In Greek mythology, a river of the underworld. The name comes from a Greek word that denotes both hatred and extreme cold, and it expresses loathing of death. In the epics of Homer, the gods swore by the water of Styx as their most binding oath. Hesiod personified Styx as the daughter of Oceanus and the mother of Emulation, Victory, Power, and Might. The ancients believed that its water was poisonous and would dissolve any vessel except one made of the hoof of a horse or an ass.
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In Greek mythology, the "River Styx" (Greek: Στύξ also meaning hate, detest) was 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 was guarded by Phlegyas, who passes the souls from one side to another of the river. In other versions, Phlegyas guarded Phlegethon, one of the other main rivers of Hades. Sometimes the ferryman was called Charon.
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 Phaëton 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/invulnerable. 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.
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 and also "Paradise Lost". 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 drowned in the muddy waters for eternity.
The adjective Stygian means "of or relating to the River Styx", and may also refer to anything that is dark and dismal.