In the vein of this question here, I was wondering about the practicality of the mythical Grecian concept of the Hecatonchires. Forget, for a moment, that these monsters are supposed to be invincible. Now, wonder how one such monster (with 50 heads and 100 arms) could be defensible.

I imagine a head array (all of them in a line, ear by ear) to be most inefficient, especially if the opposing side has snipers:

 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _
/ / / / / / / / / . .\      *Can somebody say headshot times 50? 
\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_ U_/

Then, consider also that we need to fit 100 hand/arm mechanisms on this thing. If all of these limbs were located on the side of its torso, at the very least its midsection would be a huge, bullet-soaking pillar--even before we give each arm enough room to swing up and down without interfering with its neighbors.

So, assuming that this creature must be a bipedal humanoid-ish monster--i.e., no Mr. Fantastic's elastic limbs; there are bones in this thing's arms, although the length, number of elbows, etc. are debatable--how should this creature's parts be arranged?

In other words, what is the most practical way of constructing this ludicrous monster such that its extra heads and arms are useful (e.g., having the skulls arranged like parapet stones), and so that it could properly be deemed a formidable foe even in modern combat?

(Note: I use modern warfare to exemplify the weakness of a "copy a human 50 times horizontally" design, though the Hecatonchires need not be foisted into our space-time continuum. Even in the mythic past, however, a monster with a spaghetti of flailing limbs, and for whom armor construction is nigh impossible (Hephaestus notwithstanding) still seems hardly defensible. Also note that what these things would be wielding in their 100 arms is another question altogether).

  • $\begingroup$ Why do they have to be connected, or connected full-time? Maybe it's 50 normal bodies linked in a hive mind so it can fight very efficiently. Maybe there is a range limit so they must stay in a mob. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Oct 1 '15 at 3:30

I think the best way to use these guys in a modern setting is as ship captains. Instead of having an entire bridge crew, this one guy could be issuing orders, reading and analyzing data, manning wheels and control stations, and generally doing the work of up to fifty people. Not only that, but since it's just one guy, there won't be any confusion trying to communicate: he's going to know everything.

In other words, I don't think they would be used in primarily combat roles. Just trying to fit one hundred human arms through a door doesn't sound easy, so unless these creatures are about the size of a centipede I don't want them leading any charges. Instead, logistics and machine operation are where they're going to excel.

For such jobs (or just in general), I'd say the best configuration is as a sort of sphere, with heads and arms at regular intervals. You could probably throw legs out entirely, as there are few cases where these creatures won't have at least a couple arms handy (pun). I'd bet there would be custom workstations built for them, with panels and screens in places where they can each reach a different head/arm.

If you still want to have these guys on a battlefield, perhaps they can drive specialized tanks. These tanks could be covered in cameras and viewports and feature a wide array of weapons, to the point where it would appear not to have a weak side. It could also serve as a mobile command post, as the hecatons will probably have some heads and arms available for coordinating troop movements and even piloting drones.

As a suggestion for a more medieval setting, I suggest the shield ball (pun?). Much like a shield wall, the hecaton will be covered by a series of fifty interlocking shields. The non-shielded arms will each carry a spear. To move, the hecatons will push off with the back spears and roll. Not only would this be absolutely terrifying, but the hecatons could continuously shift their orientation, moving fresh arms to the front and tired arms to the top or sides.

The shield ball could even be useful in modern riot control, but modern warfare really is more about hiding than anything else, and the hecaton's going to stick out like a sore thumb.

For an idea of the general shape of such a creature, consider the Deltoidal hexecontahedron. Each face of this shape would contain a head and two arms, albeit with ten empty spaces (I couldn't find a satisfactory 50-sided version). With this structure in mind, I'd estimate the hecatons would be from 6 to 8 feet tall (around 2m), and just as wide. I'd recommend making the heads a bit small to give the arms room for solid muscle structure. Due to the large number of awkward angles, such a creature would most likely smell terrible (they may quite possibly have invented aerosol deodorant before the wheel). Caloric intake will need to be higher than that of a normal human, but definitely not fifty times higher; different heads may have to take turns eating meals. Each head should be built to handle being pressed into the ground quite often, so I'm thinking flat noses and sunken eyes.

  • $\begingroup$ If it's one organism, why do they all need to eat? With real dicephalus twins, they share nourishment. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Oct 1 '15 at 3:32
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz They don't all need to eat, but I'd think they'd like to. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Oct 1 '15 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ Not exactly what Hesiod had in mind... sort of like a Gibbering Mound mixed with Kirby. I am impressed by your thoroughness, however. If no one comes up with a better answer by the end of today, yours will be the accepted answer. $\endgroup$ – Jon Oct 1 '15 at 15:30

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