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We know that the Helm of Darkness was given to Hades by the Elder cyclopes and the Hundred-Handed Ones. But, then it kind of disappears. Is it anywhere else in Mythology besides the Titanomachy?

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Yes.

Perseus vs Medusa

Before setting off on his mission to go kill the monster Medusa, Perseus received certain special items to help the project along. One of the items was the Aidos kyne (or Aidos kyneēn), "cap of Hades" or "cap of invisibility" (or "Helm of Darkness," if you will), which he sorely needed in order to escape Medusa's two triplet Gorgon sisters after he had beheaded her.

It was either a group of nymphs from the Underworld who gave Perseus the invisibility cap, presumably having been sent by the lord of the nether realm himself, or Perseus received the cap from Hermes, who features as the primary user of this item in a similar manner to that in which, even though the Aegis belongs to Zeus, the Aegis primarily seems to be used by Athena.

In fact, in his Poetica Astronomica, the Roman writer Hyginus seems to suggest that the cap given by Hermes to Perseus was none other than Hermes' own petasos [petasus], the herald-god's sun-hat which eventually was conceived of as having wings like his sandals did, these sandals also having been lent to Perseus for the Medusa Mission.

Hyginus understands Hermes' hat as possessing the same invisibility power and says that this is the reason that "the Greeks have called it the helmet of Hades", because Hades means the "Invisible/Unseen One." Hyginus lodges a complaint in all this by adding that:

Perseus did not, as some ignorant people interpret it, wear the helmet of Orcus {a Roman name for Hades} himself, for no educated person could believe that.

Hermes vs Hippolytus

A few generations after Medusa's demise, the Gigantes (Giants) attacked the gods on Mt Olympus, precipitating a dramatic contest which came to be known as the Gigantomachy. During this confrontation, Apollodorus tells us in the Bibliotheka, Hermes squared off against a Giant named Hippolytus, whom the messenger-god managed to vanquish while wearing the Aidos kyne.

Athena vs Ares

One generation later, the Trojan War broke out. During this conflict, according to Book 5 of the Iliad, Athena briefly became the charioteer of the Greek warrior Diomedes on the battlefield at Troy. Together they attacked Ares but before they charged upon him, Athena donned the cap of Hades "so that mighty Ares should not see her."

Obscuring the Vision

As Hyginus points out, the name Hades means "Hidden" or "Unseen." The story about him owning a hat that magically makes its wearer invisible seems to be a bit of wordplay on what makes Hades, Hades. What makes the Unseen One invisible?

Part of the logic in the whole idea of Hades is that he escapes the gaze of mortals (and indeed of most of the gods themselves) because he lives deep under the earth in a world of total darkness in which the rays of the sun are completely alien, where even if one stood right before him, the deity would still be hidden from sight. In a sense, then, the entire nether world is the Helm of Darkness encompassing the god Hades.

It is significant, to my mind, that after the story in which the Cyclopes make the cap for Hades and give it to him, the king of the dead is never explicitly described as actually wearing the thing. Notice the contrast between this and the gifts presented to Poseidon and Zeus, who are practically hyperactive in their use of Trident and thunderbolts.

(The Hundred-Handed Ones, by the way, were not involved in the creation of the cap, nor are they said to have presented it to Hades. This was exclusively an enterprise of the Cyclopes. Same thing with Zeus's thunderbolts and Poseidon's Trident.)

  • What makes you say the rays of the sun were outlawed in the Underworld? Didn't Helios threaten to take the sun chariot down there if Zeus didn't do as he asked? – Andrew Johnson Mar 30 '18 at 15:24
  • @AndrewJohnson Yes It's supposed to have like grassy plains in there somewhere, right? – Nuloen The Seeker Apr 1 '18 at 20:59
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    @AndrewJohnson : I was hyperbolising there. I didn't mean that there's a literal rule outlined somewhere banning sunlight from the Underworld, although the reason that Helios's threat to Zeus is scary is because the sun's light has never shone in the realm of the dead. – Adinkra Apr 4 '18 at 16:48
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    As the sun-god tells his son Phaethon in Ovid's Metamorphoses, even though he, Helios, swears oaths by the name of the River Styx, he himself has never seen this river's waters. Later in the same story, when Phaethon makes a mess of driving the fiery sun-chariot, bringing it too close to the ground, its heat cracks the earth open so deep that some rays of sunlight stray all the way down into the land of darkness, at which point the dead shades are terrified and even Hades himself freaks out, again because this light has never appeared in the kingdom before, and Hades prefers it that way. – Adinkra Apr 4 '18 at 16:51
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    In place of air in the Underworld, the realm is clouded by the thick mists of Erebos, Darkness himself, who fills the domain of Hades with his presence. For the brilliant light of the sun to shine here, the integrity of the structure of the universe would be compromised, which is what makes Helios's threat... well, a threat. And hence an implied rule that the heavenly lights have their own space and place to maintain, just as Erebos has his. – Adinkra Apr 4 '18 at 16:54

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