Norse mythology is the body of myths of the North Germanic peoples, stemming from Norse paganism and continuing after the Christianization of Scandinavia, into the Scandinavian folklore of the modern period. The northernmost extension of Germanic mythology, Norse mythology consists of tales of various deities and heroes derived from numerous sources from both before and after the pagan period, including medieval manuscripts, archaeological representations, folk tradition; the source texts mention numerous gods, such as the hammer-wielding, humanity-protecting thunder-god Thor, who relentlessly fights his foes. Most of the surviving mythology centres on the plights of the gods and their interaction with various other beings, such as humanity and the jötnar, beings who may be friends, foes or family members of the gods; the cosmos in Norse mythology consists of Nine Worlds that flank Yggdrasil. Units of time and elements of the cosmology are personified as beings. Various forms of a creation myth are recounted, where the world is created from the flesh of the primordial being Ymir, the first two humans are Ask and Embla.
These worlds are foretold to be reborn after the events of Ragnarök when an immense battle occurs between the gods and their enemies, the world is enveloped in flames, only to be reborn anew. There the surviving gods will meet, the land will be fertile and green, two humans will repopulate the world. Norse mythology has been the subject of scholarly discourse since the 17th century, when key texts were brought to the attention of the intellectual circles of Europe. By way of comparative mythology and historical linguistics, scholars have identified elements of Germanic mythology reaching as far back as Proto-Indo-European mythology. During the modern period, the Romanticist Viking revival re-awoke an interest in the subject matter, references to Norse mythology may now be found throughout modern popular culture; the myths have further been revived in a religious context among adherents of Germanic Neopaganism. The historical religion of the Norse people is referred to as Norse mythology. In certain literature the terms Scandinavian mythology or Nordic mythology have been used.
Norse mythology is attested in dialects of Old Norse, a North Germanic language spoken by the Scandinavian people during the European Middle Ages, the ancestor of modern Scandinavian languages. The majority of these Old Norse texts were created in Iceland, where the oral tradition stemming from the pre-Christian inhabitants of the island was collected and recorded in manuscripts; this occurred in the 13th century. These texts include the Prose Edda, composed in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, the Poetic Edda, a collection of poems from earlier traditional material anonymously compiled in the 13th century; the Prose Edda was composed as a prose manual for producing skaldic poetry—traditional Old Norse poetry composed by skalds. Composed and transmitted orally, skaldic poetry utilizes alliterative verse and various metrical forms; the Prose Edda presents numerous examples of works by various skalds from before and after the Christianization process and frequently refers back to the poems found in the Poetic Edda.
The Poetic Edda consists entirely of poems, with some prose narrative added, this poetry—Eddic poetry—utilizes fewer kennings. In comparison to skaldic poetry, Eddic poetry is unadorned; the Prose Edda features layers of euhemerization, a process in which deities and supernatural beings are presented as having been either actual, magic-wielding human beings who have been deified in time or beings demonized by way of Christian mythology. Texts such as Heimskringla, composed in the 13th century by Snorri and Gesta Danorum, composed in Latin by Saxo Grammaticus in Denmark in the 12th century, are the results of heavy amounts of euhemerization. Numerous further texts, such as the sagas, provide further information; the saga corpus consists of thousands of tales recorded in Old Norse ranging from Icelandic family histories to Migration period tales mentioning historic figures such as Attila the Hun. Objects and monuments such as the Rök Runestone and the Kvinneby amulet feature runic inscriptions—texts written in the runic alphabet, the indigenous alphabet of the Germanic peoples—that mention figures and events from Norse mythology.
