Lernean Hydra: Know Your Myth and Constellation


     Lernean Hydra was, in Greek Mythology, a huge monster with several heads. She was an enemy of Hercules and defeated by him. Check out his Myth and History.

Lernean Hydra in Greek Mythology:

     Hydra of Lerna or Lernean Hydra in Greek Mythology, was a monster, son of Typhon and Echidna, who inhabited a swamp by the lake of Lerna, in Argolis, today what would be equivalent to the east coast of the Peloponnese region. The Hydra had a dragon body and several snake heads. According to legend, the heads of the Hydra could regenerate; some versions say that when a head was cut, two grew in its place, but the first versions of the legend did not include this characteristic.

     The Hydra was so poisonous that it killed men with just its breath and ate them; if someone came near her while she was sleeping, just by sniffing her trail the person would die in terrible torment.

Hydra and Hercules:

     The Hydra was defeated by Hercules (Heracles) in his second work. Initially Heracles tried to smash the heads, but to each one he cut two appeared in place. He then decided to change his tactics and, so that the heads would not regenerate, he asked his nephew Iolau to burn them with a brand right after the cut, thus healing the wound. He then left only the middle head, considered immortal. Heracles cut and buried the last head with a huge stone. Thus, the monster was killed.

     According to tradition, the monster was created by Hera to kill Hercules. When she realized that Heracles was going to kill the snake, Hera sent her the help of a huge crab, but Heracles stepped on it and the animal became the crab (or Cancer) constellation.

     Instructed by Athena, Heracles, after killing the Hydra, took the opportunity to bathe his arrows in the monster's blood, to make them poisonous. Euristeu did not consider this work valid (Heracles was supposed to do ten jobs, not twelve), because the hero had help.

In practice, it was Hydra that ended Hercules!

     Hercules later died in Phrygia from the poison of the Hydra of Lerna after mortally wounding the centaur Nesso with arrows poisoned in the Hydra's blood, he gave his blood to Dejanira, saying it was a love potion, to be used in clothes. Dejanira believed, and when she was jealous of Hiole, she used Nesso's blood to bathe Heracles' clothes, who felt unbearable burning pains, preferring suicide on the crematory pyre.


     Mythographers say that the Hydra and the Crab (known as Carcinus) were put into heaven after Heraccles killed them. Hera put the crab in the Zodiac to follow the Leo, creating the constellation of cancer. When the sun is in the sign of cancer, when the northern summer officially begins, the constellation of Hydra has its heads close together.

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