HADES

ΑΙΔΗΣ

Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto (detail), by Michelangelo da Caravaggio (1571–1610), Italian Baroque painter

Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto (detail), by Michelangelo da
Caravaggio (1571–1610), Italian Baroque painter

Or Pluto (Ploutôn) or poetically Aïdês, Aidôneus and Ploutens, the god of the lower world. Plato (Cratyl. p. 403) observes that people preferred calling him Pluton (the giver of wealth) to pronouncing the dreaded name of Hades or Aides. Hence we find that in ordinary life and in the mysteries the name Pluton became generally established, while the poets preferred the ancient name Aides or the form Pluteus. The etymology of Hades is uncertain: some derive it from a-idein, whence it would signify "the god who makes invisible," and others from hadô or chadô; so that Hades would mean "the allembracer," or "all-receiver." The Roman poets use the names Dis, Orcus, and Tartarus as synonymous with Pluton, for the god of the lower world.

Hades is a son of Cronus and Rhea, and a brother of Zeus and Poseidon. He was married to Persephone, the daughter of Demeter. In the division of the world among the three brothers, Hades obtained "the darkness of night," the abode of the shades, over which he rules. (Apollod. i. 1. § 5, 2. § 1.) Hence he is called the infernal Zeus (Zeus katachthonios), or the king of the shades (anae enerôn, Hom. Il. ix. 457, xx. 61. xv. 187, &c.). As, however, the earth and Olympus belonged to the three brothers in common, he might ascend Olympus, as he did at the time when he was wounded by Heracles. (Il. v. 395; comp. Paus. vi. 25. § 3; Apollod. ii. 7. § 3; Pind. Ol. ix. 31.) But when Hades was in his own kingdom, he was quite unaware of what was going on either on earth or in Olympus (Il. xx. 61, &c.), and it was only the oaths and curses of men that reached his ears, as they reached those of the Erinnyes. He possessed a helmet which rendered the wearer invisible (Il. v. 845), and later traditions stated that this helmet was given him as a present by the Cyclopes after their delivery from Tartarus. (Apollod. i. 2. § 1.) Ancient story mentions both gods and men who were honoured by Hades with the temporary use of this helmet. (Apollod. i. 6. § 2, ii. 4. § 2.) His character is described as fierce and inexorable, whence of all the gods he was most hated by mortals. (Il. ix. 158.) He kept the gates of the lower world closed (whence he is called Pulartês, Il. viii. 367; comp. Paus. v. 20. § 1.; Orph. Hymn. 17. 4), that no shade might be able to escape or return to the region of light. When mortals invoked him, they struck the earth with their hands (Il. ix. 567), and the sacrifices which were offered to him and Persephone consisted of black male and female sheep, and the person who offered the sacrifice had to turn away his face. (Od. x. 527; Serv. ad Virg. Georg. ii. 380.)

The ensign of his power was a staff, with which, like Hermes, he drove the shades into the lower world (Pind. Ol. ix. 35), where he had his palace and shared his throne with his consort Persephone. When he carried off Persephone from the upper world, he rode in a golden chariot drawn by four black immortal horses. (Orph. Argon. 1192, Hymn. 17. 14; Ov. Met. v. 404; Hom. Hymn. in Cer. 19; Claudian, Rapt. Proserp. i. in fin.) Besides these horses he was also believed to have herds of oxen in the lower world and in the island of Erytheia, which were attended to by Menoetius. (Apollod. ii. 5. §§ 10, 12.) Like the other gods, he was not a faithful husband; the Furies are called his daughters (Serv. ad Aen. i. 86); the nymph Minthe, whom he loved, was metamorphosed by Persephone into the plant called mint (Strab. viii. p. 344; Ov. Met. x. 728), and the nymph Leuce, with whom he was likewise in love, was changed by him after her death into a white poplar, and transferred to Elysium. (Serv. ad Virg. Eclog. vii. 61.) Being the king of the lower world, Pluton is the giver of all the blessings that come from the earth: he is the possessor and giver of all the metals contained in the earth, and hence his name Pluton. (Hes. Op. et Dies, 435; Aeschyl. Prom. 805; Strab. iii. p. 147; Lucian, Tim. 21.) He bears several surnames referring to his ultimately assembling all mortals in his kingdom, and bringing them to rest and peace; such as Polydegmon, Polydectes, Clymenus, Pankoitês, &c. (Hom. Hymn. in Cer. 9; Aeschyl. Prom. 153 ; Soph. Antig. 811; Paus. ii. 35. § 7.) Hades was worshipped throughout Greece and Italy. In Elis he had a sacred enclosure and a temple, which was opened only once in every year (Paus. vi. 25. § 3) ; and we further know that lie had temples at Pylos Triphyliacus, near Mount Menthe, between Tralles and Nysa, at Athens in the grove of the Erinnyes, and at Olympia. (Strab. iii. p. 344, xiv. p. 649 Paus. i. 28. § 6, v. 20. § 1.) We possess few representations of this divinity, but in those which still exist, he resembles his brothers Zeus and Poseidon, except that his hair falls down his forehead, and that the majesty of his appearance is dark and gloomy. His ordinary attributes are the key of Hades and Cerberus.

In Homer Aides is invariably the name of the god; but in later times it was transferred to his house, his abode or kingdom, so that it became a name for the lower world itself. We cannot enter here into a description of the conceptions which the ancients formed of the lower world, for this discussion belongs to mythical geography.

The Rape of Proserpine, by Nicolò dell' Abate (1512-1571), Italian Mannerist painter

The Rape of Proserpine, by Nicolò dell' Abate (1512-1571), Italian Mannerist painter