Greek Mythology >> Greek Gods >> Underworld Gods >> River Gods >> Cocytus (Kokytos)


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Wailing (kôkytos)

KOKYTOS (Cocytus) was the underworld river of wailing and its god. The other four rivers of Haides were the Styx, Akheron, Pyriphlegethon and Lethe.



Presumably OKEANOS like the other Rivers


MINTHE (Oppian Halieutica 346)



Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 17 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"Orcus [Haides] is also a god; and the fabled streams of the lower world, Acheron, Cocytus and Pyriphlegethon, and also Charon and also Cerberus are to be deemed gods. No, you say, we must draw the line at that; well then, Orcus is not a god either."

Oppian, Halieutica 3. 485 (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd A.D.) :
"Mint (Mintha), men say, was once a maid beneath the earth, a Nymphe of Kokytos (Cocytus), and she lay in the bed of Aidoneus [Haides]."


Homer, Odyssey 10. 513 (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Kirke (Circe) instructs Odysseus on the journey to the Underworld :] ‘Beach the vessel beside deep-eddying Okeanos (Oceanus) and pass on foot to the dank domains of Haides. At the entrance there, the stream of Akheron (Acheron) is joined by the waters of Pyriphlegethon and of a branch of Styx, Kokytos (Cocytus), and there is a rock where the two loud-roaring rivers meet.’"

Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1156 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[Kassandra (Cassandra) of Troy foretells herdeath :] ‘Skamandros (Scamander), my native stream! Upon your banks in bygone days, unhappy maid, was I nurtured with fostering care; but now by Kokytos (Cocytus) and the banks of Akheron (Acheron) (okhthai kakherousioi), I think, I soon must chant my prophecies.’"

Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 689 ff :
"Since God hastens the deed so urgently, let the whole race of Laios (Laeus) . . . be swept on the wind to Kokytos' (Cocytus) destined flood!"

Plato, Phaedo 112e ff (trans. Fowler) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"[The] streams are many and great and of all sorts, but among the many are four streams, the greatest and outermost of which is that called Okeanos (Oceanus), which flows round in a circle, and opposite this, flowing in the opposite direction, is Akheron (Acheron), which flows through various desert places and, passing under the earth, comes to the Akherousian (Acherusian) Lake . . . The fourth river issues, it is said, first into a wild and awful place, which is all of a dark blue color, like lapis lazuli . . . Opposite this the fourth river issues, it is said, first into a wild and awful place, which is all of a dark blue color, like lapis lazuli. This is called the Stygios (Stygian River), and the lake which it forms by flowing in is the Styx. And when the river has flowed in here and has received fearful powers into its waters, it passes under the earth and, circling round in the direction opposed to that of Pyriphlegethon, it meets it coming from the other way in the Akherousian Lake. And the water of this river also mingles with no other water, but this also passes round in a circle and falls into Tartaros opposite Pyriphlegethon. And the name of this river, as the Poets say, is Kokytos (Cocytus). Such is the nature of these things.
Now when the dead have come to the place where each is led by his genius (daimon), first they are judged and sentenced . . . Those who are curable, but are found to have committed great sin . . . these must needs be thrown into Tartaros, and when they have been there a year the wave casts them out, the homicides by way of Kokytos, those who have outraged their parents by way of Pyriphlegethon. And when they have been brought by the current to the Akherousian Lake, they shout and cry out, calling to those whom they have slain or outraged, begging and beseeching them to be gracious and to let them come out into the lake; and if they prevail they come out and cease from their ills, but if not, they are borne away again to Tartaros and thence back into the rivers, and this goes on until they prevail upon those whom they have wronged; for this is the penalty imposed upon them by the judges."

Plato, Republic 387c (trans. Shorey) :
"If they [the youth] are to be brave, must we not extend our prescription to include also the sayings that will make them least likely to fear death? Or do you suppose that anyone could ever become brave who had that dread in his heart? . . . Then we must further taboo in these matters the entire vocabulary of terror and fear [associated with the afterlife], Kokytos (Cocytus) named of lamentation loud, abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate, the people of the infernal pit and of the charnel-house, and all other terms of this type, whose very names send a shudder through all the hearers every year."

