Hesiodic Hades

Homer’s contemporary, Hesiod, imagines Haides’ realm more like a city than a single house. Thus the goddess of the River Styx has her own home, roofed with huge stones and supported with silver pillars, while her stream, ‘eternal and primordial’, ‘the famous icy water which trickles from a high and overhanging cliff, spouts through the rocks.

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Night (Nyx) too has a house: swathed in dark cloud. Before it stands Atlas, rigid and immobile, holding the broad heaven on his head and tireless hands. Here Night and Day come close and greet each other as they pass the mighty brazen threshold. Here, too, Night’s children have their homes – Sleep and Death, both terrifying gods. And before them stand the echoing halls of mighty Haides, ruler of the Underworld, and dread Persephone.

In the Iliad ‘the hound of the hateful death god’ guards Haides’ house. Hesiod provides more details. He is ‘a monster which cannot be tamed or spoken of – Cerberus, who eats raw flesh, the hound of Haides, with a harsh bark, fifty-headed, merciless and strong’:

He has a vicious trick. He fawns on all who enter, wagging his tail and setting back his ears, but he will not let them leave. Rather, he keeps watch and feasts on any he finds leaving through the gates of mighty Haides and dread Persephone.

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