head foremost


Cocytus or Kokytos, meaning "the river of wailing" (from the Greek κωκυτός, "lamentation"), is a river in the underworld in Greek mythology. Cocytus flowed into the river Acheron, across which dwelled Hades, the mythological abode of the dead. There are five rivers encircling Hades. The River Styx is perhaps the most famous; the other rivers are Phlegethon, Lethe, and Acheron.

The Divine Comedy

In Inferno, the first cantica of Dante's The Divine Comedy, Cocytus is the ninth and lowest circle of Hell. Cocytus is referred to as a frozen lake rather than a river, although it originates from the same source as the other infernal rivers. The lake is frozen by the flapping wings of Lucifer, or Satan; his tears replenish the lake, and are then frozen by his attempts to escape via the wings. In the story, Dante meets Giovanni Bergioni. Dante describes Cocytus as being the home of traitors and those who committed acts of complex fraud. It is divided into four descending "rounds," or sections:

  • Caina, after the Biblical Cain; traitors to blood relatives.
  • Antenora, after Antenor from the Iliad; traitors to country.
  • Ptolomea, after Ptolemy, governor of Jericho, who murdered his guests (1 Maccabees); traitors to guests.
  • Judecca, after Judas Iscariot; traitors to masters and benefactors.

Lucifer is at the center of the circle with his lower body trapped in ice. He is depicted with three faces and mouths. The central mouth gnaws Judas. Judas is chewed head foremost with his feet protruding while those gnawed in the side mouths, Brutus and Cassius, leading assassins of Julius Caesar, are both chewed feet foremost with their heads protruding.

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