge. The Cyclopes were said to have built the "cyclopean" fortifications at Tiryns and Mycenae in the Peloponnese. The noises proceeding from the heart of volcanoes were attributed to their operations.

According to Alcestis, Apollo killed the Cyclopes, in retaliation for Asclepius' murder at the hands of Zeus. According to Euripides' play Alkestis, Apollo was then forced into the servitude of Admetus for one year. Zeus later returned Asclepius and the Cyclopes from Hades.


Gorgons sometimes are depicted as having wings of gold, brazen claws, the tusks of boars, but most often with the fangs and skin of a serpent. The oldest oracles were said to be protected by serpents and a Gorgon image often was associated with those temples. Lionesses or sphinxes frequently are associated with the Gorgon as well. The powerful image of the Gorgon was adopted for the classical images and myths of Zeus and Athena, perhaps being worn in continuation of a more ancient imagery.

In late mythology, it was said that there were three Gorgons and that one of them, Medusa, had hair of living, venomous snakes that she received as a punishment from Athene, an image that has become especially famous. However, the Gorgon exists in the earliest of written records of Ancient Greek religious beliefs such as those of Homer.

In late myths, Medusa was the only one of the three Gorgons who was not immortal; hence Perseus was able to kill her by cutting off her head while looking at her in the reflection of a mirrored shield he supposedly got from the Graeae.

Some authors say that Perseus was armed with a scythe by Hermes and a mirror (or a shield) by Athena. Whether the mirrored shield or the scythe, these weapons allowed him to defeat Medusa easily. From the blood that spurted from her neck sprang Chrysaor and Pegasus, her two sons by Poseidon. Other sources say that each drop of blood became a snake. He gave the head, which had the power of turning into stone all who looked upon it, to Athena, who placed it on her shield. According to another account, Perseus buried it in the marketplace of Argos.

According to other accounts, either he or Athena used the head of Medusa to freeze Atlas into stone, transforming him into the Atlas Mountains that held up both heaven and earth. He also used it against a competing suitor. Ultimately, he used it against King Polydectes, who originally had sent him to kill Medusa in hopes of getting him out of the way, while he pursued Perseus's mother, Danae.

So the story goes, Perseus returned to the court of King Polydectes, who sat at his throne with Danae. The king asked if Perseus has the head of Medusa, and he replied "here it is" and held it aloft, turning the whole court to stone.

Another legend says that Perseus used the shield to make the Gorgons see their own reflections and thus turning them all to stone.


Any one of the mainly winged death-spirits best known for constantly stealing all food from Phineas. The literal meaning of the word seems to be "that which snatches" as it comes from the ancient Greek word harpazein, which means "to snatch".

The harpy could also bring life. A harpy was the mother by the West Wind Zephyros of the horses of Achilles (Iliad xvi. 150). In this context Jane Harrison adduced the notion in Virgil's Georgics that mares became gravid by the wind alone, marvelous to say (iii.274).

Though Hesiod calls them two "lovely-haired" creatures, harpies as beautiful winged bird-women are a late development, in parallel with the transformation of the siren, a "creature malign though seductive in Homer, but gradually softened by the Athenian imagination into a sorrowful death angel". On a vase in the Berlin Museum, a harpy has a small figure of a hero in each claw, but her head is recognizably a Gorgon, with goggling eyes, protruding tongue, and tusks.

Phineas, a king of Thrace, had the gift of prophecy. Zeus, angry that Phineas revealed too much, punished him by putting him on an island with a buffet of food which he could never eat. The harpies always arrived and stole the food out of his hands right before he could satisfy his hunger, and befouled the remains of his food. This continued until the arrival of Jason and the Argonauts. The Boreads, sons of Boreas, the North Wind, who also could fly, succeeded in driving off the harpies, but without killing any of them, following a request from Iris, who promised that Phineas would not be bothered by the harpies again, and "the dogs of great Zeus" returned to their "cave in Minoan Crete". Thankful for their help, Phineas told the Argonauts how to pass the Symplegades. (Argonautica, book II; Ovid XIII, 710; Virgil III, 211, 245).

In this form they were agents of punishment who abducted people and tortured them on their way to Tartarus. They were vicious, cruel and violent. They lived on Strophades. They were usually seen as the personifications of the destructive nature of wind. The harpies in this tradition, now thought of as three sisters instead of the original two, were: Aello ("storm swift"), Celaeno ("the dark") — also known as Podarge ("fleet-foot") — and Ocypete ("the swift wing").

Aeneas encountered harpies on the Strophades as they repeatedly made off with the feast the Trojans were setting. Celaeno cursed them, saying the Trojans will be so hungry they will eat their tables before they reach the end of their journey. The Trojans fled in fear.


