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Hades and the River Styx

Hades and the River Styx

The River Styx was a very important river in Ancient Greek mythology, but one that no one could actually tell you about, no one mortal anyway. The River Styx was said to separate the world of the living from the world of the dead and you had to cross it to enter into the underworld with Hades. Unlike with Ancient Egypt however where they spent much time preparing the deceased for their ascension to the afterlife, the Greeks believed instead that they would be reborn but in a different body. When a Greek died their family were to bury with them a coin which was payment for their passing into the afterlife. At the River Styx their spirit would recieve a ride across the ghostly river from Charon, servant to Hades, God of the Underworld. However if they were not buried with a coin they would instead have to try to swim across or be stuck for all eternity at the river crossing. Some restless souls, it is said, would try to swim across the river when they had not paid for Charon's boat and some did make it but most did not and their spirits were lost forever to the underworld.

Those souls that did reach the other side of the river were then to wait to be relocated to a new body where they would become the spirit in a newborn infant unable to remember their previous life. However this was not always a quick process and sometimes the soul would have to wait some time to be reborn. Legends even state that some twisted souls who had been evil in their lives were doomed to stay there forever unable to truly die and unable to be reborn as punishment for their sinful lives.

The Story of Hades and the River Styx

According to some legends the Styx could perform miracles and make someone immortal (unable to die). The great warrior Achilles was said to have been dipped in it by his mother when he was younger, completely untouchable everywhere but his heel as it did not touch the water because his mother held him from it. From this legend came the expression an achilles' heel referring to someone's weak point. Also, different stories differ on the nature of Charon, ferrying the dead down the river. Italian Poet Dante records Phlegyas instead as the ferryman of the underworld and states that Charon managed the river Acheron instead. Either way, you can see how the Ancient Greek concept of death differed greatly to that of the Ancient Egyptians if you've read my articles about the pyramids and mummification in the Ancient World section. It's always interesting to see the different practises different races and peoples have throughout History and their approach in particular to such important matters as death.

See the picture at the top for the River Styx with Charon and the bottom picture for Hades, Greek God of the underworld and reaper of souls (this is one interpretation of how Hades would look). If you would particularly like to learn more about a particular myth or legend or ancient race then comment below, you'll be helping us to fill these new sections of the magazine with the articles that you want to read. 

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