There are many mischievous creatures in Greek mythology, some were outright evil while others were depicted in a more tame manner. A Kobalos is one that falls in the former category.
The Kobaloi are sprites (supernatural entities) that were prevalent in many Greek legends, often being found in the company of Dionysus. Read to find out all about these mischievous creatures.
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What is a Kobalos?
A Kobalos (pl. Kobaloi) is a mischievous sprite found in Greek mythology that appears in various myths and ancient folk tales. They are associated with Dionysus, and were even capable of transforming into the shape of the Greek god in order to deceive others. Their name in Greek translates literally as “mischievous rascal”.
In appearance, a Kobalos is typically depicted as a goblin-like creature, and in The Great Dionysiak Myth (1877), author Robert Brown refers to them as ‘gnome-dwarfs’. The Kobaloi were believed to be mainly found on Euboea, the second largest Greek island after Crete.
One of the most famous Greek myths involving the Kobaloi involves a time when they stole from Herakles while he lay sleeping. Herakles was furious and captured the kobali in order to exact revenge. Upon capturing them, Herakles’ fury waned as he found their mischievous and amusing nature endearing. Herakles took pity on the Kobalos and spared them their lives. According to some accounts, the Greek hero even gifted a Kobalos to the queen of Lydia, Omphale, who was one of his consorts.
Who is Dionysus?
Of all the Greek gods and goddesses, the Kobalos is most strongly linked to Dionysus.
Dionysus was the king of many things including wine, fertility, vegetation, religious ecstasy, and festivity.
He was also the god of ritual madness and insanity, and it is for this reason why the mischievous Kobaloi were often seen accompanying him. Dionysus was one of the most celebrated and worshipped gods in ancient Greek religion, and many cults formed in the name of his reverence.
Goblin – Greek Mythology
The word “Kobalos” in ancient Greek is believed to be the root of the word “goblin” that is used in many cultures throughout Europe to describe a small, mischievous, and monstrous creature that tends to have a habit of thievery.
It is believed that Kobalos became “Kobold” in Germany, before developing into “Goubelin” by the Normans. From then, the word evolved to become the “goblin” that we know today.
Other demons in Greek Mythology
The Kobalos is one of many demons in Greek mythology. Some of the more obscure ancient Greek demons are:
Achlys was a demonic figure found on Herakles’ shield and is believed to have been a representation of grief. It was said that Achlys manifested as a thick fog in order to blind the eyes of mortals who were experiencing sorrow.
Lamia is one of the most horrifying demons in Greek mythology. She was a child-eating monster who once had an affair with Zeus. Hera learned of this affair and punished Lamia in one of the most extreme ways imaginable. Hera forced Lamia to eat her own children. Following on from this myth, Lamia became known as a demon that haunted the night and seduced men before feeding on them.
- Scylla and Charybides
Scylla and Charybedes were monstrous demons who haunted sailors on either side of a narrow channel, widely believed to be the Strait of Messina in Southern Italy. If sailors tried to avoid a monster on one side of the channel, they would be haunted by the sea monster on the other side. This led to a superstition of sailors travelling as close to the middle of the Strait of Messina as possible.
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Do you know of any other famous stories involving the Kobalos in Greek mythology? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.
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The Kobalos is one of the more obscure creatures in Greek mythology. For a look at some other obscure creatures from ancient Greece, take a look at the great YouTube video below by See U in History / Mythology.