The Styx river.
In Greek mythology, the river that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead is called the River Styx. This river is one of the five rivers of the Underworld, the realm of Hades, and has a central role in various myths and legends.
The Styx is more than just a physical barrier between realms; it possesses unique attributes and a certain sacredness. According to ancient tales, the waters of the Styx are both a deadly poison and a potent oath-binding agent. The gods of Olympus would swear oaths upon the Styx, and the consequences of breaking such an oath were severe. It was believed that a deity who broke their oath would be rendered unconscious for an entire year and then exiled from the other gods’ company for nine more years.
The ferryman Charon is one of the most iconic figures associated with the River Styx. In numerous tales, he is depicted transporting the souls of the deceased across the Styx and into the Underworld. However, to make this journey, the soul needed to pay Charon with a coin, typically an obol or drachma. This belief led to the ancient Greek funeral custom of placing a coin in the mouth or over the eyes of the dead before burial, ensuring that they had the necessary payment for their passage.
Another critical role of the Styx in Greek mythology involves the invulnerability of the hero Achilles. According to legend, Achilles’ mother, Thetis, dipped him into the Styx as an infant to make him immortal. However, she held him by his heel, leaving that part of him vulnerable. This “Achilles’ heel” would later become his downfall during the Trojan War.
The River Styx, with its chilling waters and profound symbolic meanings, continues to inspire art, literature, and music, transcending its ancient origins and resonating with new generations seeking to explore the mysteries of life, death, and what might lie beyond.