Hades, Ruler of the Sleeping and the Dead,
Known by Many Names,
Lord of the Sky,
The Invisible One or The Unseen,
And Hades, Zeus of the Underworld, the Greek god known
also as the Roman god Pluto.
Hades, like almost all of his brothers and sisters, was swallowed by his father, the Titan ruler known as Cronus, for he did not want the fulfillment of the prophecy that foresaw Cronus being overthrown by one of his children. However Rhea, the childrenísí mother, was able to prevent Hadesís younger brother Zeus from being swallowed. Eventually Zeus would come back and have Cronus regurgitate all his children, and with them Zeus waged a ten year war against the Titans to establish dominance.
One of the first things they did is the three brothers, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, traveled to the underworld and to Tartarus and freed the Cyclopes. The Cyclopes were famed at their ability to craft amazing weapons, and it was for this reason that Cronus imprisoned them there. Once free the ever grateful Cyclopes endowed the three Olympian each with their own weapon: Thunderbolts for Zeus, a trident for Poseidon, and a magical helmet for Hades. With his helmet Hades was rendered invisible as long as he was wearing his helmet.
The war was very long and very bloody, and Hades fought ferociously in battle. With his helmet he was able to do many thing a lot of other Gods could not, including his other Olympian brothers and sisters. There is the story that during the war Hades stole into the enemy camp in the night adorning his magical helmet and destroyed the weapons of the Titans, giving the Olympians an upper hand.
The war finally ended with the death of Cronus, where Hades, with his helm, got Cronus off guard, Poseidon who pinned him with his trident, and Zeus with is thunderbolt who dealt the finishing blow.
The war was finally over and the Gods were finally at peace, there was no more war and all the Titans had been justly punished for their part in the war. Finally all that was left was to decide who got what. Poseidon, Hades, and Zeus had to figure out a way to split the rule of all the lands. How did they solve this pertinent and important decision that would alter the very world and its foundation permanently? They drew lots randomly. Mayhap not the most logical way to solve the dilemma, but it did solve the problem with minimum struggle and argument as each God respected what lot they drew. After drawing lots Poseidon had won the oceans, Zeus the sky, and finally Hades won dominion over the entire underworld, also known as Erebus.
It was apparent (even though it was randomly selected) that Hades was well suited to his role as king of the underworld. His dark and morbid personality made him none too loved by the Gods and the mortals. Because of his position Hades was able to distance himself far from the others, and her rarely took part in the affairs of Olympus.
The one thing that Hades was missing from his large dominion was that he was a king but had no queen. Eventually he would find his wife in Persephone, although not entirely by his own accord (although if I were him I would not be complaining). What happened was once Hadesí was out among the mortals, and Eros knowing it was Zeus shot one of his arrows dipped in Aphroditeís love potion, which caused Hades to instantly fall in love with the first person he saw. This person was Persephone. Being in love with her Hades wanted to have her, so while she was picking flowers Hades opened up the very earth and abducted her. Hadesí abduction would have gone just fine and dandy, except for the fact that Persephone was the daughter of the goddess Demeter. Demeter, once she realized that Persephone was missing, began an intensive search for her daughter. Consumed by her grief and her sorrrow Demeter, who controlled the seasons, the harvest, and plants, refused to allow the crop to grow and manking suffered. Zeus seeing this dilemma got the help of Hermes and aked him to retrieve Persephone from the underworld. The thing was that Persephone could return unconditionally if she hadnít eaten anything. However when Hermes arrived he found that Persephone had eaten six promegranate seeds. Itís varied in accounts, some say Persephone was unaware of the affect of eating the pomegranate seeds and was tricked, but other say that she fell in love with Hades and chose to eat the seeds herself so she could return to him. Either way she had to return for 6 months every year, and during this time Demeter gives bad weather to the world, the seasons known as fall and winter.
Not very surprisingly Hades wasnít as entirely as faithful as he shouldíve been. Also not surprisingly Persephone wasnít usually very sympathetic towards his affairs and vented her wraith upon the mistress.
In one such instance Persephone found out about Hades having an affair with a beautiful nymph known as Mintha. Persephone simply found her and stepped on her. Upon stepping her she was turned her into the plant, mint (bad for Mintha, but good for all us mortals who love minty goodness!). However Hades did love his wife very much and their relationship was a relationship of equals. Together they ruled Hades as king and queen of the underworld and both ruled equally over all the underworld.
Now the dominion of the underworld should be illustrated better before delving into the various other myths regarding Hades.
The underworld that Hades and Persephone ruled over could be divided into three main areas: Elysian fields, Tartarus, and Asphodal fields. Upon entering the underworld one reaches the sacred trivium, and itís there that three of Hadesí subjects, known as the three judges of the underworld, judge your life. These three judges were Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Aeacus. After judging you, one was sent to either of the three places; Tartarus if one was morally corrupt and if you lived a morally corrupt and impious life where one suffered eternally, Elysian fields if you were great hero who lived a pious life with good deeds living in eternal happiness, and finally Asphodal fields for those who fell in between which was just okay.
