Type: Mystic realm

Envrionment: Hellish

Usual means of access: Magic; the Pit of Hades (a portal in Olympus)

Dominant Life Form: Gods

Significant Inhabitants: Arges, Argus, Cerberus, Charon, Crusher, the Danaides, Harpies, Ixion, Minos, Persephone, Pluto, Rhadamanthys, Sarpedon, Sisyphus, Tantalus, Thanatos, Tityus, Typhon, Yellow-Crested Titans

Significant Locations: Elysium (home of the honored dead, also called the Elysian Fields or Isles of the Blessed), Erebus (shore of the Styx where the spirits of the dead wait to cross over), Hades (domain of Pluto)

First Appearance: Thor I#129 (June, 1966)

History: (Greek-Roman Myth) - Tartarus is the underworld to which the spirits of the dead, particularly those who worshipped the Olympian Gods, were escorted by the god of death known as Thanatos. Upon arrival in Erebus, the ferryman Charon carried the dead across the Styx. Guarded by Cerberus as they entered into Hades, they were judged over by Minos, Sarpedon and Rhadamanthys who judged over the dead as to whether they were good or evil in life. Those who gained the favor of the gods were allowed to spend the afterlife in the region of Elysium while those judged evil were imprisoned in Tartarus for punishment. After being judged, the spirits of the dead were required to drink from Lethe, a spring that made them forget their lives on Earth.

(Thor I#129-130) - After Hercules was tricked by Pluto into signing an Olympian Contract which would force him to become the ruler of Hades, he was spirited to Tartarus to be crowned. However, Thor came to Hercules' rescue, and fought his way past Cerberus, the Crusher, and many of Pluto's soldiers. Finally, unable to bear watching as more of his realm was destroyed, Pluto tore up the contract and set Hercules free.

(Chamber of Darkness#1) - A boy named Tommy summoned up a djinn to do his bidding, but the djinn promised to twist any of Tommy's wishes, demonstrating that if Tommy wished for eternal life, he would live forever-- in Tartarus. Tommy ultimately tricked the djinn by wishing to turn back time to 6 PM, prior to when he found the spellbook so that he could avoid summoning him.

(Avengers I#282 (fb)) - Zeus had the Avengers (Black Knight, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Doctor Druid, the She-Hulk and Thor) imprisoned in Tartarus believing that they were responsible for grevious injuries that his son Hercules had endured from the Masters of Evil.

(Avengers I#282-283) - Neptune captured Namor the Sub-Mariner under an edict from Zeus and took him to Tartarus. Namor escaped from Cerberus and discovered Thor without his hammer being tortured under a huge block by Pluto. He saved him as they freed the imprisoned Avengers as they fought their way back to Olympus for Thor to reclaim his hammer from Hephaestus, the smith-god.

(Avengers Annual#23) - While his body was consigned to Hell, Loki sent his astral spirit into Tartarus where it encountered Pluto's astral spirit. The two of them conspired to kill each other antagonists and Loki freed Typhon, Cottus, The Harpies, Arges and a Yellow-Crested Titan to aid him in slaying Hercules. Typhon instead brought Hercules back to Tartarus and forced him to drink from Lethe to remove his memories and use him against the Gods of Olympus. The Avengers, however, restored Hercules' memory and assisted in repelling Typhon and exiling the escapees back into Tartarus.

(Thor Annual#19) - Chauffeured by Charon, Pluto oversaw the refurbishing of an area of Tartarus set aside for the punishment of mortals. Bound in the nearby realm of Mephisto, Loki contacted him to remain truthful to their pact and mutual vow to destroy Hercules and Thor.

(Incredible Hercules#131) - The fight between Hercules and his mortal shade took them to Tartarus.

Comments: Adapted by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta.

