The Legend Of Hades
HAIDES (Aides, Aidoneus, or Hades) was the King of the Underworld, the god of death and the dead. He presided over funeral rites and defended the right of the dead to due burial. Haides was also the god of the hidden wealth of the earth, from the fertile soil with nourished the seed-grain, to the mined wealth of gold, silver and other metals.
Hades was devoured by Kronos as soon as he was born, along with four of his siblings. Zeus later caused the Titan to disgorge them, and together they drove the Titan gods from heaven and locked them away in the pit of Tartaros. When the three victorious brothers then drew lots for the division of the cosmos, Hades received the third portion, the dark dismal realm of the underworld, as his domain.
Hades desired a bride and petitioned his brother Zeus to grant him one of his daughters. The god offered him Persephone, the daughter of Demeter. However, knowing that the goddess would resist the marriage, he assented to the forceful abduction of the girl. When Demeter learned of this, she was furious and caused a great dearth to fall upon the earth until her daughter was returned. Zeus was forced to concede lest mankind perish, and the girl was fetched forth from the underworld. However, since she had tasted of the pomegranate seed, she was forced to return to him for a portion of each year.
Haides was depicted as a dark-bearded, regal god. He was depicted as either Aidoneus, enthroned in the underworld, holding a bird-tipped sceptre, or as Plouton, the giver of wealth, pouring fertility from a cornucopia. The Romans named him Dis, or Pluto, the Latin form of his Greek title Plouton, “the Lord of Riches.”
HADES or PLUTON (Haidês, Ploutôn or poetically Aïdês, Aidôneus and Ploutens), the god of the lower world. Plato (Cratyl. p. 403) observes that people preferred calling him Pluton (the giver of wealth) to pronouncing the dreaded name of Hades or Aides. Hence we find that in ordinary life and in the mysteries the name Pluton became generally established, while the poets preferred the ancient name Aides or the form Pluteus. The etymology of Hades is uncertain: some derive it from a-idein, whence it would signify “the god who makes invisible,” and others from hadô or chadô; so that Hades would mean “the allembracer,” or “all-receiver.” The Roman poets use the names Dis, Orcus, and Tartarus as synonymous with Pluton, for the god of the lower world.
Hades is a son of Cronus and Rhea, and a brother of Zeus and Poseidon. He was married to Persephone, the daughter of Demeter. In the division of the world among the three brothers, Hades obtained “the darkness of night,” the abode of the shades, over which he rules. (Apollod. i. 1. § 5, 2. § 1.) Hence he is called the infernal Zeus (Zeus katachthonios), or the king of the shades (anae enerôn, Hom. Il. ix. 457, xx. 61. xv. 187, &c.). As, however, the earth and Olympus belonged to the three brothers in common, he might ascend Olympus, as he did at the time when he was wounded by Heracles. (Il. v. 395; comp. Paus. vi. 25. § 3; Apollod. ii. 7. § 3; Pind. Ol. ix. 31.) But when Hades was in his own kingdom, he was quite unaware of what was going on either on earth or in Olympus (Il. xx. 61, &c.), and it was only the oaths and curses of men that reached his ears, as they reached those of the Erinnyes. He possessed a helmet which rendered the wearer invisible (Il. v. 845), and later traditions stated that this helmet was given him as a present by the Cyclopes after their delivery from Tartarus. (Apollod. i. 2. § 1.) Ancient story mentions both gods and men who were honoured by Hades with the temporary use of this helmet. (Apollod. i. 6. § 2, ii. 4. § 2.) His character is described as fierce and inexorable, whence of all the gods he was most hated by mortals. (Il. ix. 158.) He kept the gates of the lower world closed (whence he is called Pulartês, Il. viii. 367; comp. Paus. v. 20. § 1.; Orph. Hymn. 17. 4), that no shade might be able to escape or return to the region of light. When mortals invoked him, they struck the earth with their hands (Il. ix. 567), and the sacrifices which were offered to him and Persephone consisted of black male and female sheep, and the person who offered the sacrifice had to turn away his face. (Od. x. 527; Serv. ad Virg. Georg. ii. 380.)
