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Tartarus

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Definition and Description Tartarus - the Prison of the Damned
Tartarus was a place where the wicked were punished after death. Tartarus was where the souls of the evil dead were sent to for eternal torture and where Jupiter (Zeus) imprisoned the Titans. The infernal regions, or Tartarus, was described, in the classical book and legend of the Iliad, as situated as far below Hades as heaven is above the earth.

Later classical writers referred to Tartarus as the place of punishment for the souls and spirits of the wicked. The Jails of Tartarus were filled with shackles and chains, and many other prisoners were chained to the walls for eternity. The name Tartarus is often used synonymously with Hades, or the Underworld in general. Tartarus was also the name of the Primeval God of Hell although the whole of Hades the underworld were the god Pluto and the goddess Proserpina.

The Mythology of Hades the Underworld and Tartarus
The whole imaginary Underworld of classical mythology, was referred to as Hades which  was the place where the souls or spirits of the dead went after their death. Tartarus was a region of Hades and was the region of punishment after death. Hades was divided into five regions or districts. The different areas of Hades were called the Fields of Asphodel,  a region of waters called the River Styx, a gloomy region called Erebus, Tartarus, or the region of torments and finally the region of joy and bliss which was called Elysium.

The Mythology of Hades the Underworld and Tartarus
As explained above the fourth region of the subterraneous Underworld of Hades was Tartarus, or the place of torments. There was a city in Tartarus and a prince to preside over it. In the city of Tartarus was a vast deep pit in which terrible tortures were performed. Two types of souls were sentenced to eternal damnation in Tartarus. The first type were those who had rebelled against the gods, such as the Titans. The second types were those who had been judged as vile and had:

  • Hated their fellow men
  • Treated their parents badly
  • Cheated their dependants
  • Committed incest
  • Disturbed the marriage union of others
  • Rebellious subjects
  • Despisers of justice
  • Betrayers of their country
  • Made and unmade laws not for the good of the public, but only to get money for themselves
  • Despisers of the gods

The Judges of Tartarus
The judges of Tartarus were Minos for the regions of Erebus, Rhadamanthus for Tartarus, Aeacus for Elysium and Pluto and Proserpine as sovereigns over the whole subterraneous Underworld of Hades. Rhadamanthus was also one of the punishers of the damned in the Tartarus.

Description of Tartarus
Tartarus was located in the darkest depths of Hades in the Underworld. It was described by classical writers such as Virgil 
as being a gigantic place which was surrounded by the flaming river Phlegethon. There were  triple walls surrounding Tartarus to prevent sinners from escaping. Legends and mythology tell that Tartarus was guarded by a hydra, a monster with nine heads.  Inside the city was a castle with wide walls and a tall iron turret upon which Tisiphone, one of the Erinyes, stood guard sleepless at the top of this turret lashing a whip. There is a pit inside the castle which according to mythology was said to extend down into the earth twice as far as the distance from the lands of the living to Mount Olympus. The Titans lay at the bottom of this dungeon pit together with others who had committed terrible sins.

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