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Hades

Hades-et-Cerberus-III

God of
God of the Dead, Death, Darkness, The Earth, Fertility, Riches, Mortality, Afterlife and Metals. King of the Underworld and the Subterranean Regions.
Consort
Children
Melinoe, Erinyes (In some stories), Makaria, Zagreus, Ploutos (In some stories)
Siblings
Parents
Sacred Animals
The Screech Owl, Serpents and Black Rams
Sacred Plants
Cypress Tree, Asphodel Plant, Mint, White Poplar, Narcissus
Symbols
The Screech Owl, Serpents, Cypress Tree, Kerberos, Mint, Asphodel Plant, Bident
Symbols of Power
The Helm of Darkness
Other Names
Pluto
Plouton
Aidonous

Hades is the Greek god of the Underworld, the dead, and riches. He is the eldest son of Kronos and Rhea and the elder brother of Poseidon and Zeus.

Mythology

Birth

Hades was one of the children of the Titans, Kronos  and Rhea. He was the oldest son, but the fourth oldest out of Kronos' and Rhea's six children after Hestia, Demeter, and Hera. His brothers were Poseidon and Zeus. Like his siblings, he was swallowed whole by Kronos, who was afraid that his children would one day surpass him. The others were eventually freed by their youngest brother Zeus.

Titanomachy

During The Great War, Hades fought alongside the Olympians and helped a great deal with it. With the help of Hades, Poseidon, Hestia, Demeter, and Hera; Zeus was able to defeat Kronos and the Titans, thus ending the Great War. When the war ended, Poseidon, Hades and Zeus divided the world among themselves using lots, Poseidon getting to rule the sea, Zeus the sky, Hades got the Underworld and the Earth was neutral territory. It is said that Hades was always the gloomy one, and it is no wonder he got stuck with the Underworld.

Wife

Pluto-proserpine

Hades abduction of Persephone

Hades's wife, Persephone was the goddess of crops and spring, daughter of Demeter. Persephone was picking flowers, when Persephone was caught by the sight of a flower, the narcissus. Unnoticed by the maidens with her, Persephone went to pick up the flower. Out of nowhere, the ground split, and Hades himself rode out in his majestic chariot, guided by black-ash steeds. Grabbing Persephone, he rode back into the Underworld, and the gap sealed. Demeter, not able to find Persephone, became extremely sullen and saddened. Her sadness left the Earth to die. Nothing grew, nothing was green. This was the season of Winter, in which Demeter was sad. Going to Zeus, she found that Hades himself had taken Persephone. So Hermes was sent, and asked Hades for Persephone back. In the Underworld, Hades was showering Persephone with gold and riches, but she would have none of it. Hearing the news, she gladly was allowed to go back. But Hades persuaded Persephone to eat a third of a pomegranate. She went back to Demeter, happy again. And everything on Earth grew. But when Persephone told Demeter of the pomegranate, Demeter was struck with sadness. Anything eaten in the Underworld, would bind the digested to hell for their life. So Zeus had declared Persephone would spend 1/3 of the year in the Underworld, and the rest of the year coming back and living with Demeter. This is the reason that Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter was formed.

In another myth, a dead spirit boy (which Demeter had turned into a lizard, and was eaten by a hawk) came to Persephone and convinced her to eat six pomegranate seeds, and when Zeus found out he declared she had to go back to the Underworld for six months,one month for each seed.

In some other myths, when Persephone was abducted, Demeter was so sad and enraged that she made nothing on Earth grow except for the village of Eluesis as the people there provided her with shelter and food while she was searching the whole world for her daughter.

