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Hades facts for kids

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  • King of the underworld
  • God of the dead and riches
Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Hades/Serapis with Cerberus, mid-2nd century AD statute from the Sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods at Gortyna
Abode Greek underworld
Symbol Cornucopia, Cypress, Narcissus, keys, serpent, mint plant, white poplar, dog, pomegranate, sheep, cattle, screech owl, horse, chariot
Personal information
Consort Persephone
Children Macaria, and in some cases Melinoë, Zagreus and the Erinyes
Parents Cronus and Rhea
Siblings Poseidon, Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Zeus; Chiron (half)
Roman equivalent Pluto (via Dis Pater/Orcus merger)

Hades is a god in Greek mythology, and the eldest son of the Titans Kronos and Rhea (mythology). He is the god of the Greek underworld. In Roman mythology he is called Pluto. In his Roman form not only is he god of the underworld but also the god of riches and despair.

Hades is the brother of Zeus, Poseidon, Hestia, Hera and Demeter. He owns the three-headed dog Cerberus. Cerberus acts somewhat as a guardian of the Underworld.


Pinax with Persephone and Hades Enthroned, 500-450 BC, Greek, Locri Epizephirii, Mannella district, Sanctuary of Persephone, terracotta - Cleveland Museum of Art - DSC08242
Pinax with Persephone and Hades Enthroned, 500-450 BC, Greek, Locri Epizephirii, Mannella district, Sanctuary of Persephone, terracotta – Cleveland Museum of Art
Hades Altemps Inv8584
A bust of Hades; a roman Copy of a Greek original by an unknown author

In Greek mythology, Hades, the god of the Greek underworld, was the first-born son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. He had three older sisters, Hestia, Demeter, and Hera, as well as a younger brother, Poseidon, all of whom had been swallowed whole by their father as soon as they were born. Zeus was the youngest child and was the only one that had escaped this fate. Upon reaching adulthood, Zeus managed to force his father to disgorge his siblings. After their release, the six younger gods, along with allies they managed to gather, challenged the elder gods for power in the Titanomachy, a divine war. The war lasted for ten years and ended with the victory of the younger gods. Following their victory, according to a single famous passage in the Iliad (Book XV, ln.187–93), Hades and his two brothers, Poseidon and Zeus, drew lots for realms to rule. Zeus received the sky, Poseidon received the seas, and Hades received the underworld, the unseen realm to which the souls of the dead go upon leaving the world as well as any and all things beneath the earth.

King of the underworld

NAMA 181 Eubouleus 2
Bust of Eubouleus in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Despite modern connotations of death as evil, Hades was never portrayed negatively.

Hades ruled the dead and he rarely left the underworld. He cared little about what happened in the world above, as his primary attention was ensuring none of his subjects ever left his domain.

He strictly forbade his subjects to leave his domain and would become quite enraged when anyone tried to leave, or if someone tried to steal the souls from his realm. His wrath was equally terrible for anyone who tried to cheat deat

Abduction of Persephone

Persephone Hades BM Vase E82
Persephone and Hades: tondo of an Attic red-figured kylix, ca. 440–430 BC
Hades and Persephone, Vergina
A fresco showing Hades and Persephone riding in a chariot, from the tomb of Queen Eurydice I of Macedon at Vergina, Greece, 4th century BC

The consort of Hades was Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Persephone was abducted by him while picking flowers in the fields of Nysa. In protest of his act, Demeter cast a curse on the land and there was a great famine; though, one by one, the gods came to request she lift it, lest mankind perish and cause the gods to be deprived of their receiving gifts and sacrifices, Demeter asserted that the earth would remain barren until she saw her daughter again. Zeus then sends for his son, Hermes, and instructs him to go down to the underworld in hopes that he may be able to convince Hades to allow Persephone to return to Earth, so that Demeter might see Persephone and cause the famine to stop. Hermes obeys and goes down to Hades' realm, wherein he finds Hades seated upon a couch, Persephone seated next to him. Hermes relays Zeus' message, and Hades complies.

Afterwards, Hades readies his chariot, but not before he secretly gives Persephone a pomegranate seed to eat; Hermes takes the reins, and he and Persephone make their way to the Earth above, coming to a halt in front of Demeter's temple at Eleusis, where the goddess has been waiting. Demeter and Persephone run towards each other and embrace one another, happy that they are reunited. Demeter, however, suspects that Persephone may have eaten food while down in the underworld, and so she questions Persephone, saying:

My child, tell me, surely you have not tasted any food while you were below? Speak out and hide nothing, but let us both know. For if you have not, you shall come back from loathly Hades and live with me and your father, the dark-clouded son of Cronos and be honored by all the deathless gods; 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. But when the earth shall bloom with the fragrant flowers of spring in every kind, then from the realm of darkness and gloom thou shalt come up once more to be a wonder for gods and mortal men.

Hades abducting Persephone
Hades abducting Persephone, fresco in the small Macedonian royal tomb at Vergina, Macedonia, Greece, c. 340 BC

Persephone does admit that she ate the food of the dead, as she tells Demeter that Hades gave her a pomegranate seed and forced her to eat it. Persephone's eating the pomegranate seed binds her to Hades and the underworld, much to the dismay of Demeter. Zeus, however, had previously proposed a compromise, to which all parties had agreed: of the year, Persephone would spend one third with her husband.

It is during this time, when Persephone is down in the underworld with her husband, that winter falls upon the earth, "an aspect of sadness and mourning."

Visitors in the underworld

The hero Orpheus once descended into the underworld in search of his late wife Eurydice, who died when a snake bit her. So lovely was the music he played that it charmed even Hades (as well as his wife Persephone), who allowed him to take Eurydice to the land of the living, as long as he did not look back at her on his way out.

Sisyphus was a mortal king from Corinth who was punished in Tartarus for revealing to the river god Asopus the whereabouts of his daughter Aegina after Zeus abducted her, and for trying to cheat death as well. Zeus, angry at Sisyphus for revealing the secret, sent Thanatos to Sisyphus, but he cleverly cast Death into his own bonds, and as a result no one could die until Ares freed Thanatos and delivered Sisyphus to him. But still, Sisyphus ordered his wife Merope not to perform any funeral rites for him and what else was accustomed as tribute to the underworld gods before he was brought to Hades. After some time that Merope had not offered proper honours, Hades learnt of this, and allowed Sisyphus to return to the world of the living so that he could punish his wife, with the understanding that he would return afterwards. Sisyphus, however, never returned as promised until years later, when he died of old age. Hades punished Sisyphus by making him roll a boulder up a hill in the underworld; but every time he reached the top, the boulder would roll down again and again. In another version, it is Persephone who lets him out.

Cult and epithets

Hades and Cerberus, in Meyers Konversationslexikon, 1888

Hades, as the god of the dead, was a fearsome figure to those still living; in no hurry to meet him, they were reluctant to swear oaths in his name, and averted their faces when sacrificing to him. Since to many, simply to say the word "Hades" was frightening, euphemisms were pressed into use.

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.

Feared and loathed, Hades embodied the inexorable finality of death. He, however, was not an evil god, for although he was stern, cruel, and unpitying, he was still just.

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.

One ancient source says that he possessed the Cap of invisibility. His chariot, drawn by four black horses, 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. In certain portraits, snakes also appeared to be attributed to Hades as he was occasionally portrayed to be either holding them or accompanied by them.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Hades para niños

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