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Phlegethon, 2021

145 x 145cm, Artificial Intelligence

The River Phlegethon (or River Pyriphlegethon or Phlegyans) is called the River of Fire because it is said to travel to the depths of the Underworld where land is filled with fire—specifically, the flames of funeral pyres.

River Phlegethon leads to Tartarus, which is where the dead are judged and where the prison of the Titans is located. One version of the Persephone story is that her eating some pomegranate was reported to Hades by Askalaphos, a son of Acheron by an underworld nymph. In retribution she sprinkled him with water from the Phlegthon to transform him into a screech owl.

When Aeneas ventures into the Underworld in the Aeneid, Vergil describes his fiery surroundings: “With treble walls, which Phlegethon surrounds, whose fiery flood the burning empire bounds.” Plato also mentions it as the source of volcanic eruptions: “streams of lava which spout up at various places on earth are offshoots from it.”

(N.S Gill, 2019)