Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Elpenor, how did you come here beneath the fog and the darkness?” cries Odysseus (the central figure depicted on this fifth-century B.C. vase, now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) as he encounters the ghost of his dead comrade rising from the reeds of the Acherusian lake, one of the four seats of the Oracle of the Dead.

In the Odyssey, Elpenor gets drunk at Circe’s palace and falls to his death from the high battlements. Briefly revivified by sipping blood from two sheep sacrificed by Odysseus, Elpenor is then escorted from the underworld by Hermes, the figure at far right on the vase (compare with drawing of detail from vase). In Greco-Roman necromancy, blood sacrifices were believed to reanimate the dead.