Eidolon (apparition)

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This article is about Eidolon as a term used to mean a phantom or spirit. For other uses, see Eidolon.

In ancient Greek literature, an eidolon (plural: eidola or eidolons ) (Greek εἴδωλον: "image, idol, double, apparition, phantom, ghost") is a spirit-image of a living or dead person; a shade or phantom look-alike of the human form. The concept of Helen of Troy's eidolon was explored both by Homer and Euripides. However, where Homer uses the concept as a free-standing idea which gives Helen life after death, Euripides entangles it with the idea of kleos, one being the product of the other.[1][2] Both Euripides and Stesichorus, in their respective works concerning the Trojan War, claim that Helen was never physically present in the city at all.[3]

The concept of the eidola of the dead was explored in various literature regarding Penelope, who in later works was constantly laboring against the eidola of Clytamnestra and later Helen herself.[1]

Homer's use of eidola also extends to the Odyssey where, after the death of the suitors, Theoclymenos notes that he sees the doorway of the court filled with them.[4]

The Greek concept of an Eidolon and its worldly effects was later used as the subject of Walt Whitman's poem by the same name in 1876.[5]

In Theosophy, the astral double or perispirit or kamarupa after death, before its disintegration is identified with the eidolon.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Holmberg, Ingrid E. (Spring 1995). "Euripides' Helen: Most Noble and Most Chaste". The American Journal of Philology (The Johns Hopkins University Press) 116 (1): 19–42. JSTOR 295501. 
  2. ^ Meltzer, Gary S. (Oct 1994). "Where Is the Glory of Troy?" "Kleos" in Euripides' "Helen" 13 (2). University of California Press. pp. 234–255. JSTOR 25011015. 
  3. ^ Papi, Donatella Galeotti (1987). "Victors and Sufferers in Euripides' Helen". The American Journal of Philology (The Johns Hopkins University Press) 108 (1): 27–40. JSTOR 294912. 
  4. ^ Barasch, Moshe (2005). "The Departing Soul. The Long Life of a Medieval Creation". Artibus et Historiae (IRSA s.c.) 26 (52): 13–28. JSTOR 20067095. 
  5. ^ Carpenter, Frederic I. (Mar 1942). "Walt Whitman's "Eidolon"". College English (National Council of Teachers of English) 3 (6): 534–545. JSTOR 370944. 
  6. ^ http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/etgloss/etg-hp.htm ENCYCLOPEDIC THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY: A Resource on Theosophy, G. de Purucker

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