Lethe: Wikis


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In Greek mythology, Lethe (Λήθη; Classical Greek /ˈlεːt̪ʰεː/, modern Greek: Template:IPA-elˈliθi) was one of the five rivers of Hades. Also known as the Ameles potamos (river of unmindfulness), the Lethe flowed around the cave of Hypnos and through the Underworld, where all those who drank from it experienced complete forgetfulness. Lethe was also the name of the Greek spirit of forgetfulness and oblivion, with whom the river was often identified.

In Classical Greek, the word Lethe literally means "oblivion," "forgetfulness," or "concealment". It is related to the Greek word for "truth", aletheia (αλήθεια), meaning "un-forgetfulness" or "un-concealment".





Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, was one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld, the other four being Styx (the river of hate), Akheron (the river of sorrow), Kokytos (the river of lamentation) and Phlegethon (the river of fire). According to Statius, it bordered Elysium, the final resting place of the virtuous. Ovid wrote that the river flowed through the cave of Hypnos, god of sleep, where its murmuring would induce drowsiness.[1]

The shades of the dead were required to drink the waters of the Lethe in order to forget their earthly life. In the Aeneid, Virgil writes that it is only when the dead have had their memories erased by the Lethe that they may be reincarnated.[2]


Lethe was also the name of the personification of forgetfulness and oblivion, with whom the river was often associated. Hesiod's Theogony identifies her as the daughter of Eris ("strife") and sister of Ponos ("toil"), Limos ("starvation"), the Algea ("pains"), the Hysminai ("fightings"), the Makhai ("battles"), the Phonoi ("murders"), the Androktasiai ("man-slaughters"), the Neikea ("quarrels"), the Pseudologoi ("lies"), the Amphillogiai ("disputes"), Dysnomia ("lawlessness"), Atë ("ruin"), and Horkos ("oath").[3]

Role in religion and philosophy

Some ancient Greeks believed that souls were made to drink from the river before being reincarnated, so they would not remember their past lives. The Myth of Er at the end of Plato's Republic tells of the dead arriving at the "plain of Lethe", through which the river Ameles ("careless") runs. A few mystery religions taught the existence of another river, the Mnemosyne; those who drank from the Mnemosyne would remember everything and attain omniscience. Initiates were taught that they would receive a choice of rivers to drink from after death, and to drink from Mnemosyne instead of Lethe. These two rivers are attested in several verse inscriptions on gold plates dating to the 4th century BC and onward, found at Thurii in Southern Italy and elsewhere throughout the Greek world. There were rivers of Lethe and Mnemosyne at the oracular shrine of Trophonius in Boeotia, from which worshippers would drink before making oracular consultations with the god. More recently, Martin Heidegger used "lēthē" to symbolize the "concealment of Being" or "forgetting of Being" that he saw as a major problem of modern philosophy. Examples are found in his books on Nietzsche (Vol 1, p. 194) and on Parmenides.

Real rivers

The River Lethe in Alaska.

Amongst authors in Antiquity, the tiny Limia River between Northern Portugal and Galicia (Spain) was said to have the same properties of memory loss as the legendary Lethe River. In 138 BC, the Roman general Decimus Junius Brutus sought to dispose of the myth, as it impeded his military campaigns in the area. He was said to have crossed the Limia and then called his soldiers on the other side, one by one, by name. The soldiers, astonished that their general remembered their names, crossed the river as well without fear. This act proved that the Limia was not as dangerous as the local myths described. In Alaska, a river which runs through the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is called River Lethe.

See also


  1. ^ "LETHE : Greek goddess of the underworld river of oblivion ; mythology". http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/PotamosLethe.html. Retrieved 02-06-2010. 
  2. ^ Day-Lewis, Cecil (trans.) (1952). Virgil's Aeneid. pp. 705. 
  3. ^ Evelyn-White, H.G. (trans.) (1914). The Theogony of Hesiod. pp. 226. http://www.sacred-tests.com/cla/hesiod/theogony.htm. 

