One of the things I’m planning to emphasize in my scholarly book on voyages to the afterlife, is that the overarching point of most of these narratives is not only (or even primarily) to reveal what will actually happen to people after they die, but to encourage them to live in certain ways now, while they can.  This is true not only for the Christian accounts but for pagan ones as well.

One of the most hilarious authors from Greco-Roman antiquity is Lucian of Samosata, a second-century CE author who wrote numerous satires that we still have, poking fun at philosophers, religious leaders, tyrants, and most anyone who he thought led a ridiculous life or had ridiculous views.  A number of his works portray fictitious journeys to the realms of the dead.

One of them is often simply titled “Voyage to the Underworld.”  It is about the stark contrast between a fabulously wealthy tyrant named Megapenthes and a dirt-poor cobbler named Mycillus.  The contrast is not so much between their ultimate fates – they both, in fact …

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