Views of the Afterlife: The Realm of Hades
last edited 3-26-04
Parada's Map of the Underworld
Details to Know:
from the Nekyia (voyage to
Underworld) from Homer's Odyssey Book 11:
crimes/punishments of those punished
(Orion, Tityus, Tantalus, Sisyphus). In all cases, the crime is an act of
hubris ("a wanton act of violence") against a god. Regular people who have
committed regular "sins" are not separated from the rest of the dead.
from the Myth of Er from Plato's
Republic Book 10:
philosophical concepts enter into this
picture: Er returns form the dead to tell of what he has seen
- judges determine whether a soul is
just or unjust
- righteous ones are marked in the front and set upward; the unjust are
marked ont eh back and sent downward
- souls congregate after returning from 1000 years of punishment (from
below) or reward (from above) with their memories intact
- idea of after-death compensation for wrongs/good deeds committed during
life: "punishments for some and again rewards for others in due proportion"
- those guilty of crimes against parents/gods (always equivalent in Plato)
don't come back
Souls that have successfully served
their time then move onto the next stage, the spindle of Necessity which
turns the spheres of the universe
Each soul chooses by lot his next life
- his choose will reflect how much knowledge of good and evil he has. The
idea is to work for the Good. A bad choice will result in a bad life. There
are many more lives to choose from than souls that need a life, so even if
you draw a high number in the lottery, you can still make a good choice.
As it turns out, the souls who had
experience suffering in past lives often made better choices than those who
previously led fortunate lives and had no knowledge of the "why" behind the
"what" - i.e., "they had adopted virtue through habit rather than wisdom".
NB: animals are included here (this
gibes with the Pythagorean idea that souls routinely exchange human bodies for animals, and
vice versa, depending on their past experiences. Orpheus becomes a swan,
Agamemnon an eagle, Thersites (a troublesome Greek soldier) an ape. Odysseus
chooses an unremarkable, quiet life (he had had enough trouble). Atalanta
chooses to be a male athlete to have the chance to achieve the honor she was
denied as a woman.
After being assigned a daimon (a
guiding spirit, perhaps akin to our understanding of "conscience", but one
that is divinely inspired), the souls get assigned their span of life and
drink from the River of Forgetfulness (Lethe). They are then reborn.
For a bit more on the Platonic view of
wiping the slate clean before rebirth, see my on-line lecture about
this aspect of Greek Philosophy.
Nekyia (voyage to Underworld) from Virgil's Aeneid Book 6:
Aeneas must visit the Underworld to get words of
wisdom from his father Anchises. He gains access by using the Golden Bough.
Aeneas' guide is the Cumena Sibyl (from the cave in Cumae, Sicily, where he
enters the underworld). Aeneas finds that his mate Palinurus remains
unburied and is stuck on the wrong side of the Styx. He promises to take
care of that when he returns to earth.
Elements of Aeneas' trip: Charon, Cerberus,
Fields of Mourning (where he sees Dido). Road divides: left path goes to
Tartarus (place of punishment, also called Erebus), the right
path goes to Elysium (place of reward, also called The Elysian
Fields). Know how Tartarus is described, why the Fury Tisiphone
is there. Know how shades (souls) are described in Elysium. Know why the
specifically mentioned shades end up where they end up.
Anchises explains the mysteries of the universe. Be
familiar with them.
Know the following names, terms:
The Three Judges: Minos, Rhadamanthys, and
The Five Rivers: Styx (hate), Acheron
(woe), Lethe (oblivion), Cocytus (wailing), and Phlegethon (fire).
The Ferryman Charon.
Hermes Psychopompus, "leader of souls".
Furies: Allecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone are
the ones generally associated with the Underworld.
Sufferers in Tartarus
||tried to rape Hera
||vulutre eats his
liver every day
||bound to a fiery
||betrayed and killed
||must fill leaky
vessels - impossible task
||tried to defeat
||must roll rock up
hill and try to make it stay - impossible task
||tried to trick gods
by serving them the flesh of his son
||tortured by having
food and drink just out of his grasp
of Hades, Persephone, Cerberus (basement of Heraklion Museum, Crete)