souls on the banks of the acheron

Souls on the Banks of the Acheron - Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl.

In this painting we see the newly dead hovering on the banks of that river of the lower world which they must cross in Charon’s boat ere they reach their ultimate destination.

Hermes is here fulfilling his important function of conducting the shades of the dead from the upper to the lower world. In Mr. Hirschl’s rendering but few of these souls are glad to leave the sunlit earth behind them. Its joys and attractions still hold them spellbound, only quite a few, mostly young children and old men, are resigned to their mortal fate.

The dissatisfied shades crowd around Hermes as he strides among them and implore him to relax his step, to stay the march of doom. But Hermes walks on regardless, with the calm inexorableness of a god, walks on and past the craving throng.

But implacable though he must be to their entreaties, he is not here depicted as deaf and insensible to their sufferings. It is this that gives to his figures a sympathetic grandeur.

In the middle distance Charon is seen approaching in the boat that shall row these souls to their final abode. It is the sight of his barque on the black waters of the Acheron that has struck the multitude with such terror. The dread passage once made, all hope is ended.

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The Acheron (Ancient Greek: Ἀχέρων (Acheron) or Ἀχερούσιος (Acherusius); Modern Greek: Αχέροντας (Acherontas)) is a river located in the Epirus region of northwest Greece. Its source is near the village Zotiko, in the southwestern part of the Ioannina regional unit it flows into the Ionian Sea in Ammoudia, near Parga. In ancient Greek mythology, Acheron was known as the river of woe, and was one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld. In the Homeric poems the Acheron was described as a river of Hades, into which Cocytus and Phlegethon both flowed. According to later traditions, Acheron had been a son of Helios and either Gaia or Demeter, who had been turned into the Underworld river bearing his name after he refreshed the Titans with drink during their contest with Zeus. By this myth, Acheron is also the father of Ascalaphus by either Orphne or Gorgyra. The river called Acheron with the nearby ruins of the Necromanteion is found near Parga on the mainland opposite Corfu. The Acheron was sometimes referred to as a lake or swamp in Greek literature. In Dante’s Inferno, the Acheron river forms the border of Hell. Following Greek mythology, Charon ferries souls across this river to Hell. Those who were neutral in life sit on the banks. [source]

Souls on the Banks of the Acheron - Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl.

In this painting we see the newly dead hovering on the banks of that river of the lower world which they must cross in Charon’s boat ere they reach their ultimate destination.

Hermes is here fulfilling his important function of conducting the shades of the dead from the upper to the lower world. In Mr. Hirschl’s rendering but few of these souls are glad to leave the sunlit earth behind them. Its joys and attractions still hold them spellbound, only quite a few, mostly young children and old men, are resigned to their mortal fate.

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