The Hundred-Handed Giants, Hecatoncheires to the Greeks, and later Centimani to the Romans, were the first beings born through procreation. Their father was Uranus, the Sky and their mother Gaia, the Earth. They were three in number, named Briareus, Cottus, and Gyges, and each was a gargantuan having fifty heads and a hundred arms. They were of vast proportions, stronger and more fierce than anything before them. In a manner befitting the species whose world they governed these first procreative births lead directly to marital conflict, conspiratorial plotting, attempted patricide, successful castration, all out war, and ultimately the downfall of the Titans and the rise of Zeus. “Out with the old and in with the new.” The more blood and guts and rumbling thunder the better, ay?
Ancient Mythologies represent the ultimate expression of the game telephone. The stories, the names and places and outcomes, shift endlessly from source to source and from age to age. In as much I will make no attempt to recount the myth of the The Hundred-Handed Giants here. I’ll supply some links and leave the neat knot tying to you, if you’re interested. I mention the Myth only because I recently came across a group of paintings which I wanted to share that are related.
I picked up a slim volume containing some work by the French painter Lionel Guibout. Being woefully unilingual I could not read any of the accompanying text. The paintings were quite handsome, each depicting this crazy cluster of writhing bodies. They seemed to be angry and fearful and accusing and lunatic all at once. I had no idea what they represented, only that their frantic discomposure seemed meaningful somehow, and true. It wasn’t until I did a bit of research that I figured out that they were essentially portraits of the three Hecatoncheires.
Also known as Cottys, Cottus, or Kotos. Sometimes appended “The Striker” or “The Furious.”
Also known as Briareus, Ægæon, or Egeon. Sometimes appended “The Vigorous” or “The Strong.”
Also known as Gyes. Sometimes appended “The Big-Limbed” or “The Vaulter” or “The Crippler.”
Unfortunately, as with the book these were taken from, pretty much all the information on Lionel Guibout I was able to find is in French, or at very least a language other than English.Biographical info
Vid of an exhibition in which the paintings above are are seen among other work.
More on the Hecatoncheires-
Theoi Greek Mythology
Greek Mythology Link
Clash of the Titans at Infoplease
Encyclopedia Mythica entry
Orpheus, Myths of the World
The Age of Fable
Giants, Monsters, and Dragons
Classical Gods and heros
Dante actually encounters one of the Hecatoncheires, Briareus, in Pergatory (12:28-30). After seeing Briareus Dante concludes his monstrosity was his lack of intellect rather than his gigantic stature, which he declared was quite in proportion. Zing!
I knew there was something inherently “true” about those paintings.