One of my three books on the Greek gods is on the major god, Hades (the other two are Hephaestus and Hermes).
When talking about Hades, things get a little confusing. Hades is one of the major Greek gods. The name also refers to Hades’ kingdom. Yes, Hades rules over Hades, that despicably evil place we all know as The Underworld.
Strangely, in Greek mythology Hades (the place) is not described as quite as bad as what other cultures paint it. There is even a section there called the Elysian Fields which are described by ancient story tellers as peaceful.
Don’t get me wrong. According to the complex myths surrounding the Greeks, Hades ruled his kingdom with an iron fist. No one could come and go through the gates to his domain as they pleased! He had to approve each entrance and exit.
In this excerpt from Chapter 4 we read the beginning of a famous story about a couple who tried to outsmart the dark god.
Although Hades adhered to strict rules about who could come or go from the Underworld, sometimes mortals came in uninvited or left by trickery. They usually suffered for it.
One mortal who escaped from Hades and lived to regret it was Sisyphus (SIH-suh-fus).
Sisyphus lived in the city of Corinth with his wife, Merope (MEH-ruh-pee). Knowing that he and Merope would be separated at death, Sisyphus thought of a plan to outsmart Hades.
In the Greek tradition, the loved ones of someone who has died hold a funeral and dress in black to show their grief. On the day that Sisyphus’ last breath left his body, Merope threw his corpse behind a rock and put on a red dress. She did not put a coin under his tongue. “I’m glad he’s gone,’ she told her friends. “Let’s celebrate.”
The soul of Sisyphus traveled to Hades. Since Sisyphus had no coin, Charon refused him passage across the Styx.
Stranded on the edge of the dark river, Sisyphus cried to Hades and Persephone, seated on their thrones. “My wife has neglected me in my death!” he complained.
“Merope shall be punished!” Hades told Sisyphus.
“A proper punishment would be if you sent me back to torment her,” Sisyphus said.
”You may return to Merope and teach her to respect the dead,’ agreed Hades. “Then return here.”
When Sisyphus walked through the door of his home, Merope hugged him. “We did it!” she cried. “We tricked Hades!”
Unfortunately, Sisyphus and Merope had to learn no one tricked the god Hades and got away with it. Ask your librarian to order a copy of the book (details can be found on my Books page). Then you’ll know how Hades learned of their deception and what he did about it.
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