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Lecture 6

Classics Week 6.docx


Department
Classical Studies
Course Code
CLAS 1000
Professor
John Walsh
Lecture
6

Page:
of 3
Classics Week 6
Death and Orpheus
Hades: Lord of the Underworld
- The Greeks have an interesting view on death
- Negative view towards death they saw death in a bleak way
- After you died, your existence was minimal at best
- For the most part, the Greeks did not believe in a rosy afterlife
- Anticipates why Christianity was attractive and important offered an
alternative view to their view of death
- Whatever inner being (spirit) they believed in would descend physically to a
gloomy realm beneath the earth called Hades
- Hades kept the spirits of the dead trapped beneath the earth guarded by
Hades and Cerberus
- His job was to keep the spirits of the dead away from the living
- The Greeks genuinely feared the spirits of the dead interfering in their lives
o Required to provide a coin with the dead person
o Met at the river styx by Charon the boat keeper and you’d have to pay
him to go across into the underworld
o See this in the Iliad, when Hector’s chief concern was his treatment
after death
- To the Greeks, Hades was not malicious
o Left living humans alone for the most part
o Zeus was often the malevolent source
o He’s kind of pitiful, got the shitty job
o Was there as the guardian of tartarus, not the devil inflicting the
punishments
- The Underworld(s): Tartarus
o Punishment place
- Elysium/Elysian Fields
o Reserved for the tiniest minority of Greeks
o The best place
- Plato and reincarnation
o Worked out a complex system of reincarnation
o Similar to Buddhist traditions
o Humans would go through various phases of life and eventually come
back as a philosopher until you die for the last time and go to the
Elysian fields
- Hades
o Forerunner of the devil, but not the devil himself
o Unpopular because he’s reminiscent of death
o Didn’t interact much with the world
- Perseus
o Gave Perseus a helm of invisibility (lol blank slide)
o Greek hero who Hades helped in his quest to kill Medusa by giving
him the helm of invisibility
- Hades and Persephone
o Had a human appetite also
o No one ever came to visit him, he was lonely and tortured
o Took Persephone as his bride; daughter of Demeter, goddess of the
earth
o They had a very close relationship
o One day, Persephone was out walking and saw a beautiful flower and
she stooped to pick it up (in great danger)
o Hades abducts Persephone his hand came out of the earth and he
dragged her down into the earth to become his bride
o By his ripping her from the earth, she was separated from her mother,
and she went into a deep and profound grief at the loss of her
daughter and neglected her work (making the green grass grow, etc)
o The earth began to die
o This was a problem for the gods; they needed the goodness of the
earth, and they convinced Zeus to appeal to Hades to give Persephone
back
o She’s already eaten food in the underworld; for each seed of the
pomegranate she’d eaten, she was destined to spend one month of her
life
o For each year, when she returned to the underworld in return for the
pomegranate seeds, Demeter would grieve and winter would come on
back
Trips to the Underworld: Orpheus and Eurydice
- Orpheus was a beautiful young man and he fell in love with a beautiful
woman named Eurydice
- Orpheus was the son of Calliope and Apollo, and was an extremely skilled
musician
- Because of his musical abilities, he was able to get Eurydice to fall in love
with him
- The Satyr
o Threat to young, innocent love
o Represented male sexual aggression
o Maenad and satyr attempting to rape the worshipper of Dionysis
(maenad)
o Slipper-slapper: Aphrodite holding a sandal, trying to ward of a satyr
- Eurydice was chased by satyr and fell into a pit of venomous snakes and was
bitten on the ankle and died tragically in the arms of Orpheus
o Threatened by sexual violence from society, ends in the death of the
woman
- His grief combined with his incredible talent for music enabled him to travel
to the underworld to take his case to Hades because the other gods felt so
sorry for him
- He played such a sad song the Hades was so moved that he broke his
principle rule and allowed Eurydice to leave the underworld
o The Greeks believed such was the power of music that it could defeat
death itself
- They were given one simple instruction: as he’s wandering out of the
underworld, he must never, under any circumstances, look back over his
shoulder
- He follows this instruction very well, until they’re almost out; he’s 99% sure
she’s back there but he takes a quick peek over his shoulder to see if she’s
there, and she vanishes and is sucked back into the underworld, lost forever
o Humans are flawed, and can never seem to get it right
Death of Orpheus
- Orpheus was incredibly sad (even more so)
- Went into a serious lament; a lament so deep that he rejected all other
women
- Rejected the living world of sexuality and was murdered by a group of
women
- They ripped his body into pieces and threw it into a river
o Medieval homophobia
o His rejection of the feminine was an endorsement of homophobia
- He was no ordinary man, he was the son of a god; his head drifted down the
river, singing until it was found by a group of nymphs who placed his head
and his lyre in a cave where it could be visited for visions
- Apollo took pity on him and raised him and his lyre into the heavens as a
constellation