Basic Information

Translation: Typhon means 'whirlwind' [6]
Alternative spelling: Typheus, Typhaon, Typhois [7]
Type/Species: Serpent-Waist, Hydra
Origin: Greek Mythology, Roman Mythology

About Typhon

Gaia, the Earth, gave birth to Typhon in Asia Minor. [3] He was the son of the underworld, [5] Tartarus, and either Hera or [2] Gaia / Gaea, the Earth mother. [1]

Alternatively, Gaia alone created Typhon after the defeat of the giants so that he could attack the Olympian gods. [7] Gaia was angry with Zeus [4] for imprisoning her children, the Titans, in Tartarus. She rallied her other children, the giants, to revenge the injustice, but they, too were defeated. Thus, she created Typhon as the final challenger for Zeus. [10] For this reason, Typhon is sometimes classified as a giant. [2]

When the pantheon saw Typhon approach, they fled in terror. One tradition claims that they ran to Egypt, where they were turned into animal figures that symbolized the Egyptian deities, [2] or they transformed themselves into animals. [9] Athena, the goddess of wisdom, persuaded them to return to Greece, [7] as Zeus remained behind to face Typhon. [9]

Typhon's Battle for the World

If Typhon took over Olympus, the home of the gods, he would become the master of the world, [9] so Zeus could not allow it. Some accounts claim that Zeus attack Typhon as he emerged from the cave of his birth, hailing thunderbolts over the dragon. [3] Other accounts have the gods fleeing from Typhon's approach.

The initial combat between Typhon and Zeus was one-on-one. [4] Typhon did not retreat from the blitz of thunderbolts. [3] The dragon threw mountains, and he was much stronger than Zeus. [7] Thus, he took hold of the leader of the gods, [3] and mauled him, stripping him of his muscles, [1] or sinews, [9] and leaving him to die. [1] Other versions claim that Typhon cut out the muscles of his hands and feet [4] and hid them under a bearskin inside a cave, setting the dragon Delphyne as a guard. [9] Thus, the initial struggle between Zeus and the dragon Typhon ended in the deity's defeat.

Hermes, in some accounts with the aid of Aegipan, rescued Zeus before he died. [9] Using his cunning, Hermes located the missing sinews, [3] regained them, [9] and refitted them for the deity. [4] Once restored, Zeus returned to Olympus to renew his supply of thunderbolts. [3]

But Typhon was still a formidable foe, all the more so for nearly killing Zeus, so the Three Fates approached the monster. They either tricked him into consuming mortal food [9] or made him drunk [7] weakening the giant dragon considerably. [9]

Thus, when Zeus engaged in a new battle with Typhon, [9] the dragon retreated. Zeus did not desist, however, but continued to drive Typhon across the world, till the monster finally returned to the fray. [3] Even in his weakened state, Typhon could still throw mountains rocks, so Zeus threw his thunderbolts, [7] shattering the boulders and sending the debris into Typhon himself. [8]

Zeus defeated Typhon, though the method of defeat varies greatly depending on the version. The dragon was immortal, so he couldn't die, [3] making permanent defeat difficult. One vein maintains that Typhon was put in the underworld, Tartarus, either by Zeus flinging him to its deepest region [9] or by banishment. [2]

Another version holds that Typhon is entombed below Mount Etna / Aetna. [2] Again, the specifics of the battle vary diverge. Zeus cornered Typhon in Sicily and hurled the mountain at the dragon to capture him, [10] or Zeus overcame Typhon by removing a piece of the Italian peninsula and using the land mass, now known as Sicily, to crush the dragon. [3] Alternatively, Zeus drove Typhon out of Greece in his weakened state, finally crushing him under Mount Etna. [4] All version of this story maintain that Typhon's existence can still be observed to this day. The eruptions of Mount Aetna / Etna have been attributed to his movements under the mountain, [2] [8] to his fiery breath cascading up, [1] [3] or the thunderbolts Zeus utilized in their last battle. [10]

Physical Description

Typhon was a colossal beast [2] with the head and torso of a man [1] and a hundred dragon heads [9] or a hundred serpent heads. [2] From the waist down, one hundred poisonous serpents formed the mass of his body. [1]

Each of Typhon's head had flame shooting from its mouth, eyes, and nostrils, [9] and each mouth had its own horrific voice. [2] Other descriptions claim that his searing eyes produced scorching fire while lava poured from his lips. [7] All of his eyes glowed red, and none of them ever shut. [1]

Typhon's form was nebulous in nature. [7] Some descriptions claim each fingertip had a serpent's head; [1] others claim that his arms and legs were writhing serpents. [7] Most descriptions attribute Typhon a giant size, [2] the tail of a serpent, multiple dragon or snake heads, dark tongues, fiery eyes, and a thunderous voices. [3]

Quick Facts

  • Zeus's lost sinews at the hands of Typhon resembles one variation of the story of Taru and Illuyankas. [3]
  • Typhon is sometimes classified as a giant. [2]
  • Typhon can be considered a volcano deity or whirlwind demon. [9]
  • Typhon was the son of the underworld, [5] Tartarus, and either Hera or Gaia [2] / Gaea, the Earth mother. [1] In other versions, Gaia alone created Typhon. [7]
  • Gaia, the Earth, gave birth to Typhon in Asia Minor. [3]
  • Typhon had children with Echidna, including the following: [2]
    • Caucasian Eagle [9]
    • Cerberus [2]
    • Chimaera [2]
    • Crommyonian sow [2]
    • Ladon [6]
    • Lernaen Hydra
    • Nemean Lion [9]
    • Orthus / Orthrus [9]
    • The Sphinx [9]
    • The Vultures [9]
  • Typhon's battle with Zeus was for claim over the entire world. [9]

Related Articles


  1. Allardice 208
  2. Chiron [Greek & Roman] 302
  3. Cotterell 171
  4. Littleton 149
  5. Lurker 354
  6. Lurker 355
  7. Rose [Dragons] 370
  8. Rose [Dragons] 371
  9. Turner 480
  10. Wilkinson [Eyewitness] 39

For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.