Ploutos (Greek: Πλοῦτος, "Wealth"), usually Romanized as Plutus, was the god of wealth in ancient Greek religion and myth. He was the son of Demeter and the demigod Iasion, with whom she lay in a thrice-ploughed field. In the theology of the Eleusinian Mysteries he was regarded as the Divine Child. His relation to the classical ruler of the underworld Plouton (Latin Pluto), with whom he is often conflated, is complex, as Pluto was also a god of riches.
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 The Inferno, Plutus is a demon of wealth who guards the fourth circle of Hell, "The Hoarders and the Wasters." Dante likely includes Plutus to symbolize the evil of hoarding wealth.
The linguistic root pluto-
Like many other figures in Greek and Roman mythology, Plutus' name is related to several English words. These include:
- plutocracy, rule by the wealthy, and plutocrat, one who rules by virtue of wealth
- plutonomics, the study of wealth management
- plutolatry, the "worship" of money
- plutomania, the delusion that one is immensely wealthy
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- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Plutus". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Plutus at Theoi.com