JUDGES OF THE DEAD
RHADAMANTHYS, MINOS and AIAKOS (Aeacus) were the judges of the dead, three demi-god ministers of Haides. They were originally mortal men, sons of the god Zeus, who were granted their station in death as a reward for establishing law and order on earth.
Individually, Aiakos was guardian of the keys of Haides and judge of the men of Europe, Rhadamanthys the lord of Elysion (Elysium) and judge of the men of Asia, and Minos the judge of the third and final vote. According to some Triptolemos was a fourth judge who presided over the souls of Initiates of the Mysteries.
The name Aiakos was derived from the Greek words aiaktos and aiazô, "wailing" and "lamentation." The etymology of the other names is obscure.
The mortal lives of the three judges is not detailed on this page only their role in the afterlife.
FAMILY OF THE JUDGES
PARENTS OF AEACUS (AIAKOS)
ZEUS & AIGINA (Hesiod Catalogues Frag 53, Pindar Isthmian 8, Pindar Nemean 7, Corinna Frag 654, Bacchylides Frag 9, Apollodorus 3.156, Pausanias 2.29.2, Diodorus Siculus 4.72.1, Antoninus Liberalis 38, Hyginus Fabulae 52, Ovid Metamorphoses 13.25, Nonnus Dionysiaca 13.201)
PARENTS OF MINOS & RHADAMANTHYS
ZEUS & EUROPA (Hesiod Catalogues Frag 19, Aeschylus Frag 50 & various other sources)
RHADAMANTHUS (Rhadamanthos), a son of Zeus and Europa, and brother of king Minos of Crete (Hom. Il. xiv. 322), or, according to others, a son of Hephaestus (Paus. viii. 53. § 2). From fear of his brother he fled to Ocaleia in Boeotia, and there married Alcmene. In consequence of his justice throughout life, he became, after his death, one of the judges in the lower world, and took up his abode in Elysium. (Apollod. iii. 1. § 2, ii. 4. § 11; Hom. Od. iv. 564, vii. 323; Pind. Ol. ii. 137.)
AE′ACUS (Aiakos), a son of Zeus and Aegina, a daughter of the river-god Asopus. He was born in the island of Oenone or Oenopia, whither Aegina had been carried by Zeus to secure her from the anger of her parents, and whence this island was afterwards called Aegina. (Apollod. iii. 12. § 6; Hygin. Fab. 52; Paus. ii. 29. § 2; comp. Nonn. Dionys. vi. 212; Ov. Met. vi. 113, vii. 472, &c.). After his death Aeacus became one of the three judges in Hades (Ov. Met. xiii. 25; Hor. Carm. ii. 13. 22), and according to Plato (Gorg. p. 523; compare Apolog. p. 41; Isocrat. Evag. 5) especially for the shades of Europeans. In works of art he was represented bearing a sceptre and the keys of Hades. (Apollod. iii. 12. § 6; Pind. Isthm. viii. 47, &c.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
PARENTAGE OF MINOS & RHADAMANTHYS
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 19 (from scholiast on Homer's Iliad 12.292) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"She [Europa] conceived [by Zeus] and bore three sons, Minos, Sarpedon and Rhadamanthys."
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 19A (from Oxyrhynchus Papyri) :
“[Europa] bare sons to the almighty Son of Kronos (Cronus) [Zeus], glorious leaders of wealthy men--Minos the ruler, and just Rhadamanthys and noble Sarpedon the blameless and strong."
Aeschylus, Fragment 50 Europa (from Papyrus) (trans. Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Zeus succeed in his unlaboured theft of me [Europa] from my aged sire . . . Thrice in childbirth did I endure the pangs of womankind . . . First of these mighty implantings that I bare was Minos . . . Second, I brought forth Rhadamanthys, he who of my sons is free from death [i.e. transported to Elysion (Elysium)]; yet, though he lives, mine eyes behold him not."
