Why is the deadly heatwave sweeping Europe called Cerberus?

Why is the deadly heatwave sweeping Europe called Cerberus?
Wildfires engulf Dalmatian coast in Croatia during record heatwave

People living in southern European countries are in the midst of a heatwave so fearsome that it has been named after the terrifying three-headed dog of Greek mythology: Cerberus.

Temperatures have soared into the mid-40s in recent days, with southern Italy getting the worst of it.

There, people have already reported temperatures hitting a roasting 48 degrees Celsius, and the European Space Agency says the hot snap could break the current record of 48.8 degrees Celsius set in Sicily in 2021.

Spain, Italy, Cyprus and Greece are all facing weather alerts, with several governments already asking companies to let their employees work from home in the scorching temperatures.

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Ambulances have been parked outside tourist sites like the Acropolis in Athens, while in Italy, health authorities issued a red warning alert for Rome, Florence, Bologna and Perugia. In Sibenik, a town on the Croatian coast, firefighters worked to extinguish bushfires sparked by the heat.

The Met Office says around 2,000 people die in the UK per year because of extreme heat. Last year’s heatwave in Europe killed an estimated 61,000 people.

Who was Cerberus?

Heatwaves are becoming more frequent and dangerous because of climate change, and it has reached a point where they are regularly being given names.

Last year Spanish authorities named a heatwave Zoe after temperatures soared in Seville and other parts of the country.

As for the current hot spell's namesake? Cerberus was the ferocious, many-headed hound who guarded the entrance to the underworld in ancient Greek mythology.

Often drawn with a snake for a tale, seventh-century poet Hesiod said he had 50 heads, though most depictions have it as a more reasonable three.

The monster’s job was to stop the living from entering the underworld, and to stop the dead leaving.

He devoured anybody who tried to escape, save for Hercules and Orpheus, who tricked the dog with their strength and music, respectively.

Cerberus also features in later culture, like Dante’s Inferno from the 14th-century epic poem ‘Divine Comedy’.

Perhaps more recognisably, he makes it into the 1997 Disney film Hercules, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, as the three-headed dog, Fluffy.

For Brits jetting abroad it looks like the heatwave, much like the mythical monster it is named after, is not to be trifled with.

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