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Roman God Pluto of the Underworld: Facts & Overview

Instructor: Flint Johnson

Flint has tutored mathematics through precalculus, science, and English and has taught college history. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow

This lesson will be about Pluto, the god of wealth, fertility, and the underworld. His transformation from Dis Pater to Pluto and the influence of both Roman and Greek mythology will also be discussed.

Pluto

For many, many years -- maybe even for parts of your childhood -- Pluto was both the name of the Roman God of the Underworld and the ninth planet in our solar system. A few years ago, scientists realized that Pluto wasn't really a planet, but a planetoid. That's kind of ironic because we've also learned that the god Pluto wasn't actually Roman and didn't start out as a god of the Underworld.

Originally, according to Greek mythology, Hades ruled the Underworld and Pluto was the god of gems and precious minerals to be found under the earth. The Romans had their own god of mineral wealth and agricultural fertility, Dis Pater. It was only when the Romans had conquered Greece and fallen in love with its culture that Pluto and Hades combined to replace Dis Pater as the god of the dead, wealth, and agriculture.

Dis Pater: Roman God of Wealth and Agriculture
Dis Pater

Dis Pater

We don't know much about Dis Pater. Many people think his name meant 'father of wealth', while others think he might have been another name for Jupiter, whose Indo-European original was Dyeus Phater. Either way, Dis Pater was a quiet god. The Romans never told any myths about him, nor did they have festivals in his honor. He had a few temples, but not many.

In the third century B.C.E., the Romans conquered Greece and fell in love with Greek culture. They equated some of their gods with the Greek versions, but in the case of a few they didn't have or that weren't that interesting they just stole them - names and myths alike. Pluto was one of the gods they stole.

Myths

When Dis Pater was replaced with the Greek gods Pluto and Hades, the Roman version acquired a few of the more positive myths from the Greeks. While Greek Hades was the son of Cronos and brother to Zeus and Poseidon, Roman Pluto became one of the Saturn's three sons along with Jupiter and Neptune. While Greek Hades was married to the spring goddess Proserpina, Roman Pluto married her counterpart Persepone. In both versions the couple ruled the underworld together.

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