The Myth and the King


Pluto with his dog Cerberus
Unknown Artist 1st Century B.C.
White Marble

Another piece that I found to be of significance is a statue of Pluto with the guard dog Cerberus sitting next to him. While being a simple and insignificant work of art from the Shrine of Isia on Crete from around the 1st century B.C. it is still an interesting piece. I have not seen this actual work in person, but an almost exact replicas exist in other cities such as Paris. I came across a circle in a park right outside the Louvre with the major Greco-Roman gods and found what I discovered to be later almost an exact portrayal of this very figure. The only real difference is the figure in Paris had a two-pronged spear which might be true of the original a couple thousand years ago. The two-pronged spear is a common symbol of Hades or Pluto and is very much like the trident his brother, Poseidon or Neptune, carries minus the center prong.

The piece is carved in white marble and shows the typical king of the Underworld’s, or Erebus’s, curly hair that we can assume to be darker in color. A crown can be seen on top of the figures head which is another typical symbol for Pluto/Hades depicting the vast mineral wealth of the underground. The style in which he is portrayed speaks well of the time period. Hades adopts a contrapposto and is a realist form centered on the beauty of the perfect human and once again, perfection is displayed in the human figure.

Pluto was worshiped as the king of the Underworld and by this time the Roman people could now relate an identity to this region, which was known just as Orcus before the image of Hades was adopted. Orcus is considered the word from which ogre is derived from and this is an appropriate definition. Orcus was seen as the beyond and full of mystery and darkness. This was before the image of Hades took the throne of the Underworld. Parallels can be drawn between this figure and the figure of Pluto and the Romanized representations of Hades in their own art. Both are normally depicted with a crown and rich dress. The god of the Underworld controlled the material wealth of the world; as all the precious gems were located underground. He is usually depicted with an open, but serious expression particularly in Roman art as he was described as being rich in the way of enjoying the misfortune and sufferings of mortal men. Plouton in Greek translates to “the rich one” while Hades in Greek translates to “the unseen”. Both of these names are very applicable to the nature of this particular Greco-Roman god.

The dog stationed at his side in Cerberus. Cerberus plays an on and off role in mythology as being the guard dog for the entrance of the Underworld. Hercules or Heracles is tasked with bringing the dog above ground in his twelve tasks and Hades agrees under the condition of the hero using no weapons. Needless to say Heracles is successful in the myth and is then released from his tasks.

Homer, The Iliad




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