The Underworld

Hades is one of the three "great gods" who divided all creation between themselves, along with Zeus and Poseidon. It is said that Cronos once flung Hades into the depths of tartarus, and so that it was fated to be his kingdom when the three divine brothers drew lots to see would rule which portion of creation. As the ruler of that dread realm, Hades became the ruler of the grim afterlife, thought of as so great and terrible that some would not refer to him by name. It was thought that doing so called Hades's attention, and let him learn of the affairs of the living world. Instead he was called "the wealthy one" or "reciever of many guests".

Hades left his kingdom so rarely and became so identified with his kingship that, in time, even the underworld itself was simply called Hades. Called the "Zeus of the underworld", Hades's power within his own realm was absolute. The other Olympians rarly dared to go there, save for Hermes, who was allowed to escort the souls of the departed there as part of his role as Psychopompos.

Geographically, the great river styx served to mark as the boundary of Hades kingdom. It flowed directly from Pontus, the ocean himself. Styx's waters were so potent that the gods swore oath upon them, and suffered a host of wracking torments if they dared to break there word. A host of dread rivers that sprang from the styx ran through the underworld: The Phlegethon, a river burning fire, Archeron, the river of woe, Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, and Cocytus, the river of lament. To enter Hades, souls of the dead had to be ferried across by the ferryman Charon. Only those buried with a coin beneath there tongue could afford Charon's fare. those who had no such honors were left on the banks of the styx forever.

Hades was the kingdom of the dead, where all souls that were wicked or merely lacked virtue were forced to remain for eternity. souls were judged by the shades of the three great kings Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Aegeus, shortly after crossing the river styx. The virtuous were allowed to pass beyond hades into the joyful elysian fields. Once a person's deceased soul entered Hades, it could never escape save by a special dispention by Hades himself. Those who try to leave are menaced by Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog of Hades, who devours any mortal foolish enough to try and pass Hades's gates before his time.
 
 Those who passed into Hades were divided into two groups. Those who merely lacked virtue, but not truly wicked, were allowed to roam freely in the Asphondel Fields, a stand of black poplars and sterile willows sacred to Persephone that stood on the very high edge of the kingdom. There the shades of the dead gathering in great throngs whose countless voices were like the beatings of bats' wings. They had no more ability to do no more harm or good, and only found pleasure in drinking the blood of rams and black bulls sacrificed to Hades. Most gave into despair, or gathered about the field's great ditch, waiting for blood.

Hades devised hellish punishments for the wicked souls that passed into his kingdom. Their time in Hades became an eternity of tortures designed to prevent them from ever forgetting there crimes. perhaps the most famous example of such a sinner is tantalos, who had greedly stolen nectar and ambrosia from the gods. In his afterlife he was tortured by hunger and thirst that could never be quenched. Water flowed up to his lips only to ebb away if he tried to drink, and fruits that grew on trees above his head would lift away as he tried to reach them. Sisyphus, who revealed the secrets of the gods for personal gain, was cursed to forever try to push a boulder up a hillside. At the last moment, the boulder  always rolled back, forcing Sisyphus to begin his task again.

Those who denied hospitality to travelers or struck there parents could expect to be tormented by the Erinyes or Furies, vicious demon-like Goddesses who could pursue scourge both the living and the dead with eternal patience. Sometimes the furies would deliver sinners into Hades themselves, to hasten there punishments. They were Demonic creatures, with coal black bodies, bloodshot eyes, enormous bat-like wings. They carried whips studded with bronze, and always left their mortal victims dying in pain.

Each of the great gods had a particular power that resulted from the nature of the aspect of the world they ruled, and Hade's power was over darkness. His entire realm was cloaked in darkness beneath the earth, invisible to mortal eyes, and could only be accessed by descending through the cracks in the earth after undergoing purifying rituals. Hades himself wore an enchanted helmet that let him cloak himself from all eyes, mortal and immortal, and used this to devastating effect when he saw fit to take the battlefield. The only opponent known to ever wound him was Hercules, who could do so with superlative archery. Perseus actually had to steal Hades's helmet and its power of invisibilty in order to manage his victory over Medusa.                                                  
10 Comments