World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000065131
Reproduction Date:

Title: Elysium  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Fortunate Isles, Asphodel Meadows, Hades, Mag Mell, Lethe
Collection: Conceptions of Heaven, Greek Mythology, Locations in Greek Underworld, Works About Coups D'État
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Goethe's Ankunft im Elysium by Franz Nadorp

Elysium or the Elysian Fields (Ancient Greek: Ἠλύσιον πεδίον, Ēlýsion pedíon) is a conception of the afterlife that developed over time and was maintained by certain Greek religious and philosophical sects and cults. Initially separate from the realm of Hades, admission was reserved for mortals related to the gods and other heroes. Later, it expanded to include those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic, where they would remain after death, to live a blessed and happy life, and indulging in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

The Elysian Fields were, according to Homer, located on the western edge of the Earth by the stream of Okeanos.[1] In the time of the Greek oral poet Hesiod, Elysium would also be known as the Fortunate Isles or the Isles (or Islands) of the Blessed, located in the western ocean at the end of the earth.[1][7][8] The Isles of the Blessed would be reduced to a single island by the Thebean poet Pindar, describing it as having shady parks, with residents indulging their athletic and musical pastimes.[1][2]

The ruler of Elysium varies from author to author: Pindar and Hesiod name Cronus as the ruler,[9] while the poet Homer in the Odyssey describes fair-haired Rhadamanthus dwelling there.[6][7][10][11]


  • Classical literature 1
  • Post-classical literature 2
  • Modern influence 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5

Classical literature

In Homer’s Odyssey, Elysium is described as a paradise:

According to Eustathius of Thessalonica[12] the word "Elysium" (Ἠλύσιον) derives from ἀλυουσας (ἀλύω, to be deeply stirred from joy)[13] or from ἀλύτως, synonymous of ἀφθάρτως (ἄφθαρτος, incorruptible),[14] referring to souls' life in this place. Another suggestion is from ελυθ-, ἔρχομαι (to come).[15]

The Greek oral poet Hesiod refers to the Isles of the Blessed in his didactic poem Works and Days. In his book Greek Religion, Walter Burkert notes the connection with the motif of far-off Dilmun: "Thus Achilles is transported to the White Isle, which may refer to Mount Teide on Tenerife, whose volcano is often snowcapped and as the island was sometimes called the white isle by explorers, and becomes the Ruler of the Black Sea, and Diomedes becomes the divine lord of an Adriatic island".[10]

Pindar's Odes describes the reward waiting for those living a righteous life:

In Virgil's Aeneid, Aeneas, like Heracles and Odysseus before him, travels to the underworld. Virgil describes those who will travel to Elysium, and those who will travel to Tartarus:

Virgil goes on to describe an encounter in Elysium between Aeneas and his father Anchises. Virgil's Elysium knows perpetual spring and shady groves, with its own sun and lit by its own stars: solemque suum, sua sidera norunt.

In the Greek historian Plutarch's, Life of Sertorius, Elysium is described as:

Diodorus, in his first book, suggested that the Elysian fields which were much celebrated by Grecian poetry, corresponded to the beautiful plains in the neighborhood of Memphis which contained the tombs of that capital city of Egypt.[21][22] He further intimated that the Greek prophet Orpheus composed his fables about the afterlife when he traveled to Egypt and saw the customs of the Egyptians regarding the rites of the dead.[23]

Post-classical literature

Elysium as a pagan expression for paradise would eventually pass into usage by early Christian writers.

In Dante's epic The Divine Comedy, Elysium is mentioned as the abode of the blessed in the lower world; mentioned in connection with the meeting of Aeneas with the shade of Anchises in the Elysian Fields.[24]

In the Renaissance, the heroic population of the Elysian Fields tended to outshine its formerly dreary pagan reputation; the Elysian Fields borrowed some of the bright allure of paradise. In Paris, the Champs-Élysées retain their name of the Elysian Fields, first applied in the late 16th century to a formerly rural outlier beyond the formal parterre gardens behind the royal French palace of the Tuileries.

After the Renaissance, an even cheerier Elysium evolved for some poets. Sometimes it is imagined as a place where heroes have continued their interests from their lives. Others suppose it is a location filled with feasting, sport, song; Joy is the "daughter of Elysium" in Friedrich Schiller's ode "To Joy".