THE JUDGES OF THE DEAD
Homer, Odyssey 11. 568 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[Odysseys describes his journey to the Underworld :] ‘I saw Minos the son of Zeus holding a golden sceptre and deliving judgements among the dead. There he sat, and around him the others sat or stood in the ample-gated house of Haides, seeking from this master of justice the firm sentences of the law.’"
Pindar, Olympian Ode 2. 55 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"When they [men] die hearts that were void of mercy pay the due penalty, and of this world's sins a judge below the earth holds trial, and of dread necessity declares the word of doom. But the good, through the nights alike, and through the days unending, beneath the sun's bright ray, tax no the soil with the strength of their hands, nor the broad sea for a poor living, but enjoy a life that knows no toil; with men honoured of heaven, who kept their sworn word gladly, spending an age free from all tears. But the unjust endure pain that no eye can bear to see. But those who had good courage, three times on either side of death, to keep their hearts untarnished of all wrong, these travel along the road of Zeus to Kronos' (Cronus') tower. There round the Islands of the Blest, the winds of Okeanos (Oceanus) play, and golden blossoms burn, some nursed upon the waters, others on land on glorious trees; and woven on their hands are wreaths enchained and flowering crowns, under the just decrees of Rhadamanthys, who has his seat at the right hand of the great father [Kronos (Cronus)], Rhea's husband, goddess who holds the throne highest of all."
Plato, Gorgias 523a and 524b ff (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"Now in the time of Kronos (Cronus) there was a law concerning mankind, and it holds to this very day amongst the gods, that every man who has passed a just and holy life departs after his decease to the Isles of the Blest (Nesoi Makaron), and dwells in all happiness apart from ill; but whoever has lived unjustly and impiously goes to the dungeon of requital and penance which, you know, they call Tartaros. Of these men there were judges in Kronos' (Cronus') time, and still of late in the reign of Zeus--living men to judge the living upon the day when each was to breathe his last; and thus the cases were being decided amiss. So Plouton (Pluton) [Haides] and the overseers from the Isles of the Blest came before Zeus with the report that they found men passing over to either abode undeserving. Then spake Zeus : ‘Nay,’ said he, ‘I will put a stop to these proceedings. The cases are now indeed judged ill and it is because they who are on trial are tried in their clothing, for they are tried alive. Now many,’ said he, ‘who have wicked souls are clad in fair bodies and ancestry and wealth, and at their judgement appear many witnesses to testify that their lives have been just. Now, the judges are confounded not only by their evidence but at the same time by being clothed themselves while they sit in judgement, having their own soul muffled in the veil of eyes and ears and the whole body. Thus all these are a hindrance to them, their own habiliments no less than those of the judged. Well, first of all,’ he said, ‘we must put a stop to their foreknowledge of their death; for this they at present foreknow. However, Prometheus has already been given the word to stop this in them. Next they must be stripped bare of all those things before they are tried; for they must stand their trial dead. Their judge also must be naked, dead, beholding with very soul the very soul of each immediately upon his death, bereft of all his kin and having left behind on earth all that fine array, to the end that the judgement may be just. Now I, knowing all this before you, have appointed sons of my own to be judges; two from Asia, Minos and Rhadamanthys, and one from Europe, Aiakos (Aeacus). These, when their life is ended, shall give judgement in the meadow at the dividing of the road, whence are the two ways leading, one to the Isles of the Blest (Nesoi Makaron), and the other to Tartaros. And those who come from Asia shall Rhadamanthys try, and those from Europe, Aiakos; and to Minos I will give the privilege of the final decision, if the other two be in any doubt; that the judgement upon this journey of mankind may be supremely just . . .’
