Lernaean Hydra

ancient serpent-like chthonic water monster, with reptilian traits, that possessed many heads, in Greek mythology

In Greek mythology the Hydra (or Lernaean hydra) was a serpent-like monster. According to Theogony 313, the Hydra is the child of Typhon and Echidna. The Hydra had many heads. If you cut off one hydra head, two more would grow back in its place. It is also said that the Hydra's teeth were able to raise skeletons from the dead. There are pictures of the Hydra on vases and bronze plates dating back as far as the 7th century BC.[1]

Gustave Moreau 003.jpg
Gustave Moreau's 19th-century depiction of the Hydra, influenced by the Beast from the Book of Revelation
Other name(s)Lernaean Hydra
Herakles and the Lernaean Hydra, Attic Vase, around 540/30 BC; Musée du Louvre, Paris
coin actioninet

Hercules (who is called "Heracles" in Greek mythology) kills the Hydra as one of his labors. The Hydra lived in the lake of Lerna in the Argolis. The lake itself is older even than the Mycenaean city of Argos. Lerna was also the site of the myth of the Danaids.

The second of the 12 labors of Hercules was to kill the Hydra. The monster also had one immortal head that was in the middle. All of the heads could spit deadly acid. To defeat the Hydra, Hercules called on his nephew Iolaus for help. As soon as Hercules cut off one head, Iolaus would cauterise the wound with a flaming torch so that nothing could grow to replace it. After removing the Hydra's immortal head, Hercules buried it under a large rock. Then he collected the monster's poisonous blood. In later adventures, he dipped his arrows in the blood to kill other monsters.


  1. Ogden, Daniel 2013. Drakon: dragon myth and serpent cult in the Greek and Roman worlds. Oxford University Press.
General references
  • Graves, Robert (1960), The Greek Myths, Penguin Books, pp. 469–72
  • "Hydra." Myths and Legends of the World. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. 11 Apr. 2016<http://www.encyclopedia.com>.