Leviathan is a sea monster referred to in the Bible. In Demonology, the Leviathan is one of the seven princes of Hell and its gatekeeper (see Hellmouth, below). The word has become synonymous with any large sea monster or creature. In literature (e.g., Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick) it refers to great whales, and in Modern Hebrew, it means simply “whale.” It is described extensively in Job 41.
Leviathan is a mythical sea creature that appears in the Bible, emblematic of awesome strength. It’s described as the meanest and the biggest creature in the sea and a humbler of the Proud. Leviathan as a dragon who lives over the Sources of the Deep and who will be served up to the righteous at the end of time
Here’s part of the description of Leviathan from the Book of Job, 41:1-41:34:
When he rises up, the mighty are terrified; they retreat before his thrashing.
The sword that reaches him has no effect, nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin.
Iron he treats like straw and bronze like rotten wood.
Arrows do not make him flee, slingstones are like chaff to him.
A club seems to him but a piece of straw, he laughs at the rattling of the lance.
His undersides are jagged potsherds, leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing-sledge.
He makes the depths churn like a boiling cauldron & stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.
Behind him he leaves a glistening wake; one would think the deep had white hair.
Nothing on earth is his equal— a creature without fear.
He looks down on all that are haughty; he is king over all that are proud.
According to an interpretation of the Book of Job, the Leviathan is a mundane creature like goats, eagles, or any other creatures on Earth. Many interpreters believe that this monster is actually the Nile crocodile as it is “aquatic, scaly, and it possesses fierce teeth.” Others say that the Leviathan was a fire dragon, a whale-like sea creature, or a sea serpent which had the purpose of devouring entire ships.
The whale has another trick: when he is hungry, he opens his mouth and a sweet smell comes out. The fish are tricked by the smell and they enter into his mouth. Suddenly the whale’s jaws close. Likewise, any man who lets himself be tricked by a sweet smell and led to sin will go into hell, opened by the devil — if he has followed the pleasures of the body and not those of the spirit. When the devil has brought them to hell, he clashes together the jaws, the gates of hell. No one can get out from them, just as no fish can escape from the mouth of the whale
In the Marvel mythos, there have been several Leviathans, including a covert organisation of bad guys, a huge monster that was “the enemy of Thor” (possibly Jörmungandr or the Midgard Serpent) and an alien woman named Marrina, who in one storyline turned into a huge sea-monster and attacked Atlantis…
S.S. Great Eastern (British Steamship, 1859)
Originally named Leviathan
Photograph of an engraving, published circa the later 1850s, depicting the ship fitting out in the Thames River, off Deptford, England, at some point following her 31 January 1858 launching. The ship was originally christened (on 3 November 1857) as “Leviathan”, but was thereafter known as Great Eastern.
The print also features a statistical table and other information concerning the ship.
SS Great Eastern was an iron sailing steam ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (right), and built by J. Scott Russell & Co. at Millwall on the River Thames, London.
By far the largest ship in the world, it was equipped with a single screw propeller, paddlewheels, and a full set of sails. It had the capacity to carry 4,000 passengers around the world without refuelling. In 1865, she laid 4,200 kilometres (2,600 mi) of the 1865 transatlantic telegraph cable.
Jules Verne travelled on the Great Eastern to New York and back in March and April 1867, describing it in a letter as ‘an eighth wonder of the world’ and writing the semi-fictional A Floating City (1871) about his trip.
Leviathan March To the Members of the Boston Germania Serenade Band, composed by Hermann Kotzschmar, published by William Paine; Portland, Maine c. 1858; Library of Congress
In 1856 the Leviathan, world’s largest ship, was supposed to arrive in Portland on her maiden voyage, and all sorts of preparations were made, but due to a boiler explosion, the ship never came.
The Eastern Steam Navigation Company had made an agreement with the Canada’s Grand Trunk Railway to use Portland, Maine as its US destination, and the railway company had built a special jetty to accommodate the ship.
Kotzschmar wrote this march for piano as a part of the anticipatory activities. The cover is a famous etching of the ship.
Great Eastern’s enormous size and advanced technology inspired much public interest, and the optimistic spirit behind her creation encouraged speculation about future shipbuilding trends, published while she was under construction during the late 1850s.
