Ever wondered from where the French got the name for their Champs-Élysées? Well, it was from the mythological Elysian Fields, a resting place for the souls of the heroic and the virtuous.
While most modern-day western religions are binary in their notions of the afterlife, Greek mythology had a wider range of rewards -and punishments- ready to meet you after you left this world. I guess it was good to know that if you were awesome in life, you would be rewarded better in the afterlife than the average Joe.
The Elysian Fields shared the Underworld with the Elysean Islands (resting place for the great heroes of myth), the Land of the Dead (common afterlife destination ruled by Hares) and the great pit of Tartarus (eternal jail for the damned souls).
And those that have three times kept to their oaths, Keeping their souls clean and pure, Never letting their hearts be defiled by the taint Of evil and injustice, And barbaric venality, They are led by Zeus to the end: To the palace of Kronos –Pindar (about the Elysian Islands)
A perfect land thought to exist in the northern region of Thrace (that’s where modern-day Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey share borders), where the sun shone twenty-four hours a day and people lived free of worries, sadness and disease (and for a thousand years). A perfect utopia.
It’s name means “beyond the boreas (the north winds)”. They worshipped the god Apollo, who made frequent visits, and gave presents to his temples.
Never the Muse is absent from their ways: lyres clash and flutes cry and everywhere maiden choruses whirling. Neither disease nor bitter old age is mixed in their sacred blood; far from labor and battle they live. – Pindar, Tenth Pythian Ode.
This place was, Pindar warns, as elusive as El Dorado itself:
Neither by ship nor on foot would you find the marvellous road to the assembly of the Hyperboreans.
Probably the most famous. Sometimes said to be a continent, sometimes an island. It was first mentioned in the works of Plato as a naval power that conquered part of Western Europe around 9600 BC (that’d be several millennia before the accounted beginning of civilization) and then sunk in the sea in one night after a failed attempt to invade Athens.
This one is different from the other on the list in that it has been thought to exist by many people, even in modern times. The Nazis led expeditions to the hypothetical locations of Atlantis in search of the origins of the Aryan race, and from time to time someone claims he’s found it’s location (it’s been “found” all around the world). However, most historians agree that Atlantis is a product of Plato’s imagination.
While Atlantis itself appears to be a work of fiction, a sunken city is not too much of an unrealistic notion. Sunken lands are a fact (tectonic plates move, folks), and in 1987 a rock formation speculated to be man-made or at least man-modified dating of 8.000 BC was found in the coasts of Japan (my fellow readers, remember not to jump to conclusions).
There’s a tall mountain in Greece called Olympus, a taller mountain in Mars called Olympus Mons and then there’s Mount Olympus. The top of the first mountain (the tall one) was said by the Greek to be the home of my favourite gods the human mind has created: the gods of Greek mythology.
Personally, if I had to pick a religion, I’d totally worship these guys. I don’t know why we changed them for the boring, monotheistic religions we have now in the western world. The Greek gods are much more balanced and interesting: there’s a god of war, a goddess of wisdom, a goddess of beauty, and so on. I haven’t read the full of the Bible (I quitted religion class when I was 11) but the adventures of the Christian god (creatively named “God”) and his worshippers weren’t as interesting as the ones of Apollo, Athena and the others. I guess it’s what happens when you put all the superpowers in the same hero (with the exception of Dr. Manhattan from the graphic novel Watchmen, who is awesome beyond words).
In Mount Olympus -whose castles at the top were sometimes said to be made of crystal- the Greek gods spent their time eating the most delicious of foods, drinking ambrosia, being amazed by their own awesomeness and planning the future fortunes and misfortunes of mankind. Now that’s an interesting place to visit. It turned out that when mankind decided to climb the mighty mountain, it’s top was unfortunately home to no things other than rocks and snow. Exploration’s got a bitter side sometimes.
That’d be all for today, fellow readers. Take care and say “please” and “thank you”, people will be pleased and will thank your kindness.