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Roman copy of a bust of Hades ( Palazzo Altemps , Rome)
Pinax of Persephone and Hades on the throne (Persephone sanctuary of Lokroi )
Hades, hearing the song of Orpheus around Eurydice , next to him Persephone , around whom there is a melancholy silence (modern illustration).

Hades ( ancient Greek Ἅιδης , poetic also Ἁΐδης , Doric Ἀΐδας, Ἄϊς , long form of the name Ἀϊδονεύς ) denotes the ruler of the underworld in Greek mythology . This is often referred to in pre-Christian texts as the (kingdom) of "Hades", which led to the fact that the underworld was also called Hades since late antiquity . In non-Christian cultic contexts, however, the word always designates the deity, not the underworld.

As king over the dead and the subterranean realms, he was identified early on with both Plutos ( Πλοῦτος ), the god of (subterranean) riches, and with the underworld god Pluton ( Πλούτων ).


Different spellings are documented, in Homer there is Ais , Aides ( Ἄιδης ) and the long form Aidoneus ( Ἀϊδωνεύς ). In the Attic dialect the i / ι remained silent and the A was aspirated, so the name form Hades used today is actually only typical for the Attic, otherwise Aides would be the normal form.

The etymology is unclear. It is believed that the name goes back to a root meaning invisible , which would coincide with the invisible Hades cap , the main attribute of god. Accordingly, the meaning of the name would be "the invisible one" or "the one who makes invisible". However, there is a very similar legend of a mythical king of the Molossians Aidoneus in Epirus .


The large number of epithets with which the god was circumscribed is striking . It was practically always avoided to directly express the dark properties of God, rather what was actually meant was often euphemistically described. The descriptions of Hades in Homer emphasize the strength of the underworld ruler. They are epithets that were or could have been used for one of the great heroes ( e.g. Achilles ):

  • Adamastos ( ἀδάμαστος "the untamed")
  • Ameilichos ( ἀμείλιχος "the rough one")
  • Iphthimos ( ἴφθιμος "famous by strength")
  • Pelorios ( πελώριος "the monster, the terrible")
  • Krateros ( κρατερός "the strong one")
  • Stygeros (Stygis) ( στυγερός "the Stygian"; from Styx , the underworld river, the adjective has the meaning "hideous", "terrifying")

Another group of epithets moves in the semantic context of "invisibility", "darkness" and "blackness":

  • Apotropos ( ἀπότροπος "the remote, turned away ")
  • Aidelos ( ἀίδηλος "the invisible one")
  • Melas ( μέλας "the black one")
  • Kyanochaites ( κυανοχαίτης "the black-haired"; the mentioned blackness is a metallic, shiny blackness, for example the blackness of the raven's feather)
  • Hennichos ( ἔννυχος "the nocturnal")
  • Phonios ( φόνιος "the murderous one")

Sometimes there is also the meaningful name Zeus Katachthonios , ie "the subterranean Zeus".


Hades with Kerberos (drawing based on an ancient model)

Birth, Titanomachy, and Division of the World

Hades was the firstborn son of Cronus and Rhea . Like all of his siblings, he was devoured immediately after birth by his father, who had been prophesied that a son would dethrone him. After him, Kronos devours Poseidon and finally a stone in place of the last-born Zeus , who then finally succeeded in freeing the siblings. In Hyginus Mythographus , Hades is not devoured by his father, but hurled into Tartaros , Poseidon is banished under the sea and Zeus is then to be devoured last.

After being freed from the bowels of Cronus, Zeus and his siblings fight against Cronus and his titans (Titanomachy) for 10 years. Finally, they can use the freed from Tartarus Cyclops decide the war. The weapons of the Cyclops were decisive: Zeus received the thunder, Poseidon the trident and Hades the hades helmet , which made the wearer invisible.

After Kronos and his titans were conquered, the brothers divided the world among themselves by throwing lots . Zeus received the sky, Poseidon the sea and Hades the underworld. The earth and Olympus were a common area.

Since then, Hades has been the "Lord of the realm of the dead", the strict, relentless God who hated gods and people, from whose dreadful, dreary realm there is no return. Nor can he be softened by begging and flattering; only Orpheus , through the power of his song, was able to induce him to return Eurydice .

Hades rarely leaves his realm. So the Rape of Persephone after fighting Herakles which the Kerberos should kidnap: From hero wounded by an arrow in the shoulder, he hastened to Olympus to stand out from paean to heal. Hades' vehicle is a quadriga drawn by black horses . His four black horses are called Aethon , Alastor (also called Abaster), Nykteus and Orphnaios .

