From Wikipedia article on Hades:

Zeus got the sky, Poseidon got the seas, and Hades received the underworld, the unseen realm to which the souls of the dead go upon leaving the world as well as any and all things beneath the earth.

I had read certain articles which in some way imply that he was betrayed by Zeus and cast as the ruler of the Underworld. Was Hades forcibly made to accept his position or was it his own free will?

  • I don't ever remember reading that his was not contempt with this decision, or ever trying to win power over another realm other than his own
    – Vass
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 22:19
  • @Vass I'm not raising the question as to whether Hades wanted any other realm that his brothers already gained authority of. I'm asking whether he was reluctant in accepting his position or not. Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 22:24
  • Only case , i know of, of Hades ever complaining about his job is when he wanted a wife. But the underworld in greek mythology is not the christian hell. It is a place for all dead, where they are living based on how good they were in life, so both hell and paradise. Hades also guarded the Tartarus, so he was a very important god. And for the most part he was benevolent. Compared to Zeus, who was an unberable ar*ehole, he was one of the most decent gods. Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 10:17

5 Answers 5


There is some disagreement on this issue.

According to Theogony, lines 881-885 (emphasis mine):

But when the blessed gods completed their toil and made settlement of honors for the Titans by brute force, they urged wide-seeing Olympian Zeus in accord with the advice of Gaia to be king and lord, and he apportioned provinces to them well.

However, in the Iliad, it says this (emphasis mine again):

[185] “Out upon it, verily strong though he be he hath spoken overweeningly, if in sooth by force and in mine own despite he will restrain me that am of like honour with himself. For three brethren are we, begotten of Cronos, and born of Rhea,—Zeus, and myself, and the third is Hades, that is lord of the dead below. And in three-fold wise are all things divided, and unto each hath been apportioned his own domain. [190] I verily, when the lots were shaken, won for my portion the grey sea to be my habitation for ever, and Hades won the murky darkness, while Zeus won the broad heaven amid the air and the clouds; but the earth and high Olympus remain yet common to us all.


According to Pseudo-Apollodorus, the three brothers drew lots to decide their dominions:

But when Zeus was full-grown, he took Metis, daughter of Ocean, to help him, and she gave Cronus a drug to swallow, which forced him to disgorge first the stone and then the children whom he had swallowed, and with their aid Zeus waged the war against Cronus and the Titans. They fought for ten years, and Earth prophesied victory to Zeus if he should have as allies those who had been hurled down to Tartarus. So he slew their jailoress Campe, and loosed their bonds. And the Cyclopes then gave Zeus thunder and lightning and a thunderbolt, and on Pluto they bestowed a helmet and on Poseidon a trident. Armed with these weapons the gods overcame the Titans, shut them up in Tartarus, and appointed the Hundred-handers their guards; but they themselves cast lots for the sovereignty, and to Zeus was allotted the dominion of the sky, to Poseidon the dominion of the sea, and to Pluto the dominion in Hades.

Source: Apollodorus, Library, 1.2.1

Interestingly, the three brothers shared dominion over the earth. This is why Poseidon is also the god of earthquakes.


Based on Zeus' having rescued his siblings from the belly of their father Kronos; and on the deal that he made with the Titans who eventually sided with him (which is the majority of the Titan population, by the way), starting with his personal bodyguard the four winged children of Pallas and Styx, namely Zelos, Kratos, Bia and Nike; and on his leadership in the war which led to Kronos' defeat, it would seem that it had already been decided that Zeus would be king of the gods and ruler over the entire universe.

As for the family estate which they inherited from the first Titan generation—consisting mainly of the realms of Earth, Sky, Sea and Underworld—Zeus, Poseidon and Haides [Hades] first decided that the Earth would be the domain of all three in common so that each of them would have some control over it from whichever realm one ended up with. Whether from the Sky, from which rain and lightning issued forth upon the ground; from the Sea, which "embraced" the world's land; or from the Underworld, which received the dead delivered through the ground and also rendered up mineral wealth.

