yavanAnAM trishirAs-tvAShTra: Geryon Trikephalos

A vase depicting the battle with Geryon

A temple fragment from Cyprus showing the cattle raid on Geryon

RV 10.8.7-9
asya tritaH kratunA vavre antar iChan dhItiM pitur evaiH parasya |
sachasyamAnaH pitror upasthe jAmi bruvANAyudhAni veti ||

trita, in the midst of the grotto, through his powers seeking to meditate on the primal father, concealed in his parents lap, addressing the weapons’ kin, goes forth.

sa pitryANy Ayudhani vidvan indreShita Aptyo abhy ayudhyat |
trishIrShANaM sapta-rashmiM jaghanvAn tvAShTrasya chinniH sasR^ije trito gAH ||

Knowledgeable in the use of his father’s weapons, the Aptya, impelled by Indra, gave battle. trita smote the three-headed seven-rayed tvAShTra, and released and led his cattle.

bhUrId indra udinakShantam ojo.avAbhinat satpatir manyamAnam |
tvAShTrasya chid vishvarUpasya gonAm AchakraNas trINi shIrShA parA vark ||

Into many pieces, indra, the leader of true [warriors], rent him apart, who sought power and was much regarded. Forcibly seizing vishvarUpa tvAShTra’s cattle [indra] hacked off his three heads.

Hesiod’s Theogony
And Chrysaor, conjoining in coitus with Kallirhoe, the daughter of the glorious Oceanos, begot the three-headed Geryon, who was slain by Herakles’s might beside his rolling-footed cattle in the sea-girt Erythea on the day when he [Herakles and his assistant ~ trita] drove the broad-browed cattle to holy Tiryns, after he crossed over the strait of the Ocean and killed Orthus (~vR^itra) and Eurythion the guardian of the cattle in the dark cave (=stable) beyond the glorious Oceanos.

While reams can be written on this proto-Indoeuropean myth we will restrict ourselves to one philological speculation. The name of the tricephalos in yavana world is Geryon or Geryoneus. It is connected to the root Geros in Greek which is the ortholog of giraH in Sanskrit – both mean a chant or a recitation. Another similar sounding root is Gera in Greek which is the cognate of jara in Sanskrit – both mean decrepitude (e.g. as in geriatric). We believe that the name Geryon is from the former and there by retains an ancient memory of trishirAs tvAShTra being a priest or one who recites chants. In one of the Indo-Aryan versions of the myth while posing as a hotar of the deva-s he used one of his three heads to recite mantra-s to the deva-s, the second to recite to the asura-s and with the third he drank soma. The great indra having heard him recite to the asura-s severed his three heads. Like vishvarUpa being the son of an asura woman, Geryon is the son of a Kallirhoe, a Titanic female. The RV version of the myth preserves core archaic element of the myth – the cattle raid of indra along with an assistant trita. A Greek commentator, probably Apollodorus, remarks that Herakles split mountains to create the straits of Gibraltar as he proceeded to raid the cattle of Geryon. This splitting of the mountain is again the transfer of an old myth of the indra-like deity (splitter of mountains) to his earthly representative Herakles. Then he was attacked by Orthrus whom he smashes with his uagros – again a transfer of the smashing of vR^itra with the vajra by indra. What the above artistic depictions of the Greek myth show is that Herakles was accompanied by an assistant, just like trita in the vaidika version.

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