Today's poets, today's poems. Share yours, send to email@example.com
Haides ("The Unseen One") was the chthonic Greek god of the underworld, which eventually took his name. The oldest son of Cronus and Rhea, he was the last son regurgitated by his father. After he and his brothers Zeus and Poseidon defeated the Titans, their father's generation of gods, they drew lots to divide the realm: Hades received rule over the underworld (the unseen realm to which the souls of the dead go upon leaving the world as well as all things beneath the earth), Zeus the sky, and Poseidon the sea, with the solid earth (the province of Gaia) available to all three. At the behest of Zeus, Hades abducted Demeter's beautiful daughter Persephone as his wife while she was picking flowers in the fields of Nysa. In protest, Demeter cast a curse on the land, keading to a great famine; one by one, the gods requested that she lift it, lest mankind perish, but she insisted that the earth would remain barren until she saw her daughter again. Finally, Zeus intervened; via Hermes, he requested that Hades return Persephone. Hades complied but secretly gave her pomegranate seeds to eat, since the agreeement was that if Persephone ate any of his food she woud have to spend 1/3 of her time with him. Theseus and Pirithous vowed to kidnap and marry daughters of Zeus. First they captured Helen and kept her until she was old enough to marry Theseus; they left her with Theseus' mother Aethra and traveled to the Underworld to take Persephone. Hades set them a feast, but when they sat down snakes coiled around their feet and held them there. Heracles eventually rescued Theseus, but Pirithous remained trapped as punishment for daring to marry the wife of a god.
Hades was generally portrayed as passive rather than evil, and he gave all his subjects equal treatment in regards to his laws; his role was to maintain relative balance. But the Greeks mostly refrained from giving him much thought to avoid attracting his attention; they were reluctant to swear oaths in his name and banged their hands on the ground to be sure he would hear them while they averted their faces when sacrificing to him. He was seldom portrayed in art, usually portrayed looking away from the other gods, who also disliked and feared him. He was called Clymenus ("notorious"), Polydegmon ("who receives many"), and Eubuleus ("good counsel" or "well-intentioned"), and all these euphemisms evolved into epithets. Around the 5th century BCE he was euppemistically called Plouton ("wealthy"), based on the notion that riches such as fertile crops and metals come from the abode below; the playwright Sophocles explained the referrence to Hades as "the rich one" by remarking, "the gloomy Hades enriches himself with our sighs and our tears." As Plouton, he held a cornucopia, representing the gifts he bestowed upon people as well as fertility, which he becomes connected to. Plouton was Latinized as Pluto, a syncretic god who merged the Etruscan god Aita and the Roman gods Dis Pater and Orcus. In the older myths, his realm was misty and gloomy, but eventually various sections were differentiated: Elysium, at first reserved for mortals related to the gods and other heroes but later expanded to include the righteous, the heroic, and those chosen by the gods, where they would live a blessed and happy life after death, indulging in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life; the Asphodel Meadows, where ordinary souls went after death and twittered around like bats and could only be reawakened to human sensation by libations of blood offered to them in the world of the living; Tartaros, the deep abyss used as a dungeon of torment and suffering for the wicked (and as the prison for the Titans); and the Garden of the Hesperides where the blessed heroes dwelt. The underworld also contained five rivers of symbolic meaning: Acheron (the river of sorrow, or woe), Cocytus (lamentation), Phlegethon (fire), Lethe (oblivion), and Styx (hate), the boundary between the upper and lower worlds and upon which even the gods swore. Beyond lay Erebus (dread) with two pools, Lethe, where the common souls flocked to erase all memory, and Mnemosyne ("memory"), where the initiates of the Mysteries drank. Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Aeacus sat in the forecourt of the royal palace, where three roads meet, and judged which road to send the dead souls. In the Sibylline oracles, Hades became conflated with the abode of the dead; they derive "Hades" from "Adam" (the first man) because he was the first to enter there.
A rewarding read.
Join the conversation! What is your reaction to the post?