BRIAREOS (Briareus) was one of the Hekantonkheires (Hecatoncheires), three primordial hundred-handed, fifty-headed storm giants. He was more specifically a god of sea-storms and in this guise he was often named Aigaion (Of the Aegean). Briareos wed Poseidon's daughter Kymopoleia ("Wave-Ranging") and dwelt with her in the depths of the sea. His two brothers, on the other hand, were appointed guardians of the gates of the storm-pit Tartaros. Briareos' name was derived from the Greek word briaros meaning "stout" or "strong."
FAMILY OF BRIAREUS
AEGAEON (Aigaiôn), a son of Uranus by Gaea. Aegaeon and his brothers Gyges and Cottus are known under the name of the Uranids (Hes. Theog. 502, &c.), and are described as huge monsters with a hundred arms (hekatoncheires) and fifty heads. (Apollod. i. 1. § 1; Hes. Theog. 149, &c.) Most writers mention the third Uranid under the name of Briareus instead of Aegaeon, which is explained in a passage of Homer (Il. i. 403, §c.), who says that men called him Aegaeon, but the gods Briareus. On one occasion when the Olympian gods were about to put Zeus in chains, Thetis called in the assistance of Aegaeon, who compelled the gods to desist from their intention. (Hom. Il. i. 398, &c.) According to Hesiod (Theog. 154, &c. 617, &c.), Aegaeon and his brothers were hated by Uranus from the time of their birth, in consequence of which they were concealed in the depth of the earth, where they remained until the Titans began their war against Zeus. On the advice of Gaea Zeus delivered the Uranids from their prison, that they might assist him. The hundred-armed giants conquered the Titans by hurling at them three hundred rocks at once, and secured the victory to Zeus, who thrust the Titans into Tartarus and placed the Hecatoncheires at its gates, or, according to others, in the depth of the ocean to guard them. (Hes. Theog. 617, &c. 815, &c.) According to a legend in Pansanias (ii. 1. § 6, ii. 4. § 7), Briareus was chosen as arbitrator in the dispute between Poseidon and Helios, and adjudged the Isthmus to the former and the Acrocorinthus to the latter. The Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius (i. 1165) represents Aegaeon as a son of Gaea and Pontus and as living as a marine god in the Aegean sea. Ovid (Met. ii. 10) and Philostratus (Vit. Apollon. iv. 6) like-wise regard him as a marine god, while Virgil (Aen. x. 565) reckons him among the giants who stormed Olympus, and Callimachus (Hymn. in Del. 141, &c.), regarding him in the same light, places him under mount Aetna. The Scholiast on Theocritus (Idyll. i. 65) calls Briareus one of the Cyclops. The opinion which regards Aegaeon and his brothers as only personifications of the extraordinary powers of nature, such as are manifested in the violent commotions of the earth, as earth-quakes, volcanic eruptions and the like, seems to explain best the various accounts about them.
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
Strong, Stout (briaros)
Aegean Sea, Goatish, Stormy*
* Aigaion is the Greek name for the Aegean Sea. It was derived from the aigis, a word meaning both "stormy" and "goatish." The rising of the heaveny goat Aigokeros (Capricorn) in conjuction with Altar--the constellation of the Kyklopes (Cyclops)--was believed to herald the stormy season of late-autumn, early-winter.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Homer, Iliad 1. 397 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"You [Thetis] said you only among the immortals beat aside shameful destruction from Kronos’ (Cronus') son [Zeus] the dark-misted, that time when all the other Olympian gods sought to bind him, Hera and Poseidon and Pallas Athene. Then you, goddess, went and set him free from his shackles, summoning in speed the creature of the hundred hands to tall Olympos, that creature the gods name Briareos, but all men Aigaion (Aegaeon) (Son of Aigaios), but he is far greater in strength than his father. He rejoicing in the glory of it sat down by Kronion (Cronion) [Zeus], and the rest of the blessed gods were frightened and gave up binding him."
