Encyclopedia > Tartarus

  Article Content

Tartarus

In Greek mythology, Tartarus is both a deity and a place in the underworld - even lower than Hades.

The Greek poet Hesiod asserts that a bronze anvil falling from heaven would fall 9 days before it reached the Earth. The anvil would take 9 more days to fall from Earth to Tartarus. As a place so far from the sun and so deep in the earth, Tartarus is hemmed in by 3 layers of night, which surrounds a bronze wall which in turn encompasses Tartarus. It is a dank and wretched pit engulfed in murky gloom. It is one of the primordial objects, along with Chaos, Earth, and Eros, that emerged into the universe.

While, according to Greek mythology, Hades is the place of the dead, Tartarus also has a number of inhabitants. When Cronus, the ruling Titan, came to power he imprisoned the Cyclopes in Tartarus. Zeus released them to aid in his conflict with the Titan giants. The gods of Olympus eventually defeated them and they were cast into Tartarus. They were guarded by giants, each with 50 enormous heads and 100 strong arms, who were called Hecatonchires. Later, when Zeus overcame the monster Typhus, the offspring of Tartarus and Gaia, he threw it, too, into the same pit.

Tartarus is also the place where the punishment fits the crime. For example Sisyphus, who was both a thief and murderer, was condemned for eternity to push a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down at the top. Also found there was Ixion, the first human to spill the blood of a relative. He caused his father in-law to fall into a pit of burning coals to avoid paying the bride-price. The fitting punishment was to spend eternity on a flaming wheel. Tantalus, who enjoyed the confidence of the gods by conversing and dining with them, shared the food and the secrets of the gods with his friends. The fitting punishment was to be immersed up to his neck in cool water, which disappeared whenever he attempted to quench his thirst.

Rhadamanthus, Aeacus and Minos were the judges of the dead and chose who went to Tartarus. Rhadamanthus judged Asian souls; Aeacus judged European souls and Minos was the deciding vote.

Hesiod, Theogony; Homer, Odyssey, XI, 576 ff; Virgil, Aeneid, VI, 539-627.



All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

 
  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
 
 
  
  Featured Article
1922 in literature

... Year[?] - Boris Pilnyak[?] On A Chinese Screen[?] - W. Somerset Maugham One of Ours[?] - Willa Cather Peter Whiffle[?] - Carl Van Vechten[?] Public ...