The three brothers then cast lots to see who would get which realm, and thus Zeus became Ouranios, the Sky-God; Poseidon became Gaieokhos, "Earth's Embracer"; and Haides became Plouton [Pluton], the "Wealthy" One who owned all the Earth's buried treasure which mortals have to mine from it.

There is no hint in any original myth that Haides was either forced or reluctant to receive his cast lot. In fact if anything he is the source of the least drama and is supported by Zeus in almost every major action that he takes, most notably when he asks Zeus for his daughter Persephone's hand in marriage, against the wishes both of the prospective bride herself and of her mother Demeter, and Zeus nonetheless accepts, even though this literally changes the world.

Also, when Zeus' own grandson Asklepios [Asclepius] is depleting the population of Haides' realm by resurrecting so many of the dead, and Haides complains about this to Zeus, Asklepios is summarily zapped dead with a thunderbolt by his granddad, no negotiations apparently needed. This gives rise to the anger of Asklepios' father Apollon [Apollo], but by that point in the story, Haides has left the scene and is minding his own business again.

Haides' behaviour in the myths implies that he quite rather likes his kingdom under the Earth, which affords him a great deal of privacy and power. In a way, he rules the largest portion of the universe, housing the most subjects (eventually there must have been way more dead people than those alive), including the powerful ancient ones caged in Tartaros, which itself was as vast as the Sky.

Of especial note is the fact that Haides was considered to be as much and as powerful a king in his own right as Zeus was in the sky so much so that the king of the dead was sometimes referred to as Zeus Khthonios, "Zeus of the Underworld," and depicted in art the same way Zeus was: installed on a golden throne and wielding an eagle-tipped sceptre.

In essence, Haides was an upside-down version of Zeus. Orphic mythology further blurs the line between the two brothers, such as in Nonnus' epic the Dionysiaka, which has Zeus consorting with Persephone to produce Zagreus, a pre-incarnation of Dionysos [Dionysus], who occurs as a son of Haides in Aeschylus. The Underworld demoness Melinoe is another such child of Persephone who is referred to as the daughter of both Zeus and Haides.


Well after winning the war against Cronos he and his brothers put 3 gems into a pot and drew one out each Zeus going first getting a diamond for the sky, a sapphire for the sea and a ruby for the Underworld.

P.S. Hades is the Greek god and Pluto is the Roman.

  • 2
    The gems story is interesting. Do you have a source for it? Also, your P.S. isn't entirely correct. Pluton (where Pluto derives from) was one of the names of Hades. In fact, Plato (in Cratylus) tells us that Greeks at the time generally prefered using Pluton over Hades.
    – yannis
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 14:10

When Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades defeated their father, they fought over which domain each would rule. The three brothers decided to put three gems in a bag and each one of them would pull one out without looking. Zeus got diamond which stood for the sky. Poseidon got sapphire which stood for the sea, and Hades got ruby which stood for the Underworld.

  • That's interesting. I've heard the using straws, but not gems. Citation please. Commented May 6, 2018 at 23:55
  • Back then in B.C. there were no straws. Nobody invented the straw until the 1800's. Also, using common sense how would the gods choose there domain by the length of the straw.
    – Player
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 1:37
  • From the 1800's date, I'm assuming you are talking about drinking straws. Well, the oldest one we know about was found in a Sumerian tomb, dated 3,000 B.C.E. That said, straw in context means dried stalks of grain. In any case, please consider backing up the gem story with a solid source, preferably one that points to ancient texts.
    – yannis
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 8:20
  • Yes I mean a drinking straw and by the way my information is backed up with more than one source. I used textbooks, history books, bibliographies of the Greek gods,etc.
    – Player
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 23:09
  • @Player That may be, but those sources aren't made clear in the post. I believe that is what yannis was asking for.
    – cmw
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 23:24

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