Sea Monsters in Ancient Greece: An Etiological and Iconographic Analysis
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Ancient Greek culture was characterized by a complex relationship with the sea. The significance of the sea to Greek society, in conjunction with a developing mythology, inspired the creation of a score of monsters, grouped along with whales, sharks, and large fish under the term ketos (plural kete or ketea)-Latinized as cetus, which inhabited the Mediterranean Sea. The ideological attitude towards these creatures reflected the relationship that was held with the sea. Artistic representations of sea monsters upon various ceramic vessels displayed this phenomenon through the various methods in which these creatures were stylized. The utilization of a more monstrous, fantastical appearance allowed the conveyance of the overly terrifying nature that characterized kete. This was synonymous with the terrors that were presented by the unknowingly vast nature of the sea and with the extremity that characterized the heroic identity of antiquity. The opposing applications of kete within ancient Greek artistic representation support the conclusion that these creatures shared a particular cultural ideology. Kete were often utilized as symbolic representations of the terrors and wonders that existed within the ancient perception of the sea.
Ramos, Steven (2017). Sea Monsters in Ancient Greece: An Etiological and Iconographic Analysis. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from