When in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night shipwrecked Viola is told "This is Illyria, lady.", "And what should I do in Illyria? My brother he is in Elysium." is her answer: "Elysium" for her and her first Elizabethan hearers simply means Paradise.[26] Similarly, in Mozart's opera The Magic Flute, Elysium is mentioned in Act II during Papageno's solo while he describes what it would be like if he had his dream girl: "Des Lebens als Weiser mich freun, Und wie im Elysium sein." ("Enjoy life as a wiseman, And feel like I'm in Elysium.")

In John Ford's 1633 tragedy 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, Giovanni, after sealing his requited love for his sister Annabella with twin oaths, states, "And I'de not change it for the best to come: A life of pleasure in Elyzium".[27]

Elysian Fields is the name of the four-star hotel Sam and Dean stay at in the series "Supernatural" along with the various Gods of earth. Many of these Gods die when Lucifer arrives to attack them.

In the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, Elysium is described as the path for some of the protagonists and antagonists of the series.

In the novel Mister Roberts (1946) and subsequent movie released in 1955, the crew of a tired transport ship is subjected to the morale sapping and never-ending routine of sailing between the fictitious South Pacific islands of Tedium and Apathy. To break this routine and give the crew a chance at having a liberty, a simple luxury they've not experienced in more than a year, Mister Roberts (the ship's cargo officer and champion of its enlisted men,) calls in a favor to have the ship sent to the island of Elysium. The mythical island is described in terms a WWII sailor in the South Pacific would liken to the Greek paradise. A peak of drama occurs when the ship, having just arrived at the port of Elysium, its crew already intoxicated by the promise of what awaits them on shore, is denied liberty (a chance to go ashore) by the ship's tyrannical captain when he finds out what Mister Roberts has done.

Modern influence

Elysian Fields by Carlos Schwabe, 1903

The term and concept of Elysium has had influence in modern popular culture, reference to Elysium can be found in literature, art, film, and music. Examples include in the New Orleans neighborhood of Elysian Fields in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire as the déclassé purgatory where Blanche Dubois lives with Stanley and Stella Kowalski. New Orleans' Elysian Fields also provides the second act setting of Elmer Rice's The Adding Machine and the musical adaptation Adding Machine (musical). In his poem Middlesex, John Betjeman describes how a few hedges "Keep alive our lost Elysium – rural Middlesex again". In his poem An Old Haunt, Hugh McFadden sets an Elysian scene in Dublin's St. Stephen's Green park "Very slowly solitude slips round me in St. Stephen's Green. I rest: see pale salmon clouds blossom. I'm back in the fields of Elysium".[28] In Spring and All, William Carlos Williams describes a dying woman's "elysian slobber/upon/the folded handkerchief".

In David Gemmell's Parmennion series (Lion of Macedon and Dark Prince) and his Troy trilogy, his characters refer to Elysium as the "Hall of Heroes". In Siegfried Sassoon's "Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man", Sassoon writes "The air was Elysian with early summer". Its use in this context could be prolepsis, as the British countryside he is describing would become the burial ground of his dead comrades and heroes from World War I.

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the most prestigious avenue in Paris and one of the most famous streets in the world, is French for "Elysian Fields." The nearby Élysée Palace houses the President of the French Republic, for which reason "l'Élysée" frequently appears as a metonym for the French presidency. Elysium and Elysian are also used for numerous other names all over the world. Examples include Elysian Park, Los Angeles, Elysian, Minnesota, and Elysian Fields, Texas.

Elysium is referenced in the Schiller poem which inspired Beethoven's Ode to Joy (9th symphony, 4th movement). Elysium is also referenced in Mozart's well known Opera "Die Zauberflöte" (The Magic Flute). It is in Act II when Papageno is feeling very melancholy because he does not have a sweetheart or wife and he is drunk singing the song that could be called "Den Mädchen" (The Girls).

Elysium Mons is the name given to a volcanic region of Mars and one of its volcanoes. Also, Elysia is a genus of colorful sea slugs.

There are many examples of use of the name "Elysium" in popular culture. For example, Elysium is briefly mentioned in Ridley Scott's film Gladiator, wherein the general Maximus addresses his troops thus: "If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you're already dead!" In Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Hercules' deceased wife and children live happily in Elysian Fields, unaware they are dead. Hercules encounters them while trying to return Persephone to her angry mother Demeter, after she is kidnapped by Hades, who is in love with her. The name Elysium was used in a Star Trek novel, Before Dishonor, as the name of the fourth moon of Pluto. The moon was discovered on June 28, 2011 and has an estimated diameter of 10–25 km (6–16 mi).

