KHARON (or Charon) was the ferryman of the dead, an underworld daimon (spirit) in the service of King Haides. He received the shades of the dead from Hermes, who gathered them from the upper world and guided them to the shores of the Akherousian mere. From there Kharon transported them in his skiff to a final resting place in Hades, the land of the dead, on the other side. The fee for his service was a single obolos coin which was placed in the mouth of a corpse at burial. Those who had not received due burial and were unable to pay his fee, would be left to wander the earthly side of the Akheron, haunting the upper world as ghosts.
Kharon was portrayed in Greek vase painting as an ugly, bearded man with a crooked nose, wearing a conical hat and tunic. He was shown standing in his skiff holding a pole, about to receive a shade from the psychopompian Hermes.
The Etruscans of central Italy identified him with one of their own underworld daimones who was named Charun after the Greek figure. He was depicted as an even more repulsive creature with blue-grey skin, a tusked mouth, hooked nose and sometimes serpent-draped arms. His attribute was a large, double-headed mallet.
image: Jose Benlliure