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The nereid Thetis and Briareus, of the hundred hands. | il035flax: "But you came, goddess, and freed him from his bonds, when you had quickly called to high Olympus him of the hundred hands, whom the gods call Briereus ..." (Hom.Il.1.400). John Flaxman (1755 – 1826).

".. of all the children that were born of Gaia and Uranus, these were the most terrible, and they were hated by their own father from the first." (Hesiod, Theogony 155).

The HECATONCHEIRES (hundred-handed) are Briareus, Cottus and Gyes, the most terrible offspring of Uranus.

Uranus did not like his children

The three HECATONCHEIRES were enormous both in size and might, and each of them had one hundred hands and fifty heads. But for being either so good or so bad, their father Uranus detested them. Consequently, he hid them in a secret place of earth, or cast them into Tartarus, a gloomy place in Hades where no one wishes to sojourn in, along with his other sons the CYCLOPES, whom he also hated. And having them all well hidden, he rejoiced in his evil doing. This is what the ruler of the universe, apparently ignoring that injustice nourishes sedition, did against the HECATONCHEIRES and the CYCLOPES, his own offspring. But his wife Gaia, not wishing her children to suffer the perpetual prisoner's fate, or to be straitened for having their children within, persuaded the TITANS to revolt against their father. And they, led by Cronos, attacked and dethroned Uranus, after having castrated him (see also Castration of Uranus).

New rule same as old

Now Cronos, having coveted his father's chair more than he was disgusted at his deeds, hurled the HECATONCHEIRES down to Tartarus again, as soon as he had gained power. For he, some suggest, was jealous of their manhood and comeliness. In Tartarus, where Night spreads about in triple line, they were guarded by Campe, a gigantic jaileress with clusters of poisonous serpents for hair, who was covered with sea-monster's scales from the chest to the parting-point of the thighs.

The HECATONCHEIRES save the gods

Cronos cannot be said to have been more fortunate than his predecessor; for also he was the victim of a conspiracy, being fought against for ten years by Zeus and the gods, his own children. Gaia then prophesied victory to Zeus if he should have as allies the CYCLOPES and the HECATONCHEIRES. So Zeus, having slain their jaileress Campe, freed them, and provided the HECATONCHEIRES with nectar and ambrosia, so that their spirit should come to life again. The gods then, armed with the weapons that the CYCLOPES had given them, and helped by the many missiles of the HECATONCHEIRES, overcame the TITANS (see also Titanomachy). The HECATONCHEIRES' capacity for bombardment was proverbially remembered in later times; for it is said:

".. if a man were gifted by nature with the frame of .. a Briareus, with his hundred hands he ought to be able to throw a hundred darts." (Plato, Laws 795c).

And those who tell the story say that the HECATONCHEIRES made the battle particularly harsh. For they, being insatiable war lovers, hurled three hundred rocks in quick succession, overshadowing the TITANS, and defeating them. And when the TITANS were brought to prison in Tartarus, Zeus appointed the HECATONCHEIRES to guard them, and Poseidon gave Briareus his daughter Cymopolea as wife.

Where they dwell

Later the TITANS were released by Zeus, and the Hecatoncheires Cottus and Gyes went to dwell at the source of the Ocean. It is not clear where Briareus and his wife live, but he was seen by Aeneas when he descended to Hades, beside the Elm of False Dreams.

Interventions of Briareus

On one occasion, Briareus arbitrated in the dispute between Helius and Poseidon, concerning the lands about Corinth: he assigned to Poseidon the Isthmus of Corinth and the adjacent lands, and gave to Helius the height above the city (Acrocorinthus). Briareus is also remembered for having averted a minor conspiracy in heaven. For it is told that when Hera, Poseidon, and Athena plotted against Zeus, planning to throw him into chains, he was saved by Briareus. The Hecatoncheire, whom Achilles' mother Thetis had called, came to Zeus' rescue, and by squatting down close to him, frightened the other gods away through the mere display of his force.




Gaia gave birth first to the TITANS, then to the CYCLOPES, and after them to the HECATONCHEIRES, says Hesiod; but Apollodorus affirms that the HECATONCHEIRES were the first to be born, the CYCLOPES second, and the TITANS last.







It has been said that whereas the gods called this one Briareus, mortal men called him Aegaeon 2. Briareus is also called Obriareus. Cymopolea was given by her father Poseidon to Briareus on account of his braveness in the war against the TITANS.







Related sections

Apd.1.1.1ff., 1.2.1; Hes.The.149, 617, 713ff., 819; Hom.Il.1.404; Nonn.18.237; Pau.2.1.6, 2.4.6; TIT.1, 3; Stat.Achil.1.209; Stat.Theb.4.535; Vir.Aen.6.287, 10.565.