Arima, couch of Typhoeus

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Arima, couch of Typhoeus, as Homer expresses it, is a hard-to-place site in Greek mythology, said to be where Zeus defeated Typhon and where Echidna dwells.

In the Iliad,[1] following the catalogue of ships, Homer returns to describing the tramp of the huge Achaean army; it is like the resounding earth beneath the "anger of Zeus who delights in thunder, whenever he lashes the ground around Typhoeus in Arima (en Arimois), where they say is Typhoeus' bed". "Even the ancients were uncertain," Robin Lane Fox observes, in preface to offering an identification of "Arima".[2] Some readers have assumed that an unattested people, the Arimoi, were intended. Homer's interjection "they say" seems to place Arima at a certain remove from his experience and those of his hearers.[3] "It is clear that ancient critics did not know which region this signified," comments G.S. Kirk concerning this passage.[4]

Hesiod remarks that "Arima" is where Echidna, the chthonic mate of Typhon, dwells, "there in earth's secret places. For there she has her cave on the underside of a hollow rock, far from the immortal gods, and far from all mortals. There the gods ordained her a fabulous home to live in which she keeps underground among the Arimoi, grisly Ekhidna."[5] A fragment from a lost poem of Pindar notes that in the "highly celebrated Corycian cave", "once, among the Arimoi" Zeus had battered Thyphoeus, with "fifty" heads.[6]

Strabo[7] gives a brief list of the places where "Arima" had been sited by previous writers: Lydia,[8] Syria,[9] Cilicia, and even Sicily and the west.

Fox notes that in north Syria, where the early Greek trading post of Al Mina lay, the presence, from the ninth century onwards, the presence of "Aramaeans", speaking and writing Aramaic. Even earlier, royal Assyrian texts of c. 1060 refers to a land A-ri-me, A-ri-mi or A-ra-me eastwards in Mesopotamia; its people recur in a text of Sargon II c. 710 BCE A-ra-me.[10]

The truth is more subtle than a simple identification with such a "distant hint", as Fox demonstrates,[11] linking myth, surviving inscriptions and other documentation to identify "Arima" with the territory surrounding the Corycian cave,[12] an identification first made by Alexander's historical advisor, Callisthenes: "the Arimoi are located by the Corycian cave near Calycadnus and the promontory of Sarpedon; the neighboring mountains are called 'Arima'".[13] Fox confirms Callisthenes with an inscription in the temple built at the cave's entrance that records a visitor's propitiation of Pan and Hermes, at this "broad recess in the earth at Arima"; Hermes and goat-Pan (Aigipan) rescued Zeus, deprived of his "sinews" from his first defeat at the hands of Typhon.[14] Fox notes that "in inscriptions found at the nearby settlement of Corycos, Zeus is specifically entitled the 'Zeus of Victory,' referring to his victory, therefore, in the war with Typhon"; he also notes in passing the earlier Hittite place name Erimma in Cilicia.


  1. ^ Iliad II.780-85.
  2. ^ Fox, Travelling Heroes in the Epic Age of Homer (2008) p. 39; further discussion, pp. 107. 291-93, 297-300, etc.
  3. ^ "Did Homer mean 'so rumour has it' or 'so informed observers say' (although Homer had not seen it himself)? Is the phrase conferring authority or expressing non-committal doubt?" (Fox 2008:39).
  4. ^ Kirk, The Iliad: A Commentary, Books I-IV(1985), p. 243, noted by Fox 2008:289, note 22
  5. ^ Hesiod, Theogony, 295ff.
  6. ^ Pindar, fragment 13; Pythian odes 1.17 and 8.16, noted by Fox 2008: note 33.
  7. ^ Strabo 13.4.6.
  8. ^ Fox identifies Strabo's source as the mid-fifth century historian Xanthus of Lydia, who placed a king Arimous in the region of volcanic lava called "Burnt Lydia" (FrGH 765, fragment 13); Fox summarizes and dismisses the location: "it was not the location for Typhon's 'lashing': the monster was not still being beaten there" (Fox 2008:291).
  9. ^ Syria was introduced as a possible location by the local historian Posidonius of Apamea, c. 100 BCE (Fox 2008:291f, "a false trail").
  10. ^ Fox 2008, 107, note 32 (missing in the US edition).
  11. ^ Fox 2008:288-98.
  12. ^ Confusingly, the ancient Greeks identified another "Corycian Cave"on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, inventing a nymph Corycia to account for its name.
  13. ^ Quoted by Fox 2008:293.
  14. ^ See Typhon#Battle with Zeus