Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Mathetes to Diognetus Chapter 9 Part 2

In the 9th Chapter of his Epistle to Diognetus, Mathetes understands death as a natural consequence for humanity’s sins against God. This understanding, of course, comes from Judaism which forms the foundation upon which Christianity is established. In paganism, death is better understood in context of the person of Hades/Pluto, or whatever name the God of death in a pagan pantheon goes by. I mention the name Hades because not only is that Puto’s name under the Greek pantheon, but it was used by the Romans as the name for Pluto’s kingdom of the underworld.

Rather than a consequence of human sin, death is just the way things are in paganism. Pluto, being the God who rules the realm of death, is someone who needs placated so that one’s experience under his rule is tolerable.

Interestingly, the pace of the dead in Judaism — Sheol — is very similar to the Greek and Roman conception of Hades. Both are seen as being underground and dark. In fact, when Greek speaking Jews began translating the OT into Greek beginning in the 4th century B.C., they translated the Hebrew Sheol (שְׁאוֹל) as Hades (ᾍδης).

Given the focus on the undead within the Empire of this nascent campaign world, this suggests that the Empire itself is an extension of the realm of the dead. Hades has bled out onto the surface world and has been imposing its will upon the living. This, in turn, helps define a few things and raises a few questions:

  • The Greek word ᾍδης suggests a name for the Empire — the Aidisian Empire or Aidisia.
  • In certain applications of old school D&D play, the Mythical Underworld plays a large role in how dungeons work. Doors for PCs are all locked while they open easily for monsters. PCs can’t see in the dark (even with ultra- or infra-vision), while monsters can. As parts of the underworld are cleared out, monsters are replaced and even geography changes. The question becomes, how much of this reality bleeds out onto the surface world within the Aidisian Empire?
  • Another question is the relationship of the Mythical Underworld, the person of Hades, and the God-Emperor of Aidisia. I am most tempted to understand them as three different entities. The Mythical Underworld is a manifestation of the Natural Order being corrupted by Chaos. Hades is a demon that has tempted humanity onto the path of Chaos. The God-Emperor has embraced lichdom through the influence of the demon Hades. In order to pay homage to early versions of D&D, this demonic version of Hades can be replaced with Orcus.
  • Since the Mythical Underworld has such a significant influence on the Aidisian Empire, this suggests that it is easily accessed. The adventure trope of the Temple suggested from Mathetes’ description of idols being guarded from theft suggests that the primary bleed points of the Mythical Underground into the world at large are the pagan temples. This, in turn, suggests that every pagan temple has a dungeon complex underneath it.
  • Finally, there is the question of what relationship the Artanian Church has to the Mythical Underground. Historically, Christianity met secretly in house churches and catacombs. In older editions of D&D, the end game involved conquering a piece of Wilderness and making it into the demesne of a PC. Would the “end game” of this nascent campaign world be to conquer sections of the underworld to be consecrated as safe havens for Artanians to congregate?

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