The ensign of his power was a staff, with which, like Hermes, he drove the shades into the lower world (Pind. Ol. ix. 35), where he had his palace and shared his throne with his consort Persephone. When he carried off Persephone from the upper world, he rode in a golden chariot drawn by four black immortal horses. (Orph. Argon. 1192, Hymn. 17. 14; Ov. Met. v. 404; Hom. Hymn. in Cer. 19; Claudian, Rapt. Proserp. i. in fin.) Besides these horses he was also believed to have herds of oxen in the lower world and in the island of Erytheia, which were attended to by Menoetius. (Apollod. ii. 5. §§ 10, 12.) Like the other gods, he was not a faithful husband; the Furies are called his daughters (Serv. ad Aen. i. 86); the nymph Mintho, whom he loved, was metamorphosed by Persephone into the plant called mint (Strab. viii. p. 344; Ov. Met. x. 728), and the nymph Leuce, with whom he was likewise in love, was changed by him after her death into a white poplar, and transferred to Elysium. (Serv. ad Virg. Eclog. vii. 61.) Being the king of the lower world, Pluton is the giver of all the blessings that come from the earth: he is the possessor and giver of all the metals contained in the earth, and hence his name Pluton. (Hes. Op. et Dies, 435; Aeschyl. Prom. 805; Strab. iii. p. 147; Lucian, Tim. 21.) He bears several surnames referring to his ultimately assembling all mortals in his kingdom, and bringing them to rest and peace; such as Polydegmon, Polydectes, Clymenus, Pankoitês, &c. (Hom. Hymn. in Cer. 9; Aeschyl. Prom. 153 ; Soph. Antig. 811; Paus. ii. 35. § 7.) Hades was worshipped throughout Greece and Italy. In Elis he had a sacred enclosure and a temple, which was opened only once in every year (Paus. vi. 25. § 3) ; and we further know that lie had temples at Pylos Triphyliacus, near Mount Menthe, between Tralles and Nysa, at Athens in the grove of the Erinnyes, and at Olympia. (Strab. iii. p. 344, xiv. p. 649 Paus. i. 28. § 6, v. 20. § 1.) We possess few representations of this divinity, but in those which still exist, he resembles his brothers Zeus and Poseidon, except that his hair falls down his forehead, and that the majesty of his appearance is dark and gloomy. His ordinary attributes are the key of Hades and Cerberus.
In Homer Aides is invariably the name of the god; but in later times it was transferred to his house, his abode or kingdom, so that it became a name for the lower world itself. We cannot enter here into a description of the conceptions which the ancients formed of the lower world, for this discussion belongs to mythical geography.
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
Hesiod, Theogony 453 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
“But Rhea was subject in love to Kronos and bare splendid children, Hestia, Demeter, and gold-shod Hera and strong Haides, pitiless in heart, who dwells under the earth . . . and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker [Poseidon], and wise Zeus . . . These great Kronos swallowed as each came forth from the womb to his mother’s knees . . . Therefore he kept no blind outlook, but watched and swallowed down his children [all except Zeus] . . . As the years rolled on, great Kronos the wily was beguiled by the deep suggestions of Gaia (Earth), and brought up again his offspring, vanquished by the arts and might of his own son [Zeus], and he vomited up first the stone which he had swallowed last.”
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 4 – 6 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
“He [Kronos] then married his sister Rhea. Because both Ge (Earth) and Ouranos (Heaven) had given him prophetic warning that his rule would be overthrown by a son of his own, he took to swallowing his children at birth. He swallowed his first-born daughter Hestia, then Demeter and Hera, and after them Plouton [Haides] and Poseidon . . .
[Zeus alone escaped] When Zeus was grown, he engaged Okeanos’ daughter Metis as a colleague. She gave Kronos a drug, by which he was forced to vomit forth first the stone and then the children he had swallowed.”
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 68. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
“To Kronos and Rhea, we are told, were born Hestia, Demeter, and Hera, and Zeus, Poseidon, and Haides.”
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 70. 1 :
“There was delivered to Kronos an oracle regarding the birth of Zeus which stated that the son who would be born to him would wrest the kingship from him by force. Consequently Kronos time and again did away with the children whom he begot; but Rhea, grieved as she was, and yet lacking the power to change her husband’s purpose, when she had given birth to Zeus, concealed him in Ide.”
Pseudo-Hyginus, Preface (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
“From Saturnus [Kronos] and Ops [Rhea]: Vesta [Hestia], Ceres [Demeter], Juno [Hera], Jupiter [Zeus], Pluto [Hades], Neptunus [Poseidon].”
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 139 :
“After Opis [Rhea] had borne Jove [Zeus] by Saturnus [Kronos], Juno [Hera] asked her to give him to her, since Saturnus and cast Orcus [Hades] under Tartarus, and Neptunus [Poseidon] under the sea, because he knew that his son would rob him of the kingdom.”
