House of Hades
Dwellings of Hades
The DOMOS HAIDOU (House of Hades) was the land of the dead--the final resting place for departed souls. It was a dark and dismal realm where bodiless ghosts flitted across the grey fields of asphodel. The Homeric poets knew of no Elysian Fields or Tartarean Hell, rather all shades--heroes and villians alike--came to rest in the gloom of Haides.
In the Iliad the realm is a damp and mouldy place hidden inside the hollows of the earth. The dead crossed a river, passed through gates guarded by the Hound, and presented themselves before the king and queen of the underworld, Haides and Persephone. The ghosts of the unburied were allowed to return to the realm above to visit the living in the form of dreams and demand a proper burial. The land of Haides was quite distinct from Tartaros-- prison-house of the Titanes--which is described as lying as far beneath Haides as the earth beneath the heavens.
In the Odyssey the realm of Haides is described in greater detail. It was located at the ends of the earth, on the far shore of the earth-encircling river Okeanos (Oceanus), beyond the gates of the sun and the land of dreams. The land of the dead was enclosed by the Akherousian Lake and three rivers--the Styx, Kokytos (Cocytus) and Pyriphlegethon. A judge named Minos received the dead from Hermes Psykhogogos (Guide of Souls) and sentenced the most wicked to eternal torment.
Hesiod describes Haides in his Theogony. The realm lay at the farthest ends of the flat earth, beyond the river Okeanos and the Land of Evening. It was a cosmic meeting-place of the ways where the great sky dome descended to rest its edge upon the earth and, from below, the walls of the Tartarean pit rose to enclose the lower, hidden half of the cosmos. Haides and Tartaros were again quite distinct--Tartaros was the cosmic pit beneath the earth whereas Haides was the land of the dead on the gloomy, outermost edge of the earth. In his Works and Days and Catalogues, Hesiod introduces the Islands of the Blessed--a paradise realm reserved for the great heroes of myth.
In the classical period, the mystic religions and prophets--such as the Orphics and Pythagoreans--, as well as the philosophers, modified the land of the dead to incorporate an Elysian paradise for the good and a Tartarean hell for the wicked. Souls were judged and assigned to a suitable afterlife and in some versions cast into a cycle of purgatory and reincarnation.
Domos Haidou is usually translated into English as "House of Hades" and indeed the god of the underworld is frequently described as a Homeric king living in a royal palace and possessing orchards, fields and herds of cattle. The dead passed through the pylai Haidou or "gates of Hades" to enter his realm. The adjective haidou, however, also means "unseen" or "invisible" and domos is simply a "dwelling-place," "domain" or "realm." So "the unseen realm" would also be a reasonable translation. The plural form domoi Haidou also needs to be rendered as something more than just "the house of Hades."
The dead were often described roaming across the leimôn asphodelon or "fields of asphodel." The asphodel is a pale-grey plant which is edible though very bland and the ancients regarded it as a food of last resort. (For a photo of the plant click here.) The term Erebos--meaning "the dark"--was sometimes used to describe the realm. However it was uncommon and for the most part purely descriptive. Later poets sometimes use Tartaros as a simile for Haides as well as the adjectives Akherousian and Stygian derived from the names of its rivers.
For the gods and spirits of the realm of Haides see the Gods of the Underworld page.
PHRASES & ALTERNATE NAMES
Gates of Hades
in Hades, to Hades
Asphodel Fields, Asphodel Meadows
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
In Homer's Iliad the dead descend into a murky, subterranean realm ruled by the gods Haides and Persephone. It is called dôma Aidao "the house (domain) of Haides" or domoi Aidao "the dwelling-places of Haides." Aïdao itself is literally "the unseen." The ghosts of the unburied dead could cross the river and haunt the earth until they received the proper funereal rites--in this way the ghost of Patroklos (Patroclus) visits Akhilleus (Achilles) in his sleep and demands burial (23.63 ff). After the rites were complete the soul (psykhê) crossed the river (23.63 ff) and passed through the gates (pylai) of Haides to join the company of the spirits of the dead. The gates were guarded by the Hound of Haides (kynos Aidou) (8.361 ff).
In the Iliad the realm of Haides lies directly beneath the earth. When Poseidon shakes the earth, Haides leaps up from his throne in fear that the earth will split open and lay his mouldering realm laid bare (20.67 ff). Althaia (Althaea) also invokes the underworld gods by lying flat upon the earth, beating the ground with her hands (9.565ff).
The realm of Tartaros, prison of the Titan gods, is quite distinct from the land of Haides in Homer who describes it as a great pit lying as far beneath Haides as the earth lies beneath heaven (8.13ff).
Homer, Iliad 1. 3 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The Akhaians (Achaeans) hurled in their multitudes to the house of Aides (Hades), strong souls of heroes."
Homer, Iliad 5. 646 ff :
"Beaten down by my hands you will pass through the gates (pylai) of Aides (Hades)."
Homer, Iliad 5. 653 ff :
"What you will win from me here will be death and black destruction (kêr); and broken under my spear you will give me glory, and give your soul (psychê) to Aides of the famed horses (klytopolos)."
Homer, Iliad 6. 282 ff ff :
"If only I could see him gone down to the house of Aides."
Homer, Iliad 7. 129 ff :
"Now if he [Peleus father of Akhilleus (Achilles)] were to hear how all cringe away before Hektor, many a time he would lift up his very hands to the immortals, and the life breath from his limbs would go down into the house of Aides [i.e. in his shame he would pray for death]."
Homer, Iliad 7. 328 ff :
"Many flowing-haired Akhaians (Achaeans) have died here, whose dark blood has been scattered . . . by fierce Ares (the war god), while their souls went down into the house of Aides."
Homer, Iliad 8. 13 ff :
"[Zeus addresses the gods :] ‘And any one I perceive against the gods' will attempting to go among the Trojans and help them, or among the Danaans, he shall go whipped against his dignity back to Olympos; or I shall take him and dash him down to the murk of Tartaros, far below, where the uttermost depth of the pit lies under earth, where there are gates of iron and a brazen doorstone, as far beneath the house of Aides (Hades) as from earth the sky lies.’"
Homer, Iliad 8. 361 ff :
"[Athena speaks of the assistance she gave Herakles in his quest for the hound Kerberos (Cerberus) :] ‘If in the wiliness of my heart I had had thoughts like his, when Herakles was sent down to Aides (Hades) of the Gates (pylartês), to hale back from Erebos (the Kingdom of the Dark) the hound [Kerberos] of the grisly death god, never would he have got clear of the steep-dripping Stygian water.’"
Homer, Iliad 9. 158 ff :
"Aides gives not way, and is pitiless, and therefore he among all the gods is most hateful to mortals."
Homer, Iliad 9. 312 ff :
"I detest the doorways (pylai) of Aides."
Homer, Iliad 9. 565 ff :
"[Althaia (Althaea) curses her son Meleagros (Meleager) after he kills her brothers :] His mother's curses, which she called down from the gods upon him . . . many times beating with her hands on the earth abudnant she called on Aides and on honoured Persephone, lying at length along the ground, and the tears were wet on her bosom, to give death to her son; and Erinys, the mist walking, she of the heart without pity, heard her out of the dark places."
Homer, Iliad 11. 445 ff :
"You will give glory to me and your life to Aides of the horses (klytopolos)."
Homer, Iliad 15. 186 ff :
"[Poseidon speaks :] ‘We are three brothers born by Rhea to Kronos (Cronus), Zeus, and I, and the third is Haides, lord of the dead men. All was divided among us three ways, each given his domain. I when the lots were shaken drew the grey sea to live in forever; Haides drew the lot of the mists and the darkness, and Zeus was allotted the wide sky.’"