Objects from the archaeological record may be interpreted as depictions of subjects from Norse mythology, such as amulets of the god Thor's hammer Mjölnir found among pagan burials and small silver female figures interpreted as valkyries or dísir, beings associated with war, fate or ancestor cults. By way of historical linguistics and comparative mythology, comparisons to other attested branches of Germanic mythology may lend insight. Wider comparisons to the
In Greek mythology, Scylla was a monster that lived on one side of a narrow channel of water, opposite her counterpart Charybdis. The two sides of the strait were within an arrow's range of each other—so close that sailors attempting to avoid Charybdis would pass dangerously close to Scylla and vice versa. Scylla made her first appearance in Homer's Odyssey, where Odysseus and his crew encounter her and Charybdis on their travels. Myth gave her an origin story as a beautiful nymph who gets turned into a monster; the strait where Scylla dwelled has been associated with the Strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily, for example, as in Book Three of Virgil's Aeneid. The idiom "between Scylla and Charybdis" has come to mean being forced to choose between two dangerous situations; the parentage of Scylla varies according to author. Homer, Apollodorus, a scholiast on Plato, all name Crataeis as the mother of Scylla. Neither Homer nor Ovid mentions a father, but Apollodorus says that the father was either Trienus or Phorcus the Plato scholiast following Apollodorus, gives the father as Tyrrhenus or Phorcus, while Eustathius on Homer, Odyssey 12.85, gives the father as Triton.
Other authors have Hecate as Scylla's mother. The Hesiodic Megalai Ehoiai gives Hecate and Phoebus Apollo as the parents of Scylla, while Acusilaus says that Scylla's parents were Hecate and Phorkys. Trying to reconcile these conflicting accounts, Apollonius of Rhodes says that Crataeis was another name for Hecate, that she and Phorcys were the parents of Scylla. Semos of Delos says that Crataeis was the daughter of Hecate and Triton, mother of Scylla by Deimos. Stesichorus names Lamia as the mother of Scylla the Lamia, the daughter of Poseidon, while according to Hyginus, Scylla was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna. According to John Tzetzes and Servius' commentary on the Aeneid, Scylla was a beautiful naiad, claimed by Poseidon, but the jealous Amphitrite turned her into a monster by poisoning the water of the spring where Scylla would bathe. A similar story is found in Hyginus, according to whom Scylla was loved by Glaucus, but Glaucus himself was loved by the goddess sorceress Circe. While Scylla was bathing in the sea, the jealous Circe poured a baleful potion into the sea water which caused Scylla to transform into a frightful monster with four eyes and six long snaky necks equipped with grisly heads, each of which contained three rows of sharp shark's teeth.
Her body consisted of 12 tentacle-like legs and a cat's tail, while six dog's heads ringed her waist. In this form, she attacked the ships of passing sailors, seizing one of the crew with each of her heads. In a late Greek myth, recorded in Eustathius' commentary on Homer and John Tzetzes, Heracles encountered Scylla during a journey to Sicily and slew her, her father, the sea-god Phorcys applied flaming torches to her body and restored her to life. In Homer's Odyssey XII, Odysseus is advised by Circe to sail closer to Scylla, for Charybdis could drown his whole ship: "Hug Scylla's crag—sail on past her—top speed! Better by far to lose six men and keep your ship than lose your entire crew." She tells Odysseus to ask Scylla's mother, the river nymph Crataeis, to prevent Scylla from pouncing more than once. Odysseus navigates the strait, but when he and his crew are momentarily distracted by Charybdis, Scylla snatches six sailors off the deck and devours them alive. According to Ovid, the fisherman-turned-sea god Glaucus falls in love with the beautiful Scylla, but she is repulsed by his piscine form and flees to a promontory where he cannot follow.
When Glaucus goes to Circe to request a love potion that will win Scylla's affections, the enchantress herself becomes enamored with him. Meeting with no success, Circe becomes hatefully jealous of her rival and therefore prepares a vial of poison and pours it into the sea pool where Scylla bathed, transforming her into a thing of terror to herself; the story was adapted into a five-act tragic opera, Scylla et Glaucus, by the French composer Jean-Marie Leclair. In John Keats' loose retelling of Ovid's version of the myth of Scylla and Glaucus in Book 3 of Endymion, the evil Circe does not transform Scylla into a monster but murders the beautiful nymph. Glaucus takes her corpse to a crystal palace at the bottom of the ocean where lie the bodies of all lovers who have died at sea. After a thousand years, she is reunited with Glaucus. At the Carolingian abbey of Corvey in Westphalia, a unique ninth-century wall painting depicts, among other things, Odysseus' fight with Scylla, an illustration not noted elsewhere in medieval arts.
