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The Serpent in Ancient Mythology
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  9/2/11
By: Yona Williams

In old Greek myths, the serpent made frequent appearances and continued to serve as symbolism in many stories. Some myths portray gods and other characters has possessing the qualities of the serpent. In this article, you will encounter some of the instances in where the serpent plays a role in Greek myths.

 For example, Typhon was an enemy of the Olympian gods. He was a terrifying monster with 100 heads and 100 serpents that came out of his thighs. Zeus beat the monster and cast him into Tartarus. Some myths say that Typhon was sent beneath volcanic region, and is the cause behind eruptions. His offspring also display the characteristics of a serpent. Cerberus is the dog with three heads that has the tail of a snake.

Medusa and the other Gorgons are infamous creatures of Greek mythology. The female monsters have a head full of living snakes filled with poison. The women are protectors of the most ancient of ritual secrets. Two intertwined serpents formed a belt around the waist of the Gorgons.
The power of the snake appears in Greek myths and is sometimes seen as a protector. This is seen in the tale of Jason and the Argonauts, which tells of the quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece. The king of Colchis is in possession of this object – keeping it guarded by a huge serpent that never sleeps. The king's daughter, Medea, falls in love with Jason and enchants the snake to sleep so that Jason can steal the Fleece.

Great beings in Greek history have been linked to the power and mystique of the snake. For example, Alexander the Great had a connection to an ancient Greek serpent myth. His mother, Olympias, was a princess hailing from the primitive land of Epirus. She had a reputation for being a snake handler. It was said that she became pregnant with Alexander from Zeus when he took the form of a snake.

Other associations to the serpent in Greek mythology include:

·    The Minoan Snake Goddess who held a serpent in either hand was known for her wisdom.

·    The oracles of the ancient Greeks were said to have originated from the worship traditions of the Egyptian cobra goddess, Wadjet.

·    The earth-dragon of Delphi, Phytho, appears in vase painting as an enemy of Apollo. She is often depicted as a serpent. Apollo later kills her and transforms her former home into his own oracle, which becomes the most famous in Classical Greek history.

·    The son of Apollo and Koronis (Asclepius) becomes knowledgeable in the secrets of warding off death after he sees one serpent bring another healing herbs. At the time, Asclepius is fatally wounded. With this secret, the entire human race could become immortal, but Zeus strikes Asclepius with a bolt of lightning to prevent the humans from benefiting from this secret. His death serves as a reminder that mortal men cannot challenge the natural order that makes them different from the gods. In honor of Asclepius, snakes are often associated with rituals of healing.


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