Homer, Iliad 20. 67 ff :
"Poseidon from deep under them shuddered all the illimitable earth, the sheer heads of the mountains. And all the feet of Ida with her many waters were shaken and all her crests, and the city of Troy, the ships of the Akhaians (Achaeans). Aïdoneus [Haides], lord of the dead below, was in terror and sprang from his throne and screamed aloud, for fear that above him he who circles the land, Poseidon, might break the earth open and the houses of the dead lie open to men and immortals, ghastly and mouldering, so the very gods shudder before them; such was the crash that sounded as the gods came driving together in wrath."
Homer, Iliad 22. 52 ff :
"They are dead already and gone down to the house of Aides (Aïdao domoisin)."
Homer, Iliad 22. 208 ff :
"The Father [Zeus] balanced his golden scales, and in them he set two fateful portions of death (duo kêre tanêlegeos thanatoio), which lays men prostrate, one for Akhilleus (Achilles), and one for Hektor, breaker of horses, and balanced it by the middle; and Hektor's death-day (aisimon êmar) was heavier and dragged downward towards Aides (eis Aïdao), and Phoibos (Phoebus) Apollon forsook him."
Homer, Iliad 22. 361 ff :
"The end of death closed in upon him, and the soul fluttering free of the limbs went down to Aides mourning her destiny, leaving youth and manhood behind her."
Homer, Iliad 22. 389 ff :
"[Akhilleus (Achilles) speaks of his love for Patroklos (Patroclus) :] ‘And though the dead forget the dead in Aides, even there I shall still remember my beloved companion.’"
Homer, Iliad 22. 425 ff :
"The sharp grief for him will carry me downward to Aides (katoisetai Aïdos)."
Homer, Iliad 22. 482 ff :
"Now you go to the house of Aides in the secret places of the earth (Aïdao domous hupo keuthesi gaiê)."
Homer, Iliad 23. 19 ff :
"[Akhilleus (Achilles) speaks :] ‘Good-bye Patroklos. I hail you even in the house of the death god (Aïdao domoisi).’"
Homer, Iliad 23. 63 ff :
"There appeared to him [Akhilleus (Achilles)] the ghost (psykhe) of unhappy Patroklos (Patroclus) all in his likeness for stature, and lovely eyes, and voice, and wore such clothing as Patroklos had worn on his body. The ghost came and stood over his head and spoke a word to him : ‘You sleep, Akhilleus; you have forgotten me; but you were not careless of me when I lived, but only in death. Bury me as quickly as may be, let me pass through the gates of Aides (pylai Aidao). The souls (psykhai), the images (eidôla) of dead men, hold me at a distance, and will not let me cross the river and mingle among them, but I wander as I am by Aides' house of the wide gates (eurypyles Aidos dôma). And I call upon you in sorrow, give me your hand; no longer shall I come back from death, once you give me my rite of burning.’"
Homer, Iliad 23. 99 ff :
"[Akhilleus (Achilles)] with his own arms reached for him [the ghost of Patroklos (Patroclus)], but could not take him, but the spirit went underground, like vapour, with a thin cry, and Akhilleus started awake, staring, and drove his hands together, and spoke, and his words were sorrowful : ‘Oh wonder! Even in the house of Aides (Aïdao domoisi) there is left something, a soul and an image, but there is no real heart of life in it. For all night long the phantom of unhappy Patroklos stood over me in lamentation and mourning, and the likeness to him was wonderful, and it told me each thing I should do.’"
Homer, Iliad 23. 136 ff :
"Akhilleus (Achilles) held the head [of Patroklos (Patroclus)] sorrowing, for this was his true friend he escorted to Aides (Aidou dôma) [i.e. the funeral rites give the dead passage to Aides]."
Homer, Iliad 23. 179 ff :
"[Akhilleus (Achilles) speaks :] ‘Good-bye, Patroklos (Patroclus). I hail you even in the house of the death god (Aidao domoisi).’"
Homer, Iliad 23. 243 ff :
"[Akhilleus (Achilles) speaks :] ‘Let us lay his [Patroklos'] bones in a golden jar and a double fold of fat, until I myself enfold him in Aides [i.e. they will be reunited in the underworld in death].’"
Homer, Iliad 24. 593 ff :
"[Akhilleus (Achilles) speaks :] ‘Be not angry with me, Patroklos, if you discover, though you be in Haides (ein Aïdos), that I gave back great Hektor (Hector), to his loved father.’"
The most famous archaic description of the underworld is found in Book 11 of Homer's Odyssey--a chapter which the ancients knew as The Nekyia or "Book of the Dead." Here Odysseus sails across the western reach of the earth-encircling river Okeanos (Oceanus) to the shore of Haides where he summons the ghosts of the dead with an offering of blood drawn frp, a sacrificial black ram cast into a pit. The description mentions the netherworld lake Akheron (Acheron) , the rivers Pyriphlegethon, Kokytos (Cocytus) and Styx, as well as Minos the judge of the dead and the condemnation of the wicked to eternal torment.
In Book 24 Homer describes Hermes guiding the souls of the dead to Haides. Here they flit like bats through the dark places beneath the earth, cross the river Okeanos (Oceanus)--passing by the gates of the sun, the White Isle, and the land of dreams--to reach the asphodel fields, the final resting place of the dead.
Homer, Odyssey 10. 487 ff (trans. Murray) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The beautiful goddess [Kirke (Circe)] made answer [to Odysseus] : ‘. . . You must first complete another journey, and come to the house of Aides (domos Aidao) and dread Persephoneia, to seek soothsaying of the spirit of Theban Teiresias (Tiresias), the blind seer, whose mind abides steadfast. To him even in death Persephoneia (Persephone) has granted reason, that he alone should have understanding; but the others flit about as shadows.’
So she spoke, and my spirit was broken within me, and I wept as I sat on the bed, nor had my heart any longer desire to live and behold the light of the sun. But when I had my fill of weeping and writhing, then I made answer, and addressed her, saying : ‘O Kirke, who will guide us on this journey? To Aides (Hades) (eis Aïdos) no man ever yet went in a black ship.’
So I spoke, and the beautiful goddess straightway made answer : ‘. . . Let there be in thy mind no concern for a pilot to guide thy ship, but set up thy mast, and spread the white sail, and sit thee down; and the breath of the North Wind will bear her onward. But when in thy ship thou hast now crossed the stream of Okeanos (Oceanus), where is a level shore and the groves of Persephoneia--tall poplars, and willows that shed their fruit--there do thou beach thy ship by the deep eddying Okeanos, but go thyself to the dank house of Aides (Hades). There into Akheron (Acheron) flow Pyriphlegethon and Kokytos (Cocytus), which is a branch of the water of the Styx; and there is a rock, and the meeting place of the two roaring rivers. Thither, prince, do thou draw nigh, as I bid thee, and dig a pit of a cubit's length this way and that, and around it pour a libation to all the dead, first with milk and honey, thereafter with sweet wine, and in the third place with water, and sprinkle thereon white barley meal. And do thou earnestly entreat the powerless heads of the dead, vowing that when thou comest to Ithaka thou wilt sacrifice in thy halls a barren heifer, the best thou hast, and wilt fill the altar with rich gifts; and that to Teiresias alone thou wilt sacrifice separately a ram, wholly black, the goodliest of thy flock. But when with prayers thou hast made supplication to the glorious tribes of the dead, then sacrifice a ram and a black ewe, turning their heads toward Erebos (Erebus) but thyself turning backward, and setting thy face towards the streams of the river. Then many ghosts of men that are dead will come forth. But do thou thereafter call to thy comrades, and bid them flay and burn the sheep that lie there, slain by the pitiless bronze, and make prayer to the gods, to mighty Aides and to dread Persephoneia. And do thou thyself draw thy sharp sword from beside thy thigh, and sit there, not suffering the powerless heads of the dead to draw near to the blood, till thou hast enquired of Teiresias. Then the seer will presently come to thee, leader of men, and he will tell thee thy way and the measures of thy path, and of thy return, how thou mayest go over the teeming deep.’"
