Justice and the afterlife

Svavar Hrafn Svavarsson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Until the end of the fifth century bce, there were few expectations of divine justice after death, or even of a meaningful afterlife. While such beliefs became ever more conspicuous after the fifth century, we do nevertheless find ideas of an afterlife before that time, and of divine justice for the dead. On the one hand, we find the idea of postmortem retributive justice as early as in Homer. On the other, we find promises of posthumous happiness and salvation for those who have lived justly and piously. Among the earliest instances are found in the Hymn to Demeter. Both conceptions express the workings of divine justice. Tracing them from Homer to the end of the fifth century, through such authors as Aeschylus and Pindar, “Justice and the Afterlife” attempts to shed some light on the emergence of this feature of ancient Greek thought.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEarly Greek Ethics
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780198758679
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© the several contributors 2020.

Other keywords

  • Afterlife
  • Happiness
  • Justice
  • Retribution
  • Salvation


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