Who Invented Hell?

It was always my understanding that the ancient greek system divided Hades into 3 sections: One for the very good, one for the very bad, and one for the moderately okay, if you will. The good place was known as the Elysian Fields, and one of the others was known as Tartarus.

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Who invented Hell? (14-Nov-2000)

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In my recollection, Elysium was separate from Hades, and Tartarus (the opposite of Elysium) was originally a pit below Hades and a place of punishment, but eventually became synonymous with Hades. I never heard of a third option.

Also I thought that Elysium was reserved for heroes that attained immortality, so a very small select crowd.

The early Greeks believed Elysium was a place on the surface of the earth, far to the West. By later Greeks and the Romans, it was considered part of the Underworld.

Tartarus was generally thought be be far below Hades, but whether it was part of Hades or separate from it is open to interpretation.

A third area was Erebus, the cavern that leads from the surface of the earth to the River Styx. Those of the dead who could not pay the one-obolus fare to the ferryman Charon were condemned to remain here. It was custom to place the coin in the mouth of the dead before burial so that they could pay him.

There were several rivers in Hades: the noxious Styx, the Lethe (whose waters caused forgetfulness of one’s previous life), and the Acheron and its two tributaries, the Phlegethon (a river of liquid fire) and the Cocytus. The unburied were condemned to dwell along the banks of the Cocytus for 100 years before moving on.

Erm, admittedly my history is drawing strongly on Xena: Warrior Princess, but wasn’t Hades the God of the underworld, and the underworld itself consisting of Tartarus and the Elysian Fields? Or am I just a victim of twisted mythology?


Hell was actually invented by a woman, back in the 1700s. She was born Polly Warner-Cracker, but she married Fred Heller. Her marriage was not a happy one, and divorce was not possible in those days. She needed some word to express her frustration and and she used her husband’s last name (partly in spite, partly in malice, partly just venting)… and said her marriage was Heller. Over time, this got shortened to just “Hell.”

The third area af Hades referred to are the Fields of Aspodel. The vast majority of souls go here and flutter like bats in what is a pointless, empty existence.
See Homer’s Oddessey; I forget which book.

Properly speaking, Hades is, in fact, the name of the deity, but it’s often also applied to his realm.

You seem to have hit “Post Reply” inadvertantly before typing the punchline to this, Dext