Updated: Jan 31, 2021
The pre-history of the Greek Gods is simple. Grandaddy Uranus was a bad father who came home drunk and had loads of kids and beat them every night. By "beat them", I mean "locked them in his underground lair". I'm not sure he was a drunk, but he was mighty pissy for sure.
The kids, eventually dispatched with him, and the oldest of them, Cronus, started a patriarchal autocracy of his own. Like father, like son. Except Cronus didn't lock his kids up.
He ate them.
Obviously, multi-generational macho cycles being what they are, Cronus also met a sticky end, at the hands of a son of his own. One his good lady wife managed to keep away from the dinner table, in a manner of speaking.
Actually, I'm a bit fuzzy here. All the stories I remember reading have placed the patricide firmly in the bloody hands of Zeus as "the only son who lived", but after the deed, he and his two brothers carved up the cosmos between themselves. I'm not sure where bros Poseidon and Hades had been hiding.
Anyway, as you know, kinda like the allies chopping up Berlin after the second world war, Zeus took for himself the heavens, Poseidon got the oceans, Hades the underworld. The firmament on which the mortals stand, they shared equally between them.
Hades, you could argue, got the worst of it. The Underworld. It sounds all creepy and unpleasant. But that's because writers like Dante turned it into a whole load of pain and suffering, and the Victorians poisoned our minds against it with their need to inflict a guilt-ridden and castrated morality from the pulpit. Hades got equated with Hell.
But the domain of Hades, the underworld, is simply where the dead go. I mean, they have to go somewhere, right? It is surrounded by 6 rivers, and is conveniently unknowable to the living by definition. All the same, we seem to know quite a bit about it.
Hades the place, isn't just one homogenous land the other side of the Styx. It's lots of places. Sure, one of them is reserved for the eternal damnation of the super bad, but don't forget that Hades (the place) also contains Elysium - quite simply the best destination that can be imagined - and, should you be reincarnated three times and make it through Elysium each time, then on your last visit you get invited to the Isles of the Blessed - the VIP lounge of the Elysium Fields. Hob-nobbing for eternity with a better class the dead - heroes and demigods!
Big brother Zeus, sitting on Olympus, filled his days with tricking humans into praying to him a lot, making him feel good about himself 24/7, and shagging as humans, gods, demigods and nymphs as he could get away with without pissing off his wife too much.
Zeus is the archetypical "little man". Incapable of being honest or faithful and with absolutely zero impulse control, but petrified of the good lady goddess inside, Hera. He spends so much time trying to prove his dominance and fecundity, there have to be questions asked.
You know if he was mortal he would own a Jag.
Poseidon, was especially demanding of prayer and sacrifice in return for not killing you on the high seas*, but basically he seems to have been just a straight shagger. I don't say straight to indicate a particular proclivity. He was seriously not bothered by gender. For this we should commend him, I guess, but with a lifetime production of something like 300 kids by 100 different Goddesses, nymphs and mortals, you can't imagine him being a particularly good father. He had a "consort", the Nereid Amphitrite who seems to be pretty cool, but mostly he had anyone he could.
We could call Amphitrite his "primary". I'm amazed the poly community haven't claimed him as their own yet. They have a pretty strong case.
Hades, in his underworld, didn't have as much free time as his brothers, and, seeing as there are basically no myths or legends of him screwing up or messing around where he shouldn't be messing around, I think we can assume that he was pretty content just getting on with the job of managing the underworld. The underworld was a more complex places than Olympus and the High Seas, and it must have been considerably more populated than the land of the living.
And then one day, for no particular reason that I can remember, Zeus, his brother, "gave" him Persephone (his, Zeus', daughter) to be his (Hades') wife.
Let's gloss over the forced indentured servitude, the rapey bits, the person-as-a-posession thing, and also the fact that Persephone was technically Hades' niece, (by technically, I mean actually), because if you're going to get caught up in all of that, then you really shouldn't ever go anywhere near Homer or Hessiod. It's full of the inappropriate, the immoral and incessant incest.
Let's focus instead on the fact that this really pissed off her mother, Demeter, the goddess of the harvest.
Before Hades took Persephone off to the underworld, the fields and farms of the earth provided us harvests all year round. Because of Demeter's happiness and love. But with the loss of her daughter, Demeter retreated to a cave, had a something of a sulk and turned the earth barren, resulting in raging famines.
I bet if the god involved had been Zeus or Poseidon, they wouldn't have been too bothered, but Hades decided that on balance this was a bad thing and cut a deal with the mother-in-law, Demeter, allowing Persephone to return to Earth for 6 months of the year. The months of spring and summer. During this time, with her daughter by her side, Demeter is super happy, and everything grows. When she has to return to Hades, Demeter once again puts on her black robes, hides in her cave, and nature retreats with her. Winter.
Hades appears to love his wife. This is more than "unusual" for the gods. It's absolutely unique. Although the are only together for half the year - the other half, she is upstairs with the living, making stuff grow, feeling the sun on her cheeks, doing spring and summer stuff. In massive contrast to the polygamist Zeus and the polyamorous Poseidon - Hades is totally faithful to her. He is the only god who doesn't have a gazillion kids, mistresses, wives and the occasional animal-partner.
Sure, he can be stern and, lets face it, a little grumpy, but he is known in all the records as being faithful, just, and incorruptible.
There is nothing in Greek Myth which is wholly admirable, but for my money, the only deity who can offer anything by way of being a positive role model is Hades and he is therefore, by far, my favourite Greek God.
ps... while I was looking for the painting "Saturn Devouring His Son" by Peter Paul Rubens to illustrate this post, I came across the WORST thing on the internet. It's a Saturn Devouring his Son yoga mat.
I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE!
* All religions seems to be a protection shakedown.
"Worship me, or you're gonna get hurt"
"Hurt by whom?"
Straight outta Goodfellas.