In Greek mythology, Charon (Greek Χάρων, fierce brightness) was the ferryman of Hades. (Etruscan equivalent: Charun) and the son of Erebus and Nyx. Dante Alighieri incorporated Charon into Christian mythology in his Divine Comedy. He is the same as his Greek counterpart, being paid an obolus to cross Acheron. He is the first named character Dante meets in hell, in the third Canto of Inferno.He was depicted as a cranky, skinny old man or a winged demon with a double hammer.
He took the newly dead from one side of the river Acheron (sometimes the river Styx) to the other if they had an obolus (coin) to pay for the ride. Corpses in ancient Greece were always buried with a coin underneath their tongue to pay Charon. Those who could not pay had to wander the banks of the Acheron for one hundred years. No soul is ever ferried the other way, the sole exception being Persephone.
According to Virgil's Aeneid (book 6), the Cumaean Sibyl directs Aeneas to the golden bough necessary to cross the river while still alive and return to the world. Orpheus also made the trip to the underworld and returned back alive.