Hades Helmet: The Cap of Invisibility

There are plenty of athletes that have almost made the Olympic games but just missed the thresholds to be considered for participation. The most famous ‘almost Olympian’ will probably go by the name of Hades.

However, unlike other athletes, Hades the god is just as famous as the equipment he word, making Hades’ helmet one of the most important objects of Greek mythology.

Why Does Hades Have a Helmet?

hades'-helmet

The reason why Hades had the helmet, to begin with, goes back to the earliest of Greek myths. One ancient source, called the Bibliotheca, states that Hades obtained the helmet so that he could fight successfully in the Titanomachy, a major war fought between different groups of Greek gods and goddesses.

All three brothers got their own weapon from an ancient blacksmith that was part of the race of giants called the Cyclops. Zeus got the lightning bolt, Poseidon got the Trident, and Hades got, well, his helmet. The weapons were given as a reward from the one-eyed giants after the three brothers freed the creatures from Tartaros.

The items were carefully crafted, and in such a way that they could only be held by gods. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades were more than willing to accept them since any help was welcome during the war with the Titans.

With the weapons, they were able to capture the great Cronus, amongst other Greek Titans, and secure victory for the Olympians. Or … well, you get the point.

The Popularity of Hades’ Helm

While the lightning bolt and the Trident are probably the most well-known weapons of Greek mythology, Hades’ helm is probably a bit less well-known. One could argue that the winged sandals of Hermes might come before the helmet or even the Caduceus. Still, Hades helmet had quite an influence throughout the myths of ancient Greece.

READ MORE: Hermes’ Staff: The Caduceus 

What Was Hades’ Helmet Called?

A couple of names pop up when talking about the helmet of Hades. The one that is most used, and will be used throughout this article, is the Cap of Invisibility. Other names that are thrown in the mix when talking about the helm of the god of the underworld are the ‘Helm of Darkness’, or simply ‘Hades’ helm’.

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Hades abducts Persephone wearing his helmet

What Powers Does Hades Helmet Have?

Simply put, Hades helmet, or the Cap of Invisibility has the ability to turn anybody who is wearing it invisible. While Harry Potter uses a cloak to turn invisible, a helmet was the attribute of choice in classical mythology.

The thing is, Hades wasn’t the only one that ever wore the helmet. Other supernatural entities from Greek mythology did wear the helmet too. Indeed, the helmet appears in other myths than just the one of Hades, even to the extent where Hades is totally absent from the myths.

Why it is normally seen as the symbol of Hades is because of the simple fact that he was the first user. However, numerous figures would enjoy its benefits.

Why Was the Cap of Invisibility Important During the Titanomachy?

While the Trident of Poseidon and Zeus with his lightning bolt were of great influence during the Titanomachy, the Cap of Invisibility is believed to be the final master move in the battle between the Olympians and the Titans.

The god of darkness and the underworld wore the helmet to become invisible and enter the very camp of the Titans. While invisible, Hades destroyed the weapons of the Titans as well as their armaments. Without their weapons, the Titans lost their ability to fight and the battle ended right there and then. So, really, Hades should be considered the hero of the war.

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Cornelis van Haarlem: The Fall of the Titans

The Cap of Invisibility in Other Myths

While the Cap of Invisibility really is generally related to the god Hades, it’s certain that other gods have used the helmet extensively. From the messenger god to the god of war, all took advantage of its ability to turn someone invisible.

The Messenger God: Hermes and the Cap of Invisibility

For starters, Hermes was one of the gods that had the privilege of wearing a helmet. The messenger god borrowed it during the Gigantomachy, a war between the Olympian gods and the Giants. Indeed, while the Olympians helped the Giants during the Titanomachy, they eventually ended up fighting. Oh good old classical mythology.

The Cap of Invisibility and the Gigantomachy

Yet in fact, it wasn’t the Cyclops they fought with. According to Apollodorus, an ancient Greek scholar not to be confused with Apollo, the imprisonment of the Titans gave birth to a myriad of new giants. These were born quite angry, in rage actually. Probably because they couldn’t stand that their creators lost one of the biggest battles in world mythology.

All angry and well, they would engage in war with the Olympians, hurling rocks and burning logs into the sky as they tried to hit them. The Olympians found out quickly that they couldn’t kill the Giants because of a decree prophesied by an oracle, so they had to resort to different methods.

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Greek Kylix wine cup with Athena and Herakles fighting the Giants (Athens, 540-530 BC)

Mortal Man with Supernatural Abilities

Luckily, Zeus was smart enough to call in his mortal son Heracles to help them win the battle. While the Olympians weren’t able to kill the Giants, they could still help the mortal Heracles to the best of their ability. This is where the Cap of Invisibility enters the story. Hermes tricked the giant Hippolytus by wearing the cap, successfully enabling Heracles to slay the giants.

God of War: Athena’s Use of the Cap of Invisibility

The second one that would use the Cap of Invisibility was the god of war, Athena. Or, rather, the goddess of war. Athena made use of the cap during the notorious Trojan War. According to the myth, it all started when the goddess aided the mortal Diomedes in an attempt to make an end to the war.

While Diomedes was chasing after the god Ares in a chariot, the goddess Athena was able to enter the chariot of Diomedes without being noticed. Of course, this was because of the Cap of Invisibility. While in the chariot, she would guide the hand of Diomedes when he threw his spear at Ares.

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The statue of the goddess Athena

How Diomedes Tricked Everyone

Of course, the goddess of war had tremendous power, and she enabled the mortal man to harm one of the Greek supernaturals. The spear ended up in the gut of Ares, disabling him from fighting.

Many people believed that Diomedes was one of the few mortals able to hurt a Greek god, and no one was aware that it was, in fact, the goddess Athena who really provided the power and aim for the throw.

Perseus’ Battle with Medusa

One other myth including the Cap of Invisibility is the one in which the hero Perseus slays Medusa. The problem with Medusa, however, is that any person who saw her face would turn to stone, and it was considered a feat that Perseus could survive her presence, to begin with, let alone kill her.

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Medusa by Caravaggio

Perseus Came Prepared

Aware of the fact that he could potentially turn into stone, Perseus came prepared for the battle. In fact, he was able to obtain three of the most valuable weapons in Greek mythology: the winged sandals, the Cap of Invisibility, and a curved sword paired with a reflective shield.

Perseus obtained the helm from Hades himself, and this weapon in particular helped him greatly. The hero Perseus would sneak past the sleeping gorgons that were meant to protect Medusa.

Just like the one they were protecting, the gorgons’ petrifying gazes were meant to disable anyone that approached them. Luckily for Perseus, the Cap of Invisibility helped him sneak past them and into the cave of the snake-headed woman 

While in the cave, he would use the shield he was carrying as a mirror. While he would’ve turned into stone if he looked directly into her eyes, he wouldn’t do so if he looked indirectly at her. Indeed, the shield helped him surpass the spell that would turn him into stone.

Whilst staring at the mirror, Perseus swung his sword and beheaded Medusa. Flying away on his winged horse Pegasus, he would become the hero of many more stories.

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