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Pagan Origin of Partialist Doctrines by Pitrat

At the gate of the Tartarus the frightful Tisiphon


Socrates, in the Phaedo of Plato, a work intended to prove the immortality of our soul, and the necessity of practicing virtue, speaks of the place where the souls go after death. He imagines a sort of ethereal land, superior to the one we inhabit, and situated in a sunnier region. There is nothing on our earth that can compare to the beauties of this wonderful abode. There colors are brighter, the vegetation richer; the trees, flowers and fruits are infinitely superior to those of our earth. There precious stones are so bright that those of our earth are but their shadow. This ethereal land is strewed with pearls of the purest crystal; everywhere gold and silver are dazzling. There beasts are more beautiful, and more perfectly organized than ours. There the air is the sea, and ether is the air. There seasons are so harmoniously combined, that the fortunate inhabitants are not subject to infirmities and to diseases. There the temples are inhabited by the gods themselves, who familiarly converse with men. The inmates of this delightful mansion are the only ones who see the sun, the moon, and the stars, as they truly are.

To this Socrates adds, that men, who, here below, distinguish themselves for their piety and exactitude in discharging their social duties, will be admitted in this abode of happiness when death destroys their mortal form. There all those whom philosophy has led to wisdom will dwell. Socrates concludes thus:

Then it is for us a strong inducement to study wisdom, and to practice virtue, while we are on earth. These expectations are high enough for us to risk the chances of this opinion, and not to break its charms.

This is a plain avowal of the motive of the fiction: such is the secret of nearly all legislators, and the deceitfulness of the most renowned philosophers.

The second part of the land of the dead, called Tartarus, the leaders of the people also minutely described. According to their description, this abode of the wicked presents the horrid view of precipices, caverns, and abysses, more frightful than those we see on earth. Those caverns communicate to each other in the profundities of the earth, through the medium of sinuosities vast and dark, and of subterraneous canals, in which waters flow; the ones cold, and the others warm: also in several of those canals flow torrents of fire, and in others the filthiest mire. The vastest of those caverns is in the center; and into it four main rivers ebb, to spring out again. The first is the Acheron, which forms beneath the earth a shoreless marsh, wherein the souls assemble. The second is the Pyriphlegeton, which rolls torrents of burning sulphur. The third is the Cocyte; and the fourth is the Styx.

In this horrible abode divine justice tortures the criminals. At the gate of the Tartarus the frightful Tisiphon, whose gown is reeking with blood, watches day and night. The gate is also defended by a strong tower, backed by three walls, which are surrounded by the burning waves of the Phlegeton river, that rolls huge stones on fire. There are incessantly heard the rattle of chains dragged by wretched victims; their groans; and the strokes of lashes that tear their flesh. There is seen an hydra with a hundred heads, whose mouths are ever gaping for new victims to be devoured. There a vulture is constantly feeding on the ever re-growing entrails of a criminal. Other victims carry a heavy rock to the summit of a mountain, where they must set it; but, vain are their efforts, it rolls down to the bottom of the valley. Other criminals, tied to a wheel, relentlessly revolving, are not permitted the slightest rest in their torture. Others, placed near refreshing waters, and near trees loaded with fruit, are ever devoured with unquenchable thirst and hunger. If they stoop to drink the water flies from their mouth, and a stinking mire sticks to their lips. If they lower a limb to cull a fruit, the limb slips from their hand.


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