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Who is Typhon in Greek Mythology?
Typhon (or Typhoeus) was a terrible, serpent-like monster whose eyes shot out flames. He was conceived by Gaia, mother earth when she was banished to Tartarus along with the other defeated Titans. Typhon is also known as the “Father of all Monsters” in Greek mythology, and he symbolises the dark forces of the earth.
According to the Greeks, Typhon endeavoured to established himself as the ruler of the world, the supreme deity, but the recently victorious Zeus destroyed him with a mighty thunderbolt. The volcanic activity of Mount Aetna in Sicily was believed to be caused by Typhon’s imprisonment beneath the crater.
The struggle between Typhon and Zeus was an evenly balanced fight, however. At one point, Zeus was left helpless in a cave, weaponless and without his sinews. Fortunately for Zeus, the messenger god Hermes came to his aid on this occasion. Before his final defeat, Typhon sired the Chimaera, the huge sea monster killed by the hero Perseus.
Many terrifying creatures and monsters can be found in Greek mythology, but none are as deadly or as terrifying as Typhon.
While the war between the Titans and the Olympians were aged on, the primordial goddess of the earth, Gaia, could not bear to see her children defeated and imprisoned. So together, Gaia and Tartarus created one last monster—their last attempt to repel Zeus and the Olympians and stop their rule over the world. That monster would be known as Typhon.
Depiction of Typhon
Typhon is often depicted in a few different ways. The most common being the torso of a man, and his lower body was made up of giant Vipers’ coils that would hiss violently and attack anything that came close.
He was as tall as the sky with large thick wings. His eyes would glow red and terrify anyone who gazed upon them. He had a mane made up of hundreds of different animals, and his ability to breathe fire meant that wherever Typhon went, devastation and destruction soon followed.
Typhon and Zeus
When the Olympians first saw Typhon, many fled, and it seemed as if Gaia’s planned to help the Titans work, but Zeus would not flee. He stood firm, and a series of battles between the two took place.
In the very first battle, Typhon repelled all of the Olympians with ease. With only Zeus remaining, he overpowered the god, tearing his tendons from him and leaving Zeus with no option but to flee.
With Zeus wounded back on Mount Olympus, it fell to Hermes to use his speed and guile to recover Zeus’ tendons. Having regained his strength, Zeus knew that he would have to make his last stand on Mount Olympus or everything that he and the other Olympians had worked for would be for nothing.
He mustered all the strength he had remaining and held hundreds of lightning bolts at the Beast. Eventually, Zeus’ persistence would pay off as he overpowered Typhon, casting him into the bottomless pits of Tartarus.
It’s believed that Zeus placed an entire Mountain over where Typhon had fallen in order to stop the monster from ever escaping. That mountain would be known as Mount Aetna (Etna), and the ancient Greeks believed that volcanic eruptions from the mount and even nearby earthquake were caused by Typhon trying to escape his prison.
Variations of the Battle between Typhon and the Olympians
There are many varying accounts of the events that took place during the Battle of Typhon and the Olympians. When all the gods attempted to flee, Athena stood firm and convinced them to stay in a fight. When Zeus had given up all hope, Athena once again rallied behind her father and gave him the courage to defeat Typhon.
In some variations, Zeus’s lightning proved no match for Typhon, and he easily overpowered the god, spending years torture in him. Hermes and Pan were the only gods brave enough to help Zeus, and together they managed to escape Typhon.
Typhon was sent to earth for only one purpose; to end the reign of the Olympians, and he seemed more than capable of doing so if it wasn’t for the joint efforts of the gods.
To give you an idea of the epic scale of this battle, it raged on for over 10,000 years, and hundreds of cities were destroyed before Typhon was eventually stopped.
Typhon’s Consort and Children
Typhon is commonly referred to as the “Father of Monsters”, and along with his wife, Echidna, together they created the majority of monsters we know in Greek mythology.
Their children included The Narmean Lion: The Beast of impenetrable skin that Heracles was asked to slay as part of his 12 labours; Cerberus: The three-headed dog that protected the entrance to the underworld; The Lernaean Hydra: A water serpent with multiple heads that grew back when they were cut off; The Chimera of Lycia: The hybrid creature with a head of a goat and the body of a lion, capable of breathing fire.
It’s also believed that they gave birth to Orthrus, the two-headed dog, and Ladon, the serpent-like dragon that guarded the golden apples in the garden of Hesperides. The Sphinx that was known to kill those who could not answer his riddles was also a Typhon and Echidna child.
The Gorgons themselves are quite similar in appearance to Echidna, and it’s no surprise that they also originated from the father and mother of monsters.
Most of the iconic creatures that we’ve come to know in Greek mythology have come from Typhon and Echidna.
Typhon is quite a symbolic creature in Greek mythology. Not only because the gods feared him but also because he marked a very important change in Greek mythology. The fall of Typhon marked the end of the war between the Olympians and the Titans and the exchange of power between the old god and the new.
Typhon’s creation and sole purpose were to destroy the Olympians, but as someone of a bi-product, he became the father of monsters, and we were given a host of extremely interesting creatures.
There are very few creatures and gods in Greek mythology that I would ever classify as evil, as there are often two sides to every story. But for me, Typhon is a fairly good example of what evil looks like.
His only interested desire is to cause destruction and chaos. You could argue that he is only doing as commanded by his mother and father, but Typhon lacks any redeeming features that would make him more than just a monster.
I almost see Typhon as the Ragnarök of Greek mythology. The world is essentially almost destroyed, and, in the process, a new generation of gods rise to power and build a new world.
We can also see Typhon as an example of the unstoppable force that has changed in progress. The Titans refused to progress and evolve; not even a monster as horrific as Typhon could stop them from being dethroned.
Image Sources: Stefan Kopinski, RoCueto.