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HADES - From Homer's Odyssey

by George Valsamis



Page 4

A destructive darkness (νὺξ ὀλοή)


NOW THAT we've seen some evidence of the life in the underworld, let's get back to our question: what is the meaning of νὺξ (night) ὀλοὴ (destructive), what exactly does death's darkness destroy? 

Not all visual perception is lost: Sisyphus can see at least a stone that he raises, Achilles can see and be with his friends, etc. Smell and taste also work, since souls can sense and drink blood. Touch too, since the stone had to be touched by Sisyphus. Homer's dead seem to have some kind of a body, although a body without flesh and bones. Their life in that kind of a body is connected with the world of daylight with blood (αἷμα) - not any, but sacrificial blood, blood dedicated to the dead ones in the name of God. The dead can sense the sacrificial blood and when they drink of it they can also understand the form, appearance and identity (εἶδος) of a living man, they can also talk with him, they keep or acquire all their mental and bodily abilities, except for one - they can not touch or be touched and they can not change their life. 

Achilles repeats the death-sense three times in a six-word sentence: the subjects of Hades are dead (νεκροί), even before that, they were mortals (βροτῶν), who finally died (καμόντων). The two of the rest three words mean some defect: unconscious (ἀφραδέες) semblances (εἴδωλα) of the real people. Only one word fits to life, the word ναίουσι, "they dwell".

A soul enters the underworld in the semblance of her body, a semblance of the body's condition at the moment of death (old men worn out with toil, men with their armour still smirched with blood, etc.), a semblance so perfect, that Odysseus did not believe he couldn't embrace it (Thrice I sprang towards her and tried to clasp her in my arms). 

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Cf. The Complete Iliad * The Complete Odyssey
Greek Grammar * Basic New Testament Words * Greek - English Interlinear Iliad
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