The most famous dragon: The Lernaean Hydra

Arguably the most famous dragon of all antiquity, the Lernaean Hydra was a serpentine water monster with reptilian traits in Greek mythology and art. According to Hesiod, the Hydra was the offspring of two other famous monsters of antiquity, Typhon and Echidna.

Heracles meets The Lernaean Hydra

Eurystheus, king of Tiryns, sent the demigod Heracles to slay the Lernaean Hydra as the second of the set of labours that the hero had to complete, in order to redeem himself for killing his wife Megara and his children in a fit of madness. When Heracles reached the lake Lerna, he had to cover his nose and mouth with a cloth, in order to protect himself from poisonous gases that were emitted.

The destruction of the Lernean Hydra became one of the 12 Labours of Heracles. For that and other labours, Heracles enlisted the aid of his nephew Iolaus. As Heracles severed each mortal head, Iolaus was set to the task of cauterizing the fresh wounds so that no new heads would emerge. When only the immortal head remained, Heracles cut it off too and buried it under a heavy rock. Further, he dipped his arrows in the beast’s poisonous blood (or venom) to be able to inflict fatal wounds. According to Sophocles (Trachinian Women), that measure eventually caused his own accidental death at the hands of his wife, Deianeira.

Iolaus Helps Heracles

So, he decided to ask for the help of his nephew Iolaus, who thought of using fire to cauterise the stump as soon as the head is cut off. So, they made a plan; Heracles would cut off the heads and Iolaus would burn the wound with a firebrand. As a result, they both quickly started winning the battle.

Hera Helps The Lernaean Hydra

Hera, who had raised the monster specifically to kill Heracles, sent a giant crab in aid of the hydra. The hero, though, crushed it under his giant foot. The final head of the Hydra was immortal, and Heracles managed to destroy it by using a golden sword that the goddess Athena had offered him.

The Venomous Blood

Then, he dipped all of his arrows into the venomous blood of the hydra. This would later be the hero’s demise, as the Shirt of Nessus which Heracles unknowingly wore was covered in the tainted blood, causing him unbearable pain.

The Hydra constellation

Hera turned both of her dead monsters into constellations; Hydra became the constellation of the same name, while the crab turned into the constellation Cancer.

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