The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Acheron

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2493324The Encyclopedia Americana — Acheron

ACHERON, àk′ẹ-ron, the ancient name of several rivers in Greece and Italy, all connected by legend with the lower world. The principal was a river of Thesprotia in Epirus, which passes through Lake Acherusia, receives the Cocytus (Vuvó), and flows into the Ionian Sea south of the promontory of Chimerium, at Glycys Limen or Elæa, now Port Fanari. At one part its course lies between mountains rising precipitously to the hight of 3,000 feet. The name is also given to a river of Elis, a tributary of the Alpheus, and to a small river of Bruttium, in Italy, near Pandosia (location uncertain), near which Alexander of Epirus fell in battle against the Lucanians and Bruttians (326 b.c.). Their legendary celebrity appears to have been originally due to the Acheron in Thesprotia. This country being regarded by the Greeks as the end of the world in the West, they supposed the entrance to the lower world to be here. As this district became better known, the legendary river was placed elsewhere, and finally transferred to the lower regions. In Homer, Acheron is represented as a river of Hades. According to later traditions a son of Helios and Gæa or Demeter, who bore this name, was changed into an infernal river as a punishment for giving drink to the Titans during their war with Zeus. The Etruscans are said to have worshipped Acheron. The name of Acheron was ultimately used in a poetic or figurative way to designate the whole of the lower world.