Zeus Meilichios

Athenians and Sicilians honored Zeus Meilichios ("kindly" or "honeyed") while other cities had Zeus Chthonios ("earthy"), Zeus Katachthonios ("under-the-earth") and Zeus Plousios ("wealth-bringing"). These deities might be represented as snakes or in human form in visual art, or, for emphasis as both together in one image. They also received offerings of black animal victims sacrificed into sunken pits, as did chthonic deities like Persephone and Demeter, and also the heroes at their tombs. Olympian gods, by contrast, usually received white victims sacrificed upon raised altars. It should be noted that Zeus Chthonios, Zeus Katachthonios and Zeus Plousios are all epithets associated with Hades[1], not Zeus.

Interestingly it is often mentioned that Zeus, Hades and Dionysus were all attributed to being the exact same god. Aidoneus - the full first name of Hades, is said to have been derived from an ancient word meaning 'father' - he abducted the maiden goddess Kore in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter:

"The earth gaped open and Lord Hades, whom we will all meet, burst forth

with his immortal horses onto the Nysian plain. Lord Hades, son of Cronus

who is called by many. Begging for pity and fighting him off, she was

dragged into his golden chariot. She screamed the shrill cry of a maenad, calling

father Zeus, Zeus the highest and the best..."

Being a tripartite deity Hades is also Zeus, doubling as being the Sky God or Zeus, Hades abducts his 'daughter' and paramour Persephone. The taking of Kore by Hades is the act which allows the conception and birth of a second integrating force: Iacchos (Zagreus-Dionysus), also known as Liknites, the helpless infant form of that Deity who is the unifier of the dark underworld (chthonic) realm of Hades and the Olympian ("Shining") one of Zeus. The dual nature of Hades = Zeus is exemplified by the existence of Zeus Meilichios[2].

Zeus Meilichios is mentioned as being an epithet not for Zeus, but rather for Hades[3]. In the Orphics, the gods were identified with certain animals, for Hades it was the snake[4]. Zeus is never mentioned as being associated with snakes, because Zeus is one of the few Greek gods who never appear attended by a snake. Hades, Asklepios, Hermes, Apollo, even Demeter and Athene have their snakes; Zeus never[5].

Hades is often portrayed as a youth either holding or portrayed with snakes, and snakes themselves appear as an attribute to Hades. The fact that Hades is depicted as a snake is referencing to the story where Hades ravished Persephone is the guise of a snake, begetting upon her Zagreus[6].

In the oral tellings of the story, rather than the single written source, the ghost goddess Melinoe is said to have been fathered by a snake. Occasionally the result of Persephone's ravishment, is that she then goes on to give birth to twins, the gods Zagreus and Melinoe. Therefore should be mentioned that Zeus Meilichios is a different business to Zeus Olympios[7] and therefore means that Zeus Meilichios was not Zeus, but in fact Hades.

Hades' Children in the Orphic Hymns

Two of Hades' children are said to have been fathered by Zeus, however that is not the case. As mentioned in the above paragraph, it was Hades, rather than Zeus who is attributed with snakes. The name 'Zagreus' is attributed as being one of Hades' oldest epithets[8], linking him back to the days of Minoan worship. The Sibylline Oracles make a mention of Hades being the father of Dionysus (Zagreus) and Melinoe[9][10].

Cronion Zeus was a title that applied to not only Zeus Olympios, but Hades and Poseidon as well[11]. Cronion meant to be 'born of Cronus' and Zeus was a title that applied to a diety who was also a king in his own right. Much like how Persephone is referred to being the Chthonic (Underworld) Hera.

The funeral poem of a young girl named Theophile, who is buried as a bride of Plouton first makes a reference to a dual deity. The poem makes sure to mention that it is Hades, not Plouton who abducted the maiden (Funerary procedures of unwed maidens often portrayed them as the brides of Hades and the girls themselves were represented as Persephone), but she later goes to the bed of Plouton. The book mentions that it appeared that the Orphics believed Hades and Plouton to be seperate gods. Plouton (The god of minerals, wealth, fertility and the judge of the dead) was the husband of Persephone, he was also the god of those who were going to die, not those who were already dead; whereas they believed that Hades, the king of the dead was an extension of Zeus and a deity who was separate from Plouton, which we know is not true due to the earlier Eleusian Mysteries stating otherwise by pointing out that Plouton was just an epithet for Hades. The book actually points out that in the Orphics, Zeus was mentioned to have been the one to abduct Persephone, which we know for a fact that was not true, but once again the belief of Hades = Zeus is shown [12].