Homer, Odyssey 10. 552 ff :
"There was one [of Odysseus' men], Elpenor, the youngest of all . . . who had laid him down apart from his comrades in the sacred house of Kirke (Circe) . . . but fell headlong from the roof, and his neck was broken away from the spine, and his spirit went down to the house of Aides (Hades)."
Homer, Odyssey 10. 561 ff :
"As my men were going on their way I spoke among them, saying : ‘Ye think, forsooth, that ye are going to your dear native land; but Kirke (Circe) has pointed out for us another journey, even to the house of Aides and dread Persephone, to consult the spirit of Theban Teiresias (Tiresias).’ So I spoke, and their spirit was broken within them, and sitting down right where they were, they wept and tore their hair. But no good came of their lamenting. But when we were on our way to the swift ship and the shore of the sea, sorrowing and shedding big tears, meanwhile Kirke had gone forth and made fast beside the black ship a ram and a black ewe."
Homer, Odyssey Book 11 (the Nekyia) :
"[11. 1 ff The journey to Haides :]
But when we had come down to the ship and to the sea, first of all we drew the ship down to the bright sea, and set the mast and sail in the black ship, and took the sheep and put them aboard, and ourselves embarked, sorrowing, and shedding big tears. And for our aid in the wake of our dark-prowed ship a fair wind that filled the sail, a goodly comrade, was sent by fair-tressed Kirke (Circe), dread goddess of human speech. So when we had made fast all the tackling throughout the ship, we sat down, and the wind and the helms man made straight her course. All the day long her sail was stretched as she sped over the sea; and the sun set and all the ways grew dark.
She came to deep-flowing Okeanos (Oceanus), that bounds the Earth, where is the land and city of the Kimmeroi (Cimmerians), wrapped in mist and cloud. Never does the bright sun look down on them with his rays either when he mounts the starry heaven or when he turns again to earth from heaven, but baneful night is spread over wretched mortals. Thither we came and beached our ship, and took out the sheep, and ourselves went beside the stream of Okeanos until we came to the place of which Kirke had told us.
[11. 24 ff The sacrifice to the ghosts :]
Here Perimedes and Eurylokhos (Eurylochus) held the victims, while I drew my sharp sword from beside my thigh, and dug a pit of a cubit's length this way and that, and around it poured a libation to all the dead, first with milk and honey, thereafter with sweet wine, and in the third place with water, and I sprinkled thereon white barley meal. And I earnestly entreated the powerless heads of the dead, vowing that when I came to Ithaka I would sacrifice in my halls a barren heifer, the best I had, and pile the altar with goodly gifts, and to Teiresias (Tiresias) alone would sacrifice separately a ram, wholly black, the goodliest of my flocks. But when with vows and prayers I had made supplication to the tribes of the dead, I took the sheep and cut their throats over the pit, and the dark blood ran forth.
Then there gathered from out of Erebos (Erebus) the spirits of those that are dead, brides, and unwedded youths, and toil-worn old men, and tender maidens with hearts yet new to sorrow, and many, too, that had been wounded with bronze-tipped spears, men slain in fight, wearing their blood-stained armour. These came thronging in crowds about the pit from every side, with a wondrous cry; and pale fear seized me. Then I called to my comrades and bade them flay and burn the sheep that lay there slain with the pitiless bronze, and to make prayer to the gods, to mighty Aides (Hades) and dread Persephoneia (Persephone). And I myself drew my sharp sword from beside my thigh and sat there, and would not suffer the powerless heads of the dead to draw near to the blood until I had enquired of Teiresias.
[11. 51 ff The ghost of Elpenor :]
The first to come was the spirit of my comrade Elpenor. Not yet had he been buried beneath the broad-wayed earth, for we had left his corpse behind us in the hall of Kirke, unwept and unburied, since another task was then urging us on. When I saw him I wept, and my heart had compassion on him; and I spoke and addressed him with winged words : ‘Elpenor, how didst thou come beneath the murky darkness? Thou coming on foot hast out-stripped me in my black ship.’
So I spoke, and with a groan he answered me and said : ‘. . . An evil doom of some god was my undoing, and measureless wine. When I had lain down to sleep in the house of Kirke I did not think to go to the long ladder that I might come down again, but fell headlong from the roof, and my neck was broken away from the spine and my spirit went down to the house of Aides. Now I beseech thee . . . for I know that as thou goest hence from the house of Aides thou wilt touch at the isle Aiaia (Aeaea) with thy well-built ship. There, then, O prince, I bid thee remember me. Leave me not behind thee unwept and unburied as thou goest thence, and turn not away from me, lest haply I bring the wrath of the gods upon thee. Nay, burn me with my armour, all that is mine, and heap up a mound for me on the shore of the grey sea, in memory of an unhappy man, that men yet to be may learn of me. Fulfil this my prayer, and fix upon the mound my oar wherewith I rowed in life when I was among my comrades.’
So he spoke, and I made answer and said : ‘All this, unhappy man, will I perform and do.’ Thus we two sat and held sad converse one with the other, I on one side holding my sword over the blood, while on the other side the phantom of my comrade spoke at large.
[11. 84 ff The ghost of Teiresias :]
"Then there came up the spirit of my dead mother, Antikleia (Anticlea), the daughter of great-hearted Autolykos (Autolycus), whom I had left alive when I departed for sacred Ilios (Ilium) [Troy]. At sight of her I wept, and my heart had compassion on her, but even so I would not suffer her to come near the blood, for all my great sorrow, until I had enquired of Teiresias.
Then there came up the spirit of the Theban Teiresias, bearing his golden staff in his hand, and he knew me and spoke to me : ‘Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, Odysseus of many devices, what now, hapless man? Why hast thou left the light of the sun and come hither to behold the dead and a region where is no joy? Nay, give place from the pit and draw back thy sharp sword, that I may drink of the blood and tell thee sooth.’
So he spoke, and I gave place and thrust my silver-studded sword into its sheath, and when he had drunk the dark blood, then the blameless seer spoke to me and said : ‘Thou askest of thy honey-sweet return, glorious Odysseus, but this shall a god make grievous unto thee; for I think not that thou shalt elude the Earth-shaker [Poseidon] . . . [he then instructs Odysseus on his return].’ So saying the spirit of the prince, Teiresias, went back into the house of Aides, when he had declared his prophecies.
[11. 151 ff The shade of Antikleia (Anticlea) :]
But I remained there steadfastly until my mother [Antikleia] came up and drank the dark blood. At once then she knew me, and with wailing she spoke to me winged words : ‘My child, how didst thou come beneath the murky darkness, being still alive? Hard is it for those that live to behold these realms, for between are great rivers and dread streams; Okeanos first, which one may in no wise cross on foot, but only if one have a well-built ship. Art thou but now come hither from Troy after long wanderings with thy ship and thy companions? and hast thou not yet reached Ithaca, nor seen thy wife in thy halls?’
So she spoke, and I made answer and said : ‘My mother, necessity brought me down to the house of Hades, to seek soothsaying of the spirit of Theban Teiresias. For not yet have I come near to the shore of Akhaia (Achaea) . . .’ [Odysseus inquires after her death and she tells him the circumstances.]
So she spoke, and I pondered in heart, and was fain to clasp the spirit of my dead mother. Thrice I sprang towards her, and my heart bade me clasp her, and thrice she flitted from my arms like a shadow or a dream, and pain grew ever sharper at my heart. And I spoke and addressed her with winged words : ‘My mother, why dost thou not stay for me, who am eager to clasp thee, that even in the house of Aides we two may cast our arms each about the other, and take our fill of chill lamenting. Is this but a phantom that august Persephoneia has sent me, that I may lament and groan the more?’
