Asphodel Meadows


In Greek mythology, the Asphodel Meadows or Asphodel Fields (Ancient Greek: ἀσφοδελὸς λειμών, asphodelòs leimōn)[1] was a section of the ancient Greek underworld where the majority of ordinary souls were sent to live after death.[2] It was one of the three main divisions of the underworld along with Elysium and Tartarus, where souls were granted eternal reward and eternal punishment respectively.[2]


The name appears as far back as Homer's Odyssey, where it features in Odysseus’ survey of the underworld. Many ancient Greek poets and Homeric commentators understand the adjective asphodelos to mean 'flowery', 'fragrant' or 'fertile',[3] thus associating the land with flowers of the genus Asphodelus. A different proposal explains the name as 'field of ashes' basing it on sphodelos or spodelos, an alternative version of the name[4] that could be related to "σποδός", spodos ('ashes', 'embers').[5][6]

Later depictionsEdit

The Asphodel Meadows is most probably where the souls of people who lived mediocre lives remain. 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".[7]

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 suggested in 1999 that the asphodel of these fields are not exactly like the asphodel of our world, but are "presumably strange, pallid, ghostly flowers."[8] Others have suggested, in 2002, that they were actually narcissi.[9]

In popular cultureEdit

Asphodel is a level in the 2020 video game Hades. It is depicted as having been flooded by the Phlegethon, changing it from meadows to a scorched hellscape.[10]

There is an area named Asphodelos in the Pandaemonium raid in Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker, likely referencing the Asphodel Meadows.


  1. ^ ἀσφόδελος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  2. ^ a b Westmoreland, Perry L. (2006). Ancient Greek beliefs. San Ysidro, CA: Lee and Vance Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0-9793248-1-9. OCLC 276682916.
  3. ^ Reece, Steve (2009). Homer's winged words : the evolution of early Greek epic diction in the light of oral theory. Leiden. ISBN 978-90-474-2787-2. OCLC 569990385.
  4. ^ Harper, Douglas. "asphodel". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  5. ^ σποδός. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  6. ^ Amigues, S (2002). "La "Prairie d'Asphodèle" de l'Odyssée et de l'Hymne homérique à Hermès". Revue de philologie, de littérature et d'histoire anciennes. 76: 7–14. doi:10.3917/phil.761.0007.
  7. ^ Reece, Steve, "Homer's Asphodel Meadow," Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 47 (2007) 389-400.
  8. ^ Edith Hamilton. Mythology. New York: Warner Books, 1999. Ch. 1, p. 40.
  9. ^ Dweck, A. C. The folklore of Narcissus. pp. 19–29. In Hanks (2002)
  10. ^ "Asphodel". Hades Wiki. Retrieved 2021-03-19.

Works citedEdit

  • 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.