Zeus hid Elara from his wife, Hera, by placing her deep beneath the earth. Tityos grew so large that he split his mother's womb, and he was carried to term by Gaia, the Earth. Once grown, Tityos attempted to rape Leto at the behest of Hera. He was slain by Leto's protective children Artemis and Apollo. In some accounts, Tityus was instead slain by the thunderbolt of his father Zeus. As punishment, he was stretched out in Tartarus and tortured by two vultures who fed on his liver, which grew back every night. This punishment is comparable to that of the TitanPrometheus.
Jane Ellen Harrison noted that, "To the orthodox worshiper of the Olympians he was the vilest of criminals; as such Homer knew him":
I saw Tityus too,
son of the mighty Goddess Earth—sprawling there
on the ground, spread over nine acres—two vultures
hunched on either side of him, digging into his liver,
beaking deep in the blood-sac, and he with his frantic hands
could never beat them off, for he had once dragged off
In the early first century, when the geographer Strabo visited Panopeus, he was reminded by the local people that it was the abode of Tityos and recalled the fact that the Phaeacians had carried Rhadamanthys in their boats to visit Tityos, according to Homer. There on Euboea at the time of Strabo they were still showing a "cave called Elarion from Elara who was mother to Tityos, and a hero-shrine of Tityos, and some kind of honours are mentioned which are paid him." It is clear that the local hero-cult had been superseded by the cult of the Olympian gods, an Olympian father provided, and the hero demonized. A comparable giant chthonic pre-Olympian of a Titan-like order is Orion.
The poet Lucretius restyles the figure of Tityos in book III (lines 978-998) of De rerum natura, a demythologized Tityos who is not in the underworld, eternally punished, but here and now, "the prototypical anguished lover", plagued by winged creatures that are not vultures, as E.J. Kenney argues but cupids. Virgil responds to Lucretius with a retrospective simile of Tityos in the Aeneid (6.595ff), which compares his torment of desire with the unrest of Dido, whose flame of love is eating her marrow.
The traveler Pausanias (2nd century A.D.) reports seeing a painting by Polygnotus at Delphi that depicts Tityos among other figures being tormented in Hades for sacrilege: "Tityos too is in the picture; he is no longer being punished, but has been reduced to nothing by continuous torture, an indistinct and mutilated phantom."
Tityos is referenced in Dante Alighieri's Inferno. He is mentioned to be among the biblical and mythological giants that are frozen onto the rings outside of Hell's Circle of Treachery. Dante and Virgil threatened to go to Tityos and Typhon if Antaeus doesn't lower them into the Circle of Treachery.
The Tomb of Tityos is a location in Assassin's Creed Odyssey that features a very large broken statue of Tityos being eaten by vultures.