The trip of a lifetime : journeying to the afterlife in ancient Greece : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History with a Classical Topic at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Though there has been much scholarship on various aspects of death and the afterlife in ancient Greece, there has been little attempt to view the evidence in the context of the afterlife journey as a composite whole. This thesis aims to present a comprehensive study on different aspects of ancient Greek eschatology in the context of the afterlife journey, in order to reconstruct the process of the transition. This is achieved by investigating the eschatological themes and motifs which are reflected in ancient Greek literature, iconography, and archaeological remains. The text is loosely structured on a traveller’s ‘guide’, which consists of three basic stages of the afterlife journey: preparation, transit, and arrival. Chapter One outlines the actions undertaken in preparation for the soul’s journey to the afterlife, primarily regarding the performance of proper burial rites, which were imagined in early times to directly affect the soul’s incorporation into Hades, but by the Classical period were no longer necessary for entry into the afterlife. Still, certain practices, such as the provision of grave goods, did facilitate the soul’s journey to a certain extent. Chapter Two examines how the soul’s transit from the upper to the lower world was imagined, either through flight or by foot, along with the help of mythological guides. Evidence also shows that the soul was imagined to reach the underworld by travelling to the horizon in the west, after which it was required to cross a body of water. Chapter Three explores the different afterlife destinations for the dead and their criteria for admission. Sources suggest that places of reward and punishment for ordinary souls in the afterlife emerge during the late Archaic and early Classical periods, but became more clearly established during the Classical period. Also assessed are the challenges and hazards which the soul encounters after it has arrived in the underworld, which ultimately functioned to determine the final destiny of the soul. Analysis of the primary sources shows that there was a development of afterlife beliefs during the Archaic period which led to a more complex and elaborate portrayal of the afterlife journey than what had previously been described by Homer.
Eschatology, Greco-Roman, Future life, Greece, Religion