Scylla Of Greek Mythology

Posted by Roses on November 25, 2010

There were two Greek legends of Scylla but both are different. But both have been turned to the sea after being transformed. One was transformed to be tortured forever and the other was transformed and tortures every thing.

Nisus the King of Megara

Nisus the King of Megara

One was the princess of Megara. King Nisus was her father and was immortal as long as he kept his lock of red hair within his white hair upon his head. King Minos of Crete decided to attack Megara and to kill King Nisus, But Nisus knew that he would win this battle because he still had his lock of red hair and was undefeatable. The Princess fell in love the King of Crete and decided to help him kill her father.  She felt like she had to prove her love to the King and drugged her father then waited for him to fall asleep then cut the lock of red hair from his head which would mean that he was doomed for death. After Nisus death the kingdom of Megara fell into the hands of the King of Crete. After finding out what had happen and that Minos did not win the battle on his own he was out raged and killed Princess Scylla for disobeying her father and allowing his death to come upon him. She was changed into a seabird and was chased by her father which had been turned into a sea eagle. For all eternity Nisus is to try and catch his daughter and kill her.

King Minos one of many sons of Zeus

King Minos one of many sons of Zeus

She felt like she had to prove her love to the King and drugged her father then waited for him to fall asleep then cut the lock of red hair from his head which would mean that he was doomed for death. After Nisus death the kingdom of Megara fell into the hands of the King of Crete. After finding out what had happen and that Minos did not win the battle on his own he was out raged and killed Princess Scylla for disobeying her father and allowing his death to come upon him. She was changed into a seabird and was chased by her father which had been turned into a sea eagle. For all eternity Nisus is to try and catch his daughter and kill her.

Scylla Carving from Milos, 5th century BC British Museum, London

Scylla Carving from Milos, 5th century BC British Museum, London

Now to the second Scylla which is more and far well known better then the Princess Scylla.

Scylla was a Nymph that was beyond beautiful and was wanted by many gods. She was the daughter of Phorcys, Craties or Lamia and of Triton. She had many suitors but turned them all away and decided that she wanted to live with the Nereid’s. That is until Glaucus came across the beautiful nymph and fell in love with her at first sight.

1640 or 1644 painting of Glaucus and Scylla by Laurent de La Hyre

1640 or 1644 painting of Glaucus and Scylla by Laurent de La Hyre

Glaucus was born was as a mortal fishermen but after chewing on a plant that he should have left alone was then transformed into a sea god and was half fish from the waist down. Scylla fled from him because she thought him to be a monster of some sort and wanted nothing to do with him. She fled as he was confessing his undying love for her but she would not have it. He pined for her so much that he turned to the witch Circe for help to make Scylla fall in love with him using her magic. Circe seeing him and listening to his story of how he loved Scylla fell in love with him on sight as he had done Scylla and she tried to get him to forget about Scylla and to stay with her but he did not want her and refused her and begged her to help him to win Scylla’s heart.

Circe The Daughter of Helios a very powerful Greek Sorceress

Circe The Daughter of Helios a very powerful Greek Sorceress

Circe did not take to kindly to his refusal and decided to take her anger out on the beautiful Scylla whom he loved so.

She made a potion with her magic herbs and went to the place where Scylla bathed and poured the potion in.When Scylla went to bathe and submerged half of her body in the water she transformed into some thing so terrible and fierce that Scylla fled to the shore and decided to live in the strait for the rest of her life alone.

Circe The Daughter of Helios and a very powerful Greek Sorceress

Circe The Daughter of Helios and a very powerful Greek Sorceress

What she turned into was a sea creature one of the most terrifying sea creatures of all time. One that was part fish but had six arms, six necks that had heads of dogs on them and with in each of the dogs mouths were three rows of sharp teeth along with four eyes for each dog head. When her voice was heard it was that of whelping dogs just as if there would be a pack of wolves howling at a full moon. She had twelve feet that was useless sort because they dangled from her body. The upper half of her is still that of a woman. When her necks was completely stretched out she would stand at 15 feet tall each of her necks were five feet in length on their own meaning that her body was at least ten feet. She stays hidden in caves at the low bottom of the strait. She could not control the heads and they would rear up and grasp what ever came near them weather it be human or marine life and devour it. If a ship was to pass to closely to her while they were trying to avoid the whirlpool the ship would lose at least six of their crew men due to the six long necks reaching over and snatching them up before they could get away from her.

