Styx, the mythical river of the dead, is known not only for being the link between the world of the living and the otherworldly kingdom of Hades. It is associated with a large number of myths and legends. For example, Achilles gained his strength when he was dipped into the Styx, Hephaestus came to her waters to temper Daphne's sword, and some heroes swam across it while still alive. What is the River Styx, and what is the power of its waters?
Styx in ancient Greek mythology
Ancient Greek myths tell us that the Styx is the eldest daughter of the Ocean and Tefida. Her husband was titan Pallant, from whom she gave birth to several children. Also, according to one version, Persephone was her daughter, born from Zeus.
Styx took the side of Zeus in his battle with Kronos, taking an active part in it. She made a significant contribution to the victory over the titans, for which she won great honor and respect. Since then, the River Styx has become a symbol of the sacred oath, to break which was considered unacceptable even for God. He who broke the oath with the waters of Styx was severely punished. However, Zeus was always supportive of Styx and her children for the fact that they always contributed to him and were faithful.
River in the kingdom of the dead
What is the river Styx? The mythology of the ancient Greeks tells us that there are places on earth where the sun never looks in, so eternal darkness and darkness reign there. It is there that is the entrance to the possession of Aida - Tartarus. In the realm of the dead several rivers flow, but the most gloomy and terrible of them is the Styx. The river of the dead goes around the kingdom of Hades nine times, and its waters are black and muddy.
According to legend, Styx originates far to the west, where night reigns. Here is the luxurious palace of the goddess, whose silver columns, which are falling from the height of the source jets, reach to the skies. These places are uninhabited, and even the gods do not visit here. An exception can be considered Irida, occasionally arriving for the sacred water of Styx, with the help of which the gods made their oaths. Here the waters of the spring go underground, where horror and death live.
There is one legend that says that the Styx once flowed in the northern part of Arcadia, and Alexander the Great was poisoned by water taken from this river. Dante Alighieri in his “Divine Comedy” used the image of a river in one of the circles of hell, only there she appeared as a dirty swamp in which sinners get stuck forever.
The crossing to the realm of the dead is guarded by Charon, a ferryman on the River Styx. In the myths of ancient Greece, he is portrayed as a gloomy old man with a long and uncombed beard, and his attire is dirty and dilapidated. Charon's duties include the transport of the souls of the dead across the River Styx, for which he has a small boat and the only oar at his disposal.
It was believed that Charon rejected the souls of those people whose bodies were not buried properly, so they were forced to wander forever in search of peace. Also in antiquity there was a belief that the ferryman Charon should be paid for crossing the Styx. To do this, during the burial, the relatives of the deceased put a small coin in his mouth, which he could use in the underworld of Hades. By the way, a similar tradition existed among many nations of the world. The custom of putting money in a coffin is respected by some people to this day.
Analogs of Styx and Charon
The River Styx and its guard Charon are fairly characteristic images describing the transition of the soul to another world. After studying the mythology of different nations, you can see similar examples in other beliefs. For example, among the ancient Egyptians, the duties of an escort to the afterlife, which also had its own river of the dead, were performed by the dog-headed Anubis, who brought the soul of the dead to the throne of Osiris. Anubis looks very similar to the gray wolf, which, according to the beliefs of the Slavic peoples, also accompanied the souls in another world.
In the ancient world there were a lot of legends and traditions, sometimes they could not correspond or even contradict each other. For example, according to some myths, the ferryman Charon transported souls not through the Styx, but across another river, Acheron. There are also other versions regarding its origin and further role in mythology. Nevertheless, the River Styx today is the personification of the transition of souls from our world to the next kingdom.