Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Elysium

ELYSIUM, a name given by the Greeks to the abode of the righteous dead, who, in the words of Pindar, inherit there a tearless eternity (0l., ii. 120). In the Odyssey, iv. 563, this region, which answers to the Hindu Sutala, is spoken of as a plain at the end of the earth, where the fair-haired Rhadamanthys lives, and where the people are vexed by neither snow nor storm, heat nor cold, the air being always tempered by the zephyr wafted to them from the ocean. In the Hesiodic Works and Days, 166, the same description is given of the islands of the blessed, which yield three harvests yearly. These are near the Deep-eddying Ocean, but the sovereign who rules them is not Rhadamanthys, but Cronus. In Pi ndar, Rhadamanthys (whose name has by some been identified with the Egyptian Rhotamenti, or king of the under-world) sits by the side of his father Cronus and administers sound judgment. In later accounts this idea is developed into the tribunal of Mines, Rhadamanthys, and Abacus, before which all must appear in order to receive for their righteous or their evil lives the sentence which secures to them an entrance into Paradise or condemns them to be thrust down into Tartarus. Elsewhere [Eacus is the gate-keeper of the under-world, near whom the hell—hound Kerberos (Cerberus) keeps watch. The images under which these abodcs of the blessed are described point clearly to the phenomena of sunset, and reappear in the pictures drawn of the palace of Alkinoos (Alciuoiis). They reflect the spotless purity of a heaven lit up by the sun, which tinges with gold the cloud islands as they float on the deep blue sky. Here are the asphodel meadows, which none but the pure in heart, the truthful, and the generous can be suffered to tread; and thus an idea which at the outset had been purely physical, suggested the thoughts of trial, atonement, and purification.


See Preller, Grirchische JIIthologie, i. 636, 645, ii. 129; Brown, Great Dionysiak Jllylh, 185; Muir, Sanskrit T cats, part iv. p. 7.