Who is Hades

The eldest son of the Titans Kronos and Rhea, Hades ( ᾍδης, Háidēs; Ἅιδης, Háidēs) was a deity of Hellenistic myth and belief, ruler of the Underworld and brother of Poseidon (lord of the seas and oceans) and Zeus (lord of Mount Olympus, all gods, men and creatures). Together, the three brothers defeated the Titans and took control of the Cosmos, with Hades inheriting the earth, Zeus the sky, and Poseidon the sea. Hades had three older sisters: Hestia, Demeter and Hera.

Hades’ wife was Persephone who was the daughter of Demeter and Zeus. Hades abducts Persephone as his wife, but Demeter floods the earth with famine and pestilence in her grief and dissension. Then Zeus sends Hermes, the messenger of the gods, to the Underworld and agrees with Hades that one third of the year he will be in the Underworld, two thirds with his mother. Hades also gives her a pomegranate seed, and unbeknownst to her, she is forever bound to the Underworld.

In the image of the ancients however, Hades was often represented as a balancer between life and death, cold and strict, never evil and demanding that everyone comply with his rules regardless of who stood before him. This is where the characterization stops for fear that they might attract the attention of Hades if they thought about him and described him in detail.

The kingdom of Hades also has a few more special visitors: Odysseus, Aeneas and Orpheus, the latter of whom, in order to appease the ruler of the Underworld, begins to play and charm the wife of Hades – Persephone.

The Etruscans had a Hades-like god in their myths called Aita, and the Romans later paralleled Hades with Dys Pater and Orcus.

The exact etymology of Hades’ name is disputed, but it has traditionally been accepted as meaning “the unseen/unseen” since ancient times. Another suggestion by Martin Lichfield West for the name is that it is a form of Aḯdēs (Ἀΐδης), which translates to: “he who rules when met” emphasizing the universality of death (it is everywhere, it always rules).

The origin of the name Pluto comes earlier even from the Romans – for fear of mentioning the name of Hades, they began to call him Pluto as it should mean “rich”, because they hoped that “from below” (the soil/earth) they would have bountiful harvest and the land will always be fertile with the right respect to Pluto. The name was later transferred to the Romans, but as a mixture of this belief for Pluto (“the rich”) and Hades (“the invisible”).

Myth of Hades and the Underworld

Deep underground reigns the relentless, gloomy brother of Zeus, Hades. His kingdom is filled with darkness and terror. The joyful rays of the bright sun never penetrate here. Bottomless precipices lead from the surface of the earth to the sad kingdom of Hades. Dark rivers flow in it. There flows the icy river Styx, in whose waters the gods themselves swear.

Kokit and Acheron drag their waves there; the souls of the dead resound with their groaning, filled with sorrow, their gloomy shores. In the underground kingdom flow those who forget about all earthly waters of the spring Leta. In the gloomy fields of the kingdom of Hades, covered with the pale colors of the asphodel, the incorporeal light shadows of the dead float. They mourn their unhappy life, a life without light and without desires. Their moans drifted softly, barely audible, like the rustling of withered leaves chased by the autumn wind. No one can return from this realm of sorrow. The three-headed dog Cerberus, on whose neck snakes twist with a terrible hiss, guards the exit. The stern old man Charon, who carries the souls of the dead, will not take any soul back through the dark waters of Acheron to where the sun of life shines brightly. The souls of the dead are doomed to an eternal sorrowful existence in the dark realm of Hades.

It is in this realm, to which neither light, nor joy, nor the sorrows of earthly life reach, that Zeus‘ brother Hades rules. He sits on a golden throne with his wife Persephone. He is served by the relentless goddesses of revenge, the Erinyes. Terrible, they chase the criminal with whips and snakes; they do not give him a moment’s rest and torture him with remorse; nowhere can their victim escape from them, they will find her wherever she hides. Next to the throne of Hades sit the judges in the realm of the dead – Minos and Radamant. Here, next to the throne, is the god of death Thanatos with a sword in his hand, with a black cloak, with huge black wings. A grave coldness blows from these wings as Thanatos flies to the dying man’s bed and cuts a lock of hair from his head with his sword and takes his soul. Next to Thanatos are the sinister cherries. They fly furiously on their wings on the battlefield. The Kerry rejoice to see the defeated heroes fall one after another; they press blood-red lips into the wounds of the slain, drink their hot blood with bait, and pluck their souls from their bodies.

Cerberus and Hercules, 530 BC

Others in the Underworld

Here, next to the throne of Hades, is the beautiful young god of sleep, Hypnos. It soars silently on its wings above the ground with poppy heads in its hands and pours a soporific drink from its horn. He gently touches the magic wand to the eyes of the people, gently closes their eyelids and the mortals fall into a deep sleep.

They roam the dark realm of Hades and the gods of dreams. There are gods among them who give prophetic and joyful dreams, but there are also gods of terrible, oppressive dreams that frighten and torment people. There are gods and false dreams; they mislead man and often lead him to perdition;

The kingdom of the relentless Hades is filled with darkness and terror. There, the terrible ghost of Empusa wanders in the dark, with donkey poop. After cunningly deceiving people into the night darkness and taking them to a secluded place, he drank all their blood and greedily ate their still trembling bodies. There wanders the monstrous Dragon; she sneaks into the happy mothers’ bedrooms at night and kidnaps their children to drink their blood. The great goddess Hecate rules over all ghosts and monsters. It has three bodies and three heads. On a moonless night, in deep darkness, she wanders the roads and cemeteries with her entire horrible retinue of Stygian dogs. It sends horrors and heavy dreams to earth and destroys people. People call Hekate as an assistant in witchcraft; but she is still the only helper against witchcraft for those who worship her, and at the crossroads, where three paths diverge, dogs are sacrificed to her.

The kingdom of Hades is terrible and it is hated by the people.