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Greek Mythology Trivia Quiz: Monsters!

Updated on January 14, 2015
Chimaera, except...where's the snakey bit?
Chimaera, except...where's the snakey bit?

How Many Monsters of Greek Mythology Do You Know?

It's time for a monster edition of my Greek mythology trivia quizzes!

This quiz was originally written with students of Greek mythology in mind, as a fun self-test. So don't feel bad if you don't get every question right. Just give it a try, then look below, where I've got "mini-myths" about each monster!

Note: I use variant spellings for many monsters, because some monsters are better known by their Latin names, others by the Greek. It's easy to recognize the Greek names if they have a K in them (Latin uses a C).

Other Greek Mythology Quizzes in this series:

Monster Greek Myths Quiz


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Scylla on a Greek Vase
Scylla on a Greek Vase

Homer's version of "A Rock and a Hard Place"

Scylla and Charybdis

Scylla was a ravening monster who lived in a cave facing the sea. She had multiple dog-heads emerging from her waist, below which was a serpent's tail. She would pluck sailors off ships and devour them. Facing her was the whirlpool Charybdis. Unfortunately for Odysseus, he was blown far off-course, and had to return to the Aegean through this deadly passage. Circe the witch advised him to pass close to her cave and lose a few men to Scylla, rather than drowning.

Sailors claimed they could hear her hounds barking and roaring. In fact, we know what may have inspired Scylla's myth: Mount Etna (Aetna), one of the world's most active volcanoes, on the coast of the island of Sicily (although Etna also has another famous monster associated with it; see below). Just north of Etna, the point of Sicily nearly joins the toe of Italy. To this day, whirlpools in the Straits of Messenia give sailors trouble.

The goddess Iris
The goddess Iris

The Goddess of the Rainbow

Iris, Messenger of the Gods

Hermes was not the only messenger of the gods. Iris, goddess of the rainbow, also carries the will of heaven down to earth. She serves as Hera's personal assistant.

Iris carries a pitcher of water from the Styx, the river of the underworld, on which the gods swear their oaths. Wishful thinkers say she pours its waters upon perjurers to put them to sleep.

Her husband is Zephyros, the West Wind, with whom she has a son, Pothos, "Passion."

Lernaean Hydra Vase - Photograph by Wolfgang Sauber
Lernaean Hydra Vase - Photograph by Wolfgang Sauber

The Lernaean Hydra

One of Herakles' Twelve Labors

The Lernaean Hydra was one of several monsters assigned to Herakles for pest extermination. This unusual dragon had nine heads -- to start with, anyway. Each time he chopped off a head, two more grew in its place.

Herakles had to beat this beastie with brains rather than brawn. A sidekick also helped. His good friend Iolaus would cauterize each neck with a torch as soon as the hero chopped it off.

Herakles dipped his arrows with the hydra's blood, which was poisonous like its breath.

12 Labors of Herakles

See Theoi.com's great write-up of the Twelve Labors of Herakles for all the monsters this hero fought, or check out the Perseus Project's Hercules Site for unique images of Herakles/Hercules from Greek art that you won't find anywhere else.

Zeus vs. Typhon, early Greek vase
Zeus vs. Typhon, early Greek vase

Titan of Destructive Storms

And the monster beneath Mount Etna

Typhon was one of the more terrifying Titans, an early race of giants defeated by the Olympian gods. Zeus the thunderer was the lord of the sky; Typhon was blamed for destructive, violent storms. Naturally, they had an ultimate showdown (right).

Poets enjoyed spinning colorful descriptions of Typhon: his head scraped the stars, and he had a hundred monster heads and one human head. Painters don't try to depict his extra heads.

Typhon was chained beneath Mount Aetna, from which he belches forth fire.

Theseus, the Minotaur and Ariadne
Theseus, the Minotaur and Ariadne | Source

The Minotaur's Messed-Up Family

What a load of bull

Minotaur means "bull of Minos," and by some accounts it became the constellation Taurus.

I can't explain where the Minotaur came from on a G-rated site, but let's just say that one should never tick off the gods. Minos had promised to sacrifice a special bull to the god Poseidon who helped him become king. After ascending the throne, Minos changed his mind and kept the bull in his own herds. Bad move.

Fast forward. After the Minotaur was born to the queen, it was caged in the center of a labyrinth, a maze, built by the architect Daidalos. King Minos kept the Minotaur fed with human sacrifices sent from Athens in punishment for their killing the king's son Androgeos.

Ariadne, one of the king's daughters and half-sister to the Minotaur, fell in love with Theseus of Athens. She aided him by tying a spool of thread to the door so that he could find his way out of the maze. She was therefore partly responsible for her own brother's death.

Oedipus and the Sphinx Vase
Oedipus and the Sphinx Vase

The Riddle of the Sphinx

Solved by Oedipus, before he went on to become a complex

The Sphinx acquired a myth very late. Sphinxes appear all over Greek and pre-Greek art, and even in the Near East, not to mention down in Egypt. In Greece, she takes the form of a winged lion with a woman's head.

