In Greek mythology, the river Phlegethon (English translation: "flaming") or Pyriphlegethon (English translation: "fire-flaming") was one of the five rivers in the infernal regions of the underworld, along with the rivers Styx, Lethe, Cocytus, and Acheron. Plato describes it as "a stream of fire, which coils round the earth and flows into the depths of Tartarus." [cite book | author = Plato | title = "Phaedo"] It was parallel to the river Styx. It is said that the goddess Styx was in love with Phlegethon, but she was consumed by his flames and sent him to Hades. Eventually when Zeus accepted her river to flow through, they reunited.

Literary references

In Dante's "Inferno" Phlegethon is described as a river of blood that boils souls. It is in the Seventh Circle and is guarded by centaurs. Here are punished the shades who committed crimes of violence against their fellow men (see Canto XI, 34–39). Here are murderers and tyrants; men who through their violent deeds in life caused hot blood to flow and now themselves sunk in flowing, boiling blood.

In "Oedipus" by Seneca the Younger, the first singing of the chorus, which mainly describes the plague that has settled in Thebes, includes the line, "Phlegethon has changed his course and mingled Styx with Theban streams." While this is not essential to the plot of the play, the line figuratively serves to suggest Death has become physically present in Thebes. The line also reveals the common preoccupation with death and magic found in Roman tragedy. Also, it is a river traveled upon by the Incarnation of War, named Mym, in the Piers Anthony novel "Wielding a Red Sword". When Mym is lured into Hell, he decides to incite rebellion against the forces of Satan and uses four of the five major waterways of Hell, among which are the River Lethe, the Archeron, the River Kyoktys, and the River Styx.

External links

* [ Theoi Project - Potamos Pyriphlegethon]


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  • PHLEGETHON — fluv. infernalis flammis aestuantibus rapidus, ab urendo sic dictus; quam etymologiam poetae passim innuunt. Auctor Culicis, Nec timuit Phlegethonta furentem ardentibus undis. Silius, l. 13. v. 564. Exundantibus urit Ripas saevus aquis Plegethon …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

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