When a man's soul is stripped bare of the body, all its natural gifts, and the experiences added to that soul as the result of his various pursuits, are manifest in it. So when they have arrived in presence of their judge, they of Asia before Rhadamanthys, these Rhadamanthys sets before him and surveys the soul of each, not knowing whose it is; nay, often when he has laid hold of the Great King or some other prince or potentate, he perceives the utter unhealthiness of his soul, striped all over with the scourge, and a mass of wounds, the work of perjuries and injustice; where every act has left its smirch upon his soul, where all is awry through falsehood and imposture, and nothing straight because of a nurture that knew not truth : or, as the result of an unbridled course of fastidiousness, insolence, and incontinence, he finds the soul full fraught with disproportion and ugliness. Beholding this he sends it away in dishonor straight to the place of custody, where on its arrival it is to endure the sufferings that are fitting. And it is fitting that every one under punishment rightly inflicted on him by another should either be made better and profit thereby, or serve as an example to the rest, that others seeing the sufferings he endures may in fear amend themselves. Those who are benefited by the punishment they get from gods and men are they who have committed remediable offences; but still it is through bitter throes of pain that they receive their benefit both here and in Haides (the Netherworld); for in no other way can there be riddance of iniquity. But of those who have done extreme wrong and, as a result of such crimes, have become incurable, of those are the examples made; no longer are they profited at all themselves, since they are incurable, but others are profited who behold them undergoing for their transgressions the greatest, sharpest, and most fearful sufferings evermore, actually hung up as examples there in the infernal dungeon, a spectacle and a lesson to such of the wrongdoers as arrive from time to time . . .
So, as I was saying, whenever the judge Rhadamanthys has to deal with such a one, he knows nothing else of him at all, neither who he is nor of what descent, but only that he is a wicked person and on perceiving this he sends him away to Tartaros, first setting a mark on him to show whether he deems it a curable or an incurable case; and when the man arrives there he suffers what is fitting. Sometimes, when he discerns another soul that has lived a holy life in company with truth, a private man's or any others . . . he is struck with admiration and sends it off to the Isles of the Blest (Nesoi Makaron). And exactly the same is the procedure of Aiakos (Aeacus) : each of these two holds a rod in his hand as he gives judgement; but Minos sits as supervisor, distinguished by the golden scepter that he holds, as Odysseus in Homer tells how he saw him--‘Holding a golden scepter, speaking dooms to the dead.’
Now for my part, Kallikles (Callicles), I am convinced by these accounts, and I consider how I may be able to show my judge that my soul is in the best of health . . . When you go before your judge, [Aiakos] the son of Aigina (Aegina), and he grips you and drags you up, you will gape and feel dizzy there no less than I do here, and some one perhaps will give you, yes, a degrading box on the ear, and will treat you with every kind of contumely. Possibly, however, you regard this as an old wife's tale, and despise it."
Plato, Phaedo 107c ff :
"It is said that after death, the tutelary genius (daimon) of each person, to whom he had been allotted in life, leads him to a place where the dead are gathered together [i.e. the Daimon guide is Plato's equivalent of Hermes guide of the dead]; then they are judged [i.e. by the Judges of the Dead] and depart to the other world with the guide whose task it is to conduct thither those who come from this world; and when they have there received their due and remained through the time appointed, another guide brings them back after many long periods of time [i.e. they are reincarnated into another body]. And the journey is not as Telephos says in the play of Aiskhylos (Aeschylus); for he says a simple path leads to Haides (the Lower World), but I think the path is neither simple nor single, for if it were, there would be no need of guides, since no one could miss the way to any place if there were only one road. But really there seem to be many forks of the road and many windings; this I infer from the rites and ceremonies practiced here on earth [i.e. the Mystery cults]. Now the orderly and wise soul follows its guide and understands its circumstances; but the soul that is desirous of the body, as I said before, flits about it, and in the visible world for a long time [i.e. as a haunting ghost], and after much resistance and many sufferings is led away with violence and with difficulty by its appointed genius (daimon). And when it arrives at the place where the other souls are, the soul which is impure and has done wrong, by committing wicked murders or other deeds akin to those and the works of kindred souls, is avoided and shunned by all, and no one is willing to be its companion or its guide, but it wanders about alone in utter bewilderment, during certain fixed times, after which it is carried by necessity to its fitting habitation [i.e. gloomy Haides]. But the soul that has passed through life in purity and righteousness, finds gods for companions and guides, and goes to dwell in its proper dwelling [i.e. Elysium]."
