Hades, the Underworld, consists of three sections. At the trivium sacred to Hecate, where three roads meets, souls are judged, returned to the Fields of Asphodel if they are neither virtuous nor evil, sent by the road to Tartarus if they are impious or evil, or sent to Elysium (Elysian Fields) with the heroic or blessed.
And there, all in their order,
are the sources and ends
of gloomy earth and misty Tartarus
It is a great gulf,
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.
The literal translation is:
Men lead there an easier life
than any where else in the world,
for in Elysium there falls
not rain, nor hail, nor snow,
but Oceanus breathes ever with
a West wind that sings softly from the sea,
and gives fresh life to all men...."
Homer, Odissey, book III.
The Fields of Aspohdel
(a grey, unattractive flower,
a favorite food of the dead)
is not a place of punishment
but a place where
the shades exist in a
confused and oblivious state.
She serves as a guide to the underworld.
All night long, all day,
the doors of Hades stand open.
But to retrace the path,
to come up to the sweet air of heaven,
That is labour indeed.
Hecate, goddess of the crossroads,
is often shown with three heads,
each facing one of the roads to Hades.
Psyche and Charon
Charon, the ferryman of the River Styx,
(some say the River Acheron)
who,for a coin, transports the properly buried to the Underworld.
THE FIVE RIVERS OF HADES
Psyche Opening the Golden Box
One of several who
journeyed to and returned from
Orpheus returning from the Shades
Another who returned.
ORPHEUS IN THE UNDERWORLD
Return of Persephone
This one returns yearly.
The Hydra greets the condemned
before they descend into Tartarus.
The right to Pluto's golden palace guides;
The left to that unhappy region tends,
Which to the depth of Tartarus descends;
The seat of night profound, and punish'd fiends.
The Chimaera's Despair
The Chimeara is a greeter
at the gates of Tartarus.
These little beauties
torture the guilty in Tartarus.
Dante considered the upper level of hell to be ELYSIAN.
A place where the unbaptized and unbelieving,
yet virtous among us, could exist in peace.
MAP OF THE UNDERWORLD
Dante and Virgil in Hell
The Waters of Lethe by the Plains of Elysium
One of the five rivers of the underworld.
Souls were made to drink from
this "River of Forgetfulness"
before being reincarnated
so they would have no memory
of their former lives.
The consort of Hades,
God of the underworld.
Odysseus presented her with a golden bough
to prove his visit to
the Underworld was harmless.
Time stands still in this blue green place.
Leaf dappled and drowsy,
drunk with apple-scented breezes,
I lie beneath golden boughs
that mouth their response
to my mute soliloquy.
A swollen rictus,
glittering and purple stained
from slumber-laden berries,
emits a silent scream.
The blooming silence echos
as I drift unshriven and without coin
on the anguished shoals of the Acheron.
The Springs of Lethe
Dante Drinking the Waters of the Lethe
Cadmus and Harmonia
Husband and wife
transformed to serpents
by Zeus who spend their afterlife
in the Elysian Fields.
Odysseus and Calypso
Ordered to the underworld by Circe
in order to learn the outcome of his wanderings.
Eurydice sinking back to Hades
The wife of Orpheus
who was unable to escape her fate.