HAIDES was the god of underworld and the dead. Although he was honoured during funeral ceremonies and played a role in the Mystery cults, he had few actual temples or shrines in the ancient world. His cult centre in Greece was the so-called Oracle of the Dead in the Thesprotia.
There are perhaps only two surviving cult statues of Haides (although one of these is labelled a Serapis), which depict him standing beside the three-headed dog Kerberos.
Haides was honoured in Greek funeral services and necromantic rites (the summoning of the ghosts of the dead).
CULT IN ATTIKA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) ATHENS Chief City of Attika
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 28. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"There are [in the sanctuary of the Erinyes in Athens] images of Plouton [Hades], Hermes and Ge (Earth), by which sacrifice those who have received an acquittal on the Areopagos."
II) ELEUSIS Town in Attika
Haides was a god of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
CULT OF IN KORINTHIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) KORINTHOS Chief City of Korinthia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 2. 8 :
"The images of Zeus [in the market-place of Korinthos] also are in the open; one had not a surname, another they call Khthonios (of the Lower World) [Haides] and the third Hypsistos (Most High) [Zeus]."
CULT IN ARGOLIS (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) Near MYKENAI Town in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 18. 3 :
"[In a temple on the road from Mykenai to Argos, Argolis] are wooden images of Kore [Persephone], Plouton [Hades] and Demeter."
II) TROIZENOS Town in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 31. 2 :
"[In the temple of Artemis at Troizenos, Argolis] are altars to the gods said to rule under the earth [Haides and Persephone]. It is here that they say Semele was brought out of Haides by Dionysos, and that Herakles dragged up the Hound of Haides."
III) HERMIONE Town in Argolis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 35. 8 :
"There is also [in Hermione, Argolis] another temple, all round which stand statues. This temple is right opposite that of Khthonia [Demeter], and is called that of Klymenos [Haides], and they sacrifice to Klymenos here. I do not believe that Klymenos was an Argive who came to Hermione 'Klymenos' is the surname of the god, whoever legend says is king in the underworld [Haides] . . . Behind the temple of Khthonia are three places which the Hermionians call that of Klymenos, that of Plouton, and the Akherousian Lake. All are surrounded by fences of stones, while in the place of Klymenos there is also a chasm in the earth. Through this, according to the legend of the Hermionians, Herakles brought up [Kerberos] the Hound of Hell."
CULT IN LAKEDAIMONIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) AMYKLAI Town in Lakedaimonia
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 19. 4 :
"On the altar [of Apollon at Amyklai, Lakedaimon] are also [depicted] Demeter, Kore [Persephone], Plouton [Hades], next to them the Moirai (Fates) and Horai (Seasons), and with them Aphrodite, Athena and Artemis."
CULT OF IN ELIS (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) ELIS Chief City of Elis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 25. 2 :
"The sacred enclosure of Haides and its temple [in Elis] are opened once every year, but not even on this occasion is anybody permitted to enter except the priest. The following it the reason why the Eleans worship Haides; they are the only men we know of so to do. It is said that, when Herakles was leading an expedition against Pylos in Elis, Athena was one of his allies. Now among those who came to fight on the side of the Pylians was Hades, who was the foe of Herakles but worshipped at Pylos. Homeros is quoted in support of the story, who says in the Iliad: And among them huge Haides suffered a wound from a swift arrow, when the same man, the son of aigis-bearing Zeus, hit him in Pylos among the dead, and gave him over to pains.
If in the expedition of Agamemnon and Menelaus against Troy Poseidon was according to Homer an ally of the Greeks, it cannot be unnatural for the same poet to hold that Haides helped the Pylians. At any rate it was in the belief that the god was their friend but the enemy of Herakles that the Eleans made the sanctuary for him. The reason why they are wont to open it only once each year is, I suppose, because men too go down only once to Haides."
II) MT MINTHE Mountain in Elis
Strabo, Geography 8. 3. 14 - 15 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Near Pylos [in Tryphilia, Elis], towards the east, is a mountain named after Minthe, who, according to myth, became the concubine of Haides, was trampled under foot by Kore [Persephone], and was transformed into garden-mint, the plant which some call Hedyosmos. Furthermore, near the mountain is a precinct sacred to Haides, which is revered by the Makistians too, and also a grove sacred to Demeter, which is situated above the Pylian plain . . .
