Pluto and the King, an ancient Roman myth for kids Illustration

Pluto & the King
(a Greek & Roman myth)
Greek Name: Pluto

 
 

The ancient Romans enjoyed a story about a clever king who once ruled the Greek city-state of Corinth. This story was originally told by the ancient Greeks. The Romans changed the story a little. They substituted two god's names.

(1) The ancient Greeks called Zeus the king of all the gods. When the ancient Romans told the story, they substituted Jupiter as the king of gods.

(2) The ancient Greeks said Hades was the god of the underworld. When the ancient Romans told this story, they substituted Pluto as the god of the underworld.

(3) But they left the story in ancient Greece. Greece was ruled by city-states. Rome was not composed of city-states. Rome was the center of the ancient Roman world. Rome had one government.

As the story goes ....

Once upon a time, a long time ago, you might find this hard to believe, but Greece was not ruled by Rome. They had kings in charge of things. We Romans would never allow ourselves to be ruled by kings, not ever again. But this was long ago. Back then, a king ruled the city of Corinth. The people of Corinth thought he was the cleverest king who ever lived! They were always bragging about him.

But the most clever thing the king did hardly anyone knew about, for a very good reason!

One day, the king of Corinth was busy trying to come up with an idea to solve Corinth's fresh water problem. He was surprised to see Jupiter flying by. Jupiter was holding something. The king could not quite make out what it was.

"How odd,"  sighed the king. "It's rare to see Jupiter. He rarely leaves the heavens. I wonder what he's up to!" The king shrugged, then went back to worrying about Corinth's lack of water supply. The people of Cornith had no aquaducts, you see, or their problem would have been solved long ago.

Soon after, another god flew by. "Have you seen my daughter?" he bellowed at the king.

"If you will give my city a source of fresh water, I will tell you what I saw,"  the king shouted back. Immediately, a crystal clear stream of fresh water bubbled up.

"Jupiter was carrying something. It might have been your daughter. He went that way," the king pointed.

 Jupiter did not allow mortals to interfere in his business. When he heard that the king had pointed him out to a lesser god, he told his brother Pluto to take the king down to the underworld immediately!

"When they tell you I am dead, do not put a gold coin under my tongue,"  the king whispered urgently to his wife. Being a good wife, she did exactly as the king had asked her.

The king was a mortal, but still, he was king. Pluto himself met the king at the River Styx, the entrance to the underworld. Because no gold coin was placed under his tongue, the king arrived at the entrance to the underworld as a poor beggar.

"Where is your gold coin?"  Pluto demanded to know. "How can you pay for a trip across the River Styx and arrive in the underworld?"

The king hung his head in shame. "My wife was too cheap to pay for the passage."

Pluto mouth fell open. "You go right back there and teach that women some manners."  Pluto sent the king back to earth immediately, where he was magically alive and well again.

The king and his beloved wife laughed when he told her about it. But he never told anyone else. You never knew when the gods might be listening.