Skip to main content

Scylla and Charybdis

Scylla and Charybdis

In Greek mythology, Scylla and Charybdis were a pair of monsters who lived on opposite ends of the Strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily Scylla was originally a sea nymph who was loved by the sea god Poseidon*. Out of jealousy, Poseidon's wife Amphitrite poisoned the waters in which Scylla bathed. This turned Scylla into a six-headed beast with three rows of sharp teeth in each head. When ships passed close by her, she struck out to grab and eat unwary sailors.

Charybdis was also a sea nymph, as well as the daughter of Poseidon. Zeus* transformed her into a dangerous whirlpool across the strait from Scylla. Ships sailing the strait were almost certain to be destroyed by one of the monsters.

nymph minor goddess of nature, usually represented as young and beautiful

epic long poem about legendary or historical heroes, written in a grand style

In the Greek epic the Odyssey], the hero Odysseus lost his ship in Charybdis, but he managed to save himself by clinging to a tree overhanging the water. Later the whirlpool spat up the ship, and Odysseus dropped to safety on its deck. The legend of the two monsters gave birth to the phrase "between Scylla and Charybdis," meaning a situation in which one has to choose between two equally unattractive options.

See also Greek Mythology; Nymphs; Odyssey, The.


* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Scylla and Charybdis." Myths and Legends of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Scylla and Charybdis." Myths and Legends of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/scylla-and-charybdis

"Scylla and Charybdis." Myths and Legends of the World. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/scylla-and-charybdis

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.