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Acheron

Acheron

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The Acheron is a river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 located in the Epirus
Epirus (periphery)
Epirus , formally the Epirus Region , is a geographical and administrative region in northwestern Greece. It borders the regions of West Macedonia and Thessaly to the east, West Greece to the south, the Ionian Sea and the Ionian Islands to the west and the country of Albania to the north. The...

 region of northwest Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

. It flows into the Ionian Sea
Ionian Sea
The Ionian Sea , is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea, south of the Adriatic Sea. It is bounded by southern Italy including Calabria, Sicily and the Salento peninsula to the west, southern Albania to the north, and a large number of Greek islands, including Corfu, Zante, Kephalonia, Ithaka, and...

 in Ammoudia, near Parga
Parga
Parga, , is a town and municipality located in the northwestern part of the regional unit of Preveza in Epirus, northwestern Greece. The seat of the municipality is the village Kanallaki. Parga lies on the Ionian coast between the cities of Preveza and Igoumenitsa...

.

In mythology


In ancient Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, Acheron was known as the river of pain, and was one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld
Greek underworld
The Greek underworld was made up of various realms believed to lie beneath the earth or at its farthest reaches.This includes:* The great pit of Tartarus, originally the exclusive prison of the old Titan gods, it later came to be the dungeon home of damned souls.* The land of the dead ruled by the...

. In the Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

ic poems the Acheron was described as a river of Hades
Hades
Hades , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs , meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive , Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead.In Greek mythology, Hades...

, into which Cocytus
Cocytus
Cocytus or Kokytos, meaning "the river of wailing" , is a river in the underworld in Greek mythology. Cocytus flows into the river Acheron, across which dwells the underworld, the mythological abode of the dead. There are five rivers encircling Hades...

 and Phlegethon
Phlegethon
In Greek mythology, the river Phlegethon or Pyriphlegethon was one of the five rivers in the infernal regions of the underworld, along with the rivers Styx, Lethe, Cocytus, and Acheron...

 both flowed.

The Roman poet Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

 called it the principal river of Tartarus
Tartarus
In classic mythology, below Uranus , Gaia , and Pontus is Tartarus, or Tartaros . It is a deep, gloomy place, a pit, or an abyss used as a dungeon of torment and suffering that resides beneath the underworld. In the Gorgias, Plato In classic mythology, below Uranus (sky), Gaia (earth), and Pontus...

, from which the Styx
Styx (mythology)
The Styx is a river in Greek mythology that formed the boundary between Earth and the Underworld . It circles the Underworld nine times...

 and Cocytus both sprang. The newly-dead would be ferried across the Acheron by Charon
Charon (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Charon or Kharon is the ferryman of Hades who carries souls of the newly deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron that divided the world of the living from the world of the dead. A coin to pay Charon for passage, usually an obolus or danake, was sometimes placed in or on...

 in order to enter the Underworld.

The Suda
Suda
The Suda or Souda is a massive 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, formerly attributed to an author called Suidas. It is an encyclopedic lexicon, written in Greek, with 30,000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost, and often...

 describes the river as "a place of healing, not a place of punishment, cleansing and purging the sins of humans."

According to later traditions, Acheron had been a son of Helios
Helios
Helios was the personification of the Sun in Greek mythology. Homer often calls him simply Titan or Hyperion, while Hesiod and the Homeric Hymn separate him as a son of the Titans Hyperion and Theia or Euryphaessa and brother of the goddesses Selene, the moon, and Eos, the dawn...

 and either Gaia
Gaia (mythology)
Gaia was the primordial Earth-goddess in ancient Greek religion. Gaia was the great mother of all: the heavenly gods and Titans were descended from her union with Uranus , the sea-gods from her union with Pontus , the Giants from her mating with Tartarus and mortal creatures were sprung or born...

 or Demeter
Demeter
In Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains, the fertility of the earth, and the seasons . Her common surnames are Sito as the giver of food or corn/grain and Thesmophoros as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society...

, who had been turned into the Underworld river bearing his name after he refreshed the Titans
Titan (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of powerful deities, descendants of Gaia and Uranus, that ruled during the legendary Golden Age....

 with drink during their contest with Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

. By this myth, Acheron is also the father of Ascalaphus
Ascalaphus
In Greek mythology, two people share the name Ascalaphus/Askalaphos .#Son of Acheron and Orphne. Askalaphos was the orchardist of Hades. He told the other gods that Persephone had eaten a pomegranate in Hades. He was punished by being changed into an owl...

 by either Orphne
Orphne
In Greek mythology, Orphne, also known as Styx and Gorgyra, was a nymph that lived in Hades. With Acheron, she mothered Ascalaphus.Orphne also seems to be one translation of the name of the Roman goddess Caligo ....

 or Gorgyra.


