Tartarus: God of Darkness in Greek Mythology

     Tartarus, in Greek Mythology, is personified by one of the primordial gods, born out of Chaos. His relations with Gaia generated the most terrible beasts in Greek mythology, like Typhon.

Tartarus in Greek Mythology:

     Tartarus, in Greek Mythology, is personified by one of the primordial gods, born from Chaos (although some authors consider him brother of Chaos). His relations with Gaia generated the most terrible beasts in Greek mythology, among them the mighty Typhon. Just as Gaia is the personification of Earth and Uranus the personification of Heaven, so Tartarus is the personification of the Underworld. In it are the deepest caves and caves and the most terrible corners of the kingdom of Hades, the world of the dead, where all the enemies of Olympus are sent and where they are punished for their crimes. 

     There the Titans are imprisoned by Zeus (Jupiter), Hades (Pluto) and Poseidon (Neptune) after Titanomachy. In Homer's Iliad, this mythological Tartarus is represented as an underground prison 'as far below Hades as the earth is from heaven'. According to mythology, only the lower gods, Cronos and other titans are imprisoned in it, while human beings are thrown into the underworld, ruled by Hades.

The Greek Myth of Tartarus:

     The Greek poet Hesiod guaranteed that a bronze anvil would fall from the sky for nine days until it reached the earth, and that it would fall another nine days until it reached Tartarus. Being such a deep place on the ground, it was covered by three layers of nights, which followed a wall made of bronze surrounding this distant underground. It is a damp well, cold and unfortunately immersed in the darkest darkness. While, according to Greek mythology, the Underworld (Erebus, kingdom of Hades) is the place where the dead went, Tartarus had several residents. 

     When Cronos was the Titan who ruled the world, he arrested the Cyclops in Tartarus. Zeus freed them, to help him in his fight against the titans - who ended up being defeated by the gods of Olympus, and imprisoned in this desolate brawl. They were watched by huge giants, each with 50 large heads and 100 strong arms, called hecatonchers. Later, when Zeus defeated the monster Typhon, son of Tartarus with Gaia, he also threw him into this same well of water.
     Tartarus is also the place where crime finds its punishment. A good example is that of Sisyphus, thief and murderer, condemned to eternally push a rock uphill - only to see it descend again under its own weight. There, too, was Ixion, the first man to spill the blood of a relative. He caused his father-in-law to fall into a pit full of red-hot coals to avoid paying his wife for the dowry. His just punishment was to spend all eternity spinning a burning wheel. Tantalus, who enjoyed the trust of the gods, talking and having dinner with them, shared the food and divine secrets with his friends. His punishment for perfidy consisted of being dipped up to the neck in cold water, which disappeared whenever he tried to drink it to appease the enormous thirst, in addition to seeing fruiting delicious grapes just above his head that, when he tried to harvest them, went up to out of your reach. 

Check: Titanomachy

Tartarus in Roman Mythology:

     For the Romans, Tartarus is the place where sinners are sent. Virgílio describes it in the Aeneid (book VI). like a gigantic place, surrounded by the river of fire Flegetonte, surrounded by a triple wall that prevents the escape of sinners. In this version, it is guarded by a Hydra with 50 huge black faces, which stood in front of a creaky gate, and protected by columns made of adamante (supposedly indestructible material, similar to diamond), so hard that nothing could cut them. Inside, there was a castle with wide walls and a tall iron turret. Tisiphone, the Fury that represented Vengeance, is the lookout that never sleeps on top of this turret, whipping those condemned to spend eternity there. Inside this castle there is a well that goes down to the depths of the earth, twice the distance between the land of mortals and Olympus. At the bottom of this well are the Titans, the Aloidas (twin giants) and many other criminals. 

     In Tartarus itself are thousands of other criminals, receiving punishments similar to those of Greek myths. The Second Letter of Saint Peter makes reference to this Latin tradition, calling Tartarus (ταρταρώσας) the punishment of fallen angels (II Peter, 2: 4):

"In reality, if God did not forgive the angels who sinned, but, precipitated in the tartar, he gave them up to the chains of darkness to be tormented and reserved until judgment ..."


     Radamanto, Eaco and Minos are the judges of the dead, and they decided who should go to Tartarus. Radamanto judged Asian souls; Éaco, the European ones; Minos had the final, decisive vote, and it was the Greeks who judged it.


     "The vigorous hands of this giant worked tirelessly, and his feet were indefatigable; on his shoulders, the hundred heads of a hideous dragon were raised, and from each of them a black tongue protruded; brilliant, astonishing to see, uttered a thousand inexplicable sounds and, at times, so high that the gods themselves could not hear them; now the mighty roar of a wild bull, now the roar of a ferocious lion; many times - O prodigy! - the barking of a dog, or the piercing cries from which the high mountains resounded. Typhon is a horrifying beast born to wipe out Zeus and Olympus. He was responsible for the mass flight of the Olympian gods, because he is capable of instilling great dread. He won the first fight against Zeus, but he was defeated in the second. "

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