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Greek & Roman Hell: Visions, Tours and Descriptions of the Infernal Otherworld

Greek & Roman Hell: Visions, Tours and Descriptions of the Infernal Otherworld

by Eileen Gardiner, Homer, Hesiod


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The literary texts of the ancient Mediterranean present a fairly clear picture of an underworld and bear witness to the changes in its nature and purpose. The strong stamp of Hesiod and Homer defines the geography and inhabitants of later underworld descriptions. Plato and the mystery religions leave their mark on the genre, while satirical and comic works provide us with a totally different perspective on ancient beliefs.

Works written during the long interval between the Iliad and the Odyssey (c.700 bce) and the works of Lucian of Samosata (2nd century ce), a span of almost a millennium, show a remarkable consistency in terms of the underworld’s physical features and denizens. They also provide a backdrop to the significant changes in Greco-Roman understandings of the nature of the soul and thus the fate of the dead in the otherworld.

This anthology includes seventeen texts that range from epic poems by Homer and Virgil to plays by Aristophanes and Seneca, dialogues by Plato, and satirical pieces by Lucian of Samosata, and to novels and narrative poems. It provides a comprehensive overview of the nature of Greek and Roman hell.

Greek & Roman Hell is published in conjunction with Eileen Gardiner’s, a website that presents a cross-cultural collection of materials on the more than 100 visions, tours and descriptions of the infernal otherworld from around the world, dating from 2000 bce to the present.

Preface, introduction, glossary, notes, bibliography & web resources. Illustrated.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781599102283
Publisher: Italica Press
Publication date: 10/19/2018
Series: Hell-on-Line
Pages: 170
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.56(d)

About the Author

Eileen Gardiner is the publisher of Italica Press. Currently she is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Bristol. She is the former co-executive director of the Medieval Academy of America and the former co-director of ACLS Humanities E-Book. She holds a Ph.D. in English and comparative literature, with a specialization in medieval literature.

Dr. Gardiner has published several articles and books on medieval vision literature, including her Visions of Heaven and Hell Before Dante. She is the editor of Hell-on-Line, a website that comprises a comprehensive collection of visions, tours and descriptions of the infernal otherworld from various religious and cultural traditions; and The Pilgrim's Way to St. Patrick's Purgatory, a project that traces for the modern pilgrim the medieval route from Dublin to Lough Derg in County Donegal.

Her recent articles include "Visions and Journeys," in Dante in Context, edited by Lino Pertile and Zygmunt G. Baranski (Cambridge University Press, 2015); "Hell," in the Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, Vol. 11: The Middle Ages and Reformation, edited by Carolyn Muessig (De Gruyter, 2015); and "Heaven, Purgatory and Hell," in Handbook of Medieval Culture vol. 1, edited by Albrecht Classen (De Gruyter, 2015).

Dr. Gardiner's forthcoming articles include "Heaven and Hell," in The Routledge Companion to Death and Dying, edited by Christopher M. Moreman (Routledge); and "The Vision of Tnugdal," in Imagining the Medieval Afterlife, edited by Richard Pollard (Cambridge University Press).

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations

Web Resources



  • Underworld Geography and Underworld Creatures
  • Passages
  • Waters
  • Fields and Meadows
  • Palaces
  • Infernal Creatures
  • Judgment and Punishment
  • Otherworld Guides
  • Otherworld Time and Reincarnation
  • Texts
  • A Note on Names




1. The Iliad by Homer

2. The Odyssey by Homer

3. Theogony by Hesiod

4. Hymn to Demeter

5. The Frogs by Aristophanes

6. Orphic Lamina from Hipponium

7. Gorgias by Plato

8. Phaedo by Plato

9. The Republic by Plato

10. The Aeneid by Virgil

11. Metamorphoses by Ovid

12. Mad Hercules by Seneca

13. Vision of Thespesius by Plutarch

14. Description of Greece by Pausanius

15. The Golden Assby Apuleius

16. The True History by Lucian of Samosata

17. Menippus by Lucian of Samosata




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