Ovid, Fasti 4. 197 (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
“Saturnus [Kronos] received this oracle : `Best of kings, you shall be knocked from power by a son.’ Jabbed by fear, he devours his offspring as each was born, and entombs them in his bowels. Rhea often complained of much pregnancy and no motherhood, and mourned her fertility.”
Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 17 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
“You reckon Jupiter [Zeus] and Neptunus [Poseidon] gods, therefore their brother Orcus [Haides] is also a god.”
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 27. 50 (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
“Kronos who banqueted on his own young children in cannibal wise.”
Haides and his brothers Zeus and Poseidon battled the Titanes for the rule of the cosmos.
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 6 – 7 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
“When Zeus was grown, he engaged Okeanos’ daughter Metis (Counsel) as a colleague. She gave Kronos a drug, by which he was forced to vomit forth first the stone and then the children he had swallowed. With them Zeus fought a war against Kronos and the Titanes. After ten years of fighting Ge (Earth) prophesied a victory for Zeus if he were to secure the prisoners down in Tartaros as his allies. He thereupon slew their jail-keeper Kampe, and freed them from their bonds. In return the Kyklopes gave Zeus thunder, lightning, and a thunderbolt, as well as a helmet for Plouton [Haides] and a trident for Poseidon. Armed with these the three gods overpowered the Titanes, confined them in Tartaros, and put the Hekatonkheires in charge of guarding them. The gods then drew lots for a share of the rule. Zeus won the lordship of the sky, Poseidon that of the sea, and Plouton the rule of Haides’ realm.”
After the Titanes were vanquished the three brothers, Zeus, Haides and Poseidon drew lots for the division of the cosmos. Haides received the underworld as his share.
Homer, Iliad 15. 187 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
“We are three brothers born by Rheia to Kronos, Zeus, and I [Poseidon], and the third is Aides [Haides] lord of the dead men. All was divided among us three ways, each given his domain. I [Poseidon] when the lots were shaken drew the grey sea to live in forever; Aides drew the lot of the mists and the darkness, and Zeus was allotted the wide sky, in the cloud and the bright air. But earth and high Olympos are common to all three.”
Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th – 4th B.C.) :
“Aidoneus Polysemantor (Ruler of Many), is . . . your [Demeter’s] own brother and born of the same stock : also, for honour, he has that third share which he received when division was made at the first, and is appointed lord of those among whom he dwells.”
Plato, Gorgias 523a ff (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
“By Homer’s account, Zeus, Poseidon, and Plouton [Haides] divided the sovereignty amongst them when they took it over from their father [Kronos].”
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 7 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
“The three gods [Zeus, Poseidon and Haides] overpowered the Titanes, confined them in Tartaros . . . The gods then drew lots for a share of the rule. Zeus won the lordship of the sky, Poseidon that of the sea, and Plouton the rule of Hades’ realm.”
Ovid, Fasti 4. 443 (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
“[Zeus :] `My rank is no greater [than Haides]. I hold court in the sky; another rules the sea [Poseidon], and one the void [Haides].'”
Seneca, Hercules Furens 53 (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
“Dis [Haides] himself, who drew a lot equal to Jove’s [Zeus’s].”
Seneca, Hercules Furens 833 :
“The king [Haides] of the third estate.”
Seneca, Phaedra 1210 :
“Heaven, hell, and ocean . . . there remains no further lot; three kingdoms know me.”
Statius, Thebaid 8. 21 (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
“The third hazard [drawn lot] hurled me [Haides] defeated from the mighty heaven, and I guard the world of guilt.” – Statius, Thebaid 8.21
Statius, Thebaid 11. 444 ff :
“The Warden of the Larvae (Shades) [lord Haides] and the third heir of the world, after the lot’s unkind apportioning, leapt down from his chariot and grew pale, for he was come to Tartarus and heaven was lost for ever.”
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 31. 56 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
“Lord Zeus holds the starry hall on Olympos; he has given the briny sea to his brother [Poseidon] the water king for his prerogotive; he has given the cloudy house of darkness to your [Persephone’s] consort [Haides].”
When the monster Typhoeus battled Zeus for heaven, Haides remained in the underworld.
Hesiod, Theogony 820 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
“And through the two of them [Zeus battling Typhoios] . . . through the thunder and lightning, and through the fire from the monster, and the scorching winds and blazing thunderbolt . . . Haides trembled where he rules over the dead below.”
Zeus betrothed his daughter to Haides without the prior consent of her mother Demeter. The god seized the girl as she was playing in a flowery meadow and carried her off to his Underworld realm. Demeter later compelled Zeus to return her for part of the year with the threat of earthly famine.
