Charon (mythology)

   Charon, in classical mythology, the ferryman whose duty it was to trans­port the souls of the dead over the rivers of the lower world. Charon was the son of Erebus and Nox. He is described as an old man, gloomy and sad of countenance, with a matted beard and squalid clothing.
   Lucian, a Greek writer of the second century, in his Dialogues of the Dead, rep­resents the souls of the dead as offering Charon excuses for delaying their passage across the stream from which there is no return. In Ben Jonson's tragedy, Cati­line, so many souls are represented as seek­ing passage at one time in Charon's boat that
The rugged Charon fainted,
And asked a navy rather than a boat,
To ferry over the sad world that came.

   Charon is represented by some writers as bearing the souls first over the Acheron, then over the Cocytus, and lastly over the Styx. In the sixth book of the Aeneid, Aeneas descends to the lower world with his guide, and finds Charon on the shores of the river Acheron, where it empties into the Cocytus. Virgil does not keep the riv­ers distinct, however, for Aeneas is taken across the "Stygian flood" in Charon's boat.
   Charon's fee was a small coin—an obolus or a danace which, at the time of burial, was placed in the mouth of the deceased.