External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

by Clark Ashton Smith

Translated "from the French of Charles Pierre Baudelaire"

Cruel and deaf, come to my heart again,
O indolent sphinx, tigress that I adore!
Long, long my trembling fingers would explore
The dense and heavy darkness of thy mane;

And in thy skirts, a perfume-laden pall,
I would enshroud this ever-aching head,
The musty sweetness of my passion dead
Like faded flowers breathed amid the fall.

For I would sleep, rather than live, alas!
Doubtful as death that all-desired slumber
Where unremorseful kisses without number
Will cover thy beautiful body polished like brass.

Unequalled in thy couch, that soft abyss,
To engulf the sighs and sobbings of my drouth;
Potent oblivion dwells upon thy mouth
And Lethe flows full-fountained in thy kiss.

To this my doom, a prisoner innocent,
The docile, destined martyr of desire,
I yield, and all my ardor fans the fire
And wrath of my undying punishment.

I will drink, to drown my rancor ere it start,
Hemlock benign and balms of sleep and rest
From the keen, delightful nipples of thy breast
That never held, nor will ever hold, a heart.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LETHE (" Oblivion"), in Greek mythology, the daughter of Eris (Hesiod, Theog. 227) and the personification of forgetfulness. It is also the name of a river in the infernal regions. Those initiated in the mysteries were taught to distinguish two streams in the lower world, one of memory and one of oblivion. Directions for this purpose, written on a gold plate, have been found in a tomb at Petilia, and near Lebadeia, at the oracle of Trophonius, which was counted an entrance to the lower world, the two springs Mnemosyne and Lethe were shown (Pausanias ix. 39.8). This thought begins to appear in literature in the end of the 5th century B.C., when Aristophanes (Frogs, 186) speaks of the plain of Lethe. Plato (Rep. x.) embodies the idea in one of his finest myths.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun




  1. (Greek mythology) Personification of "Oblivion", daughter of Eris, is one of the rivers which flow through Underworld. The souls of the dead had to drink from it to forget their past lives spent on earth.




From Ancient Greek Λήθη (lethe) meaning "forgetfulness".

Proper noun

Lēthē (genitive Lēthēs); f, first declension (Greek)

  1. (Greek mythology) the river Lethe, the river of oblivion

Derived terms


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Lethe verma


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Protostomia
Cladus: Ecdysozoa
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Hexapoda
Classis: Insecta
Cladus: Dicondylia
Cladus: Pterygota
Cladus: Metapterygota
Cladus: Neoptera
Cladus: Eumetabola
Cladus: Endopterygota
Superordo: Panorpida
Cladus: Amphiesmenoptera
Ordo: Lepidoptera
Subordo: Glossata
Infraordo: Heteroneura
Divisio: Ditrysia
Sectio: Cossina
Subsection: Bombycina
Superfamilia: Papilionoidea
Series: Papilioniformes
Familia: Nymphalidae
Subfamilia: Satyrinae
Tribus: Elymniini
Subtribus: Lethina
Genus: Lethe
Species: L. alberta - L. berdievi - L. bhairava - L. camilla - L. chandica - L. confusa - L. diana - L. distans - L. dura - L. europa - L. gemina - L. goalpara - L. gulnihal - L. hecate - L. huongii - L. insana - L. kansa - L. kazuichiroi - L. kondoi - L. konkakini - L. kouleikouzana - L. lanaris - L. latiaris - L. marginalis - L. mekara - L. melisana - L. minerva - L. naga - L. nicetas - L. ocellata - L. philemon - L. philesana - L. philesanoides - L. rohria - L. sicelis - L. siderea - L. sidonis - L. sinorix - L. sura - L. syrcis - L. umedai - L. verma - L. vindhya - L. violaceopicta


Lethe Hübner, [1819]


  • Yoshino, K., 2008: New species and new subspecies of Lethe from Myanmar, China and Vietnam. Futoa 54: 9-15.

Vernacular names

日本語: ヒカゲチョウ属


Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Lethe on Wikimedia Commons.


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