Plato, Phaedo 112e ff (trans. Fowler) :
"Now when the dead have come to the place where each is led by his genius (daimon) [i.e. by Plato's equivalent of Hermes guide of the dead], first they are judged and sentenced [i.e. by the Judges of the Dead], as they have lived well and piously, or not. And those who are found to have lived neither well nor ill, go to the Akheron and, embarking upon vessels provided for them [i.e. the equivalent of Kharon's (Charon's) skiff], arrive in them at the lake; there they dwell and are purified [i.e. by the equivalent of the Erinyes], and if they have done any wrong they are absolved by paying the penalty for their wrong doings, and for their good deeds they receive rewards, each according to his merits.
Now when the dead have come to the place where each is led by his genius (daimon), first they are judged and sentenced [i.e. by the Judges of the Dead], as they have lived well and piously, or not. And those who are found to have lived neither well nor ill, go to the Akheron (Acheron) and, embarking upon vessels provided for them [i.e. the equivalent of Kharon's skiff], arrive in them at the lake; there they dwell and are purified [i.e. by the equivalent of the Erinyes], and if they have done any wrong they are absolved by paying the penalty for their wrong doings [i.e. in Haides], and for their good deeds they receive rewards [i.e. Elysion (Elysium)], each according to his merits. But those who appear to be incurable, on account of the greatness of their wrongdoings, because they have committed many great deeds of sacrilege, or wicked and abominable murders, or any other such crimes, are cast by their fitting destiny into Tartaros, whence they never emerge. Those, however, who are curable, but are found to have committed great sin--who have, for example, in a moment of passion done some act of violence against father or mother and have lived in repentance the rest of their lives, or who have slain some other person under similar conditions--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 (Cocytus), those who have outraged their parents by way of Pyriphlegethon. And when they have been brought by the current to the Akherousian (Acherusian) 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.
But those who are found to have excelled in holy living are freed from these regions within the earth and are released as from prisons; they mount upward into their pure abode and dwell upon the earth [i.e. the Islands of the Blessed, the higher Elysium]. And of these, all who have duly purified themselves by philosophy live henceforth altogether without bodies, and pass to still more beautiful abodes which it is not easy to describe, nor have we now time enough."
Plato, Minos 318d (trans. Lamb) :
"Sokrates (Socrates) : Then do you know who were their good kings? Minos and Rhadamanthys, the sons of Zeus and Europa; those laws were theirs.
Companion : Rhadamanthys, they do say, Sokrates, was a just man; but Minos was a savage sort of person, harsh and unjust . . . And in the Ghost-Raising in the Odyssey he has described Minos as judging with a golden scepter in his hand, but not Rhadamanthys: Rhadamanthys he has neither described here as judging nor anywhere as consorting with Zeus; wherefore I say that Minos above all persons has been eulogized by Homer. For to have been the son of Zeus, and to have been the only one who was educated by Zeus, is praise unsurpassable . . . Rhadamanthys was a good man indeed, for he had been educated by Minos; he had, however, been educated, not in the whole of the kingly art, but in one subsidiary to the kingly, enough for presiding in law courts; so that he was spoken of as a good judge."
Plato, Apology 41a (trans. Fowler) :
"Sokrates (Socrates) : For if a man when he reaches the other world, after leaving behind these who claim to be judges, shall find those who are really judges who are said to sit in judgment there, Minos and Rhadamanthys, and Aiakos (Aeacus) and Triptolemos, and all the other demigods who were just men in their lives, would the change of habitation be undesirable?"
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 6 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Rhadamanthys was a lawmaker for the islanders, but thereafter fled to Boiotia and married Alkmene (Alcmena); since crossing over he is a judge along with Minos in Haides realm."
