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Image:Hades (Greek Mythology).jpg
Hades, Greek god of the underworld, enthroned, with his bird-headed staff, on a red-figure Apulian vase made in the 4th century BC.

Hades (from Greek ᾍδης, Haidēs, originally Ἅιδης, Haidēs or Ἀΐδης, Aïdēs; of uncertain origin<ref>"Hades." The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. Oxford University Press.</ref>, although it has been ascribed to Greek "unseen"<ref>A conceptual analogue, the Hebrew word for the abode of the dead, Sheol, also literally meant "unseen".</ref>) refers to both the ancient Greek Underworld and the God of the Dead. The word originally referred to just the god; ᾍδού, Haidou its genitive, was short for "the house of Hades". Eventually, the nominative, too, came to designate the abode of the dead.

Hades was also known as Pluto (from Greek Πλούτων, Ploutōn), and was known by this name, as well as Dis Pater and Orcus, in Roman mythology; the corresponding Etruscan god was Aita. "Hades" is employed by Christians as a residing place for souls that have fallen from grace.


[edit] Hades, abode of the dead

There were several sections of Hades, including the Elysian Fields (contrast the Christian Paradise or Heaven), and Tartarus, (compare the Christian Hell). Greek mythographers were not perfectly consistent about the geography of the afterlife.

A contrasting myth of the afterlife concerns the Garden of the Hesperides, often identified with the Isles of the Blessed.

In Roman mythology, an entrance to the underworld located at Avernus, a crater near Cumae, was the route Aeneas used to descend to the Underworld. By synecdoche, "Avernus" could be substituted for the underworld as a whole. The Inferi Dii were the Roman gods of the underworld.

The deceased entered the underworld by crossing the river Acheron ferried across by Charon (kair'-on), who charged an obolus, a small coin for passage, placed under the tongue of the deceased by pious relatives. Paupers and the friendless gathered forever on the near shore. There are also instances of the deceased returning to the upper world to "haunt" those that had not given them a proper burial. The far side of the river was guarded by Cerberus, the three-headed dog defeated by Heracles (Roman Hercules). Beyond Cerberus, the shades of the departed entered the land of the dead to be judged.

The five rivers of Hades are Acheron (the river of sorrow), Cocytus (lamentation), Phlegethon (fire), Lethe (forgetfulness) and Styx (hate). See also Eridanos. The Styx forms the boundary between upper and lower worlds.

The first region of Hades comprises the Fields of Asphodel, described in Odyssey xi, where the shades of heroes wander despondently among lesser spirits, who twitter around them like bats. Only libations of blood offered to them in the world of the living can reawaken in them for a time the sensations of humanity (compare vampires).

Beyond lay Erebus, which could be taken for a euphonym of Hades, whose own name was dread. There were two pools, that of Lethe, where the common souls flocked to erase all memory, and the pool of Mnemosyne ("memory"), where the initiates of the Mysteries drank instead. In the forecourt of the palace of Hades and Persephone sit the three judges of the Underworld: Minos, Rhadamanthys and Aeacus. There at the trivium sacred to Hecate, where three roads meets, souls are judged, returned to the Fields of Asphodel if they are neither virtuous nor evil, sent by the road to Tartarus if they are impious or evil, or sent to Elysium with the heroic or blessed.

[edit] Hades, the lord of the Underworld

The Greek Underworld
Famous inmates:

In Greek mythology, Hades (the "unseen"), the god of the underworld, was a son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. He had three older sisters, Hestia, Demeter, and Hera, as well as two younger brothers, Poseidon and Zeus: together they accounted for half of the Olympian gods.

Upon reaching adulthood Zeus managed to force his father to disgorge his siblings. After their release the six younger gods, along with allies they managed to gather, challenged their parents and uncles for power in the Titanomachy, a divine war. Zeus, Poseidon and Hades received weapons from the three Cyclops to help in the war. Zeus the thunderbolt; Hades the helmet of invisibility; and Poseidon the trident. During the night before the first battle Hades put on his helmet and, being invisible, snuck over to the Titans' camp and destroyed their weapons. The war lasted for ten years and ended with the victory of the younger gods. Following their victory, according to a single famous passage in the Iliad (xv.187-93), Hades and his two younger brothers, Poseidon and Zeus, drew lots<ref>Walter Burkert, in The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age, 1992, (pp 90ff) compares this single reference with the Mesopotamian Atra-Hasis: ""the basic structure of both texts is astonishingly similar." The drawing of lots is not the usual; Hesiod (Theogony, 883) declares that Zeus overthrew his father and was acclaimed king by the other gods. "There is hardly another passage in Homer which comes so close to being a translation of an Akkadian epic," Burkert concludes (p.91).</ref> for realms to rule. Zeus got the sky, Poseidon got the seas, and Hades received the underworld,<ref>Poseidon speaks: "For when we threw the lots I received the grey sea as my abode, Hades drew the murky darkness, Zeus, however, drew the wide sky of brightness and clouds; the earth is common to all, and spacious Olympus." Iliad 15.187</ref> the unseen realm to which the dead go upon leaving the world as well as any and all things beneath the earth.

