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Dog in Greek and Roman mythology who had many heads and guarded gate of Hades, the Underworld, on the other side of the Styx to prevent the residents of the Underworld escaping. Cerberus is Latinized from Greek "Kerberos" meaning "spotted" coming from Sanskrit "sarvara." The term "Kerberos" indicates an Proto-Indo-European origin although it has Slavic, British and Lithuanian cognates. The dog's use is uncertain but mythologists have associated its first usage to the city of Trikarenos in Phliasia.
The English pronunciation of Cerberus is with a soft "c" but in both Greek and Latin it is pronounced with a hard "c" as in "cat."
Cerberus was the offspring of Echidna, a half-woman and half-serpent creature, and Typhon, a fire-eating giant whom the Olympian gods even feared. His brother Orthrus was depicted as a two-headed hellhound.
In Greek mythology Cerberus is commonly portrayed as having three heads, a mane of live serpents, and a snake tail. Commonly the heads have represented (Cerberus' psychic ability to see into) the past, present, and future or birth, life, and death. Each head has an appetite for raw meal. He is the loyal watchdog of Hades preventing the dead from escaping the Underworld, also called Hades.
In Greek mythology Cerberus is commonly remembered as being one of the labors of Hercules, to retrieve him from Hades for Eucystheus. Before beginning this task Hercules enters the Mysteries of Eleusis if he can master him the dog with his own hands which he does. When returning Eucystheus is fearful of the dog, and Hercules not knowing what to do with the beast throws him back into hell. A.G.H.
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