Greek Underworld Research Paper

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In this room of the museum, we will look at the Underworld as seen by the Classical Ancient Greeks. The Classical Period of Athens (510/480-300) was a veritable Golden Age (Martin 94). Characterized by drastic changes in warfare, politics, and philosophy, the Classical Period is hailed the high water mark of Ancient Athens, seeing great leaders such as Kleisthenes and Pericles as well as the great tragedian playwrights. All these changes are well documented and thoroughly taught, but one element of the shift from the Archaic Age to the Classical Period that is of particular interest is the change in attitude towards death, specifically the views held by the Greeks on the Underworld. As we enter the fifth century, marking the onset of the Classical…show more content…
Hermes always held a special intermediate role between the Underworld and the upper world. Even in Homer’s Hymn to Demeter Hermes is the messenger who negotiates with Hades for Persephone’s return. Rather than having one of the Olympians negotiate with Hades in the Underworld Demeter sends Hermes, highlighting the pervading connection that Hermes has to Hades, both god and realm. Yet, during the Classical Period we see Hermes’ role become more of an enforcer for the boundaries between the world of the living and Hades. The Greeks saw their world as a liminal place, with places of transcendence between life and Hades. Scattered around the Greek landscape are a few remains of macabre temples, neatly nicknamed nekyomanteia (fig. 1). These ruins were once sites of “places of necromancy” and “oracles of death” and are the closest things we have to temples to Hades. Such temples were believed by some to be entryways into Hades (Dimakis 33). While to the modern mind interaction with death my call up Ouija boards and séances, rather farcical ideas, but to the Ancient Greeks death and where the dead went was an entwined part of life, as demonstrated by these such temples. The Ancient Greeks saw their world has highly liminal and developed methods of coping with such a world and the fears inherent therein, such as Hermes, the board patrol, mentioned

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