Elysium

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For other uses, see Elysium (disambiguation). "Elysian" redirects here. For other uses, see Elysian (disambiguation). "Elysion" redirects here. For the Greek band, see Elysion (band)
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 evolved over time and was maintained by certain Greek religious and philosophical sects, and cults. Initially separate from the realm of Hades, admission was initially 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] Elysia 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]

Contents

Classical literature

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

to the Elysian plain…where life is easiest for men. No snow is there, nor heavy storm, nor ever rain, but ever does Ocean send up blasts of the shrill-blowing West Wind that they may give cooling to men.

Homer, Odyssey (4.560-565)[11]

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]

And they live untouched by sorrow in the islands of the blessed along the shore of deep-swirling Ocean, happy heroes for whom the grain-giving earth bears honey-sweet fruit flourishing thrice a year, far from the deathless gods, and Cronos rules over them

Hesiod,Works and Days (170)[9]

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

the good receive a life free from toil, not scraping with the strength of their arms the earth, nor the water of the sea, for the sake of a poor sustenance. But in the presence of the honored gods, those who gladly kept their oaths enjoy a life without tears, while the others undergo a toil that is unbearable to look at. Those who have persevered three times, on either side, to keep their souls free from all wrongdoing, follow Zeus' road to the end, to the tower of Cronus, where ocean breezes blow around the island of the blessed, and flowers of gold are blazing, some from splendid trees on land, while water nurtures others. With these wreaths and garlands of flowers they entwine their hands according to the righteous counsels of Rhadamanthys, whom the great father, the husband of Rhea whose throne is above all others, keeps close beside him as his partner

Pindar, Odes (2.59-75)[16]

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:

Night speeds by, And we, Aeneas, lose it in lamenting. Here comes the place where cleaves our way in twain. Thy road, the right, toward Pluto's dwelling goes, And leads us to Elysium. But the left Speeds sinful souls to doom, and is their path To Tartarus th' accurst.

Virgil, Aeneid (6.535)[17]

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 no fix'd place the happy souls reside. In groves we live, and lie on mossy beds, By crystal streams, that murmur thro' the meads: But pass yon easy hill, and thence descend; The path conducts you to your journey's end.” This said, he led them up the mountain's brow, And shews them all the shining fields below. They wind the hill, and thro' the blissful meadows go.

Virgil, Aeneid (6.641)[18]

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

These are two in number, separated by a very narrow strait; they are ten thousand furlongs distant from Africa, and are called the Islands of the Blest. They enjoy moderate rains at long intervals, and winds which for the most part are soft and precipitate dews, so that the islands not only have a rich soil which is excellent for plowing and planting, but also produce a natural fruit that is plentiful and wholesome enough to feed, without toil or trouble, a leisured folk. Moreover, an air that is salubrious, owing to the climate and the moderate changes in the seasons, prevails on the islands. For the north and east winds which blow out from our part of the world plunge into fathomless space, and, owing to the distance, dissipate themselves and lose their power before they reach the islands; while the south and west winds that envelope the islands sometimes bring in their train soft and intermittent showers, but for the most part cool them with moist breezes and gently nourish the soil. Therefore a firm belief has made its way, even to the Barbarians, that here is the Elysian Field and the abode of the blessed, of which Homer sang.

Plutarch, Life of Sertorius, VIII, 2[19][20]

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 connexion with the meeting of Aeneas with the shade of Anchises in the Elysian Fields.[21]

With such affection did Anchises' shade reach out, if our greatest muse is owed belief, when in Elysium he knew his son.

Dante, Divina Commedia (Par Canto XV Line 25-27)[22]

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.[23] 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".[24]

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.

Sports

Elysian Fields is the name given to the wide fairway of the long par-5 14th hole at the Old Course at St Andrews, Scotland.[25]

Elysian Fields is also the name of an intermediate (blue) skiing piste at the Hellenically-themed American winter sports resort called Greek Peak. [26]

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".[27] 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.

Locations named after Elysium exist in North America including Elysian Park, Los Angeles, Elysian, Minnesota, and Elysian Fields, Texas. 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 road, hotel, apartment building, and business names all over the world.

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 doesn't 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.

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, Heracules' deceased wife and children live happily in Elysian Fields, unaware they are dead. Heracules encounters them while trying to return Persephone to her angry mother Demeter, after she is kidnapped by Hades, who is in love with her.

