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he Greek underworld, in mythology, is an otherworld where souls go after death, and is the original

Greek idea of afterlife. At the moment of death the soul is separated from the corpse, taking on the
shape of the former person, and is transported to the entrance of the Underworld. [1] The Underworld
itself is described as being either at the outer bounds of the ocean or beneath the depths or ends of
the earth.[2] It is considered the dark counterpart to the brightness of Mount Olympus, and is
the kingdom of the dead that corresponds to the kingdom of the gods.[3] Hades is a realm invisible to
the living, made solely for the dead.[4]



o 1.1Rivers

o 1.2Entrance of the Underworld

o 1.3Tartarus

o 1.4Asphodel Meadows

o 1.5Mourning Fields

o 1.6Elysium

o 1.7Isles of the Blessed


o 2.1Hades

o 2.2Persephone

o 2.3Hecate

o 2.4The Erinyes

o 2.5Hermes

o 2.6Judges of the Underworld

o 2.7Charon

o 2.8Cerberus

o 2.9Thanatos

o 2.10Melino
o 2.11Nyx

o 2.12Tartarus

o 2.13Achlys

o 2.14Styx

o 2.15Eurynomos

3The dead

4Greek attitudes

5Myths and stories

o 5.1Orpheus



There are five main rivers that are visible both in the living world and the underworld. Their names
were meant to reflect the emotions associated with death. [5]

The Styx is generally considered to be one of the most prominent and central rivers of the
Underworld and is also the most widely known out of all the rivers. It's known as the river of
hatred and is named after the goddess Styx. This river circles the underworld seven times. [6]

The Acheron is the river of pain. It's the one that Charon, also known as the Ferryman, rows
the dead over according to many mythological accounts, though sometimes it is the river Styx or

The Lethe is the river of forgetfulness. It is associated with the goddess Lethe, the goddess
of forgetfulness and oblivion. In later accounts, a poplar branch dripping with water of the Lethe
became the symbol of Hypnos, the god of sleep.[8]

The Phlegethon is the river of fire. According to Plato, this river leads to the depths
of Tartarus.

The Cocytus is the river of wailing.

Oceanus is the river that encircles the world,[9] and it marks the east edge of the underworld,
as Erebos is west of the mortal world.
Entrance of the Underworld[edit]
In front of the entrance to the underworld live Grief, Anxiety, Diseases, and Old Age. Fear, Hunger,
Death, Agony, and Sleep also live in front of the entrance, together with Guilty Joys. On the opposite
threshold is War, the Erinyes, and Eris. Close to the doors are many beasts,
including Centaurs, Gorgons, the Lernaean Hydra, the Chimera, and Harpies. In the midst of all this,
an Elm can be seen where false dreams cling under every leaf.
The souls that enter the Underworld carry a coin under their tongue to pay Charon to take them
across the river. Charon may make exceptions or allowances for those visitors carrying a certain
Golden Bough. Charon is appallingly filthy, with eyes like jets of fire, a bush of unkempt beard upon
his chin, and a dirty cloak hanging from his shoulders. Although Charon embarks now one group
now another, some souls he grimly turns away. These are the unburied which can't be taken across
from bank to bank until they receive a proper burial.
Across the river, guarding the gates of the Underworld is Cerberus. There is also an area where the
Judges of the Underworld decide where to send the souls of the person to Elysium, the Fields of
Asphodel, or Tartarus.[11]

While Tartarus is not considered to be directly a part of the underworld, it is described as being as far
beneath the underworld as the earth is beneath the sky.[12] It is so dark that the "night is poured
around it in three rows like a collar round the neck, while above it grows the roots of the earth and of
the unharvested sea."[13] Tartarus is the place that Zeus cast the Titans along with his
father Cronus after defeating them.[14] Homer wrote that Cronus then became the king of Tartarus.
While Odysseus does not see them himself, he mentions some of the people within the
underworld who are experiencing punishment for their sins.

