In Greek mythology, Styx (Στυξ ) is the name of a river which formed the boundary between Earth and the Underworld, Hades. It circles Hades nine times. The rivers Styx, Phlegethon, Acheron and Cocytus all converge at the center of Hades on a great marsh. The other important rivers of Hades are Lethe and Eridanos.

Styx is guarded by Phlegyas, who passes the souls from one side to another of the river. In other versions, Phlegyas guards Phlegethon, another of the main rivers of Hades.

The gods respected the Styx and swore binding oaths by it. Zeus swore to give Semele whatever she wanted and was then obliged to follow through, resulting in her death. Helios similarly promised Phaƫton whatever he desired, also resulting in his death. Gods that did not follow through on such an oath had to drink from the river, causing them to lose their voices for nine years.

According to some versions, Styx had miraculous powers and could make someone immortal. Achilles may have been dipped in it in his childhood, acquiring invulnerability, with exception of his heel, which was held by his mother in order to submerge him. His exposed heel thus became known as Achilles' heel, a metaphor for a weak spot in modern meaning.

Styx was primarily a feature in the afterworld of Greek mythology, but has been described as a feature present in the hell of Christianity as well, notably in The Divine Comedy. The ferryman Charon is in modern times commonly believed to have transported the souls of the newly dead across this river into the underworld, though in the original Greek and Roman sources, as well as in Dante, it was the river Acheron that Charon plied. Dante put Phlegyas over the Styx and made it the fifth circle of Hell, where the wrathful and sullen are punished by being perpetually drowned in the muddy waters.

In ancient times the Styx was said to be the river that marked the boundary between the Ukraine and Russia, near the Ukrainian town of Kerch. Ukraine was on the side representing life, Russia on the side representing death.

Styx (mythology). (2006, November 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:07, November 26, 2006, from [link]

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