She dwells ‘beneath the secret parts of the holy earth … deep down under a hollow rock far from the deathless gods and mortal men’Hesiod
Echidna was described to be half beautiful maiden and half fearsome snake. In addition to her monstrous appearance, she was purported to have monstrous characteristics; among them that she developed a taste for raw human flesh. Her consort was the equally monstrous Typhoeus, who had eyes of fire and the heads of a thousand dragons sprouting from his hands. The pair lived in a cave somewhere in Arima. Between them they spawned many monstrous offspring, including:
- Colchian Dragon – the guardian of the Golden Fleece in Aeetes’ kingdom of Colchis
- Cerberus – the triple headed hound found guarding the realm of Hades
- Lernean Hydra – the multiple headed water serpent who roamed the swamps of Lerna and guarded one of the entrances to the Underworld.
- The Chimera – the fire breathing hybrid of goat, lion and serpent
- Orthus – the two headed guard dog for the cattle of Geryon
- Caucasian Eagle – the eagle who tormented Prometheus each day by eating the Titan’s regenerating liver
- Crommyonian Sow – the gigantic pig who terrorised the region between Megara and Corinth
Echidna blamed Zeus for the death of these children, many at the hand of his son Heracles. Eventually she and Typhoeus went to war against Mt. Olympus to exact their revenge. The Greek gods trembled and fled at their rampaging arrival, Zeus himself the only one to remain. The battle was fierce, but ultimately they were overcome. Typheous was quelled by a thunderbolt and imprisoned beneath Mount Etna. Echida was banished, and returned alone to their cave in Arima.
It’s said she was both immortal and ageless. But not, however, invincible. Echidna continued to prey on unfortunate “passers-by” until she was finally killed, while she slept, by Argus Panoptes, the hundred-eyed giant who served Hera.