Therefore in the Orphic Hymn to Melinoe, they are not stating that Zeus disguised himself as Hades to imgregnate Persephone, they are stating that Hades using his role as Plouton impregnated Persephone, thus explaining why Melinoe was said to represent 'light and darkness' due to Hades/Plouton impregnating Persephone/Kore.

Asclepius

Another myth tells of Hades' involvement with Asclepius, a mortal son of Apollo who was a gifted healer and the world's first doctor. Asclepius was so gifted he was able to give mortals longer lives by curing plagues and showing them how to take care of themselves. Asclepius brought people back from the brink of death many times. Eventually though Asclepius started to bring people back from the dead for hefty sums of money. It was with this feat that Hades lost his temper and stormed up to Mount Olympus demanding that Asclepius pay the price for openly mocking death. Zeus appeased Hades by personally striking down Asclepius with a thunderbolt. Apollo, enraged at the death of his son, killed the younger generations of Cyclopes that forged the bolt. Enraged at Apollo's defiance Zeus forced him to serve a mortal king for a year as punishment. Asclepius was later deified as the god of healing.

Sisyphus

One of the few other myths Hades played a major antagonistic part in was the myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus was a clever and charismatic king who feared death and made up his mind to find a way to evade Hades. Sisyphus trapped Hades when he came to reap his soul and though Hades escaped and would drag Sisyphus to the Underworld anyway Sisyphus had told his wife not to bury him with fare and so his ghost was sent back to ask for his last rites but Sisyphus instead remained in the world of the living as an undead, content to live forever in life rather then go to the Underworld. Hades did not wish to be trapped and tricked again so he told Sisyphus that for every day he lived one of his people would die. For a long time Sisyphus escaped death by offering one of his people in return and being a beloved king his people were willing to offer themselves to Hades on his behalf. But tired of Sisyphus scheming one day Hades called for the soul of Sisyphus's wife as offering. Sisyphus was terrified of living without her and so he finally conceded. His wife gave him his last rites at last and Sisyphus went to the Underworld. Hades was so angry at Sisyphus for holding the natural order hostage that he arranged a special punishment for him. Hades put Sisyphus on the edge the pits of Tartarus but told Sisyphus that his schemes would be overlooked and he had a chance to go to the paradise of Elysium if and only if he could roll a large boulder up a hill; Sisyphus quickly agreed fearing the punishments of Tartarus and tried to push the boulder up the hill but it fell, frantically he tried again and it fell. Sisyphus would keep trying to push the boulder up the hill so he would never be brought to be punished in the fiery pits and one day he could get out and go to Elysium, but Hades never told him the boulder, like all parts of the Underworld, obeyed his wishes and would always roll down and that that was his punishment. So Sisyphus continues to try to escape Tartarus forever punished by his own ambitions.

Heracles

Hades was also featured in the myth of Heracles. When Heracles raided Pylos, Hades was present. No one knows whether he was surveying the souls or fighting with the people of Pylos. Heracles, either way, shot Hades in the heel with one of his arrows. This caused Hades to ascend Olympus in order to be healed by the immortal healer, Paean.

Minthe

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 by trampling her into the ground.

