Quit Monkeying Around!


Today, I’m going to tell you about the Kerkopes, sometimes spelled Cercopes, not to be confused with King Cecrops of Athens. They were dwarf-like men, sons of Oceanus and Theia, daughter of Memnon of Ethiopia. It seems that there were usually two of them named Passalos and Akmon; but other sources give them different names, and sometimes increase their number. They had a career of mischief and petty thievery in Lydia, but their mother warned them to beware of the Black-Bottomed One. When they encountered Herakles, who was staying in Lydia and performing tasks for Queen Omphale, they stole his bow while he was asleep. A variation had them turn into blue-bottle flies and pestering the hero. He managed to catch the two and hang them upside down from a pole.

When they saw Herakles’ butt, which was darkly sunburned due to his running around wearing nothing but a lion skin, they realized he was the Black-Bottomed One and started laughing. Herakles was amused by them, and let them go, at least in the most common version of the myth. They apparently didn’t give up their pranks, however, and eventually angered Zeus himself, who turned them into monkeys.

Or else they were already monkeys, or very monkey-like people (the word “Kerkopes” actually means “tail-men”), and the god-king turned them to stone and wood. They show up in Rick Riordan’s The House of Hades, where they steal the Archimedes sphere from Leo Valdez, proving that they still hadn’t learned their lesson.

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