Hades

Greek Gods
Fast Facts:
  • Pronunciation: HAY-dees
  • Origin: Greek
  • Role: God of the Greek Underworld
  • Parents: Cronus and Rhea
  • Children: Macaria and Melinoe
  • Symbol: Helmet
  • Other Names: Pluto, Dis Pater, Orcus, Plouton

Who Is Hades?

Hades was the god of the Underworld. He and his brothers, Zeus and Poseidon, overthrew their father from the throne. They decided to split up the universe and drew lots. Though Hades became the ruler of the Underworld, he wasn’t the god of death. He was a greedy god and wanted to fill his portion of the universe as quickly as possible. He was known to promote events that resulted in death.

Purpose

Although he didn’t chose to rule the Underworld, Hades spent most of his time in his kingdom. He adjusted to his responsibilities quickly and rarely left them behind. He also caused earthquakes using his pitchfork.

Origins

Hades was an Olympian god. He was the son of two Titans. During the great war between the Titans and Olympians, Hades fought with his brothers and sisters. When they eventually conquered the Titans, Hades and his brothers became the new rulers.

Legends and Stories

Myths surrounding Hades show how selfish and self-centered the god could be. Here are some prime examples.

Hades Steals His Bride

Persephone was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. She was the goddess of fertility and harvest. Her looks were stunning and she attracted the attention of many male suitors. One of them was Hades, who was immediately captivated by her beauty when he first saw her.

Hades asked Zeus for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Zeus agreed but he did so knowing that Demeter would not allow the marriage to happen. Demeter was very overprotective of her daughter and would certainly consider Hades to not be worthy.

Zeus was right. Demeter denied Hades’ request. But Hades would not give up that easily. He began to devise a plan. He would make Persephone his bride, despite her or her parents’ wishes.

One day, Persephone was out in a meadow picking flowers with her friends. Hades knew this was the right time to carry out his plan. The ground beneath Persephone began to crack. Hades’ horses and chariot emerged from the opening and captured the young goddess before she could begin to realize what was happening. It took some time before anyone realized the girl was missing. But once the news spread, Demeter had a hunch of who was responsible.

Because she had no proof, Demeter traveled the earth looking for her daughter. Hectate, the goddess of wilderness and childbirth, suggested to Demeter that she ask the sun god Helios for help. What Demeter didn’t know is that both Helios and Zeus had seen the kidnapping but chose to remain silent. She approached Helios, who felt sorry for her, and asked about her daughter. Helios couldn’t lie and explained what had happened.

Demeter was deeply saddened. She took time off from her responsibilities to grieve for her loss. During this time, crops died and the fields dried up, as she was the goddess of harvest and fertility. The earth was facing widespread famine when Zeus decided to step in. He came up with a plan that would hopefully keep everyone happy.

He told his wife that he would command Persephone be returned if Demeter could prove that her daughter was unhappy. If she could not, Persephone would remain in the Underworld. But Hades heard about the test and found a way to trick Persephone, who was miserable as his wife. He had the girl eat a few pomegranate seeds. It was said that if these seeds were consumed, the consumer would appreciate the Underworld and wish to stay.

When the day of the test came, Zeus asked Persephone where she wanted to live. She immediately said that wanted to remain in the Underworld with her husband. Demeter knew that Hades had somehow tricked her daughter but she wasn’t able to prove how. Demeter threatened to abandon her responsibilities forever, which would cause certain doom. Zeus came up with a compromise.

For half the year, Persephone would remain with her mother. For the remaining half, she would return to the Underworld to be with her husband. This is the explanation of the seasons. When Persephone is with her mother, crops grow and harvests are plentiful. But when she returns to the Underworld, Demeter is overcome with grief and no longer provides support to crops and land.

Hades and Minthe

Though Hades was married to Persephone, he found himself attracted to a water nymph named Minthe. This made Persephone jealous and she kept a close eye on her husband. One day, she stumbled across the lovers during a walk down the river Acheron. She could no longer contain her rage and turned Menthe into a plant, which was named after her (the mint plant).

Hades tried to undo what his wife had done but it was useless. To show mercy for his lover, he bestowed a heavenly, aromatic scent on the plant. Any lover of mint knows how intoxicating and deep this smell is.

Family

Hades was the son of Cronus and Rhea, both Titans. He had five siblings. He ruled the world with his brothers, Zeus and Poseidon, and had three sisters, Hestia, Hera, and Demeter.

He was married to Persephone but their love story was anything but average. Hades kidnapped his bride, who eventually agreed to be his wife.

He had two children, Macaria and Melinoe.

Appearance

In artistic representations, Hades is depicted with gloomy and dark features. He is often shown with a beard and dark hair. More recent representations of him in movies and comics show him to be much scarier than Greek mythology suggests though.

Symbology

The main symbol of Hades was his helmet. It was given to him by the Cyclops during the Titanomachy. It helped him become invisible. Another symbol associated with the god is Cerberus, his three-headed dog.

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