Charon was the ferryman in the Underworld who took the dead across the River Acheron or possibly Styx to the realm of Hades and received as payment the coin stuck under their tongues. In the Aeneid VI, Charon is depicted, dressed in clothing held by a knot on one shoulder, with a white beard and fiery eyes, pushing off the boat with a pole. Greek dramatists depict him as old, insatiable, and in a hurry. In art, he is sometimes showed as in his prime. He receives the dead, from Hermes the psychopomp, with his left hand and holds the pole in his right.
Although neither Homer nor Hesiod mentions Charon, he was probably a figure in folklore before them. The earliest literary references are from the 5th century, in the Minyad and Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes.
The Etruscans also had a Charon, although he is called Charun. Charun is gruesome, with hooked nose, flaming eyes, and animal ears, and sometimes wings. He carries a hammer. His functions are more varied than the Greek and Roman Charon, ferryman of the dead.
- "Charon, the Ferryman of the Dead," by Francis A. Sullivan. The Classical Journal, Vol. 46, No. 1 (Oct., 1950), pp. 11-17.
- "The Ferryman and His Fee: A Study in Ethnology, Archaeology, and Tradition," by L. V. Grinsell. Folklore, Vol. 68, No. 1 (Mar., 1957), pp. 257-269.
Hades' Realm in the Aeneid
A Goddess For Men (Hercules and Cerberus)
Charon's fee was originally one obol.