Hellish Persons

Part of the King’s College London Arts & Humanities Festival 2014: Underground

Hellish Persons: personifications of the underworld from antiquity to the present.

Hades, Sheol, and hell are different kinds of underworld, ranging from shadowy cold realms of the dead to fiery places of punishment. Over the centuries, they have also been imagined as persons with distinctive motivations and identities. This event will explore the varied ways in which poets, artists, philosophers and theologians from classical antiquity to the present day have represented the underworld as a person, whether as a god (Hades, Pluto, Orcus), as a personification of the underworld, or as the Judaeo-Christian Lord of hell.

Four short talks will explore ideas of hellish persons in four different periods and areas. Emmanuela Bakola will begin by examining personifications of Hades in the classical Greek tradition; Emily Pillinger will then investigate the Roman expressions of this figure. Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe will explore the Christian Sheol/Hades of late antiquity and the early middle ages, and David Ricks will consider the figure of Charos in modern Greek poetry.

Our panellists will ask what such personifications reveal about their authors and societies. What hopes and anxieties about death, suffering, and judgment are suggested by these images and ideas? What differences were there between the demeanour of male Hades and female Sheol? And how were the rulers of hell thought to relate to the other inhabitants of the underworld, whether as judge, monarch, comrade, or antagonist?

Emmanuela Bakola, Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, Department of Classics
Emily Pillinger, Lecturer, Department of Classics and Liberal Arts
Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe, Senior Lecturer, Department of Classics
David Ricks, Professor, Centre for Hellenic Studies

Ben Quash, Professor, Thepartment of Theology and Religious Studies

The presentations will be followed by a half-hour panel discussion and question-and-answer session.

Presented by Department of Classics, Department of Theology & Religious Studies and the Centre for Hellenic Studies.

Image: Courtesy of King’s College London