Asphodel Meadows[edit]
The Asphodel Meadows was a place for ordinary or indifferent souls who did not commit any
significant crimes, but who also did not achieve any greatness or recognition that would warrant
them being admitted to the Elysian Fields. It was where mortals who did not belong anywhere else in
the Underworld were sent.[16]

Mourning Fields[edit]
In the Aeneid, the Mourning Fields (Lugentes Campi) was a section of the underworld reserved for
souls who wasted their lives for unrequited love. Those mentioned as residents of this place
are Dido, Phaedra, Procris, Eriphyle, Pasipha, Evadne, Laodamia, and Caeneus.[17][18]

Elysium was a place for the especially distinguished. It was ruled over by Rhadamanthus, and the
souls that dwelled there had an easy afterlife and had no labors.[19] Usually, those who had proximity
to the gods were granted admission, rather than those who were especially righteous or had ethical
merit. Most accepted to Elysium were demigods or heroes.[12] Heroes such as Cadmus, Peleus,
and Achilles also were transported here after their deaths. Normal people who lived righteous and
virtuous lives could also gain entrance such as Socrates who proved his worth sufficiently through

Isles of the Blessed[edit]

The Fortunate Isles or Isles of the Blessed were islands in the realm of Elysium. When a soul
achieved Elysium, they had a choice to either stay in Elysium or to be reborn. If a soul was reborn
three times and achieved Elysium all three times, then they were sent to the Isles of the Blessed to
live in eternal paradise.
Hades (Aides, Aidoneus, or Haids), the eldest son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea; brother of Zeus
and Poseidon, is the Greek god of the underworld.[20] When the three brothers divided the world
between themselves, Zeus received the heavens, Poseidon the sea, and Hades the underworld; the
earth itself was divided between the three. Therefore, while Hades' responsibility was in the
Underworld, he was allowed to have power on earth as well. [21] However, Hades himself is rarely
seen outside his domain, and to those on earth his intentions and personality are a mystery. [22] In art
and literature Hades is depicted as stern and dignified, but not as a fierce torturer or devil-like.
However, Hades was considered the enemy to all life and was hated by both the gods and men;
sacrifices and prayers did not appease him so mortals rarely tried. [23] He was also not a tormenter of
the dead, and sometimes considered the "Zeus of the dead" because he was hospitable to them.
Due to his role as lord of the underworld and ruler of the dead, he was also known as Zeus
Khthonios ("the infernal Zeus" or "Zeus of the lower world"). Those who received punishment in
Tartarus were assigned by the other gods seeking vengeance. In Greek society, many viewed Hades
as the least liked god and many gods even had an aversion towards him, and when people would
sacrifice to Hades, it would be if they wanted revenge on an enemy or something terrible to happen
to them.[25]
Hades was sometimes referred to as Pluto and was represented in a lighter way here, he was
considered the giver of wealth, since the crops and the blessing of the harvest come from below the


The Rape of Persephone: Persephone is abducted by Hades in his chariot. Persephone krater
Antikensammlung Berlin 1984.40

Persephone (also known as Kore) was the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, and
Zeus. Persephone was abducted by Hades, who desired a wife. When Persephone was gathering
flowers, she was entranced by a narcissus flower planted by Gaia (to lure her to the Underworld as a
favor to Hades), and when she picked it the earth suddenly opened up. [27] Hades, appearing in a
golden chariot, seduced and carried Persephone into the underworld. When Demeter found out that
Zeus had given Hades permission to abduct Persephone and take her as a wife, Demeter became
enraged at Zeus and stopped growing harvests for the earth. To soothe her, Zeus sent Hermes to
the Underworld to return Persephone to her mother. However, she had eaten six pomegranate
seeds in the Underworld and was thus eternally tied to the Underworld, since the pomegranate seed
was sacred there.[28]
Persephone could then only leave the Underworld when the earth was blooming, or every season
except the winter. The Homeric Hymns describes the abduction of Persephone by Hades:
I sing now of the great Demeter
Of the beautiful hair,
And of her daughter Persephone
Of the lovely feet,
Whom Zeus let Hades tear away
From her mother's harvests
And friends and flowers
Especially the Narcissus,
Grown by Gaia to entice the girl
As a favor to Hades, the gloomy one.
This was the flower that
Left all amazed,
Whose hundred buds made
The sky itself smile.
When the maiden reached out
To pluck such beauty,
The earth opened up
And out burst Hades
The son of Kronos,
Who took her by force
On his chariot of gold,
To the place where so many
Long not to go.
Persephone screamed,
She called to her father,
All-powerful and high,
But Zeus had allowed this.
He sat in a temple
Hearing nothing at all,
Receiving the sacrifices of
Supplicating men.[29]
Persephone herself is considered a fitting other half to Hades because of the meaning of her name
which bears the Greek root for "killing" and the -phone in her name means "putting to death."[21]

