The Greek Underworld
(DHARMA Initiative occupation on the Island)
Greek Underworld (often shortened as Underworld, depending on the context, or referred to as hell) is a general term used to describe the various realms of Greek mythology which were believed to lie beneath the earth or beyond the horizon.
The Great Pit of Tartarus, which was originally the exclusive prison of the old Titan gods but later came to mean the dungeon home of the damned souls.
The Land of the Dead ruled by the god Hades, which is variously called the house or domain of Hades (domos Aidaou), Hades, Erebus, the Asphodel Fields, Stygia and Acheron.
The Islands of the Blessed or Elysian Islands ruled by Cronus (According to Pindar – other accounts differ), where the great heroes of myth resided after death.
The Elysian Fields ruled by Rhadamanthys, where the virtuous dead and initiates in the ancient Mysteries were sent to dwell.
The five rivers of Hades are Acheron (the river of sorrow), Cocytus (the river of lamentation), Phlegethon (the river of fire), Lethe (the river of forgetfulness) and Styx (the river of hate), which forms the boundary between upper and lower worlds.
The ancient Greek concept of the underworld evolved considerably over time.
The Homeric Underworld
The underworld is ruled by Hades. The oldest descriptions of the underworld can be found in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. The other poets of old epic such as Hesiod describe it similarly. In the Odyssey the Underworld is located beyond the Western horizon. Odysseus reaches the underworld by ship from Circe’s island, and later on, the ghosts of the suitors who have died are herded there by Hermes Psychopompus (the guide of the dead). He herds them through the hollows of the earth, beyond the earth-encircling river Oceanus and the gates of the (setting) Sun to their final resting place in Hades.
The Classical Underworld
The Homeric Hymns and lyric poet Pindar introduce the paradisaical realm of Elysium where the virtuous dead were sent after death. This blessed afterlife was also promised in cult to the initiates of the ancient Mysteries.
The deceased entered the underworld by crossing the River Akheron or Styx ferried across by Charon, who charged an obolus, a small coin, as a fee. The coin or coins were either placed in the eyes, or in the mouth of the deceased by relatives. Paupers and the friendless gathered forever on the near shore. The far side of the river was guarded by Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of Hades.
Associated LOST Characters
Hades (The Abode of the Dead)
Hades (meaning “the unseen”) refers both to the ancient Greek underworld, the abode of Hades, and to the god of the underworld. Hades in Homer referred just to the god; the genitive ᾍδου, Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: “[the house/dominion] of Hades”. Eventually, the nominative, too, came to designate the abode of the dead.
The term hades in Christian theology (and in New Testament Greek) is parallel to Hebrew sheol (שאול, grave or dirt-pit), and refers to the abode of the dead. The Christian concept of hell is more akin to (and communicated by) the Greek concept of Tartarus, a deep, gloomy part of hades used as a dungeon of torment and suffering.
Realm of Hades
In older Greek myths, the realm of Hades is the misty and gloomy abode of the dead (also called Erebus), where all mortals go. Later Greek philosophy introduced the idea that all mortals are judged after death and are either rewarded or cursed. Very few mortals could leave his realm once they entered: the exceptions, Heracles, Theseus, are heroic. Even Odysseus in his Nekyia (Odyssey, xi) calls up the spirits of the departed, rather than descend to them.
There were several sections of the realm of Hades, including Elysium, the Asphodel Meadows, and Tartarus. Greek mythographers were not perfectly consistent about the geography of the afterlife. A contrasting myth of the afterlife concerns the Garden of the Hesperides, often identified with the Isles of the Blessed, where the blessed heroes may dwell.
For Hellenes, the deceased entered the underworld by crossing the Acheron, ferried across by Charon, who charged an obolus, a small coin for passage placed in the mouth of the deceased by pious relatives. Paupers and the friendless gathered for a hundred years on the near shore according to Book VI of Vergil’s Aeneid. Greeks offered propitiatory libations to prevent the deceased from returning to the upper world to “haunt” those who had not given them a proper burial.