Built by Blohm & Voss Hamburg as Vaterland
54,282 GRT – 948 x 100 feet
Quadruple screw, 24 knots, turbines
752 first class, 535 second class, 850 third class
1,772 passengers; 1,243 crew
Launched April 3, 1913
When she was completed in April 1914 she was the largest ship in the world. Maiden voyage May 14, 1914; from Cuxhaven to New York. Vaterland was the second of Albert Ballin’s trio of great ships intended to be Hamburg Amerika Line’s answer to the Cunard and White Star four-stackers. Image: Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive) – 5 mars 1914; Hamburg, Dockung 4
She and Bismarck shared a novel design feature: the uptakes which led from her furnaces to her funnels were split and ran along the outside of the ship, rather than straight up the middle. This allowed for much bigger public rooms, undivided by funnel uptakes, than had been possible on earlier ships. GreatShips (more photos and postcards)
She barely lasted a year under the German flag before war broke-out.
1914: Britain on the eve of the Great War and the world’s largest liner VATERLAND on Cruising the Past
April 4 — Seized by US after crew had inflicted considerable damage to boilers and engines. She was repaired and transferred for Navy Transport service, September 6, 1917 renamed LEVIATHAN, reportedly by Woodrow Wilson himself. Laid up in New York and handed over to US Shipping Board in September, 1919.
In February she sailed to Newport News for reconstruction as passenger liner and re-measured at 59,956 GRT, at trials she made over 27 knots. (source)
Begins New York-to-Southampton service on July 4rth for United States Lines. Fails commercially due to exorbitant operating costs and being an alcohol-free American ship during Prohibition. She made only five more transatlantic trips in 1934, before being withdrawn from service after arriving in New York 14 September 1934.
Laid up in New Jersey for 3 years; she was sold for breaking up at Rosyth in December 1937 and arrived there under her own power in February 1938.
CHERBOURG; Transatlantique Leviathan, posted August 1925 – on GreatShips (more)
The Band – scan from History of the U.S.S. Leviathan: Cruiser and Transport Forces United States Atlantic Fleets. published c. 1919-1920. see full size
Arriving at Le Havre, France, 16 June 1934
This photograph, taken by a “New York Times” Paris Bureau photographer, looks forward from atop the Leviathan’s superstructure, being assisted by harbor tugs.
movie trailer on YouTube
Starring: Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Amanda Pays, Daniel Stern, Hector Elizondo, Ernie Hudson
Leviathan is a 1989 science-fiction horror film about a hideous creature that stalks and kills a group of people in a sealed environment, in a similar vein to such films as Alien (1979) and The Thing (1982).
Tri-Oceanic Corp has hired undersea miners for a 90-day project. Martin (Meg Foster), CEO of Tri-Oceanic Corp, hired Steven Beck, a geologist, to assist in mining operations as well as command the undersea mining station. While outside their vessel in a pressure suit, Sixpack discovers a wrecked ship.
Dr. Thompson understands Russian and identifies the ship as the Leviathan. The crew discover that it is marked as an active ship on duty in the Baltic Sea. Sixpack and the rest of the crew open a safe from Leviathan and find crew records relating to deceased crew members, as well as a video tape from the ship’s captain.
The following morning, Sixpack awakes feeling sick. The doctor is unable to offer any explanation and collects a sample to analyze. He asks the computer for an opinion and it suggests “genetic alteration” (more on wiki)
Night VIII, page 3, ‘The Charm that chains us to the World, her Foe’. Illustration to Young’s ‘Night Thoughts’; scaly merman in papal tiara and carrying a crozier riding sea-monster, Leviathan. c.1795-7 (full size image)
‘The Broad-bottom Leviathan trying to swamp Billy’s old-Boat, & the little Corsican tottering on the Clouds of Ambition’ – three sailors rowing a small ship’s boat or dinghy, (‘the Billy Pitt’) are going through rough water caused by ‘Leviathan’ (l.), a porpoise-like monster with three heads and a forked tail. The heads spout water at the boat, particularly at Canning. They are (r. to left.) Grenville, who spouts “Opposition Clamour”; Howick (whom Canning had replaced as Foreign Secretary), spouting “Detraction”; and St. Vincent, spouting “Envy”.
hand-coloured etching, Print made by James Gillray / Published in London, 1807 more detailed explanation
Thalassophobia is fear of the sea, and over the years this it’s pushed forward some interesting (and terrifying) images of what people think might lurk in the depths. Never going swimming again. Ever.