In the Renaissance and after, it was the story of Glaucus and Scylla that caught the imagination of painters across Europe. In Agostino Carracci's 1597 fresco cycle of The Loves of the Gods in the Farnese Gallery, the two are shown embracing, a conjunction, not sanctioned by the myth. More orthodox versions show the maiden scrambling away from the amorous arms of the god, as in the oil on copper painting of Fillipo Lauri and the oil on canvas by Salvator Rosa in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen. Other painters picture them divided by their respective elements of land and water, as in the paintings of the Flemish Bartholomäus Spranger, now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; some add the detail of Cupid aiming at the sea-god with his bow, as in the painting of Laurent de la Hyre in the J. Paul Getty Museum and that of Jacques Dumont le Romain at the Musée des beaux-arts de Troyes. Two cupids can be seen flutt
Olaus Magnus was a Swedish writer and Catholic ecclesiastic. Olaus Magnus was born in Skänninge in October 1490. Like his elder brother, Sweden's last Catholic archbishop Johannes Magnus, he obtained several ecclesiastical preferments, among them a canonry at Uppsala and Linköping, the archdeaconry of Strängnäs, he was furthermore employed on various diplomatic services after his mission to Rome in 1524, on behalf of Gustav I of Sweden, to procure the appointment of Olaus Magnus' brother Johannes Magnus as archbishop of Uppsala. He remained abroad dealing with foreign affairs and is known to have sent home a document that contained agreed trade-relations with the Netherlands. With the success of the reformation in Sweden, his attachment to the Catholic church led him to stay abroad for good where he accompanied his brother in Poland, they were both exiled and Magnus' Swedish belongings were confiscated in 1530. Settling in Rome in 1537, he acted as his brother's secretary. At the death of his brother Johannes in 1544, Pope Paul III issued him as Johannes's successor as Archbishop of Uppsala.
In 1545, Pope Paul III sent him to the council of Trent where he attended meetings until 1549. He became canon of St. Lambert's Cathedral in Liège. King Sigismund I of Poland offered him a canonry at Poznań and he spent the remainder of his life with the monastery of St. Brigitta in Rome, where he subsisted on a pension assigned him by the Pope, he died on 1 August 1557 at the age of about 67. His original Swedish name was Olof Månsson, he is best remembered as the author of the famous Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus, printed in Rome 1555, a patriotic work of folklore and history which long remained for the rest of Europe the authority on Swedish matters. This text on dark winters, violent currents and beasts of the sea amazed the rest of Europe, it was translated into Italian, German and Dutch, not until 1909 into Swedish. Abridgments of the work appeared at Antwerp, Amsterdam and Leiden, it is still today a valuable repertory of much curious information in regard to Scandinavian customs and folklore.
A translation of the Latin title page goes: "Olaus Magnus Gothus', the Upsala Archbishops', history of the Nordic people's different manners and camps about the wonderful differences in customs, holy practices, bodily exercises and food keeping. Olaus had earlier written Carta marina et Descriptio septemtrionalium terrarum ac mirabilium rerum in eis contentarum, diligentissime elaborata Anno Domini 1539 Veneciis liberalitate Reverendissimi Domini Ieronimi Quirini, which translates as "A Marine map and Description of the Northern Lands and of their Marvels, most drawn up at Venice in the year 1539 through the generous assistance of the Most Honourable Lord and Patriarch Hieronymo Quirino"; the Italian title translates to "A little book, that more explains a map of the Nordic cold, beyond the Germanic sea located country, which presents its peculiar, priorly known neither to Greeks or Latins, wonders of nature." It included a map of Northern Europe with a map of Scandinavia, rediscovered by Oscar Brenner in 1886 in the München state library and shown to be the most accurate depiction of its time.