In myth, Tartarus was the dark region of the earth as well as the personification of it. It was said to be as far below Earth as Olympus was far above it; an anvil would fall for nine days to reach it. Surrounded by a bronze fence with iron gates, it was supposed to be the prison of Cronus and the Titans as well as the Giants who had warred with the gods (some myths claim Cronus was never imprisoned here and actually hid on Earth in exile). They were guarded here by the Hecatocheiroi (also called the Centimanes). The vague figure who lent his name to this place is said to have spawned from Chaos along with Gaea (earth) and Eros (love). By Gaea, he was father of Typhon. Typhon and Echidna (later myths called Typhon's sister Delphyne and made Echidna a granddaughter of the Gorgon, Medusa).

Sidebar: in the comics, Pluto (Hades) is almost always treated as an evil character because of his association with the dead and the underworld, however, in the myths, his character is not quite a malevolent figure and is often described as grim, somber and distant as well as a jealous, extremely patient and thrifty god who loathed change. "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" so far has given the most faithful portrayal of him as according to the true personality of the character from the myths.

by Will U and Prime Eternal

Tartarus and its namesake are not to be confused with:

Tantalus should not be confused with:

Thanatos should not be confused with:


The Danaides were the fifty daughters of King Danaus of 15th Century B.C. Libya who killed their husbands on their wedding night. The only one who did not comply was Hypermnestra; she and her husband, Lynceus, became ancestors of Perseus and Hercules. After death, they were given the arduous task of drawing water for the dead with leaking pails. They have not been seen in the Marvel Universe.

--Greek/Roman Myth


Ixion was the ancestor of the Centaurs of Earth. He ruled parts of Thessaly in the late 14th Century B.C. He had married Dia, a Thracian princess, but had neglected to pay the required bride price to her father, King Eioneus who then stole Ixion's mares as revenge. Feigning a sign of peace, Ixion welcomed Eioneus to his homeland but only to murder him. Dia, who had mothered the demi-god Peirithous by Zeus, requested that Zeus purify her husband of the murder. Once Ixion realized that Zeus had seduced his wife, he demanded Zeus' wife Hera in return. Zeus instead sent the cloud-goddess Nephele to bed with Ixion and she conceived him, Centaurus, ancestor of the centaurs of Earth. After death, Ixion was bound to a flailing wheel for eternity.

--Greek/Roman Myth, (mentioned only) Thor Annual#19


Minos, Sarpedon and Rhadamanthys are the three judges who pass judgment on the dead as they enter the gates of Hades. Sons of Zeus and the Phoenician princess Europa, they ruled areas of Greece in ancient times and became judges to the dead after their deaths. In the afterlife, Rhadamanthys was believed to be the second husband of Alcmene, mother of Hercules, by Zeus. They have not yet been seen in the Marvel Universe.

--Greek/Roman Myth


Sisyphus was the son of Thessalian King Aeolus. He received the throne of Corinth from Medea and became known for his cunning by proving that Autolycus, son of Hermes, was stealing his cattle by marking the hooves of his cattle. He also seduced Autolycus' teenage daughter, Anticleia, and became the biological father of Odysseus. He also had several sons by Merope, a minor goddess who was one of the Pleiades. He hated his brother, Salmoneus, who controlled a rival area of land and consulted the oracle of Delphi on how to kill him. The oracle told him to seduce Salmoneus' daughter, Tyro, but upon hearing his sons by her would dethrone him, he killed them both. Zeus would have punished him for that but Sisyphus had long secretly covered for him when the river-god Asopus came looking for his daughter Aegina whom Zeus had abducted. Sisyphus, however, soon turned informant and revealed to the river-god that Zeus had spirited away his daughter in return for a fountain of spring water from Asopus. Zeus ordered that Sisyphus be confined to Tartarus and as Thanatos came to claim him, Sisyphus distracted the god of death by asking why Hermes had not arrived to take him. As Thanatos searched for a reply, Sisyphus imprisoned him. The result caused an imbalance between life and death and Hermes had to free Thanatos by appealing to Sisyphus. Unable to escape death a second time, Sisyphus told his wife not to bury him with any of the mandatory funeral rites. The results embarrassed Pluto, god of the dead, as Sisyphus panhandled on the edge of the river Styx to the dead crossing over for the money to pay Charon for passage. Persephone, upset by his appearance, ordered him returned to earth. He haunted earth for a while as the ghost, Taraxhippos (scarer of horses), but now for a third time, Zeus sent him to earth under enforced guard. Pluto consigned him to roll a boulder forever up a hill to keep him busy from any more schemes.

