In Greek mythology, Ladon is the Hesperian Dragon, who was charged by Atlas’s daughters, the Hesperides, with guarding the apple orchard’s priceless golden apples. Ladon was up to the challenge; just looking at him was enough to discourage even the boldest of men from helping themselves to the apples.
His one hundred heads could see everything happening around them, and only one man could kill him. Read on to learn who this man was and how he defeated the 100-headed monster.
Origin of Ladon
Hesiod lists Ladon among the hideous children of Phorcys and Ceto, two of the Greek pantheon’s primeval sea deities. Having the same parents as Echidna, the Aethiopian Cetus, and the Trojan Cetus would make Ladon a sibling of all three.
Instead, many of Greek mythology’s most infamous monsters—including Cerberus and the Lernaean Hydra—trace their lineage back to Typhon and Echidna, as described by Hyginus and Apollodorus.
However, if Ladon’s parents were Phorcys and Ceto, the name would make sense; Ladon means “strong flow” in Greek, and the monster may have been a symbol of the perils of swift ocean currents.
Description of Ladon
The first depiction of Ladon was that of a serpentine monster whose body was coiled around an apple tree. Ladon was originally shown as a monster with 100 heads, but this changed after the Greek playwright Aristophanes painted him as a multi-headed beast.
Over time, he gained a reputation as Ladon the Hundred-Headed Dragon, a tireless warrior who never rested while on duty.
Many people thought Ladon could imitate or use 100 different voices. With 100 heads, he was able to survey the whole area simultaneously. Each of Ladon’s many heads supposedly took turns napping while the others stayed up.
Ladon, who had many heads, tortured the Titan Atlas by biting him over and over, but Atlas was immune to Ladon’s attacks.
Garden of Hera
Ladon, like many other Greek monsters, was linked to a specific location: the Garden of Hera, sometimes called the Garden of the Hesperides.
The Hesperides nymphs, also known as the nymphs of the sunset, were in charge of maintaining this garden. Among the numerous jewels found in the Garden of Hera was the tree (or orchard) from which the legendary Golden Apples of Greek mythology sprang.
The gods’ queen, Hera, maintained a west garden on the outskirts of the river that encircled the globe—Oceanus. Although the garden was rich in treasure, it only contained a single tree, which the Hesperides carefully nurtured to yield shiny apples.
Gaia, the primordial sea goddess, presented Hera with the apples as a wedding present. There was a lot of rivalry for the apples because eating one would bring eternal life, and the Hesperides, also called nymphs of the evening, were known to steal some of the apples for themselves.
Because of the Hesperides’ actions, Hera decided to hire guards to protect the fruit. So she charged her son Ladon with protecting the apples and watching over the Hesperides. He succeeded admirably in this endeavor by thwarting would-be immortality thieves who sought to take the fruits.
Ladon And Hydra
Ladon is sometimes mistaken for Hydra, a serpentine beast that formerly slithered around in the waters of Lerna in the Argolid. Hesiod of the Greeks says that Typhon and Echidna were the parents of both Ladon and her sister Hydra.
However, their appearances and functions are where they diverge. Ladon had one hundred heads, but Hydra only had nine, and every time one head was severed, two new ones developed in its place. It is stated the same thing for Ladon, who can heal quickly from wounds.
In contrast to the serpentine Hydra, the dragon-like Ladon had wings and skin that resembled plant matter. In addition, the Greek mythological might of Ladon could have been better than that of Hydra.
For instance, Hydra’s blood was so deadly that just the scent of it would kill a person. Furthermore, those who consumed Hydra’s venom would quickly burst due to the rapid multiplication of their blood cells triggered by the venom.
But with a kiss, Ladon could transform his victims into plants. According to legend, Ladon devoured the Hydra because it was larger. While Ladon was recruited to guard valuables, Hydra preferred to live in wet environments.
King Eurystheus had Hercules kill two monsters as one of his twelve tasks. Last but not least, the Ladon won the intellect category thanks to its impressive linguistic versatility.
