Ancient Greek Artwork telling story of Hades
Ancient Greek Artwork telling story of Hades

Ancient Greeks worshipped the gods of Mount Olympus. However, the ancients also believed in gods who resided in places which were not as cozy as the home Zeus ruled on a mountain. There is one god that struck fear into the hearts of the ancient Greeks because he ruled the underworld, where souls were sent after they died. His name is Hades.

Power Over the Dead

Hades' brothers are Poseidon and Zeus, and after the war with the Titans, they divided the world amongst themselves.Poseidon was selected to rule over the sea, Zeus over the the heavens, and Hades to rule the underworld. Hades doesn't rule alone, but delegates duties to his underlings, including Charon the ferryman, who brings the souls of the dead to the underworld across the River Styx, and Cerberus the fearsome three-headed dog which guards the entrance to the underworld. Ancient Greeks were fearful of attracting his unwanted attention so they avoided saying his name. They also averted their faces when making sacrifices to Hades.

Power of Invisibility and of Riches

Hades is considered to be very wealthy, because Hades resides underground and because the earth is filled with precious metals and riches. Hades also has the power of invisibility. He is able to call upon this power through a magical helmet the cyclopes gave him. He has let mortals and other gods borrow this helmet to complete certain tasks. For example, he lent it to Perseus when he slew Medusa.

Weakness of Stubbornness and Deceit

Hades refuses to let anyone leave the underworld, and his stubbornness can be considered a weakness. He is not always straightforward with his word . Once, Orpheus asked Hades to allow him to retrieve his wife, Eurydice, from the underworld. Because Hades was enchanted by the music of Orpheus, he granted the return of his wife on a condition which Orpheus was unable to keep. Hades promptly had Eurydice swallowed back into the underworld.

Weakness for the Beautiful Persephone

When Hades laid eyes on Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, he decided that he had to have her. One day, when Persephone was picking flowers, the ground opened up and Hades came upon her in his chariot. He abducted her and brought her to the underworld to be his queen. When Persephone's mother, Demeter, learned of her daughter's abduction, she refused to let the spring come, and quickly many plants started to die. When Zeus saw that the earth was going to be devastated, he ordered Hades to return Persephone to her mother. Hades did so but not before tricking her into eating a pomegranate seed which bound her to the underworld. So Persephone spends half the year with her mother, during the spring and summer months, and half the year with Hades in the underworld, during the fall and winter months.