Scylla and Charybdis, the names of two rocks between Italy and Sicily, and only a short distance from one another. In the midst of the one of these rocks which was nearest to Italy, there dwelt, according to Homer, Scylla, a daughter of Crataeis, a fearful monster, barking like a dog, with twelve feet, six long necks and mouths, each of which contained three rows of sharp teeth. The opposite rock, which was much lower, contained an immense fig-tree, under which there dwelt Charybdis, who thrice every day swallowed down the waters of the sea, and thrice threw them up again: both were formidable to the ships which had to pass between them.1
Later traditions represent Scylla as a daughter of Phorcys or Phorbas, by Hecate Crataeis,2 or by Lamia; while others make her a daughter of Triton, or Poseidon and Crataeis,3 or of Typhon and Echidna.4 Some, again, describe her as a monster with six heads of different animals, or with only three heads.5
One tradition relates that Scylla originally was a beautiful maiden, who often played with the nymphs of the sea, and was beloved by the marine god Glaucus. He applied to Circe for means to make Scylla return his love; but Circe, jealous of the fair maiden, threw magic herbs into the well in which Scylla was wont to bathe, and by these herbs the maiden was metamorphosed in such a manner, that the upper part of her body remained that of a woman, while the lower part was changed into the tail of a fish or serpent, surrounded by dogs.6
Another tradition related that Scylla was beloved by Poseidon, and that Amphitrite, from jealousy, metamorphosed her into a monster.7Heracles is said to have killed her, because she had stolen some of the oxen of Geryon; but Phorcys is said to have restored her to life.8
- Homer. Odyssey xii, 73 ff., 235 ff.
- Apollonius Rhodius. Argonautica iv, 828 ff., with the Scholiast.
- Eustathius on Homer, p. 1714.
- Hyginus. Fabulae: Preface.
- Tzetzes on Lycophron, 650; Eustathius, l.c.
- Ovid. Metamorphoses xiii, 732 ff., 905, xiv, 40 ff.; Tibullus, iii, 4.89.
- Tzetzes on Lycophron, 45; Servius on Virgil's Aeneid iii, 420.
- Eustathius, Tzetzes, Hyginus, ll.cc.
- Aeneid vi, 286.
- comp. Lucretius, v, 893.
- 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.