AskDefine | Define hades

Dictionary Definition



1 (Greek mythology) the god of the underworld in ancient mythology; brother of Zeus and husband of Persephone [syn: Pluto, Aides, Aidoneus]
2 (religion) the world of the dead; "he didn't want to go to hell when he died" [syn: Hel, Hell, infernal region, netherworld, Scheol, underworld]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Greek ᾅδης, literally ‘unseen’.

Proper noun

  1. : The god of the underworld and ruler of the dead, son of Cronus and Rhea, brother to Zeus, Poseidon; alternatively, the underworld, the domain of Hades, by transference from its god.
  2. In the Septuagint Bible, the Greek translation of Sheol
  3. hell


from Greek mythology
  • Finnish: Haades
  • French: Hadès
  • Greek: Άδης (Ádis), Τάρταρα (Tartara)
  • Swedish: Hades
the Greek translation of Sheol
  • Finnish: tuonela
  • Greek: κόλαση (kolasi)


See also


Proper noun

  1. Hades (mythology).

Extensive Definition

Hades (from Greek , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs, probably from Indo-European * 'unseen') refers both to the ancient Greek underworld, the abode of Hades, and to Hades in Homer referred just to the god; , Haidou its genitive, was an elision of "the house of Hades." Eventually, the nominative, too, came to designate the abode of the dead.
In Greek mythology, Hades and his brothers Zeus and Poseidon defeated the Titans and claimed rulership over the universe ruling the underworld, sky, and sea, respectively. Because of his association with the underworld, Hades is often interpreted as a grim figure.
Hades was also called Pluto (from Greek Ploutōn), and by this name known as "the unseen one", or "the rich one". In Roman mythology, Hades/Pluto was called Dis Pater and Orcus. The corresponding Etruscan god was Aita. The symbols associated with him are the bident and the three-headed dog, Cerberus.
In Christian theology, the term hades refers to the abode of the dead, where the dead await Judgement Day either at peace or in torment (see Hades in Christianity below).

Hades, Abode of the Dead

Hades, god of the dead, was a fearsome figure to those still living; in no hurry to meet him, they were reticent to swear oaths in his name, and averted their faces when sacrificing to him. To many, simply to say the word "Hades" was frightening. So, euphemisms were pressed into use. Since precious minerals come from under the earth (i.e., the "underworld" ruled by Hades), he was considered to have control of these as well, and was referred to as Πλούτων (Plouton, related to the word for "wealth"), hence the Roman name Pluto. Sophocles explained referring to Hades as "the rich one" with these words: "the gloomy Hades enriches himself with our sighs and our tears." In addition, he was called Clymenus ("notorious"), Eubuleus ("well-guessing"), and Polydegmon ("who receives many"), all of them euphemisms for a name it was unsafe to pronounce, which evolved into epithets.
Although he was an Olympian, he spent most of the time in his dark realm. Formidable in battle, he proved his ferocity in the famous Titanomachy, the battle of the Olympians versus the Titans, which established the rule of Zeus.
Because of his dark and morbid personality, he was not especially liked by either the gods nor the mortals. Feared and loathed, Hades embodied the inexorable finality of death: "Why do we loathe Hades more than any god, if not because he is so adamantine and unyielding?" The rhetorical question is Agamemnon's (Iliad ix). He was not, however, an evil god, for although he was stern, cruel, and unpitying, he was still just. Hades ruled the Underworld and therefore most often associated with death and was feared by men, but he was not Death itself — the actual embodiments of Death were Thanatos (violent death) and Hypnos (peacefull or natural death).
When the Greeks propitiated Hades, they banged their hands on the ground to be sure he would hear them. Black animals, such as sheep, were sacrificed to him, and the very vehemence of the rejection of human sacrifice expressed in myth suggests an unspoken memory of some distant past. The blood from all chthonic sacrifices including those to propitiate Hades dripped into a pit or cleft in the ground. The person who offered the sacrifice had to avert his face. Every hundred years festivals were held in his honor, called the Secular Games.
Hades' weapon was a two-pronged fork, which he used to shatter anything that was in his way or not to his liking, much as Poseidon did with his trident. This ensign of his power was a staff with which he drove the shades of the dead into the lower world.
His identifying possessions included a famed helmet of darkness, given to him by the Cyclopes, which made anyone who wore it invisible. Hades was known to sometimes loan his helmet of invisibility to both gods and men (such as Perseus). His dark chariot, drawn by four coal-black horses, always made for a fearsome and impressive sight. His other ordinary attributes were the Narcissus and Cypress plants, the Key of Hades and Cerberus, the three-headed dog. He sat on an ebony throne.
In the Greek version of an obscure Judaeo-Christian work known as 3 Baruch (never considered canonical by any known group), Hades is said to be a dark, serpent-like monster or dragon who drinks a cubit of water from the sea every day, and is 200 plethra (20,200 English feet, or nearly four miles) in length.

