Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/510

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obedience to their father killed their husbands on their wedding night, were punished in Tartarus by being compelled everlastingly to pour water into a sieve..

The idea of Tartarus becomes more definite in later classical writings. Hades was divided into Elysium, or the region of dawn, which was the abode of the good, and Tartarus, the region of night, which was the destination of the wicked. Virgil describes Tartarus in telling of the descent of Æneas to the under-world to visit his father (Æneid, vi, 548-627). It is in the form of a prison, inclosed with a triple wall. Phlegethon, a flaming torrent, rushes by the walls, whirling great rocks along in its course. The huge gate is swung between columns of adamant and from an iron tower. Tisiphone, with her bloody robe tucked up around her, watches the vestibule night and day. The great chasm is twice as deep as from earth up to heaven. Groans are heard issuing from the place, and the strokes of cruel lashes, the grating of iron, and the clanking of chains. Khadanianthus judges the spirits on their arrival, and they are then turned over to the Furies for appropriate punishments, of which the torments of Ixion, Sisyphus, and a few others are given as examples.

According to the Scandinavian mythology, all who die bravely in battle are snatched away to Valhalla, Odin's magnificent banquet-hall in the sky. Those who, after lives of ignoble labor or inglorious ease, die of sickness, descend to a cold and dismal cavern beneath the ground, called Niflheim—i. e., the mist-world. This abode is ruled by the goddess of death, whose name is Hel. The place of torment for reprobates is Nastrond, deeper underground than Niflheim, and far toward the frigid north. This grim prison is described in the following passage from the Prose Edda, written in Iceland in the thirteenth century: "In Nastrond there is a vast and direful structure with doors that face the north. It is formed entirely of the backs of serpents, wattled together like wicker-work. But the serpents' heads are turned toward the inside of the hall, and continually vomit forth floods of venom, in which wade all those who commit murder or who forswear themselves."[1] According to the Voluspa, a poem of earlier date, the evil-doers in Nastrond are also gnawed by the dragon Nidhögg.

The fathers of the Christian Church generally taught the existence of a hell of material fire and brimstone. Alger[2] gives as their belief that at the resurrection the damned "were to be banished forever to a fiery hell in the center of the earth, there to endure uncomprehended agonies, both physical and spiritual, without any respite, without any end." The strict literality with which these doctrines were held is strikingly shown in Jerome's

  1. Prose Edda, chapter lii.
  2. Future Life, p. 402.