A manufacturer of high-end computer cooling equipment, Xigmatek, has recently ventured into the computer case market with its premiere model being named the "Xigmatek Elysium".

'Elysium' is the title of the Pet Shop Boys album released in September 2012.

In the 2012 film Beasts of the Southern Wild, Hushpuppy's quest for her mother leads her to a brothel named 'Elysian Fields' likely in reference to the mythic qualities of the protagonist's quest.

In the video game Saints Row 2 there is neighborhood called Elysian Fields located in the Trailer Park distract of Stilwater near the Suburbs. The entire neighborhood is a trailer park and is a stronghold one of the game's rival street gangs the Sons of Samedi. It is located next to Mourning Wood Cemetery, which is somewhat ironic (possibly intentional on the developer's part) given the Elysian Fields being the final resting place of virtuous souls in greek mythology.

See also

References

Notes
  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. http://books.google.com/books?id=RacKAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false.
  2. ^ a b Sacks, David (1997). A Dictionary of the Ancient Greek World. Oxford University Press US. pp. 8, 9. ISBN 0-19-511206-7, 9780195112061.
  3. ^ Zaidman, Louise Bruit (1992). Religion in the Ancient Greek City. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 78. ISBN 0-521-42357-0, 9780521423571.
  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, 13, 14. ISBN 1-891903-23-3, 9781891903236.
  6. ^ a b Ogden, Daniel (2007). A Companion to Greek Religion. Singapore: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 92, 93. ISBN 1-4051-2054-1, 9781405120548.
  7. ^ a b Westmoreland, Perry L. (2007). Ancient Greek Beliefs. Lee And Vance Publishing Co. pp. 70. ISBN 0-9793248-1-5, 9780979324819.
  8. ^ Rengel, Marian (2009). Greek and Roman Mythology A to Z. Infobase Publishing. pp. 50. ISBN 1-60413-412-7, 9781604134124.
  9. ^ a b Evelyn-White, Hugh G. (1914). The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation. London: William Heinemann Ltd. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0132:card=140.
  10. ^ a b Burkert, Walter (1985). Greek Religion. United Kingdom: Blackwell. pp. 198. ISBN 0-631-15624-0, 9780631156246.
  11. ^ a b Murray, A.T. (1919). Homer, The Odyssey with an English Translation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Hom.+Od.+24.10&fromdoc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0136.
  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), page 79.
  16. ^ Svarlien, Diane (1990). Odes. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0162:book=O.:poem=2.
  17. ^ Williams, Theodore C. (1910). Verg. A. 6.535. The Perseus Digital Library. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0054%3Abook%3D6%3Acard%3D535.
  18. ^ Dryden, John. Verg. A. 6.641. The Perseus Digital Library Project. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Verg.+A.+6.641&fromdoc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0052.
  19. ^ Perrin, Bernadotte (1919). Plutarch's Lives. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Plut.+Sert.+8&fromdoc=Perseus%3Atext%3A2008.01.0062. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  20. ^ Thayer, Bill. "The Life of Sertorius". The Parallel Lives Plutarch. The Loeb Classical Library. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Sertorius*.html. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  21. ^ Toynbee, Paget (1968). A Dictionary of Proper Names and Notable Matters in the Works of Dante. Oxford University Press. http://etcweb.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/dante/DispToynbeeByTitOrId.pl?INP_ID=215059.
  22. ^ Hollander, Robert. "The Divine Comedy". Princeton Dante Project. http://etcweb.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/dante/campuscgi/mpb/GetCantoSection.pl?LANG=2&INP_POEM=Par&INP_SECT=15&INP_START=20&INP_LEN=15. Retrieved 26 June 2011.
  23. ^ Hylton, Jeremy. "Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 2". The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. MIT. http://shakespeare.mit.edu/twelfth_night/twelfth_night.1.2.html. Retrieved 26 June 2011.
  24. ^ Ford, John (1915). 'Tis Pity She's a Whore and The Broken Heart. Boston: D.C. Heath & Co. pp. 105. http://books.google.com/books?id=EgxYEemQXEsC&printsec=frontcover&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false.
  25. ^ The World Atlas of Golf, Gallery Books, 3rd Edition, 1991, p. 39 & 43
  26. ^ http://www.greekpeak.net/the-mountain/trail-map.aspx
  27. ^ McFadden, Hugh (1984). Cities of Mirrors. Dublin: Beaver Row Press. ISBN 0-946308-08-X, 9780946308088.

External links