Plutarch, Life of Theseus 16. 1 (trans. Perrin) (Greek historian C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"Hesiod called him [Minos] ‘most royal,’ or that Homer styled him ‘a confidant of Zeus,’ but the tragic poets prevailed, and from platform and stage showered obloquy down upon him, as a man of cruelty and violence. And yet they say that Minos was a king and lawgiver, and that Rhadamanthys was a judge under him, and a guardian of the principles of justice defined by him."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 79. 2 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Because of his [Rhadamanthys'] very great justice, the myth has sprung up that he was appointed to be the judge in Haides, where his decisions separate the good from the wicked. The same honour has also been attained by Minos, because he ruled wholly in accordance with law and paid the greatest heed to justice."
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 3. 25 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"Minos, a man who exceeded all men in cruelty, and who enslaved with his navies the inhabitants of continent and islands alike, and yet they [the poets] honour him by placing in his hand a sceptre of justice and give him a throne in Haides to be umpire of spirits."
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 8. 7 :
"In the weighing of souls again the poets tell you that, although after his [Minos'] death he [Zeus] presented Minos the brother of Sarpedon with a golden sceptre, and appointed him judge in the court of Aidoneos [Haides], yet he could not exempt him from the decree of the Moirai (Fates)."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 13. 25 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Aeacus, who sits as judge there in the silent world where Sisyphus strains at his heavy stone; and Juppiter [Zeus] most high claims Aeacus and owns him as his son."
Virgil, Aeneid 6. 541 ff (trans. Day-Lewis) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"The Avernian Grove [in the Underworld] . . . here Rhadamanthus rules, and most severe his rule is, trying and chastising wrongdoers, forcing confessions from any who, on earth, went gleefully undetected--but uselessly, since they have only postponed till death their atonement, sat once Tisiphone, the avenger, scourge in had, pounces upon the guilty."
Horace, Odes 4. 7. 20 (trans. ) (Roman poet C1st B.C.) :
"As soon as you've died and Minos has passed august judgement on you, neither your high birth, Torquatus, nor your eloquence, nor your righteousness will bring you back."
Propertius, Elegies 2. 20 (trans. Goold) (Roman elegy C1st B.C.) :
"If I do, then may the very Erinyes of tragedy persecute me and may Aeacus convict me at the assize in hell, and may one among Tityus' vultures range to be my punishment, and then may I carry rocks, enduring the toil of borne by Sisyphus."
Propertius, Elegies 3. 19 :
"No undeservedly does Minos sit as the judge of the underworld: though he was victor, he was fair to his foe."
Propertius, Elegies 4. 11 :
"If there is an Aeacus who sits as judge with the urn before him, let him judge my shade when my lot is draw: let his brothers sit as assessors, and beside the chair of Minos the stern band of the Eumenides [Erinyes], while all the court is hushed to listen to my trial. Sisyphus, rest from your rock! Let Ixion's wheel be silent! Frustrating water, be caught on Tantalus's lips! Let fierce Cerberus rush at no Shades today, but let his chain hang slack from a silent bolt. I shall speak in my own defence: if I speak falsely, let the luckless urn that is the Danaids' punishment weight down my shoulders."
Seneca, Hercules Furens 731 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Is the report true that in the Underworld justice, though tardy, is meted out, and that guilty souls who have forgot their crimes suffer due punishment? Who is that lord of truth, that arbiter of justice? Not one inquisitor alone sits on the high judgment-seat and allots his tardy sentences to trembling culprits. In yonder court they pass to Cretan Minos' presence, in that to Rhadamanthus', here [Aiakos (Aeacus)] the father of Thetis' spouse gives audience. What each has done, he suffers; upon its author the crime comes back, and the guilty soul is crushed by its own form of guilt. I have seen bloody chiefs immured in prison; the insolent tyrant's back torn by plebeian hands. He who reigns mildly and, though lord of life, keeps guiltless hands, who mercifully and without bloodshed rules his realm, checking his own spirit, he shall traverse long stretches of happy life and at last gain the skies, or else in bliss reach Elysium's joyful land and sit in judgment there. Abstain from human blood, all ye who rule : with heavier punishment your sins are judged."