In classical myth, she became a man-eating monster haunting the crags of Thebes. She would devour anyone who could not solve her riddle:

What creature walks on four legs at sunrise, two legs on mid-day, and three at sunset?

Finally Oedipus solved the riddle: Man. The Sphinx leapt off a cliff (or the acropolis) and died. Apparently the wings were just for show.

Oedipus himself was also the answer to the riddle. Not realizing he was adopted, he killed his father (who tried to run him over with a chariot on the road to Thebes) and married the queen, who turned out to be his own mother. Once he learned the dreadful truth, he blinded hmself and left Thebes with a cane -- three-legged, as the Sphinx had foreseen.

The "Polyphemos Vase" of Eleusis
The "Polyphemos Vase" of Eleusis

Polyphemos the Kyklops (Cyclops)

One of a race of one-eyed giants

The Kyklopes, a race of one-eyed giants, appear in minor cameos in many Greek myths.

Odysseus ran afoul of the most famous one: Polyphemos the shepherd. A brutish, uncivilized giant, he ate several of Odysseus' sailors who holed up in his cave. Odysseus and his men escaped the trap by getting Polyphemos drunk and putting out his eye (right, my photo of a vase from Eleusis). Odysseus had wisely used an alias when conversing with the Kyklops, calling himself "Noman," but foolishly called out his real name to taunt the giant after their escape.

Polyphemos called on his father Poseidon, lord of the sea, to punish the man who had blinded him. Odysseus wandered the ocean for ten years before finding his way home.

Other Kyklopes work in the forge of Hephaistos, the blacksmith of the gods, and hammer out the lightning bolts of Zeus.

Chimera on a Greek Vase
Chimera on a Greek Vase

The Khimaira (Chimera)

Slain by Bellerophon, rider of Pegasus

The Chimera -- Khimaira in Greek -- was a monster that terrorized Lykia in the Near East. This monster was part lion, part goat, and part dragon (or serpent). While painters and sculptors tend to focus on the goat and lion heads, rendering the dragon as a snaky tail, Bellerophon had more trouble with the fire-breathing dragon. The flying horse Pegasus allowed him to attack it from above with a lance.

Chimera is probably the snake-tailed constellation Capricorn, which disappears for a while from the night sky after Pegasus reappears.

"Gorgoneion" Head of Medusa on a Greek Vase
"Gorgoneion" Head of Medusa on a Greek Vase

Medusa, mortal monster

One of the Three Gorgones (Gorgons)

Medusa and her two sisters were snake-headed women with wings living on a remote shore. There are hints in Hesiod that they may originally have been sea-demons, who wrecked ships and created the stony reefs with their gaze.

Perseus slew Medusa with the help of Hermes and Athena, who provided him with a cap of invisibility, a polished shield he could use as a mirror to avoid meeting the Gorgones' eyes, and winged shoes for a fast getaway. Medusa's snaky head eventually wound up on the aegis, Athena's magical goat-skin, which she used to stun her foes.

Archaic depictions of Medusa look less like a woman and more like a Jack o' Lantern, for the same reason. Her grinning eyes, leering tongue and face are a worldwide symbol of a demon which (ironically) is supposed to scare off all other monsters. She appears on the pediments of many temples. In late classical art, she acquired a more human face.

Calydonian Boar Hunt
Calydonian Boar Hunt

The Kalydonian Boar Hunt

Herakles missed the party

Boars could grow to a huge size, and with their tusks, they were one of the most dangerous animals in ancient Greece. Small wonder that there was a myth about a giant boar that ravaged a kingdom.

The Kalydonian Boar Hunt brought together most of the heroes of Greek myth in the generation before the Trojan War -- except Herakles, who must have been taking the week off. Castor and Pollux, Peleus father of Achilles, Iolaus the lover of Herakles, Laertes the father of Odysseus, and many others took part. There was also one woman, Atalanta. Learn more about her in the "Heroines" quiz below.

© 2009 Ellen Brundige

Greek Mythology Guestbook - Which is your favorite monster?

Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    athena owl 16 months ago

    I know the riddle the Sphinx gave.Percy Jackson books don't have the riddle they have random question. But the riddle is What walks on four legs in the morning on two in the afternoon And three at night.

    The answer is man.

  • SusannaDuffy profile image

    Susanna Duffy 2 years ago from Melbourne Australia

    Such a pity these quizzes have fallen off the edge of the earth

  • LoriBeninger profile image

    LoriBeninger 4 years ago

    I love your Greek quizzes! I'm going to take them all if I can!

  • VspaBotanicals profile image

    VspaBotanicals 5 years ago

    Great lens!

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

    Medusa

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

    chimera

  • MindPowerProofs1 profile image

    MindPowerProofs1 5 years ago

    None of them

  • sweetstickyrainbo profile image

    sweetstickyrainbo 5 years ago

    interesting lens

  • profile image

    Ladyeaglefeather 5 years ago

    I really like this lens. Thanks

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

    Thank you, that was fun.

