Who are the sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis, who sank ships in Greece

(ORDO NEWS) — Each nation has its own culture, which has many legends, myths and legends. Each one described amazing creatures that were responsible for inexplicable natural phenomena. For children, they were told like fairy tales, and for adults, like the beliefs of old civilizations. So, for children, Baba Yaga is a bad heroine who wanted to destroy Ivan Tsarevich, and for the older generation she was a guide to the world of the dead.

No less amazing folklore of the inhabitants of the Apennine Peninsula. The Greeks and Romans have a poem about a young man who saw the monsters that ruled the whole strait ─ Scylla and Charybdis.

What is Scylla famous for?

The former nymph is known for her endless greed and ferocious strength. According to one myth, Circe warns Odysseus that:

“Not a single navigator on any vessel can boast of having sailed through the Scylla Strait safe and sound. The sea monster captures a man with tentacles, pulls him off the deck of the ship and carries him into the depths of the waters.”

The sound of her voice is like the barking of a hundred greyhounds, it can make the bravest sailors tremble with fear. And the mere sight of Scylla drives crazy those who are weak in spirit.

Relatives of Scylla

Three goddesses can claim to be her mother. In The Odyssey, the monster’s mother is a mysterious sea goddess named Cretea. Later, scholars suggested that the name Crataeis came from Ceto or Hecate (patroness of magic). Another possible candidate for the role of Scylla’s mother is Lamia, a monstrous werewolf who devours young men.

Scylla’s father could be Forsy – one of the most ancient sea deities. Some researchers point to another little-known mythological character named Titon as the father.

The horror that Scylla brought to the ancient Greek seafarers was supported by another monster living on the opposite side of her deadly strait. The name of this monster is Charybdis (later she was named the daughter of Poseidon).

While Scylla hid in a cave among the rocks, using her long tentacles to drag sailors from ships, Charybdis hid in the depths of the waters. Charybdis has been described as a giant maelstrom so powerful that it emits a loud roar that can drown even Scylla’s squeals. Trying to evade Charybdis, Odysseus’s ships were forced to round the edge of the cliff and sacrifice the six best people, swallowed by hungry Scylla. As Circe says in The Odyssey:

“It is much better to lose six people and keep your ship than to lose the entire crew, without exception.”

Who is Charybdis

According to Greek legends, Charybdis is a magical monster. In the ancient epic, she is the personification of the all-powerful sea, which takes the life of any traveler.

In the Odyssey, the monster is called a sea deity, and it dwells across the strait from Scylla. Other sources indicate that the monster is the product of Gaia and Poseidon. The character is interesting – appearance, character, behavior are practically not described. Here is what is said about Charybdis:

A capacious and detailed description of the monster is found in Homer. He wrote that this is an incorporeal deity living near the strait.

Character story

The phraseologism familiar to us “between Scylla and Charybdis”, meaning finding between two problems or a choice between two equal dangers, came from Ancient Greece. As in the basis of other ancient expressions, there is a mythological plot in its background. The memory of the legend is kept for centuries thanks to the use of a capacious and descriptive speech turnover.

History of creation

Phraseologism came into our speech thanks to ancient Greek mythology. Scylla and Charybdis are two monsters, according to legend, located in the Strait of Messina and guarding the territory between Sicily and the Apennines. According to legend, the victims of the monsters were sailors and travelers who tried to make their way along a dangerous route between two rocks. Monsters with huge teeth tried to devour the uninvited guests. The sailors, dodging one threat, inexorably approached another.

The lot of myths is to remain mysterious legends. In fact, monsters did not exist. They were named after two cliffs on both sides of the Gulf of Messina, personifying terrifying monsters. The passage of this area was dangerous: the ships got stuck on reefs and sharp stones, they were often circled by terrible whirlpools, from which few managed to get out alive.

The names of the rocks served as nicknames for fictional monsters, and the phraseological unit, which has become a catch phrase, remains relevant to this day. The expression is interpreted as a threat that arises from several sides and threatens with dire consequences.

Where sea monsters lived

The myths of Ancient Greece are skeptical, but scientists have tried to find the geographical location of the two monsters. It was believed that they were in the Strait of Messene, but Charybdis lived under the Pelorian cape, and Skilla – on the contrary (in Bruttia, near Regius).

However, the current weather conditions in the strait do not correspond to those described in the legends. Traveling along it is not so fatal for sailors. Therefore, the myths describe a clearly different place. And the name of Charybdis in those days was called the abyss and the whirlpool in Spain.