Ladon And Heracles
When Heracles obtained assistance in slaying the Lernaean Hydra and in earning recompense for cleaning the Augean Stables, King Eurystheus dismissed two of the original labors rendering them void. Consequently, the recovery of some Golden Apples became the tenth Labour assigned.
It is still being determined whether Heracles learned the location of the Garden of Hera via the Titan Atlas or one of the sea gods of the Mediterranean. Still, either way, Heracles needed to know where it was before he could begin his quest.
Heracles would sneak into the Garden of the Hesperides and slay the dragon Ladon with a single poisoned arrow, proving once again that he was no match for the countless monsters he had already vanquished.
The Argonautica, written by Apollonius Rhodius, briefly mentions Ladon’s death as well, as the Argo was claimed to have arrived at the Garden of Hera a day after Ladon’s death.
In that place, the Argonauts heard the cries of the Hespird Aegle, who had given up hope after hearing of the deaths of Ladon and the thieves who had taken the Golden Apples.
Ladon And Atlas
Heracles found Atlas and duped him into stealing the apples, so the legend goes. Zeus’s punishment for Atlas’s involvement in the conflict with the Olympian gods was to make him responsible for maintaining the celestial sphere.
Heracles eventually tracked down Atlas, who instructed him to assist the sky while he went to retrieve the fruits. Atlas was able to collect the fruits from the tree without any difficulty because he was the father of the Hesperides.
But when he returned with the fruits, he still wouldn’t hand over the sky to Heracles, so he had to resort to his tricks. Finally, Heracles assured Atlas that he wanted him to keep holding up the sky but that he needed to readjust his cloak.
So, he gave Atlas the skies to bear, and as soon as Atlas hoisted them up, Heracles hurried off, running with the apples as fast as his legs could take him. Though Heracles did not meet Ladon, he nonetheless succeeded in his quest for the apples in this epic retelling.
Ladon in Astronomy
The constellation Draco is named after Ladon in the Latin author Gaius Hyginus’ book Astronomy. After Heracles murdered him in the Garden of the Hesperides, the myth says that Zeus cast him among the stars. Ptolemy, a Roman astronomer, included Draco in his list of 48 constellations.
It remains one of the 88 constellations recognized today. As a result, northern astronomers have year-round access to the constellation.
Other Versions of Ladon
Scholars generally agree that Lotan, another monster with roots in Amorite mythology, inspired the Greek Ladon. It was also believed that Lotan was preceded by Temtum, a snake that appeared on Syrian seals between the 18th and 16th centuries BC.
Lotan was also responsible for the creation of the Leviathan, a legendary sea monster described in the Hebrew Bible.
Illuyanka, a serpentine dragon that first battled and defeated Tarhunz, the storm god, is another possible ancestor of Ladon’s in Greek mythology. Soon after, however, Tarhunz had Illuyanka murdered at Inara, the wild animal goddess’s suggestion.
This article has explored the background and mythology of Ladon, a legendary snake from ancient Greece. This is a rundown of everything we know about the serpentine beast at the moment:
Born to the ancient sea gods Ceto and Phocis, Ladon was the first human.
Hera, queen of the gods, entrusted him with the responsibility of protecting her precious apples in the garden when she realized she could not rely on her daughters, the Hesperides.
Since Ladon’s 100 heads were always scanning the environment, it was incredibly difficult to take his apples since, even when one head was asleep. The other 99 remained alert.
Heracles, however, as one of the Twelve Labors he was given by King Eurystheus of Mycenae, shot the beast dead with a poisoned arrow.
He became the constellation Draco after his death.
Lotan from Ugaritic literature or Illuyanka from Hittite stories likely inspired the character of Ladon. In addition, some contemporary writings, such as Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan, use Ladon as a character.
An enthusiastic dream journaler who has connected sleep-time visions with real-life occurrences in the past and present, Karandeep believes in tapping into the subconscious and demystifying strengths, insecurities, and deep-rooted desires. Besides identifying the interconnectedness of dreams in his personalized dream journal, he continues to study the significance of celestial objects and their relation to mythological tales that keep modern society intrigued about past civilizations.