Typhon of Greek Mythology

Instructor: Mary Deering

Mary has a Master's Degree in History with 18 advanced hours in Government. She has taught college History and Government courses.

Learn about a major character in Greek mythology and the origins of the world according to the Greeks. Explore the world of the Greek god Typhon and learn about his connections to other Greek gods.

Greek Mythology

What are the first images you think of when you hear the term 'Greek mythology?' Zeus with his lightning bolt? Or maybe his son, Hercules? These are some of the most popular and well-known figures from that era. However, they represent only a small part of the complex and ornate set of myths that the Ancient Greeks developed to help explain the world around them. Another figure is the Greek god, Typhon, whose story begins with his parents and helps to explain the origins of the world.

In the Beginning

According to the Ancient Greeks, Gaia, or mother earth, was the first great goddess who helped to nourish all life. Gaia was married to Uranus, the ruler of the sky. Together, Uranus and Gaia had three Hundred-Handed Giant children and three Cyclops children. Uranus was frightened of his powerful and monstrous children, so as each child was born he hurled it into a deep abyss in the earth called Tartarus.

The next children that Gaia and Uranus had were the thirteen Titans. The Titans were beautiful and talented, and Uranus was proud of his new children. Gaia, however, missed her first six children and asked the Titans to free their brothers and sisters. Most of the Titans refused to listen to their mother, but one, the youngest son Cronus, agreed to help his mother and promised to free the Hundred-Handed Giants and the Cyclops.

A New Leader

With Cronus in charge, the other Titans agreed to help confront their father. Cronus snuck up on Uranus while he was sleeping and cut his body into pieces. With Uranus dead, Cronus married his sister, Rhea, and became the leader of the gods. But Cronus refused to keep his promise to his mother, and the Cyclops and Hundred-Handed Giants remained locked in Tartarus.

When Cronus and his wife began having children, Cronus like his father was frightened of his beautiful but powerful creations. So he swallowed them whole as infants. His wife Rhea was devastated by the loss of her children and she eventually appealed to Gaia, who agreed to help her to hide her newest baby, Zeus. When Zeus was fully grown and strong he slipped his father a poison that made him spit up all of the children he had swallowed.

The brothers and sisters bonded together and battled Cronus and the other Titans for supremacy. Zeus released the Hundred-Handed Giants and Cyclops from Tartarus to help him to win the war against the Titans. With the help of the Giants and Cyclops, the new gods soon won the war and imprisoned Cronus and the other Titans in Tartarus. Gaia once again had lost her children.

A vase painted with the image of Typhon
A vase painted with the image of Typhon

The Birth of Typhon

In desperation, Gaia and Tartaus, who was also a god, in addition to having a deep abyss named after him, created Typhon, the greatest monster of all. Typhon's heads reached to the stars and his arms stretched far and wide. According to some sources, he had one hundred dragon heads and his body was that of a massive viper. Typhon had enormous wings all over his body and could breathe fire.

Once he was fully grown, the fearsome Typhon married another monster created by Gaia, named Echidna. Together they had many monstrous children, like the Sphinx, the Hydra, and the Chimera. Encouraged by Gaia, Typhon challenged Zeus, the new ruler of the gods, to battle in order to free the Titans. Although Typhon won the first battle, Zeus soon defeated him and trapped him for all eternity under Mount Etna, a volcano in Greece.

An illustration of Typhon fighting with Zeus
An illustration of Typhon fighting with Zeus

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