Greek mythology abounds in intriguing creatures. From Centaur to Sirens to Gorgons to Typhon, these monsters, semi-gods, and heroes never fail to captivate us with their riveting stories and unearthly powers. Hippocampus is one such gripping mythical creature from Greek provenance.
Did you know?
There are similar creatures like Hippocampus found in Greek mythology.
1. Aigikampos (fish-tailed goat)
2. Leokampos (fish-tailed lion)
3. Pardalokampos (fish-tailed leopard)
4. Taurokampos (fish-tailed bull)
Hippocampus springs from Greek and Phoenician mythology, however, its name is purely of Greek provenance as the word hippo in Greek means horse and kampos means sea monster. These mythical creatures are believed to have been created from the crests of sea waves.
Often referred to as ‘sea horse’, these mythical creatures have a compound appearance – they derive some part of their appearance – the head and forelegs from horse, whereas it borrows its tail and hindquarter from either a serpent, fish (mostly dolphin) or a dragon. Despite its part equine appearance, it has often being depicted with flippers (webbed feet) than hooves. In some of its depictions, it has also been featured with wings of a bird, the most popular being the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
Hippocampus was the ride of two most important deities of the Greek and Roman mythology – Poseidon and Neptune. These fabled creatures first appeared in Homeric poems, where they are described as ‘brazen-hoofed’ and ‘swiftly-flying’ horses who would draw Poseidon’s chariot through the waves. This association seems cogent, since Poseidon was believed to be the god of the sea, earthquakes and horses. Poseidon had his favorites too, he was enamored of a stallion named Scylla and a mare called Sthenos.
What is interesting to know is that Hippocampus was originally conceived as a horse and that its semi-fish and semi-equine depiction was a result of later artists and poets. They were also believed to be used as a means of conveyance for Nereids, the water nymphs. It was believed that the sea suds that formed when the waves crash was actually caused by their bounding movement beneath the sea.
By disposition, Hippocampus made for a secretive creature who lived deep in Poseidon’s raging seas but never a vicious one. They never fed on humans but on plants found at the bottom of the ocean. Also, they are portrayed as extremely loyal, graceful, and agile creatures.
✦Hippocampus in popular cultures✦
Hippocampus appear as decorative motifs in mosaic displays, bronze-ware, silver-ware, statues, paintings and baths. They have also been spotted in Etruscan civilization as reliefs and wall paintings. Likewise, a similar-looking creature can also be found in Pictish stone carvings in Scotland. Scandinavia folklore also boasts of a sea-horse creature like Hippocampi, however, with a negative connotation.
Hippocampi were known to be benevolent spiritual creatures who helped sailors from drowning, salvaged men from sea monsters as well as helped people overcome problems faced in the sea. They came to be used as heraldic insignia on bearings, especially as maritime symbols by dint of their connection with the sea.
Hippocampus because of their mythical status are associated with imagination and creativity. They are also used as symbols of strength and agility. Sailors through ages reckon them as good omen.
✦Other interesting facts✦
A real-life little sea horse has been bestowed with the scientific name of ‘Hippocampus’. It will be also fascinating to know that one of our brain’s major components is called Hippocampus owing to its similar appearance with the mythical structure as well as because of its resistance to epileptic seizures.
Apart from their historic and allegorical significance, there is one aspect of these fabled creatures that you can use – design. Get yourselves inked with a beautiful and graceful Hippocampus, and have an air of enigma around you.