Locations of The Deceased:

A few highly favoured mortals are imagined to be taken away, body and soul together, to Elysion, which to judge from its name is a pre-Greek Paradise, ruled over by Rhadamanthys, alone or as assessor to Kronos, and identified by the Greeks with their own happy land, the Islands of the Blessed. Here all is perfect happiness, materially but not grossly conceived, and no one ever dies. The beauty of this lovely fancy attracted even deeply religious writers whose own conception of a future life was much more developed, as for instance Pindar, who says of the final abode of the glorified righteous:

There the breezes of Ocean breathe about the Islands of the Blessed, and flowers of gold blaze, some on land, upon fair trees, while others the water nurtures, with garlands whereof they entwine their hands and brows... Before their city lie meadows ruddy with roses, shaded with balsam-trees, heavy-laden with golden corn. And some take their pleasure in horses and in sports, some in dranght-playing, some in the lyre, while all manner of wealth flowers fair among them. Also a sweet savour wafts over that lovely land, as they ever mingle every kind of incense in the far-shining fire upon the altars of the gods.

In other words, it was the life a Greek gentleman led when he could, active and joyous, even strenuous, but with no compulsion to labour, “for with the might of their hands they trouble not the earth nor the waters of the sea, to gain them a bare living,” as he elsewhere puts it, in describing a somewhat less desirable place, a kind of half-way house to this Paradise. The whereabouts of Elysion, or the Elysian Fields (or Plain), naturally remained vague, for it is sometimes spoken of as if quite distinct from the House of Hades, which is indeed the logical way to conceive it, since the latter is the abode of ghosts, not of living men made immortal; oftener, however, and especially in the well-known descriptions in Aristophanes and Vergil, it is part of the underworld, separated from the world of the living, like the rest of Hades, by one of the infernal waters. Entrance to it was originally gained purely by favour; Menelaos is promised it explicitly because he is husband of Helen and therefore son-in-law of Zeus; but later belief placed therein the heroes and patriots of mythology and history: Achilles, Diomedes, the Athenian tyrannicides, and others of their sorts.


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