The map is referred to as "carta marina", consists of 9 parts, is remarkably large: 125 cm tall and 170 cm wide. Following the death of his brother, he let historical works that the brother had written be published. Present day oceanographers rediscovered Olaus Magnus' eye for detail and a series of scientific publications followed on Olaus' truthful depiction of currents between Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Drømmen om hjemlandet The dream about the country of origin This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed.. "Olaus Magnus". Encyclopædia Britannica. Cambridge University Press. Carta Marina James Bell Ford Library, Minnesota Carta Marina satellite images The Plymouth Marine Laboratory Remote Sensing Group webpage on correllations with current oceanography. Otto Hartig. "Olaus Magnus". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company
Chaos refers to the void state preceding the creation of the universe or cosmos in the Greek creation myths, or to the initial "gap" created by the original separation of heaven and earth. Greek χάος means "emptiness, vast void, abyss", from the verb χαίνω, "gape, be wide open, etc.", from Proto-Indo-European *ǵheh2n-, cognate to Old English geanian, "to gape", whence English yawn. It may mean space, the expanse of air, the nether abyss or infinite darkness. Pherecydes of Syros interprets chaos like something formless which can be differentiated. Hesiod and the Pre-Socratics use the Greek term in the context of cosmogony. Hesiod's chaos has been interpreted as either "the gaping void above the Earth created when Earth and Sky are separated from their primordial unity" or "the gaping space below the Earth on which Earth rests". In Hesiod's Theogony, Chaos was the first thing to exist: "at first Chaos came to be" but next came Gaia and Eros. Unambiguously "born" from Chaos were Nyx. For Hesiod, like Tartarus, though personified enough to have borne children, was a place, far away, underground and "gloomy", beyond which lived the Titans.
And, like the earth, the ocean, the upper air, it was capable of being affected by Zeus' thunderbolts. Passages in Hesiod's Theogony suggest that Chaos was located above Tartarus. Primal Chaos was sometimes said to be the true foundation of reality by philosophers such as Heraclitus; the notion of the temporal infinity was familiar to the Greek mind from remote antiquity in the religious conception of immortality. This idea of the divine as an origin influenced the first Greek philosophers; the main object of the first efforts to explain the world remained the description of its growth, from a beginning. They believed that the world arose out from a primal unity, that this substance was the permanent base of all its being. Anaximander claims that the origin is apeiron, a divine and perpetual substance less definite than the common elements. Everything is generated from apeiron, must return there according to necessity. A conception of the nature of the world was that the earth below its surface stretches down indefinitely and has its roots on or above Tartarus, the lower part of the underworld.
In a phrase of Xenophanes, "The upper limit of the earth borders near our feet. The lower limit reaches down to the "apeiron"." The sources and limits of the earth, the sea, the sky and all things are located in a great windy-gap, which seems to be infinite, is a specification of "chaos". In Aristophanes's comedy Birds, first there was Chaos, Night and Tartarus, from Night came Eros, from Eros and Chaos came the race of birds. At the beginning there was only Chaos, dark Erebus, deep Tartarus. Earth, the air and heaven had no existence. Firstly, blackwinged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebus, from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Eros with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest, he mated in deep Tartarus with dark Chaos, winged like himself, thus hatched forth our race, the first to see the light. That of the Immortals did not exist until Eros had brought together all the ingredients of the world, from their marriage Heaven, Ocean and the imperishable race of blessed gods sprang into being.
Thus our origin is much older than that of the dwellers in Olympus. We are the offspring of Eros. We have wings and we lend assistance to lovers. How many handsome youths, who had sworn to remain insensible, have opened their thighs because of our power and have yielded themselves to their lovers when at the end of their youth, being led away by the gift of a quail, a waterfowl, a goose, or a cock. For Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, Chaos was an unformed mass, where all the elements were jumbled up together in a "shapeless heap". Ante mare et terras et quod tegit omnia caelum unus erat toto naturae vultus in orbe, quem dixere chaos: rudis indigestaque moles nec quicquam nisi pondus iners congestaque eodem non bene iunctarum discordia semina rerum. Before the ocean and the earth appeared— before the skies had overspread them all— the face of Nature in a vast expanse was naught but Chaos uniformly waste, it was a undeveloped mass, that nothing made except a ponderous weight. According to Hyginus: "From Mist came Chaos.