Symbols

220px-EasternScreechOwl-Rufous

Screech Owl the bird of Hades

  • The Screech Owl is the sacred bird of Hades
  • Cypress Tree are the trees sacred to Hades, Aphrodite, and Artemis.
  • Cerberus, was his three headed pet dog is a symbol of his.
  • Snakes were sacred to him due to his previous role as a snake god called Zeus Meilichios. According to Nonnos, in his tripartite diety role under Zeus' name (As Zeus, Hades and Dionysus, these gods were considered to be different incarnations of the same god with different roles.) Hades seduced Persephone in the guise of a snake and she later birthed their son Zagreus and in oral stories, their daughter Melinoe. Hades soon obtained permission from Dios (Zeus Olympius) to marry her. Snakes were also considered to be messengers to the Underworld and people believed that they were capable of rebirthing themselves from death through the act of shedding their skins[13][14].
  • The pitchfork is Hades' weapon, and one of his symbols.
  • The helmet of Hades that allowed him to become invisible

Personality

Contrary to modern depictions, Hades wasn't evil or even cold-hearted. Ironically, he had a better sense of justice than Zeus ever did. Unlike other gods, Hades rarely cheated on his wife. The constant misery of the souls in the Underworld, and chronic loneliness often made Hades depressed and brooding. Hades took his duties very seriously, unlike the other gods and rarely visited the earth. He was dreaded by Zeus's children and the other lesser gods.

Physical Description

Hades is usually described as having the typical olive skin of the Mediterranean, however being his skin being lighter than his siblings due to the lack of sunlight in the Underworld, like his niece Athena, he is described has having sharp, bright eyes, curly black hair, and like all gods, sported an athletic, but slim, build.

Powers and Abilities

Hades is one of the most powerful Greek gods, rivaled only by his brothers, Zeus and Poseidon. He ruled the Underworld and had control over the dead and riches (metals and precious stones), and as such had some power over the earth. He possessed a powerful helmet which rendered him completely imperceptible to most beings. Hades also inspired so much fear, that he could drive humans insane just by his mere presence. It is also noted that Hades had control over darkness.

Trivia

  • There's an allusion that Hades, Zeus and Dionysus were the same deity, this is further exemplified by the fact that Demeter refused to drink wine, a gift from Dionysus [15][16][17][18][19][20].
  • Hades' name in Roman Mythology is Pluto, though some people confuse him with the god Dis Pater, another Roman god of the Underworld, who had his place taken by Pluto. Dis Pater was sometimes used to refer to Hades.
  • Euripides' play "Alkestis" states fairly clearly that Thanatos and Hades are one and the same deity, and gives an interesting description of him as dark-cloaked and winged. Since Hades actually has a title that refers to him as "god of death and darkness" ("Hesperos Theos"), and since even ancient authors make it clear that they don't especially distinguish between the two, it becomes clear that there is a possibility that Thanatos and Hades were one and the same god. 
  • His son, Ploutos[21]., shared his duty as God of Wealth with Hades. In fact some stories list Ploutos as being the son of Hades and Demeter, while others affirm that he's the son of Hades and Persephone.
  • Unlike his brothers, and most gods, Hades never caused harm to any mortal without provocation. The only mortals who received his punishment were Pirithous, who attempted to kidnap Hades' wife, Theseus who assisted Pirithous and arguably Asklepios whose healing was so great he began returning the dead to life. Hades' only other relation to mortals was the fact that he placed them in specific parts of the Underworld, depending on how good or evil they were in life. This relatively peaceful nature of his is never portrayed in any popular culture depiction of him, where he is always an evil character.
  • The Helm of Darkness is sometimes called The Helm of Terror, because it can make someone invisible or it can show them their greatest fears.
  • Even though he is a God of Olympian caliber, Hades is not an Olympian and as such does not have a throne on Mount Olympus, instead residing in the Underworld.
  • He rules and possessed the riches and wealth under the earth. Hades controls the demons and spirits in the underworld. The Underworld is sometimes called Hades.
  • Hades has a pet 3-headed dog named: Cerberus.

