Charon (Kharon) was the ferryman of Hades. Those who passed away would have to cross the rivers Styx and Acheron to reach the underworld, and Charon would take them on this journey. His fee for carrying the dead across the rivers to the underworld was a single coin, usually an obolus or danake. This coin was placed in the mouth of the deceased prior to burial. Many myths tell of heroes such as Odysseus, Dionysus, and Theseus journeying to the underworld and returning to the world of the living in Charon’s ferry.
• In Greek art, Charon is depicted as wearing a conical hat and tunic. He typically stands in his boat holding a pole. He has a crooked nose, a beard, and is very ugly.
• In most Greek literary sources, the river of the underworld is referred to as Acheron. Roman poets and other literary sources call the river Styx. Charon is associated with both rivers and serves them as ferryman, regardless of the name.
• While neither the obolus nor the danake was very valuable, the coins did represent that proper funeral rites had been performed for the deceased. Those who could not pay Charon’s fee or were buried without a coin were said to have wandered the banks of Acheron for a hundred years, haunting it as ghosts.
• Hermes would escort newly deceased souls to the River Acheron where Charon would wait for them on the banks. Once their fare had been paid, Charon would carry the soul across the river and into Hades’ realm. There they would face judgement for how they would spend the afterlife, either in in Elysium and the Elysian Fields or in the depths of Tartarus.
• Although he is a deity in the underworld of Hades, Charon is also often referred to as a spirit or a demon.
• Charon is the child of Nyx (Night) and Erebus (Darkness), both primordial gods. His existence predates that of even Zeus. Many other dark figures can be counted among Charon’s siblings, such as Nemesis, Eris, Thanatos, and Geras.
• While often portrayed as an old and ugly man, Charon was quite strong and wielded the pole of his ferry like a weapon, ensuring that those who had not paid his fee did not make it aboard.
• Some figures, such as Orpheus, were able to charm Charon into granting them passage with other forms of payment rather than a coin. Heracles (Hercules), however, forced Charon to transport him without payment. Charon was punished by Hades for allowing Heracles entrance into the underworld, and he was sentenced to a year in chains.
• The largest moon of Pluto is named Charon after the Greek ferryman.
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