Hades may both mean the ruler of the underworld or the realm itself.
Ancient Greeks believed in Hades, the Underworld and the home of the dead. Accordingly, once a person died, the soul would leave the body, became a shadow of his/her former person and would go to the Underworld [Hades] to be judged. It was the original idea of the ancient Greeks for the afterlife.
- The Underworld was composed of three parts/areas: the Asphodel Fields [or Meadows], the Elysian Fields and Tartarus.
- The Asphodel Fields [Meadows] was the place most dead people would go to. Here, the dead would become Shades, shadowy versions of the personalities they were when still alive.
- The Elysian Fields was the part of the Underworld reserved for those who led heroically or exceptionally good lives while on earth. The place was described as a restful, peaceful and blissful abode for souls.
- Tartarus was the place in Hades reserved for evil people, a place filled with punishments and suffering. It was here that Greek god Zeus imprisoned Cronus and the other titans after defeating them with the help of his brothers Hades and Poseidon.
- There are times, though, that the dead were sent back to the world to live another life. These instances were, however, rare.
- Five rivers bordered the Underworld. These rivers were visible in the realm and in the world of the living as well. These were the Styx, Lethe, Acheron, Phlegethon and Cocytus.
- Many mythological accounts stated that Charon, the Underworld’s ferryman, rowed the dead to the Underworld through Acheron, the river of pain. Still, some accounts said that the dead were ferried to the realm through the river Styx, the river of hatred named after the goddess Styx and the most prominent of the five rivers, or both.
- The river Lethe was the river of forgetfulness and named after the goddess of oblivion and forgetfulness, Lethe. Cocytus was the river of wailing. Finally, the river Phlegethon was, according to Greek philosopher Plato, the river of fire that led the way to the depths of Tartarus.
- A sixth river, the Oceanus, encircled the world and marked the east edge of the underworld as Erebus was to its west.
- While the underworld was under the rule of the Greek god of the Underworld, Hades, he didn’t judge the dead. Greek mythology had three minor deities [demi-gods] serving as the judges of the dead in the underworld — Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Aeacus.
- Minos was the judge who made the final vote.
- Rhadamanthus was the judge of the men of Asia and the lord of the Elysium.
- Aeacus was the guardian of the keys of the underworld and the judge of the men of Europe.
- While Charon ferried the dead to the gates of the underworld, there were some he couldn’t take. Those were the unburied. He couldn’t take them riverbank to riverbank until they received proper burials.
- The gates of the underworld were guarded by the three-headed dog Cerberus.
- In some accounts, the Aeneid particularly, there was a section in the underworld reserved for those who wasted their lives loving people who couldn’t love them back [unrequited love]. This section was called the Mourning Fields (Lugentes Campi).
Hades [Aides, Aidoneus, or Haidês] is the Greek god of the dead and the ruler of the underworld. He is also associated with great riches, at times referred to as the god of wealth/riches.
- He was the oldest son of the titan Cronus and Rhea and the brother of Zeus and Poseidon. After Zeus, Poseidon and Hades overthrew Cronus and ended the reign of the Titans, they draw lots to divide the universe. Zeus’ lot was the skies; Poseidon claimed the seas and Hades drew the underworld for himself.
- The Greeks later named him Plouton and the Romans pluralized it to Pluto. Plouton/Pluto means giver of wealth. Hades, in Ancient Greek, means invisible. According to accounts, Hades had a helmet that made him invisible.
- Though Hades is the Greek god of the death, he shouldn’t be mistaken for death himself who is Thanatos in Greek mythology.
- Hades’ consort was Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, the goddess of harvest. Hades requested his brother [Zeus] for a wife and the latter presented him with Persephone. However, as the god of the skies knew Demeter would never consent to the union, he allowed Hades to abduct Persephone. But when Demeter learned of her daughter’s plight, she got so angry and brought about drought upon all the earth threatening to not lift it if Persephone wasn’t returned. So, Zeus sent Hermes to take her back to earth. But since she ate 6 pomegranate seeds – pomegranate being sacred to Hades and the Underworld – she needed to get back to Hades’ Realm for a time each year — during the winter season when the earth wasn’t in bloom.
- Hades was said to be infertile as not being able to sire children should be part of his nature as the ruler over the dead. He did have children, however, birthed by Persephone. According to Greek mythology, Persephone became pregnant when Zeus deceived and seduced her by taking Hades’ form as his guise. Other accounts said Zeus took the form of an earthly dragon when he came to the queen of the underworld. Accordingly, Hades’ children were Macaria, Melinoe [Hecate] and Zagreus.
- Gods and men alike detested Hades. He was often pictured as stern, unyielding and shrouded in mystery. He was fair over the inhabitants of his kingdom, however, and only got angry when the souls of the dead tried to escape from his domain.
- His many-headed dog [Cerberus] was placed at the gates of the Underworld to keep these souls from leaving the Underworld.
- Aside from his helmet of invisibility, Hades had a chariot drawn by four black horses, a throne that was made of black ebony and a bird-decorated scepter. Some of the symbols associated and were sacred to him were the Narcissus flower [which he used in his seduction and abduction of Persephone] and the Cypress tree.
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