Seneca, Troades 344 ff :
"Achilles who by right of lineage extends throughout the realm of the immortals and claims the universe: the sea through Thetis, through Aeacus [his grandfather] the shades [i.e. as a judge of the dead], the heavens through Jove [Zeus his great-grandfather]."
Statius, Thebaid 8. 21 ff (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 (Furies) [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 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 Phelgethon, swollen with tears and fire, aid in the judgement, and Styx accuses the gods of perjury."
Statius, Thebaid 8. 70 :
"The urn of the Dictean judge [Minos] doth know it, and Minos can discern the truth."
Statius, Thebaid 11. 570 ff :
"This way with me to the Manes (Shades)! There too will I demand my rights, if but the Gnosian urn of the Agenorian judge [Minos] still stands, whereby kings may be punished."
Statius, Thebaid 4. 520 ff :
"The Gortynian judge [Minos] shakes them [the ghosts of the dead] in his inexorable urn, demanding the truth with threats, and constrains them to speak out their whole lives' story and at last confess their extorted gains."
Statius, Silvae 3. 3. 15 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"Begone, begone, ye wicked, all in hose hearts is a crime unspoken, any who deems his aged sire has lived too long, or, conscious of ever having struck his mother, fears the urn of unbending Aeacus in the world below."
RHADAMANTHYS LORD OF ELYSIUM
Homer, Odyssey 4. 554 (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"[The sea-god Proteus speaks prophesy to Menelaos :] ‘As for yourself, King Menelaos, it is not your fate to die in Argos . . . The Deathless Ones will waft you instead to the world's end, the Elysion (Elysium) fields where yellow-haired Rhadamanthys is. There indeed men live unlaborious days. Snow and tempest nad thunderstorms never enter there, but for men's refreshment Okeanos (Oceanus) sends out coninually the high-singing breezes of the west.’"
Pindar, Olympian Ode 2. 63 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"Those [of the dead] who had good courage, three times on either side of death, to keep their hearts untarnished of all wrong, these travel along the road of Zeus to Kronos' (Cronus') tower. There round the Islands of the Blest, the winds of Okeanos (Oceanus) play, and golden blossoms burn, some nursed upon the waters, others on land on glorious trees; and woven on their hands are wreaths enchained and flowering crowns, under the just decrees of Rhadamanthys, who has his seat at the right hand of the great father [Kronos (Cronus)], Rhea's husband, goddess who holds the throne highest of all."
Aeschylus, Fragment 50 Europa (from Papyrus) (trans. Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Second, I [Europa] brought forth Rhadamanthys, he who of my sons is free from death [i.e. he was transported to Elysion (Elysium)]; yet, though he lives, mine eyes behold him not."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 70 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"After Amphitryon's death Alkmene (Alcmena) [mother of Herakles] married Zeus' son Rhadamanthys, who was living in exile in Boiotian Okaleai (Boeotian Ocaleae)."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 6 :
"Rhadamanthys was a lawmaker for the islanders, but thereafter fled to Boiotia and married Alkmene (Alcmena); since crossing over he is a judge along with Minos in Haides realm."
Poseidippus, Elegy on Old Age (trans. Page, Vol. Select Papyri III, No. 114) (Greek elegiac C2nd B.C.) :
"I am fain in old age to go the mystic (mystikos) path to Rhadamanthys [i.e. to death], missed by my people and all the community."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 53. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Rhadamanthys, Homer says, in the talk of Proteus with Menelaus, that Menelaus would go to the Elysion (Elysium) plain, but that Rhadamanthys was already arrived there."
Plutarch, Life of Lysander 28. 4 (trans. Perrin) (Greek historian C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"And not far away [from Haliartos, Boiotia] the Kretan (Cretan) storax-shrub grows in profusion, which the Haliartians regard as a proof that Rhadamanthys once dwelt there; and they show his tomb, which they call AIea. And near by is also the memorial of Alkmene (Alcmena); for she was buried there, as they say, having lived with Rhadamanthys after the death of Amphitryon." [N.B. The couple were transported to Elysion (Elysium) after death though this is not mentioned here by Plutarch.]