So I spoke, and my honored mother straightway answered : ‘Ah me, my child, ill-fated above all men, in no wise does Persephoneia, the daughter of Zeus, deceive thee, but this is the appointed way with mortals when one dies. For the sinews no longer hold the flesh and the bones together, but the strong might of blazing fire destroys these, as soon as the life leaves the white bones, and the spirit, like a dream, flits away, and hovers to and fro. But haste thee to the light with what speed thou mayest, and bear all these things in mind, that thou mayest hereafter tell them to thy wife.’
[11. 225 ff The shades of heroines :]
Thus we two talked with one another; and the women came, for august Persephoneia sent them forth, even all those that had been the wives and the daughters of chieftains. These flocked in throngs about the dark blood, and I considered how I might question each; and this seemed to my mind the best counsel. I drew my long sword from beside my stout thigh, and would not suffer them to drink of the dark blood all at one time. So they drew near, one after the other, and each declared her birth, and I questioned them all.
Then verily the first that I saw was high-born Tyro, who said that she was the daughter of noble Salmoneus . . . [Poseidon] lay with her at the mouths of the eddying river . . . And after her I saw Antiope, daughter of Asopos, who boasted that she had slept even in the arms of Zeus . . . And after her I saw Alkmene (Alcmena), wife of Amphitryon, who lay in the arms of great Zeus, and bore Herakles, staunch in fight, the lion-hearted. And Megara I saw, daughter of Kreon (Creon), high-of-heart, whom the son of Amphitryon, ever stubborn in might, had to wife.
And I saw the mother of Oidipodes (Oedipus), fair Epikaste (Epicaste), who wrought a monstrous deed in ignorance of mind, in that she wedded her own son, and he, when he had slain his own father, wedded her . . . And I saw beauteous Khloris, whom once Neleus wedded because of her beauty . . . And I saw Leda, the wife of Tyndareus, who bore to Tyndareus two sons, stout of heart, Kastor (Castor) the tamer of horses, and the boxer Polydeukes (Polydeuces). These two the earth, the giver of life, covers, albeit alive, and even in the world below they have honor from Zeus. One day they live in turn, and one day they are dead; and they have won honor like unto that of the gods.
And after her I saw Iphimedeia, wife of Aloeus, who declared that she had lain with Poseidon . . . And Phaidra (Phaedra) and Prokris (Procris) I saw, and fair Ariadne, the daughter of Minos . . . And Maira (Maera) and Klymene (Clymene) I saw, and hateful Eriphyle, who took precious gold as the price of the life of her own lord. But I cannot tell or name all the wives and daughters of heroes that I saw; ere that immortal night would wane . . .
[11. 385 ff The ghost of Agamemnon :]
When then holy Persephoneia had scattered this way and that the spirits of the women, there came up the spirit of Agamemnon, son of Atreus, sorrowing; and round about him others were gathered, spirits of all those who were slain with him in the house of Aigisthos, and met their fate. He knew me straightway, when he had drunk the dark blood, and he wept aloud, and shed big tears, and stretched forth his hands toward me eager to reach me. But no longer had he aught of strength or might remaining such as of old was in his supple limbs. When I saw him I wept, and my heart had compassion on him, and I spoke, and addressed him . . . [and asks about the circumstances of his death which Agamemnon then relates.]
[11. 565 ff The ghosts of Akhilleus (Achilles), Patroklos (Patroclus), Antilokhos (Antilochus) and Aias (Ajax) :]
Thus we two stood and held sad converse with one another, sorrowing and shedding big tears; and there came up the spirit of Akhilleus, son of Peleus, and those of Patroklos and of peerless Antilokhos and of Aias . . . And the spirit of the swift-footed son of Aiakos recognized me, and weeping, spoke to me winged words : ‘Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, Odysseus of many devices, rash man, what deed yet greater than this wilt thou devise in thy heart? How didst thou dare to come down to Aides, where dwell the unheeding dead, the phantoms of men outworn.’
So he spoke, and I made answer and said : ‘Akhilleus, son of Peleus, far the mightiest of the Akhaians (Achaeans), I came through need of Teiresias, if haply he would tell me some plan whereby I might reach rugged Ithaka (Ithaka). For not yet have I come near to the land of Akhaia, nor have I as yet set foot on my own country, but am ever suffering woes; whereas than thou, Akhilleus, no man aforetime was more blessed nor shall ever be hereafter. For of old, when thou wast alive, we Argives honored thee even as the gods, and now that thou art here, thou rulest mightily among the dead. Wherefore grieve not at all that thou art dead, Akhilleus.’
So I spoke, and he straightway made answer and said : ‘Nay, seek not to speak soothingly to me of death, glorious Odysseus. I should choose, so I might live on earth, to serve as the hireling of another, of some portionless man whose livelihood was but small, rather than to be lord over all the dead that have perished . . .’ [Odysseus then tells Akhilleus of the events at Troy following his death.] So I spoke, and the spirit of the son of Aiakos departed with long strides over the field of asphodel (leimôn asphodelon), joyful in that I said that his son was preeminent.
[11. 540 ff The ghost of Telamonian Aias (Ajax) :]
And other spirits of those dead and gone stood sorrowing, and each asked of those dear to him. Alone of them all the spirit of Aias, son of Telamon, stood apart, still full of wrath for the victory that I had won over him in the contest by the ships for the arms of Akhilleus . . . [Odysseus tries to console the ghost.] But he answered me not a word, but went his way to Erebos to join the other spirits of those dead and gone. Then would he nevertheless have spoken to me for all his wrath, or I to him, but the heart in my breast was fain to see the spirits of those others that are dead.
[11. 567 ff Minos, judge of the dead, and Orion :]
There then I saw Minos, the glorious son of Zeus, golden sceptre in hand, giving judgment to the dead from his seat, while they sat and stood about the king through the wide-gated house of Aides (eurypyles Aidos domos), and asked of him judgment.
And after him I marked huge Orion driving together over the field of asphodel (leimôn asphodelon) wild beasts which he himself had slain on the lonely hills, and in his hands he held a club all of bronze, ever unbroken.
[11. 576 ff The ghosts of the damned :]
And I saw Tityos (Tityus), son of glorious Gaia (Gaea), lying on the ground. Over nine roods he stretched, and two vultures sat, one on either side, and tore his liver, plunging their beaks into his bowels, nor could he beat them off with his hands. For he had offered violence to Leto, the glorious wife of Zeus, as she went toward Pytho through Panopeus with its lovely lawns.
Aye, and I saw Tantalos (Tantalus) in violent torment, standing in a pool, and the water came nigh unto his chin. He seemed as one athirst, but could not take and drink; for as often as that old man stooped down, eager to drink, so often would the water be swallowed up and vanish away, and at his feet the black earth would appear, for some god made all dry. And trees, high and leafy, let stream their fruits above his head, pears, and pomegranates, and apple trees with their bright fruit, and sweet figs, and luxuriant olives. But as often as that old man would reach out toward these, to clutch them with his hands, the wind would toss them to the shadowy clouds.
Aye, and I saw Sisyphos (Sisyphus) in violent torment, seeking to raise a monstrous stone with both his hands. Verily he would brace himself with hands and feet, and thrust the stone toward the crest of a hill, but as often as he was about to heave it over the top, the weight would turn it back, and then down again to the plain would come rolling the ruthless stone. But he would strain again and thrust it back, and the sweat flowed down from his limbs, and dust rose up from his head.
[11. 601 ff Ghost of Herakles (Heracles) :]
And after him I marked the mighty Herakles--his phantom; for he himself among the immortal gods takes his joy in the feast, and has to wife Hebe, of the fair ankles, daughter of great Zeus and of Hera, of the golden sandals. About him rose a clamor from the dead, as of birds flying everywhere in terror; and he like dark night, with his bow bare and with arrow on the string, glared about him terribly, like one in act to shoot. Awful was the belt about his breast, a baldric of gold, whereon wondrous things were fashioned, bears and wild boars, and lions with flashing eyes, and conflicts, and battles, and murders, and slayings of men. May he never have designed, or hereafter design such another, even he who stored up in his craft the device of that belt.
