The Hydra (also known as the Lernaean Hydra) was a Greek mythological serpent with any number of heads (usually nine, as it was known to possess). Each time a head was cut off, two new heads regenerated in its place immediately. The middle and dominant Hydra head (the front and biggest) was immortal and breathed fire. This giant serpent's other heads possessed poisonous breath in addition to poisonous and acidic blood. Its lair was in the lake of Lerna in the Argolid. Beneath the lake was an entrance to the Underworld, which the Hydra guarded. The Hydra was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna. It was slain by Hercules and his nephew Iolaus. It is usually depicted as being from anywhere between 7 and 25 metres long and being around 6 to 13 metres tall. This is not correct or incorrect as the hydra is fought at different stages of its life depending on the version of the legend. The Hydra is often referred to as a girl in the myth which would mean that it is the younger sister of Orthrus and Cerberus which are both males. This also might mean that it is the older sister of the chimera, Sphinx, Nemean Lion, Caucasian eagle, Ladon and the Crommyonian Sow. It was said to have been born in the swamps of Lerna which is also where it would be killed by Heracles.

The Second Labour of Heracles

Hercules was sent by king Eurystheus to kill the Hydra as part of his second labour because the Lernean Hydra was terrorizing Lerna by attacking its towns and killing flocks of sheep and cattle. He took along his nephew Iolaus. When he reached Lerna, he covered his nose and mouth with a cloth to protect himself from the stench. He shot a flaming arrow into its cave where it hissed in anger, came out and started fighting him. However, he had trouble dealing with the Hydra when he realized that two heads regenerated whenever he sliced off one head. He told Iolaus to burn the stumps with his torch whenever he cut one of its heads off in order to prevent the heads regrowing.

When Hera saw Hercules was winning, she sent down a huge crab called Korkinos to attack him by pinching his foot which he then crushed under his mighty foot. He received a golden sword from Athena, which he used to kill the immortal head. He then took the immortal head and buried it next to the side of the road and placed a boulder onto the ground where the still writhing head of the Hydra was buried. He then went back to the body and dipped his arrows in its poisonous blood, which he used in his later quests. Both the crab and the Hydra were placed in the sky as the constellations [ Cancer and Hydra, respectively.


The hydra In modern artwork

The hydra has alternating numbers of heads

The hydra has alternating numbers of heads and limbs.


The hydra is actually one of the labours of Heracles that didn't count since he had aid from his nephew Iolaus so King Eurystheus decreed that he do another hence making the 12 labours of Heracles.

The hydra does not actually have a set number of heads since the hydra had too many heads for the vase painters to paint so they always gave it between 3 and 20 heads. Under normal conditions, the hydra never has less than 3 heads.

The hydra is usually depicted as having either two arms and no legs, two arms and two legs or no arms or legs at all when the hydra actually starts off with having no legs then it develops two arms than two legs. So all of these depictions are partially correct.

There are usually 2 kinds of hydra. The serpentine, aquatic hydra with fins on its head and usually no legs was the Lernean hydra which Heracles fought. The other is the terrestrial hydra which is the one with 4 legs and horns and spikes which is usually in other tales.

Both of these hydra's could have any number of heads and does not have a set amount.

In Popular Culture

  • Tyrune, a 3-headed dragon from Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog, is considered a hydra, and the rival dragon of Pyre, the Dragon of Dare.
  • The Hydra in the game "Final Fantasy XI" makes multiple appearances and multiple Hydras are included in the game as Notorious Monsters.



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