Unsolved:Asphodel Meadows

From HandWiki
Short description: Section of the Greek underworld

In Greek mythology, the Asphodel Meadows or Asphodel Fields (Ancient Greek:)[1] was a section of the ancient Greek underworld where the majority of ordinary souls were sent to live after death.[2] It was one of the three main divisions of the underworld along with Elysium, where righteous souls were granted eternal reward, and Tartarus, where vicious souls were granted eternal punishment.[2] In his Odyssey, Homer locates the Fields of Asphodel close to the Land of dreams. He further refers to them as the dwelling place of the spirits of men who have abandoned their earthly labors.[3]


The name of the land, inspired by the plant Asphodelus, appears in the literature as far back as Homer's Odyssey, where it features in Odysseus’ survey of the underworld. Many ancient Greek poets and Homeric commentators understand the adjective asphodelòs to mean 'flowery', 'fragrant', or 'fertile'.[4] According to others, the unattractive plant was chosen by the Greeks because of its ghostly gray colour which is appropriate to the shadowy atmosphere of the underworld.[5] A different proposal explains the name of the land as 'field of ashes' basing it on sphodelos or spodelos, an alternative version of the name[6] that could be related to "σποδός", spodós ('ashes', 'embers').[7][8]

Later depictions

The Asphodel Meadows is most probably where the souls of people who lived mediocre lives remain. Its relationship to other places in the Greek afterlife remains uncertain.

For later Greek poets the very ancient pre-Homeric association of the asphodel flower with a positive form of afterlife as well as the enlarged role of Elysium as it became the destination of more than just a few lucky heroes, altered the character of the meadows. Greek poets who wrote after Homer's time describe them as untouched, lovely, soft and holy. Such an evolutionary change is quite common: "Like most cultures throughout human history, both ancient and modern, the Greeks held complex and sometimes contradictory views about the afterlife".[9]

Some depictions describe it as a land of utter neutrality. That is, while the inhabitants were in life neither good nor evil, so they are treated in the afterlife. Other depictions have also stated that all residents drink from the river Lethe before entering the fields, thus losing their identities. This somewhat negative outlook on the afterlife for those who make little impact was perhaps passed down to encourage militarism in Greek cultures (as opposed to inaction). In fact, those who did take up arms and became heroes were rewarded with everlasting joy in the fields of Elysium.

Edith Hamilton suggested that the asphodel of these fields are not exactly like the asphodel of our world, but are "presumably strange, pallid, ghostly flowers."[10] Others have suggested, in 2002, that they were actually narcissi.[11]


  1. ἀσφόδελος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Westmoreland, Perry L. (2006). Ancient Greek beliefs. San Ysidro, CA: Lee and Vance Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0-9793248-1-9. OCLC 276682916. https://www.worldcat.org/oclc/276682916. 
  3. Homer, Odyssey 24.11-14
  4. Reece, Steve (2009). Homer's winged words : the evolution of early Greek epic diction in the light of oral theory. Leiden. ISBN 978-90-474-2787-2. OCLC 569990385. https://www.worldcat.org/oclc/569990385. 
  5. Tripp, Edward (1970). Crowell's handbook of classical mythology. Internet Archive. New York, Crowell. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-690-22608-9. http://archive.org/details/crowellshandbook00trip. 
  6. Harper, Douglas. "asphodel". Online Etymology Dictionary. https://www.etymonline.com/?term=asphodel. 
  7. σποδός. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  8. Amigues, S (2002). "La "Prairie d'Asphodèle" de l'Odyssée et de l'Hymne homérique à Hermès". Revue de philologie, de littérature et d'histoire anciennes 76: 7–14. doi:10.3917/phil.761.0007. https://www.cairn-int.info/article.php?ID_ARTICLE=E_PHIL_761_0007. 
  9. Reece, Steve, "Homer's Asphodel Meadow," Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 47 (2007) 389-400.
  10. Edith Hamilton. Mythology. New York: Warner Books, 1999. Ch. 1, p. 40.
  11. Dweck, A. C.. The folklore of Narcissus. pp. 19–29.  In (Hanks 2002)

Works cited