♠ Sophokles, Antigone 816
Instead the lord of Acheron will be my groom. Greek Text
♠ Euripides, Hiketides (Suppliants) 1 ff.
Demeter, guardian of this Eleusinian land, and you servants of the goddess who attend her shrine, grant happiness to me and my son Theseus, to the city of Athens and the country of Pittheus, where my father reared me, Aethra, in a happy home, and gave me in marriage to Aegeus, Pandion’s son, according to the oracle of Loxias. This prayer I make, when I behold these aged women, who, leaving their homes in Argos, now throw themselves with suppliant branches at my knees in their terrible trouble; for around the gates of Cadmus they have lost their seven noble sons, whom Adrastus, king of Argos, once led there, eager to secure for exiled Polyneices, his son-in-law, a share in the heritage of Oedipus; so now their mothers would bury in the grave the dead, whom the spear has slain, but the victors prevent them and will not allow them to take up the corpses, holding the laws of the gods in no honor. Continue Reading Greek Text
♦ Polygnotos’ Nekuia painting at Knidian Lesche, Delphi (known through Pausanias’ description and modern reconstructions)
♠ Pausanias, Description of Greece 10.28.1-2
There is water like a river, clearly intended for Acheron, with reeds growing in it; the forms of the fishes appear so dim that you will take them to be shadows rather than fish. On the river is a boat, with the ferryman at the oars. Polygnotus followed, I think, the poem called the Minyad. For in this poem occur lines referring to Theseus and Peirithous:—
“Then the boat on which embark the dead, that the old
Ferryman, Charon, used to steer, they found not within its moorings.”
For this reason then Polygnotus too painted Charon as a man well stricken in years (Greek Text).
Detail with Charon, from C. Robert’s reconstruction of Polygnotos’ Nekuia, J.G. Frazer, Pausanias’s Description of Greece, vol. V, Commentary (2nd ed. 1913), pl. opposite p. 372
♦ Frankfurt, Liebieghaus 560: fragment of Attic black-figure stand with Charon in boat, surrounded by small winged figures (eidola)
Ch. Daremberg and E. Saglio, Dictionnaire des antiquités grecques et romaines d’après les textes et les monuments 4.1 (1877-1919), 746 fig. 5838
♦ Athens, National Museum 1926: Attic white-ground lekythos with Charon, Hermes, deceased and small winged figures (eidola)
♠ Euripides, Alkestis 252-55
I see the two-oared boat in the lake. Charon, the ferryman of the dead, his hand on the boat-pole, calls me now. Greek Text
♠ Euripides, Alkestis 361
It is winged Hades, glowering from beneath his dark brows. Greek Text
♠ Euripides, Alkestis 439-44
Let Hades, black-haired god, and the old man who sits at oar and tiller, ferryman of souls, be sure that it is by far the best of women that he has ferried in his skiff across the lake of Acheron. Greek Text
♠ fr 786 PMG – Poetae Melici Graeci, p. 402 ed. D. L. Page. Oxford 1962.
♠ Aristophanes, Batrachoi 139-40
In a little boat—just so big!—an aged mariner will take you over, and take two obols for your fare. Greek Text
♠ Homer, Odyssey 11.84-224
Then there came up the spirit of my dead mother, Anticleia, the daughter of great-hearted Autolycus, whom I had left alive when I departed for sacred Ilios. At sight of her I wept, and my heart had compassion on her, but even so I would not suffer her to come near the blood, for all my great sorrow, until I had enquired of Teiresias. “Then there came up the spirit of the Theban Teiresias, bearing his golden staff in his hand, and he knew me and spoke to me: ‘Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, Odysseus of many devices, what now, hapless man? Why hast thou left the light of the sun and come hither to behold the dead and a region where is no joy? Nay, give place from the pit and draw back thy sharp sword, that I may drink of the blood and tell thee sooth.’ Continue Reading Greek Text
♠ Homer, Odyssey 11.225-330
“Thus we two talked with one another; and the women came, for august Persephone sent them forth, even all those that had been the wives and the daughters of chieftains. These flocked in throngs about the dark blood, and I considered how I might question each; and this seemed to my mind the best counsel. I drew my long sword from beside my stout thigh, and would not suffer them to drink of the dark blood all at one time. So they drew near, one after the other, and each declared her birth, and I questioned them all. “Then verily the first that I saw was high-born Tyro, who said that she was the daughter of noble Salmoneus, and declared herself to be the wife of Cretheus, son of Aeolus. She became enamoured of the river, divine Enipeus, who is far the fairest of rivers that send forth their streams upon the earth, and she was wont to resort to the fair waters of Enipeus. But the Enfolder and Shaker of the earth took his form, and lay with her at the mouths of the eddying river. And the dark wave stood about them like a mountain, vaulted-over, and hid the god and the mortal woman. And he loosed her maiden girdle, and shed sleep upon her. Continue Reading Greeek Text
♠ Homer, Odyssey 11.385-540
“When then holy Persephone had scattered this way and that the spirits of the women, there came up the spirit of Agamemnon, son of Atreus, sorrowing; and round about him others were gathered, spirits of all those who were slain with him in the house of Aegisthus, and met their fate. He knew me straightway, when he had drunk the dark blood, and he wept aloud, and shed big tears, and stretched forth his hands toward me eager to reach me. But no longer had he aught of strength or might remaining such as of old was in his supple limbs. “When I saw him I wept, and my heart had compassion on him, and I spoke, and addressed him with winged words: ‘Most glorious son of Atreus, king of men, Agamemnon, what fate of grievous death overcame thee? Did Poseidon smite thee on board thy ships, when he had roused a furious blast of cruel winds? Or did foemen work thee harm on the land, while thou wast cutting off their cattle and fair flocks of sheep, or wast fighting to win their city and their women?’ Continue Reading Greek Text
Artistic sources edited by R. Ross Holloway, Elisha Benjamin Andrews Professor Emeritus, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown Univ., and Frances Van Keuren, Prof. Emerita, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Univ. of Georgia, December, 2017.
Literary sources edited by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, February 2021
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