Legend has it that Echidna was the daughter of a pair of powerful mythical beings. Some sources claim that she was the child of Tartarus and Gaia, while others propose a different set of parents entirely. Indeed, the ancient poet Hesiod suggests that Echidna was the offspring of Ceto and Phorcys. Hesiod also gives us a glimpse of Echidna in his Theogony, as the following passage from this work will demonstrate:
"Then Ceto bore another invincible monster,
in no way like mortal men or the deathless gods;
yes, in a hollow cave she bore Echidna, divine
and iron-hearted, half fair-cheeked and bright-eyed nymph
and half huge and monstrous snake inside the holy earth,
a snake that strikes swiftly and feeds on living flesh.
Her lair is a cave under a hollow rock,
far from immortal gods and mortal men;
the gods decreed for her a glorious dwelling there."
(Hesiod, Theogony, 295-303)
In addition to revealing the name of her parents, describing her appearance, and explaining that she lived in a secluded cave, Hesiod also includes another important element in his of discussion of Echidna. For Hesiod's Theogony features a list of offspring to which this prolific monster gave birth. Echidna bore Orthus (the dog of Geryon), Cerberus, the Hydra of Lerna, and the Chimera after mating with Typhon. Hesiod adds that Echidna then produced the Sphinx and the Nemean Lion as a result of her union with Orthus.
According to some versions of the myth, Echidna was eventually killed by Argus - but of course only after she had given birth to what amounts to a horde of malicious monsters and other creatures.
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Who's Who in Classical Mythology
This book is a great source for information about Greek and Roman mythology! There are good entries on many Greek creatures.
This book is a great source for information about Greek and Roman mythology! Organized alphabetically, this who's who features information about over 1200 of the most intriguing characters - and creatures - from Classical myth and legend.