Tartarus of Greek Mythology: Definition & Explanation

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we explore the mythological pit of Tartarus. An ancient prison far below even the underworld, Tartarus was populated by the worst deities the immortal world had to offer.

Worse Than Prison

For most Americans, prison is a pretty scary place. Full of cells with barred doors, armed guards, and food that would make your high school cafeteria look like a 5-star restaurant, America's prisons are used to house our most dangerous and destructive members of society.

A normal prison like ours, however, would do little to contain the gods, monsters, and Titans of ancient Greek mythology. In order to protect Greece and the rest of Earth from the worst of the immortal world, the Greeks had Tartarus, a pit so low that the Greek historian Hesiod claimed it would take an anvil ten days falling from Earth to reach Tartarus!

What Was Tartarus?

The pit of Tartarus - as one might guess from Hesiod's measurements above - was the lowest region of the world in the Greek model. According to myth, it was walled in impenetrable bronze and its bronze gates were guarded by giants each with 100 hands.

Tartarus was where the worst ancient deities were held. For example, when Zeus and his siblings defeated the Titans, the Titans were chained in the pit.

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