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 19. 158 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Today, if you sit by the side of Minos as an equal judge, or if you possess the flowery court of Rhadamanthys, and pick your dainty way in the groves and meadows of Elysion (Elysium)."
AEACUS DOORKEEPER OF HADES
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 159 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Aiakos (Aeacus) was the most religious of all men . . . and Aiakos, even after death, is honoured in the company of Plouton (Pluton) [Haides], and has charge of the keys of Haides' realm."
Aristophanes, Frogs 466 & 605 ff (trans. O'Neill) (Greek comedy C5th to 4th B.C.) :
"[Comedy play in which Dionysos travels to the underworld to bring back the greatest of the tragic poets. Aiakos (Aeacus) appears as the doorkeeper of Hades :]
Dionysos : What's the right way to knock [on the gates of Haides]? I wonder how the natives here are wont to knock at doors.
Xanthias : No dawdling: taste the door. You've got, remember, the lion-hide and pride of Herackes.
Dionysos (knocking) : Boy! boy! (The door opens. Aiakos [one of the judges of the dead] appears.)
Aiakos (Aeacus) : Who's there?
Dionysos : I, Herakles the strong! [Dionysos is disguised as Herakles.]
Aiakos : O, you most shameless desperate ruffian, you O, villain, villain, arrant vilest villain! Who seized our Kerberos (Cerberus) by the throat, and fled, and ran, and rushed, and bolted, haling of the dog, my charge! But now I've got thee fast. So close the Styx's inky-hearted rock, the blood-bedabbled peak of Akheron (Acheron) shall hem thee in: the hell-hounds of Kokytos (Cocytus) prowl round thee; whilst Ekhidna (Echidna) with her hundred-heads shall rive thy heart-strings: the Tartesian Lamprey prey on thy lungs: and those Tithrasian Gorgones mangle and tear thy kidneys, mauling them, entrails and all, into one bloody mash. I'll speed a running foot to fetch them hither. (Exit Aiakos).
[Dionysos swaps costumes with his slave dressing up as the slave of Herakles] . . .
(Re-enter Aiakos with assistants.)
Aiakos : Seize the dog-stealer [Dionysos' slave disguised as Herakles], bind him, pinion him, drag him to justice.
Dionysos : Somebody's going to catch it.
Xanthias (striking out) : Hands off! away! stand back!
Aiakos : Eh? You're for fighting. Ho! Ditylas, Skeblyas (Scebylas), and Pardokas (Pardocas) [his assistants], come hither, quick; fight me this sturdy knave.
Dionysos : Now isn't it a shame the man should strike and he a thief besides?
Aiakos : A monstrous shame!
Dionysos : A regular burning shame!
Xanthias : By the Lord Zeus, if ever I was here before, if ever I stole one hair's-worth from you, let me die! And now I'll make you a right noble offer, arrest my lad [Dionysos disguised as the slave of Herakles]: torture him as you will, and if you find I'm guilty, take and kill me.
Aiakos : Torture him, how?
Xanthias : In any mode you please. Pile bricks upon him: stuff his nose with acid : flay, rack him, hoist him; flog him with a scourge of prickly bristles: only not with this, a soft-leaved onion, or a tender leek.
Aiakos : A fair proposal. If I strike too hard and maim the boy, I'll make you compensation.
Xanthias : I shan't require it. Take him out and flog him.
Aiakos : Nay, but I'll do it here before your eyes. Now then, put down the traps, and mind you speak the truth, young fellow.
Dionysos (in agony) : Man' don't torture me! I am a god. You'll blame yourself hereafter if you touch me.
Aiakos : Hillo! What's that you are saying?
Dionysos : I say I'm Bakkhos (Bacchus), son of Zeus, a god, and he's the slave.
Aiakos : You hear him?
