From one-eyed giants to terrifying three-headed hellhounds, we count fifteen incredible Greek mythological creatures!
15 – Centaurs,
- Centaurs are mythological creatures with human heads, arms and torsos, and the legs and body of a horse.
- Centaurs are best known for instigating a fight with the Lapiths. On the day of Hippodamia’s marriage to Pirithous, the king of the Lapithae, the centaurs barged in and attempted to kidnap the Lapith women.
- The most renowned centaur in Greek mythology is Chiron, whose intelligence and impressive medical skills contrast the violent and excessive drinking behaviours of most typical centaurs.
14 – Cerberus,
- Cerberus is a massive three-headed hellhound that guards the entrance to the underworld so none who’ve crossed the river Styx can escape. He’s also Hades’ loyal guard dog.
- Cerberus’s appetite extends only to living flesh; he’ll allow deceased spirits to pass, but will consume any living mortal foolish enough to approach him.
- Cerberus’s three heads symbolise the past, present and future – although in other versions of the myth the heads represent youth, adulthood, and old age.
- Cerberus is probably best known as Heracle’s twelfth and final labour. Heracles must enter the underworld, wrestle the beast unarmed, and then bring Cerberus to the surface world, alive, to present to King Eurystheus.
13 – Sirens,
- Sirens, also called the Muses of the lower world, are femme fatales who lure in sailors with their enchanting voices and music, bringing them to shipwreck on rocky coastlines.
- Sirens are usually depicted as bird–women hybrids. In early Greek art, they are represented as birds with large women’s heads, feathers and scaly feet. However, they are later represented as winged or wingless female figures with the legs of birds. They are often seen playing a variety of musical instruments, particularly the harp.
- The term ‘siren song’ refers to an appeal that is hard to resist but that, if heeded, will lead to a bad conclusion.
- Some writers have implied that Sirens are cannibals; others have suggested the sailors they lure die from starvation, unable to eat or leave due to their fixation.
12 – Pegasus,
- Pegasus is the winged, pure white divine stallion of Greek mythology. The offspring of Medusa and Poseidon, legend says that an inspiring spring bubbles forth every time Pegasus’s hooves impact the ground.
- Pegasus appears in an abundance of ancient Greek pottery, paintings and sculptures of the Renaissance. He is thought to symbolise poetry and inspiration.
- Pegasus is the brother of Chrysaor and was born when his mother was decapitated by Perseaus. After his birth, he ascended to heaven where he pledged allegiance to Zeus, the king of the gods. Zeus tasked him with bringing lightning and thunder from Olympus.
- Pegasus is renowned for creating Hippocrene, the fountain on Mt Helicon, and for allowing the Greek hero Bellerophon to ride him into battle with the formidable Chimera. After his death, Zeus transforms the winged horse into the constellation Pegasus and places him in the sky.
11 – The Empusa,
- The Empusa is not as well known as other Greek legends; she does not appear in any traditional epic or popular legend. However, her frightening appearance and penchant for human flesh make her a memorable addition to any list of mythological creatures.
- The Empusa is described as a beautiful woman that can transform into a sharp-toothed, flame-haired and bat-winged creature. She is said to be a demigoddess under the control of the goddess Hecate, a being commonly associated with crossroads and entrance ways.
- The Empusa seduces young men travelling alone. Once the unsuspecting youth is asleep, the creature shifts into her hideous true form to devour her victim’s flesh and drink his blood for sustenance.
- This horrific mythological being is best known for her appearance in Aristophanes’s The Frogs, where she terrifies the god Dionysus as he travels to the underworld.