As ferryman of the dead, it was Charon's duty to transport souls across the river Styx for the price of an obol, placed in the mouth of the deceased at time of burial. If the soul did not receive a proper burial, or no coin was placed, it was condemned to wander the shore for a hundred years before being allowed to cross.

Some few souls were able to cross without payment. Orpheus charmed Charon with his lyre, Aeneas bribed him with a golden bough, and Herakles intimidated him into waiving the fee. For allowing Herakles to pass, Charon was chained to his oar for a year by Hades.

Charon is often said to be the son of Erebus and Styx.

As he came to be associated with death in general, Charon lives on in Greek folklore as Charontas, the Angel of Death.

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