In Greek mythology, Ploutos ("wealth" Πλοῦτος), usually Romanized as Plutus, was equally a son of the pre-Hellenic Cretan Demeter— and the demigod Iasion, with whom she lay in a thrice-ploughed field— and, in the mythic context of Eleusinian Demeter, also the divine child, the issue of the ravisher, the child and boy-double of the "wealthy" Hades (Plouton). Plutus was the personification of wealth.
He was also thought to have been the child of Hades and Persephone. Many vase paintings show him with the king and queen of the Underworld.
Plutus in the arts
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.
Among the Eleusinian figures painted on Greek ceramics, Plutus, whether a boy child or a youthful ephebe, is recognized by the cornucopia, or horn of plenty, that he bears. In later, allegorical bas-reliefs, Plutus is 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 Pluto, who has his own ways of conferring wealth and making presents; Pluto 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 Divine Comedy, Plutus (Pluto in the original Italian) is a wolf-like demon of wealth which guards the fourth circle of the Inferno, the Hoarders and the Wasters. Dante almost certainly conflated Plutus with Pluto, the Roman god of the Underworld.
Words with the prefix Pluto- (implying wealth)
Like many other figures in Greek and Roman mythology, Plutus' name leads to many modern words. These include:
- Plutocracy: Rule by the wealthiest
- plutonomics: The study of wealth management
- plutocrat: Wealthy ruler
- Plutolatry: the "worship" of money
- Plutomania: the delusion that one is immensely wealthy