A son of Uranus by Gaea. Aegaeon and his brothers Gyges and Cottus are known under the name of the Uranides,1 and are described as huge monsters with a hundred arms (ἑκατόγχειρες) and fifty heads.2 Most writers mention the third Uranid under the name of Briareus instead of Aegaeon, which is explained in a passage of Homer,3 who says that men called him Aegaeon, but the gods Briareus.
On one occasion when the Olympian gods were about to put Zeus in chains, Thetis called in the assistance of Aegaeon, who compelled the gods to desist from their intention.4 According to Hesiod,5 Aegaeon and his brothers were hated by Uranus from the time of their birth, in consequence of which they were concealed in the depth of the earth, where they remained until the Titans began their war against Zeus. On the advice of Gaea Zeus delivered the Uranides from their prison, that they might assist him. The hundred-armed giants conquered the Titans by hurling at them three hundred rocks at once, and secured the victory to Zeus, who thrust the Titans into Tartarus and placed the Hecatonchires at its gates, or, according to others, in the depth of the ocean to guard them.6
According to a legend in Pausanias,7 Briareus was chosen as arbitrator in the dispute between Poseidon and Helios, and adjudged the Isthmus to the former and the Acrocorinthus to the latter.
The Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius8 represents Aegaeon as a son of Gaea and Pontus and as living as a marine god in the Aegean sea. Ovid9 and Philostratus 10 like-wise regard him as a marine god, while Virgil11 reckons him among the giants who stormed Olympus, and Callimachus,12 regarding him in the same light, places him under Mount Etna. The Scholiast on Theocritus13 calls Briareus one of the Cyclopes.
The opinion which regards Aegaeon and his brothers as only personifications of the extraordinary powers of nature, such as are manifested in the violent commotions of the earth, as earth-quakes, volcanic eruptions and the like, seems to explain best the various accounts about them.
- Hesiod. Theogony, 502 ff.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library i, 1.1; Hesiod. Theogony, 149 ff.
- Homer. Iliad i, 403 ff.
- ibid. i, 398 ff.
- Hesiod. Theogony, 154 ff., 617 ff.
- ibid., 617 ff., 815 ff.
- Description of Greece ii, 1.6; ii, 4.7.
- Argonautica i, 1165.
- Metamorphoses ii, 10.
- Vita Apollonii iv, 6.
- Aeneid x, 565.
- Callimachus. Hymn to Delos, 141 ff.
- Idylls i, 65.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.