In The Odyssey Homer (8th century bc) tells how his hero, Odysseus is at one point warned by the goddess Circe that he will have to sail through a narrow and dreadful channel between two peaks.n Halfway up a cliff in the taller one, beyond bow shot, is a cave where lives Scylla, whose awful bark sounds no more than the call of a newborn pup, but who is a dreadful monster whom not even a god can look upon without a shudder.

'She has twelve feet dangling in the air and six long necks, each ending in a grisly head, with triple rows of teeth set thick and close, blackly charged with death. Up to her middle she is sunk in the depths of the cave, but sways her heads out across the dizzy abyss. Thus she fishes without leaving her cave, catching dolphins or swordfish or any of the larger creatures that dwell in the roaring seas. No crew can ever boast that they sailed their ship past Scylla without loss, since from every passing vessel she snatches a man with each of her heads, and so carries off her prey.' Odysseus asks if perhaps they can fight Scylla but Circe replies:

'Scylla was not born for death: the fiend will live forever. She is a thing to shun, intractable, ferocious and impossible to fight. Against her there is no defence. If you waste time trying to fight her, I only fear she may dart out once more with all six heads and snatch another six of your men. So just drive your ship past with all your might.'

Transfixed by the dreadful sight of Charybdis, the crew noticed only too late that six of their number have been snatched high into the air. Odysseus in retrospect says:

'For like an angler on a jutting point, who with a long rod casts his ox - horn lure into the sea as bait for the little fish below, gets a bite and whips his struggling prize to land, Scylla had whisked my comrades up and swept them struggling to the rocks where she devoured them at her own door, shreiking and stretching out their hands to me in their last desperate throes. In all I have gone through as I made my way across the seas, I have never had to witness a more pitiable sight than that.