Greek Mythology

A mother (maybe she is pregnant) gives her dead child to Charon , Lekythos painting

Greek Mythology

A man with an obolos ready to pay Charon

In Greek mythology, Charon (Χάρων) (fierce brightness) was the ferryman of Hades. (Etruscan equivalent: Charun) He took the newly dead from one side of the river Acheron to the other if they had an obolus (coin) to pay for the ride. Corpses in ancient Greece were always buried with a coin underneath their tongue to pay Charon. Those who could not pay had to wander the banks of the Acheron for one hundred years.

According to Virgil's Aeneid (book 6), the Cumaean Sibyl directs Aeneas to the golden bough necessary to cross the river while still alive and return to the world. Orpheus also made the trip to the underworld and returned back alive.

Greek Mythology

Charon receives the obolus (gr. obolos) price from a dead. Right: Hermes psychopompos. Charon is not mentioned by Homer, probably unknown, the obolus was introduced later.

Charon was the son of Erebus and Nyx.

He was depicted as a cranky, skinny old man or a winged demon with a double hammer.

It is often said that he ferried souls across the river Styx. This is suggested by Virgil in his Aeneid (book 6, line 369). However, by most accounts, including Pausanias (x.28) and, later, Dante's Inferno, the river was Acheron.

Greek Mythology

Charon on the Styx. Painting by Joachim Patinier, 1515-24.

Greek Mythology

Michelangelo: Charon, Fresco, Vatican, 1536-41.

Greek Mythology

Aeneas with the Sybil & Charon, 1700-05, Giuseppe Maria Crespi ("Lo Spagnolo", 1665-1747) Art History Museum, Vienna.

Psyche & Charon, detail, Stanhope, Spencer (1829-1908)

Dante Alighieri incorperated Charon into Christian mythology in his Divine Comedy. He is the same as his Greek counterpart, being paid an obolus to cross Acheron. He is the first named character Dante meets in hell, in the third Canto of Inferno.

Greek Mythology

Charon Ferrying Dead Souls Across the Styx", Pierre Subleyras (1699-1749) Musée du Louvre , Paris

See also

Dante's The Divine Comedy

Charon Print by Attributed to Werner van den Valckert

Charon, Attributed to Werner van den Valckert

Aeneas The Sibyl And Charon Print by Giuseppe Maria Crespi

Aeneas the Sibyl and Charon, Giuseppe Maria Crespi

Hercules Gets Cerberus From The Underworld, Charon The Ferryman Of The Styx Print by Jacob van Campen

Hercules Gets Cerberus from the Underworld, Charon the Ferryman of the Styx, Jacob van Campen

Psyche Giving Her Coin To Charon Print by Attributed to Henry Tresham

Psyche Giving Her Coin to Charon, Attributed to Henry Tresham

Greek Mythology

Pluto and Charon

Charon (Pluto's moon)

R.H. Terpening, Charon and the Crossing: Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Transformations of a Myth, Lewisburg/Pa. 1985.

Greek Mythology

See also : Greek Mythology. Paintings, Drawings

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