Scylla of Strait of Messina Italy: Legendary Sea Monster

Written By Jason Kim

Writing stories of mythical proportions.

According to Greek mythology, Scylla was a legendary sea monster in the Strait of Messina. This strait is a narrow waterway between the Italian mainland and island of Sicily. It was very dangerous for ancient sailors. Scylla and another beast, Charybdis, lived there and were a big danger to passing ships.

Key Takeaways

  • Scylla was a legendary sea monster in Greek mythology who inhabited the Strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily.
  • The Strait of Messina was a treacherous and dangerous passage for ancient seafarers, with Scylla and Charybdis posing a constant threat.
  • Scylla’s legend is closely tied to Homer’s epic, the Odyssey, where Odysseus had to navigate the difficult choice between the sea monster and the deadly whirlpool.
  • Scylla’s enduring legacy can be seen in her presence in classical literature, art, and even the idiom “between Scylla and Charybdis”.
  • The Strait of Messina and its associated maritime legends, including Scylla, have captured the imaginations of people for centuries.

Introduction to the Mythical Scylla

Scylla is a mythical character who has caught the attention of many for years. Her tale comes from ancient Greek myths. It is set in the dangerous waters of the Strait of Messina. This is a narrow sea channel between Italy and Sicily.

Origins of the Scylla Legend

The Strait of Messina was feared by sailors long ago. This was due to the dangers of Scylla and Charybdis. These two figures were known to sink ships. The story of Scylla comes from the real threats of sailing in this area.

Scylla’s Place in Greek Mythology

In Greek myths, Scylla is a monster of the sea. She is well-known in the story of Odysseus and Homer’s Odyssey. Her presence in these old tales has had a lasting effect on our stories and imagination.

The Strait of Messina and Its Significance

The Strait of Messina is famed for its tough waters. It’s a key path between Italy and Sicily. This location makes the story of Scylla both historical and mythical.

Varying Accounts of Scylla’s Parentage

The debate over Scylla’s parents continues among ancient writers. Some think Crataeis is her mother, but there are other ideas too. This adds layers to Scylla’s story and makes it more intriguing.

The Role of Crataeis, Scylla’s Mother

Crataeis, as Scylla’s mother, brings depth to the legend. Her link to the sea monster is significant. Her story adds to the complexity of the Scylla myth.

Physical Descriptions of Scylla

Scylla’s appearance has captured the minds of people for ages, from the days of Homer to today. Homer vividly painted this creature in the Odyssey, setting the standard for how Scylla is viewed in stories and art.

Homer’s Depiction of the Monstrous Scylla

Homer described Scylla as a daunting being with twelve legs, six necks, and fierce heads. Each head had three rows of teeth. She hid in a cave, her heads reaching out to catch sailors who got too near.

Artistic Representations of Scylla Through the Ages

Scylla’s vivid description in the Odyssey sparked many artworks showing her horror. Artists from ancient Greece to more recent times have depicted this sea monster in varying forms. Their works fascinated their viewers.

The Straits of Messina and the Choice Between Scylla and Charybdis

The Strait of Messina was where Odysseus faced Scylla and Charybdis. In the Odyssey, he had to choose between losing six sailors to Scylla’s grasp or risking his whole ship to Charybdis’s deadly pull.

Odysseus’s Fateful Decision and Its Consequences

Odysseus made the hard choice to go closer to Scylla. He believed losing some men was better than risking everyone. Sadly, six of his crew were taken by Scylla, a loss Odysseus deeply felt.

Physical Descriptions of Scylla

Scylla of Strait of Messina Italy in Later Myths

The story of Scylla keeps capturing the hearts of writers and artists. It’s seen in later writings and artworks, even after ancient times.

Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Tale of Glaucus and Scylla

In the epic Metamorphoses, Ovid tells the sad story of Scylla, a nymph turned into a sea monster. He talks about how Scylla was cursed due to the sea god Glaucus’s love and her rejection of him.

Scylla in the Works of Other Classical Authors

Scylla’s influence is strong in writings by other authors like Virgil and Statius. They too included the sea monster in their poems. This shows how deeply Scylla was embedded in the cultural memory of the time.

Scylla’s Legacy and Cultural Significance

The story of Scylla has deeply influenced the West. Her impact is clear in art, books, and everyday language. For instance, we use “between Scylla and Charybdis” for tough choices. This shows how strong her cultural impact remains.

The Idiom “Between Scylla and Charybdis”

The Strait of Messina, home to Scylla and Charybdis, is where this phrase comes from. It was first used in Homer’s Odyssey. “Between Scylla and Charybdis” means facing a tough choice with great danger in each option.

This saying is used worldwide. It shows the lasting effect of the Scylla and Charybdis story. This metaphor fits any situation with two bad choices.

Scylla in Art and Literature Through the Ages

Scylla has long fascinated artists and writers. She appears in everything from ancient texts to modern paintings. Her image is a common theme in visual arts.

She also stars in many famous stories. Ovid, Virgil, and Dante Alighieri wrote about her. Their works help keep the myth of Scylla alive.

Scylla of Strait of Messina

Scylla’s part in the Odyssey makes her unforgettable. She symbolizes the dangers of the sea in ancient times. Her story continues to move people of all backgrounds. It shows the power of myth over time.


Scylla’s story, from the Greek myths and Homer’s Odyssey, captivates many. It has been a part of our culture for ages. This fearsome sea monster in the Strait of Messina is a favorite in tales.

Why does Scylla still interest us? It shows how myths and legends hold our attention. We learn from Scylla about facing unknown dangers and the mystery of mythical beings. Her tale highlights human strength and the struggle against the odds.

Thinking of Scylla makes us value storytelling even more. Stories of her and Charybdis in the Strait of Messina are meaningful. They are about facing challenges. They show our ability to overcome the biggest obstacles life sends our way.


What is the legend of Scylla?

According to Greek mythology, Scylla was a sea monster in the Strait of Messina. This strait lies between Italy’s mainland and Sicily. She and Charybdis, a whirlpool monster, were known threats to seafarers.

Where does the legend of Scylla originate?

The story of Scylla comes from ancient Greek myths. Homer’s Odyssey describes her home in the Strait of Messina.

How is Scylla described in classical literature?

In Homer’s Odyssey, Scylla appears as a terrifying monster. She has multiple heads and sharp fangs.She’s described as ready to grab sailors from passing ships.

What was Scylla’s relationship with Charybdis?

Scylla and Charybdis were known to be on opposite sides of the strait. They presented dangers to sailors. Odysseus faced a tough choice when passing through.

How has the legend of Scylla influenced Western culture?

Scylla’s story has impacted Western culture a lot. She is a key figure in art, literature, and language. Her influence is still strong today.

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