Hades is the god of the Underworld and the dead, and he is often represented by his two-pronged scepter and the three-headed dog, Cerberus.
Hades was one of the children of Cronos and Rhea, and helped his siblings overthrow Cronos. After his defeat, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades throw dice to see who will control the different realms of the world; Hades ends up as the king of the Underworld and the god of the dead. Hades is now synonymous as a name for the Underworld, not just for the god. The Greeks held the afterlife in high regard. They believed that a soul could not rest unless the body was properly buried or fired. They would bury their dead with two coins covering the corpse’s eyes to pay Charon, the ferryman, to bring their souls across the river Styx and into the land of the dead. The Underworld was guarded by a three-headed dog called Cerberus, and souls awaited trial in Tartarus, where Cronos and his allies were imprisoned by Zeus.
Hades fell in love with Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. He snatched her on his chariot one day and brought her back down to the Underworld with him. Demeter was so distraught at her daughter’s disappearance that she caused the earth to stop growing and a great famine overcame the fields until Zeus agreed to help bring Persephone back. His one condition, however, was that if Persephone had anything to eat in the Underworld, she would have to stay there.
Persephone ended up falling in love with Hades, but she pretended she was still unhappy. She ate six pomegranate seeds when no one was looking, and because of this, Zeus declared that she would have to spend six months of the year in the Underworld with Hades. This created the seasons of fall and winter, because Demeter refused to allow anything to grow during those six months her daughter was gone.
Odysseus visits the land of the dead in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, where he consults with the blind prophet Tiresias who warns him not to eat the cattle of the sun god. Hades was never overtly evil like the Christian Satan is portrayed; instead, he is stern and commanding, but very difficult to anger.
Hades Quick Reference
Cronos and Rhea
- Two-pronged scepter
- Helm of Invisibility
Power / Domain
- God of the Dead
- Overthrow of Cronos
- Kidnapping of Persephone
- Heracles in the Underworld
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