In the realm of Hades there also existed five rivers; Acheron the river of sorrow or woe, Cocytus river of lamentation, Phlegethon of fire, Lethe river of forgetfulness, and Styx river of hate. The river of Styx was also the river in which Charon resided. Charon was the ferryman of the river Styx who ferried departed souls for the price of one coin. It was also through Any soul who entered the underworld had to pay a fee to Charon who ferried the souls of the underworld on the river of Styx. Any who werenít able to pay the fee of one coin were cursed to roam the earth for one hundred years. Fortunately this was a chance for many to do good deeds and earn entrance into Elysian Fields. It was also through Charon and the River Styx that the various heroes traveled to the underworld through.
The major responsibilities of Hades and Persephone were as follows:
The first was that they needed to prevent any soul from escaping the underworld and returning to earth. To do this they had the help of Cerberus, given to them by the goddess-sorcerer Hecate. Cerberus was a vicious three headed dog (and this dogís bark was NOT worse than its bite) whom guarded the underworld with an abandon.
Since once you entered you couldnít leave, Hades didnít have many visitors. Although there were several heroes throughout Greek mythology as well as several Gods who regular visited the underworld.
The Gods Hermes regularly visited being the messenger of the Gods and Hecate had her dominion in the underworld. Also some gods had duties and responsibilities in Hades and thus were able to roam freely. These three gods were Thanatos the god of death, Hypnos the god of sleep, and Morpheus the god of dreams. Also Psyche entered the underworld once so she could pick up a special jar of beauty ointment from Persephone to bring to Aphrodite. Few gods ever visited the underworld and even fewer mortals. One such mortal was Orpheus who wanted desperately to save his wife from the underworld. When he went he played beautifully for Hades and Persephone. Both gods, moved to sympathy decided to let him leave with his wife Eurydice. However Hades gave him the condition that he needed to never look back. The moment that he did look back Eurydice would instantly become a shade again and return to the underworld. In the end Orpheus couldnít resist and had to look back to make sure it was his wife who was with him and he lost her in instant. They would only reunite later in death.
In another instance Theseus and Pirithous traveled to the underworld because Pirithous wanted deeply to abduct Persephone and take her for his own wife. Hades found out about their plan and being none too pleased that someone was trying to steal his woman, he decided to stop them. He asked Hephaestus, god of the forge, to forge two special chairs, chairs of forgetfulness. Full of hospitality and mirth Hades invited Theseus and Pirithous to dine with him, but the instant they sat in their chairs they forgot everything and sat in their chairs dazed forevermore. It was only later that the Hero Heracles had to go to Hades for his twelfth labor to retrieve the guardian of the underworld, Cerberus. While he was there he asked to free the two and take Cerberus. Hades agreed under the condition that Hercules could beat Cerberus in a fight without weapons, which he did (note: donít mess with Heracles). Hades let Heracles take Theseus, however he did not let him take Pirithous who was cursed to be trapped forever because he dared to steal the wife of a god. The other responsibility of Hades and Persephone was that they had to mete out punishments to those who transgressed the laws of the underworld or of earth. Though Hades was fearsome he was considered to be a merciful god, who was just and fair in his punishments, although he was also creative at times such as in the case of Sisyphus.
Zeus was enamored with the daughter of Sisyphus (big surprise there). When Sisyphus found out he was rather furious at Zeus (a little bit of the archetypal protective father), and attacked him with a club. Zeus, who hadnít brought his thunderbolts, had to flee. When he was safe he was noticeably furious at being shamed by a mortal. Never being the most merciful of gods, Zeus demanded that Hades find him and punish him. However Sisyphus was a rather smart and pretty wily man. When Hades went to collect him Sisyphus was able to trick Hades into handcuffing himself (how thatís possible, I donít even know). Sisyphus imprisoned him and daily walked Hades into his garden on a leash and ridiculed him in front of all of his subjects. At this point Sisyphus had pissed off, not one, but two gods, so itís safe to say that something tragic will befall him soon. Ares finally, under threat of death to Sisyphus, freed Hades. Hades then took the man who had him leashed for over a month to the underworld (bet that was an awkward chariot ride). Upon entering the underworld Sisyphus argued with Persephone that he could not enter the underworld because not only was he not dead, but he had also not paid his toll to Charon. Persephone being persuaded by Sisyphus allowed him to return to the mortal realm, under the condition that he die tomorrow and bring a coin to pay Charon. Of course Sisyphus never planned on returning but the very next day he was visited by Hermes who told him the Fates had decreed his death (sucks for him after all that trickery).
Finally Hades had him and he couldnít escaped and he meted out his punishment. Hades decreed that Sisyphus would have to move a gigantic boulder up a very steep hill only to have it drop back down again every time he reached the top. He was to do this for all of eternity.
Hades was the ďgood counselorĒ of the gods, the quiet judge who loomed in the background who was just and fair. He transitioned people from one life to the next, removing the distraction of the external world to enjoy the internal happiness of their new existence.