Rape of Persephone

Rape of Persephone ( Albrecht Dürer , 1516)

From the 6th century BC The legend has it that Hades could not persuade a goddess to live with him in the underworld. He took possession of bride kidnapping which also Kore -called Persephone . Her mother Demeter begged her back from Zeus ; so he made the ruling that Persephone had to be left to her mother for six months every spring.

Minthe and Leuke

According to Ovid , Hades followed the nymph Minthe (Menthe), whom he won as a lover. In connection with the river Kokytos , this was transformed by the jealous Persephone into a stick of spearmint ( bot. Mentha crispa ). In the same way, the nymph Leuke was charmed by him, who was transformed into a white poplar tree by Hades after her death . The Veneratio ( Reverentia ) is mentioned by Ovid as a daughter of Hades , but the mother remains uncertain. In the Suda Makaria is also named as a daughter.

Hades in the Gospel of Bartholomew

Hades is also represented in the apocryphal Gospel of Bartholomew. In this description, he trembles when Jesus Christ enters the underworld. The devil himself tries to encourage him, but he does not succeed in this because of divine power, as the following excerpt from the Gospel shows: “Hades said: Where do we hide from the face of God, the great King? Leave me, do not resist; for I was created before you. ”A little later, Jesus freed all souls of the patriarchs from hell.


The worship of the underworld god was particularly widespread among the Greeks of southern Italy and Asia Minor. A cult in the traditional sense has so far only been proven in a few places for Hades. Sometimes he was worshiped together with Persephone as the god of fertility. A temple was built in his honor in Alexandria - he was compared here to the local god Serapis . Hades was often venerated in the sanctuaries of Pluton , with which he was often equated.

Hades had ancient temples at Koroneia in Boeotia and at Pylos in Messenia , in Athens , in Olympia and a sacred grove near Nysa . Also known is a temple of Hades in the city of Elis near Bylos , which was only accessible to priests once a year. Another place of worship could have been on Mount Minthe . The cypress , narcissus, and boxwood were sacred to him; black sheep were sacrificed to him with averted faces.


In the fine arts, Hades is often depicted as a robber of Persephone, sometimes with Persephone as the ruling couple of the underworld. Often it is perceived as invisible and the underworld with the dead souls is shown.

Unlike other Greek gods, Hades has no clear attribute. He is depicted in gloomy majesty, bearded and his forehead shaded by his hair. On his head he wears, as a symbol of his possession of all treasures and fruits of the earth, sometimes a grain or fruit measure, or a cornucopia ("horn of success") or a jagged golden crown ; In his hand he holds a staff ( scepter ) as a symbol of rule or a two-pronged spear ( two-prong ) or a key, as a sign that he is keeping the abode of the departed locked, from which no one is allowed to return. Next to him is the three-headed Kerberos. Often he appears with a veiled head or covered with the helmet of invisibility (the hat of Hades ); often Persephone beside him on a throne or on a gilded four-horse chariot , drawn by black horses, which he steers with golden reins.

His face is also walled in over a portal of the Ender Tunnel .

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Hades  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Hades  - collection of images, videos and audio files
  • Hades in the Theoi Project

Individual evidence

  1. Cătălin Enache: The invisible god of the dead. In: Rheinisches Museum für Philologie. Volume 151, 2008, pp. 61-82 ( PDF ).
  2. ^ Karl Friedrich Bruchmann : Epitheta deorum quae apud poetas graecos leguntur. Supplement to Roscher: Detailed Lexicon of Greek and Roman Mythology, Leipzig 1893, pp. 1–5
  3. ^ Drexler: Hades In: Roscher Sp. 1782–1787
  4. Homer Iliad 9: 158
  5. Homer Iliad 9: 158
  6. Homer Odyssey 10, 534; 11, 47
  7. Homer Iliad 5:395
  8. Homer Iliad 13.415 Odyssey 11, 277
  9. Homer Iliad 8, 368
  10. Sophocles Aias 608
  11. Sophocles Aias 608
  12. Sophocles King Oedipus 30
  13. Homeric Hymn 2, 348
  14. Sophocles The Trachinians 500
  15. Sophocles Oedipus on Colonus 1688
  16. Hesiod Theogony 453ff
  17. ^ Hyginus Mythographus Fabulae 139
  18. Libraries of Apollodorus 1, 6, 7
  19. Homer Iliad 15, 187ff
  20. Claudius Claudianus de Raptu Proserpinae 1, 286
  21. Suidas , Suda sv Makariai. At Suda On Line , Adler number 51. Archived copy ( memento of the original from September 24, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (English) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.stoa.org
  22. Excerpt from the Gospel of Bartholomew