Artistic representations

Hades is rarely represented in classical arts, save in depictions of the Rape of Persephone. Hades is also mentioned in The Odyssey, when Odysseus visits the underworld as part of his journey. However, in this instance it is Hades the place, not the god.


The consort of Hades was Persephone, represented by the Greeks as daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Persephone did not submit to Hades willingly, but was abducted by him while picking flowers with her friends. Persephone's mother missed her and without her daughter by her side she cast a curse on the land and there was a great famine. Hades tricked Persephone into eating pomegranate seeds (though some stories say they fell in love and to ensure her return to him, he gave her the pomegranate seeds):
"But he on his part secretly gave her sweet pomegranate seed to eat, taking care for himself that she might not remain continually with grave, dark- robed Demeter."
Demeter questioned Persephone on her return to light and air:
"…but if you have tasted food, you must go back again beneath the secret places of the earth, there to dwell a third part of the seasons every year: yet for the two parts you shall be with me and the other deathless gods."
Thus every year Hades fights his way back to the land of the living with Persephone in his chariot. Famine (autumn and winter) occurs during the months that Persephone is gone and Demeter grieves in her absence. It is believed that the last half of the word Persephone comes from a word meaning 'to show' and evokes an idea of light. Whether the first half derives from a word meaning 'to destroy' – in which case Persephone would be 'she who destroys the light.'

Theseus and Pirithous

Hades imprisoned Theseus and Pirithous, who had pledged to marry daughters of Zeus. Theseus chose Helen and together they kidnapped her and decided to hold onto her until she was old enough to marry. Pirithous chose Persephone. They left Helen with Theseus' mother, Aethra and traveled to the underworld. Hades pretended to offer them hospitality and set a feast; as soon as the pair sat down, snakes coiled around their feet and held them there. Theseus was eventually rescued by Heracles but Pirithous remained trapped as punishment for daring to seek the wife of a god for his own.


Heracles' final labour was to capture Cerberus. First, Heracles went to Eleusis to be initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries. He did this to absolve himself of guilt for killing the centaurs and to learn how to enter and exit the underworld alive. He found the entrance to the underworld at Tanaerum. Athena and Hermes helped him through and back from Hades. Heracles asked Hades for permission to take Cerberus. Hades agreed as long as Heracles didn't harm him, though in some versions, Heracles shot Hades with an arrow. When Heracles dragged the dog out of Hades, he passed through the cavern Acherusia.

Orpheus and Eurydice

Hades showed mercy only once: when Orpheus traveled to the underworld to recover his wife, Eurydice. He played such hauntingly good music, that Hades allowed Orpheus to return Eurydice to the land of the living with one condition: that until they reach the surface, he was not allowed to look back to verify if she was behind him. Orpheus agreed; however, he thought that Hades had tricked him and given him the wrong soul. He glanced behind him, thus breaking his promise to Hades and losing Eurydice again. He would reunite with her only after his death.

