Typhon (Ancient Greek: Τυφῶν, Tuphōn), also Typhoeus Τυφωεύς, Tuphōeus), Typhaon Τυφάων, Tuphaōn) or Typhos (Τυφώς, Tuphōs) is the final son of Gaia, fathered by Tartarus, and is the most deadly monster of Greek mythology. Typhon attempts to destroy Zeus at the will of Gaia, because Zeus had imprisoned the Titans.
Typhon was described in pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke, as one of the largest and most fearsome of all creatures. His human upper half reached as high as the stars. His hands reached east and west and had a hundred dragon heads on each. He was feared even by the mighty gods. His bottom half was gigantic viper coils that could reach the top of his head when stretched out and made a hissing noise. His whole body was covered in wings, and fire flashed from his eyes.
Typhon was defeated by Zeus, who trapped him underneath Mount Etna.
Hesiod narrates Typhon's birth in this poem:
- But when Zeus had driven the Titans from Olympus,
- mother Earth bare her youngest child Typhoeus of the love of
- Tartarus, by the aid of golden Aphrodite. —Hesiod, Theogony 820-822.
In the alternative account of the origin of Typhon (Typhoeus), the Homeric Hymn to Apollo makes the monster Typhaon at Delphi a son of archaic Hera in her Minoan form, produced out of herself, like a monstrous version of Hephaestus, and whelped in a cave in Cilicia and confined there in the enigmatic Arima, or land of the Arimoi, en Arimois (Iliad, ii. 781-783). It was in Cilicia that Zeus battled with the ancient monster and overcame him, in a more complicated story: It was not an easy battle, and Typhon temporarily overcame Zeus, cut the "sinews" from him and left him in the "leather sack", the korukos that is the etymological origin of the korukion andron, the Korykian or Corycian Cave in which Zeus suffers temporary eclipse as if in the Land of the Dead. The region of Cilicia in southeastern Anatolia had many opportunities for coastal Hellenes' connection with the Hittites to the north. From its first reappearance, the Hittite myth of Illuyankas has been seen as a prototype of the battle of Zeus and Typhon. Walter Burkert and Calvert Watkins each note the close agreements. Watkins' How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics (Oxford University Press) 1995, reconstructs in disciplined detail the flexible Indo-European poetic formula that underlies myth, epic and magical charm texts of the lashing and binding of Typhon.
Typhon was the last child of Gaia. After the defeat of his brothers, the Gigantes, Gaia urged him to avenge them, as well as his other brothers, the Titans.
The Sphinx was sent by Hera to plague the city of Thebes. She was the most brilliant of Typhon's children, and would slay anyone who could not answer her riddles (possibly by strangling them). When Oedipus finally answered her riddle, she threw herself into the ocean in a fit of fury and drowned.
The Nemean Lion was a gigantic lion with impenetrable skin. Selene, the moon goddess, adored the beast. Heracles was commanded to slay the Lion as the first of his Twelve Labors. First, he attempted to shoot arrows at it, then he used his great club, and was eventually forced to strangle the beast. He would then use the Lion's own claws to skin it, whereupon he wore its invulnerable hide as armor.
Cerberus, another one of Typhon's sons was a three-headed dog that was employed by Hades as the guardian of the passage way to and from the Underworld. According to Hesiod, he was the son of Orthrus and Echidna.
Orthrus, a fearsome, two-headed hound. According to Hesiod, he mated with his mother, Echidna, to sire Cerberus, the Nemean Lion, the Lernaean Hydra, the Sphinx and the Chimera. Orthrus, and his master, Eurytion, son of Ares and the Hesperid Erytheia, guarded the fabulous red cattle of Geryon. Both were slain, along with Geryon, when Heracles stole the red cattle.
Ladon was a serpentine dragon. According to Hesiod, Ladon was the son of Phorcys and Ceto, instead of Typhon and Echidna. Regardless of his parentage, Ladon entwined himself around the tree in the Garden of the Hesperides at the behest of Hera, who appointed him the garden's guardian. He was eventually killed by Heracles.
The Lernaean Hydra, another one of Typhon's daughters, terrorized a spring at the lake of Lerna, near Argos, slaying anyone and anything that approached her lair with her noxious venom, save for a monstrous crab that was her companion. She and her crab were slain by Heracles as the second of his Twelve Labors (the crab being accidentally crushed underneath Heracles' heel).
