The Underworld was a place hidden deep underground where the souls of the dead went for eternity. It was ruled by Hades, the Greek god of the dead. Hades was said to be a greedy god, and his sole purpose was to collect souls for his kingdom and prevent them from ever leaving.
The Underworld was said to be surrounded by five rivers: the Acheron, the Cocytus, the Phlegeton, the Styx, and the Lethe. Of these five rivers, the Styx is perhaps the most well-known, as it was the river of unbreakable oath where the gods took their vows. Beyond the five rivers was the entrance to the Underworld itself. It was a diamond gate guarded by Cerberus, a three-headed watchdog that prevented anyone from leaving the kingdom.
When a person died, their soul was guided to the shores of the Acheron by Hermes, the messenger of the gods. Once a dead soul reached the Acheron, they were required to pay a fare to the ferryman Charon if they wanted to actually reach the Underworld. If they were unable to pay this fare, they would be stranded on the shore of the river, forever trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead. This is the reason why the ancient Greeks placed a coin on the lips of the dead during funerals. The dead would use this coin to pay their way into the Underworld.
Once they were in the Underworld, the dead souls would appear before a panel of judges who would sentence them according to their deeds in life. The virtuous and heroic souls were allowed to spend eternity in the pardise of the Elysian Fields. The evil souls were sent to a deep dungeon called Tartarus where they would be punished for eternity. Tartarus was said to be as far below the rest of the Underworld as the earth is below the heavens. It was also used as a prison for the Titans, the predecessors of the Greek gods.
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