Enceladus (mythology)

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Athena bests a less-than-gigantic Enceladus on an Attic red-figure dish, ca. 525 BCE.
Comparison with the labeled figure shows that this is Enceladus, too: Attic black-figure amphora, ca. 520 BCE.

In Greek mythology, Enceladus (Ancient Greek: Ἐνκέλαδος Enkelados) was one of the Gigantes, the enormous children of Gaia (Earth) fertilized by the blood of castrated Uranus.[1] With the other Gigantes, Enceladus appeared in one particular region—either Phlegra, the "burning plain" in Thrace,[2] or Pallene.[3]

Like the other Gigantes, Enceladus had serpent-like lower limbs, "with the scales of dragons for feet" as the Bibliotheke states, though this convention was not invariably followed in pictorial representations.[4]

During the battle between the Gigantes and the Olympian gods, Enceladus was disabled by a spear thrown by the goddess Athena (illustration to the right). He was buried on the island of Sicily, under Mount Etna. The volcanic fires of Etna were said to be the breath of Enceladus, and its tremors to be caused by him rolling his injured side beneath the mountain (similar myths are told about Typhon and Vulcan). In Greece, an earthquake is still often called a "strike of Enceladus".

In Euripides' satyr play Cyclops the minor god Silenus claims to have dealt Enceladus' death blow, but this was perhaps intended by the author as a vain drunken boast, since Silenus also claims to have sent the Gigantes flying with the braying of his ass.

In later art and literature[edit]

Gilt-bronze figure by Gaspar Mercy in the Bosquet de l'Encélade in the gardens of Versailles

At Versailles, Louis XIV's consistent iconographic theme of the triumphs of Apollo and the Olympians against all adversaries included the fountain of Enceladus in its own cabinet de verdure, which was cut into the surrounding woodland and outlined by trelliswork; the ensemble has recently been restored (illustration). According to an engraving of the fountain by Le Pautre (1677), the sculptor of the gilt-bronze Enceladus was Gaspar Mercy of Cambrai.[5]

John Keats mentions Enceladus among the other Titans in his "Hyperion" (1818/1819).[6]

In Herman Melville's Pierre, the image of Enceladus appears multiple times; the protagonist identifies with Enceladus in a dream.[7]

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, inspired by the suffering of the Second Italian War of Independence, wrote his poem "Enceladus" in 1859.[8]

Rick Riordan included Enceladus in his book The Lost Hero as one of the primary villains.

In Antarctica, there is a grouping of Nunataks on Alexander Island called the Enceladus Nunataks — but these nunataks were named after Saturn's moon, not after the gigantes of Greek mythology.


Enceladus, a moon of the planet Saturn, is named after the mythological Enceladus. Its south pole is interspersed with massive geysers of ice and water vapor that shoot hundreds of miles from its interior. The moon is considered by scientists to be one of the most likely locations in the Solar System to offer some habitability potential for microscopic life.[9][10][11]

One of two surviving Short Belfast military transport aircraft is dubbed "Enceladus".

William Shakespeare mentions "Enceladus" in Titus Andronicus, Act 4, sc. 2, L 96. "I tell you younglings, not Enceladus." (Folger Shakespeare Library – Titus Andronicus, page 136-137, copyright 2005).


  1. ^ Aphrodite arose from the same origins, yet no myth connected her with the Gigantes.
  2. ^ Bibliotheke 1.6.1; Hyginus, Fabulae, Proem. The location was removed to Magna Graecia in Hellenistic times: Strabo, in Alexandria, identified Phlegrae with the Phlegraean Plain in Campania, near Cumae.
  3. ^ Kerenyi 1951 pp 28f, noting Bibliotheke 1.6.1; Stephanus Byzantinus s.v. "Phlegra" resolves the conflict by declaring Phlegra the old name for Pallene.
  4. ^ "Pausanias denied that the giants were serpent-footed (Paus. 8.29.3), but they are often so represented on the later monuments of antiquity." (Sir James George Frazer, note to Apollodorus, Library and Epitome 1.6.1
  5. ^ "Encelade de bronze dorée, accablé sous des rochers, et poussant en l'air un gros jet d'eau. / Dans les Jardins de Versailles. / Par Gaspar Mercy de Cambray. // Enceladus ex aere aurato, saxis obrutus, ingentem aquae vim ore euomens. / In hortis Versaliarum. / Opus Gasparis de Mercy Cameracensis." [1]
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ Erik Kielland-Lund, "Existential Incest: Melville's Use of the Enceladus Myth in Pierre", American Studies in Scandinavia 28:1:52 (1996) full text
  8. ^ Horace Elisha Scudder, ed., The complete poetical works of Longfellow p. 201
  9. ^ "Cassini Images of Enceladus Suggest Geysers Erupt Liquid Water at the Moon’s South Pole". Retrieved 2006-03-22. 
  10. ^ Mosher, Dave (26 March 2014). "Seeds of Life Found Near Saturn". Space.com. Retrieved 2014-04-09. 
  11. ^ "Cassini Tastes Organic Material at Saturn's Geyser Moon". NASA. 26 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-26.