Styx: The river of Hate


The river of Hate (Gr. stugein, "to hate"), that, according to classical mythology, flowed nine times round the infernal regions.

The fables about the Styx are of Egyptian origin. Thus Isis collected the various parts of Osiris (murdered by Typhon) and buried them in secrecy on the banks of the Styx. Charon the ferryman of the Styx, as Diodorus informs us, is an Egyptian word for a "ferryman."

The five rivers of Hell are the Styx, Acheron, Cocytus, Phlegethon and Lethe.

Abhorred Abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate;
Sad Acheron, of sorrow, black and deep;
Cocytus, named of lamentation loud,
Heard on the rueful stream; fierce Phlegethon,
Whose waves of torrent fire inflame with rage.
Far off from these, a slow and silent stream,
Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls.

Milton, Paradise Lost, ii. 577, etc. ( 1665).

Dante, in his Divine Comedy, places the rivers in different circles of the Inferno. Thus, he makes the Acheron divide the border-land from Limbo. The former realm is for the "praiseless and the blameless dead"; Limbo is for the unbaptized. He places the Stygian. Lake of "inky hue" in the fifth circle, the realm of those who put no restraint on their anger. The fire-stream of Phlegethon he fixes to the eighth steep, the "Hell of burning, where it snows flakes of fire," and where blasphemers are confined. He places "the frozen river" of Cocytus in the tenth pit of Malebolge, a region of thick-ribbed ice, the lowest depth of Hell, where Judas and Lucifer are imprisoned. Lethe, he says, is no river of Hell at all, but it is the one wish of all the infernals to get to it, that they may drink its water and forget their torments. It being, however, in "Purgatory," they can never get near it.

John Kendrick Bangs has a humorous narrative entitled A Houseboat on the Styx (Am., 1895).

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