Triple Hecate and the Charites, Attic, 3rd century BCE (Glyptothek, Munich)

Hecate was variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, dogs, light,

the Moon, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, necromancy, and sorcery.[30]

The Erinyes[edit]

Orestes at Delphi flanked by Athena and Pylades among the Erinyes and priestessesof the oracle, perhaps
including Pythiabehind the tripod - Paestan red-figured bell-krater, c. 330 BC

The Erinyes (also known as the Furies) were the three goddesses associated with the souls of the
dead and the avenged crimes against the natural order of the world. They consist
of Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone.
They were particularly concerned with crimes done by children against their parents such as
matricide, patricide, and unfilial conduct. They would inflict madness upon the living murderer, or if a
nation was harboring such a criminal, the Erinyes would cause starvation and disease to the nation.
The Erinyes were dreaded by the living since they embodied the vengeance of the person who
was wronged against the wrongdoer.[33] Often the Greeks made "soothing libations" to the Erinyes to
appease them so as to not invoke the wrath of Erinyes, and overall the Erinyes received many more
libations and sacrifices than other gods of the underworld. [34] The Erinyes were depicted as ugly and
winged women with their bodies intertwined with serpents.[35]


Relief from a carved funerary lekythos at Athens: Hermes as psychopomp conducts the deceased, Myrrhine, to
Hades, ca 430-420 BCE (National Archaeological Museum of Athens).

While Hermes did not primarily reside in the Underworld and is not usually associated with the
Underworld, he was the one who led the souls of the dead to the underworld. In this sense, he was
known as Hermes Psychopompos and with his fair golden wand he was able to lead the dead to
their new home. He was also called upon by the dying to assist in their passing - some called upon
him to have painless deaths or be able to die when and where they believed they were meant to die.

Judges of the Underworld[edit]

Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Aeacus are the judges of the dead. They judged the deeds of the
deceased and created the laws that governed the underworld. However, none of the laws provided a
true justice to the souls of the dead, and the dead did not receive rewards for following them or
punishment for wicked actions.[37]
Aeacus was the guardian of the Keys of the Underworld and the judge of the men of Europe.
Rhadamanthys was Lord of Elysium and judge of the men of Asia. Minos was the judge of the final
Charon is the ferryman who, after receiving a soul from Hermes, would guide them across the
rivers Styx and/or Acheron to the underworld. At funerals, the deceased traditionally had
an obol placed over their eye or under their tongue, so they could pay Charon to take them across.
To the Etruscans, Charon was considered a fearsome being - he wielded a hammer and was hook-
nosed, bearded, and had animalistic ears with teeth.[12] In other early Greek depictions, Charon was
considered merely an ugly bearded man with a conical hat and tunic. [38] Later on, in more modern
Greek folklore, he was considered more angelic, like the Archangel Michael. Nevertheless, Charon
was considered a terrifying being since his duty was to bring these souls to the Underworld and no
one would persuade him to do otherwise.


Hades with Cerberus.

Cerberus (Kerberos), or the "Hell-Hound," is Hades' massive multi-headed (usually three-headed)[39]

dog with some descriptions stating that it also has a snake-headed tail and snake heads on its
back and as its mane. Born from Echidna and Typhon, Cerberus guards the gate that serves as the
entrance of the Underworld.[21]Cerberus' duty is to prevent dead people from leaving the Underworld.
Heracles once borrowed Cerberus as the final part of the Labours of Heracles. Orpheus once
soothed it to sleep with his music.

Thanatos is the personification of death. He guards the Doors of Death.

Melinoe is a chthonic nymph, daughter of Persephone, invoked in one of the Orphic Hymns and
propitiated as a bringer of nightmares and madness