  • TeagueChubak LM profile image

    TeagueChubak LM 5 years ago

    I love Greek mythology. Thanks for the quiz!

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

    I got fascinated with your lens topic this morning, thank you indeed.

  • Elhamstero profile image

    Elhamstero 5 years ago

    I think I need to do some more reading - I only got 3/10 on the quiz!

  • robertsugar lm profile image

    robertsugar lm 5 years ago

    Great quiz! Thanks.

  • JoyfulReviewer profile image

    JoyfulReviewer 5 years ago

    Don't have a favorite Greek monster. Thanks for another challenging quiz.

  • profile image

    fertilityebook 5 years ago

    medusa

  • profile image

    fertilityebook 5 years ago

    medusa

  • wolfie10 profile image

    wolfie10 5 years ago

    i looked at 3 greek mythology lenses and found them to be really good. have to come back to do the others

  • ellagis profile image

    ellagis 5 years ago

    My favourite monster? It's me, of course!

  • goo2eyes lm profile image

    goo2eyes lm 5 years ago

    sorry, i am not a greek

  • goo2eyes lm profile image

    goo2eyes lm 5 years ago

    got lousy points

  • adamfrench profile image

    adamfrench 6 years ago

    got half, 5, hope for me yet

  • GypsyPirate LM profile image

    GypsyPirate LM 6 years ago

    My favorite of those here is the Sphinx.

  • pramodbisht profile image

    pramodbisht 6 years ago

    Nice Lens

  • profile image

    dvpwli 6 years ago

    so exciting i love it thanks

  • KimGiancaterino profile image

    KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

    Superb! I will do better next time after studying your lens.

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    Great quiz, really enjoyed it. Thanks!

  • pimbels lm profile image

    pimbels lm 6 years ago

    Very interesting.Thank you for sharing.

  • TolovajWordsmith profile image

    Tolovaj Publishing House 6 years ago from Ljubljana

    I like mythology almost asmuch as fairy tales. Hope to see you at my pop quizz about fairy tales:)

  • ben186422 profile image

    ben186422 6 years ago

    I always liked mythology. thanks for this lens (:

  • profile image

    tssfacts 6 years ago

    All were guesses I guess I did ok. I would have done better if I didn't second guess my first answers lol.

  • Lemming13 profile image

    Lemming13 6 years ago

    My favourite is Cerberus - I love a cute puppy! Great quiz, really enjoyed it.

  • Cheryl57 LM profile image

    Cheryl57 LM 6 years ago

    6/1-, time to hit the books, or perhaps just some more of your excellent lenses!

  • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

    MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

    Well done as always

  • profile image

    maxnic11 6 years ago

    tough one!

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    its very easy :LD

  • budwalker lm profile image

    budwalker lm 6 years ago

    Wew that was great. I have learned a lot. Got only 6 out of 10 :)

    (not bad . i guess)

  • budwalker lm profile image

    budwalker lm 6 years ago

    Wew that was great. I have learned a lot. Got only 6 out of 10 :)

    (not bad . i guess)

  • indigoj profile image

    Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

    I definitely need to brush up on my mythology. Enjoyed the challenge though!

  • mythphile profile image
    Author

    Ellen Brundige 6 years ago from California

    @YsisHb: Eucharisto!

    I hope I do them justice. The problem with scholars is that we pick and poke at the dry, dusty texts of 2000 years ago, when in fact these stories are still alive, still being told in Hellas today!

  • YsisHb profile image

    YsisHb 6 years ago

    I am ashamed to admit that even though I am Greek my score was not that high.

    Your lenses are really interesting. Seeing "our myths" from a different point of view -the one of a foreigner who has studied them thoroughly- makes me approach them with a fresh look. Thank you.

  • Allison Whitehead profile image

    Allison Whitehead 6 years ago

    I got 10% on my last one and I've increased to 30% on this one. Must mean my guessing is getting better!

  • athomemomblog profile image

    Genesis Davies 6 years ago from Guatemala

    Hmm, didn't do so well on this one, either. I think it's time to brush up on my mythology!

  • surviving-2012 profile image

    surviving-2012 6 years ago

    Nicely, Nicely. Thank you for this fun quiz.

  • Addy Bell profile image

    Addy Bell 6 years ago

    50% ! I thought I knew my monsters better than that.

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    My head hurts, that was hard and I only remembered 50%! It would have helped to actually read the lens before taking the quiz I guess. I know the answers now. Now I have to go rest my head. Well done!

  • OhMe profile image

    Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

    I sure need to do some studying. I flunked but still enjoyed learning

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    hmmmmmmmm so medusa is mortal.

  • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

    C A Chancellor 7 years ago from US/TN

    Whoops... another bad score. Rats! Clearly I don't remember as much mythology as I thought.

  • Kimsworld LM profile image

    Kimsworld LM 7 years ago

    That was awful! I'm sooo ashamed. Better study before I proceed with anymore. Thanks again.

    http://www.squidoo.com/quiz-cartoon-characters-who...