Skip to Content

Geryon: A Mythological Creature

Geryon is a character from Greek mythology who is known for his fearsome appearance and immense strength. According to legend, Geryon was a giant with three heads and three bodies who lived on the island of Erytheia in the far west of the Mediterranean. He was the grandson of Medusa and the nephew of Pegasus, and was said to be the owner of a herd of cattle.

One of the most famous stories about Geryon involves the hero Heracles, who was tasked with stealing the giant’s cattle as part of his ten labors. Heracles journeyed to the end of the world to find Geryon and his herd, and after a fierce battle, he was able to defeat the giant and take the cattle back to Eurystheus. This story has been retold in many different forms over the centuries, and remains one of the most popular tales from Greek mythology.

Despite his fearsome reputation, Geryon has also been the subject of many works of art and literature over the years. From ancient Greek pottery to modern-day comic books, his image has been used to represent strength, power, and mystery. Whether you are a fan of Greek mythology or simply interested in the history of art and literature, Geryon is a fascinating character who is sure to capture your imagination.

Mythological Origins

Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, Geryon was a giant with three bodies who lived on the island of Erytheia, one of the mythic Hesperides in the far west of the Mediterranean. He was the son of Chrysaor and Callirrhoe, the grandson of Medusa, and the nephew of Pegasus. His name is derived from the Greek word “gêrys,” meaning “voice” or “speech,” and he was known for his fearsome roar.

Geryon is best known for his appearance in the story of Heracles, who was tasked with retrieving the giant’s prized herd of red cattle as one of his twelve labors. The three-bodied giant put up a fierce fight, but was ultimately defeated by Heracles, who killed him with his bow and arrow.

Appearance in Literature

Geryon’s mythological origins have made him a popular figure in literature and art throughout history. He has been featured in works ranging from ancient Greek poetry to modern-day novels, and has been depicted in a variety of ways, from a monstrous giant with three heads to a more human-like figure with a single head and a fearsome roar.

One of the most famous literary depictions of Geryon is in Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno,” where he is portrayed as a winged monster with the face of an honest man. In the poem, Geryon serves as the ferryman who carries Dante and Virgil down to the eighth circle of Hell, where they encounter the fraudulent and treacherous souls.

Geryon in Dante’s Inferno

Description in the Divine Comedy

In Dante’s Inferno, Geryon is a monstrous creature that transports Dante and Virgil from the seventh to the eighth circle of Hell. The creature is described as having the face of an innocent man, but the body of a half-reptile, half-hairy beast, with a scorpion’s stinger at the end of his tail. Geryon’s appearance is conjured up through a magic action retold in the previous canto. The roaring of the Phlegethon’s waterfall, which is important to guide Dante’s trip, is also heard first in Canto XVI.

Symbolism and Interpretation

Geryon’s symbolism in Dante’s Inferno is multifaceted. Some scholars interpret him as a symbol of fraud, which is the sin punished in the eighth circle of Hell. Others see him as a representation of greed and avarice, which are also punished in the same circle. Geryon’s hybrid form, with its combination of human and animal features, may also be interpreted as a symbol of the moral corruption and spiritual degradation that Dante sees as characteristic of the sinners in Hell.

Despite his terrifying appearance, Geryon is not a malevolent creature in Dante’s Inferno. Rather, he is a neutral figure who simply carries Dante and Virgil on their journey through the circles of Hell. In this way, Geryon serves as a reminder that even the most monstrous beings can be useful in the grand scheme of things.

Artistic Representations

Ancient Art

Geryon has been depicted in ancient art in various forms. In most of the depictions, he is shown as a giant with three bodies and three heads. However, some depictions show him with two legs and two bodies or one body and three heads. One of the most famous depictions of Geryon is in the painting by Cornelis Cort after Frans Floris, where he is shown battling Hercules and his two-headed dog Orthus.

Another notable depiction of Geryon is the limestone sculpture from the Archaic period found in Cyprus. The sculpture shows Geryon with three bodies and three heads, and it is believed to have been created in the second half of the 6th century BCE.

Modern Depictions

In modern times, Geryon has been depicted in various forms of media, including movies, video games, and literature. In the video game “God of War II,” Geryon is portrayed as a winged demon with three heads and a serpent’s tail. In the novel “Inferno” by Dante Alighieri, Geryon is depicted as a flying monster with the face of an honest man and the body of a serpent.

In the film “Hercules” by Disney, Geryon is not shown directly, but his cattle are depicted as a key plot point. The cattle are guarded by a two-headed dog, which is slain by Hercules.

Cultural Impact

Literary Influence

Geryon’s myth has had a significant impact on literature. The unique appearance of the creature and the epic tales of his encounters with heroes continue to inspire modern writers. The symbolism associated with Geryon’s story is often used to convey the idea of conquering inner and outer challenges. The myth has been referenced in several literary works, including Dante’s “Inferno,” where Geryon appears as a symbol of fraud.

In Popular Culture

Geryon’s myth has also influenced popular culture, with several movies, TV shows, and video games featuring the creature. In the popular video game “God of War,” Geryon appears as a boss battle. In the TV show “Supernatural,” Geryon is portrayed as a powerful demon. The creature’s unique appearance has also been used in several artworks, including paintings and sculptures.

Overall, Geryon’s myth has left a lasting impact on literature, art, and popular culture. The creature’s symbolism continues to inspire modern writers and artists, making it a significant part of Greek mythology.

Scientific Legacy


Geryon is a mythological creature that has been studied extensively by scientists and scholars. Although Geryon is not a real animal, scientists have used its name to classify certain species. For example, there is a species of deep-sea fish called Geryon quinquedens, which is commonly known as the blackbelly rosefish. This fish is found in the Atlantic Ocean, and is known for its distinctive black belly.

Astronomical Naming

The name Geryon has also been used in astronomy. In 1992, a newly discovered moon of Neptune was named after Geryon. The moon, which is about 160 kilometers in diameter, is officially known as “Neptune V” but is commonly referred to as Geryon.

In addition, there is a minor planet in our solar system that has been named after Geryon. The planet, which is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is officially known as “617 Patroclus”. It was discovered in 1906 by August Kopff, and was named after the Trojan warrior Patroclus. However, in 2001, the International Astronomical Union approved a proposal to also name the planet “Geryon” after the mythological creature.

Overall, Geryon’s legacy has extended beyond the realm of mythology and has influenced scientific naming conventions in both biology and astronomy.