Hades

The Unyielding Justice

Underworld, Necromancy, Funerals, Mineral Wealth

Darkness, Cypress, Keys

"Why do we loathe Hades more than any god, if not because he is so adamantine and unyielding?"

Agamemnon, ancient King of Mycenae

History

As the eldest brother of Zeus and Poseidon, Hades was acutely aware of his father Cronus' merciless nature. At the start of the Titanomachy, Hades freed the Elder Cyclopes from Tartarus and in return they made for him the Helm of Darkness which made him invisible. Over the next ten years of warfare he used the helm again and again, serving Zeus as a spy and a raider. With the Olympians' victory secured the realms of the Titans were divided up and Hades gained dominion over the dead.

King of the Dead

Hades found his new realm in chaos. By the River Acheron were huge camps of souls who lacked the coin to pay Charon and were doomed to wait for a hundred years. Despairing at this unjust suffering, Hades instructed his priests and worshippers to tell all to honour the dead with proper burial. Rites were to be carried out for everyone, even hated enemies, and any mistreatment of the dead risks invoking Hades' wrath.

Once, King Kreon, ruler of Thebes, failed to bury the bodies of enemies killed while attacking his city. A furious Hades sent a plague to Thebes. To free the city from its curse, two noble maidens defied their king and tried to bury the dead soldiers themselves. They died of exhaustion, hauling the fallen on to the funeral pyres. The city lamented their deaths and came out in droves to finish the task. Hades now deemed the city punished enough and lifted the plague. He raised the two maidens to be comets in the sky, honouring their bravery and dedication.

Judgment of the Dead

When he arrived in the Underworld, Hades found souls being judged by their still-living peers. This determined whether the soul spent eternity in torment, in toil or in paradise. The process had become corrupted by the rich and noble-born who paid each other to judge them worthy of paradise irrespective of their actual lives. Worse still, money could buy an enemy's damnation.

Hades successfully petitioned Zeus to change the law, handing the judgment to three great kings already in the Underworld. The long-dead kings are free from the trappings of mortal life and can see the worth of each soul. Dead mortals standing trial can now speak to defend themselves before the three kings give their verdict.

A Dark and Lonely Life

With the Underworld in order Hades settled into his new realm, but soon found himself lonely. He spent as much time as he could spare back on Olympus and there he learned of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter and Zeus. She had been courted by Hermes, Ares, Apollo and Hephaestus but her over-protective mother drove the suitors away and exiled her daughter to protect her from the other gods' attentions.

Persephone found her exile boring with only nymphs and satyrs for company. It was through these lesser beings that she began a correspondence with Hades and the two fell in love. Aware that Demeter would never allow her precious daughter to be with anyone, the lovers plotted to free Persephone from her prison. Under the cover of a flower-picking trip she escaped into the mortal world and, as planned, Hades burst forth from the ground and carried her to the Underworld.

When news reached Demeter that Persephone was missing she searched the world for her beloved daughter. Helios the Titan sowed discord among the Olympians and told Demeter that Hades had carried off Persephone. Wound up to a state beyond worry and fury, Demeter cursed the soil of the mortal world to be barren until her daughter was returned to her.

At first Zeus did nothing, seeing little wrong with his brother's deeds, but in time he was forced to act. An attack on his elder brother would bring about a devastating civil war so instead he exploited Hades’ devotion to order, point out the chaos in the mortal world caused by the famine. Hades recognised his brother was right and asked Persephone to return to Olympus.

With her daughter restored to her, Demeter rescinded the curse and the crops grew again. However, Persephone had eaten pomegranate seeds from the Underworld and become a part of that realm. The Fates had long since decreed nothing of the Underworld may leave it. Demeter appealed to Zeus and threatened famine, forcing the King of Gods into a compromise. Persephone had only eaten a few seeds and Zeus decreed Persephone must spend a third of the year in the Underworld, allowing the lovers to be united, and a third with Demeter. The final third she can spend where she likes, and she chooses to spend it with Hades. He dotes on his part-time spouse and has an extensive garden for her next to their palace.

Goals and Champions

Hades is the jailer of the Titans in Tartartus and a champion of Hades is tasked to work against the schemes of the Titans. They also see that the dead are honoured and occasionally represent Hades at important funerals. His champions also mete out justice to those who do not give proper rites to the dead.

Appearance and Personality

Hades appears as a thin man in middle age with short hair and a close-cropped beard, described by others as stern and unpitying, yet just. Unlike his fellow gods he is not prone to mood swings or emotional outbursts, preferring to be coldly calculating in his responses. He carries a long staff of office and wears full robes and sandals. His residence is a large palace complex at the centre of Erebus, a blunt and functional structure whose sheer outer walls hide a large inner courtyard containing a map of his realm made of precious jewels. Through the map any soul in the Underworld may be found.

Hades works to maintain the balance of the world and this means to him that the dead stay in the Underworld. His anger and wrath are only aroused when mortals attempt to cheat death, escape from his realm or ignore his rules. When in a bad mood or missing Persephone he puts on his helm and patrols the borders of the Underworld. He tends to Persephone’s gardens while she is away and holds court with her when she returns. Ever loyal to his love, Hades has never betrayed her trust.

Cults and Worship

As god of the Underworld and the dead, living mortals fear him. Though he is not the god of death itself, the inevitability of being his subject scares people. Greeks are reticent to swear oaths in his name, for fear of what he might do should they break a vow. Many will not speak his name, finding poetic metaphors and similes instead. Temples to Hades are small but well-looked-after, and found in most major cities throughout Greece. A typical sacrifice to him is a black sheep whose blood is drained into a pit beneath the altar.

Discussion

Mark Foster, 2012/08/13 20:57

Include the Key of Hades

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open/settings/6d6hellenic/hades.txt · Last modified: 2016/03/02 11:51 by tregenza
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