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Hades and the underworld

In Greek mythology, Hades was the god of the dead, who ruled the place where dead people went after they died (Sometimes people also called the underworld “Hades”). He is a rather shadowy figure in more ways than one, spooky and cruel, and the Greeks didn’t like to talk about him too much. There aren’t that many pictures of him either.

The underworld in ancient Greece
Greek gods and goddesses
Greek religion
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Sacrificing to Hades

Generally people who had good intentions did not sacrifice to Hades. People sacrificed to him when they wanted something bad to happen, like if they were trying to get revenge on an enemy.

The Greek agon
What is sacrifice?
Homer’s Odyssey

Hades and Persephone in the underworld

Hades and Persephone in the underworld

When they did, instead of burning the fat and the bones so the smoke would go up to the sky, instead they poured blood into pits or ditches dug into the ground (as in the part of Homer‘s Odyssey where Odysseus visits the Underworld).

Hades’ brothers and sisters

People in ancient Greece thought of this god of the dead as the brother of Zeus and Poseidon, and therefore also the brother of Demeter and Hera.

The sky god Zeus
Poseidon and the ocean
Demeter the Earth goddess
Hera and marriage

Greek myths about Hades

Like Poseidon, Hades does not appear in very many Greek myths. The best-known of the myths he is in are those of Persephone and Orpheus.

The story of Persephone
A project about Persephone

Learn by doing: Greek God Bingo
More about the underworld

Bibliography and further reading about the Greek gods:

Persephone and the Pomegranate: A Myth from Greece, by Kris Waldherr (1993). . Not cheap, but beautifully illustrated.

Myth-O-Mania: Have a Hot Time, Hades! by Kate McMullan (2002). – a “cool” retelling of myths from a different point of view.

D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, by Edgar and Ingri D’Aulaire.

Greek Religion, by Walter Burkert (reprinted 1987). By a leading expert. He has sections on each of the Greek gods, and discusses their deeper meanings, and their function in Greek society.

Aspects of Death in Early Greek Art and Poetry, by Emily Vermeule (1979). She’s an expert on early Greece, and this book goes into detail about what the Greeks thought happened to people after they died. For adults.

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