From Chaos and Mist, came Night, Day and Ether." An Orphic tradition had Chaos as the son of Chronus and Ananke. Fifth-century Orphic cosmogony had a "Womb of Darkness" in which the Wind lay a Cosmic Egg whence Eros was hatched, who set the universe in motion; the motif of Chaoskampf is ubiquitous in myth and legend, depicting a battle of a culture hero deity with a chaos monster in the shape of a serpent or dragon. The same term has been extended to parallel concepts in the Middle East and North Africa, such as the abstract conflict of ideas in the Egyptian duality of Maat and Isfet or the battle of Horus and Set; the origins of the Chaoskampf myth most lie in the Proto-Indo-European religion whose descendants all feature some variation of the story of a storm god fighting a sea serpent representing the clash between the forces of order and chaos. Early work by German academics such as Gunkel and Bousset in comparative mythology popularized translating
Posidonius "of Apameia" or "of Rhodes", was a Greek Stoic philosopher, astronomer, geographer and teacher native to Apamea, Syria. He was acclaimed as the greatest polymath of his age, his vast body of work exists today only in fragments. Writers such as Strabo and Seneca provide most of the information, from history, about his life. Posidonius, nicknamed "the Athlete", was born to a Greek family in Apamea, a Hellenistic city on the river Orontes in northern Syria. Posidonius completed his higher education in Athens, where he was a student of the aged Panaetius, the head of the Stoic school, but soon he came in conflict with the Stoic doctrines and was involved in heated debates with many other Stoic philosophers of the school. The incidents concerning Posidonius's conflict and final break up with the Stoics are mentioned by Galen in his book On the Doctrines of Plato and Hippocrates. Posidonius gave up Stoicism and turned to a different philosophical direction, this of Plato but of Aristotle, remaining a faithful follower of Aristotelian doctrines until his death.
He settled around 95 BCE in Rhodes, a maritime state which had a reputation for scientific research, became a citizen. In Rhodes, Posidonius took part in political life, his high standing is apparent from the offices he held, he attained the highest public office as one of the Prytaneis of Rhodes. He served as an ambassador during the Marian and Sullan era. Along with other Greek intellectuals, Posidonius favored Rome as the stabilizing power in a turbulent world, his connections to the Roman ruling class were for him not only politically important and sensible but were important to his scientific research. His entry into government provided Posidonius with powerful connections to facilitate his travels to far away places beyond Roman control. After he had established himself in Rhodes, Posidonius made one or more journeys traveling throughout the Roman world and beyond its boundaries to conduct scientific research, he traveled in Greece, Italy, Dalmatia, Liguria, North Africa, on the eastern shores of the Adriatic.
In Hispania, on the Atlantic coast at Gades, Posidonius could observe tides much higher than in his native Mediterranean. He wrote that daily tides are related to the Moon's orbit, while tidal heights vary with the cycles of the Moon, he hypothesized about yearly tidal cycles synchronized with the equinoxes and solstices. In Gaul, he studied the Celts, he left vivid descriptions of things he saw with his own eyes while among them: men who were paid to allow their throats to be slit for public amusement and the nailing of skulls as trophies to the doorways. But he noted that the Celts honored the Druids, whom Posidonius saw as philosophers, concluded that among the barbaric, "pride and passion give way to wisdom, Ares stands in awe of the Muses." He wrote a geographic treatise on the lands of the Celts which has since been lost, but, referred to extensively in the works of Diodorus of Sicily, Strabo and Tacitus' Germania. Posidonius's extensive writings and lectures gave him authority as a scholar and made him famous everywhere in the Graeco-Roman world, a school grew around him in Rhodes.
His grandson Jason, the son of his daughter and Menekrates of Nysa, followed in his footsteps and continued Posidonius's school in Rhodes. Although little is known of the organization of his school, it is clear that Posidonius had a steady stream of Greek and Roman students. Posidonius was celebrated as a polymath throughout the Graeco-Roman world because he came near to mastering all the knowledge of his time, similar to Aristotle and Eratosthenes, he attempted to create a unified system for understanding the human intellect and the universe which would provide an explanation of and a guide for human behavior. Posidonius wrote on physics, astronomy and divination, seismology and mineralogy, botany, logic, history, natural history and tactics, his studies were major investigations into their subjects. Wilhelm Capelle, traced most of the doctrines of De Mundo, to Poseidonius, a popular philosophic treatise based on two works of Poseidonius. None of his works survive intact. All that have been found are fragments, although the titles and subjects of many of his books are known.
