Sunday, October 31, 2010
October 31, 2010 : Hydra (Myth)
In Greek mythology, the Lernaean Hydra (Greek: Λερναία Ὕδρα) was an ancient nameless serpent-like chthonic water beast (as its name evinces) that possessed nine heads — and for each head cut off it grew two more — and poisonous breath so virulent even her tracks were deadly. The Hydra of Lerna was killed by Heracles as one of his Twelve Labours. Its lair was the lake of Lerna in the Argolid, though archaeology has borne out the myth that the sacred site was older even than the Mycenaean city of Argos since Lerna was the site of the myth of the Danaids. Beneath the waters was an entrance to the Underworld, and the Hydra was its guardian.
After slaying the Nemean lion, Eurystheus sent Heracles to slay the Hydra, which Hera had raised just to slay Heracles. Upon reaching the swamp near Lake Lerna, where the Hydra dwelt, Heracles covered his mouth and nose with a cloth to protect himself from the poisonous fumes. He fired flaming arrows into its lair, the spring of Amymone, a deep cave that it only came out of to terrorize neighboring villages. He then confronted it, wielding a harvesting sickle (according to some early vase-paintings), a sword or his famed club. Ruck and Staples (1994: 170) have pointed out that the chthonic creature's reaction was botanical: upon cutting off each of its heads he found that two grew back, an expression of the hopelessness of such a struggle for any but the hero, Hercules. The weakness of the Hydra was that only one of its heads was immortal.