Hades FAQ

Hades was the name of the Greek god of the underworld and also the name of his kingdom. Hades was the lord of the dead but was not the god of death itself. That was Thanatos. Hades only ruled over the dead.

What were the realms of the Greek underworld?

After the dead were ferried across the River Styx, they reached the Fields of Asphodel. There, lost spirits wandered, dim and distracted. Only libations of blood awakened them-for a time-to their senses.

After passing the Fields of Asphodel, the newly dead came to Erebus. According to some legends, this region held twin pools. Lethe was the lake where the uninitiated drank and forgot their lives, and Mnemosyne was where initiates of the Mysteries drank to remember.

Next, the wandering dead came to the courtyard of the palace of Hades. Here, three judges decided where they must go. The ordinary dead returned to the Fields of Asphodel. The impious took the path to Tartarus, a dark pit of torment, the abode of the accursed. Blameless heroes were sent to Elysium, the abode of the blessed, a haven of eternal spring with its own shining sun and stars.

What were the five rivers of Hades?

Acheron was the river of pain. Cocytus, the river of lamentation, flowed into the Acheron. Phlegethon, the river of fire, also flowed into the Acheron and confined the evil dead in Tartarus. Lethe was the river of oblivion. In some myths it flowed around Elysium. Styx, the river of hate, was the border between the living world and that of the dead.

Who was Hades' wife?

Persephone was the goddess of springtime and the queen of Hades. The dark god seized her in a flowering field and dragged her down to Hades.

Her mother, Demeter, was the harvest goddess. She let the crops wither and humankind starve until Hades agreed to release Persephone. Unfortunately, the girl had eaten a few bright pomegranate seeds, so she had to return to Hades each winter. Each spring she returned to the world of the living.

Who were the children of Hades?

Some myths gave him no children. Others said Melinoe, the goddess of ghosts, was the daughter of Persephone and Hades. Melinoe wandered the earth invisibly with her spectral retinue. She was the reason dogs awakened sleepers with their barking, seemingly at nothing.

Macaria was the goddess of a blissful death who was considered to be the daughter of Hades by some.

The Furies, the three goddesses of vengeance who pursued their prey past death, were sometimes said to be Hades' offspring, too.

Did anyone ever escape from Hades?

Hercules escaped. Sent to capture Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades, Hercules fought barehanded and won. Upon accomplishing his task, the lord of the dead let him take the dog, and Hercules brought Cerberus back to the world of the living.

Orpheus came to Hades seeking his dead wife, Eurydice. She was allowed to follow him to the surface, provided he did not look back at her. Nearly in sunlight, he heard her slip. He looked, only to see her drawn back down into darkness.

In a later Roman story, Psyche was sent by Venus, the goddess of love, to the underworld to ask the queen there for some of her of beauty potion. Venus really meant Psyche to be trapped underground forever. Psyche won freedom in spite of her, and eventually married her son, Cupid.

The Greeks knew that almost no one ever escaped the dark realm of Hades, but it pleased them to think of him in love with the goddess of spring and occasionally showing himself merciful.

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