In another Greek legend it is sad that Poseidon fell deeply in love with Scylla and Amphitrite was so jealous that it was her that asked Circe to curse the lovely Scylla.

A painting of Odysseus going between Scyla and Charybdis by Johann Heinrich Füssli 1794 or 1796

A painting of Odysseus going between Scyla and Charybdis by Johann Heinrich Füssli 1794 or 1796

It was said in book 12 of The Odyssey. Odysseus came face to face with Scylla. He sailed between the cliffs that housed Charybdis and Scylla. Circe had warned him and his crew of what would happen if he went towards Charybdis that he would lose his whole crews life including his own because she would take them down to the depths of the ocean just doing what she does all of the time not really meaning to. She said that if he went towards Scylla that most of his crew would survive but he would lose at least six of his men. He decided to go toward her and take his losses. It was written that is was one of the most pitiful things he had ever seen and there was nothing that he could do but watch.

Here are some passages from The Odyssey book twelve as well

A drawing of Scylla taking crewmen from their ship to eat them in 1810 by John Flaxman

A drawing of Scylla taking crewmen from their ship to eat them in 1810 by John Flaxman

“It’s true her voice sounds like a new-born pup,
but she’s a vicious monster.  Nobody
would feel good seeing her, nor would a god
who crossed her path.  She has a dozen feet,
all deformed, six enormously long necks,
with a horrific head on each of them,
and three rows of teeth packed close together,
full of murky death.  Her lower body
she keeps out of sight in her hollow cave,
but sticks her heads outside the fearful hole,
and fishes there, scouring around the rock
for dolphins, sword fish, or some bigger prey,
whatever she can seize of all those beasts
moaning Amphitrite keeps nourishing
in numbers past all counting.  No sailors
can yet boast they and their ship sailed past her
without getting hurt.  Each of Scylla’s heads
carries off a man, snatching him away
right off the dark-prowed ship.”

passage two

“She’s not human,
but a destroyer who will never die—
fearful, difficult, and fierce—not someone
you can fight.  There’s no defence against her.
The bravest thing to do is run away.
If you linger by the cliff to arm yourself,
I fear she’ll jump out once more, attack you
with all her heads and snatch away six men,
just as before.  Row on quickly past her,
as hard as you can go.  Send out a call
to Crataiis, her mother, who bore her
to menace human beings. “

The legendary whirlpool Charybdis of Greek mythology

The legendary whirlpool Charybdis of Greek mythology

Later on Herakles brings Geryon’s cattle’s back that way as well and on his way through the strait Scylla snatched up one of the cows and ate it. Herakles was said to have killed her but Phorcy’s resuscitated her back to life for her to rage again in the seas.

The strait that she rests at is twenty miles long and only 2 miles in width. The other side rest the Charybdis the whirlpool of the strait and is said that if you are able to get away from the dog heads of Scylla then Charybdis will get you. Try to stay away from one only to go toward another dangerous battle for your life and vessel.

the Strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily

the Strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily

By the time that the fleet of Aeneas came through this strait right after the fall of Troy that Scylla had been yet again transformed into the dangerous outcropping that still stands today as well as The Charybdis whirlpool. It is so narrow that there is no way that two large ships could pass one another with out touching each other. An arrow can be shot across the strait with ease and would make it to the other side. It is thought the saying “Between a rock and a hard place” came from this strait from sailors who have claimed that they were caught by Scylla and Charybdis.

Written by Tasha Slone copyright 2010 all rights reserved

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