The river called Acheron with the nearby ruins of the Necromanteion
Necromanteion
The Necromanteion or Nekromanteion was an ancient Greek temple of necromancy devoted to Hades and Persephone. According to tradition, it was located on the banks of the Acheron river in Epirus, near the ancient city of Ephyra. This site was believed by devotees to be the door to Hades, the realm...

 is found near Parga
Parga
Parga, , is a town and municipality located in the northwestern part of the regional unit of Preveza in Epirus, northwestern Greece. The seat of the municipality is the village Kanallaki. Parga lies on the Ionian coast between the cities of Preveza and Igoumenitsa...

 on the mainland opposite Corfu
Corfu
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

. Another branch of Acheron was believed to surface at the Acherusian cape (now Eregli
Eregli
Ereğli is a town and district of Konya Province in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey. According to 2009 census, the population of the district is 135,008 of which 95,056 live in the town of Ereğli.-History:...

 in Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

) and was seen by the Argonauts
Argonauts
The Argonauts ) were a band of heroes in Greek mythology who, in the years before the Trojan War, accompanied Jason to Colchis in his quest to find the Golden Fleece. Their name comes from their ship, the Argo, which was named after its builder, Argus. "Argonauts", therefore, literally means...

 according to Apollonius of Rhodes
Apollonius of Rhodes
Apollonius Rhodius, also known as Apollonius of Rhodes , early 3rd century BCE – after 246 BCE, was a poet, and a librarian at the Library of Alexandria...

. Greeks who settled in Italy identified the Acherusian lake into which Acheron flowed with Lake Avernus
Avernus
Avernus was an ancient name for a crater near Cumae , Italy, in the Region of Campania west of Naples. It is approximately in circumference. Within the crater is Lake Avernus .-Role in ancient Roman society:...

. Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 in his Phaedo identified Acheron as the second greatest river in the world, excelled only by Oceanus
Oceanus
Oceanus ; , Ōkeanós) was a pseudo-geographical feature in classical antiquity, believed by the ancient Greeks and Romans to be the world-ocean, an enormous river encircling the world....

. He claimed that Acheron flowed in the opposite direction from Oceanus beneath the earth under desert places.

The word is also occasionally used as a synecdoche
Synecdoche
Synecdoche , meaning "simultaneous understanding") is a figure of speech in which a term is used in one of the following ways:* Part of something is used to refer to the whole thing , or...

 for Hades itself. Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

 mentions Acheron with the other infernal rivers in his description of the underworld in Book VI of the Aeneid
Aeneid
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of roughly 10,000 lines in dactylic hexameter...

. In Book VII, line 312 he gives to Juno the famous saying, flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo: 'If I cannot deflect the will of Heaven, I shall move Hell.' The same words were used by Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

 as the dedicatory motto for his seminal book The Interpretation of Dreams
The Interpretation of Dreams
The Interpretation of Dreams is a book by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. The first edition begins:.The book introduces Freud's theory of the unconscious with respect to dream interpretation...

, figuring Acheron as psychological underworld beneath the conscious mind.

The Acheron was sometimes referred to as a lake or swamp in Greek literature, as in Aristophanes
Aristophanes
Aristophanes , son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaus, was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete...

' The Frogs
The Frogs
The Frogs is a comedy written by the Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes. It was performed at the Lenaia, one of the Festivals of Dionysus, in 405 BC, and received first place.-Plot:...

and Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

' Alcestis
Alcestis
Alcestis is a princess in Greek mythology, known for her love of her husband. Her story was popularised in Euripides's tragedy Alcestis. She was the daughter of Pelias, king of Iolcus, and either Anaxibia or Phylomache....

.

In Dante
Dante Alighieri
Durante degli Alighieri, mononymously referred to as Dante , was an Italian poet, prose writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher, and political thinker. He is best known for the monumental epic poem La commedia, later named La divina commedia ...

's Inferno
The Divine Comedy
The Divine Comedy is an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri between 1308 and his death in 1321. It is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature, and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature...

, the Acheron river forms the border of Hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

. Following Greek mythology, Charon
Charon (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Charon or Kharon is the ferryman of Hades who carries souls of the newly deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron that divided the world of the living from the world of the dead. A coin to pay Charon for passage, usually an obolus or danake, was sometimes placed in or on...

ferries souls across this river to Hell. Those who were neutral in life sit on the banks.

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