Where Are the Elysian Fields?
The Elysian Fields was a phrase used in Greek mythology to describe what we would call Heaven. Before European navigators sailed far beyond the Mediterranean and found other land inhabited with people like themselves, people believed the world was flat. Elysium or the Elysian Fields was a conception of the afterlife that developed over time and was maintained by some Greek religious and philosophical sects and cults.
In early Greek mythology the souls of those who died went for refuge to the Infernal Regions. This in the “afterworld” was said to lie at the extremity of the earth. At that extremity were the Elysian Fields or the Isles of the Blessed.
It is thought by some that this land adorned with every beauty might well be the Canary Islands or the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean. Later when the Greeks learned more of other lands, they changed the location of the Infernal Regions to the centre of the earth. There were two great regions in the underworld.
One was the Elysian Fields, where those who had led a just life in the world above ground joined the children and favorites of the gods of Olympus and where harsh weather was never known and soft breezes forever refreshed the beautiful land. The other place was Tartarus, the awful region of the damned, who had committed crimes against the gods and were punished by tortures.
One inmate was Tantalus, son of Zeus, the father of the gods. He had betrayed his father’s secrets and was condemned to stand forever with water all round him and rich fruit just above his head. When he tried to eat and drink, both fruit and water drew away from him. From this story we get the word “tantalize”. Another prisoner was Ixion, father of the Centaurs, who was bound to a rolling, flaming wheel for the rest of time for attempting to win the love of Hera, sister and wife of Zeus.
Initially separate from the realm of Hades, admission was reserved for mortals related to the gods and other heroes. Later, it expanded to include those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic, where they would remain after death, to live a blessed and happy life, and indulging in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life.
The Elysian Fields were, according to Homer, located on the western edge of the Earth by the stream of Okeanos. In the time of the Greek oral poet Hesiod, Elysium would also be known as the Fortunate Isles or the Isles (or Islands) of the Blessed, located in the western ocean at the end of the earth. The Isles of the Blessed would be reduced to a single island by the Thebean poet Pindar, describing it as having shady parks, with residents indulging in athletic and musical pastimes.
The ruler of Elysium varies from author to author: Pindar and Hesiod name Cronus as the ruler, while the poet Homer in the Odysseydescribes fair-haired Rhadamanthus dwelling there.