Minthe and Leuce

According to Ovid, Hades pursued and would have won the nymph Minthe, associated with the river Cocytus, had not Persephone turned Minthe into the plant called mint. Similarly the nymph Leuce, who was also ravished by him, was metamorphosed by Hades into a white poplar tree after her death. Another version is that she was metamorphosed by Persephone into a white poplar tree while standing by the pool of Memory.

Epithets and other names

Hades, "the son of Cronos, He who has many names" was the "Host of Many" in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. The most feared of the Olympians had euphemistic names as well as attributive epithets.
  • Aïdoneus
  • Chthonian Zeus
  • Pluton
  • Plouto(n) ("the giver of wealth")
  • The Rich One
  • The Unseen One
  • The Silent One

Roman mythology

  • Dis
  • Dis Pater
  • Dis Orcus


  • D' Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths

External links

hades in Tosk Albanian: Hades
hades in Arabic: هيدز
hades in Asturian: Hades
hades in Bengali: হেডিস
hades in Bavarian: Hades
hades in Bosnian: Had (bog)
hades in Breton: Haides
hades in Bulgarian: Хадес
hades in Catalan: Hades
hades in Czech: Hádés
hades in Danish: Hades
hades in German: Hades
hades in Estonian: Hades
hades in Modern Greek (1453-): Άδης (μυθολογία)
hades in Spanish: Hades
hades in Esperanto: Hadeso
hades in Basque: Hades
hades in Persian: هادس
hades in French: Hadès
hades in Korean: 하데스
hades in Hindi: हेडीस
hades in Croatian: Had (podzemni svijet)
hades in Indonesian: Hades
hades in Icelandic: Hades
hades in Italian: Ade (divinità)
hades in Hebrew: האדס
hades in Georgian: ჰადესი
hades in Latvian: Aīds
hades in Luxembourgish: Hades
hades in Lithuanian: Hadas
hades in Hungarian: Hadész
hades in Dutch: Hades
hades in Japanese: ハーデース
hades in Norwegian: Hades
hades in Low German: Hades (Gott)
hades in Polish: Hades
hades in Portuguese: Hades
hades in Romanian: Hades
hades in Russian: Аид
hades in Simple English: Hades
hades in Slovak: Hádes
hades in Slovenian: Had
hades in Serbian: Хад
hades in Serbo-Croatian: Had
hades in Finnish: Haades
hades in Swedish: Hades
hades in Thai: ฮาเดส
hades in Vietnamese: Hades (thần thoại)
hades in Turkish: Hades
hades in Ukrainian: Аїд
hades in Chinese: 哈底斯

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Abaddon, Acheron, Agdistis, Aides, Aidoneus, Amenti, Amor, Aphrodite, Apollo, Apollon, Aralu, Ares, Artemis, Ate, Athena, Bacchus, Cerberus, Ceres, Charon, Cora, Cronus, Cupid, Cybele, Demeter, Despoina, Diana, Dionysus, Dis, Dis pater, Erebus, Eros, Gaea, Gaia, Ge, Gehenna, Great Mother, Hel, Helios, Hephaestus, Hera, Here, Hermes, Hestia, Hymen, Hyperion, Jove, Juno, Jupiter, Jupiter Fidius, Jupiter Fulgur, Jupiter Optimus Maximus, Jupiter Pluvius, Jupiter Tonans, Kore, Kronos, Loki, Magna Mater, Mars, Mercury, Minerva, Minos, Mithras, Momus, Naraka, Neptune, Niflheim, Niflhel, Nike, Olympians, Olympic gods, Ops, Orcus, Osiris, Pandemonium, Persephassa, Persephone, Phoebus, Phoebus Apollo, Pluto, Poseidon, Proserpina, Proserpine, Rhadamanthus, Rhea, Satan, Saturn, Sheol, Tartarus, Tellus, Tophet, Venus, Vesta, Vulcan, Zeus, avichi, hell, infernal regions, inferno, jahannan, limbo, lower world, nether world, perdition, pit of Acheron, place of torment, purgatory, shades below, the abyss, the bottomless pit, the grave, the pit, underworld
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