Most Famous Punishments in Tartarus


The Fall of the Titans by Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem (1596–1598)

In Greek mythology, Tartarus is a place of punishment for the most wicked beings. It is described as a deep abyss located beneath the underworld, where divine retribution is carried out. The punishments inflicted upon individuals in Tartarus vary depending on their specific crimes or transgressions against the Greek gods.

Some of the famous punishments in Tartarus include:

  1. Sisyphus: He is condemned to roll a boulder uphill, only to have it roll back down when he nears the top. This task is repeated for eternity, symbolizing the futility and endless repetition of his actions.
  2. Tantalus: He is forever tormented by the proximity of food and water that he cannot reach. The fruits and water recede whenever he tries to partake, leaving him eternally hungry and thirsty.
  3. Ixion: This figure in Greek mythology is believed to be bound to a fiery wheel that spins endlessly. This punishment serves as a consequence for his attempted seduction of the goddess Hera and betrayal of his benefactor.
  4. The Danaids: These fifty daughters of Danaus are tasked with eternally filling leaky jars with water. Their punishment is a result of their murder of their husbands, which goes against the sacred institution of marriage.
  5. The Titans: Many of the Titans, including Cronos (i.e. leader of the Titans), who revolted against the Olympian gods are imprisoned in Tartarus. They are held captive in the deepest depths of the abyss, serving as a punishment for their cruelty and unjust rule and oppression of the Olympians.
Residents of Tartarus in Greek mythology

Greek goddess and queen of the Underworld Persephone supervising Sisyphus in the Underworld, Attic black-figure amphora, c. 530 BC

The punishments in Tartarus are characterized by their eternal nature and their symbolic representation of the wrongdoer’s transgressions against the Greek Olympians. They serve as a form of divine justice and retribution for those who defied the authority of the gods or committed heinous acts.

Some Greek mythologists opine that the concept of punishment in Tartarus underscores the moral and ethical principles upheld in Greek mythology and serves as a cautionary reminder of the consequences of hubris and defiance against the divine order.


Fall of the Titans – Oil on canvas by Flemish painter Jacob Jordaens, 1638.


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