The Hecatoncheires were creatures of Greek Mythology
. Literally, the word means "hundred-handed," and this is an accurate name for the things. Hecatoncheires were typically potrayed as gigantic
beasts, with fifty heads and one hundred arms. There were three of them: Cottus
, also called Gyes
, and Briareus
, also called Aegaeon
According to the legends, they were born to Gaia and Uranus. It is said "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."(1) Uranus detested these of his children, and cast them, along with the Cyclopes (another group of his sons) into Tartarus, a particularly gloomy part of Hades.
Gaia, the mother of most of the pre-Olympian beings, did not like her children being cast into Hades by their father. She persuaded the Titans, more of her children who had been cast into Hades by Uranus, to overthrow their father. The Titans, the Hecatoncheires, and the Cyclopes, led by Cronus (a Titan), did just that, revolting and dethroning Uranus, castrating him in the process.
Cronus, with Uranus now out of the way, was free to seize the "Supreme Ruler of the Universe" title he had been lusting after for a while. Cronus again hurled the Hecatoncheires back into Tartarus, now to be guarded by Campe, a massive jaileress covered in sea-monster scales and with poisonous serpents for hair.
Years later, Cronus would be the victim of the same type of conspiracy that had brought down Uranus. In a ten-year battle called the Titanomachy, Cronus struggled against his own children, the Olympian gods, who were led in their uprising by Zeus. Gaia promised the Olympians victory if they would take the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires as allies. Zeus agreed, and slew Campe, freeing her prisioners. The gods, aided by weapons provided by the Cyclopes and 300 rocks thrown by the Hecatoncheires, finally achieved victory over the Titans.
When Zeus brought the Titans to be imprisoned in Tartarus, he appointed the Hecatoncheires to be their guards. Poseidon gave to Briareus his daughter Cymopolea as a wife, in reward for his assistance in the Titanomachy. Cottus and Gyes went to dwell at the source of the Ocean; it is not clear where Briareus lived, but he was seen by Aeneas, near the Elm of False Dreams, when Briareus descended to Hades.
Briareus reappears in later Greek myths, usually as an intervener in the Olympian affairs. He settled a dispute between Helius and Poseidon concerning the area around the city of Corinth. To Poseidon, he gave the Isthmus of Corinth and the neighboring lands, and gave Helius the skys above the city. Briareus also once foiled a plot by Hera, Poseidon, and Athena to dethrone Zeus. As they came to put Zeus in chains, Briareus came and squatted near Zeus, frightening the other gods with only a display of his power.
- 1. Hesiod, Theogony 155