Towards the north, on the borders of Pylos, were two little Triphylian cities, Hypana and Tympaneai . . . And further, two rivers flow near these places, the Dalion and the Akheron [named after the famous River of Haides], both of them emptying into the Alpheios. The Akheron has been so named by virtue of its close relation to Haides; for, as we know, not only the temples of Demeter and Kore [Persephone] have been held in very high honor there, but also those of Haides, perhaps because of 'the contrariness of the soil,' to use the phrase of Demetrios of Skepsis. For while Triphylia brings forth good fruit, it breeds red-rust and produces rush; and therefore in this region it is often the case that instead of a large crop there is no crop at all."
III) OLYMPIA Sanctuary in Elis
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 14. 8 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[At Olympia Elis] is an altar . . . of Zeus surnamed Khthonios (Underground) [i.e. Haides]."
CULT IN PHOKIS (CENTRAL GREECE)
I) KORONEIA Village in Phokis
Strabo, Geography 9. 2. 29 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"When they [the Boiotians] got the mastery of Koroneia [in Phokis after the Trojan War], they built in the plain before the city the temple of Athena Itonia . . . Here, too, the Pamboiotian Festival used to be celebrated. And for some mystic reason, as they say, a statue of Haides was dedicated along with that of Athena."
CULT IN THESPROTIA (NORTHERN GREECE)
There was a necromantic oracle of Haides located in the Greek region of Thesprotia (which according to some was connected with Odysseus' adventures in the Underworld as related in the Odyssey).
Herodotus, Histories 5. 92 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"Periander [tyrant of Ambracia in Thesprotia C6th BC]b had sent messengers to the Nekyomanteion (Oracle of the Dead) on the river Akheron in Thesprotia to enquire concerning a deposit that a friend had left, but [the ghost of his wife] Melissa, in an apparition, said that she would tell him nothing, nor reveal where the deposit lay, for she was cold and naked. The garments, she said, with which Periander had buried with her had never been burnt, and were of no use to her. Then, as evidence for her husband that she spoke the truth, she added that Periander had put his loaves into a cold oven. When this message was brought back to Periander (for he had had intercourse with the dead body of Melissa and knew her token for true), immediately after the message he made a proclamation that all the Korinthian women should come out into the temple of Hera. They then came out as to a festival, wearing their most beautiful garments, and Periander set his guards there and stripped them all alike, ladies and serving-women, and heaped all the clothes in a pit, where, as he prayed to Melissa, he burnt them. When he had done this and sent a second message, the ghost of Melissa told him where the deposit of the friend had been laid."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 17. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The accounts of the end of Theseus are many and inconsistent. They say he was kept a prisoner until Herakles restored him to the light of day, but the most plausible account I have heard is this. Theseus invaded Thesprotia to carry off the wife of the Thesprotian king, and in this way lost the greater part of his army, and both he and Peirithous (he too was taking part in the expedition, being eager for the marriage) were taken captive. The Thesprotian king kept them prisoners at Kikhyros. [N.B. The Underworld of the story was identified as the necromantic shrine.]
Among the sights of Thesprotia are a sanctuary of Zeus at Dodona and an oak sacred to the god. Near Kikhyros is a lake called Akherousia, and a river called Akheron. There is also Kokytos, a most unlovely stream. I believe it was because Homer had seen these places that he made bold to describe in his poems the regions of Haides, and gave to the rivers there the names of those in Thesprotia."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 14. 2 :
"The Eleans are wont to use for the sacrifices to Zeus the wood of the white poplar and of no other tree, preferring the white poplar, I think, simply and solely because Herakles brought it into Greece from Thesprotia. And it is my opinion that when Heracles sacrificed to Zeus at Olympia he himself burned the thigh bones of the victims upon wood of the white poplar. Heracles found the white poplar growing on the banks of the Akheron, the river in Thesprotia, and for this reason Homer calls it Akherois . . . It is no wonder that the white poplar grew first by the Akheron."
[N.B. The Thesprotian river Akheron was identified with the underworld stream, and the white poplar was the sacred tree of the god Haides.]
