To Hell and Back: a Look at the Mythological Life of Cerberus

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To Hell and Back: A Look at the Mythological Life of Cerberus

There was a certain demon that patrolled the gates of Hades in classical Greek mythology. Known and feared by many as Cerberus (Also known as Kerberos), this impeccable canine-like monster was known to allow anyone to pass freely into the underworld, Hades, but make it his mission to let none escape from inside, regardless of how they had entered. What exactly is Cerberus, and where did he originate? What tales depict Cerberus as a character from within them, and what were his roles in these myths? For what reasons would the cultures of old come up with such a beast? One must research to find out all aspects of this mythological beast, in character and in role, to compare and contrast the many stories and descriptions of Cerberus. Only after can one come up with a legitimate response to such questions. “Cerberus was the guardian of the Greek Underworld, and a faithful servant of Hades (the god who ruled that gloomy realm). He was represented as a grotesque dog who had three heads (although the poet Hesiod claims that Cerberus had fifty heads - quite an extravagant number), all of which snarled at those foolish enough to attempt to leave the Underworld; the dog also had the tail of a serpent.” (

The beast was best known to be represented as a gruesome dog-like creature that had three heads, a mane of snake heads (because of the snake heads, sometimes depicted as having 50 heads) and the tail of a serpent. ( It is also a widespread theory that the three heads may have consisted of the middle head being that of a lion, and the other two the heads of a dog and wolf, respectively. According to Joel Levy, Cerberus was known to have the disposition of a pit-bull Rottweiler in a butcher’s shop. He had bright, vicious eyes and a blood red tongue. The beast was a slobbery one, with polished claws and a sleek, reptilian coat. The serpentine tail was...
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