Personification of darkness
AbodeThe underworld
Personal information
OffspringAether, Hemera, the Keres, Thanatos, Hypnos, the Oneiroi, Momus, Oizys, the Hesperides, the Moirai, Nemesis, Apate, Philotes, Geras, Eris, Styx, Dolos, Ponos, Euphrosyne, Epiphron, Continentia, Petulantia, Misericordia, Pertinacia, Charon

In Greek mythology and Roman mythology, Erebus (/ˈɛrɪbəs/;[1] Ancient Greek: Ἔρεβος, romanizedÉrebos, "deep darkness, shadow"),[2] or Erebos, is the personification of darkness and one of the primordial deities. Hesiod's Theogony identifies him as one of the first five beings in existence, born of Chaos.


The perceived meaning of Erebus is "darkness"; the first recorded instance of it was "place of darkness between earth and Hades". The name Ἔρεβος itself originates from Proto-Indo-European *h₁regʷ-es/os- "darkness"[3][4] (cf. Sanskrit rájas, Gothic riqis, Old Norse røkkr).[2]


The Greek oral poet Hesiod's Theogony (8th century BCE) portrays Erebus as the offspring of Chaos,[5] and as the brother of Nyx (Night), by whom he is the father of Aether (Brightness) and Hemera (Day).[6]

According to the Fabulae of Hyginus, Erebus, Nox (Night), Aether (Brightness), and Dies (Day) are the offspring of Chaos and Caligine (Mist); and Erebus, by Nox, is the father of Fate, Old age, Death, Destruction, Strife, Sleep, Dreams, Thoughtfulness, Hedymeles, Porphyrion, Epaphus, Discord, Misery, Petulance, Nemesis, Cheerfulness, Friendship, Pity, Styx, the Parcae (Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos), and the Hesperides (Aegle, Hesperia, and Erythea).[7]

In Cicero's De Natura Deorum, the following are "fabled" to be the children of Erebus and Nox (Night): Aether, Dies (Day), 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 Fates), the Hesperides, and the Somnia (Dreams).[8]

A cosmogony attributed to Alcman (fl. 7th century BCE) apparently makes Erebus the fourth being to come into existence, after Thetis, Poros, and Tekmor.[9]

In Aristophanes' comedy The Birds, Chaos, Erebus, Nyx, and Tartarus were the first beings, before the existence of earth, air, or heaven.[10] Nyx "laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebus", from which came Eros.[11] Aether is also called the son of Erebus.[12]

Erebus functions as the unanthropomorphized personification of darkness in the Theogony, and features little in Greek mythological tradition and literature. Though he plays no active role as a deity in later works, "Erebus" is used as a name for a region of the Greek underworld where the dead pass immediately after dying, and is sometimes used interchangeably with Tartarus.[13][14][15][16][17]


Five ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Erebus after Erebus.

Mount Erebus, the second-highest volcano in Antarctica, was named after HMS Erebus used by Sir James Clark Ross on his Antarctic expedition in 1841, later used in the ill-fated Franklin Expedition.


  1. ^ Wells, John C. (2008), Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.), Longman, ISBN 9781405881180
  2. ^ a b Ἔρεβος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  3. ^ R. S. P. Beekes, p. 451.
  4. ^ Harper, Douglas. "Online Etymology Dictionary: Erebus". Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  5. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 116–124; Gantz, p. 4; Hard, p. 23; Fowler, p. 5; Caldwell, p. 6.
  6. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 124–126; Gantz, p. 4; Hard, p. 24; Caldwell, p. 6; Smith, s.v. E'rebos.
  7. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae Theogony 1 (Smith and Trzaskoma, p. 95).
  8. ^ Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3.44.
  9. ^ Alcman, fr. 5 Campbell (pp. 392–395).
  10. ^ Aristophanes, Birds 690–694.
  11. ^ Aristophanes, Birds 695–697.
  12. ^ Aristophanes, Birds 1191–1194.
  13. ^ For example, later in the Theogony, the word "Erebus" is used to refer to the place below the earth to which Menoetius is sent by Zeus, and from which the Hecatoncheires are brought. (Hesiod, Theogony 510–517, 668–671; Gantz, p. 4) The name is also used multiple times by Homer to refer to the underworld (Iliad 8.366–369, 9.565–573, 16.325–329; Odyssey 10.526–529, 11.37-39; Gantz, p. 4.); according to Hard, p. 24, the word was used "quite often from the time of Homer onwards as a poetic name for the Underworld in its nature as a realm of gloom". (See also in the "Homeric Hymn" to Demeter (2), 335–339, 347–349.) In Ovid's Metamorphoses, Proserpina is called the "queen of Erebus" (5.572–573), the underworld deities are called the "gods of Erebus" (10.74), and Circe "invoke[s] the aid of Night (Nyx) and all the gods of Night from Erebus and Chaos" (14.394–396). Similarly, in Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy, 12.18–19: "When rose the dawn (Eos), and thrust back kindly night (Nyx) [t]o Erebus...".
  14. ^ Elizabeth, Alice (1896). The Sources of Spenser's Classical Mythology. New York: Silver, Burdett and Company. pp. 52, 55. ISBN 9780598920058.
  15. ^ Morford, Mark P. O. (1999). Classical Mythology: Sixth Edition. New York: Oxford University Press US. pp. 36, 84, 253, 263, 271. ISBN 0-19-514338-8., ISBN 9780195143386
  16. ^ Rengel, Marian (2009). Greek and Roman Mythology A to Z. Infobase Publishing. p. 51. ISBN 978-1-60413-412-4., ISBN 9781604134124
  17. ^ Turner, Patricia (2001). Dictionary of Ancient Deities. Oxford University Press. p. 170. ISBN 0-19-514504-6., ISBN 9780195145045