What Lurks Beneath The Waves (sea monster gallery)
USS Leviathan SP-1326 — photograph of the USS Leviathan in a dazzle camouflage pattern, off New York City, 8 July, 1918
After 10 trips carrying troops to Europe, and 9 trips returning the troops home postwar, she was decommissioned in 1919 and returned to the Shipping Board.
Troopship Leviathan during post-WWI reconversion to a passenger liner
The big ship was completely reconditioned at Newport News during 1922-1923, as seen here. Work included conversion from coal to oil fuel, extensive rewiring, and complete interior redecoration. In addition, completely new plans had to be drawn, as the Germans refused to provide the originals. She was operated by the United States Lines, on the transatlantic route, from 1923 to 1934. She proved to be uneconomical, forcing her lay-up in 1934
Little Boney in the Whale’s Belley (full size) – John Bull, Emperor of the Sea: satirical print; hand-coloured etching. Published by Piercy Roberts, 1803
(5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679), was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy.
His 1651 book Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil, established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract theory, the origins of creation of an ideal state, and his proper name for the Commonwealth.
Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
A tub for the Whale! – satirical print, hand-coloured etching, Print made by James Gillray, Published in London in 1805.
“Representing an Empty-Barrel tossed out to amuse great Leviathan-John-Bull, in order to divert him from instantly laying violent hands uponye new Coalition Packet – Vide Swifts Preface to the Tale of a Tub.”
“Give me a condor’s quill! Give me Vesuvius’ crater for an inkstand! Friends, hold my arms! For in the mere act of penning my thoughts of this Leviathan, they weary me, and make me faint with their outreaching comprehensiveness of sweep, as if to include the whole circle of the sciences, and all the generations of whales, and men, and mastodons, past, present, and to come, with all the revolving panoramas of empire on earth, and throughout the whole universe, not excluding its suburbs.”
– Herman Melville, Moby Dick, (Chapter 104 – The Fossil Whale)
While Moby Dick is the archetypal whaling story, the whale itself appears in just three of the 135 chapters of the book, while the term Leviathan shows up in 38.
The Leviathan is “all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down “ (Chapter 41 – Moby Dick).
While to Ishmael and the crew of the Pequod the whale embodies as an allegorical representation of God, an inscrutable and all-powerful being that humankind can neither understand nor defy, that often harkens back to biblical references to creation-era sea monsters:
“When I stand among these mighty Leviathan skeletons, skulls, tusks, jaws, ribs, and vertebrae, all characterized by partial resemblances to the existing breeds of sea-monsters; but at the same time bearing on the other hand similar affinities to the annihilated antichronical Leviathans, their incalculable seniors; I am, by a flood, borne back to that wondrous period, ere time itself can be said to have begun; for time began with man.”
(Chapter 104 – The Fossil Whale) – (image source)
“This Leviathan comes floundering down upon us from the head-waters of the Eternities, it may be fitly inquired, whether, in the long course of his generations, he has not degenerated from the original bulk of his sires.”
(Chapter 105 – Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish? – Will He Perish?)
Rockwell Kent (via Animalarium: White Whale Gallery)
Rockwell Kent (June 21, 1882–March 13, 1971) was an American painter, printmaker, illustrator, and writer born in Tarrytown, New York. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (illustrated by Rockwell Kent; 1930)
A transcendentalist and mystic in the tradition of Thoreau and Emerson, whose works he read, Kent found inspiration in the austerity and stark beauty of wilderness. He lived for extended periods of time in Monhegan Island, Maine, Newfoundland, Alaska, Tierra del Fuego, Ireland, and Greenland.
Approached in 1926 by publisher R. R. Donnelley to produce an illustrated edition of Richard Henry Dana, Jr.’s Two Years Before the Mast, Kent suggested Moby-Dick instead. Published in 1930 by the Lakeside Press of Chicago, the three-volume limited edition filled with Kent’s haunting black-and-white pen/brush and ink drawings sold out immediately; Random House produced a trade edition which was also immensely popular. A previously obscure book, Moby Dick had been rediscovered by critics in the early 1920s. The success of the Rockwell Kent illustrated edition was a factor in its becoming recognized as the classic it is today.
Jens Harder’s “Leviathan”
Jens Harder’s Leviathan is a graphic novel in the truest sense. Harder uses scratchy but fluid images to tell the story of a mystical whale who battles a giant squid, saves Noah’s ark, attacks the Pequod, wreaks havoc on a cruise ship, and eventually battles an armada of anachronisms.
