Ketos

Sea Monster of the Mediterranean Sea.

Etymology: Greek, "sea monster" or "whale."

Variant name: Cetus (Latin).

Physical description: Serpentine. Doglike head. Fishlike tail.

Distribution: Eastern Mediterranean.

Significant sightings: After a flood, a Ketos appeared on the coast near ancient Troy, Çanakkale Province, Turkey, and ravaged the countryside. King Laomedon sent his daughter Hesione as a sacrifice to appease the monster, but the hero Herakles arrived in time to rescue her and kill the beast. A Corinthian vase painting from the sixth century B.C depicts the incident, including the Trojan monster, which looks like a huge skull with forward-projecting teeth and bony plates around the eye sockets.

ketos 271

In Greek mythology, Perseus rescued Andromeda, who was chained to a rock at Yafo, Israel, where she was beset by a Ketos. Marcus Aemilius Scaurus claimed to have found the bones of the monster in 58 B.C and had them shipped to Rome, where they were reassembled for display. Pliny wrote that the backbone was 40 feet long and 18 inches thick. Possible explanations:

(1) Adrienne Mayor and others have concluded the Corinthian vase artist must have used a fossil skull, perhaps that of an extinct giraffid such as Samotherium, as a model. However, the teeth look like they might have come from a reptile or whale skull, while the sclerotic eye ring is characteristic of birds and dinosaurs. Possibly, features from several fossils were combined.

(2) Scaurus might have found the skeleton of a beached Sperm whale (Physeter catodon). These whales are still seen regularly in the eastern Mediterranean. Sources: Homer, Odyssey, V 421, Iliad, XX.

147; Aristophanes, Frogs, 556, The Thesmophoriazusae 1033; Lycophron, Alexandra, 954; Diodorus Siculus, Historical Library, II. 54.3; Pliny, Historia naturalis, V 69, IX. 4-11; Oppian, Halieutica, V 113; Pausanias, Guide to Greece, I. 4.1, II. 10.2, II. 34.2, iv 34.2, iv 35.9, v 17.11, v 25.3, viii. 2.7, Ix 26.5, X. 4.4, X. 12.1; ^lian, De natura animalium, XIII. 21, Xv 19; Katharine Shepard, The Fish-Tailed Monster in Greek and Etruscan Art (New York: Katharine Shepard, 1940); John Boardman, "Very Like a Whale: Classical Sea Monsters," in Ann E. Farkas, Prudence O. Harper, and Evelyn B. Harrison, eds., Monsters and Demons in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds: Papers Presented in Honor ofEdith Porada (Mainz am Rhein, Germany: Philipp von Zabern, 1987); Adrienne Mayor, "Paleocryptozoology: A Call for Collaboration between Classicists and Cryptozoologists," Cryptozoology 8 (1989): 12-26; Adrienne Mayor, The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000), pp. 138-139, 144-145, 157-163.

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