He in turn knew me when his eyes beheld me, and weeping spoke to me winged words : ‘Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, Odysseus of many devices, ah, wretched man, dost thou, too, drag out an evil lot such as I once bore beneath the rays of the sun? I was the son of Zeus, son of Kronos, but I had woe beyond measure; for to a man far worse than I was I made subject, and he laid on me hard labours. Yea, he once sent me hither to fetch the hound of Aides, for he could devise for me no other task mightier than this. The hound I carried off and led forth from the house of Aides; and Hermes was my guide, and flashing-eyed Athena.’
[11. 627 ff Odysseus driven from Haides :]
So saying, he went his way again into the house of Aides, but I abode there steadfastly, in the hope that some other haply might still come forth of the warrior heroes who died in the days of old. And I should have seen yet others of the men of former time, whom I was fain to behold, even Theseus and Peirithous, glorious children of the gods, but ere that the myriad tribes of the dead came thronging up with a wondrous cry, and pale fear seized me, lest august Persephoneia might send forth upon me from out the house of Aides the head of the Gorgo (Gorgon), that awful monster.
Straightway then I went to the ship and bade my comrades themselves to embark, and to loose the stern cables. So they went on board quickly and sat down upon the benches. And the ship was borne down the stream Okeanos by the swelling flood, first with our rowing, and afterwards the wind was fair."
Homer, Iliad 12. 16 ff :
"[Odysseus' ship returns to the island of Aiaia (Aeaea) :] Kirke (Circe) was not unaware of our coming forth from the house of Aides, but speedily she arrayed herself and came . . . And the beautiful goddess stood in our midst, and spoke among us, saying : ‘Rash men, who have gone down alive to the house of Aides to meet death twice, while other men die but once.’"
Homer, Odyssey 23. 251 & 321 ff :
"[Odysseus tells Penelope of his adventures :] ‘So did the spirit of Teiresias (Tiresias) foretell to me on the day when I went down into the house of Aides (Hades) (katebên domon Aïdos) to enquire concerning the return of my comrades and myself.’ . . . He told of . . . how in his benched ship he had gone to the dank house of Aides (eis Aïdeô domon) to consult the spirit of Theban Teiresias, and had seen all his comrades and the mother [Antikleia] who bore him and nursed him, when a child."
Homer, Odyssey 24. 1 - 204 :
"[24. 1 ff Journey of the ghosts of the suitors to Haides :]
Meanwhile Hermes Kyllenios (of Mount Cyllene) called forth the spirits (psykhai) of the wooers. He held in his hands his wand, a fair wand of gold, wherewith he lulls to sleep the eyes of whom he will, while others again he wakens even out of slumber; with this he roused and led the spirits, and they followed gibbering. And as in the innermost recess of a wondrous cave bats flit about gibbering, when one has fallen from off the rock from the chain in which they cling to one another, so these went with him gibbering, and Hermes, the Helper, led them down the dank ways. Past the streams of Okeanos (Oceanus) they went, past the rock Leukas (Leucas, the White), past the gates of the sun (pylai Hêlioi) and the land of dreams (dêmos oineiroi), and quickly came to the mead of asphodel (leimôn asphodelon), where the spirits (psykhai) dwell, phantoms (eidôla) of men who have done with toils.
[24. 15 ff Conversations of the ghosts of heroes :]
Here they found the spirit of Akhilleus (Achilles), son of Peleus, and those of Patroklos (Patroclus), of peerless Antilokhos (Antilochus), and of Aias (Ajax) . . . So these were thronging about Akhilleus, and near to them drew the spirit of Agamemnon, son of Atreus, sorrowing; and round about him others were gathered, the spirits of all those who were slain with him in the house of Aigisthos (Aegisthus), and met their fate. And the spirit of the son of Peleus was first to address him . . . [and the ghosts discuss the murder of Agamemnon and the funeral of Akhilleus at Troy.]
[24. 99 ff Conversation with the ghosts of the suitors : ]
Thus they spoke to one another, but the messenger, Argeiphontes [i.e. Hermes], drew near, leading down the spirits of the wooers slain by Odysseus; and the two, seized with wonder, went straight toward them when they beheld them. And the spirit of Agamemnon, son of Atreus, recognized the dear son of Melaneus, glorious Amphimedon, who had been his host, dwelling in Ithaka (Ithaca). Then the spirit of the son of Atreus spoke first to him . . . [inquiring after the manner of his death, in reply to which the suitor tells the story of the wooing of Penelope and the slaying of the suitors by Odysseus.]
Thus the two spoke to one another, as they stood in the house of Aides beneath the depths of the earth (ein Aïdao domois, hupo keuthesi gaiês)."
Homer, Odyssey 3. 410 ff :
"He had been stricken by fate (kêr) and had gone to Aides (Aïdosde bebêkei), and Nestor was now king."
Homer, Odyssey 4. 833 ff :
"Whether he still lives and beholds the light of the sun, or whether he is already dead and in the house of Aides (ein Aidao domoisi).”
Homer, Odyssey 6. 11 ff :
"But he, ere now, had been stricken by fate (kêr) and had gone to Aides (Aïdosde bebêkei), and Alkinoos (Alcinous) was now king."
Homer, Odyssey 9. 524 ff :
"Would that I were able to rob thee of soul and life, and to send thee to the house of Aides (domon Aïdos).'
Homer, Odyssey 10. 176 ff :
"Friends, not yet shall we go down to the house of Aides (eis Aidao domos), despite our sorrows, before the day of fate comes upon us."
Homer, Odyssey 14. 156 ff :
"Hateful in my eyes as the gates of Aides is that man, who, yielding to stress of poverty, tells a deceitful tale (pylai Aïdao).”
Homer, Odyssey 14. 207 ff :
"The fates of death (kêres) bore him away to the house of Aides (eis Aïdao domous), and his proud sons divided among them his substance, and cast lots therefore.
Homer, Odyssey 15. 349 ff :
"Are they haply still living beneath the rays of the sun? or are they now dead and in the house of Aides (ein Aïdao domoisi)?”
Homer, Odyssey 20. 207 ff :
"If indeed he still lives and beholds the light of the sun . . . [or] if he is already dead and in the house of Aides (ein Aïdao domoisin)."
Homer, Odyssey 24. 263 ff :
"I questioned him about a friend of mine, whether haply he still lives, or is now dead and in the house of Aides (ein Aïdao domoisin)."
Homer, Thebaid Fragment 3 (from Laurentian Scholiast on Sophocles, O.C. 1375) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"He [Oidipous (Oedipus)] prayed . . . that each [of his sons] might fall by his brother's hand and go down into the house of Aides."
Hesiod describes the realm of Haides as a dark, dank realm located at the westernmost edge of the flat earth and enveloped in the dark mists of Erebos ("Darkness"). It lay beyond the river Okeanos (Oceanus) and the setting-places of the sun at the point where the great dome of heaven descended to rest upon the earth and where, from below, the walls of Tartaros rose up to enclose the cosmic pit.
The river Styx, a branch of the river Okeanos (Oceanus), circled the border of Haides. It was lined with silver pillars which rose up to support the cavernous roof of the descending sky. Within the realm were found the homes of Night and Day, Sleep and Death, and the palace of Haides and Persephone which was guarded by the fierce hound Kerberos (Cerberus).
The great pit of Tartaros descended beneath Haides to a depth matching the span between heaven and earth. The only entrance to the pit lay beyond Haides on the outermost rim of flat earth. Here the edge was secured with a surrounding wall of bronze--probably the descending edges of the sky-dome--with a single set of gates providing the only entrance.
In his Works and Days Hesiod locates the souls of the most fortunate of heroes on the Islands of the Blessed--a paradisal realm in the Okeanos-stream. This is in marked contrast to Homer where all the dead are resident in dank Haides.