Hades obtained his eventual consort, Persephone, through trickery, a story that connected the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries with the Olympian pantheon.

Despite modern connotations of death as "evil", Hades was actually more altruistically inclined in mythology. Hades was often portrayed as passive rather than evil; his role was often maintaining relative balance.

Hades ruled the dead, assisted by demons over whom he had complete authority. He strictly forbade his subjects to leave his domain and would become quite enraged when anyone tried to leave, or if someone tried to steal the souls from his realm.

Besides Heracles, the only other living people who ventured to the Underworld were all heroes: Odysseus, Aeneas (accompanied by the Sibyl), Orpheus, Theseus, and Psyche. None of them was especially pleased with what they witnessed in the realm of the dead. In particular, the Greek war hero Achilles, whom Odysseus met in Hades (although some believe that Achilles dwells in the Isles of the Blest), said:

"Do not speak soothingly to me of death, glorious Odysseus. I should choose to serve as the hireling of another, rather than to be lord over the dead that have perished."
—Achilles' soul to Odysseus. Homer, Odyssey 11.488
Image:Amphora Hades Louvre G209.jpg
Hades, labelled as "Plouton", "The Rich One", bears a cornucopia on an Attic red-figure amphora, ca 470 BC.

Hades, god of the dead, was a fearsome figure to those still living; in no hurry to meet him, they were reticent to swear oaths in his name. To many, simply to say the word "Hades" was frightening. So, a euphemism was pressed into use. Since precious minerals come from under the earth (i.e., the "underworld" ruled by Hades), he was considered to have control of these as well, and was referred to as Πλούτων (Plouton, related to the word for "wealth"), hence the Roman name Pluto. Sophocles explained referring to Hades as "the rich one" with these words: "the gloomy Hades enriches himself with our sighs and our tears." In addition, he was called Clymenus ("notorious"), Eubuleus ("well-guessing"), and Polydegmon ("who receives many"), all of them euphemisms for a name it was unsafe to pronounce, which evolved into epithets.

Although he was an Olympian, he spent most of the time in his dark realm. Formidable in battle, he proved his ferocity in the famous Titanomachy, the battle of the Olympians versus the Titans, which established the rule of Zeus.

Because of his dark and morbid personality he was not especially liked by either the gods nor the mortals. Feared and loathed, Hades embodied the inexorable finality of death: "Why do we loathe Hades more than any god, if not because he is so adamantine and unyielding?" The rhetorical question is Agamemnon's (Iliad ix). He was not, however, an evil god, for although he was stern, cruel, and unpitying, he was still just. Hades ruled the Underworld and therefore most often associated with death and was feared by men, but he was not Death itself — the actual embodiment of Death was Thanatos.

When the Greeks propitiated Hades, they banged their hands on the ground to be sure he would hear them. Black animals, such as sheep, were sacrificed to him, and it is believed that at one time even human sacrifices were offered. The blood from sacrifices to Hades dripped into a pit so it could reach him. The person who offered the sacrifice had to turn away his face. Every hundred years festivals were held in his honor, called the Secular Games.

Hades' weapon was a two-pronged fork, which he used to shatter anything that was in his way or not to his liking, much as Poseidon did with his trident. This ensign of his power was a staff with which he drove the shades of the dead into the lower world.

His identifying possessions included a famed helmet, given to him by the Cyclopes, which made anyone who wore it invisible. Hades was known to sometimes loan his helmet of invisibility to both gods and men (such as Perseus). His dark chariot, drawn by four coal-black horses, always made for a fearsome and impressive sight. His other ordinary attributes were the Narcissus and Cypress plants, the Key of Hades and Cerberus, the many-headed dog. He sat on an ebony throne.

[edit] Artistic representations

Hades is rarely represented in classical arts, save in depictions of the Rape of Persephone. Hades is also mentioned in The Odyssey, when Odysseus visits the underworld as part of his journey. However, in this instance it is Hades the place, not the god.

