The Hekatonkheires, or Hecatonchires (pronounced /ˌhɛkətəŋˈkaɪriːz/; Greek: Ἑκατόγχειρες ( (listen) (help·info) "Hundred-Handed Ones," Latinized 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 Βριαρεύς the Vigorous, also called Aigaion Αἰγαίων (Latinized as Aegaeon) the "sea goat", Cottus Κόττος the Striker or the Furious, and Gyges Γύγης (or Γύης Gyes) the Big-Limbed. If some natural phenomena are symbolized 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.
Full article ▸