Erebus was one of the oldest ancient Greek gods. He was one of the first five of the well-known Greek pantheon that includes Hera, Zeus, and Aphrodite. Erebus was one of the sons of the first goddess Chaos or Khaos. In mythology, his most common mistress was the goddess Nyx. One of his other sisters was Gaia, the goddess of the Earth. One of his brothers was Eros, the god of love.
Erebus was the father of many gods and goddesses, including Aether, Hypnos (Sleep,) and Thanatos (Death.) According to the Roman author Hyginus, Erebus was also the father of Geras, the god of old age.
Erebus was the Greek god of the Underworld and his name meant “place of darkness between earth and Hades.” His name was often used to refer to part of the Greek Underworld where the spirits of the dead pass after the leave the living bodies. This place was also sometimes called Tartarus. Tartarus was the place where Zeus sent the Titans after he defeated them.
The Underworld was important to the ancient Greeks because it was a place where the spirits or souls of the dead were cared for. It was seen as a place that could be visited by Heroes such as Hercules. The dead spirits kept their earthly shapes and could speak for themselves. The Underworld was generally invisible to the living.
Erebus was credited with finishing the Underworld after the gods created Earth. He did this by filling in the empty places with dark mists. Nyx used Erebus’ dark mists to bring night to earth. The Greek poets referred to this as the “Veil of Night.” Erebus and Nyx’s daughter, Hemera, was charged with burning off the dark mists to bring about dawn. In ancient Greek and Roman mythology, Hemera is sometimes confused with both the goddesses Hera and Eos. In some stories, Erebus, Nyx, and Hemera are referred to as spirits rather than gods. Hemera’s Roman name was Dies, the Day.
Erebus should not be confused with Hades, the brother of Zeus and Poseidon. Hades inherited the third realm when the world was divided into kingdoms by the three brothers. He was the god who presided over funerals. Hades was also the god of the earth, the fertile fields, mining, and metals such as silver and gold.
Erebus and Hades differ in that Erebus is more often referred to in the old stories as a spirit whereas Hades had more human characteristics.
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