Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Ancient Greek Kingdom of the Dead

The Kingdom of the Dead

Funerals in ancient Greece could be grand affairs. The body was carefully washed and dressed in a white robe, then it was laid out on a bed in a room of the house where the person had lived.

After one day during which friends and relatives could visit to pay their respects the body was carried to the burial grounds. A rich person's body would be transported on a carriage.

The funeral procession included musicians and professional mourners, who were paid to wail and weep as loudly as possible. The family and friends of the dead person followed behind.

Most families had a tomb in which the ashes of their dead relatives were buried. The living relative would visit the tomb regularly to pay respects and make offerings to the dead.

The Greeks believed that the souls of the dead went to the Underworld, which was ruled by the god Hades.

To reach Hades the dead soul had to be ferried across the River Styx by Charon, the ferryman. Charon charged for the service, so most people were buried with a bronze coin.

Once past the Styx, a dead person had to get past the three-headed dog Cerberus, who stopped the living entering the Underworld or the dead leaving.

On arrival in the Underworld the soul was met by Hades, brother to Zeus and king of the dead, along with the souls of (by) King Minos of Crete and King Rhadamanthys of the Cyclades, both of whom had been famous for justice when alive.

Hades, Minos and Rhadmanthys questioned the souls that came before them. Those who had offended the gods were imprisoned behind bronze gates in Tartarus, where they were tortured for eternity. Most souls went to the Underworld, which was a dray(?), dull place.

The souls of those who had pleased the gods were sent to the Elysian Fields. This was a sunny, beautiful country swept by warm, gentle breezes where good food and wine was plentiful.


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