For Posidonius, philosophy was the dominant master art and all the individual sciences were subordinate to philosophy, which alone could explain the cosmos. All his works, from scientific to historical, were inseparably philosophical, he accepted the Stoic categorization of philosophy into physics and ethics. These three categories for him were, in Stoic fashion and interdependent parts of an organic, natural whole, he compared them to a living being, with physics the meat and blood, logic the bones and tendons holding the organism together, ethics – the most important part – corresponding to the soul. His philosophical grand vision was that the universe itself was interconnected, as if an organism, through cosmic "sympathy", in all respects from the development of the physical world to the history of humanity. Although a firm Stoic, Posidonius was, like Panaetius and other Stoics of the middle period, eclectic, he followed not only the older Stoics, but Plato and Aristotle. Although it is not certain, Posidonius
Midgard is the name for Earth inhabited by and known to humans in early Germanic cosmology, one of the Nine Worlds in Norse mythology. This name occurs in Old Norse literature as Miðgarðr. In Old Saxon Heliand it appears as Middilgard and in Old High German poem Muspilli it appears as Mittilagart; the Gothic form Midjungards is attested in the Gospel of Luke as a translation of the Greek word οἰκουμένη. The word is present in Old English poetry as Middangeard. All these forms are from a Common Germanic *midja-gardaz, a compound of *midja- "middle" and *gardaz "yard, enclosure". In early Germanic cosmology, the term stands alongside world, from a Common Germanic compound *wira-alđiz, the "age of men". Midgard is a realm in Norse mythology, it is one of the Nine Worlds and the only, visible to mankind. Pictured as placed somewhere in the middle of Yggdrasil, Midgard is between the land of Niflheim—the land of ice—to the north and Muspelheim—the land of fire—to the south. Midgard is surrounded by a world of water, or ocean, impassable.
The ocean is inhabited by the great sea serpent Jörmungandr, so huge that he encircles the world grasping his own tail. The concept is similar to that of the Ouroboros. Midgard was connected to Asgard, the home of the gods, by the Bifröst, the rainbow bridge, guarded by Heimdallr. In Norse mythology, Miðgarðr became applied to the wall around the world that the gods constructed from the eyebrows of the giant Ymir as a defense against the Jotuns who lived in Jotunheim, east of Manheimr, the "home of men", a word used to refer to the entire world; the gods slew the giant Ymir, the first created being, put his body into the central void of the universe, creating the world out of his body: his flesh constituting the land, his blood the oceans, his bones the mountains, his teeth the cliffs, his hairs the trees, his brains the clouds. Aurgelmir's skull was held by four dwarfs, Sudri and Vestri, who represent the four points on the compass and became the dome of heaven; the sun and stars were said to be scattered sparks in the skull.
According to the Eddas, Midgard will be destroyed at the battle at the end of the world. Jörmungandr will arise from the ocean, poisoning the land and sea with his venom and causing the sea to rear up and lash against the land; the final battle will take place on the plane of Vígríðr, following which Midgard and all life on it will be destroyed, with the earth sinking into the sea only to rise again and green when the cycle repeats and the creation begins again. Although most surviving instances of the word Midgard refer to spiritual matters, it was used in more mundane situations, as in the Viking Age runestone poem from the inscription Sö 56 from Fyrby: The Danish and Swedish form Midgård or Midgaard, the Norwegian Midgard or Midgård, as well as the Icelandic and Faroese form Miðgarður, all derive from the Old Norse term; the name middangeard occurs six times in the Old English epic poem Beowulf, is the same word as Midgard in Old Norse. The term is equivalent in meaning to the Greek term Oikoumene, as referring to the known and inhabited world.
The concept of Midgard occurs many times in Middle English. The association with earth in Middle English middellærd, middelerde is by popular etymology. An early example of this transformation is from the Ormulum: þatt ure Drihhtin wollde / ben borenn i þiss middellærdthat our Lord wanted / be born in this Middle-earth; the usage of "Middle-earth" as a name for a setting was popularized by Old English scholar J. R. R. Tolkien in his The Lord of the Rings and other fantasy works. Mittilagart is mentioned in the 9th-century Old High German Muspilli meaning "the world" as opposed to the sea and the heavens: muor varsuuilhit sih, suilizot lougiu der himil, mano uallit, prinnit mittilagartSea is swallowed, flaming burn the heavens, Moon falls, Midgard burns
The Lernaean Hydra or Hydra of Lerna, more known as the Hydra, is a serpentine water monster in Greek and Roman mythology. Its lair was the lake of Lerna in the Argolid, the site of the myth of the Danaïdes. Lerna was reputed to be an entrance to the Underworld, archaeology has established it as a sacred site older than Mycenaean Argos. In the canonical Hydra myth, the monster is killed by Heracles as the second of his Twelve Labors. According to Hesiod, the Hydra was the offspring of Echidna, it had poisonous breath and blood so virulent that its scent was deadly. The Hydra possessed the exact number of which varies according to the source. Versions of the Hydra story add a regeneration feature to the monster: for every head chopped off, the Hydra would regrow two heads. Heracles required the assistance of his cousin Iolaus to cut off all of the monster's heads and burn the neck using sword and fire; the oldest extant Hydra narrative appears in Hesiod's Theogony, while the oldest images of the monster are found on a pair of bronze fibulae dating to c. 700 BCE.
