|Title(s)||God of the Underworld|
|Parents||Cronus and Rhea|
|Sibling(s)||Hera, Demeter, Hestia, Poseidon, Zeus|
|This subject is also available on|
In Greek mythology, Hades (meaning "the unseen"), the god of the Underworld, was a son of the Titans, Cronus and Rhea. He had three sisters, Demeter, Hestia, and Hera, as well as two brothers, Zeus and Poseidon, collectively comprising the original six 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 the elder gods for power in the Titanomachy, a divine war. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades received weapons from the three Cyclopes to help in the war: Zeus the thunderbolt, Hades the Helm of Darkness, and Poseidon the trident. The night before the first battle, Hades put on his helmet and, being invisible, slipped 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 brothers, Poseidon and Zeus, drew lots for realms to rule. Zeus got the sky, Poseidon got the seas, and Hades received the Underworld, 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 and queen, Persephone, through trickery, a story that connected the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries with the Olympian pantheon. Helios told the grieving Demeter that Hades was not unworthy as a consort for Persephone:
- "Aidoneus, the Ruler of Many, is no unfitting husband among the deathless gods for your child, being your own brother and born of the same stock: also, for honor, 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."
- —Homeric Hymn to Demeter
Symbols and Domain
His identifying possessions included a famed helmet of darkness, 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 three-headed dog. He sat on an ebony throne.
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 others 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. His wrath was equally terrible for anyone who tried to cheat death or otherwise crossed him, as Sisyphus and Peirithous found out to their sorrow.
Besides Heracles, the only other living people who ventured to the Underworld were all heroes: Odysseus, Aeneas (accompanied by the Sibyl), Orpheus, Theseus, Pirithous (see note 18), and Psyche. None of them were 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 Blessed), said:
- "O shining Odysseus, never try to console me for dying.
- I would rather follow the plow as thrall to another
- man, one with no land allotted to him and not much to live on,
- than be a king over all the perished dead."
- —Achilles' soul to Odysseus. Homer, Odyssey 11.488-491
Hades, labeled 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, and averted their faces when sacrificing to him. To many, simply to say the word "Hades" was frightening. So, euphemisms were 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 that 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 or 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 pitiless, 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.
The consort of Hades 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 mother, Demeter. 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. Afterward, Demeter was desperate so she pleaded with Zeus to bring Persephone back from Hades' abode. Zeus sent Hermes to do so. However, Hades tricked Persephone into eating pomegranate seeds (though some stories say they fell in love and to ensure her return to him, he gave her the pomegranate seeds): Because she ate six pomegranate seeds she must stay in the land of the dead for a third of the year and for the remaining months she may live on Mt. Olympus with her family. While she is in the land of the dead she may not eat anything or she will have to stay there forever.
- "But he on his part secretly gave her sweet pomegranate seed to eat, taking care for himself that she might not remain continually with grave, dark-robed Demeter."
Demeter questioned Persephone on her return to light and air:
- "...but if you have tasted food, you must go back again beneath the secret places of the earth, there to dwell a third part of the seasons every year: yet for the two parts you shall be with me and the other deathless gods."
Thus 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.
Theseus and Pirithous
Hades imprisoned Theseus and Pirithous, who had pledged to kidnap and 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 knew of their plan to capture his wife, so he 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 but Pirithous remained trapped as punishment for daring to seek the wife of a god for his own.
Heracles' final labor 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 Taenarum. 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 Cerberus. When Heracles dragged the dog out of Hades, he passed through the cavern Acherusia.
Orpheus and Eurydice
Hades showed mercy only once: when Orpheus, a great player in music, traveled to the underworld to recover his wife, Eurydice, who had been bitten by a snake and had died instantly. Unable to accept that she was dead Orpheus went to ask Hades for a second chance. Touched by Orpheus's skill in music, Hades allowed Orpheus to return Eurydice to the land of the living with one condition: that until they reach the surface, he was not allowed to look back to verify if she was behind him. Orpheus agreed; however, he thought that Hades had tricked him and given him the wrong soul. He glanced behind him, thus breaking his promise to Hades and losing Eurydice again. He would reunite with her only after his death.
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.
In Ancient Culture
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 the very vehemence of the rejection of human sacrifice expressed in myth suggests an unspoken memory of some distant past. The blood from all chthonic sacrifices including those to propitiate Hades dripped into a pit or cleft in the ground. The person who offered the sacrifice had to avert his face. Every hundred years festivals were held in his honor, called the Secular Games.
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.
The philosopher Heraclitus, unifying opposites, declared that Hades and Dionysus, the very essence of indestructible life zoë, are the same god. Amongst other evidence Carl Kerenyi notes that the grieving goddess Demeter refused to drink wine, which is the gift of Dionysus, after Persephone's abduction, because of this association, and suggests that Hades may in fact have been a 'cover name' for the underworld Dionysus. Furthermore he suggests that this dual identity may have been familiar to those who came into contact with the Mysteries . One of the epithets of Dionysus was "Chthonios", meaning "the subterranean" However due to Dionysus birth in one myth, this is most likely false. .
Like most of the major gods, Hades was given epithets to reflect patronage in a certain area or field.
- Hades Ploutos - Hades of Wealth
- Hades Chthonius - Hades of the Underworld
- Hades Polyxenos - Hades, Ruler of Many
- Hades Nekrodegmôn - Hades, Receiver of the Dead
In popular culture
- Hades is featured in the eponymous third episode of the documental mythology television series Clash of the Gods.
