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Hades vs Satan: What is the Difference?

By Andy Watkins


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The mythology and lore around Hades are fairly consistent. The tales are stable with only minor details shifting around through the ages. But not Satan. Satan crosses scriptures, traditions, myths, and generally speaking has few canon stories and a lot seems pieced together and rarely agreed upon throughout history.

They might both be rulers of the Underworld. They might both be caretakers to the land of the dead. They might both have quite a temper. But really, that’s where the similarities end. To start with Hades, he wasn’t really cast out. He wasn’t a rebel. In many ways, it’s easier to compare him to Yamaraj of Hinduism. He accepted his rule as overlord to the dead and does it well. Satan on the other hand is believed to be personified evil. Hades let humans be until they died. Satan liked to tempt them. They really are very different in any respect that matters.

Telling the stories of Hades and attempting to piece together the stories of Satan, find out what made them the feared rulers of the dead that they are.

What is the Difference Between Hades and Satan?

— Origin Story

Brother to Zeus, Poseidon, Demeter, and Hera, Hades was one of the four siblings swallowed by their father Cronus. You see, before Zeus and the Olympians ruled Olympus, it was Cronus and the Titans. Cronus was trying to outrun a prophecy that declared his own children would overthrow his rule. To do so, he swallowed each child he had as soon as they were born. Eventually, Rhea became displeased by this and began to plot against him. She eventually gave birth to Zeus in hiding and left him to be raised in secrecy. To appease Cronus, she tricked him into swallowing a stone swaddled in cloth.

When Zeus was old enough and had trained enough, he challenged Cronus and forced him to return his siblings. A great battle called the Titanomachy took place between the Titans and the Olympians after this. The Olympians won, fulfilling the prophecy that Cronus had tried so hard to outrun. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades went on to decide who would rule the seas, the underworld, and the heavens by drawing lots. Hades received the Underworld and down he went to rule.

Satan was once an angel. In some stories from the Catholic tradition, he was God’s favorite. But then God made the humans and the humans became the new favorite child. Eventually, he defied God and was cast down from heaven and left to rule hell. These stories are not canon in the strictest sense and the few references in the Bible that speak of Satan, don’t provide much of a backstory. Origin stories like this one have developed over years, pulled from various translations of the bible and pieced together and influenced by other writers.

For example, the conclusion that Satan and Lucifer are the same does stem from the bible. Specifically, the book of Isaiah states “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations.” Revelations tells the story of a war between the angels and a great dragon that was eventually cast down. This is combined with the book of Genesis when the serpent came to tempt Eve. So Lucifer became the name given to the devil that tempted Eve. But all that we really know is that Lucifer, Satan, and the devil are the same names given to the being. But the notion that he actually governs Hell may be as recent as the 14th Century with Dante’s Inferno. 

— Key Characteristics 

Hades can often be identified by the large, ferocious, three-headed dog at his side. The god, Cerberus, was believed to guard the door of the Underworld. He also seemed more interested in keeping the souls of the dead in than he did keeping people out. Other than Cerberus, identifying Hades can be difficult if he’s been painted in at all. The Ancient Greeks were so afraid of him that he rarely appeared in any form of art. When he did, there was not a lot of consistency. 

Satan is most commonly identified by red skin and horns. This may stem from Revelations 12:3 which says ‘And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.’ But beyond this, the Bible does not contain any verse that distinctly and directly describes Satan. In fact, the iconography of Satan didn’t become commonplace until the 9th century. In these paintings, he was two-legged with hooves and a goat’s tail. In fact, he looked much like a satyr found in Greek mythology.

— Famous Myths & Folklore

There aren’t many stories of Hades within Greek folklore. The kidnapping of Persephone is probably the most common one. But he does a few notable appearances – particularly in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. In that story, Orpheus descended into the Underworld intending to retrieve Eurydice after she died from a snakebite. Being an exceptional musician, he played the lyre to Hades to soften his heart and persuade him to release Eurydice. So heartfelt was his music that Hades agreed under one condition. Orpheus had to lead her out without looking behind him until they’d both returned to earth.

Satan doesn’t have many stories specifically related to him in the Christian canon. The closest story with him as a character would be the snake tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden. There is one theory that the crucifixion of Christ was to atone for or pay ransom for the original sin – Eve eating the fruit from the forbidden tree after being tempted by Satan. Otherwise, Satan is more of an omniscient force that tempts spiritual seekers. For example, in the books of Mathew, Mark, and Luke Satan is the force that tempted Jesus in the desert and each time, Jesus rebuked him. 

— History of Worship

Hades never really had worshippers. He would often be called upon during funeral rites but he didn’t have temples and shrines built for him the way many of the other Greek deities did. Generally, people didn’t want much to do with him. 

Satan on the other hand has had worshippers for ages. Satan worship dates back as early as the Middle Ages but earlier dates are possible. Today, Satanism has broken into two branches – theistic and atheistic worship. Either way, it remains a small but not unheard of practice.

About Andy Watkins

I have always been interested in mythology. From a very early age in Britain, I was known to sit at the breakfast table reading encyclopedias about many of the major world mythologies. Learn more about MythNerd's Editorial Process.