The Full Wiki

Geryon: Wikis

Advertisements
  
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Heracles fighting Geryon, amphora by the E Group, ca. 540 BC, Louvre

In Greek mythology, Geryon (Ancient GreekΓηρυών; gen.: Γηρυόνος), son of Chrysaor and Callirrhoe and grandson of Medusa, was a fearsome giant who dwelt on the island Erytheia of the mythic Hesperides in the far west of the Mediterranean. A more literal-minded later generation of Greeks associated the region with Tartessos in southern Iberia.[1]

Geryon was often described as a monster with human faces. Geryon had one head and three bodies with a total of two arms. Some accounts state that he had six legs as well while others state that the three bodies were joined to one pair of legs. Although there are some mid-sixth century Chalcidian vases portraying Geryon as winged, it is not known whether Stesichorus' Geryon had wings: it seems unlikely. Apart from these weird features, his appearance was that of a warrior. He owned a two-headed hound named Orthrus, which was the brother of Cerberus, and a herd of magnificent red cattle that were guarded by Orthrus, and a herder Eurytion, son of Erytheia.[2]

Contents

The Tenth Labour of Heracles

In the fullest account in the Bibliotheke of Pseudo-Apollodoros,[3] Heracles was required to travel to Erytheia, in order to obtain the Cattle of Geryon as his tenth labour. On the way there, he crossed the Libyan desert[4] and became so frustrated at the heat that he shot an arrow at Helios, the Sun. Helios "in admiration of his courage" gave Heracles the golden cup he used to sail across the sea from west to east each night. Heracles used it to reach Erytheia, a favorite motif of the vase-painters. Such a magical conveyance undercuts any literal geography for Erytheia, the "red island" of the sunset.

When Heracles reached Erytheia, no sooner had he landed than he was confronted by the two-headed dog, Orthrus. With one huge blow from his olive-wood club, Heracles killed the watchdog. Eurytion the herdsman came to assist Orthrus, but Heracles dealt with him the same way.

On hearing the commotion, Geryon sprang into action, carrying three shields, three spears, and wearing three helmets. He pursued Heracles at the River Anthemus but fell victim to an arrow that had been dipped in the venomous blood of the Lernaean Hydra, shot so forcefully by Heracles that it pierced Geryon's forehead, "and Geryon bent his neck over to one side, like a poppy that spoils its delicate shapes, shedding its petals all at once".[5]

Heracles then had to herd the cattle back to Eurystheus. In Roman versions of the narrative, on the Aventine hill in Italy, Cacus stole some of the cattle as Heracles slept, making the cattle walk backwards so that they left no trail, a repetition of the trick of the young Hermes. According to some versions, Heracles drove his remaining cattle past a cave, where Cacus had hidden the stolen animals, and they began calling out to each other. In others, Caca, Cacus' sister, told Heracles where he was. Heracles then killed Cacus, and according to the Romans, founded an altar where the Forum Boarium, the cattle market, was later held.

To annoy Heracles, Hera sent a gadfly to bite the cattle, irritate them and scatter them. The hero was within a year able to retrieve them. Hera then sent a flood which raised the level of a river so much, Heracles could not cross with the cattle. He piled stones into the river to make the water shallower. When he finally reached the court of Eurystheus, the cattle were sacrificed to Hera.

In the Aeneid, Vergil may have based the triple-souled figure of Erulus, king of Praeneste, on Geryon.[6]

Stesichorus' Geryoneïs

The poet Stesichorus wrote a song of Geryon (Γηρυονηΐς - Geryoneïs) in the sixth century BC, which was apparently the source of this section in Bibliotheke; it contains the first reference to Tartessus. From the fragmentary papyri found at Oxyrhyncus[7] it is possible (although there is no evidence) that Stesichorus inserted a character, Menoites, who reported the theft of the cattle to Geryon. Geryon then had an interview with his mother Callirrhoe, who begged him not to confront Heracles. They appear to have expressed some doubt as to whether Geryon would prove to be immortal. The gods met in council, where Athena warned Poseidon that she would protect Heracles against Poseidon's grandson Geryon. Denys Page observes that the increase in representation of the Geryon episode in vase-paintings increased from the mid-sixth century and suggests that Stesichorus' Geryoneïs provided the impetus.

