AskDefine | Define Typhon

Dictionary Definition

Typhon n : (Greek mythology) a monster with a hundred heads and one of the whirlwinds; son of Typhoeus and Echidna; father of Cerberus and the Chimera and the Sphinx

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Proper noun

  1. A monster with 100 heads.

Extensive Definition

In Greek mythology, Typhon (ancient Greek: ), also Typhoeus (), Typhaon () or Typhos () is the final son of Gaia, with Tartarus and is the god of wind. Typhon attempts to replace Zeus as the king of gods and men. Typhon was described as the largest and most grotesque of all creatures that have ever lived, having a hundred serpent heads. He was defeated by Zeus who crushed Mount Etna on him.


Hesiod narrates Typhon's birth:
But when Zeus had driven the Titans from Olympus,
mother Earth bare her youngest child Typhoeus of the love of
Tartarus, by the aid of golden Aphrodite. —Hesiod, Theogony 820-822.
In the alternative account of the origin of Typhon (Typheous), the Homeric Hymn to Apollo makes the monster Typhaon at Delphi a son of archaic Hera in her Minoan form, produced out of herself, like a monstrous version of Hephaestus, and whelped in a cave in Cilicia and confined there in the enigmatic land of the Arimi— en Arimois (Iliad, ii. 781-783). It was in Cilicia that Zeus battled with the ancient monster and overcame him, in a more complicated story: It was not an easy battle, and Typhon temporarily overcame Zeus, cut the "sinews" from him and left him in the "leather sack", the korukos that is the etymological origin of the korukion andron, the Korykian or Corycian Cave in which Zeus suffers temporary eclipse as if in the Land of the Dead. The region of Cilicia in southeastern Anatolia had many opportunities for coastal Hellenes' connection with the Hittites to the north. From the first reappearance of the Hittite myth of Illuyankas, it has been seen as a prototype of the battle of Zeus and Typhon. Walter Burkert and Calvert Watkins each note the close agreements. Watkins' How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics (Oxford University Press) 1995, reconstructs in disciplined detail the flexible Indo-European poetic formula that underlies myth, epic and magical charm texts of the lashing and binding of Typhon.
The inveterate enemy of the Olympian gods is described in detail by Hesiod as a vast grisly monster with a hundred serpent heads "with dark flickering tongues" flashing fire from their eyes and a din of voices and a hundred serpents legs, a feature shared by many primal monsters of Greek myth that extend in serpentine or scaly coils from the waist down. The titanic struggle created earthquakes and tsunamis. Once conquered by Zeus' thunderbolts, Typhon was cast into Tartarus, the common destiny of many such archaic adversaries, or he was confined beneath Mount Aetna, also known as Mount Etna, (Pindar, Pythian Ode 1.19 - 20; Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 370), where "his bed scratches and goads the whole length of his back stretched out against it," or in other volcanic regions, where he is the cause of eruptions.
Typhon is thus the chthonic figuration of volcanic forces, as Hephaestus (Roman Vulcan) is their "civilized" Olympian manifestation. Amongst his children by Echidna are Cerberus, the serpent-like Lernaean Hydra, the Chimera, the hundred-headed dragon Ladon, the half-woman half-lion Sphinx, the two-headed wolf Orthus, Ethon the eagle who tormented Prometheus, and the Nemean Lion.
Typhon is also the father of hot dangerous storm winds which issue forth from the stormy pit of Tartarus, according to Hesiod.
His name is apparently derived from the Greek "typhein", to smoke, hence it is considered to be a possible etymology for the word typhoon, supposedly borrowed by the Persians (as طوفان Tufân) and Arabs to describe the cyclonic storms of the Indian Ocean. The Greeks also frequently represented him as a storm-daemon, especially in the version where he stole Zeus's thunderbolts and wrecked the earth with storms (cf. Hesiod, Theogony; Nonnus, Dionysiaca).
Since Herodotus, Typhon has been identified with the Egyptian Set (interpretatio Graeca). In the Orphic tradition, Typhon leads the Titans when they attack and kill Dionysus, just as Set is responsible for the murder of Osiris. Furthermore, the slaying of Typhon by Zeus bears similarities to the killing of Vritra by Indra(a deity also associated lightning and storms), and possibly the two stories are ultimately derived from a common Indo-European source.



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Typhon in Modern Greek (1453-): Τυφών (μυθολογία)
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