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  1. Greek Mythology
  2. Extract of sample "Hades and the Underworld"
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  5. The Ancient Greek Underworld and Hades

The unburied were not allowed to cross. Gates of Hades: 1 Entry gates: open to all, but guarded by a descendant of Poseidon, three-headed dog Cerberus, who keeps souls from trying to leave. You sleep, Achilleus; you have forgotten me; but you were not careless of me when I lived, but only in death. Bury me as quickly as may be, let me pass through the gates of Hades. No longer shall you and I, alive, sit apart from our other beloved companions to make our plans, since the bitter destiny that was given me when I was born has opened its jaws to take me.

And you, Achilleus like the gods, have your own destiny; to be killed under the wall of the prospering Trojans.

Greek Mythology

Even in the house of Hades there is left something, a soul and an image, but there is no real heart of life in it. For all night long the phantom of unhappy Patroklos stood over me in lamentation and mourning, and the likeness to him was wonderful, and it told me each thing I should do.

He once upon a time was slain in battle, and when the corpses were taken up on the tenth day already decayed, was found intact, and having been brought home, at the moment of his funeral, on the twelfth day as he lay upon the pyre, revived, and after coming to life related what, he said, he had seen in the world beyond. To tell it all, Glaucon, would take all our time, but the sum, he said, was this. For all the wrongs they had ever done to anyone and all whom they had severally wronged they had paid the penalty in turn tenfold for each, and the measure of this was by periods of a hundred years each, so that on the assumption that this was the length of human life the punishment might be ten times the crime; as for example that if anyone had been the cause of many deaths or had betrayed cities and armies and reduced them to slavery, or had been participant in any other iniquity, they might receive in requital pains tenfold for each of these wrongs, and again if any had done deeds of kindness and been just and holy men they might receive their due reward in the same measure; and other things not worthy of record he said of those who had just been born and lived but a short time; and he had still greater requitals to tell of piety and impiety towards the gods and parents and of self-slaughter.

On the transmigration of the soul, Empedocles c. Fragment For already have I once been a boy and a girl, a fish and a bird and a dumb sea fish. There is an oracle of Necessity, ancient decree of the gods, eternal and sealed with broad oaths: whenever one of those demi-gods, whose lot is long-lasting life, has sinfully defiled his dear limbs ' with bloodshed, or following strife has sworn a false oath, thrice ten thousand seasons does he wander far from the blessed, being born throughout that time in the forms of all manner of mortal things and changing one baleful path of life for another.

The might of the air pursues him into the sea, the sea spews him forth on to the dry land, the earth casts him into the rays of the burning sun, and the sun into the eddies of air. Of these I too am now one, a fugitive from the gods and a wanderer, who put my trust in raving strife. Kirk and J. Raven, Cambridge, Eng. I have heard from wise men and women who told of things divine They were certain priests and priestesses who have studied so as to be able to give a reasoned account of their ministry; and Pindar also and many another poet of heavenly gifts.

As to their words, they are these: mark now, if you judge them to be true. They say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time comes to an end, which is called dying, and at another is born again, but never perishes. So we must not hearken to that captious argument: it would make us idle, and is pleasing only to the indolent ear, whereas the other makes us energetic [81e] and inquiring. Putting my trust in its truth, I am ready to inquire with you into the nature of virtue. The Greeks believed that the soul was weak and lifeless and needed help to get to Hades.

For a long time Hermes performed this duty. Sometimes on the journey the souls were harassed by the Furies. There are also stories about the Erinyesold hags with snakes for hair, dog heads, black bodies, bat wings and bloodshot eyesattacking people who had committed particularly nasty crimes such as killing their mother or knocking the sun off course. Once in the Underworld the soul was only a memory of itself.

Extract of sample "Hades and the Underworld"

The first thing the Dead had to do when they arrived in the Underworld was cross the river Styx. Greeks traditionally put a coin in the mouth of the dead so they could pay the ferryman to get across the river. After making the crossing the good and the bad walked to the Nether World court where their fate was decided in a "Judgement Day" kind of arrangement by all-knowing judges.

