"Happy, delightful." The abode of the blessed in another world, where they enjoyed all manner of the purest pleasures. In the Homeric mythology the Elysian Fields lay on the western margin of the earth, by the stream of Oceanus, and to them the mortal relatives of the king of the gods were transported, without tasting of death, to enjoy an immortality of bliss.1 In the time of Hesiod, the Elysian Plains had become the Isles of the Blessed (μακάρων νῆσοι) in the Western Ocean.2 Pindar, who has left a glowing description of Elysium, appears to reduce the number of these happy islands to one. At a later day a change of religious ideas ensued, brought about by the increase of geographical knowledge, and Elysium was moved down to the lower world as the place of reward for the good.

The Vergilian conception respectingElysium made it a region blessed with perpetual spring, clothed with continual verdure, beautiful with flowers, shaded by pleasant groves, and refreshed by neverfailing fountains. Here the righteous lived in perfect felicity, communing with each other, bathed in a flood of light proceeding from their own sun, and with the sky at eve lighted up by their own constellations: solemque suum, sua sidera norunt.4 Their employments below resembled those on earth, and whatever had greatly engaged their attention in the upper world continued to be a source of innocent enjoyment in the world below.2



  1. Homer. Odyssey iv, 563.
  2. Opera et Dies, 171.
  3. Olympian Odes ii, 129.
  4. Virgil. Aeneid vi, 541.
  5. ibid. vi, 653.2. 5.

This article incorporates text from Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898) by Harry Thurston Peck, which is in the public domain.