Typhon Greek Mythology

Typhon Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, Typhon, or Typheus (Ancient Greek Τυφῶν / Tuphôn or Τυφωεύς / Tuphōeús, from Tῦφος / tûphos, "smoke") is a primitive evil deity. He is the son of Gaia (the Earth) and Tartarus. According to legends, he is considered the Titan of strong winds and storms.

However, another tradition (Homeric Hymn to Apollo) makes him a demon born by Hera to take revenge on Zeus.

Main sources for Typhon in Greek Mythology

Typhon is known to us from two main sources. On the one hand, Hesiod's Theogony "read in the light of the Pseudo-Apollodorus" which presents him as a monstrous dragon "raised by Gaia against the sovereignty of Zeus ".

On the other hand, the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, sometimes attributed to Cynethos of Chios, makes him several generations younger and a demon born by Hera without any male involvement.

Dissatisfied with having seen Zeus give birth to her daughter Athena alone, she would have invoked Gaia, Cronus and the Titans in order to give birth to a male child more powerful than the other gods, and would have been granted. This post-Hesiodic tradition linked to the cycle of Apollo also reports that Hera entrusted Typhon to another monster, the female dragon Python.

Typhon's Kinship and myth

His representations vary: he is sometimes considered as a destructive hurricane, or as a flame-breathing monster.

Hesiod in the Theogony and Apollodorus in his Library make him the father of several monsters such as the infernal dog Cerberus, the Chimera, the lion of Nemea, the eagle of the Caucasus, the Sphinx, the goat of Crommyon, the two-headed dog Orthos, dragons (Ladon and the Hydra of Lerna), all born from his union with the goddess-vipersus Echidna.

According to Hygin, a Latin grammarian of the Augustan period, he is also the father of the Gorgons.

In Homer's Iliad, he is struck by Zeus' lightning while hiding in the land of Arimes, his and Echidna's homeland; Zeus defeated Typhon there, and buried him, in Cilicia of the Troad.

Hesiod places the fight after the Titanomachy, Gaia having given birth to Typhon to avenge the defeat of the Titans, and adds that from the remains of the defeated Typhon were born the evil or irregular winds. According to Pindar, Zeus, with the help of Poseidon, locked Typhon under Mount Etna and caused its eruptions.

Typhon Greek Mythological stories

In the innumerable post-Hesiodic versions of the myth (Apollodorus, Library; Ovid, Metamorphoses, V; Nonnos, Dionysiacs, III, etc.), probably influenced by the Egyptian legend of Osiris, Horus and Set, the fight of Typhon against Zeus is the subject of a more detailed account:

Typhon grows in the space of a day, his head finally reaches the sky and the sight of him triggers a panic in Olympus, immediately deserted by its thirty thousand divine inhabitants who, to escape him, metamorphose into birds, while Typhon threatens Zeus to chain him and Poseidon in Tartarus, to marry Hera, to free the Titans, to give them the goddesses as wives or as servants and to make the young gods his own servants.

The most powerful Olympians, therefore the most threatened, leave to hide in the Egyptian desert, where they temporarily take on the appearance of harmless animals:

Hera changes into a cow, Aphrodite into a fish, Artemis into a cat, Leto into a shrew, Apollo into a crow or a kite, Ares into a boar or a fish, Dionysus into a billy goat, Hephaestus into an ox, Hermes into an ibis, Heracles into a fawn, etc, Athena alone remaining stoically at the side of her father Zeus.

Armed with the serrated sickle that had once allowed Cronos to castrate his father Ouranos, Zeus challenges Typhon to a single combat, but the monster succeeds in disarming him and severing the tendons of his arms and ankles with the sickle, before carrying Zeus inert into his cave and entrusting the female dragon Delphyné with its guard.

A last-minute ally (according to tradition, Hermes, Pan, Egipan, Athena or Cadmos, whom Zeus rewards later by giving him the goddess Harmony as a wife) nevertheless manages to put Delphyné to sleep and to hand over Zeus' body and sinews by trickery.

The latter, as soon as he is "sewn up", takes his lightning and his spear in pursuit of Typhon, whom the Moires have in the meantime tricked into eating ephemeral fruits supposed to confer immortality on him, but intended in fact to weaken him.

Typhon was struck by lightning when he reached Sicily, and was then buried under Etna where he "joined" another enemy of Zeus almost as dangerous as himself, the Giant Enceladus (References mentioned in the op.cit., the accounts differing significantly from one version to another).

Typhon Link with Egypt

Typhon has been identified with the Egyptian deities Set, enemy brother of the royal god Osiris, and Apophis, serpent-god of chaos threatening to annihilate the work of the supreme god Ra.

