Date of Degree

9-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis

Subject Categories

Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity | Arts and Humanities | Classical Archaeology and Art History | Classics | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | History of Religions of Western Origin | Religion

Keywords

Mythology, Geomyth, Greece, Epirus, Homer, Hades

Abstract

In order to explore the cultural relationships between people, landscape, memory and ritual, this master’s thesis focuses on the Acheron River in Epirus, Greece, long believed to harbor an entrance into Hades, the Greek underworld. Various entrances into the chthonic, or subterranean land of the dead, are peppered throughout Greece, with each tied to their own local myths, legends, folklore and cults. According to those traditions, Hades could be accessed from several terrestrial rivers thought to be connected to Oceanus, the primordial world-encompassing river surrounding all of creation. Flowing forth from River Ocean were all above- and underground rivers and streams. Today, the most popular is the River Styx, though in antiquity, Acheron was the most important river linking the realms of the living and the dead. Interest in Acheron resurged after Greek archaeologist Sotirios Dakaris’ 1958 discovery of a much-contested Epirote site, controversially dubbed “the Acheron Necromanteion,” or Acheron Oracle of the Dead. This thesis paper will investigate the cultural processes by which Epirus’ River Acheron became so important in antiquity, and what the Acheron Necromanteion represents for concepts of death connected not only to Epirus’ natural environment and chthonic cult practices, but Panhellenic mythic tradition as a whole.

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