Elysium

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In Greek mythology, Elysium (Greek: Ἠλύσια πεδία) was a section of the Underworld (the spelling Elysium is a Latinization of the Greek word Ἠλύσιον Elysion). The Elysian Fields, or the Elysian Plains, were the final resting places of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous.

Contents

Etymology

Elysium is an obscure name that evolved from a designation of a place or person struck by lightning, enelysion, enelysios.[1] This could be a reference to Zeus, the god of lightning/Jupiter, so "lightning-struck" could be saying that the person was blessed (struck) by Zeus (/lightning/fortune). Egyptologist Jan Assmann has also suggested that Greek Elysion may have instead been derived from the Egyptian term ialu (older iaru), meaning "reeds," with specific reference to the "Reed fields" (Egyptian: sekhet iaru / ialu), a paradisiacal land of plenty where the dead hoped to spend eternity.[2]

Ruler

The ruler of Elysium varies from author to author; Pindar names the ruler as Kronos, released from Tartarus and ruling in a palace:

Keeping their souls clean and pure,

Never letting their hearts be defiled by the taint

Of evil and injustice,

And barbaric venality,

They are led by Zeus to the end:

To the palace of Kronos

Other authors claim that Kronos remained in Tartarus for all eternity, and the judge was another, sometimes Rhadamanthys.

Classical literature

Two Homeric passages in particular established for Greeks the nature of the Afterlife: the dreamed apparition of the dead Patroclus in the Iliad and the more daring boundary-breaking visit in Book 11 of the Odyssey. Greek traditions concerning funerary ritual were reticent, but the Homeric examples encouraged other heroic visits, in the myth cycles centered around Theseus and Heracles.[3][4]

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