from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Heracles fighting with the three-bodied Geryon, Attic amphora of the black-figure style , E group , around 540 BC Chr.

Geryon ( Greek  Γηρυών ), also Geryones and Geryoneus , is a figure in Greek mythology .

Ancient tradition

Geryon was the son of Chrysaor and the Oceanid Kallirrhoë . According to Hesiod , he lived on the island of Erytheia ("Rotland", land of the sunset), which is said to have been located far to the west beyond the columns of Heracles and near Gadeira (Cádiz) or under the western islands of the Hesperides . According to Hekataios , however, Geryon ruled the area around the Ambracian Gulf .

Geryon had three bodies that had grown together at the hips and is often depicted armed with three swords and shields and sometimes winged. His exceptionally beautiful cattle, a herd of red bulls, were guarded by the shepherd Eurytion and the two-headed dog Orthos , a brother of Kerberos , or by Kerberos himself.

Heracles' tenth duty was to steal this flock. Heracles took control of the cattle by killing Orthos and Eurytion with his club. When Menoites , who was grazing the cattle of Hades nearby , told Geryon of this attack, he rushed over and challenged Heracles to battle on the Anthemos River . Heracles killed him with an arrow soaked in the blood of the Hydra . Hera , who had come to support Geryon, was also wounded by Herakles and put to flight.

Geryon's grave was presumed to be in Gades (Cádiz) , where, according to Flavius ​​Philostratos ( Vit. Apollon. V, 5), there were two miraculous trees of a third kind, created by crossing spruce and pine, on the grave mound of Geryon, from whose bark dripped blood. Geryon's bones are said to have been kept in sanctuaries in Olympia and Thebes . An oracle of Geryon was in Patavium (Padua) .

Because of its triad, Geryon was often apostrophized in classical Latin literature with epithets such as tricorpor , triformis or tergeminus . The Christian authors sometimes cited it as a historically guaranteed monster, or declared it a mythical creature, whereby in the latter case the true historical core of the fiction ("fictum") in the tradition of Isidore of Seville ( Etym. XI, iii, 28) ) was seen in such a way that it was actually three brothers, between whom there was such unity that a single soul lived in three bodies ("tres fratres tantae concordiae ut in tribus corporibus quasi una anima esset").

Geryon with Dante

Virgil mounts Geryon, Dante still hesitating with fear - excerpt from the woodcut of the edition of Landino , Venice 1497
Dante and Virgil at the 8th mouth of Hell with Geryon as guard, illustration by Sandro Botticelli, 1481–88.

Since the late Middle Ages, artistic and literary representations of Geryon have been under the influence of the treatment in Dante's Inferno , which differs greatly from the ancient tradition , where Geryon (ital . : Gerione ) appears as a guardian figure at the transition from the seventh to the eighth circle of hell, the circle of hell of deceit as an allegory of deception ("imagine di froda") is executed ( Inf. XVI-XVII). Instead of three human torsos, Geryon now unites the three natures of man, snake creature and lion-like predator. Instead of three heads, he now has only one head with the face of a “just” and “benevolent” person (“La faccia sua era faccia d'uom giusto / tanto benigna avea di fuor la pelle”). The rest of the body is that of a snake ("serpente"), drawn on the back, on the chest and on the sides with brightly colored "knots and small circles" ("dipinti ... di node e di rotelle"), and equipped with "how a scorpion ”with a long, poisonous spiky tail forked at the tip (“ la venenosa forca / ch'a guisa di scorpion la punta armava ”). Finally, the predator-like nature is indicated by two “paws with fur up to the armpits” (“due branche avea pilose insin l'ascelle”).

The later illustrators sometimes endow Geryon with wings that Dante's text does not mention. Geryon, however, possesses the ability to fly, impressively described by Dante, namely to swim like a swimmer or diver through the “thick air” (“aere grosso”) of hell by shoveling air with his paws (“con le branche l'aere a sé raccolse ”) and steers its serpentine flight movement“ like an eel ”(“ come anguilla ”) with its tail. Thanks to this ability, he can carry the wanderer Dante and his guide Virgil on his shoulders through the air from the cliff-like edge of the seventh down to the bottom of the eighth circle of hell, while Virgil lets his protégé Dante sit up in front of him and wraps his arms around him as the commentators explain, to protect against the monster's treacherous tail.

Various mythical creatures in medieval natural history and heraldry have been cited as models for Dante, especially the Marintomorium (Latin) or mantricors (old French) in Albertus Magnus and Brunetto Latini , which are characterized by a human head, a lion-like body with lion's feet and a Scorpion tail as well as being characterized by great speed. Furthermore, from the area of ​​the biblical tradition, medieval depictions of Satan seducing Eve in Paradise as a serpent with a human face, as well as the winged locust beings ("lucustae") of the John Apocalypse , who are crowned with golden crowns, like horses in battle with armor and Abaddon , the angel of the abyss: they have human faces, hair like women, teeth like lions: "They have tails and stings like scorpions and in their tails is the power with which they harm people for five months" ( Apc 9.10 - standard translation).


Ancient mythology

Geryon with Dante

  • Ausonio De Wit: Il Gerione di Dante . In: L'Alighieri 4 (1893), pp. 199-204.
  • F. Cipolla: Il Gerione di Dante . In: Atti del Reale Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti , serie VII, tomo 53 (1894–95), pp. 706–710.
  • AC Chrisholm: The Prototype of Dante's Geryon . In: Modern Language Review 24.4 (1929), pp. 451-454.
  • Hermann Gmelin: Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy , Volume IV, Ernst Klett, Stuttgart, 1954, pp. 269-270.
  • John Block Friedman: Antichrist and the Iconography of Dante's Geryon . In: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 35 (1972), pp. 108-122.
  • M. Bregoli Russo: Per la figura di Gerione . In: L'Alighieri 18.2 (1977), pp. 51-52.
  • Dante Nardo: Gerione da Virgilio a Dante . In: Paideia 39 (1984), p. 161 ff.


  1. after Arrian , Anabásis Aléxandrou 2.16

Web links

Commons : Geryon  - collection of images, videos and audio files