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Definition: Hades from Philip's Encyclopedia

In Greek mythology, the world of the dead, ruled by Pluto and Persephone; also another name for Pluto. Charon ferried the dead across the river Styx to Hades. In Hades, the virtuous went to Elysium, while the wicked were condemned to Tartarus - the bottomless pit.


Summary Article: Hades (1)
from Dictionary of Classical Mythology

King of the Underworld, which itself is often called simply Hades: see HADES (2). He was one of the six children of the Titans CRONUS and Rhea, swallowed and later regurgitated by his cannibalistic father. When the sons of Cronus divided the universe amongst themselves after their father's defeat, they kept the earth and Olympus as common property, while ZEUS took the heavens as his domain, POSEIDON the seas, and Hades the misty darkness of the Underworld. Here he ruled over the souls of the dead, a grim and sinister god but in no sense evil or Satanic, just as his kingdom bore no resemblance to the Christian Hell. He was called euphemistically Plouton, “Rich One”, because of all the riches that come from the earth (Fig. 140). The Romans too adopted this title, Latinising it to Pluto, and they also called him Dis, a contraction of dives, “rich”, and Orcus. He was given a wide variety of epithets, such as Stugeros, “Hateful”, Klumenos, “Renowned”, Polydektes and Polydegmon, “Receiver of Many”, Polyxeinos, “Host to Many”, Eubouleus, “Good Counsellor”; and he was also known as ZeusKatachthonios, “Zeus of the Underworld”, this last emphasising his absolute power over his realm. Just occasionally he gave permission for a dead person to return to earth, as he did for PROTESILAUS, SISYPHUS, and ORPHEUS’ wife Eurydice.

Hades’ main myth is his abduction of PERSEPHONE, the beautiful daughter of the goddess DEMETER, to be his queen. With Zeus’ approval, he came up to earth and seized her while she was gathering flowers, then carried her in his four-horse chariot down to his shadowy domain. He planned to keep her there forever, but Demeter grieved so deeply for her lost daughter that she made the whole earth barren, and Zeus was obliged to intervene and have Persephone brought back to the light of day (Fig. 56). But because Hades had induced her to eat a pomegranate seed while she was with him, she could not leave the Underworld completely and had to spend part of every year there (either four or six months) as Hades’ wife (Fig. 75), while the rest of the year was spent on Olympus with her mother. The marriage was childless. We hear from Ovid about Hades’ mistress, MENTHE, whomjealous Persephone trampled underfoot and transformed into the mint plant.

Hades possessed a cap of darkness that conferred invisibility on the wearer, and this he would sometimes lend to others: to ATHENA, for instance, when she wished to be unseen by ARES on the battlefield; or to HERMES, who wore it during the battle of the Gods and the GIANTS and with its help slew the Giant Hippolytus; and it was borrowed by PERSEUS on his expedition to cut off the Gorgon Medusa's head. Hades also owned flocks of cattle guarded by his herdsman MENOETES, who once encountered HERACLES when he went down to Hades to fetch the guard-dog CERBERUS. Heracles killed one of Hades’ cows, so Menoetes challenged him to a wrestling match, only to have his ribs broken. Hades too was wounded when one of Heracles’ poisonous arrows struck him painfully in the shoulder. He had to leave his realm and travel up to Olympus, where he was healed by PAEON.

Hades had very little cult, since his jurisdiction was confined to the souls of the dead and he had no interest in the living. He appears in ancient art much less frequently than the other major gods. When he does, he often carries a sceptre or a key as a symbol of his authority, or a cornucopia in his nature of Plouton.

[Homer, Iliad 5.394–402, 844–5, 9.457, 15.187–93, 20.61–6; Hesiod, Theogony 453–506, 850; Apollodorus 1.1.5–1.2.1, 2.7.3; Strabo 3.2.9; Pausanias 5.20.3, 6.25.2–3.]

Text © Jennifer R. March 2014, illustrations © Neil Barrett 2014

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