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Scylla is six-headed monster that lives in a strait across from the whirlpool Charybdis. Scylla bends her many heads down into a ship and eats the men on it as they try to pass her by.

Scylla was a six-headed monster that lived on a rock on a straight across from Charybdis. She used her six heads to reach down into passing ships and eat the men on deck, causing a danger for any ship that tried to pass by. She is featured most prominently in Odysseus’ journey home when he and his men passed between her and the whirlpool Charybdis to reach the Land of the Dead. As they sailed by, six of Odysseus’ men were plucked from the decks and eaten by Scylla. After Odysseus’ men disobeyed Tiresias’ warning and ate the cattle of Helios, Odysseus lost more of his men to the monster as his ships were devoured by Charybdis while Scylla grabbed and ate the ones she could. Odysseus was the lone survivor of this onslaught, and the only one to return home to Ithaca.

Scylla is also featured in the story of Jason and Medea. After Medea helped Jason get the Golden Fleece by singing a serpent to sleep so that Jason could grab the Fleece from the tree in Ares’ garden. When Jason killed Medea’s brother Apsyrtos, he was told that the goddess Circe could purify him. On their way to her island, they were guided by Thetis safely around Scylla and Charybdis.

The Strait of Messina is thought to be the area in which Scylla and Charybdis resided. There is a large rock and a small whirlpool, but it is not thought to be dangerous enough to disrupt a large ship. Nonetheless, it was considered a very perilous shipping passage by sailors and merchants in ancient Greece.

Scylla Quick Reference

Parents

Phorcys and Hecate


Attributes and Symbols

A six-headed serpentine monster sometimes depicted with twelve legs


Notable Myths


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