Worshipping Hades: Myth and Cult in Elis and Triphylia

and Diana Burton


Why offer cult to Hades? The cult of Hades at Elis (Pausanias 6.25.2) makes an interesting starting point for an exploration of Hades and his worshippers: how they saw their god, and what he and they expected of each other. Although Pausanias describes the Eleans as the only people to worship Hades, he nevertheless mentions statues and altars to the god elsewhere. At Elis, as in other cults of Hades hidden behind euphemistic names such as ‘Klymenos’ or ‘Zeus Chthonios’, the deadly nature of the god is to the fore, as opposed to the perception elsewhere of Hades-Plouton as a giver of fertility, a god who carries a cornucopia and is connected with Demeter and Kore. Yet these are very much two sides of the same coin: Hades’ wealth lies not only in fertility but also in lament. The restrictive form of worship at Elis is also in contrast to Hades’ vulnerability in the myth associated with this cult, in which he is wounded by Herakles’ arrows. This paper will use Pausanias’ description as a starting point for a discussion of the worshippers’ perception of Hades at Elis and elsewhere, taking into account the nature of our sources, as well as regional variation in the god’s cult, iconography, and myth.

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Archiv für Religionsgeschichte is a specialised journal dealing primarily with religions of the ancient world. The different aspects of the field of research are covered in essays, reports on the main areas of religious studies and in individual articles.