The far side of the river was guarded by Cerberus, the three-headed dog defeated by Heracles (Roman Hercules). Passing beyond Cerberus, the shades of the departed entered the land of the dead to be judged.
The five rivers of the realm of Hades, and their symbolic meanings, are Acheron (the river of sorrow, or woe), Cocytus (lamentation), Phlegethon (fire), Lethe (oblivion), and Styx (hate), the river upon which even the gods swore and in which Achilles was dipped to render him invincible. The Styx forms the boundary between the upper and lower worlds.
The first region of Hades comprises the Fields of Asphodel, described in Odyssey xi, where the shades of heroes wander despondently among lesser spirits, who twitter around them like bats. Only libations of blood offered to them in the world of the living can reawaken in them for a time the sensations of humanity.
Beyond lay an area, Hades, which could be taken for a euphonym of Pluto, whose own name was dread. There were two pools, that of Lethe, where the common souls flocked to erase all memory, and the pool of Mnemosyne (“memory”), where the initiates of the Mysteries drank instead.
In the forecourt of the palace of Hades and Persephone sit the three judges of the Underworld: Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Aeacus. There 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 (Islands of the Blessed) with the “blameless” heroes.
Hades (God of the Underworld)
In Greek mythology, Hades is the oldest male child of Kronus and Rhea. According to myth, he and his brothers Zeus and Poseidon defeated the Titans and claimed rulership over the universe ruling the underworld, air, and sea, respectively; the solid earth, long the province of Gaia, was available to all three concurrently. Because of his association with the underworld, Hades is often interpreted in modern times as the Grim Reaper, even though he was not.
By the Romans Hades was called Pluto, from his Greek epithet Πλούτων Ploutōn (πλοῦτος, wealth), meaning “Rich One”. In Roman mythology, Hades/Pluto was called Dis Pater and Orcus. The corresponding Etruscan god was Aita. Symbols associated with him are the Helm of Darkness and the three-headed dog, Cerberus.
Associated LOST Characters
The Hatch/Swan Station (Symbolic Representation)
Pandora’s box is an artifact in Greek mythology, taken from the myth of Pandora’s creation around line 60 of Hesiod’s Works and Days. The “box” was actually a large jar (πιθος pithos) given to Pandora (Πανδώρα) (“all-gifted”), which contained all the evils of the world. When Pandora opened the jar, the entire contents of the jar were released, but for one – hope. Today, opening Pandora’s box means to create evil that cannot be undone.
In classic Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth. Zeus ordered Hephaestus, the god of craftsmanship, to create her, so he did—using water and earth. The gods endowed her with many talents: Aphrodite gave her beauty, Apollo music, Hermes persuasion. Her name Pandora means “all-gifted.”
When Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus took vengeance by presenting Pandora to Epimetheus, Prometheus’ brother. With her, Pandora had a jar which she was not to open under any circumstance. Impelled by her natural curiosity, Pandora opened the box-jar, and all evil contained escaped and spread over the earth.
She hastened to close the lid, but the whole contents of the jar had escaped, except for one thing that lay at the bottom, which was Hope. Pandora was deeply saddened by what she had done, and was afraid that she would have to face Zeus’ wrath, since she had failed her duty. However, Zeus did not punish her, because he knew this would happen.
Etymology of “Box”
The original Greek word used was pithos, which is a large jar, sometimes as large as a small human (Diogenes of Sinope was said to have once slept in one). It was used for storage of wine, oil, grain or other provisions, or, ritually, as a container for a human body for burying. In the case of Pandora, this jar may have been made of clay for use as storage as in the usual sense, or of bronze metal as an unbreakable prison.
The mistranslation of pithos is usually attributed to the 16th century humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam who translated Hesiod’s tale of Pandora into Latin. Erasmus rendered pithos as the Greek pyxis, meaning “box”. The phrase “Pandora’s box” has endured ever since. This misconception was further reinforced by Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting Pandora.