Xanthias : Hear him? Yes. All the more reason you should flog him well. For if he is a god, he won't perceive it.
Dionysos : Well, but you say that you're a god yourself. So why not you be flogged as well as I?
Xanthias : A fair proposal. And be this the test, whichever of us two you first behold flinching or crying out-he's not the god.
Aiakos : Upon my word you're quite the gentleman, you're all for right and justice. Strip then, both.
Xanthias : How can you test us fairly?
Aiakos : Easily. I'll give you blow for blow.
[Aiakos whips them both, but is still unsure which is the god] . . .
Aiakos : No, by Demeter, still I can't find out which is the god, but come ye both indoors; my lord himself [Haides] and Persephassa (Persephone) there, being gods themselves, will soon find out the truth.
Dionysos : Right! right! I only wish you had thought of that before you gave me those tremendous whacks. (Exeunt Dionysos, Xanthias, Aiakos, and Attendants) . . . (Enter Aiakos, Xanthias and two Attendants) . . .
Xanthias : Phoibos Apollon! clap your hand in mine, kiss and be kissed: and prithee tell me this, tell me by Zeus, our rascaldom's own god, what's all that noise within [the house of Haides]? What means this hubbub and row?
Aiakos : That's [the ghosts of the tragic poets] Aiskhylos (Aeschylus) and Euripides.
Xanthias : Eh?
Aiakos : Wonderful, wonderful things are going on. The dead are rioting, taking different sides.
Xanthias : Why, what's the matter?
Aiakos : There's a custom here with all the crafts, the good and noble crafts, that the chief master of art in each shall have his dinner in the assembly hall, and sit by Plouton's [Haide's] side.
Xanthias : I understand.
Aiakos : Until another comes, more wise than he in the same art: then must the first give way.
Xanthias : And how has this disturbed our Aiskhylos (Aeschylus)?
Aiakos : 'Twas he that occupied the tragic chair, as, in his craft, the noblest.
Xanthias : Who does now?
Aiakos : But when Euripides came down, he kept flourishing off before the highwaymen, thieves, burglars, parricides-these form our mob in Hades-till with listening to his twists and turns, and pleas and counterpleas, they went mad on the man, and hailed him first and wisest: elate with this, he claimed the tragic chair where Aiskhylos was seated.
Xanthias : Wasn't he pelted?
Aiakos : Not he: the populace clamoured out to try which of the twain was wiser in his art . . .
Xanthias : And what does Plouton (Pluton) [Haides] now propose to do?
Aiakos : He means to hold a tournament, and bring their tragedies to the proof.
Xanthias : But Sophokles, how came not he to claim the tragic chair?
Aiakos : Claim it? Not he! When he came down, he kissed with reverence Aiskhylos, and clasped his hand, and yielded willingly the chair to him. But now he's going, says Kleidemides, to sit third-man: and then if Aiskhylos win, he'll stay content: if not, for his art's sake, he'll fight to the death against Euripides . . .
(Here apparently there is a complete change of scene, to the Hall of Plouton, with himself sitting on his throne, [ready to judge the competition] and Dionysos, Aiskhylos, and the foreground.)."
- Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragments - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- Pindar, Odes - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Aeschylus, Fragments - Greek Tragedy C5th B.C.
- Aristophanes, Frogs - Greek Comedy C5th - 4th B.C.
- Plato, Apology - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Plato, Gorgias - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Plato, Phaedo - Greek Philosophy C4th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Greek Papyri III Poseidippus, Fragments - Greek Elegiac C2nd B.C.
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- Plutarch, Lives - Greek Historian C1st - 2nd A.D.
- Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana - Greek Biography C2nd A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Virgil, Aeneid - Latin Epic C1st B.C.
- Propertius, Elegies - Latin Elegy C1st B.C.
- Horace, Odes - Latin Poetry C1st A.D.
- Seneca, Hercules Furens - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
- Seneca, Troades - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
- Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Statius, Silvae - Latin Poetry C1st A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.