Erebus: The Embodiment of Darkness

In Greek mythology, Erebus, or Erebos was often conceived as a primordial deity, representing the personification of darkness; for instance, Hesiod's Theogony places him as one of the first five beings to come into existence from Chaos.

Erebus features little in Greek mythological tradition and literature, but is said to have fathered several other deities by Nyx; depending on the source of the mythology, this union includes Aether, Hemera, the Hesperides, Hypnos, the Moirai, Geras, Styx, and Thanatos.

According to some later legends, Erebus was part of Hades, the underworld. It was where the dead had to pass immediately after dying. After Charon ferried them across the river Acheron, they entered Tartarus, the underworld proper. Erebus was often used as a synonym for Hades, the Greek god of the underworld. Also, Erebus was the name of the gloomy space through which souls passed on their way to Hades.

The meaning of the word Erebos (Ἔρεβος) is "darkness" or "gloom", referring to that of the Underworld. It derives from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁regʷ-os- ("darkness"), and is cognate with the Sanskrit rájas ("dark (lower) air, dust"), the Armenian erek ("evening"), the Gothic riqis, and the Old Norse røkkr ("dark, dust").

According to Mavrakis Stylianos, the phalanxes of the Epirotes and more specifically the forces of the Kingdom of Samaritan during the Greco-Persian war were characterized as erevo, due to the characteristics of each soldier, as the Epirotes used a helmet that covered their face and usually the their shields showed scenes from the underworld. The phrase "Every soldier from Samarina, of Erebus is the guard" has remained.

Personification of darkness
In a number of Greek cosmogonies, Erebus is described as one of the first beings to exist. In Hesiod's Theogony (late 8th century BC), which the Greeks considered the "standard" account of the origin of the gods, he is the offspring of Chaos, alongside Nyx (Night). In the first instance of sexual intercourse, he mates with Nyx, producing Aether and Hemera (Day), the pair of which represent the personified opposites of their parents. The Neoplatonist Damascius attributes to Acusilaus (6th century BC) a cosmogony in which Chaos is the first principle, after which comes Erebus and Night, and from this pair are then born Aether, Eros, and Metis.[9] The philosopher Philodemus records that in the work On the Gods by one "Satyros", Erebus is the first of five rulers of the gods, and is succeeded as sovereign by Chaos (though others have suggested this figure may be Eros). According to a hymn by the poet Antagoras (3rd century BC), one of the possible parentages of Eros is Erebus and Night.

Erebus also features in genealogies given by Roman authors. According to Cicero (1st century BC), Erebus and Nox (the Roman equivalent of Nyx) are the parents of Aether and Dies (Day), as well as Amor (Love), Dolus (Guile), Metus (Fear), Labor (Toil), Invidentia (Envy), Fatum (Fate), Senectus (Old Age), Mors (Death), Tenebrae (Darkness), Miseria (Misery), Querella (Lamentation), Gratia (Favour), Fraus (Fraud), Pertinacia (Obstinacy), the Parcae, the Hesperides, and the Somnia (Dreams). In the Fabulae by the Roman mythographer Hyginus (1st century BC/AD), Erebus is the offspring of Chaos and Caligo (Mist), alongside Dies (Day), Erebus (Darkness), and Aether. By Nox, he becomes the father of Fatum (Fate), Senectus (Old Age), Mors (Death), Letum (Destruction), Continentia (Strife), Somnus (Sleep), the Somnia (Dreams), Lysimeles (Thoughtfulness), Epiphron (Hedymeles), Porphyrion, Epaphus, Discordia (Discord), Miseria (Misery), Petulantia (Petulance), Nemesis, Euphrosyne (Cheerfulness), Amicitia (Friendship), Misericordia (Pity), Styx, the Parcae (Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos), and the Hesperides (Aegle, Hesperia, and Erythea).

In a cosmogony given by Aristophanes in his play The Birds (414 BC), which is often believed to be a parody of an Orphic theogony, Erebus is one of the first deities to exist, alongside Chaos, Night, and Tartarus. At the beginning of creation, Night lays a "wind-egg" in the "boundless bosom of Erebus", from which springs golden-winged Eros. In an Orphic theogony recorded by Damascius in his work De principiis (On First Principles), known as the Hieronyman Theogony (2nd century BC?), Erebus, alongside Aether and Chaos, is the offspring of Chronos (Time), who has the form of a serpent.

Name or region of the Underworld
The name "Erebus" is often used by ancient authors to refer either to the darkness of the Underworld, to the Underworld itself, or to the subterranean region which souls of the dead travel through to reach Hades, and it is sometimes used synonymously with Tartarus or Hades. Homer uses the term to refer to the Underworld: in the Odyssey, souls of the dead are described as "gather[ing] from out of Erebus", on the shore of Oceanus at the edge of the Earth, while in the Iliad Erebus is the location in which the Erinyes live, and from which Heracles must fetch Cerberus. In the Theogony, it is the subterraneous place to which Zeus casts the Titan Menoetius (here meaning either Tartarus or Hades), and from which he later brings up the Hecatoncheires. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Erebus is used to refer to Hades, the location in which the god Hades and his wife Persephone reside, while in Euripides' play Orestes, it is where the goddess Nyx lives. Later, in Roman literature, Ovid calls Proserpina the "queen of Erebus", and other authors use Erebus as a name for Hades.

Aristophanes, satirizing the Socratic philosophers, said that they: "erebodiphosin" (= they search in the dark).