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INTUSK MAGAZINE

TO THE CORE OF YOUR HEART

Hades - The King of Underworld

February 2, 2023

Hades is the Ancient Greek god of the Underworld, where human souls travel after death. Appropriately, the most important myth associated with Hades concerns one of the few times he did - abduct Hades means "The Unseen One." However, the Ancient Greeks rarely used this name—just like Christians rarely used the word "hell" during the Middle Ages. Because minerals and precious metals are found underground, they often referred to Hades as Plouton, or "The Wealth-Giver." Hades’ Roman equivalent is called Pluto as well.  

Among the Ancient Greeks, Hades was known as "the Other Zeus." Homer even calls him "The Infernal Zeus," in addition to "the grisly god."  

Hades' Portrayal and Symbolism  

As the ruler of the dead, Hades was a grim and ghastly figure, inspiring awe and terror in everyone. Though he was rarely depicted in art, he was most commonly portrayed with a beard, and a solemn, mournful look. 

He frequently wears a helmet, named the Helm of Darkness or the Cap of Invisibility. Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guarded the Underworld's entrance, is usually beside him. Every so often, he carries a sceptre or holds the key to his kingdom.  

At a later stage, he became associated with his weapon of choice, the bident, a two-pronged fork modelled after Poseidon’s trident. As Plouton, he was sometimes shown with a cornucopia, the horn of plenty.  

Hades' Biography  

Hades was the fourth child of the Titans Cronus and Rhea (after Hestia, Demeter, and Hera), and he was the first of the three brothers (Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus) to be born and swallowed by his father, but the last one to be regurgitated. 

After being rescued by Zeus from the belly of Cronus, Hades joins him in the Titanomachy. Eventually, the decade-long war ends with a victory for the Olympians. After the war, Hades was selected to rule the underworld.  

The Abduction of Persephone  

By far the most important myth is Hades’ abduction of Persephone, Demeter’s daughter. That was one of the few times Hades travelled above ground. The reason was love: he fell for Persephone. However, Persephone didn’t want to give in easily, so Hades devised an ingenious ploy.  

He made a stunning flower bloom in front of Persephone as she and her maidens were gathering flowers on the Nysian plain. When Persephone reached out to grab it, the ground beneath her split open, and Hades rode up to her in his four-horse, golden chariot, all dread and majesty, and carried her off to the Underworld. 

Demeter, the goddess of fertility, was so distressed at the absence of her daughter, that she started fasting and wandering. Finally, after nine days, Hecate told her what happened. After the All-Seeing Helios confirmed the event, Demeter left Olympus as an act of protest against the injustice done to her.  

With her gone, the earth had become as desolate and infertile as a desert. After a year, the gods became concerned that the famine would wipe out humanity. So Zeus sent all the gods, one by one, to beg Demeter to return, promising her various gifts and functions. She desired none; all she desired was to see her daughter again. 

So, Zeus had no choice but to send Hermes to Hades with the request that he return Persephone to Demeter. He complied, but only after making Persephone eat one pomegranate seed before leaving. This ensured that she would remain bound to his kingdom eternally. 

Now, both sides had no choice but to accept Zeus’ compromise: Persephone would spend two-thirds of the year with her mother, but one-third of it with Hades. And this is the season that corresponds with the winter months: It is said that Demeter retreats from Olympus to her temple at Eleusis to mourn the loss of Persephone. Every spring, Persephone would be reunited with her mother, Demeter, marking the season of rebirth. 

It is possible that Hades and Persephone never had children. However, some say that Zagreus may have been their son. Macaria is also claimed to have been Hades’ daughter – but no mother is mentioned.

 

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