Hesiod, Theogony 147 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Three other sons [Hekatonkheires (Hecatoncheires) were born of Gaia (Gaea, the Earth) and Ouranos (Uranus, the Sky), great and doughty beyond telling, Kottos (Cottus) and Briareos (Briareus) and Gyes, presumptuous children. From their shoulders sprang a hundred arms (hekatonkheires), not to be approached, and each had fifty heads upon his shoulders on their strong limbs, and irresistible was the stubborn strength that was in their great forms."
Hesiod, Theogony 817 ff :
"But the glorious allies of loud-crashing Zeus [the Hekatonkheires (Hecatoncheires)] have their dwelling upon Okeanos' (Oceanus') foundations, namely Kottos (Cottus) and Gyes; but Briareos (Briareus), being goodly, the deep-roaring Earth-Shaker [Poseidon] made his son-in-law, giving him Kymopoliea (Cymopoleia, Wave-Roaming) his daughter to wed."
Ion of Chios, Frag 741 (from Scholiast on Apollonius of Rhodes) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (C5th B.C.) :
"Ion says in a dithyramb that Aigaion (Aegaeon) was summoned from the ocean by Thetis and taken up to protect Zeus, and that he was the son of Thalassa (Sea)."
Plato, Laws 795c (trans. Bury) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"[In a metaphor employed by Plato :] If a man were gifted by nature with the frame of a Geryon or a Briareus, with his hundred hands, he ought to be able to throw a hundred darts."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 1. 1165 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"Within sight of the mouth of the [river] Rhyndakos (Rhyndacus) and the great barrow of Aigaion (Aegaeon) [on the Mysian coast], not far from Phrygia.”
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 1. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The Korinthians (Corinthians) say that Poseidon had a dispute with Helios (the Sun) about the land, and that Briareos (Briareus) arbitrated between them, assigning to Poseidon the Isthmos (Isthmus) and the parts adjoining, and giving to Helios the height above the city."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 4. 5 :
"The Akrokorinthos [Acropolis of Corinth] is a mountain peak above the city, assigned to Helios (the Sun) by Briareos (Briareus) when he acted as adjudicator [i.e. between Helios and Poseidon for dominion over the land of Korinthos]."
Aelian, Historical Miscellany 5. 3 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"Aristotle says that before the pillars of Herakles were so called they were known as the pillars of Briareos (Briareus). But when Herakles purified both land and sea and became indisputably the benefactor of mankind, men honoured him, named the pillars after Herakles and ceased to honour the memory of Briareos." [N.B. The pillars of Herakles guarded the western entrance to the Mediterranean.]
Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 6 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"In the waves the Sea Gods (Di Caerulei) dwelt, Aegaeon, his huge arms entwined around the backs of giant whales, ambiguous Proteus, Triton with his horn."
Virgil, Aeneid 6. 287 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"Many monstrous forms besides of various beasts are stalled at the doors [of Haides], Centauri (Centaurs) and double-shaped Scyllae, and the hundredfold Briareus, and the beast of Lerna [the Hydra], hissing horribly, and the Chimaera (Chimera) armed with flame, Gorgones and Harpyiae (Harpies), and the shape of the three-bodied shade [Geryon]."
Statius, Achilleid 1. 209 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"She [Thetis] was sent to follow Aegaeon freed [Zeus] from his stubborn bonds and to count the hundred fetters of the god."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 43. 361 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"O Lord Zeus! If thou hast gratitude for Thetis and the ready hands of Briareos (Briareus), if thou hast not forgot Aigaion (Aegaeon) the protector of thy laws."
For the MYTH of the imprisonment of Briareos and his brothers see THE HEKATONKHEIRES
- Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Hesiod, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- Epic Cycle, Titanomachia Fragments - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Plato, Laws - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica - Greek Epic C3rd B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Aelian, Historical Miscellany - Greek Rhetoric C2nd - 3rd A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Virgil, Aeneid - Latin Epic C1st B.C.
- Statius, Achilleid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.