In Greek mythology, Rhadamanthus (pronounced: /ˌrædəˈmænθəs/) or Rhadamanthys (Ancient Greek: Ῥαδάμανθυς) was a wise king, the son of Zeus and Europa. Later accounts even make him out to be one of the judges of the dead. His brothers were Sarpedon and Minos (also a king and later a judge of the dead).[1]

Rhadamanthus was raised by Asterion. He had two sons, Gortys and Erythrus.

Other sources (e.g. Plutarch, Theseus 20) credit Rhadamanthys rather than Dionysus as the husband of Ariadne, and the father of Oenopion, Staphylus and Thoas. In this account, Ariadne was the daughter of Minos, Rhadamanthys' brother; another Ariadne was the daughter of Minos' grandson and namesake, who features in the Theseus legend, and was rescued by Dionysus.

Although he was frequently considered one of the judges of the dead in the underworld, he is not known for any legislative activity, with the exception of a sole reference to a law of Rhadamanthus ordering the Cretans to swear oaths by animals.[2]

Driven out of Crete by Minos, who was jealous of his popularity, he fled to Boeotia, where he wedded Alcmene. Homer represents him as dwelling in the Elysian Fields (Odyssey iv. 564), the paradise for the immortal sons of Zeus.

According to later legends (c. 400 BCE), on account of his inflexible integrity he was made one of the judges of the dead in the lower world, together with Aeacus and Minos. He was supposed to judge the souls of easterners, Aeacus those of westerners, while Minos had the casting vote (Plato, Gorgias 524A).

Virgil (69–18 BCE) makes Rhadamanthus one of the judges and punishers of the unworthy in the Underworld (Tartarus) section of the Aeneid.

Pindar says that he is the right-hand man of Cronus (now ruling Elysium) and was the sole judge of the dead.

Lucian depicts Rhadamanthus as presiding over the company of heroes on the Isle of the Blessed in True History.

References in literature

In the fourth book of John Keats' "Endymion", the title character swears by, among other things, "old Rhadamanthus' tongue of doom..."[3]

In George Eliot's Mill on the Floss the derivative adjective Rhadamanthine is used.[4]

In Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain Herr Settembrini refers to the Director Behrens of the sanatorium as Rhadamanthus.

In the E.A. Robinson poem "The Voice of Age" Rhadamanthus is mentioned in the first line, comparing him to the woman in the poem.

In the poem "The Delphic Oracle Upon Plotinus" by William Butler Yeats, "Bland Rhadamanthus" is depicted as beckoning to Plotinus.

In Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, a character is talking to a judge of the dead, "Minos, or Rhadamanthus, or Persephone, or by..."(295).

In asserting the Christian doctrine of forgiveness, William Blake's poem "The Everlasting Gospel" contains the lines "For what is Antichrist but those / Who against Sinners Heaven close / With Iron bars, in Virtuous State, / And Rhadamanthus at the Gate?"

In Books 4 and 7 of Homer's Odyssey.

In John Wright's Golden Age trilogy, the protagonist, Phaeton (see Phaëton), belongs to Rhadamanthus Mansion of the Silver-Gray Manorial Schola. Rhadamanthus is also the name of the resident artificial intelligence, advisor and servant to its house members.

In Thomas Hardy's A Pair of Blue Eyes Elfide is described as looking "a very Rhadamanthus" when she makes a smart chess move.(p. 191)

He is mentioned briefly in Harlan Ellison's short story "Goodbye to All That," published in McSweeney's Mammoth Treasure of Thrilling Tales.

In James Stephens's The Demi-Gods (1914), in "The Threepenny Piece", Rhadamanthus (portrayed as an immense and terrifying judge of the dead), condemns a man to Hell. But the man, once in Hell, accuses Rhadamanthus of having stolen his threepenny coin. This becomes an immense cause célèbre in Hell, forcing Rhadamanthus to reconsider his verdict.

In John Milton's Areopagitica, Milton criticizes censorship in which a book must undergo "the judgment of Radamanth and his colleagues, ere it can pass the ferry backward into light".


  2. Porphyry, De Abstinentia III.16.6, on which see Jean Bouffartigue, Porphyre, De l'abstinence, (Paris) 1979, p. 171 n. 2.
  4. Mill on the Floss; book 1: "Boy and Girl", 1860, p. 46

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Rhadamanthus. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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