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[hA' dEz] Greek lord of the dead and ruler of the underworld
The son of Cronus and Rhea, Hades gained control over the underworld when he and his two brothers, Zeus and Poseidon, divided the world among themselves.
The kingdom of Hades was a neutral region reserved for the souls of people who deserved neither punishment nor reward upon death. Hades himself was drab and dull, but not necessarily painful. Hades ruled his domain with an iron fist, but was considered a fair and just ruler. He strictly forbade his subjects from leaving his domain, and few living persons who dared entered his world ever left again -- although the Greek heroes Hercules, Odysseus, and Achilles all managed the feat.
The wife of Hades was Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, goddess of the harvest. According to Greek mythology, Hades was in love with Persephone but she did not return that love. One day, while Persephone was picking flowers with some of her friends, Hades came charging out of the underworld on his chariot, grabbed Persephone, and took her into his realm. The loss of her daughter left Demeter so distraught that she withdrew her gifts from the world, and the harvests began to fail. Zeus was forced to strike a deal with Hades whereby Persephone would be allowed to spend half the year with her mother so that the people's crops could flourish and the rest of the year with Hades. Hades reluctantly agreed, but before she left he gave Persephone a pomegranate; when she ate of the fruit she became bound to the underworld forever, thus insuring that she would always return. According to the myths, Persephone gradually became as feared as Hades.
the abduction of Persephone
Like most of his fellow gods, Hades did not let his love for Persephone keep him from straying. One of his most notable affairs was with the nymph Mintho. Upon learning of the affair, Persephone turned Mintho into the plant now known as mint.
Hades was always represented as a stern, dark, bearded man, with tightly closed lips. He was usually shown sitting on a throne of ebony, with a scepter in his left hand. He often wore a helmet given to him by the Cyclopes that had the ability to make its wearer invisible. He traveled in a dark chariot drawn by four coal-black horses.
Hades was probably the least favored of all the Greek gods, hated by most mortals and not well liked by his fellow Olympians. People avoided speaking his name lest they attract his attention, and the only ritual associated with him was the yearly sacrifice of a black sheep, whose blood would be allowed to drip into pits.
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This page was last updated on June 24, 2017.