[edit] Persephone

The consort of Hades, and the archaic queen of the Underworld in her own right, before the Hellene Olympians were established, was Persephone, represented by the Greeks as daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Persephone did not submit to Hades willingly, but was abducted by him while picking flowers with her friends. Persephone's mother missed her and without her daughter by her side she cast a curse on the land and there was a great famine. Hades tricked Persephone into eating six pomegranate seeds, which meant that she would be unable to leave the underworld even with the help of Zeus. Persephone knew of her mother's depression and asked Hades to return her to the land of the living, on the condition that she would stay with him for 6 months; one month for each pomegranate seed she ate. Every year Hades fights his way back to the land of the living with Persephone in his chariot. Famine (autumn and winter) occurs during the months that Persephone is gone and Demeter grieves in her absence. It is believed that the last half of the word Persephone comes from a word meaning 'to show' and evokes an idea of light. Whether the first half derives from a word meaning 'to destroy' - in which case Persephone would be 'she who destroys the light'.

[edit] Orpheus and Eurydice

Hades showed mercy only once: Because the music of Orpheus was so hauntingly good, he allowed Orpheus to bring his wife, Eurydice, back to the land of the living as long as she walked behind him and he never tried to look at her face until they got to the surface. Orpheus agreed but, yielding to the temptation to glance backwards, failed and lost Eurydice again, to be reunited with her only after his death.

[edit] Minthe and Leuce

According to Ovid, Hades pursued and would have won the nymph Minthe, associated with the river Cocytus, had not Persephone turned Minthe into the plant called mint. Similarly the nymph Leuce, who was also ravished by him, was metamorphosed by Hades into a white poplar tree after her death. Another version is that she was metamorphosed by Persephone into a white poplar tree while standing by the pool of Memory.

[edit] Theseus and Pirithous

Hades imprisoned Theseus and Pirithous, who had pledged to marry daughters of Zeus. Theseus chose Helen and together they kidnapped her and decided to hold onto her until she was old enough to marry. Pirithous chose Persephone. They left Helen with Theseus' mother, Aethra and traveled to the underworld. Hades pretended to offer them hospitality and set a feast; as soon as the pair sat down, snakes coiled around their feet and held them there. Theseus was eventually rescued by Heracles.

[edit] Heracles

Heracles' final labour was to capture Cerberus. First, Heracles went to Eleusis to be initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries. He did this to absolve himself of guilt for killing the centaurs and to learn how to enter and exit the underworld alive. He found the entrance to the underworld at Tanaerum. Athena and Hermes helped him through and back from Hades. Heracles asked Hades for permission to take Cerberus. Hades agreed as long as Heracles didn't harm him, though in some versions, Heracles shot Hades with an arrow. When Heracles dragged the dog out of Hades, he passed through the cavern Acherusia.

[edit] Epithets and other names

  • Aides
  • Aiidoneus
  • Chthonian Zeus
  • Haides
  • Pluton
  • Plouton
  • The Rich One
  • The Unseen One

[edit] Roman Mythology

  • Pluto
  • Dis
  • Dis Pater
  • Pluto

[edit] Notes

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[edit] In popular culture

  • The religion of the ancient Greeks did not separate gods into categories of good or evil, but most people today tend to think in terms of "God" and "Devil" archetypes. Because of this, Hades (as the ruler of the underworld) is usually portrayed as a Satanic figure in popular culture.
  • Hades is pictured as a respected god in the video game God of War
  • Hades is pictured as one of the enemies of the Justice League and lover to Queen Hippolyta, who in here is not a daughter of Ares. He first deceives Felix Faust and fights the Justice League. Later Faust tries to overthrow him but with help from Wonder Woman, he punishes Faust.
  • Hades is another of the enemies of Marvel Comics' characters. He is a deceitful, evil god that wants to overthrow Zeus by various means, even manipulate Marvel characters.
  • Hades is seen as the main villain in Disney's movie Hercules.
  • Hades is a summon in the Squaresoft RPG Final Fantasy VII.
  • Hades is the final boss, next to Astaroth, in Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins.
  • "Hades" is a song by the metal band Kalmah.
  • In Maciek Kur's book Stowarzyszenie umarłych dusz czyli traumo-pocieszne przygody Znicza Deathsoul Hades appears as a mobster/business man figure. He was actualy afreid of Persephone and regarding the day he kidnap here as she turn to be very rude after the marriage. In fact it was He who wanted here to stay half of year with here mother in order to have some time alone. He’s friend with Set and Dis Pater (as they all three the dark lord’s in their mythologies)

[edit] External links

Maps of the Underworld (Greek mythology)
The God Hades
Greek deities series
Primordial deities | Titans | Aquatic deities | Chthonic deities
Twelve Olympians
Zeus | Hera | Poseidon | Hades | Hestia | Demeter | Aphrodite
Athena | Apollo | Artemis | Ares | Hephaestus | Hermes | Dionysus
Chthonic deities
Hades | Persephone | Gaia | Demeter | Hecate | Iacchus | Trophonius | Triptolemus | Erinyes

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