The view of Scylla's fishtail

The view of Scylla’s fishtail

The beautiful Scylla was the daughter of a river god and a naiad (a goddess of a small body of fresh water). She was seen by a gentleman (a god, really) named Glaucus who at one time had been a humble fisherman but who consumed an herb which caused him to become a god. Scylla was not at all attracted to Glaucus, he was long haired, bearded, had a fish tail for nether parts (face it, he was a merman) and she didn’t feel at all any sympathy or desire for him. He pursued her along the shores of the sea and she spurned him in spectacular fashion. Everyone thought that was funny EXCEPT the witch Circe (who would later form a crush on Ulysses and turn his men into pigs). Circe thought that Glaucous was rather cute and was angry and embarrassed that a little snip like Scylla would tell everyone he was just an ugly smelly fishman, which was insulting Circe’s taste in men!

Circe approached Glaucous and made eyes at him but he rebuffed her claiming that he cared only for Scylla and no one else would do. Circe flew into a jealous rage, made up a very effective potion and poured it on Scylla while she was bathing and had her eyes closed.

The barking lampreys

The barking lampreys

Scylla started to writhe and call out in great pain, he legs split into six ugly tentacles and she grew a gigantic fish tail, just like the one she had laughed at on Glaucus but hers was far uglier with mud colored twisted scales, lumps, holes, and places where parasites had bored into the flesh and formed barnacle filled nests. There sprung from her spine wide mucus covered fins and dorsal fin with the look of fungus-like grey balls tipping the edges of it. Then six ghastly sea lampreys flew out from her back and stationed themselves on either side of her waist as they twisted and barked.

Scylla immediately developed an endless hunger for the flesh of men and cruised back and forth in the Strait of Messina looking for boats from which to pluck sailors to eat like grapes. She had grown very large, over 100 feet, and was a match for any craft.

There is an excellent sculpture of Scylla at The Rock of Scylla in Calabria. I took some pictures of it but it is truly 3 dimensional and difficult to capture in your mind all at once.


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