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Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art

Page: 71

CHAPTER XII.

PLUTO.

Pluto[1] (Dis, Hades, Orcus, Aïdoneus), son of Cronus and Rhea, received as his share of the world the supervision of the Infernal Regions, situated beneath the earth, and was also appointed god of the dead and of riches, for all precious metals are buried deep in the bosom of the earth.

[1] Besides this Pluto, god of the Infernal Regions, the Greeks also worshiped Plutus, a son of Ceres and Jason, who was known exclusively as the god of wealth. Abandoned in infancy, he was brought up by Pax, the goddess of peace, who is often represented holding him in her lap. Because Plutus insisted upon bestowing his favors upon good and noble mortals only, Jupiter soon deprived him of his sight. Since then the blind god’s gifts have been distributed indiscriminately.

This god inspired all men with a great fear. They never spoke of him without trembling, and fervently prayed that they might never see his face; for, when he appeared on the surface of the earth, it was only in search of some victim to drag down into his dismal abode, or to make sure there was no crevice through which a sunbeam might glide to brighten its gloom and dispel its shadows. Whenever the stern god set out on one of these expeditions, he rode in a chariot drawn by four coal-black steeds; and, if any obstacle presented itself to impede his progress, he struck it with his two-pronged fork, the emblem of his power, and the obstacle was immediately removed. It was on one of these occasions that Pluto kidnapped Proserpina, the fair goddess of vegetation, daughter of Ceres, whom he set on his throne in Hades, and crowned his queen (p. 183).

Worship of Pluto.

[160] Pluto is always represented as a stern, dark, bearded man, with tightly closed lips, a crown on his head, a scepter and a key in hand, to show how carefully he guards those who enter his domains, and how vain are their hopes to effect their escape. No temples were dedicated to him, and statues of this god are very rare. Human sacrifices were sometimes offered on his altars; and at his festivals, held every hundred years, and thence called Secular Games, none but black animals were slain.

His kingdom, generally called Hades, was very difficult of access. According to Roman traditions, it could only be entered at Avernus, but the Greeks asserted that there was another entrance near the Promontory of Tænarum. Both nations agreed, however, in saying that it was an almost impossible feat to get out again if one were rash enough to venture in.

“To the shades you go a down-hill, easy way;
But to return and re-enjoy the day,
This is a work, a labor!”
Virgil.

To prevent all mortals from entering, and all spirits from escaping, Pluto placed a huge three-headed dog, called Cerberus, to guard the gate.

“There in state old Cerberus sate,
A three-headed dog, as cruel as Fate,
Guarding the entrance early and late.”
Saxe.


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