The many-headed dog that guarded the entrance of Hades, is mentioned as early as the Homeric poems, but simply as "the dog," and without the name of Cerberus.1 Hesiod, who is the first that gives his name and origin, calls him2 fifty-headed and a son of Typhon and Echidna.

Later writers describe him as a monster with only three heads, with the tail of a serpent and a mane consisting of the heads of various snakes.3 Some poets again call him many-headed or hundred-headed.4

The place where Cerberus kept watch was according to some at the mouth of the Acheron, and according to others at the gates of Hades, into which he admitted the shades, but never let them out again.


Greek vases often show Cerberes together with Heracles, such as on a hydria from Caere (mid-sixth century BCE) and on an amphora by the Andocides Painter (both located in Paris). Cerberus also appears on gem stones, coins, and temple sculptures.



  1. Iliad viii, 368, Odyssey xii, 623.
  2. Theogony, 311.
  3. Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library ii, 5.12; Eurip. Here. fur. 24, 611; Virgil. Aeneid vi, 417; Ovid. Metamorphoses iv, 449.
  4. Horace. Carmina ii, 13. 34; Tzetzes on Lycophron, 678; Seneca. Hercules Furens, 784.


  • 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.