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Ancient Greek—after life

Ancient Greek—after life

Hades, son of Cronus and brother of Zeus, was given Hades, the land of the dead as his inheritance. he was notorious for having abducted Persephone, daughter or Demeter, Goddess of agriculture. As Persephone gathered flowers in a field, he carried her away in his chariot to be queen of his underground realm. Her distraught mother had to accept the Gods’ edict that Persephone would be returned to her for only half the year. It is summer when Persephone is with her mother; winter is when she rules in Hades.

When the Fates fix the hour of a person’s death, red-robed infernal deities (called dogs of Hades) seize the dying mortal, deliver her a decisive blow, and carry her to the land of shadows. Entrances to the underworld are to be found in certain caverns and subterranean watercourses. The shade, or ghost, wanders across a bleak region of black poplars called the Grove of Persephone until it reaches the gate of the Kingdom of Hades. Here it encounters Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog, whose mouth dribbles black venom. The terrible beast will wag its tail and ears if appeased by honey cakes, and then the shade will be permitted to proceed.

Now the shade must cross Acheron, one of the five underground rivers. (The other four are Cocytus, Lethe, Phlegethon, and Styx.) Souls are taken to and fro over the river by old Charon, the official ferryman, who demands an obol (a small coin) for this service. If the dead person has not been buried with an obol in her mouth, Charon will pitilessly drive her away. She will have to wander the deserted shore and never find refuge.

After crossing the river, the soul is handed over to a tribunal in order to be assigned to an eternal home. This tribunal consists of Hades and his three assessors, Aeacus, Minos, and Rhadamanthus, all sons of Zeus and highly qualified judges. The tribunal examines the soul and assigns it to the type of afterlife it deserves. If the soul is of the ordinary sort, it remains in a neutral region of Hades reserve for people who deserve neither reward nor punishment. This is a dull, drab place where the sun never shines, and few things grow other than asphodel, a plant that thrives in ruins and cemeteries. Here the shade wanders joylessly among the shadows, a pale reflection of its former self. Many such souls go to the river Acheron, mount whatever conveyances they can get, and travel to the Acherusian Lake. Here they dwell and are purified of any evil deeds in order that they may receive the reward of good deeds according to what they deserve.

If the dead person has committed a great crime, it will be cast into Tartarus, a somber place with gates of bronze, surrounded by a triple wall, situated on the river Phlegethon. Here are held the rebel Titans, Gods who warred with Zeus. Here Tantalus, who killed his son and served him to the Gods as food, is condemned to stand in water that receded when he tries to drink it, and is tempted with fruit hanging above him that receded when he reaches for it. Cruel Sisyphus must roll a rock up a steep hill without respite. If crimes are attended by extenuating circumstances, the shade remains in Tartarus for only one year. It then goes to the shores of the Acherusian Lake, where it must seek forgiveness of those it has wronged.

If the soul is among the blessed, the fortunate few who have led pure lives, it is conducted to the Elysian Fields, also called the Islands of the Blest. here the dead can indulge in pleasures they enjoyed on earth amid sunlight and flower-filled meadows.


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