The underworld is a term frequently used in Greek mythology, in order to describe a place or kingdom that is below the earth and whose king is the God of the underworld, Hades. There are several characteristic elements of this place, among the main ones it is important to highlight the presence of Tartarus (place where the titans and other monstrosities are imprisoned), the Asphodelos Meadows, among others. However, it must be said that as time has passed the representation and interpretation of what the underworld is has changed greatly.

what is underworld

This term alludes to a world where only the deceased can enter. People refer to it as a world that is in another dimension, a highly abstract one in which both spirits and souls live, in addition, it is not in a specific place, it does not make scientific sense either and its belief is basically mythological.

In the Catholic religion it is believed that this place is different from heaven, that is, an equivalent of hell. The believers of this religion claim that, at death, the soul of people can go to heaven or to the underworld, it all depends on the actions that have been committed in life.

This term is original from the Latin inframundus, which refers to a world below, that is, a dimension that is underground.

The RAE stipulates that the term has two different connotations, one earthly and the other supernatural, but formally, the Royal Spanish Academy defines the term as a group of people who have a highly deplorable lifestyle, in poor condition and who are in many health problems, then, the word is taken into account under a different scope, one that groups together unfortunate subjects.

underworld story

This term has been mentioned in many stories over time, however, the oldest mention of the word alluding to the Greek underworld is in the book of the Iliad and the Odyssey, owned by Homer, although traces are also found of the term in the books of Hesiod and Virgil.

Plato was also responsible for immortalizing the term in his works when he speaks of the final judgment of the dead, explaining that from the moment a subject dies and his spirit leaves the body, it is assigned to one of the kingdoms of that dimension.

He also explained that the blessed were assigned to the Elysian fields, the condemned to Tartarus and the other spirits with Hades. The underworld in classical literature was described as a place that was at the ends of the earth, beyond the horizon, that is, at the end of the world, this being a place where the souls of the dead are taken.

In ancient Greece it was very common to maintain the belief that in that city there were various places that functioned as entrances to it.

The souls of the deceased had to cross the Acheron River, using Charon’s barge for this, which charged a coin when going up to be able to transport them, it is for that reason that when a person died, it was customary for a coin to be placed under the tongue to the individual who died or failing that in the two eyelids, those who did not have money would be destined to suffer in what was known as the prairie.

For its part, the banks of the river were protected by Cerberus, a three-headed dog and guardian of the underworld, in addition, it was he who prevented souls from leaving there, as well as prevented the living from entering. In the main areas of that dimension it was possible to find the Asphodelos Fields, a place where the souls of fallen heroes mourn.

The one in charge of transferring the souls to face their judgment was Hermes, which was carried out by the kings Aeacus, Minos and the brother of the latter, Radamantis, in cases where the sentences were favorable to the souls, they returned to the Fields of Asphodel, while the souls of the pagans were condemned to the path of Tartarus, while the souls of important or heroic people moved to Elysium.

parts of the underworld

Underworld - Tartarus and river of fire Phlegethon

According to history, there are about 5 kingdoms in the Greek underworld, among them is the pit of Tartarus, which is considered a highly fortified prison and is also surrounded by a river of fire whose name is Phlegethon.

Originally this kingdom was only a prison for the titans, however, over time it served as a dungeon for all those condemned souls, an example of this is the soul of Tantalus, Ticio and Sisyphus.

The next realm is the world of the dead, which is ruled by the God of the underworld, Hades. History regarded this realm as the home of Hades, as well as the fields of Asphodel, Acheron, and Styx.

The other kingdom is the Elysea Island, that is, the island of the blessed, which is ruled by Crono and where the mythical heroes reside after their death, among them are Peleo, Diomedes and Achilles.

Then there are the Elysian fields, whose ruler is Rhadamanthys, in addition, it is the home of the blessed dead and those who had been initiated into ancient mysteries. Those who lived there could have the possibility or opportunity to go to the world of the living, although not everyone had that ability.

Finally, the five rivers of Hades, that is, Acheron, the river of sorrow, Cociyo, the river of lamentations, Phlegon, the river of fire, Lethe, the river of oblivion and Styx, the sacred river in which they bathed Achilles to make him immune to weapons, except for his heel. That last one is the river that creates the limits between the lower and upper worlds, in addition, the Lethe and Styx are facing and higher than the rest.

other underworlds

Just as this term has been deepened in Greek mythology, it also has a history in different religions or cultures, however, in this aspect the impact of the word on indigenous and religious cultures will be discussed briefly.

according to religions

According to the different existing religions around the world, from the pure to the pagan, starting with Islam, Judaism and Christianity, they have broad beliefs about the place where the souls of the deceased will rest, one of those places it is heaven, to which people who did good in life go, however, the other place is more terrifying, hell or the underworld, where the souls of people who committed crimes, who did harm to others or who were considered wicked in life

According to the Mayans

According to Mayan history, there is a dimension led by the Mayan God of the underworld, which was called Xibalbá, an underground place ruled by the gods of death and disease, these are Vucub-Camé and Hun-Camé.

According to the Aztecs

Another story mentions Mictlán, an apparently underground world in which the deceased rest, in fact, it is considered the home of the dead and is quite famous or remembered in Mexico. There are 9 existing kingdoms in Mictlan, they are beyond time and space and are structured in specific regions governed by powerful deities. The Aztec god of the underworld is said to be Xipetótec, but he is found accompanied by Quetzalcóatl, Tezcatlipoca and Huitzilopochtli.

According to the Incas

In the Mexican history of the Incas, this dimension was called Uku Pacha, also considered as an underground world devoid of water and land and that communicated with the Kay Pacha, that is, the earthly world, through various ways, but only with the help of their creator gods.

Underworld in popular culture

Underworld - Underworld movie scene

This term has been widely used in movies, television series and even appears in virtual games such as minecraft underworld and gta underworld. If we talk specifically about cinema, the word has become famous for a very successful saga: Underworld.

underworld saga

It is about the underworld movies, one of the most famous films in Hollywood and that, in addition, has left an excellent impression on moviegoers. Everything related to these films will be explained below.

  • Synopsis: This is Underworld, the saga of science fiction films that encompasses the story of both vampires and werewolves. The first film had its premiere in 2003, the second, Underworld evolution, was released in 2006, the third installment, Underworld Rise of the lycans, on January 23, 2009. Later, there was a fourth film, Underworld Awakening , released in January 2012 and, finally, in January 2017 Underworld Blood Wars was released.
  • Cast: The most famous underworld actress is Kate Beckinsale, the leading lady in most of the movies. There are also Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Scott Speedman, Sophia Myles, Shane Brolly, among others.

Underworld FAQ

What is the underworld?

It is a different dimensional world from that of humans, there live the souls of people who were considered bad people in life.

What is the underworld according to the Bible?

It is the home of the devil and of souls considered as the bad ones in the world, it is a place called hell, a place on fire, painful and horrible.

Who created the underworld?

According to Greek mythology, the God Hades.

What was the underworld for the Mayans?

An underground place that houses the souls of the deceased.

What does the underworld mean on the altar of the dead?

It is a world considered as the home of the dead in the Mayan culture.