Cerberus, also known as the hound of Hades, was a three-headed ferocious dog, guarding the gates of the gloomy Underworld, where only the spirits of the dead were allowed to enter. Descriptions of Cerberus vary. Although in the earliest description Cerberus has fifty heads, he is usually described as having three heads, a serpent for a tail and snakes protruding from multiple parts of his body. Cerberus was the son of the multi snake-headed Typhon, whose mission was to destroy the world as well as to put obstacles in the path of Zeus and her mother was Echidna, a half-woman, half-snake creature in Greek mythology, known as the mother of all monsters.
Cerberus was a faithful servant to Hades, the god of the Underworld and is often depicted moving along the banks of the River Styx, the boundary between the dead of the Underworld and the living of the earth above. He was the monstrous watchdog of the Underworld and his duty was to prevent the dead from leaving and making sure that those who entered never left, as well as not to allow any living to get inside, without the specific permission of Hades. Any dead or alive, who tried to break these rules and sneak past Cerberus was sure to be torn to pieces by his jagged teeth.
However, Cerberus was also capable of being loving and affectionate. He was described by the Greek writers as fawning over the new souls, who arrived at the underworld, welcoming them with sincere affection.
He was loyal and an excellent guard, but he was not invincible. Orpheus was the first mortal to overcome Cerberus with his hypnotizing music, before he could reach Hades and pray for the life of his beautiful wife Eurydice, who died of a snake bite.
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Apart from Orpheus, Heracles was the second mortal to conquer Cerberus, when in his twelfth and final labour, he was ordered by Eurystheus, the king of Tiryns, to bring Cerberus up from the underworld. According to one version of the legendary story, Heracles used his lion-skin shield to protect himself from the two lethal heads of the three-headed dog, as he choked the third one.