Cerberus is the three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades, preventing any living person from entering and any soul from escaping.
Cerberus was the guard dog at the gates of Hades, with a taste for human flesh for anyone who tried to enter. He also kept any of the souls from escaping. He was depicted with three heads, lion’s claws, and sometimes with a mane of snakes and a serpent’s tail.
Cerberus was featured in the tale of Orpheus, who traveled to the Underworld for his wife Eurydice, who was killed by snakes when Aristeus chased her into a snake den. He used his lyre and song to lull the dog to sleep so he could sneak by and talk to Hades.
Cerberus was also the twelfth labor of the hero Heracles, who had to atone for killing his children when he went through a fit of madness sent by the goddess Hera. He served King Eurystheus, who gave him Twelve Labors, or tasks, to complete. The twelfth labor was to retrieve Cerberus from the Underworld. Heracles traveled to speak with Hades, who allowed him to take Cerberus as long as he didn’t use any weapons. Heracles used his strength to tame Cerberus long enough to bring him to the king and return him to the Underworld.
The Cerberus is also depicted guarding the gates of Hell in Dante’s Inferno.
Cerberus Quick Reference
Typhon and Echinda
- Heracles’ Twelve Labors
- Orpheus in the Underworld
Attributes and Symbols
Three-headed dog, a mane of snakes, claws of a lion, and a serpent’s tail
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