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Lecture 17

CLAS 203 Lecture Notes - Lecture 17: Maenad, Aeacus, Acheron

Course Code
CLAS 203
Margaret Palczynski

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CLAS 203 – Lecture 17 – Hades ~ Encounters with the Underworld
Death, Dying and the Dead
>complex attitudes towards death and the dead
>bleak conception of afterlife
>not all of the human being ends at death, some part continues
 not something to be excited to get to
>happiness must be achieved in this world
>death is the ultimate death of a mortal
>constant effort on the part of mythological characters to escape/overcome death
 attempt to reunite the human being with the gods and achieve immortality
>few mythical figures escape death
 Heracles is the one character who is able to overcome death in the complete
sense (which means he becomes a god)
apotheosis = to become a god after death (e.g. Heracles, who is brought up to
Olympus in a chariot with Athena)
Elysian Fields = the final resting places of the souls of the heroic and the
virtuous. It
was ruled by Cronus
>katabasis – “going down”
 recurrent motif of the herogod/goddess going down into Hades
 Persephone
 Dionysus
 Orpheus
 Heracles
*attempt of hero to become more than human, breaking the barrier of
mortality/immortality  going down and being able to come back up again
Hades (Pluto)
>Hades the god, and Hades the place (not the same in Roman myth)
>Pluton, Pluto “enriche” = means wealth/riches
>Pluto has great wealth
 lots of precious stones under the world
 Underworld is a place of many secrets (secrets of the Earth)
>epithets: Polyxenos, Polydegmon = many/much + hospitable/receiving
>wife: Persephone
 nature of death: cannot produce life
 they are man and wife but childless
>symbol is riches, wealth, the cornucopia = horn of plenty
>not much art with him because no one wants to think of death
>3 headed hound = Cerberus
Passing to the Underworld
>human being is composed of 2 parts
 body/soul distinction (psyche)  part which survives
>in order for a dead person/soul to continue with whatever life it finds in the Underworld,
it has
to actually pass from this world to the Underworld

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>if they body/psyche cannot pass to the Underworld, it remains as an eidola = ghost
 bad thing for the person and the people that are still living because they were
very envious of the living and were capable of causing harm
 invisible, unhappy, dangerous
 if it remains on this side after death, it is unfulfilled
 in Hades, continues as shadowy existence at the entrance but cannot cross the
>it was law to bury the dead, or at least dispose of them properly (buried, burning, etc)
 this was a must
 if this wasn’t done, there were serious consequences
 was necessary for properly passing
Views of Death
>a crossing over
>Hermes helps guide the soul to the Underworld
>Odysseus never has a katabasis
 he finds the entrance to the Underworld and sacrifices there
 the souls from the Underworld come up and he feeds them
 when their salinity levels are up again, he can communicate with them
 point: he summons the ghosts up, but he does not go down
 the first ghost to appear is able to appear before he is fed
-this was Elpenor
-he was able to do this because he still had not completed katabasis, his
was very recent
 Odysseus had sailed to the shores of the Ocean and was talking and having a
time with his comrades
 but Elpenor had been having too much fun and gotten drunk, fell off something
killed himself
 they never found the body and sailed off without him
 so Elpenor had come up to ask Odysseus to find his body and bury it
 another ghost that came up was his mother
-Odysseus had been gone for so long (20yrs) that his mother had died
and he
didn’t know
-he sees her ghost come up from the opening and tries desperately to
her but he can’t, his hands keep going through her
*this is how we know that the ghosts are unsubstantial, we can’t touch
Hades the place
>River Oceanus: surrounds the Earth
>River Styx: when a god takes an oath on the River Styx, he has to keep it or else he
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