- Hades appears as the main antagonist in the 2010 remake of the 1981 film Clash of the Titans. In film Hades convinces Zeus to let him loose upon humanity, for it to worship the gods again. Hades also sends Calibos to kill Perseus, plot which failed. Upon Perseus arrival from the underworld, Hades tricks Zeus into setting the Kraken free, which Zeus does, but instead of the Kraken punishing humanity, it's awakening weakens the olympian gods, giving Hades the chance to strike. However Hades is defeated by Perseus, who send him back into the underworld by using the Lightning Sword.
- Again portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, Hades appears as a secondary antagonist in the 2012 film Wrath of the Titans. In film Hades allies with Ares in a scheme to siphon Zeus' godly energies and empower Kronos. While Perseus travels to the Underworld to rescue Zeus, a severly injured and weakened Zeus forgives Hades and ask Hades to forgive him for letting Hades alone all this years on the Underworld. Hades has a change of heart but it is to late and Ares attacks him and Zeus. Hades fights back, and subdues Ares long enough for Zeus to be freed. After Perseus rescues Zeus, Hades travels to the Argive camp and gives Zeus the last of his energies for them both to strike Kronos in an attempt to defeat him. When Kronos attacks the camp, Hades and Zeus strike back, but Hades powers are depleted and before Kronos' second strike, Zeus shields Hades. This eventually causes Zeus death and Hades ends up powerless, Hades leaves to parts unknown but not before stating he might be stronger without his powers.
- Hades has appeared throughout the God of War video game series:
- In the original God of War, Hades (voiced by Nolan North) resembled a demon rather than a man. He provides Kratos with a new magic spell, the Army of Hades.
- In God of War II, Hades's appearance changes to being overweight, having a grotesque, scarred body, a fiery helmet, spike like growths protruding from his back, and he has clawed weapons attached to chains called the Claws of Hades. He briefly appears at the end of the game.
- In God of War III, Hades (voiced by Clancy Brown) is a boss and is killed by Kratos, causing the spirits of the Underworld to roam free and Kratos taking his weapons as his own.
- In God of War: Chains of Olympus, there is an after-game challenge mode named after him, the Challenge of Hades. The Challenge of Hades is also present in the original God of War but is an in-game challenge of Pandora's Temple and not an after-game challenge.
- Hades can also be worshiped in Zeus: Master of Olympus, providing silver and Cerberus to the city.
- Hades is the antagonist of the Immortal Throne expansion pack of Titan Quest.
- Hades appears throughout the Disney and Square Enix crossover series, Kingdom Hearts:
- Hades first appears in Kingdom Hearts as part of a group of Disney villains lead by Maleficent. He appears in the Olympus Coliseum world where he manipulates Cloud into attempting to murder Hercules for him. Hades is later fought during the Hades Cup tournament.
- Hades (voiced by James Woods) appears in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories as a figment of Sora's memories in the recreation of Olympus Coliseum. Like before, Hades enlisted the help of Cloud to eliminate Hercules. Eventually, Cloud was unable to defeat Hercules, due to fatigue. Hades decided to fight Hercules personally after firing his hired assassin. Sora intervenes which leads to a battle against him, during which he is the first of two Disney villain characters to use sleights.
- Hades appears in Kingdom Hearts II where he runs the Underdome coliseum after having had the Olympus Coliseum destroyed by the Hydra. He also uses Auron to once again dispose of Hercules.
- In Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, Hades manipulates Zack during Terra's visit. Hades also convinces Terra to enter the tournament to see if Terra can handle his own darkness. During Aqua's visit, Hades summons a copy of the Ice Titan called the Ice Colossus to back him up in battle. AFter defeat, Hades retreats.
- In Kingdom Hearts coded and Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, a Data version of Hades makes a deal with the Data Cloud: if Data Cloud destroys Data Sora and Data Hercules, Data Hades will give him the power to go to other worlds by telling him "The Secret of Heroes", and make him become stronger. However, he later double crosses Data Cloud, and reveals that he isn't the source of Olympus Coliseum's Bug Blox. After the defeat of the Data Cerberus, the real source of the world's Bug Blox, Data Hades battles the trio of data heroes and loses. He tells them he is not finished yet and will come back soon.
- Hades (voiced by S. Scott Bullock) is the Lord of the Underworld and the true antagonist of Kid Icarus: Uprising. In the game's story line, Hades engineers the series of battles to ensure a vast amount of souls to increase his own powers. He also displays the power to craft souls into monsters or resurrect those who died.
- Hades is the main antagonist in the side-scrolling vide game The Battle of Olympus.
- Hades is a Major God in Age of Mythology
- He appears in the popular series Percy Jackson & the Olympians. In the first book, the Lightning Thief, he is depicted as the villain; near the end, however, it is shown that this is not the case and that he is being framed for a crime against Zeus in an attempt to start a war between the Gods. He also appears in The Last Olympian, where he shows up with an army of skeletons to help defeat Kronos in the Battle of Manhattan. He is the father of Nico di Angelo, Bianca di Angelo, and Hazel Levesque (as Pluto).
- ↑ (Kerenyi 1976, p. 240)
- ↑ (Kerenyi 1976, p.83)
- ↑ (Immortals: Gods and Heroes)
- ↑ (Clash of the Titans (2010 film))
- ↑ (Wrath of the Titans, 2012 film)
- ↑ (God of War, original video game)
- ↑ (God of War III)
|Classical Olympians||Aphrodite • Apollo • Ares • Artemis • Athena • Demeter • Dionysus • Hephaestus • Hera • Hermes • Poseidon • Zeus|
|Other deities||Asclepius • Eros • Hades • Hebe • Heracles • Hestia • Pan • Persephone|