When looking for the evilest ancient Greek god or goddess, usually three come to mind: Pluton/Hades, Pan, and Hecate. But what if I told you that there is another divine being that shares more characteristics with the devil, than the previous three.
Why Pluton, Pan, and Hecate are not the Worst
Pluton was the brother of Zeus, Hera, and Poseidon. He was the most unfortunate one because he ended up being offered the underworld as his kingdom, when the rest resided in Mount Olympus. However, Pluton willingly agreed to take care of Hades, the ancient Greek kingdom of the dead, and all the chthonic deities that resided there.
Hades is often described as the ancient Greek version of hell since it is located under the ground. But Hades was both heaven and hell. And Pluton had both positive and negative traits. He had abducted his niece, Persephone, but Zeus and other Olympian gods had committed similar acts. He was feared because he was associated with death, but he was not considered evil.
Pan and Hecate were two chthonic deities; they also resided under the surface of the Earth. Hecate is associated with witchcraft and magic and got a bad reputation in late antiquity and Medieval times. But she wasn’t necessarily an evil goddess. She was actually the only Titan who was liked and respected by the Olympians and she was the only one who felt bad for Demeter and helped her find her daughter, Persephone.
Pan on the other hand is not only a chthonic deity but he also has some physical similarities to the devil. He is half-man, half-goat. He is a trickster but, in certain circumstances, he can instill fear to people. For example, when Greeks and Persians were fighting in the battle of Marathon, Pan exited a cave and started yelling and making horrifying sounds. He caused panic to the Persians – and now you know where the word pan-ic comes from. But he was never considered an evil god.
There is in fact another deity from ancient Greek mythology who is the most diabolical of them all.
Eris: The Evilest Greek Goddess
The devil is the personification of evil. In Greek, the term «διάβολος» derives from the Greek verb «διαβάλω» (to slander). It represents all negative feelings but primarily jealousy and power-seeking by creating division. Just like the serpent that offered the apple to Eve in the creation myth. The snake slandered God and instilled the idea of rebellion to the first humans. It created division.
By looking at ancient Greek myths and specifically at the Homeric hymns, we can easily detect a goddess who, not only created division motivated by jealousy, but also did this by offering… an apple. And the result was a violent war that we call the Trojan War.
“Strife whose wrath is relentless, she is the sister and companion of murderous Ares, she who is only a little thing at the first, but thereafter grows until she strides on the earth with her head striking heaven. She then hurled down bitterness equally between both sides as she walked through the onslaught making men’s pain heavier.”, Homer says about Eris.
“Potter is angry with potter, craftsman with craftsman, and beggar is jealous of beggar (…)”, writes Hesiod in Works and Days.
Eris (Έριδα) is the Greek goddess of strife and discord. Contrary to Pan, Hades, and Hecate, Eris had no temples in ancient Greece. It is safe to say that she was the least liked deity. She is also thought to have inspired countless evil characters in fairytales, including Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. She even inspired a parody religion in the 1950s called “Discordianism”.
According to some sources, she was the daughter of the Night and she also gave birth to many children – including Ponos (pain), Loimos (death by pestilence), and Fonos (Murder). She is supposedly behind every fight, divorce, and problems that result from jealousy. But she is mostly well-known for the “apple of discord myth”.
Once upon a time, the mortal king named Peleus and the sea nymph Thetis got married on the mountain range of Pelion. All gods and goddesses were invited to the reception to celebrate the union of a mortal with deity. All except one: Eris. It was deemed inappropriate to invite the goddess of discord in the celebration of a marital union.
But Eris found a way to bring chaos from a distance. The ancient Greek goddess approached the wedding party holding a golden apple. She had inscribed on the apple the phrase: “to the fairest of them all”. Once she saw a group of goddesses, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, chatting with each other, she tossed the apple towards them and left.
What ensued was a vanity-fueled dispute among the goddesses, who asked for the help of a beautiful mortal man, Paris. They asked Paris to give his honest opinion but, they then proceeded to offer him different prices in return. Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love and probably the objective winner of the prize, offered Paris the only thing he was missing: a partner to stand by his side. Aphrodite ensured him that he will marry the “most beautiful woman in the world” who was no other than Helen, queen of Sparta. She won and a new war soon began.
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