I am going to tell you here some of the myths in which Hell appears or play a central role. I leave deliberately aside the beginning of the myth of Achille for another article as well as descent into hell of Psyche. It will not be not exhaustive, naturally.
The kidnapping of Persephone
This myth is told by Homère in the VIIIth or VIIth centuries av. J-C. Demeter, goddess of the agriculture, has a girl named Coré, whom we say about a rare beauty. One day when the latter walks, picking narcissuses in all innocence away from his group, Hades, the sovereign of the deaths, arises from Hell on its tank of darkness dragged by couriers of a jet black one. He takes the girl with him and, in spite of his shouts of terror and his sobs, nobody hears him. Nobody except its mother Demeter who perceives the echo of these lamentations. She travel then all the earth and all the sea in search of her daughter, but it does not find her and nobody dares to reveal her the truth. This wandering lasts 9 days, in the course of which Déméter denies the divine pleasures when sound the ragweed and the nectar. This one announces to the other gods that she will make nothing push on the earth as long as she will not have found her daughter. The big Zeus is shared because he does not want to offend his brother, but he has to intervene: he asks Hermes to visit his brother in Hell and to return his daughter, Perséphone become queen of Hell. When he arrives at the palace of the terrible god, he explains to Hadès has to return the girl to her mother. He accepts, but reminds to Persephone that it is not a so bad life as to be a woman of a so big god as him. He asks her to eat a pip of pomegranate before going away, what she is doing. She leaves on a golden wagon and goes back up all the Hell and all the earth to go directly towards her mother. The latter should be delighted, but makes him that his daughter ate a pip of grenade involve that she is eternally bound to Hell, and she is afraid that she has to return to it. Zeus proposes her then an arrangement: Persephone will stay in Hell during a third of the year (or half according to the formulations), during the winter season, when the earth is frozen and withered, whereas it will go back up with her mother the rest of the year, when the beams of the sun flood the earth and makes her fertile. Demeter accepts in fire-back and made re-turn green the earth. After that, Persephone was ever the radiant and alive and kicking beauty which Coré raised, even if she went back up during 6 months on the earth, she kept the memory of the terrible place from which she resulted. On the other hand, she seems to have adapted of her husband and her functions of queen of Hell.It it is necessary to hold of this myth is the idea of inconsolable suffering of Demeter, that sees her daughter dying every winter without being able to do something. Perséphonereprésente so the cycle of the seasons: the Spring and the Summer when she is on earth with her mother, the Autumn and the Winter when she returns with her husband to Hell.
In the Tartar (or the Fields of the Punishment according to the authors) are locked numerous criminals whom the actions were considered rather horrible so that their punishment is eternal one suffering. There are of course the Titans and the Giants, but also the mortal ones or the demigods. Among them:
– Tantale, son(sons,thread) of Zeus and preferred by the gods who invite him to eat at their table (what is an immense honor), but this one despises the gods and tries to damage them. His crime is double: he steals to the gods their divine nectar, and not content of this theft, he invites the gods at his table and is of use to them his own son, Pélops. This is considered as an unprecedented insult and he is condemned to the eternal torture: he is constantly devoured by the thirst and placed in front of a brook which shies away when it approaches it. Also, he starves but cannot eat, because fruits placed in trees above the brook are inaccessible. This myth shows that you should not offend the gods and that the mortal will always be lower than the Olympian.
– Sisyphus, founding king of the city of Corinth. One day, he sees an immense eagle crossing and taking with him a girl. He knows that it is Zeus changed in eagle, and decides to warn the father of the girl of the identity of the kidnapper. It does not please at all Zeus who condemns Sisyphus in eternal one punishment: push a rock at the top of a hill, and when he reaches the summit, the weight of the rock pulls him downward and it has to begin again, and this for ever.
– Ixion, son of king Lapithe (a tribe) the crime of which is not to want to pay the dowry which he owes to the father-in-law of his fiancée. He decides to kill his father-in-law in a fire. To punish him, Zeus drives him crazy, then, by leniency, returns him the reason. But the history does not stop there: he falls in love with Hera, woman of Zeus, which does not obviously please king of gods.He sets him then a trap: whereas Ixion believes to unite physically with Héraalors that it is only a cloud, Hermes flogs him by way of punishment. Nothing very terrible face to face two other precedents, but it is there that the torture knocks because it is then condemned to be attached to a wheel of fire which runs eternally in Hell. To note that of the union of Ixion with the cloud, Néphélé, whom he marries, born Centauros, father of centaurs.