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The bad sent to the left across the river of fire to the torture chambers of Tartarus and the good were taken to the right towards the blissful Elysian fields. Thrice I sprung towards her and tried to grasp her in my arms, but each time she flitted from my embrace as it were a dream or phantom.

The sinews no longer hold the flesh and bones together, these perish in the in the fierceness of consuming fire as soon as life has left the body, and the soul flirts away as though it were a dream.

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Only later did the idea of a happy afterlife evolve. At first this was only reserved for great heros like Achilles, Menelaus and Diomedes. And later than this it became a place that members of cults who had special rites could go and later than this, ordinary people if they were good. All humans go there but its not specified what is judged and there is no reward or punishment! Some scholars believed to the concept is borrowed from some cult.

It is part of Plato's view of the Underworld, and may be based on his Pythagorean experiences in Southern Italy.

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If that is case, Judgment was NOT part of the average Greek's view of the Underworld, and is a late addition to the mythical tradition. Judging must have started late in the Age of Heroes, since Minos knew the young Theseus, who belonged to the generation before the Trojan War generation, the generation of Jason and the Argonauts. River Lethe River of 'Forgetfulness' : Spirits were required to drink from this river in order to lose their memories of the world of the living.

Spirits in this Alzheimer's-disease-like state can not remember what has been said moments or seconds earlier. And there were another three who sat round about at equal intervals, each one on her throne, the Fates, daughters of Necessity, clad in white vestments with filleted heads, Lachesis, and Clotho, and Atropos, who sang in unison with the music of the Sirens, Lachesis singing the things that were, Clotho the things that are, and Atropos the things that are to be.

And Clotho with the touch of her right hand helped to turn the outer circumference of the spindle, pausing from time to time.

The History and Story of Hades and The Underworld in Greek Mythology Explained

Atropos with her left hand in like manner helped to turn the inner circles, and Lachesis alternately with either hand lent a hand to each. No divinity shall cast lots for you, but you shall choose your own deity. Let him to whom falls the first lot first select a life to which he shall cleave of necessity. But virtue has no master over her, and each shall have more or less of her as he honors her or does her despite. The blame is his who chooses: God is blameless. And after this again the prophet placed the patterns of lives before them on the ground, far more numerous than the assembly.

They were of every variety, for there were lives of all kinds of animals and all sorts of human lives, for there were tyrannies among them, some uninterrupted till the end and others destroyed midway and issuing in penuries and exiles and beggaries; and there were lives of men of repute for their forms and beauty and bodily strength otherwise and prowess and the high birth and the virtues of their ancestors, and others of ill repute in the same things, and similarly of women.

But there was no determination of the quality of soul, because the choice of a different life inevitably determined a different character. But all other things were commingled with one another and with wealth and poverty and sickness and health and the intermediate conditions. But all other considerations he will dismiss, for we have seen that this is the best choice, both for life and death.

And a man must take with him to the house of death an adamantine faith in this, that even there he may be undazzled by riches and similar trumpery, and may not precipitate himself into tyrannies and similar doings and so work many evils past cure and suffer still greater himself, but may know how always to choose in such things the life that is seated in the mean and shun the excess in either direction, both in this world so far as may be and in all the life to come; for this is the greatest happiness for man.

Elysium was reserved for the heroes, or people the gods favored. Regular feasts, banquets, and hunts were held there. The third and final place you could go to was the lowest region of the world, called Tartarus. It was surrounded by a wall of bronze and beyond that three-fold layer of night. Tartarus, presided over by Kronos, was where the souls went who had defied the gods in some way.

The Hundred-headed Giants guarded it. Around Tartarus is Phlegethon, with its flames and clashing rocks. One of the Furies, Tisiphone, sits upon the iron tower, with her bloody robe, and sleepless day and night, guards the entrance. Few people dwell in the Underworld, because of its gloominess and darkness. Hades, the King of the Dead, rules over the entire Underworld. The god was a dread figure to the living, who were quite careful how they swore oaths to his name. To many people, to utter his name was frightening, so they used another word in its place. Since all precious minerals came from under the earth, the people thought of Hades as very wealthy.

