The Greek underworld or Hades is a general term used to describe the kingdom of the god Hades in Greek mythology that was believed to be situated under the Earth. This kingdom has different aspects, including the Asphodel meadows, the abode of the dead (which is known as Erebus or Bartrous) and Tartarus, which is where monsters and Titans are trapped.
The ancient concept of the underworld evolved considerably over time.
The classic Underworld
The oldest description of the Greek underworld can be found in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Other poets like Hesiod also describe it in a similar way. However, Virgil's Aeneid is the work that has the most details in this regard, where the different sections of the land of the dead are described as a whole. The Homeric Hymns and the lyric poet Pindar introduced the paradise kingdom of the Champs Elysees where the virtuous dead were sent.
In the Odyssey, the Underworld lies beyond the maritime horizon, starting from Eea. Odysseus arrives there by boat from the island of Circe, to a rock that he previously indicates to him where he invokes the spirits of the deceased. That rock is key when it comes to locating Hades within Geography. The ghosts of the suitors are carried by Hermes Psychopompus (the guide of the dead) through the holes in the Earth, past the River Ocean and the gates of Helios or the Sun, to their final resting destination in Hades.
Various local Greek cults claimed to possess entrances to the underworld and had special religious rituals associated with them. These entries were described by ancient writers and geographers such as Pausanias and Strabo.
Philosophers like Plato, the Orphics, and the Pythagoreans add the concept of judgment to the dead. The spirits were assigned to one of these three kingdoms: Elisha for the blessed, Tartarus for the damned, and Hades for the rest. Furthermore, they believed in reincarnation and the transmigration of souls.
The ferryman and the guardian
The dead entered the underworld by crossing the Acheron river in the boat led by Charon, who charged them an obolo (a small coin). This coin was placed under the tongue of the deceased or above the two eyelids by his relatives. The poor and those who had no friends forever roamed the prairie (of asphodel), with no means to cross the river.
The other shore was guarded by Can Cerbero, the three-headed guard dog, who guarded the gateway to Hades and made sure that the spirits of the dead could enter and that no one left. In addition, he watched that no living person entered Hades.
The first region of Hades comprised the Fields of Asphodel, described in Odyssey XI, where the souls of heroes wandered dejectedly among lesser spirits. Hermes led the dead before a tribunal consisting of Minos (king of Crete), Aeacus (king of Aegina) and Minos's brother, Radamantis. When the sentence was known, the souls neither virtuous nor evil returned to the Fields of Asphodel, the impious or evil ones were sent to the path of the dark Tartarus, and the heroic or blessed ones went to the Elysee.
The kingdoms that made up the Greek Underworld included:
The great moat of Tartarus consisted of a large fortified prison surrounded by a river of fire called Phlegethon. At first it served exclusively as a prison for the ancient titans, but later it became the dungeon of condemned souls, among which were Titus, Tantalus and Sisyphus.
The territory of the dead, governed by the god, which is also often called the home or domain of Hades (Aidaou domes), Hades, Erebus, the Fields of Asphodel, Styx and Acheron.
The Islands of the Bienaventur