Hades Essay, Research Paper
The ancient Greeks portrayed the underworld as a place for all the dead and clearly visualized it in their myths and legends.
The underworld in Greek mythology was not a lively place, for it was where all the dead souls went. When a person died, the soul would be sent to Hades, a more formal name for the underworld. “The dead would go to Hades because there was no annihilation in the Greek mythology. The dead are dead because they have a flavorless and unhappy existence”.
The primary ruling god of the underworld is Hades whose brother is Zeus, king of the gods, and whose parents are Cronus and Rhea. Hades is a greedy god with his greatest concern being to increase the number of his subjects. He is very stubborn about letting people out of the underworld. Hades himself, rarely leaves the underworld. In one myth, however, we know of a time when he did leave his soulful domain. Hades became very lonely in the underworld, and went above and kidnapped Demeter s daughter, Persephone, for his wife.Persephone, nonetheless, was not Hades only significant other. Hades had a mistress called Minthe whom Persephone later transformed into a plant. Hades is also known as the god of wealth due to the precious metals mined from the earth. He has been said to possess a helmet that was given to him by the Cyclops. This helmet has been said to make him invisible. Hades lent it to gods and mortal men. Perseus used the helmet on his quest for Medusa s head and Athena, goddess of battle skills, put to use the helmet so the god of war, Ares, could not notice her.
Persephone, Hades wife, is the goddess of spring and the Queen of the underworld. She resides in the underworld for only six months of the year due to Hades kidnapping her. She was told not to eat anything for then she would have to remain in the underworld. While in the underworld, Persephone consumed six pomegranate seeds. Her mother Demeter, goddess of agriculture, threw a fit. Demeter complained to her brother Zeus. To be fair, Zeus stated that Persephone would have to remain in the underworld one month per seed each year. So, Persephone now resides in the underworld six months out of every year.
When the Olympians overthrew their father Cronus, the Olympians drew straws to see who would rule what part of world. Even though Hades, also known as the Roman God Pluto, drew the straw for the underworld, there are many gods, goddesses and personifications within the underworld besides him. These being: The three Furies, or Erinyes who would seek out miscreants. They were three women: Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. Alecto is often known as the goddess of war and death.
The god of sleep, Hypnos, also resided in the underworld, in Cimmerians in a cave on the island of Lemnos. Hypnos was the son of Nyx and the brother of Thanatos. His sons were the conductors of dreams. The mightiest among them, Morpheus, from whom we get the name for modern day morphine, brought dreams of men, Icelus, animals, and Phantasus, inanimate things.
Nyx represents the night. Being born from Chaos she is among the oldest of the gods. She also resides in Hades.
Lyssa, an underworld goddess, name means canine madness. She drove her dogs through the world prompting the divine intoxication of the maenads to destructive fury.
Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos were more commonly known as the Fates, the personification of human destiny. Clotho would spin the thread when one would be born. Lachesis would weave the thread, while Atropos would cut the thread at the end of one s life. Not only humans submit to the Fates, but immortals as well.
Hecate, a descendant of the Titanides and cousin of Artemis, lives in Hades. She is the kind goddess of witchcraft. She also shares in ruling over the souls as a result of being Persephone s friend. Hecate is also the goddess of roads, crossroads in particular because that is where the most ghostly activities were to have taken place.
Styx, the goddess of the river Styx, is also called the hated one. She prevented the living from crossing the realm of Persephone before undergoing the torments of death. Gods would use her name as a binding oath. If a god forswore himself, for nine years he was unable to take part in any godly activities as well as banished from the council. Her waters were believed to be poisonous and would dissolve any container unless it was made of the hoof of an ass or horse.
When an individual died, his soul would travel to the underworld. It was said that Hermes would lead the souls to Hades. When the souls would enter Hades, they would come upon Charon, the ferryman. Charon would take the souls across the River Styx. Along the way, the apparitions would come upon a fork in the road. At this fork, judgment would be passed. There were three judges, Aeacus, Minos, and Rhadamanthys. Aeacus would pass judgment on those who came from Europe, Rhadamanthys on those coming from Asia, and Minos had the final decision on the harder cases. One road of the fork would lead to the Isles of the Blest, and the other to Tartarus.
At the entrance of Tartarus, one would encounter Tisiphone. Tisiphone is one of three Erinyes. Tisiphone sits in a bloodstained robe. In Tartarus, one also might pass by Campe. Campe is the jailer of the Cyclops and the Hecatoncheires. Campe appeared as a woman. She had clusters of poisonous serpents replacing her hair and from her chest to her thighs, she was covered in sea-serpent scales. On her shoulders sat a coiled scorpion.
Other places within Hades are the River of Pain, Acheron, the Plain of Oblivion, and Lethe, the River of Forgetfulness. Guarding the gates of Hades was Cerberus. Several different descriptions have been given describing Cerberus. Some have said this creature was a bronze-voiced hound, who ate raw flesh and had fifty heads. Others said he had three heads, each resembling the head of a dog, with the tail of a dragon.
Most souls remain in the Plain of Asphodel. This is not a place of punishment. There is no enjoyment and the mind is confused and unaware. Those who don t go to the Plain of Asphodel, go to Tartarus. There are a couple examples of those who were punished for eternity by the gods and reside in Tartarus. For example Tantalus, remains there next to pool of water, unable to take a sip; Sisyphus must roll a rock up a hill only for it to fall back to bottom; and the daughters of Danaus, who killed each of their husbands, must fill a container of water using a sieve to transport the water.
One might imagine Hades as a dismal palace. However, because Hades was known for the metals and gems mined from the earth, the palace was not dismal in Hades eyes. It is a palace, all made of gold, with crystal windows; and because there is little or no sunshine thereabouts, the apartments are illuminated with diamond lamps.
One tradition involving the underworld occurs above Hades. When a person died someone would place a coin under the tongue of the victim. Charon, the ferryman, would not take any soul across the River Styx who did not have the coin. Those who didn t would roam the banks of the river for eternity.
Achilles once said to Odysseus when he entered the underworld on his journey home to Ithaca “Do not speak soothingly to me of death, glorious Odysseus. I should choose to serve as the hireling of another, rather than to be lord over the dead that have perished”.
In reference to the River of Forgetfulness, Plato said “They were all required to drink a measure of the water, and those who were not saved by their good sense, drank more than the measure, and each one as he drank forgot all things”.
Therefore, the Underworld was a place of internity. The Greeks believed strongly of the Underworld and displayed it in their myths and legends. From courageous heroes to punished miscreants their was a place for everyone, living and dead, in the Underworld.