Zeus and Typhon. Detail from Chalcidian black-figure hydria c. 540-530 BC. Munich, Antikensammlungen 596 © Antikensammlungen, Munich

TYPHON (gr. Typhṓn)

in Greek mythology son of ➚ Gaia and ➚ Tartarus, feathered and hairy monster, anthropomorphic above the waist, having serpent coils in place of legs. With his head reaching the stars, Typhon could touch east with one hand and west with another, both ending with hundred dragon heads. Acc. another version the beast was a parthenogenetic child of ➚ Hera, who conceived and bore him thank to the prayer to Gaia and the ➚ Titans, after ➚ Zeus gave birth to ➚ Athena by himself [1]. From the Typhon’s relationship with ➚ Echidna (1) multiple monstrous offspring were conceived.

Typhon hurled flaming rocks into the sky while breathing firestorms. Terrified with his appearance and power gods escaped to Egypt and transformed into animals (attempt to explain zoomorphism of the Egyptian gods, compare [2]). Only Zeus stood to fight, striking the monster with thunderbolts and wounding it with sickle, the old weapon of ➚ Cronus. Typhon disarmed the god and tore away the sinews from his arms and legs. Then he wrapped the trophy in a bear skin and hid it together with the crippled Olympian inside some Cilician cave, leaving them under the guard of ➚ Delphyne (1). ➚ Hermes and Aegipan (i.e. ➚ Pan) stole the divine sinews and returned them to Zeus. Driving the chariot drawn by winged horses, the god charged Typhon again and chased him as far as Mount Nysa. There the ➚ Moirae managed to trick the monster into tasting the one day lasting fruits (probably from the toxic plant called ephḗmeron) [3], which deprived him of power. The final battle took place near a Thracian mountain range, which got covered with Typhon’s blood, thus getting the name Haemus Mons (from gr. haĩma “blood”). Beaten, the monster took flight across the Sicilian Sea, where Zeus crushed him with Mount Etna [4]. Acc. to another versions Zeus incinerated Typhon with lightnings before throwing Etna at him [5,6] or cast him into Tartarus [7].

Name Typhṓn is etymologically connected with the name of the Mount Sapan in Northern Syria, which points at the oriental origin of some elements of the myth.


[1] H o m. h., II, 154 ff.; [2] L u c., De sacr., 14; [3] T h e o p h r., Hist. pl., IX, 16, 6; [4] A p d., I, 6, 3; [5] A e s c h y l., Prom., 390 ff.; [6] O v i d., Met., V, 346 ff.; [7] H e s., Theog., 837 ff.

S e i p p e l, Der Typhonmythos, Greifswald 1939; F. W o r m s, Der Typhoeus-Kampf in Hesiods Theogonie, “Hermes” 81, 1953; F.  V i a n, Le mythe de Typhée et le probléme de ses origines orientales, (in group work:) Eléments orientaux dans la religion grecque ancienne, Paris 1960.