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Tartarus (//, TAR-tə-rəs; Greek: Τάρταρος Tartaros), in ancient Greek mythology, is the deep abyss that is used as a dungeon of torment and suffering for the wicked and as the prison for the Titans. As far below Hades as the earth is below the heavens, Tartarus is the place where, according to Plato in Gorgias (c. 400 BC), souls were judged after death and where the wicked received punishment. Like other primal entities (such as the earth and time), Tartarus was also considered to be a primordial force or deity.
In Greek mythology, Tartarus is both a deity and a place in the underworld. In ancient Orphic sources and in the mystery schools, Tartarus is also the unbounded first-existing entity from which the Light and the cosmos are born.
As for the place, Hesiod asserts that a bronze anvil falling from heaven would fall nine days before it reached the earth. The anvil would take nine more days to fall from earth to Tartarus. In The Iliad (c. 700 BC), Zeus asserts that Tartarus is "as far beneath Hades as heaven is high above the earth."
While, according to Greek mythology, the realm of Hades is the place of the dead, Tartarus also has a number of inhabitants. When Cronus came to power as the King of the Titans, he imprisoned the one-eyed Cyclopes and the hundred-armed Hecatonchires in Tartarus and set the monster Campe as its guard. Zeus killed Campe and released the imprisoned giants to aid in his conflict with the Titans. The gods of Olympus eventually triumphed. Cronus and many of the other Titans were banished to Tartarus, though Prometheus, Epimetheus, Metis and most of the female Titans were spared (according to Pindar, Cronus somehow later earned Zeus' forgiveness and was released from Tartarus to become ruler of Elysium). Another Titan, Atlas, was sentenced to hold the sky on his shoulders to prevent it from resuming its primordial embrace with the Earth. Other gods could be sentenced to Tartarus as well. Apollo is a prime example, although Zeus freed him. The Hecatonchires became guards of Tartarus' prisoners. Later, when Zeus overcame the monster Typhon, the offspring of Tartarus and Gaia, he threw him into "wide Tartarus".
Originally, Tartarus was used only to confine dangers to the gods of Olympus. In later mythologies, Tartarus became the place where the punishment fits the crime. For example:
According to Plato (c. 427 BC), Rhadamanthus, Aeacus and Minos were the judges of the dead and chose who went to Tartarus. Rhadamanthus judged Asian souls, Aeacus judged European souls and Minos was the deciding vote and judge of the Greek.
Plato also proposes the concept that sinners were cast under the ground to be punished in accordance with their sins in the Myth of Er. Cronus, the ruler of the Titans, was thrown down into the pits of Tartarus by his children.
In Roman mythology, Tartarus is the place where sinners are sent. Virgil describes it in the Aeneid as a gigantic place, surrounded by the flaming river Phlegethon and triple walls to prevent sinners from escaping from it. It is guarded by a hydra with fifty black gaping jaws, which sits at a screeching gate protected by columns of solid adamantine, a substance akin to diamond - so hard that nothing will cut through it. Inside, there is a castle with wide walls, and a tall iron turret. Tisiphone, one of the Erinyes who represents revenge, stands guard sleepless at the top of this turret lashing a whip. There is a pit inside which is said to extend down into the earth twice as far as the distance from the lands of the living to Olympus. At the bottom of this pit lie the Titans, the twin sons of Aloeus, and many other sinners. Still more sinners are contained inside Tartarus, with punishments similar to those of Greek myth.
Tartarus is only known in Hellenistic Jewish literature from the Greek text of 1 Enoch, dated to 400–200 BC. This states that God placed the archangel Uriel "in charge of the world and of Tartarus" (20:2). Tartarus is generally understood to be the place where 200 fallen Watchers (angels) are imprisoned.
Tartarus also appears in sections of the Jewish Sibylline Oracles. E.g. Sib. Or. 4:186.
In the New Testament, the noun Tartarus does not occur but tartaroo (ταρταρόω, "throw to Tartarus"), a shortened form of the classical Greek verb kata-tartaroo ("throw down to Tartarus"), does appear in 2 Peter 2:4. Liddell Scott provides other sources for the shortened form of this verb, including Acusilaus (5th century BC), Joannes Laurentius Lydus (4th century AD) and the Scholiast on Aeschylus' Eumenides, who cites Pindar relating how the earth tried to tartaro "cast down" Apollo after he overcame the Python. In classical texts, the longer form kata-tartaroo is often related to the throwing of the Titans down to Tartarus.
The ESV is one of several English versions that gives the Greek reading Tartarus as a footnote:
Adam Clarke reasoned that Peter's use of language relating to the Titans was an indication that the ancient Greeks had heard of a Biblical punishment of fallen angels. Some Evangelical Christian commentaries distinguish Tartarus as a place for wicked angels and Gehenna as a place for wicked humans on the basis of this verse. Other Evangelical commentaries, in reconciling that some fallen angels are chained in Tartarus, yet some not, attempt to distinguish between one type of fallen angel and another.
Tartarus is featured in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus novel series, where it serves its mythological role as a location in the Underworld. It is further noted as the place where the spirits of defeated monsters travel and undergo regeneration, allowing them to eventually return to Earth. As with the ancient Greeks, Riordan also personifies Tartarus as a sentient being; in this case as the husband of Gaea and father of the Giants. The rivers of the Underworld are revealed to be his circulatory system, and his actual form is the realm from Greek myth. He also displays the ability to "project" a humanoid form of considerable power.
Tartarus is one of the major locations in Persona 3 but instead of an underground place, it is a high tower that only emerges in the middle of the night or more known as the Dark Hour.
Tartarus is also the name of the final boss in the video game Halo 2. He is a Brute chieftain and primary rival of the Arbiter.
In the 1997 novel "Titan" by Stephen Baxter, where NASA launches a mission to the Saturnian moon Titan, the astronauts on the crew name their landing site "Tartarus Base".
Tartarus is featured in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (which has many references to Greek mythology), described as a nightmare dimension not only as the underworld, but also where evil creatures are imprisoned by being sent through the gate, which is guarded by Cerberus. The Season 4 villain Tirek, imprisoned in Tartarus for a thousand years, escapes and sends the princesses there, but eventually Twilight Sparkle and her friends blast Tirek back to Tartarus for good.
Tartarus is one of the three major Dark Guilds and a member of the Balam Alliance in the manga series Fairy Tail.
Tartaros is the last name of the antagonist Lanselot Tartaros in the video game Tactics Ogre Let Us Cling Together