– The Danaides, these fifty young women, the girls of Danaos are promised to fifty pretenders who are their cousins. They refuse this marriage and with their father they leave for Argos where they ask for asylum. Finally they accept the marriage, but after the marital banquet, they murder quite her husband. All except Hypermnestre whom his father imprisons. 49 others are condemned to an eternal punishment: have to fill with water a barrel drilled up to the end of time.
Descents into hell
– The capture of Cerberus by Heracles is a very known myth and which stages the big hero Heracles (Hercule in Latin), which we do not present any more, and which has to fill one of its twelve works for Eurysthée, Greek king. I would create an article specially on Heracles, also I am very fast going to go. The capture of Cerberus is considered, according to the authors, as the last but one or the last task of the works which Heracles has to carry out, and very certainly as the most difficult. Hades gave its consent, provided that Heracles uses no weapon. Heracles succeeds however and carries the infernal dog outside Hell. Very wisely, Eurysthée says to Héraclès that he is not going to keep the dog and li ask to return her to Hell. During this descent into hell, the demigod meets Thésée.
– Thésée is a Greek hero, a son of Aegean Sea and Ethra. It has the peculiarity not to be a son of a god or a goddess and is very dear to the Athenians. In this myth, he is taken in Hell by its friend Pirithoüs, king of the Lapithes. The latter loses his first wife and wishes to have a new woman who would not be afraid of the death, this is the way he comes there to the conclusion to get married to Persephone, queen of deaths. This kidnapping is a risky and very dangerous project, also Thésée practices previously there kidnappantHélène (future woman of Ménélas) brilliantly. The time when both brothers of Hélène, Beaver and Pollux, pick her up, Thésée and Pirithoüs already left for Hell. Unfortunately, Hades knows about their intentions and decides to set them a trap. In friendly gesture, he urges them to sit down on seats, but these chairs are magic and prevent them from getting up. It is the Chairs of the Oversight, that make motionless, empty their spirit and make them lose the memory. Certain authors say that they stay there during 4 years. It is there that Heracles intervenes during its descent into hell and frees Thésée of his immobility. On the other hand, he cannot free Pirithoüs, Hades who wants to let him leave because his project was all the same to kidnap his wife.
– Orpheus is a Greek hero son of king of Thrace Œagre and the Muse Calliope. He is the biggest of all the musicians among the mortal and when he plays, everything around him is charmed by the sound of its instrument, the lyre. His wife Eurydice, a dryad, but just after their union she is bitten by a snake and dies. Destroyed by this absence, Orpheus decides to go in Hell to go to look his for good there liked. Thanks to the sounds of his music, he manages to charm the dog Cerberus, but also to move the sovereigns Hades and Persephone. These decide then on him Eurydice, but on a single condition: during his ascent he will have to have him no look, thus not turn the head to her. He accepts and takes Eurydice with him, but just before reaching the surface, he cannot refrain from looking his wife, is to make sure that she follows him well, is because he thinks that they have already left the infernal domain. Be lacking luck, she is still in the cave, and her shadow fades little by little to turn to eternal sound stay. Orpheus tries to return to Hell, but the gods forbid him. Discouraged, he goes away to live a solitary life. His death differs according to the myths but the one who returns most is that he is killed by the Maenads, these women were taken by madness by the effects of the wine. He is buried by the Muses and, sometimes, of its grave rises a divinely beautiful music. It is of course only a synthetic version of the myth which is normally more complete.
– Ulysses came to Hell to question the soul of the soothsayer Tirésias to go back home how. For that purpose, he went to Erèbe and began the preparations for a rite: knife a sheep and fill a well of its blood. So, souls would stream towards this well because they thirst for blood. But Ulysses needs only to meet Tirésias, also he prevents the others from drinking the blood until he had an answer, the one that you should hurt on no account the oxen of the sun, the animals of Apollo. After this interview, Ulysses let the other souls come to drink the blood and he crossed a lot of souls of hero as Ajax or Achille. He left then Hell and joins his ship.