Biographical Information
River of: Forgetfulness
Status: Existing
Home: Underworld
Oceanus (formerly)[1]
Occupation: To erase peoples memories
Related rivers:
Physical Description
Species: River
Color: Yellow (presumably)
Black (speculation)
White (speculation)
Show Information
First mentioned: "700 BCE"
Latest appearance: "Once Upon a Time (tv series)"
Relevant Pages
The River Lethe... One drop of it's waters, it'll be as if they are a new person.
—Cora src

The River of Forgetfulness, also known as the River Lethe and the Yellow River is a river in Greek Mythology's Underworld.

The Lethe is the ancient yellow river in Greek Mythology.


In Greek mythology, the Lethe was one of the five rivers of the underworld of Hades. Also known as the Ameles potamos (river of unmindfulness), the Lethe flowed around the cave of Hypnos and through the Underworld, where all those who drank from it experienced complete forgetfulness. Lethe was also the name of the Greek spirit of forgetfulness and oblivion, with whom the river was often identified.

In Classical Greek, the word lethe literally means "oblivion", "forgetfulness", or "concealment". It is related to the Greek word for "truth", aletheia, which through the privative alpha literally means "un-forgetfulness" or "un-concealment".

The river Lethe was said to be a yellow river.[2]



Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, was one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld, the other four being Styx (the river of hate), Acheron (the river of pain), Cocytus (the river of lamentation) and Phlegethon (the river of fire). According to Statius, it bordered Elysium, the final resting place of the virtuous. Ovid wrote that the river flowed through the cave of Hypnos, god of sleep, where its murmuring would induce drowsiness.

The shades of the dead were required to drink the waters of the Lethe in order to forget their earthly life. In the Aeneid, Virgil writes that it is only when the dead have had their memories erased by the Lethe that they may be reincarnated.


Lethe was also the name of the personification of forgetfulness and oblivion, with whom the river was often associated. Hesiod's Theogony identifies her as the daughter of Eris ("strife"), and the sister of Ponos ("Hardship"), Limos ("Starvation"), Algae ("Pains"), Hysminai ("Battles"), Makhai ("Wars"), Phonoi ("Murders"), Androktasiai ("Manslaughters"), Neikea ("Quarrels"), Pseudea ("Lies"), Logoi ("Stories"), Amphillogiai ("Disputes"), Dysnomia ("Anarchy"), Ate ("Ruin"), and Horkos ("Oath").

Non MythologicalEdit

Amongst authors in Antiquity, the tiny Limia River between Northern Portugal and Galicia (Spain) was said to have the same properties of memory loss as the legendary Lethe River, being mistaken for it. In 138 BC, the Roman general Decimus Junius Brutus sought to dispose of the myth, as it impeded his military campaigns in the area. He was said to have crossed the Limia and then called his soldiers from the other side, one by one, by name. The soldiers, astonished that their general remembered their names, crossed the river as well without fear. This act proved that the Limia was not as dangerous as the local myths described.

In Cadiz (Spain), the river Guadalete was originally named Lethe by local Greek and Phoenician colonists who, about to go to war, solved instead their differences by diplomacy and named the river Lethe to forever forget their former differences. When the Arabs conquered the region much later, their name for the river became Guadalete (River Lethe, in Arabic).

In Alaska, a river which runs through the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is called River Lethe. It is located within the Katmai National Park and Preserve, in Southwest Alaska.



  • The Lethe is the third main river in Greek Mythology.
    • It is the river of forgetfulness


  • It was originally called the River of Forgetfulness, not the Lethe.
    • It was later called the River Lethe.



  1. Before Erebos, the rivers of it roamed connected to Oceanus.
  2. >

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