Apollonius of Rhodes (Argonautics) and Plutarch (Life of Antony) place Typhon under the waters of Lake Serbonis, which according to Plutarch the Egyptians call "the sighs through which the giant Typhon breathes". He is in fact a totally evil deity, realizing a dualism found in several religions. He is the equivalent of the devil.

Typhon Links with Etna

According to Haraldur Sigurðsson, Typhon is one of the main characters, along with Hades, Persephone and Hephaestus, with whom volcanoes are associated in Greek mythology, where they play a significant role. According to this Icelandic volcanologist, author of a history of volcanology, Typhon was, in legend, imprisoned under Mount Etna for having rebelled against the gods, including Zeus.

In captivity, Typhon has a hundred dragon heads sticking out of his shoulders. His eyes spit flames, his tongue is black and he has a horrible voice. Also, legend has it that every time the monster stretches or turns in his prison, Etna rumbles and the Earth cracks, so that the volcanic eruptions of this mountain would in fact be caused by the movements of the Giant.

According to Sigurðsson, it is also believed that if the Giant becomes too restless, Zeus throws lightning bolts towards the Earth to keep it under his control. For the rest, it is Hephaestus who is supposed to be his guardian, and Sigurðsson indicates that it is because he places his head on his anvil that Typhon becomes agitated.

The association of Typhoon with Etna has been depicted in art, notably in an engraving showing him imprisoned under the volcano in The Temple of the Muses, a work by Zachariah Chatelain published in Amsterdam in 1733.

Artistic representations of Typhon Greek Mythology

It is represented on the frescoes of one of the painted Etruscan tombs of the necropolis site of Monterozzi and gives it its name: the tomb of the Typhoon. The most famous modern representation is the middle painting of the Beethoven frieze by Gustav Klimt, painted in 1902 (Belvedere Galleries, Vienna).

Under the title Enemy Powers, it is an allegory of Beethoven's 9th symphony. Typhoon is represented in the form of a huge winged ape, with a half-open jaw and gloomy eyes. His body is extended by long entangled snakes. To his right are the Gorgons and to his left, three naked women symbolizing sensual desire (or lust), lust and intemperance.

Physical description of Typhon Greek Mythology

Typhon has most often in the artistic representations eyes projecting flames. He is said to be so gigantic that he would touch the sky, also winged and to have a hundred dragon heads coming out of his shoulders, each of which sticks out a black tongue and a hundred viper heads coming out of his thighs.

Typhon in Later reinterpretations

The myth of Typhoon has been reinterpreted in different fields and disciplines through the ages.


The image of Typhon was quickly used by philosophers. It is already found in the works of Plato, who has Socrates give a speech in which Typhon is used allegorically. Plutarch, in his Isis and Osiris, often refers to Typhon to associate him with the Egyptian deity Seth.

Typhon is also found in more recent philosophers, such as Hegel, who makes the Greek God a representation of evil (he also uses it as a metaphor for the heat of the Egyptian desert).


The current of alchemical reinterpretation of mythology, which originated in the Byzantine period but flourished especially in Modern Times, addresses Typhon and seizes upon this myth.

The polymath Blaise de Vigenère, in his Treatise on Numbers (1586), associates Typhon with the Pythagorean principle of the "other" (ἕτερον), making Osiris correspond to the principle of the "same" (ταυτόν).

For the alchemist Michael Maier, Typhon represents an "igneous and furious spirit," spirit being in alchemy a substance that can sublimate. Maier continues: "[This spirit] can immediately penetrate our Osiris and drag him into its color like a venom. This must be done not in the first, but in the last firing."

Climatological description

Typhoon is the name given to tropical cyclones in the North Pacific west of the date line. The word is thought to come from the Greek mythological monster responsible for hot winds. The term is said to have traveled to Asia via Arabic (طوفان, tūfān) and then was picked up by Portuguese navigators (tufão).

On the other hand, the Chinese use 台风 ("great wind") pronounced tai fung in Cantonese. The term is also found on the Japanese archipelago in the form of Sino-Japanese taifū (たいふう), which can be written with the characters 台風 or 颱風.


The god Typhon has been reinterpreted in psychoanalysis.

For example, it is compared with the myth of Athena to highlight the links between love and knowledge.

The psychoanalyst Theodor Reik, for example, looks at this myth when discussing dualism, and insists that evil deities such as Typhon were originally non-negative gods, but that their status had evolved to a demonic side.

Typhon In popular culture

Video games

  • Typhon is a boss in the video game God of War II, and more recently, Typhon is the main antagonist in the video game Immortals Fenyx Rising. Typhon is also the final boss of the game Titan Quest.
  • The alien creatures in the game Prey, which take on various more or less monstrous appearances, are called Typhons in reference to this mythological figure.