The Underworld, better known as Hades after the god who ruled it, was a dark and dreary place where the shades, or souls, of those who died lived. In the next few minutes, I will tell you about how one came to die, the topography of the Underworld, and the beings whom dwelled there. <br> <br>Your whole life was planned and plotted by the Fates. The Fates were the three goddesses who controlled the destiny of everyone from the time they were born to the time they died.
They were: Clotho, the spinner, who spun the thread of a person’s life, Lachesis, the apporitioner, who decided how much times was to be allowed each person, and Atropos, the inevitable, who cut the thread when you were supposed to die. When Atropos cut your thread you were dead and then you made your journey to Hades. Upon death, the shade is lead by Hermes to the entrance of the Underworld and to the banks of the Acheron. <br> <br>There were five rivers that made up the Underworld.
They were the Acheron (the river of woe), Cocytus (the river of lamentation), Phlegethon (river of fire), Lethe (river of forgetfulness), and the Styx (river of hate). This poem, written by an anonymous writer, was written about the rivers in the Underworld. <br> <br>”Abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate, <br>Sad Acheron of sorrow black and deep; <br>Cocytus named of lamentation loud <br>Heard on the rueful stream; fierce Phlegethon <br>Whose waves of torrent fire inflame with rage. <br>Far off from these a slow and silent stream, <br>Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls <br>
Her watery labyrinth, whereof who drinks <br>Forthwith his former state and being forgets, <br>Forgets both joy and grief, pleasure and pain. ” <br> <br>When one would die, the family would place one obol, or a coin, under the deceased’s tongue. This coin would pay as fare to Charon who would ferry the dead over the Acheron River. Charon is the ferryman who is often depicted as an old sulky man, or as a winged demon carrying a double hammer. Those who cannot afford to pay Charon were doomed to wonder the banks of the Acheron River for one hundred years. Guarding the Underworld was the three-headed dog Cerberus.
He permitted new spirits to enter, but never one to leave. <br> <br>When you arrived at the Underworld, three judges determined your sentence. They were Rhadamanthus, Minos the first, and Aeacus. Rhadamanthus, the son of Zeus and Europa, was rewarded to be judge because of the justice he showed on Earth. Minos the First, the son of Zeus and Europa, was another judge who, before he died, was the ruler of Crete, and most know him from the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. The third judge is Aeacus, the son of Zeus and the nymph Aegina, assisted Poseidon and Apollo build the walls of the city Troy.
After his death Zeus rewarded him the position of judge. <br> <br>You could go to three different places in the Underworld, depending on your life on Earth and what you had done. Most shades went to the Asphodel Fields, but before you entered you drank from the Lethe River, causing you to forget everything that had happened in your past life. Asphodel was an ugly , gray, ghostly weed that covered the Fields. This place was for the normal, everyday person, who did nothing special in his or her life. The second place they could go was the Elysian Fields or Elysium.
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.
<br> <br>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. Persephone, Hades’s wife, also lives with him in his palace. 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. <br> <br>The Underworld is what the Greeks and Romans believed you went after you died. It was where everything horrible, evil, and sad lived. If you weren’t a hero or a favorite of the gods you were sent to that horrible place. What a dreadful thing to look forward to after your life was completed on Earth. I hope you enjoyed learning about the Underworld and the beliefs of the Greek and Roman peoples afterlife. Thank You.