The Hydra which lived in the swamps near to the ancient city of Lerna in Argolis, was a terrifying monster which like the Nemean lion was the offspring of Echidna (half maiden - half serpent), and Typhon (had 100 heads), other versions think that the Hydra was the offspring of Styx and the Titan Pallas. The Hydra had the body of a serpent and many heads (the number of heads deviates from five up to one hundred there are many versions but generally nine is accepted as standard), of which one could never be harmed by any weapon, and if any of the other heads were severed another would grow in its place (in some versions two would grow). Also the stench from the Hydra's breath was enough to kill man or beast (in other versions it was a deadly venom). When it emerged from the swamp it would attack herds of cattle and local villagers, devouring them with its numerous heads. It totally terrorized the vicinity for many years.

Heracles journeyed to Lake Lerna in a speedy chariot, and with him he took his nephew and charioteer Iolaus, in search of the dreaded Hydra. When they finally reached the Hydras' hiding place, Heracles told Iolaus to stay with the horses while he drew the monster from its hole with flaming arrows. This brought out the hideous beast. Heracles courageously attacked the beast, flaying at each head with his sword, (in some versions a scythe) but he soon realized that as one head was severed another grew in its place. Heracles called for help from Iolaus, telling him to bring a flaming torch, and as Heracles cut off the heads one by one from the Hydra, Iolaus cauterized the open wounds with the torch preventing them from growing again. As Heracles fought the writhing monster he was almost stifled by its obnoxious breath, but eventually, with the help of Iolaus, Heracles removed all but one of the Hydras' heads. The one remaining could not be harmed by any weapon, so, picking up his hefty club Heracles crushed it with one mighty blow, he then tore off the head with his bare hands and quickly buried it deep in the ground, placing a huge boulder on the top. After he had killed the Hydra, Heracles dipped the tips of his arrows into the Hydras' blood, which was extremely poisonous, making them deadly.

Other versions say that while Heracles fought the Hydra the goddess Hera sent down a giant crab which attacked his feet). This legend comes from a marble relief dating from the 2nd century BCE found at ancient Lerna, showing Heracles attacking the Hydra, and near his feet is a huge crab. Also other legends say that a stray arrow set alight the forest, and it was the burning trunks which Heracles ripped up and used to cauterize the open wounds.


The Minotaur was a creature that was part man and part bull. It dwelt at the center of the Labyrinth, which was an elaborate maze-like construction built for King Minos of Crete and designed by the architect Daedalus and his son Icarus who were ordered to build it to hold the Minotaur. The historical site of Knossos is usually identified as the site of the labyrinth. The Minotaur was eventually killed by Theseus.

After he ascended the throne of Crete, Minos struggled with his brothers for the right to rule. Minos prayed to Poseidon to send him a snow-white bull, as a sign of approval. He was to sacrifice the bull in honor of Poseidon but decided to keep it instead because of its beauty. To punish Minos, Poseidon caused Pasiphaë, Minos' wife, to fall madly in love with the bull from the sea, the Cretan Bull. She had Daedalus, the famous architect, make a wooden cow for her. Pasiphaë climbed into the decoy in order to copulate with the white bull. The offspring of their coupling was a monster called the Minotaur.

Nowhere has the essence of the myth been expressed more succinctly than in the Heroides attributed to Ovid, where Pasiphaë's daughter complains of the curse of her unrequited love: "the bull's form disguised the god, Pasiphaë, my mother, a victim of the deluded bull, brought forth in travail her reproach and burden." Literalist and prurient readings that emphasize the machinery of literal copulation may intentionally obscure the mystic marriage of the god in bull form, a Minoan mythos alien to the Greeks.

The Minotaur, as the Greeks imagined him, had the body of a man and the head and tail of a bull. Pasiphaë nursed him in his infancy, but he grew and became ferocious. Minos, after getting advice from the Oracle at Delphi, had Daedalus construct a gigantic labyrinth to hold the Minotaur. Its location was near Minos' palace in Knossos.


 They are half human and half beast; they usually have a goat's tail, flanks and hooves. While the upper part of the body is that of a human, they also have the horns of a goat.

In Greek mythology, satyrs are a troop of male companions of Pan and Dionysus — "satyresses" were a late invention of poets — that roamed the woods and mountains. In mythology they are often associated with sex drive and vase-painters often portrayed them with perpetual erections.

Usually the Satyrs resided in woods and mountains or were accompanying the Greek god of wine Dionysus on his journeys, dancing around joyfully with the Nymphs and drinking.


The Greek Sphinx was a demon of death and destruction and bad luck. She was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna. It was a female creature, sometimes depicted as a winged lion with a feminine head, and sometimes as a female with the breast, paws and claws of a lion, a snake tail and bird wings. She sat on a high rock near Thebes and posed a riddle to all who passed. The riddle was: "What animal is that which in the morning goes on four feet, at noon on two, and in the evening upon three?" Those who could not solve the riddle were strangled by her. Finally Oedipus came along and he was the only who could answer that it was "Man, who in childhood creeps on hands and knees, in manhood walks erect, and in old age with the aid of a staff." The Sphinx was so mortified at the solving of her riddle that she cast herself down from the rock and perished.