Hesiod, Theogony 715 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"[715 ff The Titanes (Titans) were defeated by the gods and chained in the pit of Tartaros :]
[The hundred-handed Hekatonkheires] overshadowed the Titanes with their missiles, and buried them beneath the wide-pathed earth, and bound them in bitter chains when they had conquered them by their strength for all their great spirit, as far beneath the earth to Tartaros (Tartarus). For a brazen anvil falling down from heaven nine nights and days would reach the earth upon the tenth: and again, a brazen anvil falling from earth nine nights and days would reach Tartaros upon the tenth. Round it runs a fence of bronze, and night spreads in triple line all about it like a neck-circlet, while above grow the roots of the earth and unfruitful sea. There by the counsel of Zeus who drives the clouds the Titan gods are hidden under misty gloom, in a dank place where are the ends of the huge earth. And they may not go out; for Poseidon fixed gates of bronze upon it, and a wall runs all round it on every side, and a wall runs all round it on every side. There [the Hekatonkheires] Gyes and Kottos(Cottus) and great-souled Obriareus live, trusty warders of Zeus who holds the aigis.
[736 ff At the farthest ends of the earth :]
And there, all in their order, are the sources and ends (pantôn pêgai kai peirat') of gloomy earth (gê) and misty Tartaros and the unfruitful sea (pontos) and starry heaven (ouranos), loathsome and dank, which even the gods abhor.
It [i.e. Tartaros] is a great gulf (khasma), and if once a man were within the gates, he would not reach the floor until a whole year had reached its end, but cruel blast upon blast would carry him this way and that. And this marvel is awful even to the deathless gods.
There [either in Haides or Tartaros] stands the awful home of murky Nyx (Night) wrapped in dark clouds. In front of it [Atlas] the son of Iapetos stands immovably upholding the wide heaven upon his head and unwearying hands, where Nyx (Night) and Hemera (Day) draw near and greet one another as they pass the great threshold of bronze : and while the one is about to go down into the house, the other comes out at the door. And the house never holds them both within; but always one is without the house passing over the earth, while the other stays at home and waits until the time for her journeying come; and the one holds all-seeing light for them on earth, but the other holds in her arms Hynos (Sleep) the brother of Thanatos (Death), even evil Nyx (Night), wrapped in a vaporous cloud. And there the children of dark Nyx (Night) have their dwellings, Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death), awful gods. The glowing Sun never looks upon them with his beams, neither as he goes up into heaven, nor as he comes down from heaven. And the former of them roams peacefully over the earth and the sea's broad back and is kindly to men; but the other has a heart of iron, and his spirit within him is pitiless as bronze: whomsoever of men he has once seized he holds fast : and he is hateful even to the deathless gods.
There, in front, stand the echoing halls of the god of the lower-world, strong Haides (Hades), and of awful Persephoneia (Persephone). A fearful hound guards the house in front, pitiless, and he has a cruel trick. On those who go in he fawns with his tail and both is ears, but suffers them not to go out back again, but keeps watch and devours whomsoever he catches going out of the gates of strong Haides and awful Persephoneia.
And there dwells the goddess loathed by the deathless gods, terrible Styx, eldest daughter of back-flowing Okeanos (Oceanus). She lives apart from the gods in her glorious house vaulted over with great rocks and propped up to heaven all round with silver pillars. Rarely does the daughter of Thaumas, swift-footed Iris, come to her with a message over the sea's wide back. But when strife and quarrel arise among the deathless gods, and when any of them who live in the house of Olympos lies, then Zeus sends Iris to bring in a golden jug the great oath of the gods from far away, the famous cold water which trickles down from a high and beetling rock. Far under the wide-pathed earth a branch of Okeanos flows through the dark night out of the holy stream, and a tenth part of his water is allotted to her. With nine silver-swirling streams he [Okeanos] winds about the earth and the sea's wide back, and then falls into the main; but the tenth flows out from a rock, a sore trouble to the gods . . . the eternal and primaeval water of Styx: and it spouts through a rugged place.
And [at the ends of the earth] there, all in their order, are the sources and ends of the dark earth (gê) and misty Tartaros and the unfruitful sea (pontos) and starry heaven (ouranos), loathsome and dank, which even the gods abhor. And there are shining gates and an immoveable threshold of bronze having unending roots and it is grown of itself [perhaps here the descending bronze dome of heaven]. And beyond, away from all the gods, live the Titanes, beyond gloomy Khaos (Chaos) [i.e. here meaning the air above earth which includes Haides]. But the glorious allies of loud-crashing Zeus have their dwelling upon Okeanos's foundations, even Kottos (Cottus) and Gyes."
Hesiod, Theogony 820 ff :
"[In the battle between Zeus and Typhoeus the very foundations of the cosmos were shaken :] He [Zeus] thundered hard and mightily: and the earth (gê) around resounded terribly and the wide heaven (ouranos) above, and the sea (pontos) and Okeanos' (Oceanus') streams and the Tartara of the earth (Tartara gaiês) . . . The whole earth (khthon) seethed, and sky (ouranos) and sea (thalassa) : and the long waves raged along the beaches round and about, at the rush of the deathless gods : and there arose an endless shaking. Haides trembled where he rules over the dead below, and the Titenes (Titans) under Tartara who live with Kronos (Cronus), because of the unending clamour and the fearful strife."
Hesiod, Theogony 309 ff :
"A monster not to be overcome and that may not be described, Kerberos (Cerberus) who eats raw flesh, the brazen-voiced hound of Aides (Hades), fifty-headed, relentless and strong."
Hesiod, Works and Days 143 ff :
"Zeus the Father made a third generation of mortal men, a brazen race, sprung from ash-trees . . . They loved the lamentable works of Ares [i.e. war] and deeds of violence . . . These were destroyed by their own hands and passed to the dank house of chill Aides (Hades) (eurôenta domon kruerou Aidao), and left no name: terrible though they were, black death seized them, and they left the bright light of the sun.
But when earth had covered this generation also, Zeus the son of Kronos made yet another, the fourth, upon the fruitful earth, which was nobler and more righteous, a god-like race of hero-men who are called demi-gods, the race before our own, throughout the boundless earth. Grim war and dread battle destroyed a part of them, some in the land of Kadmos (Cadmus) at seven-gated Thebe . . . and some, when it had brought them in ships over the great sea gulf to Troy for rich-haired Helene's sake : there death's end enshrouded a part of them. But to the others father Zeus the son of Kronos gave a living and an abode apart from men, and made them dwell at the ends of earth. And they live untouched by sorrow in the islands of the blessed (nesoi makarôn) along the shore of deep swirling Okeanos (Oceanus), happy heroes for whom the grain-giving earth bears honey-sweet fruit flourishing thrice a year, far from the deathless gods, and Kronos rules over them; for the father of men and gods released him from his bonds. And these last equally have honour and glory."
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 68 (from Berline Papyri, No. 9739) :
"[Zeus planning the Trojan War :] He would contrive through the sword to send to Aides (Hades) full many a one of heroes fallen in strife."
Hesiod, Great Eopae Fragment 11 (from Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius, Arg. iv. 57) :
"[Endymion] was cast out [of heaven] and went down into Aides."
Polygnotos was a Greek artist of the C5th B.C. who painted the walls of the Leskhe building in Delphoi with scenes from the Sack of Troy and of the Realm of Haides. His depiction of the land of the dead was based on the accounts of the epic poets, especially those of The Odyssey and the no longer extant Minyad and Returns.
The main features of the netherworld scene were the river Akheron (Acheron), the underworld daimones Kharon (Charon) and Eurynomos, and the ghosts of the heroes and damned of myth.
Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 25.1 and 10. 28.1 - 31.12 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[25. 1 The painting of Polygnotos (Polygnotus) in the Leskhe (Lesche) building at Delphoi (Delphi) :]
Beyond the [the spring] Kassotis (Cassotis) stands a building with paintings of Polygnotos. It was dedicated by the Knidians (Cnidians), and is called by the Delphians Leskhe (Place of Talk), because here in days of old they used to meet and chat about the more serious matters and legendary history . . . Inside this building the whole of the painting on the right depicts Troy taken and the Greeks sailing away . . .
[28.1 The painting of Haides (Hades) :]
The other part of the picture, the one on the left, shows Odysseus, who has descended into what is called Haides to inquire of the soul of Teiresias (Tiresias) about his safe return home. The objects depicted are as follow.
[28. 1 The river Akheron (Acheron), Kharon (Charon) and Eurynomos (Eurynomus) :]
There is water like a river, clearly intended for Akheron, with reeds growing in it; the forms of the fishes appear so dim that you will take them to be shadows rather than fish. On the river is a boat, with the ferryman at the oars. Polygnotos followed, I think, the poem called The Minyad [Greek epic late C6th B.C.]. For in this poem occur lines referring to Theseus and Peirithous :--‘Then the boat on which embark the dead, that the old ferryman, Kharon, used to steer, they found not within its moorings.’ For this reason then Polygnotos too painted Kharon as a man well stricken in years. Those on board the boat are not altogether distinguished. Tellis appears as a youth in years, and Kleoboia (Cleoboea) as still a maiden, holding on her knees a chest such as they are wont to make for Demeter. All I heard about Tellis was that Arkhilokhos (Archilochus) the poet [C7th B.C.] was his grandson, while as for Kleoboia, they say that she was the first to bring the orgies of Demeter to Thasos from Paros.
On the bank of Akheron there is a notable group under the boat of Kharon, consisting of a man who had been undutiful to his father and is now being throttled by him. For the men of old held their parents in the greatest respect . . . Near to the man in Polygnotos' picture who maltreated his father and for this drinks his cup of woe in Haides, is a man who paid the penalty for sacrilege. The woman who is punishing him is skilled in poisonous and other drugs. So it appears that in those days men laid the greatest stress on piety to the gods . . . at that time all men held the divine in reverence, and this is why Polygnotos has depicted the punishment of him who committed sacrilege.
Higher up than the figures I have enumerated comes Eurynomos, said by the Delphian guides to be one of the daimones in Haides, who eats off all the flesh of the corpses, leaving only their bones. But Homer's Odyssey, the poem called The Minyad, and the Returns, although they tell of Haides, and its horrors, know of no daimon called Eurynomos. However, I will describe what he is like and his attitude in the painting. He is of a color between blue and black, like that of meat flies; he is showing his teeth and is seated, and under him is spread a vulture's skin.
[28. 9 The Heroines I ::]
Next after Eurynomos are Auge of Arkadia (Arcadia) and Iphimedeia. Auge visited the house of Teuthras in Mysia, and of all the women with whom Herakles is said to have mated, none gave birth to a son more like his father than she did . . .
[29. 1 The Damned I :]
Higher up than the figures I have already enumerated are Perimedes and Eurylokhos (Eurylochus), the companions of Odysseus, carrying victims for sacrifice; these are black-rams.
After them is a man seated, said by the inscription to be Oknos (Ocnus, Sloth). He is depicted as plaiting a cord, and by him stands a she-ass, eating up the cord as quickly as it is plaited. They say that this Oknos was a diligent man with an extravagant wife. Everything he earned by working was quickly spent by his wife. So they will have it that Polygnotos has painted a parable about the wife of Oknos. I know also that the Ionians, whenever they see a man labouring at nothing profitable, say that such an one is plaiting the cord of Oknos. Oknos too is the name given to a bird by the seers who observe birds that are ominous. This Oknos is the largest and most beautiful of the herons, a rare bird if ever there was one.
Tityos (Tityus) too is in the picture; he is no longer being punished, but has been reduced to nothing by continuous torture, an indistinct and mutilated phantom.
[29. 3 The Heroines II :]
Going on to the next part of the picture, you see very near to the man who is twisting the rope a painting of Ariadne. Seated on a rock she is looking at her sister Phaidra (Phaedra), who is on a swing grasping in either hand the rope on each side. The attitude, though quite gracefully drawn, makes us infer the manner of Phaidra's death. Ariadne was taken away from Theseus by Dionysos, who sailed against him with superior forces, and either fell in with Ariadne by chance or else set an ambush to catch her . . .
Underneath Phaidra is Khloris (Chloris) leaning against the knees of Thyia. He will not be mistaken who says that all during the lives of these women they remained friends. For Khloris came from Orkhomenos (Orchomenus) in Boiotia, and the other was a daughter of Kastalios (Castalius) from Parnassos. Other authorities have told their history, how that Thyia had connection with Poseidon, and how Khloris wedded Neleus, son of Poseidon.
Beside Thyia stands Prokris (Procris), the daughter of Erekhtheus (Erechtheus), and after her Klymene (Clymene), who is turning her back to Khloris. The poem The Returns [C7th or 6th B.C.] says that Klymene was a daughter of Minyas, that she married Kephalos (Cephalus) the son of Deion, and that a son Iphiklos (Iphiclus) was born to them. The story of Prokris is told by all men, how she had married Kephalos before Klymene, and in what way she was put to death by her husband.
Farther within from Klymene you will see Megara from Thebes. This Megara married Herakles (Heracles), but was divorced by him in course of time, on the ground that he had lost the children he had by her, and so thought that his marriage with her was unlucky.
Above the heads of the women I have enumerated is [Tyro] the daughter of Salmoneus sitting on a rock, beside whom is standing Eriphyle, who is holding up the ends of her fingers along her neck through her tunic, and you will conjecture that in the folds of her tunic she is holding in one of her hands the famous necklace.
[29. 8 Odysseus in Haides :]
Beyond Eriphyle have been painted Elpenor and Odysseus. The latter is squatting on his feet, and holding his sword over the trench, towards which the seer Teiresias (Tiresias) is advancing. After Teiresias is Antikleia (Anticlea), the mother of Odysseus, upon a rock. Elpenor has on instead of clothes a mat, such as is usual for sailors to wear.
[29. 10 The Damned II :]
Lower down than Odysseus are Theseus and Peirithous (Pirithous) sitting upon chairs. The former is holding in his hands the sword of Peirithous and his own. Peirithous is looking at the swords, and you might conjecture that he is angry with them for having been useless and of no help in their daring adventures. Panyassis the poet [C5th B.C.] says that Theseus and Peirithous did not sit chained to their chairs, but that the rock grew to their flesh and so served as chains . . .
[30. 1 Heroines III :]
Next Polygnotos has painted the daughters of Pandareos (Pandareus). Homer makes Penelope say in a speech that the parents of the maidens died because of the wrath of the gods, that they were reared as orphans by Aphrodite and received gifts from other goddesses: from Hera wisdom and beauty of form, from Artemis high stature, from Athena schooling in the works that befit women. He goes on to say that Aphrodite ascended into heaven, wishing to secure for the girls a happy marriage, and in her absence they were carried off by the Harpyiai and given by them to the Erinyes (Furies). This is the story as given by Homer. Polygnotos has painted them as girls crowned with flowers and playing with dice, and gives them the names of Kameiro (Camiro) and Klytie (Clytia). I must tell you that Pandareos was a Milesian from Miletos in Krete (Crete), and implicated in the theft of Tantalos and in the trick of the oath.
[30. 3 Heroes I :]
After the daughters of Pandareos is Antilokhos (Antilochus), with one foot upon a rock and his face and head resting upon both hands, while after Antilokhos is Agamemnon, leaning on a scepter beneath his left armpit, and holding up a staff in his hands. Protesilaos (Protesilaus) is seated with his gaze fixed on Akhilleus (Achilles). Such is the posture of Protesilaos, and beyond Akhilleus is Patroklos (Patroclus) standing. With the exception of Agamemnon these figures have no beard.