Plato, Gorgias 523a ff (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
“Sokrates : Give ear then, as they say, to a right fine story, which you will regard as a fable, I fancy, but I as an actual account; for what I am about to tell you I mean to offer as the truth. By Homer’s account, Zeus, Poseidon, and Plouton [Haides] divided the sovereignty amongst them when they took it over from their father [Kronos]. Now in the time of Kronos there was a law concerning mankind, and it holds to this very day amongst the gods, that every man who has passed a just and holy life departs after his decease to the Isles of the Blest (Nesoi Makaron), and dwells in all happiness apart from ill; but whoever has lived unjustly and impiously goes to the dungeon of requital and penance which, you know, they call Tartaros. Of these men there were judges in Kronos’ time, and still of late in the reign of Zeus–living men to judge the living upon the day when each was to breathe his last; and thus the cases were being decided amiss. So Plouton [Haides] and the overseers from the Isles of the Blest came before Zeus with the report that they found men passing over to either abode undeserving. Then spake Zeus :
Nay,' said he,I will put a stop to these proceedings. The cases are now indeed judged ill and it is because they who are on trial are tried in their clothing, for they are tried alive. Now many,’ said he,
who have wicked souls are clad in fair bodies and ancestry and wealth, and at their judgement appear many witnesses to testify that their lives have been just. Now, the judges are confounded not only by their evidence but at the same time by being clothed themselves while they sit in judgement, having their own soul muffled in the veil of eyes and ears and the whole body. Thus all these are a hindrance to them, their own habiliments no less than those of the judged. Well, first of all,' he said,we must put a stop to their foreknowledge of their death; for this they at present foreknow. However, Prometheus has already been given the word to stop this in them. Next they must be stripped bare of all those things before they are tried; for they must stand their trial dead. Their judge also must be naked, dead, beholding with very soul the very soul of each immediately upon his death, bereft of all his kin and having left behind on earth all that fine array, to the end that the judgement may be just. Now I, knowing all this before you, have appointed sons of my own to be judges; two from Asia, Minos and Rhadamanthys, and one from Europe, Aiakos. These, when their life is ended, shall give judgement in the meadow at the dividing of the road, whence are the two ways leading, one to the Isles of the Blest (Nesoi Makaron), and the other to Tartaros. And those who come from Asia shall Rhadamanthys try, and those from Europe, Aiakos; and to Minos I will give the privilege of the final decision, if the other two be in any doubt; that the judgement upon this journey of mankind may be supremely just.”
Haides was usually regarded as an infertile god, for a god of the dead should, by his very nature, be incapable of siring children.
In Orphic myth, it is heavenly Zeus rather than Haides who impregnates Persephone, sometimes in the guise of an earthly dragon, sometimes in the form of her own husband.
I) THE ERINYES
The three goddesses of earthly wrath were sometimes represented as daughters of Haides. The usual account, however, describes them as earth-born.
Orphic Hymn 70 to the Eumenides (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
“[Erinyes] from Zeus Khthonios [Haides] born, and Phersephone, whom lovely locks adorn.”
Statius, Thebaid 12. 557 (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
“[Hades] the father of the Eumenides.”
Aeschylus, Fragment 124 Sisyphus (from Etymologicum Gudianum 227. 40) (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
“Now [I came] to bid farewell to Zagreus and to his sire, the hospitaler.”
[N.B. In this fragment Sisyphos describes his departure from the lower world. Haides, the “hospitaler of the dead,” is the husband of Persephone, and so the “father” of the chthonic Zagreus. His putative father however was Zeus.]
Melinoe was a chthonian goddess identified with Hekate. In Orphic myth she was born when Persephone was seduced by Zeus in the guise of her husband Haides.
Orphic Hymn 71 to Melinoe (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
“Melinoe, saffron-veiled, terrene, who from Phersephone dread venerable queen, mixt with Zeus Kronion, arose, near where Kokytos’ mournful river flows; when, under Plouton’s [Haides’] semblance, Zeus divine deceived with guileful arts dark Phersephone. Hence, partly black thy limbs and partly white, from Plouton [Haides] dark, from Zeus ethereal bright.”
Suidas s.v. Makariai (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.) :
“Makaria (Blessed). Death. A daughter of Haides. And a proverb :
Go to blessedness', instead of go to misery and utter destruction. OrGo to blessedness’ is said by euphemism. Since even the dead are called `blessed ones.'”