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Cerberus (Ancient Greek: Κέρβερος Kérberos), also referred to as "The Hound of Hades," is a bronze, traditionally three-headed, dog from ancient Greek and Roman mythology who guards the entrance to Hades, the realm of the dead, to prevent those who entered from ever escaping.
According to descriptions, Cerberus was gigantic in size and terrible to behold. The poet Hesiod describes Cerberus as being "unspeakable, unmanageable...," and, "...a dreaded hound." He was bronze with a mane of snakes, snakes down the ridge of his back, and the tail of a dragon-like serpent. Cerberus also had the claws of a lion. According to Hesiod, Cerberus had a total of fifty heads, though most later sources say that he had three. A common descriptor used by ancient authors for Cerberus is "jagged-toothed."
In mythology, Cerberus' main role is as the watchdog of the realm of Hades. Cerberus prevents the dead from ever leaving Hades, and denies entry of the living into the realm of the dead. Hesiod describes Cerberus guarding Hades as follows:
There in the front stand the resounding abodes of the infernal god, of mighty Hādēs, and awesome Persephone besides; and a fierce dog keeps guard in front, a ruthless dog; and he has an evil trick: those who enter he fawns upon with his tail and both ears alike, yet he allows them not to go forth back again, but lies in wait and devours whomsoever he may have caught going forth outside the gates of strong Hādēs and dread Persephone.
Cerberus is primarily featured in mythological stories describing the few times he's ever been bested or overcome. The first of these is the story of Orpheus' attempt at rescuing his love, Eurydice, from the realm of Hades. Orpheus, as a fabled musician, was able to sneak past Cerberus by lulling him with his music. The second, is the story of Heracles' twelfth labor, where the demigod was tasked with bringing Cerberus to the surface from Hades.