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A deity of the lower world, son of Erebus and Nyx, who conducted the souls of the dead in a boat over the river Acheron to the infernal regions. The sum exacted for this service, from each of the shades ferried over by him, was never less than an obolus, nor could it exceed three. A piece of money, therefore, was generally placed by the ancients under the tongue of the deceased, in order to meet this necessary demand. Such as had not been honoured with a funeral were not permitted to enter Charon 's boat without previously wandering on the shore for one hundred years. If any living person presented himself to cross the river of the dead, he could not be admitted into the bark before he showed Charon a golden bough, obtained from the Cumaean sibyl; and the ferryman was on one occasion imprisoned for an entire year because he had, though against

Charon. (Stackelberg.)

his own will, conveyed Heracles across the stream without first receiving from him this necessary passport. The poets have represented Charon as a robust old man, of a severe though animated countenance, with eyes glowing like flame, a white and bushy head, vestments of a dingy colour, stained with the mire of the stream, and with a pole for the direction of his bark, which last is of a dark rusty hue.

The earliest mention of Charon in Grecian poetry seems to be in the ancient poem of the Minyas, quoted by Pausanias (x. 28). The fable itself is considered by some to be of Egyptian origin, and in support of this opinion they refer to the account of Diodorus Siculus relative to the statements made by the Egyptian priests. The latter asserted, it seems, that Orpheus and Homer had both learned wisdom on the banks of the Nile; and that the Erebus of Greece, and all its parts, personages, and usages, were but transcripts of the mode of burial in Egypt; and here the corpse was, on payment of an obolus, conveyed by a ferryman (named Charon in the language of Egypt) over the Acherusian Lake after it had received its sentence from the judges appointed for that pur

Charon , Hermes or Mercury, and Soul. (From a Roman lamp.)



One of the earlier Greek historical writers, a native of Lampsacus, supposed to have flourished between the seventy-fifth and seventyeighth Olympiads, about B.C. 464. Charon continued the researches of Hecataeus into Eastern ethnography. He wrote (as was the custom of the historians of his day) separate works upon Persia, Libya, Aethiopia, etc. He also subjoined the history of his own time, and he preceded Herodotus in narrating the events of the Persian War, although Herodotus nowhere mentions him. From the fragments of his writings which remain, it is manifest that his relation to Herodotus was that of a dry chronicler to an historian, under whose hands everything acquires life and character. Charon wrote, besides, a chronicle of his own country, as several of the early historians did, who were thence called “Horographers” (ὧροι, corresponding to the Latin annales, ought not to be confounded with ὅροι, termini, limites). The fragments of Charon have been collected by Kreuzer, in his Historicorum Graecorum Antiquissimorum Fragmenta, p. 89 foll.; and by Müller, Frag. Histor. Graec. (Paris, 1841).

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