Today they do not believe that monsters existed. Researchers of myths claim that Scylla is just a pointed rock, and Charybdis is a dangerous whirlpool.

There is a Greek proverb, it sounds like this:
“Τὴν Χάρυβδιν ἐκφυγὼν τῇ Σκύλλῃ περιέπεσον”.

It translates as:
“Wanting to escape from Charybdis, I stumbled upon Scylla.”

  • Latin version: “Incidis in Scyllam cupiens vitare Charybdin”. In the Russian language there is a similar proverb: “Out of the fire and into the fire.”

Scylla and Charybdis are mythical monsters from ancient Greek legends. Today people believe that these are not magical creatures that attacked sailors, but a whirlpool and a huge rock.

Mention in literature

Scylla is found in some of the earliest Greek texts, including Homer’s Odyssey from the 8th century BC and The Metamorphosis of Ovid from the 1st century AD. This monster woman was mentioned by Virgil, Seneca, Pliny the Elder and Plato. During archaeological excavations on the territory of ancient Greek cities, five hundred-year-old vases and urns, painted with her image, were discovered.

For reference: the phraseological unit “between Scylla and Charybdis” entered our speech from ancient Greek mythology, its meaning is a stalemate, lack of choice. Whatever decision you make, it will still fail. The phraseological phrase “between two fires” (to be hostage to two warring forces, to be threatened from each side) has a similar meaning.

Famous myths

The beginning of Scylla’s misfortunes is explained in the myth of her transformation. Scylla was once a beautiful, innocent creature loved by all sea nymphs. She spent time swimming in the sea, combing her long hair with the combs of nymphs, and telling them about the men she avoided.

Nymphs, who also often had to avoid unwanted attention from men, tried to warn Scylla that people can become too persistent and even aggressive when they are possessed by passion. But the young girl remained carefree and careless. She sunbathed on the beaches without clothes and enjoyed the sea tides.

One day a sea god named Glaucus saw a beautiful nymph. He was captured, but when he tried to get closer, the girl simply fled. An angry Glaucus complained about the nymph Circe, a sea witch who specializes in the preparation of potions. But Glaucus did not know that Circe had a secret attraction to him, and when she heard that he wanted to win the love of Scylla, she was simply enraged!

Circe snuck into one of the nymph’s favorite pools and poisoned him with a terrible potion. When the poor girl returned to bathe, her beautiful legs turned into yapping dogs, and Scylla felt a burning pain as six monstrous heads grew from her back. When Glaucus saw her again, he was terrified. He left Scylla to fend for herself and cursed Circe for her jealous anger.

After the transformation, Scylla hid in the cliffs overlooking her old swimming pool. She turned her anger against men – whose unwanted passion she blamed for her fate – by attacking their ships whenever they sailed by. But the most favorable chance for revenge appeared when Odysseus and his team passed her strait.

Rejected by Glaucus, Circe fell in love with another, intelligent and dashing person: Odyssey. For some time, she kept the legendary traveler and his team imprisoned on her island. But when she saw how Odysseus longs to return home, she freed him and even gave advice on how to return to his homeland safe and sound. Circe warned Odysseus of the dangers of Scylla and Charybdis, instructing him to remain hidden below deck and unarmed as he passed the sea monster’s cave.

Undoubtedly, Scylla would be glad to devour Odysseus, Circe’s lover. Unfortunately, he hid under the deck, as Circe had told him to, and the former nymph had to content herself with devouring six of the strongest and strongest crew members of his ship.

After she attacked other brave travelers (especially the Argonauts), the gods were tired of Scylla’s bloodshed. You can read about the further fate of this creature in the “Twelve Feats of Hercules”. Incredibly, the hero managed to kill her by cutting off each head, one by one. For some time Scylla served as one of the guardians of the “lower” world, then she was resurrected by her father. Finally, Poseidon took pity on the pretty monster and turned her into a giant stone, ending the unfortunate cycle of bitterness and revenge that her life has become.

This is how Homer described all this disgrace.

