I'm writing a research paper on Hades, king of the underworld, and I really wanted to know if Hades was really a bad guy.
I have many pages of evidence saying that he isn't. But I would like to know your guys' opinion.
Mythology & Folklore Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for enthusiasts and scholars of mythology and folklore. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
Hades main story involved the abduction of his niece, the Kore (aka Persephone), and subsequent forced marriage. So, from a modern perspective, we could say he is a bad guy. But, it's important to remember that incest among the gods is not a crime--Zeus married his own sister! Forced marriage was also the norm, certainly for nobles, until fairly recently. Hades shared his throne with Persephone, and, through the Eleusinian Mysteries, she becomes a goddess most esteemed.
Hades is often regarded as the "anti-Zeus" [see Diis/Dis Pater] --Zeus' realm is the sky which is filled with light; Hades realm is eternal darkness. So it would be easy to see Hades as "evil", except that Zeus is not strictly "good". (The pagan "Sky Father" is as susceptible to human foibles as anyone, despite his cleverness--Hector has far more dignity than Zeus!)
As Hades transforms into the Roman variant, he is much more associated with the wealth of the subterranean regions--Pluto ("wealth", from the Greek πλοῦτος). In the Orphic Tradition, Eubuleus ("wise in counselor") is associated with both Hades and Zeus. Heraclitus even suggested that Hades and Dionysus are the same god, representing the life/death dichotomy in the context of eternal renewal.
Theoi has a nice compendium of Hades references. My sense is that Hades mostly chilled and did his thing. In terms of bad behavior, Zeus is sort of the poster boy for that, and Hades is, by comparison, pretty well behaved and low-key.
I would like to clear up the stereotype that surrounds Hades and makes him look like a bad guy. In modern time whenever you watch a movie or play a videogame where Hades is one of the characters they make it seem as though he is evil and I think that's based around the fact that he rules the underworld. Let's go back in time to how it was he came to be the ruler of the underworld. Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus, the three oldest brothers among the children of their father Cronus came together and killed Cronus to stop his rampage of destruction and eating his children. In this process, it is known for sure that Zeus was the one to perform the final strike that ended Cronus and it was after that when they decided who of the three brothers would either control the sea, the sky, or the underworld. You can read whatever source you would like but you will never find a certain and reliable answer as the how this was decided but we do know the outcome. Zeus became the god of the sky and the ruler of Olympus while Poseidon became the ruler of the sea and Hades was appointed (yes I said appointed) to be the ruler of the underworld. One story says that it was all decided by a coin toss which determined their positions by chance while another story states that because hades was the oldest of the three he was considered the most responsible and was sent to manage the underworld and the third most common story is that they drew lots. Since there are so many variations of the story you simply cannot consider any of them reliable. Regardless of this came to be all the stories do happen to have one thing in common. None of them picked their roles by choice, it was all chance and literally any of them could have ended up as the ruler of the underworld. Another stereotype is that Zeus is a good guy when in reality, he has abused the fact that he is the ruler of Olympus to get away with raping several other goddesses including his own sister Hera and even his brothers wife. Sure you might make the argument that Hades kidnapped his wife before marrying her but he never raped her. Instead he tried to overwhelm her with luxuries and even then he didn't keep her there for too long against her will. He did let her go but she came back. Now you might want to argue that Persephone was Hades niece and that's just as wrong as Zeus marrying his sister Hera. Zeus raped Hera but Hades did not rape Persephone and believe it or not, marrying people related to you was a very common thing among gods in almost every religion as well as humans all throughout history. On top of this Persephone is one of Zeus's many daughters and Zeus disguised himself as hades just to sleep with her and they even had a child. I would go on with all the nasty things that Zeus has done but this article is supposed to be about Hades.
Know that the only noteworthy "evil" thing he did is kidnap kore/Persephone and marry her, and even then, she loved him just as he loved her. He is one of the only gods to only marry out of love. The idea of him being evil is a Christianized view of him because of his association with death. Though he was more the guardian god of the dead than the actual god of death, who was Thanatos.