Lycophron, Alexandra 697 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"The grove of Obrimo [i.e. the grove of Persephone near Avernus in Italy], Kore (Core, Maiden) who dwells beneath the earth, and Pyriphleges (the Fiery Stream), where the difficult Polydegmon hill [in Italy] stretches its head to the sky . . . and the lake Aornos [Lake Avernus near Cumae] rounded with a noose and the waters of Kokytos (Cocytus) wild and dark, stream of black Styx, where Termeios [Zeus] made the seat of the oath-swearing for the immortals, drawing the water in golden basins for libations, when he was about to go against the Gigantes (Giants) and Titanes--he [Odysseus] shall offer up a gift to Daeira [Persephone] and her consort, fastening his helmet to the head of a pillar."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 17. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Among the sights of Thesprotia [region of north-eastern Greece] . . . near Kikhyros (Cichyrus) is a lake called Acherousia (Acherusia), and a river called Akheron (Acheron). There is also Kokytos (Cocytus), a most unlovely stream. I believe it was because Homer had seen these places that he made bold to describe in his poems the regions of Haides, and gave to the rivers there the names of those in Thesprotia."

Virgil, Aeneid 6. 132 ff (trans. Day-Lewis) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"[The Sibyl instructs Aeneas as they journey through the Underworld :] ‘Between there lies a forest, and darkly winds the river Cocytus round the place.’"

Virgil, Aeneid 6. 297 :
"[The Sibyl addresses Aeneas as they journey through the Underworld :] ‘From here [the entrance] is the road that leads to the dismal waters of Acheron. Here a whirlpool boils with mud and immense swirlings of water, spouting up all the slimy sand of Cocytus. A dreadful ferryman looks after the river crossing, Charon.’"

Virgil, Aeneid 6. 323 :
"[The Sibyl addresses Aeneas as they journey through the Underworld :] ‘What you see is the mere of Cocytus, the Stygian marsh by whose mystery even the gods, having sworn, are afraid to be forsworn. All this crown you see are the helpless ones, the unburied: that ferryman in Charon: the ones he conveys have had burial. None may be taken across from bank to awesome bank of that harsh-voiced river until his bones are laid to rest. Otherwise, he must haunt this place for a hundred years before he's allowed to revisit the longed-for stream at last.’"

Virgil, Georgics 3. 38 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) :
"The Furiae (Furies) [Erinyes] and the stern Cocytus stream, before the snaky bonds and ghastly wheel of Ixion, and the stone beyond the tricker's mastering [Sisyphus]."

Virgil, Georgics 4. 471 ff :
"From the lowest realms of Erebeus came the unsubstantial shades, the phantoms of those who lie in darkness . . . round them are the black ooze and unsightly reeds of Cocytus, the unlovely mere enchaining them with its sluggish water, and Styx holding them fast within this ninefold circles.”

Seneca, Hercules Furens 686 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[In the Underworld :] The foul pool of Cocytus' sluggish stream lies here; here the vulture, there the dole-bringing owl utters its cry, and the sad omen of the gruesome screech-owl sounds. The leaves shudder, black with gloomy foliage where sluggish Sopor (Sleep) [Hypnos] clings to the overhanging yew [along with various other Daimones]."

Seneca, Hercules Furens 868 ff :
"For all this throng which wanders up and down the earth's vast spaces shall go to the world of shades and shall set sail on Cocytus' lifeless stream." [N.B. Kokytos is here synonymous with the Akheron.]

Statius, Thebaid 1. 90 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"She [the Erinys Tisiphone] sat beside dismal Cocytus, and had loosed the snakes from her head and suffered them to lap the sulphurous waters."

Apuleius, The Golden Ass 6. 13 ff (trans. Walsh) (Roman novel C2nd A.D.) :
"[The Arcadian stream of the Styx] waters the marshes of the Styx and feeds the hoarse streams of the Cocytus."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 17. 300 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"You will have river-water enough when you drink the fatal water of Akheron (Acheron). Your belly swells already with the bitter water of a murdering stream, and teems quick with Fate; but taste of Kokytos (Cocytus), and drink Lethe if you like, that you may forget Ares and the bloody steel."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 44. 198 ff :
"She [one of the Erinyes] drew a stream from Kokytos (Cocytus) and water from Styx, and drenched Agaue's (Agave's) [mother of Pentheus] rooms with the infernal drops as if with a prophecy of tears and groaning for Thebes."

Suidas s.v. Kokytos (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"River of Haides, Pyriphlegethon and Akheron (Acheron) and Kokytos (Cocytus); the first [so called] from burning (phlegein), the second from pains (ache) flowing into it, and the last from lamentations and dirges. And a dirge, kokytos, is an imitation of a voice of those mourning."

Suidas s.v. Kokytos :
"Kokytos (Cocytus) : Name of a river. Or a dirge; wailing, lamentation."






Other references not currently quoted here: Apollonius Rhodius 1160, Euripides Alcestis 458.


A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.