(Incredible Hercules#131) - Sisyphus' rock was destroyed during the fight between Hercules and his mortal shade, but a new rock appeared only seconds later.

(Chaos War: Chaos King#1) - Sisyphus was present when the Chaos King (Mikaboshi) descended to Hell. Hellstorm asked him to strike open a path for him. Sisyphus succeeded, but then was turned into one of Mikaboshi's many slaves. (until everything reverted back to normal at the end of the Chaos War crossover)

--Greek/Roman Myth, Thor Annual#19 (Incredible Hercules#131, Chaos War: Chaos King#1


Tantalus was the son of Zeus and Plute, his half-sister. Ruling parts of Lydia in the 14th Century BC, the gods granted him extra-ordinary favor by inviting him to dine with them on Olympus and he returned the favor by allowing them to dine with him on earth. Zeus confided in him certain secrets about the gods, but Tantalus shared those secrets to mortals and stole nectar and ambrosia for himself. Sensing the gods of Olympus were not so infallible, he slew Pelops, his son and heir, and served him to the gods in a feast. They saw through the treachery at once and restored Pelops to life missing a shoulder bone which they could not locate. (It was reputed that Demeter grieving her daughter consigned to the underworld had distractingly consumed it.) For his horrible crimes, the gods imprisoned Tantalus to the underworld above water he could reach to quench his thirst and too far below fruit to stave off his hunger.

--Greek/Roman Myth, Thor Annual#19


Tityus was the son of Zeus and Elare, an Orchomenan princess. He was hidden on Earth and raised by Gaea in whose presence he grew to enormous stature. His daughter Europa gave birth to the Argonaut Euphemus, a son of Poseidon. The goddess Hera reputedly encouraged him to rape the goddess Leto as she was traveling to Delphi. Slain by Apollo and Artemis for the insult to their mother, he was after death stretched over nine acres in the underworld as two vultures fed upon his liver, which regenerated back after each new cycle of the moon.

--Greek/Roman Myth, Thor Annual#19

Images taken from:
Tartarus, Thor Annual 19, pgs. 2-3
The Crusher - Thor I#130, page 13, panel 4
Sisyphus, Thor Annual 19, pg. 3, right
Tantalus, Thor Annual 19, pg. 2, left
Tityus, Thor Annual 19, pg. 2, top

Thor I#130 (July, 1966) - Stan Lee (writer/editor), Jack Kirby (pencils), Vince Colletta (editor)
Chamber of Darkness#1 (October, 1969) - Stan Lee (writer/editor), John Buscema (pencils), John Verpoorten (editor)
Avengers I#282-283 (August-September, 1987) - Roger Stern (writer), John Buscema (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Mark Gruenwald (editor)
Avengers Annual#23 (1994) - Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema (artist), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Thor Annual#19 (1994) - Roy Thomas (writer), Jerry DeCaire (pencils), Romeo Tanghal (inks), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Incredible Hercules#131 (September, 2009) - Fred Van Lente & Greg Pak (writers), Ryan Stegman (pencils), Terry Pallot (inks), Mark Paniccia (editor)
Chaos War: Chaos King#1 (January, 2011) - Brandon Montclare (writer), Michael Wm Kaluta (artist), Mark Paniccia (editor)

First Posted: 01/31/2005
Last updated: 03/21/2013

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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