Hades, the Greek God of the Underworld, is also known as Aides or Aiidoneus, which means 'the Unseen'. As the God who ruled the dead, Hades has always instilled fear among the mortals as well as the Gods. Born to the Titans Cronus and Rhea, he displayed his valor in the Titanomachy, also known as the 'War of the Titans'.
In this war, he helped the Olympians defeat the mighty Titans, and thus got his kingdom―The Underworld. As the king of the dark realms of the Underworld, he was perceived as a grim figure who strictly regulated the rules for the dead.
Acquiring the Underworld
Like his brothers and sisters, Hades had been swallowed by his father Cronus soon after his birth. Cronus was scared of a prophecy, according to which, one of his children would depose him from his throne just as he had done to his father. To prevent this prophecy from coming true, Cronus would swallow his children as soon as they were born.
However, only Zeus escaped this misfortune, as his mother had hidden him from Cronus. Years later, Zeus made Cronus disgorge all his siblings. Along with his brothers, Hades and Poseidon, Zeus led a war against the Titans. The brothers knew that they would require weapons and men to win against the powerful Titans.
Hence, they released the Cyclopes, the single-eyed giant who had been imprisoned by Cronus in Tartarus, a place in the underworld. The Cyclopes were skilled metal smiths. They made thunderbolts for Zeus, a trident for Poseidon and a helmet for Hades that rendered him invisible.
With these weapons, the brothers fought a bloody war, in which they defeated the Titans. They then divided the world amongst themselves. While Zeus ruled the sky and the living, Poseidon got the seas, and Hades became the God of the Underworld.
About the many myths associated with Hades, the one about Persephone is the most well-known. According to Greek mythology, Hades was captivated by the radiant beauty of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, when he saw her picking a narcissus from the plants growing close to her house. Hades expressed his intention to Zeus, about marrying Persephone.
However, before Zeus could communicate his desire to Demeter, Hades abducted Persephone and brought her to his kingdom. Demeter was furious and threatened to curse all those who lived on the Earth, if her daughter was not returned to her.
Although Persephone was brought back to her mother, she was bound by the rules of the underworld to spend a part of each year with Hades, as she had eaten a pomegranate offered to her by him.
It is believed that Persephone had fallen in love with Hades, and had started liking her role as a queen. Hence, she ate the pomegranate seeds on purpose, as she knew that anyone who tasted the food of the underworld would be doomed to live there forever.
Hades and His Kingdom
In most of the paintings, Hades is depicted as a bearded man wearing a dark and gloomy expression. He wears the helmet gifted to him by the Cyclopes, holds a bird-tipped scepter in one hand, and the key to the underworld in the other. Though believed to be an Olympian God, he preferred to spend most of his time in the dark depths of his subterranean abode.
His kingdom―the Underworld, was the land of the dead. Hades is perceived as a strict God who forbade his disciples from leaving his realm. Once anyone entered his kingdom, he could never leave. Although never perceived as an evil God, Hades was ruthless with those who violated his rules or displeased him.
It is believed that he was hard to please. He turned a deaf ear to prayers or praise. He only accepted sacrifices that were black in color. Mortals refrained from uttering his name aloud, and always referred to him on solemn occasions, using euphemistic epithets only.
However, under the influence of Persephone, Hades' character as a merciless God underwent a drastic change. He came to be referred to as the bestower of the riches of the underworld like grains and minerals. In Roman mythology, Hades is known as Pluto, which means 'the one who showers wealth'.
Despite his grim character, Hades was known as a just God. He also played the role of a good counselor, who helped those who died to make a successful journey into the afterlife. His grave demeanor justifies his solemn responsibility of preventing the dead from escaping back to the Earth, thus keeping a balance between the world of the living and the dead.