Beyond them has been painted Phokos (Phocus) as a stripling, and Iaseus, well bearded, is taking off a ring from the left hand of Phokos. The story about this is as follows. When Phokos, the son of Aiakos (Aeacus), had crossed from Aigina into what is now called Phokis (Phocis), and wished to gain the rule over the men living on that part of the mainland, and to settle there himself, Iaseus conceived a great friendship for him. Among the gifts that Iaseus gave (as friends will) was a seal-ring, a stone set in gold. But when Phokos returned, not long afterwards, to Aigina (Aegina), Peleus at once plotted to kill him. This is the reason why in the painting, as a reminder of their great friendship, Iaseus is anxious to look at the ring and Phokos has let him take it.
[30. 5 Heroines IV :]
Beyond these is Maira (Maera) sitting on a rock. About her the poem Returns [C7th or 6th B.C.] says that she was still a maid when she departed this life, being the daughter of Proitos (Proetus), son of Thersandros, who was a son of Sisyphos. Next to Maira is Aktaion (Actaeon), son of Aristaios (Aristaeus), together with [Autonoe] the mother of Aktaion; they hold in their hands a young deer, and are sitting on a deer's skin. A hunting dog lies stretched out beside them, an allusion to Aktaion's mode of life, and to the manner of his death.
[30. 6 Heroes II :]
Turning our gaze again to the lower part of the picture we see, next after Patroklos, Orpheus sitting on what seems to be a sort of hill; he grasps with his left hand a harp, and with his right he touches a willow. It is the branches that he touches, and he is leaning against the tree. The grove seems to be that of Persephone, where grow, as Homer thought, black poplars and willows. The appearance of Orpheus is Greek, and neither his garb nor his head-gear is Thrakian (Thracian). On the other side of the willow-tree Promedon is leaning against it. Some there are who think that the name Promedon is as it were a poetic invention of Polygnotos; others have said that Promedon was a Greek who was fond of listening to all kinds of music, especially to the singing of Orpheus.
In this part of the painting is Skhedios (Schedius), who led the Phokians to Troy, and after him is Pelias, sitting on a chair, with grey hair and grey beard, and looking at Orpheus. Skhedios holds a dagger and is crowned with grass. Thamyris is sitting near Pelias. He has lost the sight of his eyes; his attitude is one of utter dejection; his hair and beard are long; at his feet lies thrown a lyre with its horns and strings broken.
Above him is Marsyas, sitting on a rock, and by his side is Olympos (Olympus), with the appearance of a boy in the bloom of youth learning to play the flute . . .
[31. 1 Heroes III :]
If you turn your gaze again to the upper part of the painting, you see, next to Aktaion (Actaeon), Aias (Ajax) of Salamis, and also Palamedes and Thersites playing with dice, the invention of Palamedes; the other Aias is looking at them as they play. The color of the latter Aias is like that of a shipwrecked sailor with the brine still rough on the surface of his skin.
Polygnotos has intentionally gathered into one group the enemies of Odysseus. Aias, son of Oileus, conceived a hatred of Odysseus, because Odysseus urged the Greeks to stone him for the outrage on Kassandra (Cassandra). Palamedes, as I know from reading the epic poem Kypria [C7th B.C.], was drowned when he put out to catch fish, and his murderers were Diomedes and Odysseus.
Meleagros (Meleager), the son of Oineus (Oeneus), is higher up in the picture than Aias, the son of Oileus, and he seems to be looking at Aias. Palamedes has no beard, but the others have. As to the death of Meleagros, Homer says that the Erinys (Fury) heard the curses of Althaia (Althaea), and that this was the cause of Meleagros' death. But the poem Eoiai [Hesiod C8th to 7th B.C.], as it is called, and the Minyad agree in giving a different account. For these poems say that Apollon helped the Kouretes (Curetes) against the Aitolians (Aetolians), and that Meleagros was killed by Apollon . . .
[31. 5 Heroes IV : ]
In the lower part of the picture, after the Thrakian Thamyris, comes Hektor (Hector), who is sitting with both hands clasped about his left knee, in an attitude of deep grief. After him is Memnon, sitting on a rock, and Sarpedon next to Memnon. Sarpedon has his face buried in both hands, and one of Memnon's hands lies on Sarpedon's shoulder. All are bearded; and on the cloak of Memnon are embroidered birds. Their name is Memnonides, and the people of the Hellespontos say that on stated days every year they go to the grave of Memnon, and sweep all that part of the tomb that is bare of trees or grass, and sprinkle it with the water of the Aisepos (Aesepus) from their wet wings. Beside Memnon is depicted a naked Aithiopian (Ethiopian) boy, because Memnon was king of the Aithiopian nation . . .
Beyond Sarpedon and Memnon is Paris, as yet beardless. He is clapping his hands like a boor, and you will say that it is as though Paris were calling Penthesileia to him by the noise of his hands. Penthesileia too is there, looking at Paris, but by the toss of her head she seems to show her disdain and contempt. In appearance Penthesileia is a maiden, carrying a bow like Skythian bows, and wearing a leopard's skin on her shoulders.
[31. 9 Heroines V :]
The women beyond Penthesileia are carrying water in broken pitchers [i.e. the Danaides]; one is depicted as in the bloom of youth, the other is already advanced in years. There is no separate inscription on either woman, but there is one common to the pair, which states that they are of the number of the uninitiated.
Higher up than these is Kallisto (Callisto), daughter of Lykaon (Lycaon), Nomia, and Pero, daughter of Neleus. As her bride-price Neleus asked for the oxen of Iphiklos (Iphiclus). Instead of a mattress, Kallisto has a bearskin, and her feet are lying on Nomia's knees. I have already mentioned that the Arkadians say that Nomia is a nymphe native to their country. The poets say that the Nymphai (Nymphs) live for a great number of years, but are not altogether exempt from death.
[31. 10 The Damned II :]
After Kallisto and the women with her is the form of a cliff, and Sisyphos (Sisyphus), the son of Aiolos (Aeolus), is trying his hardest to push the rock up it.
There is also in the painting a jar, and an old man, with a boy and two women. One of these, who is young, is under the rock; the other is beside the old man and of a like age to his. The others are carrying water, but you will guess that the old woman's water-jar is broken. All that remains of the water in the sherd she is pouring out again into the jar. We inferred that these people too were of those who had held of no account the rites at Eleusis. For the Greeks of an earlier period looked upon the Eleusinian mysteries as being as much higher than all other religious acts as gods are higher than heroes.
Under this jar is Tantalos (Tantalus), enduring all the pains that Homer speaks of, and in addition the terror of the stone that hangs over him. Polygnotos has plainly followed the account of Arkhilokhos (Archilochus) [poet C7th B.C.], but I do not know whether Arkhilokhos borrowed from others the story of the stone or whether it was an invention of his that he introduced into his poem.
So great is the number of the figures and so many are their beauties, in this painting of the Thasian artist."
The Homeric Hymn to Hermes paints a rather macabre picture of ranks of ghostly infants and children wandering through the dank caverns of Haides.
Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes 255 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th - 4th B.C.) :
"[Apollon threatens the infant god Hermes who has stolen his cattle :] ‘For I will take and cast you into dusky Tartaros [i.e. Haides] and awful hopeless darkness (zophon), and neither your mother nor your father shall free you or bring you up again to the light, but you will wander under the earth and be the leader amongst little folk [i.e. leader of the ghosts of infants and youth children].’"
[Homeric Hymns section incomplete.]
- Homer, The Iliad - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Homer, The Odyssey - Greek Epic C8th B.C.
- Hesiod, Theogony - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- Hesiod, Works and Days - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragments - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- The Homeric Hymns - Greek Epic C8th - 4th B.C.
- Homerica, Thebaid Fragments - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.