I. At the death bed:

  • HERMES PSYCHOPOMPOS, with his caduceus.
  • THANATOS, offspring of NIGHT (Nyx, Nox), brother of HYPNOS (Sleep), but he is sometimes replaced by the
  • ERINYES (Furies), who were produced from the blood of OURANOS falling upon GE. The Furies specialize in pursuing murderers, especially patricides and matricided (cf. Aeschylus' play, The Eumenides). Thanatos is also a character in Euripides' play Alcestis, where he wrestles with Heracles at the grave for the soul of Alcestis.

psyche: the Greek notion of what survives after death of the human body. The Greeks do NOT agree as to its essence
  or its `theology'. Some believe it is immortal, others not. All appear to believe that it is physical, not immaterial.
  Some believe it is a 'divine spark', others merely a constitutent part of life (`breath of life'). Some believe
  in the transmigration of souls (metempsychosis), others that the psyche evaporates or dissipates shortly after

See: Jan Bremmer, The Early Greek Concept of the Soul (Princeton 1983).


Entrances to the 'House of Hades':
  • -Taenarum at the southern tip of the Peloponnesus, in Spartan territory
  • -Alcyonian Lake, near Lerna in Argos; cf the Hydra of Lerna
  • -Lake Avernus, in Italy, near Pozzuoli on the n. shore of the Bay of Naples


  • (1) STYX: daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, married to Titan Pallas. children: Zelus (`Zeal'), NIKE (`Victory'), Kratos (`Strength'), Bia (`Force')
              The inviolable oaths which the gods take are sworn by the River Styx (punishment for violation: one year
              in a coma, nine years in exile)
  • (2) LETHE: (`Forgetfulness')
              very important in Pythagorean doctrines, which believes in the transmigration of souls; drinking the water
              must be avoided by Orphics, lest they forget their real divine nature and the secret words by which they can
              reach Persephone.
  • (3) PHLEGETHON: (`River of Flames')
  • (4) Cocytus (`Wailing')

IV. CHARON, the Ferryman:

each spirit must pay a coin for transportation across the Styx to the shores of the Fields of Asphodel.
The unburied may not cross.


  • (a) Entry gates: open to all, but guarded by descendant of Poseidon, the three-headed dog CERBERUS to keep souls from trying to leave.
  • (b) Exit gates; only believed in by some (Homer and Vergil) The Gates of Ivory and Horn, through which false (but pretty) dreams and true dreams can ascend to the land of the living.


official name for the area and for the Palace of Hades and Persephone.


somewhere near the entry gates: (But what is judged?? All humans go there! And there is no reward or punishment! Or is this feature borrowed from some cult? It's part of Plato's view of the Underworld, and may be based on his Pythagorean experiences in Southern Italy. If so, the Judgment was NOT part of the average Greek's view of the Underworld, and is a late addition to the mythical tradition.)

-Judges of the Dead:
MINOS (ex-king of Knossos on Crete, father of Phaedra and Ariadne)
Aeacus, his brother
Rhadamanthys, his brother
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.



January 23, 2010 9:36 AM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

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