Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th Edition


or Aegaeon, in Greek mythology, one of the three hundred-armed, fifty-headed Hecatoncheires, brother of Cottus and Gyges (or Gyes). According to Homer (Iliad i. 403) he was called Aegaeon by men, and Briareus by the gods. He was the son of Poseidon (or Uranus) and Gaea. The legends regarding him and his brothers are various and somewhat contradictory. According to the most widely spread myth, Briareus and his brothers were called by Zeus to his assistance when the Titans were making war upon Olympus. The gigantic enemies were defeated and consigned to Tartarus, at the gates of which the three brothers were placed (Hesiod, Theog. 624, 639, 714). Other accounts make Briareus one of the assailants of Olympus, who, after his defeat, was buried under Mount Aetna (Callimachus, Hymn to Delos, 141). Homer mentions him as assisting Zeus when the other Olympian deities were plotting against the king of gods and men (Iliad i. 398). Another tradition makes him a giant of the sea, ruler of the fabulous Aegaea in Euboea, an enemy of Poseidon and the inventor of warships (Schol. on Apoll. Rhod. i. 1165). It would be difficult to determine exactly what natural phenomena are symbolized by the Hecatoncheires. They may represent the gigantic forces of nature which appear in earthquakes and other convulsions, or the multitudinous motion of the sea waves (Mayer, Die Giganten und Titanen, 1887).