Blessed Isles, or Isles of the Blessed – According to Hesiod, this is the afterlife paradise for the dead favored by the Greek gods.
Some believe the idea was influenced by optimistic Minoan beliefs. Previously in Greece the next world had been predominantly conceived of as Hades, a sort of gloomy underworld.
In Homer‘s epic verse the Elysian Plain is filled with supreme joy, located at the end of the world, aside the River Oceanus. In early times, only heroes blessed by the gods gained the immortality of Elysium. But for Hesiod, Elysium is for all blessed dead—as opposed to the cursed.
Pindar too believes that all the righteous on earth achieve this happy abode, while Plutarch clearly links the Blessed Isles to the Elysian Fields.
Where the air was never extreme, which for rain had a little silver dew, which of itself and without labour, bore all pleasant fruits to their happy dwellers, till it seemed to him that these could be no other than the Fortunate Islands, the Elysian Fields.¹
Plato sees it as a region where the good soul awaits its next incarnation. In the general poetic sense, Elysium or the Elysian fields refers to a place or mindset filled with wonder, lasting contentment and bliss.
Ptolemy mentions the Blessed Isles as reference points in his discussion about longitude. And right up to the Middle Ages they continued to figure in texts concerning the Prime Meridian.
Wikipedia lists related Isles, in several mythic frameworks, where the dead may live for an extended period or for eternity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortunate_Isles
¹ Plutarch, Life of Sertorius, ch. viii., cited at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortunate_Isles.
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