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Cocytus or Kokytos, meaning "the river of wailing" (from the Greek Κωκυτός, "lamentation"), is a river in the underworld in Greek mythology. Cocytus flows into the river Acheron, across which dwells the underworld, the mythological abode of the dead. There are five rivers encircling Hades. The River Styx is perhaps the most famous; the other rivers are Phlegethon, Lethe, and Acheron.

In literature

The Cocytus river was one of the rivers that surrounded Hades. Cocytus, along with the other rivers related to the underworld, was a common topic for ancient authors. Of the ancient authors, Cocytus was mentioned by Homer, Cicero, Aeschylus and Plato, among others.[1]

Cocytus also makes an appearance in John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost. In Book Two, Milton speaks of "Cocytus, named of lamentation loud / Heard on the rueful stream"[2]

In The Divine Comedy

Dante's Cocytus, as illustrated by Gustave Doré (1832-1883).

In Inferno, the first cantica of Dante's Divine Comedy, Cocytus is the ninth and lowest circle of Hell. Dante and Virgil are placed there by the giant Anataeus, there are other Giants around the rim chained, however Anateus is unchained as he died before the Gigantomachy. Cocytus is referred to as a frozen lake rather than a river, although it originates from the same source as the other infernal rivers, the tears of a statue called The Old Man of Crete which represents the sins of humanity. Dante describes Cocytus as being the home of traitors and those who committed acts of complex fraud. Depending on the form of their treachery, victims are buried in ice to a varying degree, anywhere from neck-high to completely submerged in ice. Cocytus is divided into four descending "rounds," or sections:

  • Caina, after the Biblical Cain; traitors to blood relatives.
  • Antenora, after Antenor from the Iliad; traitors to country.
  • Ptolomea, after Ptolemy, governor of Jericho, who murdered his guests (1 Maccabees); traitors to guests. Here it is said that sometimes the soul of a traitor falls to Hell before Atropos cuts the thread, and their body is taken over by a fiend.
  • Judecca, after Judas Iscariot; traitors to masters and benefactors.

Dante's Satan is at the center of the circle buried waist-high in ice. He is depicted with three faces and mouths. The central mouth gnaws Judas. Judas is chewed head foremost with his feet protruding and Satan's claws tearing his back while those gnawed in the side mouths, Brutus and Cassius, leading assassins of Julius Caesar, are both chewed feet foremost with their heads protruding. Under each chin Satan flaps a pair of wings, which only serve to increase the cold winds in Cocytus and further imprison him and other traitors. Dante and his guide Virgil proceed then to climb down Satan's back and into Purgatory, though Dante is at first confused at their turning round, but Virgil explains it is due to the change in forces as they pass through the centre of the Earth.


  1. ^ "KOKYTOS". Theoi Project. Retrieved 2009-12-08. 
  2. ^ Milton, John (2005). Paradise Lost. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 591. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cocȳtus — (a. Geogr.), 1) Fluß in Campanien, beim See Avernus, auf den Phlegräischen Feldern; 2) s. Kokytos …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Cocytus — Cocytus, s. Kokytos …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Cocytus — Cocȳtus, s. Kokytos …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Cocytus — [kō sīt′əs] n. 〚L < Gr Kōkytos, lit., a shrieking, wailing < kōkyein, to wail, redupl. of IE base * kau , HOWL〛 Gr. Myth. the river of wailing, a tributary of the Acheron in Hades * * * Co·cy·tus (kō kīʹtəs, sīʹ ) n. Greek Mythology One of the… …   Universalium

  • Cocytus — [kō sīt′əs] n. [L < Gr Kōkytos, lit., a shrieking, wailing < kōkyein, to wail, redupl. of IE base * kau , HOWL] Gr. Myth. the river of wailing, a tributary of the Acheron in Hades …   English World dictionary

  • COCYTUS — I. COCYTUS flus. Campaniae exiguus, in Lucrinum lacum influens: Poetis est unus ex quatuor inferorum fluviis a Styge proflueus, nomen habet ὐπο τȏυ κωκύειν, h. e. a gemendo, et lamentande. Virg. l. 6. Aen. v. 323. Cocyti stagna alta vides,… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Cocytus — noun (Greek mythology) a river in Hades that was said to be a tributary of the Acheron • Syn: ↑River Cocytus • Topics: ↑Greek mythology • Instance Hypernyms: ↑river • Part Holonyms: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Cocytus — Dieser Artikel oder Abschnitt ist nicht hinreichend mit Belegen (Literatur, Webseiten oder Einzelnachweisen) versehen. Die fraglichen Angaben werden daher möglicherweise demnächst gelöscht. Hilf Wikipedia, indem du die Angaben recherchierst und… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • COCYTUS —    a dark river which environed Tartarus with bitter and muddy waters …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Cocytus — /koʊˈsaɪtəs/ (say koh suytuhs) noun Classical Mythology a river of Hades, connected with the Acheron …   Australian English dictionary

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