The only text Harder employs in Leviathan are excerpts and quotes from a variety of sources including the Bible and a host of philosophers; the bulk of quotes come from Melville’s Moby-Dick.
Just as that novel begins with an “Etymology” followed by a section called “Extracts,” Harder begins with a section called “Leviathanology,” a collection of quotes about leviathans from the likes of Hobbes, Milton, and the book of Job.
These quotes inform the story of Leviathan, connecting the whale to a sublime and unknowable mystery that Harder will explore. Harder’s surreal images often invert notions of “proper” space and time, giving the whale an awesome significance, but also positing the beast as something that denies signification.
By eschewing the traditional forms of graphic storytelling, which rely on speech bubbles and clear-cut panel transitions, Harder is able to capture something that is essentially too large to capture. This book works. Highly recommended.
Passenger List covers, Southampton to New York via Cherbourg 1924-1932 on Gjenvick Archives
Vaterland – Leviathan postcards on simplonpc.co.uk
Lady Sybil and Lady Evelyn Grey Jones on VATERLAND; Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division (Original 1024 x 743)
Daughters of the 4th Earl Grey, Albert Henry George Grey (1851-1917), Governor General of Canada, and his wife Alice Holford: Lady Evelyn Alice Grey (1886-1971) married Sir Lawrence Evelyn Jones in 1912; her sister Lady Sybil Grey (1882-1966) married Lambert William Middleton in 1922. (source)
This is a wonderful view of the broad boat deck of the VATERLAND – the largest liner in the world. An archivist has written a caption on the original negative: “Lady Sybil Grey & Lady Evelyn Grey-Jones on the Hamburg Amerika Line ‘Vaterland.’” After the US Government seized the liner during WWI, she was renamed Leviathan and sailed with the United States Lines. –Cruising the Past
VATERLAND funnels (Original 1024 x 736) – Library of Congress
Boston Public Library: SS Leviathan (Set: 279)
Art of William Blake: Behemoth and Leviathan; 1825
from Illustrations to ‘The Book of Job’
Behemoth, who dominates the land, as ‘the chief of the Ways of God.’ Leviathan, a Sea Monster, is ‘King over all the Children of Pride.’ In his book ‘Jerusalem’ Blake has these two monsters representatives of war by land and by sea. (source)
William Blake: The spiritual form of Nelson guiding Leviathan, in whose wreathings are infolded the Nations of the Earth (in which the monster is a symbol of military sea-power controlled by Nelson)
Tempera on canvas 30″ x 24″
(76.2 x 62.5cm), Tate Britain, London
Provenance and history on Tate.org
from The spiritual form of Nelson guiding Leviathan on smarthistory:
The painting was first shown in his solo exhibition of 1809, held at his brother’s house in London’s Soho; a site, incidentally, that also served as the family shop, selling women’s stockings. The reviews were mostly negative, one famously describing the paintings as “the wild effusions of a distempered brain.” Not everyone hated it, though, and some of the paintings did sell, including this portrait of Admiral Nelson.
Instead of a lifelike portrait, Blake paints Nelson’s “Spiritual” likeness. He stands on top of the Biblical sea creature, Leviathan, whose body encircles him. Nelson controls the beast with a bridle, attached to its neck, which he holds loosely in his left hand. Trapped in, crushed under, or in one case, half-consumed within Leviathan’s coiled body, ten figures, male and female, are arranged around the figure of Nelson; these represent the European nations defeated by the British during the Napoleonic Wars. Under his feet is a black body, whose wrists are fettered. The head and arms of the figure to the bottom left appear to be submerged under water, which occupies the lowest portion of the painting.
from Breaking with Britain; an essay on British Romantic Art on
Die Wanderwege und Die Beobachtungen:
(William Blake) was a proto-Romantic in the mid 1700s who held an intense, spiritually infused perspective on the world. He saw contemporary figures like Nelson, Pitt, and Newton as Biblical warriors in combat with chaos and evil, so he illustrated them as such. In a dim room above his print shop he exhibited a series of 17 paintings depicting Biblical scenes, historical scenes, and images from his own rabid imagination. Each image was accompanied by a poem or extended, rambling essay. At the time he was basically considered a nut. Now he’s a genius
Leviathan by Ian Edginton and D’Israeli
Leviathan is the name of a monster cruise liner a mile long and half a mile wide, that sets sail from England, destination New York, in 1928 with 30,000 people on board, only to never arrive.