In Masami Kurumada's mythologically themed Saint Seiya comic books, the Elysium is the setting of the final chapters of the Hades arc. In it, the Saints, the warriors of Athena's army, traverse the Underworld to defeat its ruler, the ruthless Hades and rescue their kidnapped goddess. The Saints discover that the only way to kill Hades is to destroy his true body, which has rested in Elysium since the ages of myth. The Saints then invade Elysium, which Kurumada depicts as described in Greek mythology, and carry on their mission after a difficult battle with the deity.

The beautiful, haunting song "Elysian Fields" by Casey Frazier from the 2009 movie, Teenage Dirtbag (movie) starring Scott Michael Foster.[29]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Peck, Harry Thurston (1897). Harper's Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities, Volume 1. New York: Harper. pp. 588, 589. 
  2. ^ a b Sacks, David (1997). A Dictionary of the Ancient Greek World. Oxford University Press US. pp. 8, 9.  
  3. ^ Zaidman, Louise Bruit (1992). Religion in the Ancient Greek City. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 78.  
  4. ^ Clare, Israel Smith (1897). Library of Universal History, Volume 2: Ancient Oriental Nations and Greece. New York: R. S. Peale, J. A. Hill. 
  5. ^ Petrisko, Thomas W. (2000). Inside Heaven and Hell: What History, Theology and the Mystics Tell Us About the Afterlife. McKees Rocks, PA: St. Andrews Productions. pp. 12–14.  
  6. ^ a b Ogden, Daniel (2007). A Companion to Greek Religion. Singapore: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 92, 93.  
  7. ^ a b Westmoreland, Perry L. (2007). Ancient Greek Beliefs. Lee And Vance Publishing Co. p. 70.  
  8. ^ Rengel, Marian (2009). Greek and Roman Mythology A to Z. Infobase Publishing. p. 50.  
  9. ^ a b Evelyn-White, Hugh G. (1914). The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation. London: William Heinemann Ltd. 
  10. ^ a b Burkert, Walter (1985). Greek Religion. United Kingdom: Blackwell. p. 198.  
  11. ^ a b Murray, A.T. (1919). Homer, The Odyssey with an English Translation. Perseus Digital Library Project (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press). 
  12. ^ Commentarii ad Homerii Odisseam, IV, v. 563.
  13. ^ Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. revised and augmented throughout by. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. with the assistance of. Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940. sub voce.
  14. ^ A Greek-English Lexicon ec. s. v.
  15. ^ Storia vera. Dialoghi dei morti, Lucian, Oscar Mondadori, Milano, 1991 (2010), p. 79.
  16. ^ Svarlien, Diane (1990). Odes. 
  17. ^ Williams, Theodore C. (1910). Verg. A. 6.539. The Perseus Digital Library. 
  18. ^ Dryden, John. Verg. A. 6.641. The Perseus Digital Library Project. 
  19. ^ Perrin, Bernadotte (1919). Plutarch's Lives. Perseus Digital Library Project (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press). Retrieved 25 June 2011. 
  20. ^ Thayer, Bill. "The Life of Sertorius". The Parallel Lives Plutarch. The Loeb Classical Library. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  21. ^ Seymer, John Gunning. (1835) The Romance of Ancient Egypt: Second Series. p 72.
  22. ^ Priestley, Joseph. Disquisitions on Matter and Spirit. p. 209
  23. ^ Toland, John. Letters to Serena, History of the Immortality of the Soul. pp. 46–52
  24. ^ Toynbee, Paget (1968). A Dictionary of Proper Names and Notable Matters in the Works of Dante. Oxford University Press. 
  25. ^ Hollander, Robert. "The Divine Comedy". Princeton Dante Project. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  26. ^ Hylton, Jeremy. "Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 2". The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. MIT. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  27. ^ Ford, John (1915). 'Tis Pity She's a Whore and The Broken Heart. Boston: D.C. Heath & Co. p. 105. 
  28. ^ McFadden, Hugh (1984). Cities of Mirrors. Dublin: Beaver Row Press.  
  29. ^ "Casey Frazier - Elysian Fields (Official Video)". YouTube. 
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.