According to ancient mythology, the Strait of Messina between the isle of Sicily and the mainland, was home to two terrible monsters, Scylla and Charybdis. Both Scylla and Charibdis were two beautiful girls who were transformed into horrible and terrifying monsters after offending the gods.
Scylla was a beautiful nymph who lived in the city of Reggio Calabria. She was the daughter of Tifone (a giant) and Echidna; she used to walk along the shore near the rocks and near the crystalline water of the Tyrrenian Sea. She used to bathe in the waters at night and she found her natural element in the sea and among sea creatures. One evening while she was lying on the beach, she saw a huge wave approaching the shore and transforming into a creature. The creature was half man and half fish, he had a bluish body, the face of a man with a green beard and green hair like algae. Scilla was scared by the apparition and escaped up a nearby hill. The creature was a sea god who had formerly been a sailor named Glauco. He was in love with Scylla and when he saw her escape, he called her name and told her his sad story: one day he had caught a lot of beautiful fishes; he put them in a line on the grass by the shore in order to count them. As soon as the fishes were in contact with the grass, they became alive again and ran back to the sea. Glauco was amazed by this prodigy and decided to eat some of the magic grass: he felt strange and he began to transform in a sea creature, half fish and half man. Hearing his tale, Scylla was horrified and ran away. Glauco was so in love with her that he decided to ask the sorceress Circe for help. Circe refused to help him and tried to seduce him, but Glauco rejected her. Circe then had her revenge : she prepared a magic potion and poured it in the sea waters near the beach where Scylla used to have her bath. Scylla plunged in the water, but after a short time she saw that she was surrounded by fierce animals. She got out of the sea and reached the shore and then she understood that her body had been transformed: she was now a horrible monster with six snake-like legs and twelve feet. Scilla was so disgusted with her transformation that she decided to hide in the caves on the mainland side of the Strait and when sailors came near her she would attack and devour them.
Charybdis was a nymph, the daughter of Poseidon, the god of the sea, and of Gea, the goddess of the earth. Charybdis was afflicted by an insatiable voracity. Once she devoured Heracles’ s herd of oxen and Jupiter punished her transforming her into a horrible sea monster. Charybdis used to hide on the Sicilian side of the Strait. When she got thirsty she used to go to the sea and drink huge quantities of water, thus provoking terrible whirlpools which sucked the ships and crews and destroyed them.
Sailors were terrified when they had to go through the Strait because of the presence of the two monsters on opposite sides.