I just found this term, White Rock, or Leucas, while reading about the Underworld here.

As men and women die, Hermes leads their souls to the Underworld, past the streams of Oceanus, past the White Rock (Leucas), past the Gates of the Sun and the Land of Dreams, until they reach the Asphodel Fields, where the spirits dwell living the flavourless existence of a shadow or phantom.

What does the White Rock mean or symbolize? Is it just a land mark in the Underworld, or does it have some special significance?

1 Answer 1


In the Odyssey:

πὰρ δ’ ἴσαν Ὠκεανοῦ τε ῥοὰς καὶ Λευκάδα πέτρην
ἠδὲ παρ’ Ἠελίοιο πύλας καὶ δῆμον ὀνείρων

And they passed by the streams of Okeanos and the White Rock (the original says Leukàs Pétrā) and past the Gates of the Sun and the District of Dreams.

Leukas is the name of a Greek Island in the Ionian sea. Nowadays it is called Lefkada.

The likelihood the White Rock refers to this island is corroborated by other texts, like Menander's Leukadia (The Girl from Leukas):

οὗ δὴ λέγεται πρώτη Σαπφὼ
τὸν ὑπέρκομπον θηρῶσα Φάον’
οἰστρῶντι πόθῳ ῥῖψαι πέτρας
ἀπὸ τηλεφανοῦς. ἀλλὰ κατ’εὐχὴν
σήν, δέσποτ’ ἄναξ, εὐφημείσθω
τέμενος πέρι Λευκάδος ἀκτῆς

where they say that Sappho was the first, hunting down the proud
Phaon, to throw herself, in her goading desire, from the rock that shines from afar.
But now, in accordance with your sacred utterance,
lord king, let there be silence throughout the sacred precinct of the
head-land of Leukas.

Also in Anacreon:

ἀρθεὶς δηὖτ’ ἀπὸ Λευκάδος
ἐς πολιὸν κῦμα κολυμβῶ μεθύων ἔρωτι

One more time taking off in the air, down from the White Rock into
the dark waves do I dive, intoxicated with lust.

and Euripides' Cyclops:

ὡς ἐκπιεῖν γ’ ἂν κύλικα μαινοίμην μίαν
πάντων Κυκλώπων <μὴ> ἀντιδοὺς βοσκήματα
ῥῖψαί τ’ ἐς ἅλμην Λευκάδος πέτρας ἄπο
ἅπαξ μεθυσθεὶς καταβαλών τε τὰς ὄφρυς.
ὡς ὅς γε πίνων μὴ γέγηθε μαίνεται

I would be crazy not to give all the herds of the Cyclopes in return
for drinking one cup [of that wine] and throw myself from the white rock
into the brine, once I am intoxicated, with eyebrows relaxed.
Whoever is not happy when he drinks is crazy.

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