In both these sources, the main motifs of the Hydra myth are present: a multi-headed serpent, slain by Heracles and Iolaus. While these fibulae portray a six-headed Hydra, its number of heads was first fixed in writing by Alcaeus, who gave it nine heads. Simonides, writing a century increased the number to fifty, while Euripides and others did not give an exact figure. Heraclitus the paradoxographer rationalized the myth by suggesting that the Hydra would have been a single-headed snake accompanied by its offspring. Like the initial number of heads, the monster's capacity to regenerate lost heads varies with time and author; the first mention of this ability of the Hydra occurs with Euripides, where the monster grew back a pair of heads for each one severed by Heracles. In the Euthydemus of Plato, Socrates likens Euthydemus and his brother Dionysidorus to a Hydra of a sophistical nature who grows two arguments for every one refuted. Palaephatus and Diodorus Siculus concur with Euripides, while Servius has the Hydra grow back three heads each time.
Depictions of the monster dating to c. 500 BCE show it with a double tail as well as multiple heads, suggesting the same regenerative ability at work, but no literary accounts have this feature. The Hydra had many parallels in ancient Near Eastern religions. In particular, Sumerian and Assyrian mythology celebrated the deeds of the war and hunting god Ninurta, whom the Angim credited with slaying 11 monsters on an expedition to the mountains, including a seven-headed serpent and Bashmu, whose constellation was associated by the Greeks with the Hydra; the constellation is sometimes associated in Babylonian contexts with Marduk's dragon, the Mushhushshu. Eurystheus sent Heracles to slay the Hydra. 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 shot flaming arrows into the Hydra's lair, the spring of Amymone, a deep cave from which it emerged only to terrorize neighboring villages. He confronted the Hydra, wielding either a harvesting sickle, a sword, or his famed club.
The chthonic creature's reaction to this decapitation was botanical: two grew back, an expression of the hopelessness of such a struggle for any but the hero. The weakness of the Hydra was; the details of the struggle are explicit in the Bibliotheca: realizing that he could not defeat the Hydra in this way, Heracles called on his nephew Iolaus for help. His nephew came upon the idea of using a firebrand to scorch the neck stumps after each decapitation. Heracles cut off each head and Iolaus cauterized the open stumps. Seeing that Heracles was winning the struggle, Hera sent a giant crab to distract him, he crushed it under his mighty foot. The Hydra's one immortal head was cut off with a golden sword given to Heracles by Athena. Heracles placed the head—still alive and writhing—under a great rock on the sacred way between Lerna and Elaius, dipped his arrows in the Hydra's poisonous blood, thus his second task was complete. The alternate version of this myth is that after cutting off one head he dipped his sword in its neck and used its venom to burn each head so it could not grow back.
Hera, upset that Heracles had slain the beast she raised to kill him, placed it in the dark blue vault of the sky as the constellation Hydra. She turned the crab into the constellation Cancer. Heracles would use arrows dipped in the Hydra's poisonous blood to kill other foes during his remaining labors, such as Stymphalian Birds and the giant Geryon, he used one to kill the centaur Nessus. Both Strabo and Pausanias report that the stench of the river Anigrus in Elis, making all the fish of the river inedible, was reputed to be due to the Hydra's poison, washed from the arrows Heracles used on the centaur; when Eurystheus, the agent of Hera, assigning The Twelve Labors to Heracles, found out that it was Heracles' nephew Iolaus who had handed Heracles the firebrand, he declared that the labor had not been completed alone and as a result did not count towards the 10 labors set for him. The mythic element is an equivocating attempt to resolve the submerged conflict between an ancient ten labors and a more recent twelve.