He was was sometimes referred to as Ploutos, meaning wealth. This accounts for the name given him by the Romans, who called him Pluto. Hades sits on a throne of ebony and carries a scepter. He also has a helmet that makes him invisible, given to him by the Cyclopes I would love to barrow that sometime. Along with Charon, the ferryman, the Furies live down there also. The furies are the three daughters of Mother Earth, conceived from the blood of Uranus. They were powerful goddesses that personified conscience and punish people for their crimes. They were Megaera jealousy , Tisiphone blood avenger , and Alecto unceasing in pursuit.

They were usually depicted as winged women with serpent hair. When called upon they would hound their victims till they died in a rage of madness or suicide.

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Orpheus, a poet and musician that had almost supernatural abilities to move anyone to his music, descended to the Underworld as a living mortal to retrieve his dead wife after she was bitten by a poisonous rattlesnake on their wedding day Eurydice. With his lyre playing skills, he was able to put a spell on the guardians of the underworld and move them with his music. The rulers of the Underworld agreed, but under one condition — Eurydice would have to follow behind Orpheus and he could not turn around to look at her.

Once Orpheus reached the entrance, however, he turned around, longing to look at his beautiful wife, only to watch as his wife faded back into the Underworld. He was forbidden to return to the Underworld a second time and he spent his life playing his music to the birds and the mountains.

The Ancient Greek Underworld and Hades

Cultural diffusion helped spread Greek culture all over the world, and its effects can still be felt today in almost every aspect. Greek culture has greatly affected different parts of my daily life including architecture, food, government, inventions, music, religion, and education. Modern day architecture in America is greatly influenced by ancient Greek architectural styles, which include columns and decorative elements such as sculptures. Some of the food one wouldconsume daily has origins from the Greek cuisine. The Underworld is what the Greeks and Romans believed you went after you died.

It was where everything horrible, evil, and sad lived. What a dreadful thing to look forward to after your life was completed on Earth.

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I hope you enjoyed learning about the Underworld and the beliefs of the Greek and Roman peoples afterlife. Accessed July 10, In grief, Demeter abandoned the company of gods and hid among mortals as an old woman. Demeter remained absent from Olympus for a year, and during that time the world was infertile and famine-stricken. Zeus sent first the divine messenger Iris to instruct her to return, then each of the gods to offer her handsome gifts but she adamantly refused, saying she would never return to Olympus until she had seen her daughter with her own eyes. Zeus sent Hermes to talk to Hades, who agreed to let Persephone go, but he secretly fed her pomegranate seeds before she left, ensuring that she would remain bound to his realm forever.

Demeter received her daughter and, forced to compromise with Hades, agreed that Persephone would remain one third of the year as the consort of Hades and two thirds with her mother and the Olympian gods latter accounts say the year was split evenly—the references are to the seasons of the year. As a result, Persephone is a dual-nature goddess, queen of the dead during the part of the year she resides with Hades and a goddess of fertility the rest of the time. There are a few other myths associated with Hades.

Heracles had divine help—probably from Athena. Since the dog was only being borrowed, Hades was sometimes portrayed as willing to lend Cerberus—so long as Heracles used no weapon to capture the fearsome beast. Elsewhere Hades was portrayed as injured or threatened by a club and bow-wielding Heracles. After seducing a young Helen of Troy, the hero Theseus decided to go with Perithous to take the wife of Hades—Persephone. Hades tricked the two mortals into taking seats of forgetfulness from which they could not get up until Heracles came to rescue them.

Another from a late source reports that Hades abducted an ocean-nymph called Leuke to make her his mistress, but she died and he was so distressed that he caused the white poplar Leuke to grow in her memory in the Elysian Fields. Share Flipboard Email. Gill is a freelance classics and ancient history writer.

She has a master's degree in linguistics and is a former Latin teacher. Hard, Robin. Harrison, Jane E. Miller, David L.