Greek underw 18815 lg

Greek Underworld

The Greek underworld was made up of various realms believed to lie beneath the earth or at its farthest reaches.

This includes:

  • The great pit of Tartarus, originally the exclusive prison of the old Titan gods, it later came to be the dungeon home of damned souls.
  • The land of the dead ruled by the god Hades, which is variously called the house or domain of Hades (domos Aidaou), Hades, Erebus, the Asphodel Meadows (where the neutral souls are sent), Stygia and Acheron.
  • The Isles of the Blessed or Elysian Fields ruled by Cronus (According to Pindar in his descriptions), where the great heroes of myth resided after death.
  • The Elysian Fields ruled by Rhadamanthys, where the virtuous dead and initiates in the ancient Mysteries were sent to dwell.

The five rivers of Hades are Acheron (the river of sorrow), Cocytus (the river of lamentation), Phlegethon (the river of fire), Lethe (the river of forgetfulness) and Styx (the river of hate), which forms the boundary between upper and lower worlds.

The ancient Greek concept of the underworld evolved considerably over time.


[hide] *1 The Homeric underworld

The Homeric underworldEdit

Template:Greek myth,(Hades) Further information: HadesThe underworld is ruled by Hades. The oldest descriptions of the underworld can be found in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. The other poets of old epics such as Hesiod describe it similarly. In the Odyssey, the underworld is located beyond the Western horizon. Odysseus, instructed by sorceress Circe to cross the Ocean[1] and assisted by the North Wind, reaches the underworld by ship from Circe's island.[2] Later on, the ghosts of the suitors who have died are herded there by Hermes Psychopompus, the guide of the dead. He herds them through the hollows of the earth, beyond the earth-encircling river Oceanus and the gates of the (setting) Sun to their final resting place in Hades.

The FerrymanEdit

The deceased entered the underworld by crossing the River Acheron or Styx ferried across by Charon (kair'-on), who charged an obolus, a small coin, as a fee. Charon's obol was placed in or on the mouth of the dead person, a custom described in Greek and Roman literature and confirmed by archaeology, although only a relatively small number of Greek burials contain the coin. The far side of the river was guarded by Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of Hades.

Myths featuring the UnderworldEdit

[1][2]Nekyia: Ajax, Persephone and Sisyphus in the Underworld, Attic black-figure amphora, ca. 530 BC, Staatliche Antikensammlungen (Inv. 1494)The twelfth and last task of Heracles was to retrieve Cerberus from his post and bring him to Eurystheus.

The Argonaut Orpheus, a wonderful musician, lost his soon to be wife Eurydice after she was bitten by a snake. He descended to the Underworld and managed to pass Cerberus and Charon by charming them with his kithara (a musical instrument similar to a lyre) to plead Hades and Persephone. Persephone felt sorry for him, so he was allowed to have her back, if he reached the living world again without looking over his shoulder. At the last minute because he was unable to hear his wife's footsteps, he turned back and in doing so he caught his last glimpse of his wife's ghost as he lost her forever when she faded back into the Underworld.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Homer's Odyssey 10.503
  2. ^ Homer. the Iliad.Trans. Lombardo, Stanley. Indianapolis, USA: Hackett, 2000.

Pages in category "Greek underworld"

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.