Greek Mythology >> Bestiary >> Legendary Creatures >> Indian Cetea (Ketea Indikoi)


Greek Name

Κετος Ινδικος
Κετεα Ινδικοι


Ketos Indikos
Ketea Indikoi

Latin Spelling

Cetus Indicus
Cetea Indici


Indian Sea-Monster
Indian Sea-Monsters

Cetus Monster | Der Naturen Bloeme manuscript (1350) | National Library of the Netherlands
Cetus Monster, Der Naturen Bloeme manuscript (1350), National Library of the Netherlands

THE KETEA INDIKOI (Indian Cetea) were fabulous, multi-formed sea-monsters believed to inhabit the Indian Ocean. They had the foreparts of land animals--such as lions, leopards, rams and wolves--and the serpentine tails of fish.

The Ketea also included a breed of mermaid-like creatures with the heads of women, the tails of fish, and sharp spines for hair.

The Ketea were closely related to the Hippokampoi (Fish-Tailed Horses) and Tritones of Greek myth.


Aelian, On Animals 16. 18 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd A.D.) :
"Those [the Indians of Taprobane, perhaps modern-day Sri Lanka)] that live near to the sea . . . devote themselves to catching fish and sea-monsters (ketea). For they assert that the sea which surrounds the circuit of their island breeds a multitude past numbering of fishes and monsters, and moreover that they have the heads of lions and leopards and wolves and rams, and, still more wonderful to relate, that there are some which have the forms of Satyroi (Satyrs) with the faces of women, and these have spines attached in place of hair. They tell of others too which have strange forms whose appearance not even men skilled in painting and in combining bodies of diverse shapes to make one marvel at the sight, could portray with accuracy or represent for all of their artistic skill; for these creatures have immense and coiling tails, while for feet they have claws or fins. I learn too that they are amphibious and that at night they graze the fields, for they eat the grass as cattle and rooks do; they enjoy the ripe fruit of the date-palm and therefore shake the trees with their coils, which being supple and capable of embracing, they fling round them. So when the shower of dates has fallen because of this violent shaking, they feed upon it. And then as the night wanes and before it is clear daylight these creatures plunge into the ocean and disappear as the dawn begins to glow."




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