23 Hydra Greek Mythology Facts: A Very Thoughtful Blog!

Abhijeet Modi
Oct 09, 2023 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Dec 29, 2021
If you like mythology, you'll surely love learning all these interesting Hydra Greek mythology facts here at Kidadl!

Whether you are deeply engrossed in Greek and Roman mythology or have just started venturing out into the sea of these legends, you must know about the Hydra of Lerna.

The Lernaean Hydra is integral to Greek and Roman mythology. Simply known as Hydra, this creature is one of the most dangerous monsters, along with Cerberus and the Colchian Dragon, and holds great significance for one of the greatest Greek heroes of all time.

According to Greek mythology, the Lernaean Hydra is a water monster that looks like a serpent. Hydra is believed to be the offspring of Typhon, a giant serpentine monster, and his mate, Echidna, a half-serpent, half-woman who is believed to be the mother of some of the most fearsome monsters in mythology.

It is said that Hera, the queen of the gods and one of the twelve Olympians who presides over Mount Olympus, raised Lernaean Hydra for the sole purpose of slaying Heracles (later Romanized as Hercules).

Hydra's lair is a cave in the swamp near Lake Lerna, which is supposed to be the entrance to the underworld. Archaeologists have established Lerna as a sacred site.

The Lernaean Hydra is fabled to be a water serpent with nine heads raised solely for the purpose of slaying Heracles. Of its many heads, the monster has eight mortal heads that possess regenerative abilities, and one immortal head in the middle.

The monster's body is believed to possess a fatal stench due to the poisonous blood that flows within Hydra's body.

The regenerative abilities of Hydra were such that the cutting of each mortal head resulted in the regeneration of new heads, two heads for one head, to be precise. Some scripts also mentioned that Hydra's teeth could raise dead skeletons' backs. Archeologists have found pictures of Hydra on vases and plates that trace back to the seventh century.

The Greek monster Hydra holds great significance in the 10 labors of Heracles, son of Zeus and a very famous mythological hero from ancient Greece.

After you've finished reading about Hydra, why not check out these other interesting articles on Kidadl: ancient Greek weapons list and ancient Greek art facts.

History: Hydra In Greek Mythology

The first and oldest appearance of the Lernaean Hydra in the mythological scripts goes back to Hesiod's Theogony. It mentioned a water serpent with many heads, slain by Heracles and his nephew Iolaus, who was also his charioteer and companion.

The number of heads possessed by Hydra was always a matter of contradiction, as it differed in different texts. However, the definite number of nine heads was determined in the writings of Alcaeus.

The Lernaean Hydra holds great significance for Heracles, also known as Hercules. It is said that Heracles was driven to madness by Hera, who swore to destroy Hercules.

Hera, being the goddess of marriage, was constantly reminded of the infidelity of her husband Zeus through Heracles, who was born out of an affair. The story says that she made Heracles kill his wife and child in a fit of madness as a part of her revenge.

When Heracles recovered, he was filled with guilt and remorse over the killing of his wife and child. He went to the Oracle of Delphi and prayed to Apollo for repentance. Hercules was guided by Apollo to serve King Eurystheus and do anything that he asked him to do. Fearing to offend his father (Zeus), Heracles accepted his fate.

King Eurystheus, possibly urged by Hera, ordered Heracles to perform 10 labors, a series of near-impossible tasks, to repent for his sin. His first task was the slaying of the Nemean Lion, which ended successfully.

Angered, Eurystheus ordered Hercules to slay the Lernaean Hydra, whom Hera had raised solely for the purpose of destroying Heracles, as part of his second labor. Heracles went on to fulfill this task as well.

Upon reaching Lake Lerna, Hercules got ready to face one of the most dangerous monsters ever to exist. He covered his face to protect himself from the poisonous fumes of the blood of the Lernaean Hydra.

He angered Hydra by shooting flaming arrows at its lair. This led to combat between the monster and the hero. Heracles noticed that after cutting one head of Hydra, two new heads promptly grew in its place, which made it nearly indestructible.

Hercules entrusted his nephew Iolaus to help him with his task. Iolaus suggested burning the neck of the severed head to prevent regeneration. After Heracles slew Hydra's heads, Iolaus cauterized them with a burning torch, preventing regrowth. Angered by Heracles's success, Hera also sent a gigantic crab to distract him, but in vain.

With a golden sword given to him by Athena, Heracles slew the immortal head of Hydra. Heracles buried the immortal head of Hydra under a huge rock so that the monster could never cause any damage ever again.

Since Hydra's blood was poison, Heracles used it on his arrows. He dipped his arrows in Hydra's poison, which proved to be helpful in his later tasks.

Enraged by the successful Hydra-Heracles encounter, Hera and Eurystheus, in a fit of petty rage, decided to disregard the slaying of the monster by Heracles as he needed help from his nephew to accomplish this feat.

Hera, distraught over Heracles's success, formed the constellation Hydra in the sky along with the constellation of the giant crab, named Cancer.

The depiction of the constellation Hydra on a sky map is located south of the constellation Cancer.

Significance: Hydra In Greek Mythology

The Lernaean Hydra signifies the fulfillment of the second task of Heracles, although it was later disregarded. The monster signifies the victory of Heracles and a step forward in his path of redemption.

The slaying of the Lernaean Hydra also symbolizes victory over desire and the primary movements of appropriation. The significance has a very interesting story behind it.

The Lernaean Hydra is found in Lerna, the place of desires, a place where Zeus met many of his lovers. His infidelity was one of the main reasons Hera hated Heracles.

The multiple heads of the Lernaean Hydra signify the frugality of the human mind, mainly through doubts and fears. Like the numerous heads of the Lernaean Hydra, the multiple faces of humankind are something we need to overcome.

Meaning: Hydra In Greek Mythology

'Hydra' comes from the Greek word 'Hydra', meaning 'water snake'. Therefore, biologists use it to classify a water-based species with characteristic tentacles at the end of a tube-like body.

Apart from this, the English dictionary also incorporates the phrase 'hydra-headed.' The phrase refers to a difficult situation with multiple aspects to consider. The phrase is derived from the mythical monster slain by Heracles as part of his labors to atone for the sin of killing his wife and child due to his stepmother's insanity.

Lernaean Hydra Associations

The Lernaean Hydra is most closely associated with the legend of the second labor of Heracles and the story of the slaying of one of the most dangerous monsters in mythology.

The Lernaean Hydra is also associated with the painter Gustave Moreau. He painted his renowned Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra, which depicted the slaying of the Lernaean Hydra at the hands of Heracles as ordered by King Eurystheus to atone for his sin.

Other monsters and mythological creatures similar to the Lernaean Hydra are also found in different texts, especially in Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian mythology.

The mythology depicts the story of the celebration of Ninurta, who was credited with killing several monsters on his expedition to the mountains, including a seven-headed serpent who was later associated with the Lernaean Hydra by the Greeks.

The Lernaean Hydra is a mythical creature that holds great significance in mythology and is still relevant to the modern world.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Hydra Greek mythology facts, then why not take a look at ancient Greek clothing facts or ancient Greek food facts.

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Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

Abhijeet Modi picture

Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

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