This essay-esque piece was an assignment from my Mythology class, we were told to pick from one of Chapters 7-9 and discuss what we took from the chapter in a 2-3 paragraph response; I threw this response together after reading all three chapters within an hour so it’s a bit all over the place.
For this discussion board I will be covering Chapter 9 Land of No Return: The Gloomy Kingdom of Hades which is comprised of mythos about Hades and the Underworld in addition to mythos that center around the Greco-Roman thoughts on the afterlife in general. As I mentioned in my previous discussion board post, the post about which of the gods or goddesses is my favorite and which is my least favorite, Hades receives very little mention in the Greco-Roman mythos compared to his brothers Poseidon and Zeus or even when compared to other lesser Olympians or half-god heroes for that matter; the very few mythos that do turn a key focal point towards the Underworld tend to exclude the lord of the Underworld himself in favor of the more prominent Queen of the Underworld Persephone. Classical Mythology sets the framework for Chapter 9 with the Homeric depiction of the Greek mindset about the Underworld by stating, “The Homeric picture of Hades’ dominion underscores both the finality of death and the impossibility of any satisfying contact between the living and the dead” (Harris and Platzner 260); this depiction of the Underworld feeds on the biggest fear faced by the Greeks, the endless, inescapable abyss of death that awaits every mortal and all but the most resilient half-mortals alike.
Late in the chapter authors Harris and Platzner discuss the changing beliefs of the Greeks that shows further thought into what occurs after death; rather than believing the majority of the dead, as in those not favored enough by the gods to gain admission to the island of earthly delights known as Elysium, simply ceased to exist as anything more than a senseless mass of souls regardless of one’s “goodness” or “wickedness” in life the Greeks instead started to favor ideals of separate afterlives that diversified based on the behaviors of the individual in life, a most notable development that becomes a key ideology during the rise of Christianity as the dominant religion (Harris and Platzner 263, 272-274). In fact, quite a few of the factors mentioned in Chapters 8 and 9 prelude the rise of Christianity, specifically Chapter 8 draws parallels with Dionysus and the Christian savior Jesus of Nazareth while Chapter 9 shows the origins of several qualities of the afterlife that the Christian belief system believes to be true; such things as the separation of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory could be parallels to the Greco-Roman Elysium, Underworld, and Tartarus (Harris and Platzner 257 and 261-268).
A topic of interest I found in Chapter 9 is the lack of children bore by Hades, unlike his fellow Olympians myths about Hades lack significant information on his virility implying that he never sired a child; it is outright stated that Persephone never bore a child and myths do not reference Hades as being promiscuous like his siblings, perhaps this attribute is a contributing factor to the disdain the Greeks harbored towards this mysterious deity given the glaring oddity that is his lack of a brood (Harris and Platzner 264). Of the chapters so far 7-9 have provided the most interesting information for my specific needs, my interest is in the parallels religions adapt from their predecessors and how they use these parallels to gradually convert follows from the old religion to the new one; in this case specifically we see the gradual change in ideals regarding the alleviation of fear from the mysterious and unknowable factors that occur after death, in the same stroke we also see the emergence of inquiry based interpretation of the world around the ancient societies which were previously explained through supernatural forces given human personification, i.e. the Greek Gods and Goddesses, of which the remaining attributes were focused on a single major deity. After seeing the foundations laid by the Homeric adaptations of the Underworld I understand the general consensus that caused great contempt for Hades and the Underworld was based on irrational fear for the inevitable end and the mysterious circumstances that followed, this is strange given the lack of evidence that Hades was ever the explicate cause of death but simply the receiver and ruler of those who have died; by contrast his siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews, etc. were the direct cause of countless deaths and other cruelties among the mortals yet they received far less hatred and copious amounts of praise. In conclusion, the Underworld was a severely misunderstood phenomenon in the Greco-Roman society with many outstanding oddities; the true knowledge we can draw from this part of history is the basis for the major change in ideology that drew ever closer as the BC era came to an end.
(As always this part of the post is not to be considered an actual part of the assignment, simply a reflective segment. I was slightly unsure as to what this assignment truly asked and gave my best shot at providing an adequate answer for this assignment. For those who read my previous post featuring Hades you may have noticed my affinity for the underdog ruler of the Underworld, I feel he was misrepresented in mythology and was a faulty way of sidestepping the concepts of death and the afterlife that only instilled fear into society; I suppose one must look at the social impact such things have, as religions are often used as tools for social control. I end this reflection part with a good luck to your individual posts and thanks for your time reading, feedback is always welcome.)
Harris, Stephen, and Gloria Platzner. Classical Mythology Images & Insight.
6th ed. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2012. Print.