The fragments are sufficient to show that the poem was composed in twenty-six line triads, of strophe, antistrophe and epode, repeated in columns along the original scroll, facts that aided Page in placing many of the fragments, sometimes of no more than a word, in what he believed to be their proper positions.

A Gustave Doré wood engraving of Geryon for The Divine Comedy.

Dante's Divine Comedy

Geryon is sometimes identified as a chthonic death-demon, mainly because of the association with the extreme western direction. In Dante's Divine Comedy Geryon has become a winged serpent-like beast with the tail of a scorpion but the face of an honest man.[8] He dwells at the cliff between the seventh and eighth circles of Hell (the circles of violence and fraud, respectively). At Virgil's bidding, he helps him and Dante enter the eighth circle by carrying them on his back and gliding down the cliff. He possibly does not appeer in his original role to avoid confusion with the three-headed Satan in Dante's Inferno.

References

  1. ^ The early third-century Life of Apollonius of Tyana notes an ancient tumulus at Gades raised over Geryon as for a Hellenic hero: "They say that they saw trees here such as are not found elsewhere upon the earth; and that these were called the trees of Geryon. There were two of them, and they grew upon the mound raised over Geryon: they were a cross between the pitch tree and the pine, and formed a third species; and blood dripped from their bark, just as gold does from the Heliad poplar" (v.5).
  2. ^ Erytheia, "sunset goddess" and nymph of the island that has her name, is one of the Hesperides.
  3. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus. Bibliotheke, 2.5.10.
  4. ^ Libya was the generic name for North Africa to the Greeks.
  5. ^ Stesichorus, fragment, translated by Denys Page.
  6. ^ P.T. Eden, A Commentary on Virgil: Aeneid VII (Brill, 1975), p. 155 online.
  7. ^ Denys Page 1973:138-154 gives the fragmentary Greek and pieces together a translation by overlaying the fragments with the account in Bibliotheke. Additional details concerning Geryon follow Page's account.
  8. ^ Virgil's description sounds more like a manticore, a strange beast with a mans head, lions body, and poison tipped tail.

Further reading

  • M.M. Davies, “Stesichoros' Geryoneis and its folk-tale origins”. Classical quarterly NS 38, 1988, 277-290.
  • Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red. New York: Vintage Books, 1998. A modern retelling of Stesichoros' fragments.
Advertisements

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GERYON (GERYONES, GERYONEUS), in Greek mythology, the son of Chrysaor and Callirrhoe, daughter of Oceanus, and king of the island of Erytheia. He is represented as a monster with three heads or three bodies (triformis, trigeminus), sometimes with wings, and as the owner of herds of red cattle, which were tended by the giant shepherd Eurytion and the two-headed dog Orthrus. To carry off these cattle to Greece was one of the twelve "labours" imposed by Eurystheus upon Heracles. In order to get possession of them, Heracles travelled through Europe and Libya, set up the two pillars in the Straits of Gibraltar to show the extent of his journey, and reached the great river Oceanus. Having crossed Oceanus and landed on the island, Heracles slew Orthrus together with Eurytion, who in vain strove to defend him, and drove off the cattle. Geryon started in pursuit, but fell a victim to the arrows of Heracles, who, after various adventures, succeeded in getting the cattle safe to Greece, where they were offered in sacrifice to Hera by Eurystheus. The geographical position of Erytheia is unknown, but all ancient authorities agree that it was in the far west. The name itself (= red) and the colour of the cattle suggest the fiery aspect of the disk of the setting sun; further, Heracles crosses Oceanus in the golden cup or boat of the sun-god Helios. Geryon (from rygpuw, the howler or roarer) is supposed to personify the storm, his father Chrysaor the lightning, his mother Callirrhoe the rain. The cattle are the rain-clouds, and the slaying of their keepers typifies the victory of the sun over the clouds, or of spring over winter. The euhemeristic explanation of the struggle with the triple monster was that Heracles fought three brothers in succession.

See Apollodorus ii. 5.10; Hesiod, Theogony, 287; Diod. Sic. iv. 17; Herodotus iv. 8; F. Wieseler in Ersch and Gruber, Allgemeine Encyclopddie; F. A. Voigt in Roscher's Lexikon der Mythologie; L. Preller, Griechische Mythologie; article "Hercules" in Daremberg and Saglio, Dictionnaire des antiquites.


<< Georg Gottfried Gervinus

Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius >>


Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message