“After you two will meet the rocks: to the wide sky one
sharp peak ascends, the clouds surround the
Darkly thickened that height, never thinning.
There is never
air , neither in summer nor in autumn ; not a single
Mortal will ascend or descend from there , although he
would have had twenty arms and twenty Legs – so terribly, as if a hewn, smooth
Stone of the Rock; and in the very middle of it there is a cave, A
dark vent facing the darkness of Erebus to the west;
You will pass by her with the ship, Odysseus of many glories;
Even a strong archer will not reach the
Fast-flying arrow directed from the sea to the entrance of the high cave;
The terrible Skilla has lived there from time immemorial. Barking incessantly
A shrill screech, a screech of a young puppy like that, A
monster announces the whole neighborhood. It is
scary to approach her, not for people alone, but for the most immortal. Twelve
Moves in front of her paws; on the shoulders of the shaggy
Six rises long, curving necks; and on each
Neck a head sticks out, and on the jaws in three rows, teeth,
Frequent, sharp, full of black death, sparkle;
Moving backwards into the cave and pushing the chest out of the cave, the
terrible Skilla looks out of the log with all heads.
Paws groping around on the rock doused by the sea,
She catches dolphins, seals and mighty underwater
Miracles, without number inhabiting the cold swell of Amphitrite.
Not a single sailor could pass her unharmed
With an easy ship to pass: all gaping mouths open,
At once she kidnaps six people from the ship.
Close up you will see another rock, Odysseus, the multi-Orthodox:
Below it; away from the first for a bow shot.
A fig tree grows wildly on the rock with a wide canopy.
The whole sea under that rock is
terribly disturbed by Charybdis, absorbing
Black moisture three times a day and emitting three times a day . Do not dare approach when he swallows:
Poseidon himself will not deliver from faithful destruction “
(Homer,” Odyssey “, canto twelve)

However, this phraseological unit has other explanations.

Scylla and Charybdis are two cliffs on the shores of the strait in the Mediterranean Sea, which were connected as soon as a ship came between them.

Scylla and Charybdis – a cliff and whirlpool in the Sicilian Strait. If the travelers managed to pass the rock, they were sure to fall into the whirlpool.

“Between Scylla and Charybdis”: the meaning of the expression

To determine the meaning of this stable phrase, let us turn to the phraseological dictionaries compiled by T.V. Rose and M.I. Stepanova.

In the first, the following interpretation is given: “a difficult risky position when danger threatens from both sides.” This is the meaning given to us by T.V.

Stepanova MI in her dictionary gives the following definition: “to be between equal dangers.”

Thus, we can conclude: the meaning of the phraseological unit “between Scylla and Charybdis” is a threat from two sides. Moreover, the danger from any position is equivalent.

How the phraseological unit “between Scylla and Charybdis” was formed

He came into our speech from ancient Greek mythology. Scylla and Charybdis were called two rocks in which monsters lived. They guarded the narrow Strait of Messina between the island of Sicily and the Apennine Peninsula. These monsters ate the sailors. When the sailors tried to dodge the teeth of one monster, they inevitably fell into the mouth of another.

In fact, there were no scary inhabitants. In fact, it was about two cliffs on both sides of the Gulf of Messina, which was dangerous for pitfalls and whirlpools.

However, the names of invented monsters became winged, and the expression we were considering was formed. Now it means a great danger, when something terrible, up to death, can be expected from all sides.

It is worth noting that in mythology, the height of Scylla’s rock reached the heavens. The monster that dwelt in her was terrifying. It had twelve legs and six heads. He had as many as three jaws with huge teeth. It was howling eerily loudly and caught everyone in a row: from seafarers to marine life. At the same time, it could capture up to six people at once.

As for Charybdis, in this rock the monster was a water goddess. She was angry and cruel and drowned seafarers in the whirlpools.

There is a myth in which Odysseus and his team were forced to sail through this strait. To save himself and save everyone, he decided to walk past the rock of Scylla. This choice was made because Charybdis would drown everyone at once. In no case would it have been possible to survive. And Scylla could capture no more than six people. Odyssey managed to turn the situation so that the monster did not eat anyone. This is the myth.

Expression synonyms

Of the stable combinations that are similar in meaning, one can cite, for example, “between two fires”, “between a rock and a hard place.” They also mean an equal danger from both sides, a hopeless situation. That is, if you manage to avoid a threat on the one hand, then you will definitely fall into the power of hostile forces on the other. This is the meaning of the phraseological unit “between Scylla and Charybdis.”

Using an Expression

This phraseological unit is used by writers and journalists. Among them are ME Saltykov-Shchedrin, Victor Hugo, the Strugatsky brothers, Homer. Expression is especially actively used in print media. The meaning of the phraseological unit “between Scylla and Charybdis” is such that its use allows journalists to convey a critical situation when someone is between two fires.


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