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Underworld
Underworld
"Home of the Dead"

Location

Iberia

Inhabitant

Dead Souls


The Underworld is ruled by Hades. The oldest descriptions of the underworld can be found in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. The other poets of old epics such as Hesiod describe it similarly. In the Odyssey, the underworld is located beyond the Western horizon. Odysseus, instructed by sorceress Circe to cross the Ocean and assisted by the North Wind, reaches the underworld by ship from Circe's island. Later on, the ghosts of the suitors who have died are herded there by Hermes Psychopompus, the guide of the dead. He herds them through the hollows of the earth, beyond the earth-encircling river Oceanus and the gates of the (setting) Sun to their final resting place in Hades.

The deceased entered the underworld by crossing the River Acheron or Styx ferried across by Charon (kair'-on), who charged an obolus, a small coin, as a fee. Charon's obol was placed in or on the mouth of the dead person, a custom described in Greek and Roman literature and confirmed by archaeology, although only a relatively small number of Greek burials contain the coin. The far side of the river was guarded by Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of Hades.

The Greek underworld was made up of various realms believed to lie beneath the earth or at its farthest reaches. This includes:

  • Tartarus: Prison of the Titans & Dungeon of the Damned Souls.
  • Erebus: The land of the Dead, ruled by Hades.
  • Elysium: The land of the Heroes, ruled by Kronos.
  • Elysium: The land of the Virtuous Dead & Ancient Mystery Initiates, ruled by Rhadamanthys.


The five rivers of Hades are Acheron (the river of sorrow), Cocytus (the river of lamentation), Phlegethon (the river of fire), Lethe (the river of forgetfulness) and Styx (the river of hate), which forms the boundary between upper and lower worlds. The ancient Greek concept of the underworld evolved considerably over time.

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