Hades (hāˈdēz) [key], in Greek and Roman religion and mythology. 1 The ruler of the underworld: see Pluto. 2 The world of the dead, ruled by Pluto and Persephone, located either underground or in the far west beyond the inhabited regions. It was separated from the land of the living by the rivers Styx [hateful], Lethe [forgetfulness], Acheron [woeful], Phlegethon [fiery], and Cocytus [wailing]. The newly arrived dead were ferried across the Styx by the avaricious old ferryman Charon, whom they paid with the coin that was placed in their mouths when they were buried. Unauthorized spirits who tried to enter or leave Hades were challenged by the fearful dog Cerberus. The honey cake that the Greeks buried with the dead was intended to quiet him. All the dead drank of the river of forgetfulness. The judges of the dead—Minos, Aeacus, and Rhadamanthus—assigned to each soul its appropriate abode. The virtuous and the heroic were rewarded in the Elysian fields; wrongdoers were sent to Tartarus; and most wandered as dull shadows among fields of asphodel.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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