If you were to take a list of heroes in Greek mythology, there is a good chance each hero on your list battled a dangerous monster in his story. Without these dangerous monsters of Greek mythology, these heroes may have never been heroes at all. So while the heroes get the recognition, they may not be known if not for their monstrous opponent.
In his story, Perseus is the Greek hero who beheaded the Gorgon Medusa. Medusa was one of three sisters, and she was actually born with great beauty. She was so beautiful that Poseidon was enamored by her beauty and impregnated her inside Athena’s temple. To punish her, Athena transformed Medusa into a hideous monster with snakes for hair and cursed anyone who looked into Medusa’s eyes to be turned to stone. Because of Medusa’s ability to turn anyone to stone who looked into her eyes, Perseus had to be extremely careful when attempting to behead her. Greek goddess Athena had given Perseus a polished shield that he used as a mirror to sneak up on Medusa and behead her.
In the underworld with Hades is the three-headed dog Cerberus. Not only did Cerberus keep Hades company, he also had an important job of guarding the entrance to the underworld to make sure that no souls left and that no one entered to steal souls.
During the final of the 12 Labors of Hercules, Hercules has to steal the Cerberus dog from the underworld. There are two versions of Hercules stealing Cerberus from the underworld. One version says that Hercules asked Hades if he could take Cerberus to which Hades replied yes, on one condition: he must command Cerberus to come with him without using any of his iron weapons. In this version, Hercules uses the lion skin as a shield and replaces the iron arrows with stone.
Hades does not allow Hercules to use these alternative weapons to take Cerberus, so Hercules shoots Hades with his stone arrow. Hercules then takes his wooden club and uses it against Cerberus to seize him.
The other version of Hercules stealing Cerberus includes Persephone, Hades’s wife and queen of the underworld, assisting Hercules in this labor. The myth describes Persephone welcoming Hercules to the underworld and handing Cerberus to Hercules in chains.
Polyphemus, the Giant Cyclops
One of the greatest heroes in Greek mythology is Odysseus. Odysseus was King of Ithaca and led the Greek soldiers into the victorious battle at Troy during the Trojan War. Once Odysseus and his men began their journey home, they were swept to various islands and encountered many monsters. One of the most dangerous monsters that Odysseus and his men encountered was Polyphemus, the giant cyclops.
Polyphemus lived in a cave on the island of the cyclops. When their ship came ashore on the island, Odysseus and his men disembarked and ventured throughout the island. They came upon a cave and took shelter, enjoying food and drink before falling asleep. When Polyphemus returned to his cave, he found Odysseus and his men had made themselves at home.
Polyphemus was infuriated and smashed in the heads of two of Odysseus’s men before eating them. Odysseus and his men could not overpower the giant cyclops, even if they banded together, for Polyphemus was too big and too strong.
Odysseus would have to outsmart the giant cyclops if he wanted to survive; therefore, while Polyphemus was out of the cave for the day, Odysseus and his men took a large log from a tree and sharpened at one end of it into a sharp spear. Then, when Polyphemus returned that night, Odysseus and his men offered him wine. Polyphemus had never drunk wine before so he became intoxicated and quickly fell asleep. While Polyphemus slept, Odysseus and his men grabbed their newly whittled weapon and heated the sharpened spear over the fire. Once it was hot, Odysseus and his men pierced the eye of the cyclops, blinding him. Odysseus and his men were able to escape underneath the bellies of the herd of sheep Polyphemus released from his cave every morning.