size: 26'x38" (33"x52" with frame)

In early Greek cosmogony TARTAROS was the great pit beneath the earth. The cosmos was imagined as a great sphere or ovoid, with the upper half of its shell formed by the dome of heaven, and the lower half by the pit of Tartaros. Inside, this cosmic sphere was divided in two by the flat disc of earth. Above was the dwelling place of gods and men, and below was the gloomy, storm-wracked prison of the Titanes.

Haides, the realm of the dead, was originally quite distinct from the pit of Tartaros. The Hadean realm was located either at the very ends of the earth, beyond the river Okeanos and the setting of the sun; or in the hollow depths of earth's belly. Tartaros on the other hand, lay as far beneath Haides (i.e. beneath the deepest recesses of the flat earth) as the sky lay above the earth.

Tartaros was secured with a surrounding wall of bronze set with a pair of gates, guarded by the hundred-handed Hekatonkheir giants, warders of the Titanes.

Through the gates of Tartaros passed Nyx (goddess of the Night) who emerged to wrap the earth in darkness, and also her daughter Hemera (Day), who scattered the mists of night.

The Pit sired a child, Typhoeus, a monstrous serpentine storm-giant who attempted to seize heaven. Zeus vanquished the creature and cast it back down into the Pit. From Typhoeus came hurricanes and storm-winds, which issued forth from Tartaros when Zeus commanded the gates be opened.

The protogenos (or primordial deity) of the Pit was Tartaros, a figure who unlike his agemates Gaia (the Earth) and Ouranos (the Sky) scarcely figures in myth. These ancient deities were purely elemental, Tartaros, for example, was the pit, rather than simply the god of it.

Later classical writers reimagined Tartaros as the hellish prison-house of the damned, conflating it with Homer's Hadean chamber of torments. This realm is treated on a separate page : Tartaros, the Dungeon of the Damned.


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