It may surprise the Harry Potter generation, but Centaurs, Medusa, and many of the other fantastical beasts in modern storytelling weren’t dreamt up in Starbucks by a single mother nursing a latte with Voldemort written on the side.

They’re much older than that – so old in fact that two Bronze Age Mycenaean terracotta statues found at Ugarit look suspiciously like centaurs, and the myths and legends of various civilisations describe the existence of such beasts. For this week’s Friday Five, let’s take a look at five of the Greek monsters and Gods that haven’t made the big screen yet, but definitely should.

 1. Echidna 


Beginning at the beginning, with the ‘Mother of the Monsters’, Echidna was reputed to have given birth to all the Greek monsters, so seems as good a place to start as any. With the upper body of a beautiful and irresistible woman but the scaly tail of a deadly snake you’d need serious beer goggles to go in for a kiss with this one.

2. Amphisbaena 


With its name derived from the Greek word amphis meaning ‘both ways’ the Amphisbaena was born from sand mixed with the blood of Medusa. Its serpent body with a head at both sides allowed it to slither on its belly like your average snake or perform its party trick of biting its other head and rolling across the desert like a hula hoop. Unsurprisingly for such a hideous beast it fed on the corpses of men, though rather bizarrely it often enjoyed the odd desert ant as well. For dessert presumably.

3. Scylla 


Scylla was cursed for not returning the love of sea-god Glaucus, and as a result, she grew six long necks, each sprouting an ugly head with three sharp rows of teeth each. Accessorised with twelve octopus tentacles, the tail of a cat and a waist consisting of six vicious wolf head, somehow we don’t think Glaucus was used to rejection.

4. Ichthyocentaurs 


The Ichthyocentaurs are the sea sons of Poseidon and guardians of the great oceans. Part man, part horse, part fish topped of with lobster claws for horns these two aren’t the fairest of the bunch, but definitely top the leader board for most bizarre collection of other species’ body parts.

5. Hippalectryon 


Not exactly Hollywood, the Hippalectryon has a horse’s head attached to the bottom of a rooster, giant vulture or eagle, Quite ridiculous really since it can neither run as fast as a horse or fly as high as an eagle but is probably the closest approximation we have yet to whatever it is they put in Findus readymeals.

Love archaeology?

DigVentures crowdfunds archaeological projects that everyone can be part of, in the UK and overseas. With help from people all over the world, we investigate the past and publish our discoveries online for free. Become a DigVentures Subscriber and be part of great archaeology - all year round!


Aisling Serrant

An all round museum educator and enthusiast, Aisling's the Family Festival Coordinator at the Museum of London Docklands.

Full Author Profile +