The book opens 20 years on from the ship’s launch, with the double suicide of a now elderly couple. For twenty years, the ship has been drifting in unknown seas, and having hoped and prayed for an answer like many others before them, the couple have chosen to finally end their ordeal.
It’s the murder of a passenger in the upper echelons of the ship, however, that propels events into motion…
It’s a genuinely fantastic book and D’Israeli’s art is a big contributing factor.
Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan saga
Leviathan is a steampunk novel written by Scott Westerfeld and illustrated by Keith Thompson. It was released on October 6, 2009. The book won the 2009 Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Novel.
It is the first in a young adult fiction trilogy set in an alternate version of World War I, wherein the Central Powers (Clankers) are characterized by their use of mechanized war machines, while the Entente Powers (Darwinists) are characterized by their use of living creatures evolved specifically for war. The main characters are the teenage son of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and a Scottish girl with dreams of joining the Air Force.
Leviathan or, The Whale
An extraordinary journey into the underwater world of the whale.
After Melville published his book in 1851, no one saw whales in quite the same way again. Melville created a modern myth out of an already legendary beast. But what is the true nature of the whale? Why does it fascinate us? All his life, Philip Hoare has been obsessed with these creatures, from the huge skeletons in London’s Natural History Museum to adult encounters with the wild animals themselves.
Whales haunt him, as they seem to elide with dark fantasies of sea-serpents and other antediluvian monsters that swim in our collective unconscious. In ‘Leviathan’, he seeks to locate and identify that obsession. Why does the whale so vividly inhabit our imaginations?
Travelling around the globe in search of the whale, Philip Hoare sheds light on our perennial fascination with the strange creatures of the sea, whose nature remains tantalizingly undiscovered. Travel back to the history of whaling, to a time when entire cities were lit by whale oil; to places far below the surface of the ocean, where giant whales battle with three hundred foot squid.
You don’t have to be obsessed with Moby Dick to love this book, but it doesn’t hurt. –Amazon
Philip Hoare’s top 10 whale tales on theguardian
On Whales Eating Men Alive by brian lam
Researchers have discovered the fossilised remains of an ancient whale with huge, fearsome teeth.
A Peruvian desert has turned out to be the final resting place of an ancient sperm whale with teeth much bigger than those of the largest of today’s sperm whales. The fossil, dated at 12–13 million years old, belongs to a new, but extinct, genus and species.
Klaas Post of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam in the Netherlands stumbled across the fossil in November 2008 during the final day of a field trip to Cerro Colorado in the Pisco-Ica Desert on the southern coast of Peru — an area that is now above sea level owing to Andean tectonic activities. The fossils were prepared in Lima, where they will remain.
The name given to the creature combines the Hebrew word ‘Livyatan’ with the name of American novelist Herman Melville.
Leviathan by Arthur Rackham
“Ere the Leviathan can swim a League” – Illustration for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare, Illustrated by Arthur Rackham, published 1914
Hellmouth close-up from “The Hours of Catherine of Cleves” (Gothic illuminated manuscript)
Leviathan, Satan & Hell
In Satanism, according to the author Anton Szandor LaVey, Leviathan represents the element of Water and the direction of West. The element of Water in Satanism is associated with life and creation, and may be represented by a Chalice during ritual.
Leviathan is listed as one of the Four Crown Princes of Hell. The whale-monster Leviathan has been equated with this description, although this is hard to confirm in the earliest appearances.
The Church of Satan uses the Hebrew letters at each of the points of the Sigil of Baphomet to represent Leviathan. Starting from the lowest point of the pentagram, and reading counter-clockwise, the word reads “לִוְיָתָן“. Translated, “this is (LVIThN) Leviathan”
For more appearances of Leviathan throughout history, see
Christian demons in popular culture
Wreck of the Secil Japan; Hell’s Mouth, Cornwall
The ship was lost in March 1989 when it ran aground on Cornwall’s North Coast, near Hell’s Mouth. The ship split into 2 sections and was declared a complete loss.
altered postcard: The Ponders End Leviathan
Monkey Fist is a smack-talking, potty mouthed, Yankee hating, Red Sox fan in Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to compiling Maritime Monday, she blogs about nautical art, history, and marine science on Adventures of the Blackgang.
Submit story ideas, news links, photographs, or items of interest to her at MM@gcaptain.com. She can also out-belch any man.