River Styx

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What was the River Styx?
What was the River Styx? Definition: In classical Greek and Roman mythology the Styx was a river in Hades across which Charon, the Boatman or Ferryman, carried dead souls. The name Styx derives from the Greek word 'stugein' which means hate. The literal meaning was therefore Styx, the river of hate. The Styx was the principal river of the underworld, which had to be crossed to pass to the regions of the dead. 

The Roman Underworld was the classical equivalent to hell and called by the name of Hades, it was the mythological place of departed souls. Hades was ruled by the Roman God Pluto (the name of the equivalent Greek god was Hades) who was also revered as the god of the dead.

Overview of the River Styx Mythology
The souls or ghosts of the dead were escorted by Mercury (Greek: Hermes), the Messenger of the gods, to the boatman or ferryman, whose name was Charon. Charon would only ferry the souls who could pay him the fare across the Styx.    

River Styx and Hades Mythology
The River Styx was a river which formed the boundary between Earth and the Underworld (Hades). The river was believed to encircle Hades nine times. According to mythology and legends there were five rivers that separated Hades from the world of the living all of which converged on the center of the Hades on a great marsh. The names of the five rivers were as follows:

  • Acheron - the river of woe
  • Cocytus - the river of lamentation
  • Phlegethon - the river of fire
  • Lethe - the river of forgetfulness
  • Styx - the river of hate

The River Styx - Charon the Boatman or Ferryman
Charon was believed to be the son of the ancient gods Erebus who was the god of day and Nyx who was the goddess of night in the realm ruled by the Titans. The Titans consisted of six sons and six daughters, the one-hundred-armed giants (Hecatonchires) and the one-eyed giants, the Cyclopes. According to Roman Mythology the 12 Olympian gods gained their supremacy over the Titans after Jupiter led his brothers to victory in war against them. The Titans were sentenced to spend eternity in Tartarus, the place of torments. Charon served as a ferryman to the Titans delivering the souls of mortals to the underworld. He continued this role for the Olympians with Pluto as the god of Hades.

River Styx and the role of the Boatman
The role of Charon the boat was to ferry the dead across the river Styx to the entrance of Hades however he expected to be paid for his work. A coin for his payment was therefore placed on or in the mouth of the dead person. Failure to pay the boatman resulted in the dead person's soul having to wander the shores of Hades for a period of one hundred years.

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