The myth of the ancient underworld is much like the myth of the lost paradise and it is believed to be true in many cultures. Hell, the Christian version of the myth and Sheol, the Jewish variant, are very familiar in Western society, but the Greeks, Egyptians, and Maya all believed in their own version of this myth.
Ignatius Donnelly, populist writer, and amateur scientist, known primarily for his theories concerning Atlantis, Catastrophism, suggested that this myth is telling us about a physical place on Earth, which could be below the level of other lands and so, is referred to the underworld.
The Greeks believed that the underworld was very much a real place in the far west and that very few could rest there after death. Hesiod placed the underworld in Oceanus, or the Atlantic Ocean and called it Hades.
Location Of The Ancient Underworld
Hades has always been seen as an underworld by the ancient Greeks and the present day scholars. Might be the land was beneath our feet, or it might have been on a lower level that was not seen by many. The English words ‘elevation’ and ‘altitude’ are referred to describe the height of the land. One assumption was that this underworld is above sea level, but then it was also argued that according to the word ‘underworld’ it could have been below sea level.
There are several advantages to this interpretation of the underworld. Firstly, there is strong evidence suggesting that a dry and habitable, below-sea-level basin did exist contemporaneously with behaviorally modern man, namely the Caribbean. Secondly, the Caribbean is exactly where the Ancient Greeks placed the underworld – somewhere in the remote west, across the Atlantic Ocean, for Ulysses was said to have “reached the far confines of Oceanus,” or the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in his odyssey to the underworld. Thirdly, I shall demonstrate that an underworld that is a below-sea-level basin instead of an underground realm naturally and elegantly accounts for the transformation of Hades from a land of the living to the land of the dead. Finally, the Caribbean Basin contains within it a trench that strongly resembles a certain primordial abyss that features prominently in many Greek myths.
Hades: The Land Of Life And The Land Of Death
A myth of Greece, the Odyssey, claims that Hades was a land of spirits while in some other stories, it is described as an abode of living. For example, in the myth about the war between the Titan and the Olympians, Zeus, son of Cronus imprisoned the defeated Titans in Tartarus. This version of Hades does not mention any spirit, ghost, or shades.
Also, in another myth, Persephone, Hades is portrayed as a real and physical land, suitable for habitation, instead of as a land of the dead, where the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, Persephone, was carried off by Hades and made his queen, and apparently she would spend part of the year with Hades in the underworld and the rest of the year with her mother Demeter on Mount Olympus.
One possibility could be that the change of Hades from being an abode of living to the abode of dead, was because of a real change in physical realm. If the Caribbean and The Hades were the same, a land of living, converted to a land of dead, apparently following a cataclysm. Over time, the souls that perished in this cataclysm was forgotten, and Hades became corrupted into the final resting place of all souls.
Even if it is believed that the Hades was below sea level, it can’t be confirmed that the Hesiod was talking about the Caribbean basin. Also, he claimed that to reach Hades it would take nine days when dropped from Earth, and another nine days to Tartarus. Also, in the Iliad, Zeus claimed that Tartarus is as far beneath Hades as heaven is above the earth.
The Cayman Trench in the Caribbean reaches a maximum depth of over 25,000 feet, whereas the average depth of the Caribbean Basin is just over 7,000 feet. The great philosopher, Plato, also described the abyss and a chasm on Earth. The Ancient Greeks and Phoenicians claimed that the Gardens of the Hesperides, like Hades, was also located in the remote West that closely resembles the geography of the Caribbean Basin. A dry Caribbean Basin could have existed only if there would have been a giant natural Earthen dam that kept a the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans at Bay.
When Christopher Columbus set foot on the South American mainland on his third voyage near the mouth of the Orinoco River, he believed that he had found the Garden of Eden, or may be Hades itself.