In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Plutus (//; Greek: Πλοῦτος, translit. Ploûtos, lit. "wealth") is the god and the personification of wealth, and the son of the goddess of agriculture Demeter and the mortal Iasion.
God of Wealth
|Parents||Demeter and Iasion|
|Siblings||Persephone, Despoina, Arion, Philomelus, Eubuleus, Iacchus|
Two ancient depictions of Plutus, one of him as a little boy standing with a cornucopia before Demeter, and another inside the cornucopia being handed to Demeter by a goddess rising out of the earth, perhaps implying that he had been born in the Underworld, were interpreted by Karl Kerenyi to mean that Plutus was supposed to be the son of Hades and Persephone, the king and the queen of the Underworld, though no such version is attested in any primary source.
In the artsEdit
In the philosophized mythology of the later Classical period, Plutus is envisaged by Aristophanes as blinded by Zeus, so that he would be able to dispense his gifts without prejudice; he is also lame, as he takes his time arriving, and winged, so he leaves faster than he came. When the god's sight is restored, in Aristophanes' comedy, he is then able to determine who is deserving of wealth, creating havoc.
Phaedrus records a fable where, after Hercules is received in Olympus, greets all the gods but refuses to greet Plutus. When the king of gods Jupiter asks him why, he replies that he hates the god of riches due to him being favouring the wicked and the corrupt.
Among the Eleusinian figures painted on Greek ceramics, regardless of whether he is depicted as child or youthful ephebe, Plutus can be identified as the one bearing the cornucopia—horn of plenty. In later allegorical bas-reliefs, Plutus is depicted as a boy in the arms of Eirene, as Prosperity is the gift of "Peace", or in the arms of Tyche, the Fortune of Cities.
In Lucian of Samosata's satirical dialogue Timon, Ploutus, the very embodiment of worldly goods written up in a parchment will, says to Hermes:
it is not Zeus who sends me, but Hades, who has his own ways of conferring wealth and making presents; Hades and Plutus are not unconnected, you see. When I am to flit from one house to another, they lay me on parchment, seal me up carefully, make a parcel of me and take me round. The dead man lies in some dark corner, shrouded from the knees upward in an old sheet, with the cats fighting for possession of him, while those who have expectations wait for me in the public place, gaping as wide as young swallows that scream for their mother's return.
In Canto VII of Dante's Inferno, Plutus is a demon of wealth who guards the fourth circle of Hell, "The Hoarders and the Wasters". Dante likely included Plutus to symbolize the evil of hoarding wealth. He is known for saying the famous phrase, "Pape Satàn, pape Satàn aleppe."
Like many other figures in Greek and Roman mythology, Plutus' name is related to several English words. These include:
- Karl Kerenyi, "We are not surprised to learn that the fruit of her love was Ploutos, 'riches'. What else could have sprung from the willingness of the grain goddess?" (Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter (Bollingen) 1967, p 30).
- Hesiod, Theogony 969; Diodorus Siculus, Historic Library 5.77.1; Hyginus, De Astronomica 2.4.7; Grimal, s.v. Plutus, p. 378; Morford, p. 339; Oxford Classical Dictionary, s.v. Plutus.
- Aesop, Fables 413, [=Phaedrus 4.12].
- Karl Kerenyi, "After the rape of Persephone a child was born, the little Ploutos, who resembled the ravisher, Plouton- Latinized as Pluto. ... In two representations of the Eleusinian goddesses intended for the general public, two magnificent vase paintings in late Attic style, we see the child; once as a little boy standing with a cornucopia before the enthroned Demeter, and once in the cornucopia being handed to Demeter by a goddess rising out of the earth- as though he had been born down there in the realm to which Kore had been carried away." (Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter (Bollingen) 1967, p 31).
- Plutus (Wealth, second version, 388 BC)
- Aristophanes, Plutus (Wealth), in Aristophanes, Frogs, Assemblywomen, Wealth, edited and translated by Jeffrey Henderson, Loeb Classical Library No. 180, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 2002. Online version at Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-99596-3.
- Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, Volume III: Books 4.59-8, translated by C. H. Oldfather, Loeb Classical Library No. 340. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1939. ISBN 978-0-674-99375-4. Online version at Harvard University Press. Online version by Bill Thayer.
- Grimal, Pierre, The Dictionary of Classical Mythology, Wiley-Blackwell, 1996. ISBN 978-0-631-20102-1.
- Hesiod, Theogony, in The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914. Online version at the Perseus Digital Library.
- Hyginus, Gaius Julius, De Astronomica, in The Myths of Hyginus, edited and translated by Mary A. Grant, Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1960. Online version at ToposText.
- Kerényi, Karl (1967), Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter, Princeton University Press, 1991. ISBN 9780691019154.
- Morford, Mark P. O., Robert J. Lenardon, Classical Mythology, Eighth Edition, Oxford University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-19-530805-1.
- The Oxford Classical Dictionary, second edition, Hammond, N.G.L. and Howard Hayes Scullard (editors), Oxford University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-19-869117-3.