The mythology of ancient Greece, and of Hercules in particular, features many monsters with obvious real-world parallels. Most of the beasts and monsters fought by Hercules were exaggerated versions of animals found in the wilds of Greece and Asia Minor. While lions are now extinct in Europe, for example, Asian lions could be found in Greece until shortly before the classical period.
Greek colonists in Asia Minor and North Africa would have been even more familiar with such predators. The Hydra is an exaggerated form of a venomous snake. Its many regenerating heads are a later addition to make the monster more fearsome, and could also represent a nest of snakes coiling together.
While the adders native to Greece are not aggressive, bites are a risk to those who unwittingly step too close to one or threaten it. Walking through somewhere like a swamp, where the ground would be obscured by water and debris, could carry the risk of encountering a venomous snake.
Some historians believe that a real-world snake was not only a general danger represented by the story, but also a specific danger for a historic Hercules. The labors of Hercules are closer to plausible events in real life than those of many other figures in Greek mythology. This is one of the factors that have lead to an interpretation that Hercules may have been inspired by a real person.
If this historical figure existed, he would have lived long before the time of the Greek poets. His Stone Age origins could be reflected in the club and animal skins that continued to define the Greco-Roman demi-god. The Hydra, like many of the monstrous creatures defeated by Hercules, could have come from a real creature encountered by a prehistoric hunter. A large venomous snake was, over the course of many centuries, transformed into a multi-headed monster who spit deadly toxins.
The contributions of Iolus in defeating the serpent may have been inspired by ancient practices, as well. The use of fire to flush out snakes and scare away predators was rewritten as the key to overcoming an otherwise unstoppable monster. The multi-headed Hydra was a great serpent with a particularly potent venom. When one of its many heads was removed another, or more than one other in later tales, would grow back in its place.
When Hercules was sent to kill the Hydra as the second of his famous labors, he was nearly overpowered by this regeneration. His young nephew, Iolaus, was inspired by Athena to find a solution. As Hercules cut off the heads, his nephew quickly cauterized the wounds with a torch to keep another head from growing from the wound. The fact that Hercules needed help, however, lead to the quest as being discounted.
Hera and Eurythemus used it as an excuse to force him to undergo more deadly endeavors. The Hydra shares much in common with Underworld guardians in ancient mythology. These monsters, often many-headed and with snake-like attributes, watched doorways to the realm of the dead to keep humans from coming to close and to ensure the souls of the dead did not escape. In form, however, the Hydra was much closer to a naturally-occurring hazard of the landscape than many of the more fanciful monsters of other legends.
This was something it had in common with many of the creatures defeater by Hercules. This leads some historians to believe that the story of the Hydra may have once been one of a real-world animal. It was one of many creatures defeated by a Stone Age hunter whose exploits became so well-known that they passed into legend. My name is Mike and for as long as I can remember too long! I have been in love with all things related to Mythology. I am the owner and chief researcher at this site. My work has also been published on Buzzfeed and most recently in Time magazine.
Please like and share this article if you found it useful. Connect with us. What Were the Hamadryads in Greek Mythology? The Hades and Persephone Story. Was the Griffin a Bird from Greek Mythology? The Second Labor of Hercules The second of the famous twelve labors of Hercules was to kill a horrible monster called the Lernean Hydra. Continue Reading. You may also like Related Topics: greek.
More in Greek. Cryptids and Legendary Creatures. Greek and Roman Mythologies. Study now See answer 1. Best Answer. Study guides. Q: How do you kill a hydra? Write your answer Still have questions? Find more answers Ask your question. Related questions. How did the hydra kill? Who did hydra kill? How do you get hydra fang in AQWorlds? Dragonfable where to get the hydra sword? Which mythical creature did Hercules kill? Is hydra good or bad? What is the function of the hydra budding adult?
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