Greek Mythology >> Greek Gods >> Underworld Gods >> River Gods >> Pyriphlegethon


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PYRIPHLEGETHON was the underworld river of fire and its god. He was one of five infernal rivers, the others being the Akheron (Acheron), Styx, Lethe and Kokytos (Cocytus).



Presumably OKEANOS like the other Rivers


PYRIPHLE′GETHON (Purithlegethôn), flaming with fire, is the name of one of the rivers in the lower world. (Hom. Od. x. 513; Strab. v. p. 244.)

PHLE′GETHON (Phlegethôn), i. e. the flaming, a river in the lower world, is described as a son of Cocytus; but is more commonly called Pyriphlegethon. (Virg. Aen. vi. 265, 550; Stat. Theb. iv. 522.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


Greek Name






Latin Spelling




Burning (phlegethô)

Fiery (pyrinos)



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."

Seneca, Phaedra 1226 (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"More dreadful things have I [Theseus] seen [in the underworld] which Phlegethon bids imprisoned sinners suffer, compassing them about with his stream of fire; what punishment waits for me, and what place, I know."

Statius, Thebaid 8. 21 (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"The lord of Erebus [Haides], enthroned in the midst of the fortress of his dolorous realm, was demanding of his subjects the misdoings of their lives, pitying nought human but wroth against all the Manes (Shades). Around him stand the Furiae (Fures) [Erinyes] and various Mortes (Deaths) [Thanatoi] in order due, and savage Poena (Vengeance) thrusts forth her coils of jangling chains; the Fatae (Fates) [Moirai] bring the Animas (Souls) and with one gesture [i.e. ‘thumb’ as in the amphitheatre] damn them; too heavy grows the work. Hard by, Minos with his dread brother [Rhadamanthys] in kindly mood counsels a milder justice, and restrains the bloodthirsty king [Haides]; [the River-Gods] Cocytus and Phlegethon, swollen with tears and fire, aid in the judgement, and Styx accuses the gods of perjury."


Homer, Odyssey 10. 513 (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Kirke (Circe) instructs Odysseusfor his 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.’"

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 third river [the Pyriphlegethon] flows out between these two, and near the place whence it issues it falls into a vast region burning with a great fire and makes a lake larger than our Mediterranean sea, boiling with water and mud. Thence it flows in a circle, turbid and muddy, and comes in its winding course, among other places, to the edge of the Akherousian Lake, but does not mingle with its water. Then, after winding about many times underground, it flows into Tartaros at a lower level. This is the river which is called Pyriphlegethon, and the streams of lava which spout up at various places on earth are offshoots from it. Opposite this the fourth river issues [the Styx] . . . 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."

Lycophron, Alexandra 697 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"The grove of Obrimo [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 waters of Kokytos (Cocytus) wild and dark, stream of black Styx."

Virgil, Aeneid 6. 548 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"[The Sibylla leads Aeneas through the Underworld :] Aeneas looks back, and under a cliff on the left sees a broad castle [i.e. Tartaros, the prison of the damned], girt with triple wall and encircled with a rushing flood of torrent flames--Tartarean Phlegethon, that rolls along thundering rocks. In front stands a huge gate, and pillars of solid adamant, that no might of man, nay, not even the sons of heaven, could uproot in war; there stands an iron tower, soaring high, and [the Erinys] Tisiphone, sitting girt with bloody pall, keeps sleepless watch over the portal night and day."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 5. 543 (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"She [Demeter] threw into his [the underworld daimon Askalaphos' (Ascalaphus')] face water from Phlegethon, and lo [he was transformed into a screech owl]."

Seneca, Oedipus 160 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[Drought and pestilence ravage the city of Thebes :] They have burst the bars of abysmal Erebus, the throng of sisters with Tartarean torch [the Erinyes], and Phlegethon, changing his own course, has mingled Styx with our Sidonian streams [i.e. to cause deadly fevers]. Dark Mors (Death) [Thanatos], death opens wide his greedy, gaping jaws and unfolds all his wings."

Seneca, Phaedra 847 ff :
"[Theseus having escaped the Underworld describes his ordeal :] ‘Alas, how hard a struggle it was from lowest Phlegethon to attain the far realms of air.’"

Seneca, Phaedra 1179 ff :
"Then through waters, through Tartarean pools [Acheron], through Styx, through rivers of fire [Phlegethon] will I madly follow thee [i.e. a loved one who has died]."

Statius, Thebaid 2. 1 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"On this side Styx encircling its nine regions, on that a barrier of fiery torrents [Pyriphlegethon] encloses his [Hermes' descent into the underworld] path."

Statius, Thebaid 4. 520 ff :
"The Elysian void is flung open, the spacious shadows of the hidden region are rent, the groves and black rivers lie clear to view, and Acheron belches forth noisome mud. Smoky Phlegethon rolls down his streams of murky flame, and Styx interfluent sets a barrier to the sundered ghosts."

Suidas s.v. Ker (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."






Other references not currently quoted here: Strabo 5.244.


A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.