Asphodel Meadows

Summary

The Asphodel Meadows is a section of the ancient Greek underworld where ordinary souls are sent to live after death.

Later depictions

The Asphodel Meadows is most probably where the souls of people who lived mediocre lives remain, but its relationship to other places in the Greek afterlife remains uncertain.

For later Greek poets the very ancient pre-Homeric association of the asphodel flower with a positive form of afterlife as well as the enlarged role of Elysium as it became the destination of more than just a few lucky heroes, altered the character of the meadows. Greek poets who wrote after Homer's time describe them as untouched, lovely, soft and holy. Such an evolutionary change is quite common: "Like most cultures throughout human history, both ancient and modern, the Greeks held complex and sometimes contradictory views about the afterlife".[1]

Some depictions describe it as a land of utter neutrality. That is, while the inhabitants were in life neither good nor evil, so they are treated in the afterlife. Other depictions have also stated that all residents drink from the river Lethe before entering the fields, thus losing their identities. This somewhat negative outlook on the afterlife for those who make little impact was perhaps passed down to encourage militarism in Greek cultures (as opposed to inaction). In fact, those who did take up arms and became heroes were rewarded with everlasting joy in the fields of Elysium.

Edith Hamilton suggests that the asphodel of these fields are not exactly like the asphodel of our world, but are "presumably strange, pallid, ghostly flowers."[2] Others suggest that they were actually narcissi.[3]

In popular culture

Asphodel is a level in the 2020 video game Hades.[4]

References

  1. ^ Reece, Steve, "Homer's Asphodel Meadow," Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 47 (2007) 389-400.
  2. ^ Edith Hamilton. Mythology. New York: Warner Books, 1999. Ch. 1, p. 40.
  3. ^ Dweck, A. C. The folklore of Narcissus (PDF). pp. 19–29. In Hanks (2002)
  4. ^ "Asphodel". Hades Wiki. Retrieved 2021-03-19.

Bibliography

  • Hanks, Gordon R (2002). Narcissus and Daffodil: The Genus Narcissus. London: Taylor and Francis. ISBN 0415273447. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  • Anonymous (May–October 1887). "Homer the botanist". Macmillan's Magazine. London: Macmillan and Company. 56: 428–436. Retrieved 3 November 2014.