From Alkestis to Archidike: Thessalian Attitudes to Death and the Afterlife
Round Trip to Hades in the Eastern Mediterranean Tradition. Visits to the Underworld from Antiquity to Byzantium
The aim of the chapter is to offer a regional perspective on the issue of Underworld journeys in Antiquity by tracing Thessalian attitudes to Hades from the Classical to the Hellenistic period. What do we know of the beliefs regarding the Underworld in Thessaly, a land where one of the most famous and successful katabaseis occurred? Our starting point will be the most famous Thessalian ‘round trip’ to Hades, that of Alkestis, portrayed through Athenian eyes in Euripides’ tragedy and Plato. This will allow us to discuss eschatological beliefs reflected in fifth-century bce Athenian literary works and address some of the stereotypes about Thessaly, as both are linked to the questions under discussion. We will then turn to Thessaly itself and exam- ine a variety of relevant evidence pertaining to cults of deities linked with passages and human destiny, the gold lamellae from Pherai and Pharsalos, funerary epigrams from the region echoing themes attested in the lamellae or revealing a concern with or a belief in the possibility of a blessed afterlife or for a ‘round trip to the Underworld’ and last but not least, the evidence from contemporary Thessalian necropoleis. As will be seen, the Thessalian evidence, although of a complex and often disparate nature, is suggestive of a heightened interest in the safe journey to the Underworld or a blessed afterlife.
Thessaly, Greek Religion, funerary customs