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Cerberus: Deceiving a Watchdog and Relying on God

ByFilipa Afonso

In ancient mythology, Cerberus is the son of the fire-breathing monster Typhoeus and Echidna, a half-woman half-serpent creature. Guardian of Hades, the abode of the dead, he is usually depicted as a three-headed dog, with a dragon tail, and a mane of multiple serpents.1 He is charged with preventing the living from entering Hades and devouring those who attempt to escape from it. However, Cerberus’ shape has been as wavering as the number of its occurrences in classical literature, shifting from the fifty-headed creature of Hesiod’s Theogony2 (where the name Cerberus appears to have occurred first),3 to the three-headed figure, or even the hundredheaded dog of Horace’s Odes,4 and to the ordinary though huge dog, accompanied at all times by his two pups, according to Heraclitus the Paradoxographer’s description in his writing, On Unbelievable Tales.5