Images of Hades

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trophonius
  2. (Taylor-Perry, Rosemarie (2003). The God who Comes: Dionysian Mysteries Revisited. p. 4.)
  3. (Eidinow, Esther (2014). The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization. p. 354.)
  4. (Graves, Robert (2000). The Greek Myths, Volume 1.)
  5. (Harrison, Jane Ellen (1922). Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion. pp. 18,19.)
  6. (Bell, Malcolm (1981). Morgantina Studies, Volume I: The Terracottas. pp. 89, 90, 106, 107, 254.)
  7. (Ogden, Daniel (2010). A Companion to Greek Religion. p. 42.) 
  8. Campbell, Lewis (1898). "Chapter 11: The Mysteries". Religion in Greek Literature.
  9. https://www.scribd.com/document/357078902/Sibylline-Hymns-Translated-and-interpreted-by-Virginia-Stewart-Avalon
  10. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_5xmH7CcqqDb2VVdGVsWThic3M/view
  11. http://www.hellenicgods.org/plouton---the-epithets (This mentions numerous epithets of Hades, it is incomplete but there are plenty to learn about.)
  12. (Images of Eternal Beauty in Funerary Verse Inscriptions of the Hellenistic and Greco-Roman Periods By Andrzej Wypustek)
  13. Bell, Malcolm (1981). Morgantina Studies, Volume I: The Terracottas. pp. 89, 90, 106, 107, 254
  14. https://www.mythsdreamssymbols.com/snakesymbolism.html (This website mentions the importance of snakes in multiple mythologies, and mentions that the snake was sacred to 'Zeus Cthonios' aka Hades)
  15. (The Lost Girls-Demeter, Persephone and the Literary Imagination 1850-1930 Text Studies in Comparative Literature) Ciccio’s physical attributes signify not only Pluto, but also Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, agriculture, and corn (the Roman Bacchus), associated with the underworld. A feature in the mythical character of Dionysus’, Frazer explains, ‘which at first sight appears inconsistent with his nature as a deity of vegetation, is that he was often [...] represented in animal shape’ (GB, p. 399). The Italian’s inscrutable black eyes denote cruel remoteness, furtive guile and predatory acquisitiveness. In his rare appearances in Greek art, Hades is often pictured with an averted face, implying he was not to be looked at directly. Ciccio is feline: he possesses the sensuous beauty of the cat as well as its stealthy grace and independent nature.
  16. (H.D., Notes on Thought and Vision & The Wise Sappho (San Francisco: City Lights, 1982), p. 32.) That H.D. here chooses Zeus and Dionysos-Zagreus is not accidental; she thus acknowledges a traditional identification of the two. Both have the titles of Meilichios and Chthonios, and they form part of a triad with Hades, as the great god’ who is also the ‘black’ god of the underworld. 
  17. Campbell, Lewis (1898). "Chapter 11: The Mysteries". Religion in Greek Literature.
  18. (Dionysos By Karl Kerényi) Mentions Zagreus being identified with either being Hades or his son, it also mentions that later stories where his is Zeus' son.
  19. (Dionysus: Myth and Cult By Walter Friedrich Otto) This passage mentions a quote by Heraclitus mentioning that Hades and Dionysus were the same god. It also mentions that Zagreus was identified with Hades, and was also his son.
  20. (The God who Comes: Dionysian Mysteries Revisited By Rosemarie Taylor-Perry) This book mentions the tripartite nature of Hades being Zeus and Dionysus. Interestingly it mentions that Ploutus was the son of Hades and Demeter.
  21. The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries By R. Gordon Wasson, Albert Hofmann, Carl A. P. Ruck, 'It was the Queen of Death, Persephone herself triumphing over the chthonic experience of womanhood by bearing a son to Hades, the Lord of Death and thereby changing the destroyer into her own and mankind's saviour. His name was Ploutos, the wealth that the vision at Eleusis assured for the initiates as their house guest, for so familiar did death become that his friendly presence maintained a constant prosperity stemming from the healthy accord between life and it's sources in death.'

Images of Things Sacred to Hades

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