The Hecatonchires, or Hekatonkheires (//; Ancient Greek: Ἑκατόγχειρες (listen) (help·info) "Hundred-Handed Ones", also with 50 heads, Latinised Centimani), were figures in an archaic stage of Greek mythology, three giants of incredible strength and ferocity that surpassed that of all Titans whom they helped overthrow. Their name derives from the Greek ἑκατόν (hekaton; "hundred") and χείρ (kheir; "hand"), "each of them having a hundred hands and fifty heads" (Bibliotheca). Hesiod's Theogony (624, 639, 714, 734–35) reports that the three Hekatonkheires became the guards of the gates of Tartarus.
In Virgil's Aeneid (10.566–67), in which Aeneas is likened to one of them, Briareus (known here as Aegaeon), they fought on the side of the Titans rather than the Olympians; in this Virgil was following the lost Corinthian epic Titanomachy rather than the more familiar account in Hesiod.
Other accounts make Briareus or Aegaeon one of the assailants of Olympus, who, after his defeat, was buried under Mount Aetna (Callimachus, Hymn to Delos, 141).
According to Hesiod, the Hekatonkheires were children of Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (sky). They were thus part of the very beginning of things (Kerenyi 1951:19) in the submerged prehistory of Greek myth, though they played no known part in cult. Their names were Briareus (Βριάρεως) the Vigorous, also called Aigaion (Αἰγαίων), Latinised as Aegaeon, the "sea goat", Cottus (Κόττος) the Striker or the Furious, and Gyges (Γύγης) or Gyes (Γύης) the Big-Limbed. If some natural phenomena are symbolised by the Hekatoncheires then they may represent the gigantic forces of nature that appear in earthquakes and other convulsions or in the motion of sea waves (Mayer, Die Giganten und Titanen, 1887).
Soon after they were born their father Uranus threw them into the depths of Tartarus because he saw them as hideous monsters. In some versions Uranus saw how ugly the Hekatonkheires were at their birth and pushed them back into Gaia's womb, upsetting Gaia greatly, causing her great pain and setting into motion the overthrow of Uranus by Cronus, who later imprisoned them in Tartarus.
The Hekatonkheires remained there, guarded by the dragon Campe, until Zeus rescued them, advised by Gaia that they would serve as good allies against Cronus and the Titans. During the War of the Titans the Hekatonkheires threw rocks as big as mountains, one hundred at a time, at the Titans, overwhelming them.
In a Corinthian myth related in the second century CE to Pausanias (Description of Greece ii. 1.6 and 4.7), Briareus was the arbitrator in a dispute between Poseidon and Helios, between sea and sun: he adjudged the Isthmus of Corinth to belong to Poseidon and the acropolis of Corinth (Acrocorinth) sacred to Helios.
Scholia on Apollonius of Rhodes (i. 1165) represent Aegaeon as a son of Gaea and Pontus, the Sea, ruling the fabulous Aegaea in Euboea, an enemy of Poseidon and the inventor of warships. In Ovid's Metamorphoses (ii. 10) and in Philostratus' Life of Apollonius of Tyana (iv. 6) he is a marine deity. Hesiod reconciles the archaic Hekatonkheires with the Olympian pantheon by making Briareos the son-in-law of Poseidon who gave him "Kymopoliea his daughter to wed." (Theogony 817).
In popular culture
||This article may contain minor, trivial or unrelated fictional references. (December 2012)|
In Don Juan (Canto VI), Byron makes a slightly crude joke, musing whether "enviable Briareus ... with thy hands and heads ... hads't all things multiplied in proportion" (this thought arising from Byron's assertion of his love of all womankind in the previous canto).
Briareos Hecatonchires is also a character in the anime and manga Appleseed, where he plays a human who has been transformed into a Hecatonchire cyborg body, which also allows him to remotely control 100 systems. This is one of the many references to Greek mythology in the series, including Cottus (another cyborg) and Gyges (the brand name of a robot-shaped vehicle).
Briares appears in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians novel The Battle of the Labyrinth. He was imprisoned in a part of the Labyrinth that corresponds to Alcatraz and again guarded by Kampe. His brothers have died when no one remembered them causing him to give up hope and refuse the chance to escape his prison. He eventually overcomes his despair and fights against the Titans again. Briares fought in the First Titan War, and recalls it in The Battle of the Labyrinth.
In the Ghost in the Shell episode "Decoy", many-handed robots were referenced by Ishikawa using the name "Hecatoncheires". However in the original Japanese it is heputonkeiru, meaning "seven hands".
In Dan Simmons' Olympos, the god Hephaestos tells Achilles that the monster Setebos was called "Briareos" by the Olympian gods and "Aegaeon" by the early humans.
In the video game Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, the Heavy Command Cruiser and its escorts are named Aigaion, Kottos and Gyges for the Hekatonkheires of the same names.
In the God of War comic series, Gyges appears as the final enemy who was trying to revive his brothers Briareus and Cottus using the Ambrosia of Asclepius. He is killed by the protagonist Kratos. In God of War: Ascension, the Hecatonchires Briareus (here called Aegaeon) is transformed into a giant prison for the damned by the Furies, as punishment for breaking an oath to Zeus. He is slain by Kratos, ending his suffering.
In the PlayStation 2 video game Rygar: The Legendary Adventure, Hekatonchieres is the first boss fight players encounter, though the boss itself does not match the traditional description. Instead, it is a stone statue of a soldier, a horse, and a typical bearded god-like figure fused as one.
In the PlayStation 2 video game Persona 3: FES, players can attain Hecatoncheir has a Hanged Man arcane Persona.
- Hesiod calls them the "Ouranids" (Theogony 502).
- A scholia on Apollonius Rhodius 1.1165c notes "Eumelos in the Titanomachy says that Aigaion was the son of Earth and Sea, lived in the sea, and fought on the side of the Titans"; noted in M.L. West "'Eumelos': A Corinthian Epic Cycle?" The Journal of Hellenic Studies 122 (2002, pp. 109–133) p 111.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Briareus.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hecatonchires.|
- Hesiod's Theogony, 147ff.
- Bibliotheca I.1.1
- Ovid, Fasti iv.593
- Horace Carminae II.17.14, III.4.69
- Karl Kerenyi, Gods of the Greeks, London, Thames and Hudson, 1951.
- Theoi Project - Briareos