CULT IN KARIA (ASIA MINOR)
I) AKHARAKA Town in Karia
Strabo, Geography 14. 1. 44 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"On the road between the Tralleians and Nysa [in Karia] is a village of the Nysaians, not far from the city Akharaka, where is the Ploutonion (Sanctuary of Plouton), with a costly sacred precinct and a shrine of Plouton [Haides] and Kore [Persephone], and also the Kharonion (Sanctuary of Kharon), a cave that lies above the sacred precinct, by nature wonderful; for they say that those who are diseased and give heed to the cures prescribed by these gods resort thither and live in the village near the cave among experienced priests, who on their behalf sleep in the cave and through dreams prescribe the cures. These are also the men who invoke the healing power of the gods. And they often bring the sick into the cave and leave them there, to remain in quiet, like animals in their lurking-holes, without food for many days. And sometimes the sick give heed also to their own dreams, but still they use those other men, as priests, to initiate them into the mysteries and to counsel them. To all others the place is forbidden and deadly. A festival is celebrated every year at Akharaka; and at that time in particular those who celebrate the festival can see and hear concerning all these things; and at the festival, too, about noon, the boys and young men of the gymnasium, nude and anointed with oil, take up a bull and with haste carry him up into the cave; and, when let loose, the bull goes forward a short distance, falls, and breathes out his life.Thirty stadia from Nysa, after one crosses over Mt. Tmolos and the mountain called Mesogis, towards the region to the south of the Mesogis, there is a place called Leimon, whither the Nysaians and all the people about go to celebrate their festivals. And not far from Leimon is an entrance into the earth sacred to the same gods [Haides and Persephone], which is said to extend down as far as Akharaka."
II) HERIOPOLIS Town
Strabo, Geography 5. 4. 5 :
"Birds that fly over it fall down into the water, being killed by the vapours that rise from it, as in the case of all the Ploutonion [shrine of Haides] [at Heriopolis in Asia Minor]."
CULT IN ITALY (SOUTHERN ITALY)
I) KYME (Cumae) City in Italy (Greek Colony)
The Oracle of the Dead at Kume in Italia was held to be sacred to the King and Queen of the Underworld Haides and Persephone.
Strabo, Geography 5. 4. 5 ff (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Near Kyme [Cumae in Italia] is Cape Misenon, and between them is Lake Akherousia, a kind of shoal-water estuary of the sea . . . also Gulf Aornos [Avernus] . . . The pole prior to my time were wont to make Aornos the setting of the fabulous story of the Homeric Nykeia [i.e. Odysseus' journey to the Underworld in the Odyssey]; and, what is more, writers tell us that there actually was an Oracle of the Dead [i.e. one presided over by the gods Haides and Persephone] here and that Odysseus visited it . . . Aornos is enclosed round about by steep hill-brows that rise above it on all sides except where you sail into it . . . (in former times they were thickly covered with a wild and untrodden forest of large trees) and these hill-brows, because of the superstition of man, used to make the gulf a shadowy place. And the natives used to add the further fable that all birds that fly over it fall down into the water [i.e. Avernus means 'birdless'], being killed by the vapours that rise from it, as in the case of all the Ploutonion [shrine of Haides] [at Heriopolis in Asia Minor]. And people used to suppose that this too was a Ploutonion [i.e. of Plouton or Haides] place and that the Kimmerioi (Cimmericans) had actually been there. At any rate, only those who had sacrificed beforehand and propitiated the Daimones Katakhthonioi (Underworld Gods) could sail into Aornos, and priests who held the locality on lease were there to give directions in all such matters; and there is a fountain of potable water at this place, on the sea, but people used to abstain from it because they regarded it as the water of the Styx; and the Oracle, too, is situated somewhere near it; and further, the hot springs near by and Lake Akherousia betokened the River Pyriphlegethon [i.e. the underworld river of fire]. Again Ephoros, in the passage where he claims the locality in question for the Kimmerioi, says : `They live in underground houses, which they call argillai, and it is through tunnels that they visit one another, back and forth, and also admit strangers to the oracle, which is situated far beneath the earth; and they live on what they get from mining, and from those who consult the Oracle, and from the king of the country, who has appointed to them fixed allowances; and those who live about the oracle have an ancestral custom, that no one should see the sun, but should go outside the caverns only during the night; and it is for this reason that the poet speaks of them as follows : `And never does the shining sun look upon them’ ; but later the Kimmerioi were destroyed by a certain king, because the response of the Oracle did not turn out in his favour; the seat of the Oracle, however, still endures, although it has been removed to another palce. Such, then, are the stories the people before my time used to tell [about Avernus]."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 22. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"From the Phlegraion Plain [near Kume (Cumae) in Italia] Herakles went down to the sea, where he constructed works about the lake which bears the name Lake of Aornos (Avernus) and is held sacred to Persephone. Now this lake lies between Misenon and Dikaiercheia near the hot waters, and is about five stades in circumference and of incredible depth; fir its water is very pure and has to the eye a dark blue colour because of its very great depth. And the myths record that in ancient times there had been on its shores an Oracle of the Dead which, they say, was destroyed in later days."
GENERAL CULT TERMS
Greek terms for shrines dedicated to the god include:--
||Temple of Plouton
- Herodotus, Histories - Greek History C5th B.C.
- Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.