What was the purpose of placing the coins over the eyes of the dead in Greek mythology?Im aware that placing the coin in the mouth was to pay your way into the underworld and ive been told the ones...

What was the purpose of placing the coins over the eyes of the dead in Greek mythology?

Im aware that placing the coin in the mouth was to pay your way into the underworld and ive been told the ones placed on the eyes are so they are not blind in the underworld but im not sure.

Asked on by hastings1

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kapokkid's profile pic

kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The greeks placed coins, usually coins called either an "obulus" or a "danake" to pay Charon, the boatman who would ferry the dead across the river Styx.  Without payment, there was a danger that the departed soul would be forced to stay on the shore of Hades for an undetermined length of time.

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thetall | (Level 3) Educator

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According to Greek mythology, when people died their souls moved to the underworld, also known as Hades. Hades had five rivers, one of which was named Styx, and dead souls had to cross it after departing the world of the living. The only way to do this was through a boat operated by Charon, an underworld spirit who served king Haides. Charon’s charge for this service was a single obolos (silver coin) which the Greek placed in the mouth of the deceased or on their eyes during burial. In the event that a deceased was not accorded due burial and so lacked the coin for Charon’s service, their soul was left wandering the river shore while tormenting the living on earth as ghosts. The coin was therefore placed in the mouth or on the eyes but for the same purpose; to pay Charon for transporting the dead souls to Hades.

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beardian | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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In Greek mythology, the recently deceased would be sent down to Hades, or the underworld.  In order to pass over the rivers Acheron and Styx, you would have to pay the toll- a coin, left in the mouth of your dead body.  Most primary sources about Hades mention specifically putting the coin in or near the mouth, although it seems that putting two gold coins (one over each eye) was also a method used occasionally.  If the dead were not buried with a coin in the mouth or on the eyes, he or she would be doomed to wander around in the entrance to Hades, before the rivers which served as a boundary.  Essentially, he or she would be in what the Christians call "limbo".

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writer-94's profile pic

writer-94 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

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Placing coins over the eyes is also to pay Charon to ferry the soul into the Underworld, as well as to keep the eyes closed.

iamkaori's profile picture

iamkaori | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 2) Salutatorian

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In Greek mythology, the Cocytus (river of lamentation) was a river that led to the gate to Tatarus. At the river, Charon ferried the souls of the dead across the water. These souls were only ferried if they were buried at death, and their eyes had the passage money placed on them. This money ensured that the dead's eyes were closed as well.

In other versions of mythology, however, I hear that the money was put on their lips.  

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