A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - Humanity has always been fascinated by the mysterious and unexplored. Mythology, folklore and sacred texts around the world are full of stories of mysterious underground and hidden regions where one could physically pass from this world and into another.
Tartarus, the land of the dead, is said to be a sunless, gloomy pit beyond that a three-fold layer of night.
Tartarus also contained a variety of regions or kingdoms, the twilight “fairyland”, the Elysian Fields and many grottoes, caverns and pits of torment, which were reserved for the damned and despised.
The name ‘Tartarus’ occurs in the mythology and legends of ancient Greece and was originally used for the deepest region of the world, the bottomless pit, the deepest abyss of Hades, where the gods locked up their worst enemies. Tartarus was reserved for the grossest sinners who had violated some divine laws.
It’s also the place where – as the KJV Bible says - 'the fallen angels are kept until the Day of Judgment'.
“Deep in the depths of Tartarus were the imprisoned, most-feared of its inhabitants, the defeated, ancient, and dethroned gods called Titans, and their monstrous children; they had been thrown into the dungeon-like gulfs of the underworld, hopefully never again to emerge into the sunlit world.
Tartarus also contained a variety of regions or kingdoms, ranging from the twilight “fairyland” of dim pleasure, the Elysian Fields, to the many grottoes, caverns and pits of torment which were reserved for the damned and despised…” we read in W. M. Mott’s ‘Caverns, Cauldrons, and Concealed Creatures’.
In this mythical place, the laws which govern the known world are not always in effect, and time itself does not always pass in a respectable, predictable way as it does in our daily reality.
Dividing the lands of the living from the land of the dead, Tartarus, were many fierce obstacles, fire, gigantic bodies of water such as Oceanus or Ocean, the greatest of them because it not only comprised all the seas of the world, but was also rivers, which swept into and through Tartarus, to emerge from the underworld on the opposite side of the Earth.
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Another of these subterranean rushing water cascades was the Lethe, river of forgetfulness, and yet another was the Styx, the river of death and one of the five main bodies of water that bordered Tartarus and was all but impenetrable.
In “Iliad”, Tartarus is described as a gloomy, sunless and deep abyss located as far beneath Hades as heaven in above the earth. The place was said to be closed in by iron gates and there, Zeus kept those who rebelled against him and his authority. In later sources, Tartarus was believed to be a place of punishment for the spirits of the wicked. Finally, the place’s name became synonymous with Hades.
According to ‘The Odyssey’, one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer, there was also the river Cocytus, and the fiery, magma-filled river Pyriphlegethon and the sludge-filled Acheron, a dark river, which is supposed to flow into the realm of the dead.
Interestingly, this Acheron river was believed to surface different areas throughout the world.
Tartarus with its rivers has exact underworld counterparts in the beliefs of other peoples around the world.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Tartarus is that in this mythical place, the laws which govern the known world are not always in effect, and time itself does not always pass in a respectable, predictable way as it does in our daily reality.
Written by – A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com Senior Staff Writer
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Expand for references
M. Mott, ‘Caverns, Cauldrons, and Concealed Creatures’