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Lethe (Greek for "oblivion," "forgetfulness," or "concealment") flowed through the cave of Hypnos, the god of sleep, where its murmuring would induce drowsiness, and into the underworld of Hades, and all who drank from it experienced complete forgetfulness. Lethe was also the name of the goddess of forgetfulness and oblivion, with whom the river was often identified, just as Hades was both the god of the underworld and the underworld itself. (Hesiodos identified Lethe as the daughter of Eris ["strife"], and the sister of Ponos ["Hardship"], Limos ["Starvation"], Algae ["Pains"], Hysminai ["Battles"], Makhai ["Wars"], Phonoi ["Murders"], Androktasiai ["Manslaughters"], Neikea ["Quarrels"], Pseudea ["Lies"], Logoi ["Stories"], Amphillogiai ["Disputes"], Dysnomia ["Anarchy"], Ate ["Ruin"], and Horkos ["Oath"]). The shades of the dead were required to drink the waters of the Lethe in order to forget their earthly life. In the "Aeneid," Publius Vergilius Maro claimed that it was only when the dead had their memories thus erased that they could be reincarnated. Some mystery religions taught that initiates would receive a choice of rivers to drink from after death, and those who drank from the Mnemosyne would remember everything and attain omniscience. The other rivers were Styx, Acheron (the river of sorrow), Cocytus (the river of lamentation), and Phlegethon (the river of fire). As was often true, various Greek and Roman writers differed in ther details: Platon claimed that the dead arrived at a barren waste called the "plain of Lethe," through which the river Ameles ("careless") ran; the first-century Roman poet Publius Papinius Statius said that the Lethe bordered Elysium, the final resting place of the virtuous. In the "Inferno" Dante wrote that it flowed from Purgatory to Hell and then froze around Satan, but later placed it in the Farden of Eden atop the Mountain of Purgatory. Upon competion of their purgatorial punishment, Matilda (presumably Matilde di Canossa, a powerful 12th-century Italian ruler) washed sinners in the Lethe to lose the memories of their mortal sins, and then they drank from the Eunoe (good mind") river to strengthen the memories of their good deeds before entering Heaven. (Eunoe was not a "sixth river," since Dante described Cocytus as a lake.)
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