Typhon's last child was his daughter, Chimera. Chimera resembled a tremendous, fire-breathing lioness with a goat's head emerging from the middle of her back, and had a snake for a tail. She roamed the ancient kingdom of Lycia, particularly around Mount Chimaera (possibly near Yanartaş), bringing bad omens and destruction in her wake, until she was slain by Bellerophon and Pegasus at the behest of Iobates.
Battle with Zeus
Typhon started destroying cities and hurling mountains in a fit of rage. All of the gods of Olympus fled to their home. Only Zeus stood firm, and the battle raged, ending when Zeus threw Mount Etna on top of Typhon, trapping him.
The inveterate enemy of the Olympian gods is described in detail by Hesiod as a vast grisly monster with a hundred serpent heads "with dark flickering tongues" flashing fire from their eyes and a din of voices and a hundred serpents legs, a feature shared by many primal monsters of Greek myth that extend in serpentine or scaly coils from the waist down. The titanic struggle created earthquakes and tsunamis. Once conquered by Zeus' thunderbolts, Typhon was cast into Tartarus, the common destiny of many such archaic adversaries, or he was confined beneath Mount Etna (Pindar, Pythian Ode 1.19 - 20; Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 370), where "his bed scratches and goads the whole length of his back stretched out against it," or in other volcanic regions, where he is the cause of eruptions.
Typhon is thus the chthonic figuration of volcanic forces, as Hephaestus (Roman Vulcan) is their "civilized" Olympian manifestation. Amongst his children by Echidna are the three headed Cerberus, the serpent-like Lernaean Hydra, the Chimera, the hundred-headed dragon Ladon, the half-woman half-lion Sphinx, the two-headed wolf Orthrus, and the Nemean lion.
Typhon is also the father of hot dangerous storm winds which issue forth from the stormy pit of Tartarus, according to Hesiod. Likewise, the rumblings of Typhon emitted from deepest Tartarus could be clearly heard within the underground torrent near Seleuceia, now in Turkey, until his presence was neutralized by the building of a Byzantine church nearby.
Origin of name
Typhon may be derived from the Greek τύφειν (typhein), to smoke, hence it is considered to be a possible etymology for the word typhoon, supposedly borrowed by the Persians (as طوفان Tufân) and Arabs to describe the cyclonic storms of the Indian Ocean. The Greeks also frequently represented him as a storm-daemon, especially in the version where he stole Zeus's thunderbolts and wrecked the earth with storms (cf. Hesiod, Theogony; Nonnus, Dionysiaca).
Related concepts and myths
Since Herodotus, Typhon has been identified with the Egyptian Set. In the Orphic tradition, Typhon leads the Titans when they attack and kill Dionysus, just as Set is responsible for the murder of Osiris. Furthermore, the slaying of Typhon by Zeus bears similarities to the killing of Vritra by Indra(a deity also associated with lightning and storms), and possibly the two stories are ultimately derived from a common Indo-European source. Similarities can be found in the battle between Thor and Jormungand from Norse myths; mythologist Joseph Campbell also makes parallels to the slaying of Leviathan by YHWH, about which YHWH boasts to Job
- ↑ W. Porzig, "Illuyankas und Typhon", Kleinasiatische Forschung I.3 (1930) pp 379-86
- ↑ Theogony, 306ff.
- ↑ Iliad ix.664
- ↑ Theogony 820-868
- ↑ "The whole earth seethed, and sky and sea: and the long waves raged along the beaches round and about, at the rush of the deathless gods: and there arose an endless shaking." (Hesiod, Theogony).
- ↑ Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians, p.41
- ↑ Let me now sing the heroic deeds of Indra, the first that the thunderbolt-wielder performed. He killed the dragon and pierced an opening for the waters; he split open the bellies of mountains. (Rig Veda 1.32.1)
- ↑ The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology, Joseph Campbell; P.22.
- Walter Burkert, Greek Religion 1985
- Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, (1955) 1960, §36.1-3
- Karl Kerenyi, The Gods of the Greeks 1951
- "Typhoeus" at Theoi compiled sources of myth in classical literature
- "Typhon" at Gods, Heroes and Myth
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