Why Does Hell Need A Guard Dog?

While at lunch today with Ryan, we began a discussion about the debt markets (not good) and how this might affect private equity shops.  I had heard rumblings from my hometown of Detroit that Cerberus Capital might be a little light in the cash flow department with respect to its investment in Chrysler. 

It was at that point that I admitted to Ryan that I really didn’t know how to correctly pronounce the name "Cerberus" and asked for a little guidance.  Ryan, being the ultra-nerd that he is (and I love him for it) began to tell me that Cerberus was the name for the Hound of Hades.  Cerberus stood at the gates of hell with its three heads and guarded the place.

Which led me to the question of "who exactly are they trying to keep out of Hell?  If there was one club that I thought would always offer me membership, it was that one."

Ryan didn’t know the answer.  Now I know how his son, Quinn, must feel.  :)  If you know the answer, please let us know.

  • anon

    cerberus isn't guarding anyone from getting into hell, but from lost souls from getting out.

  • I think that means everyone has to stay inside on the line at Chrysler plants and keep making cars……

  • Kerberos is of course the original Greek version. It was pronounced with a [k]. The Latin spelling is Cerberus. (Classical Latin famously only uses the letter "K" in one word, Kalendae.) In classical Latin, the pronunciation is still with a [k]. In bastardized medieval Latin, the word would be pronounced with a [ts]. In English, it's naturally just [s].

    Jill is quite correct about the purpose of Cerberus. He wags his tail as you go in. Good luck getting out.

    Heracles finally captured the dog, overcoming him with brute force. Orpheus and Hermes were both smarter, using two different hacks to get past the dog: music and a drug (Lethe water).

    — Stas

    Here is how Hesiod puts this:

    "a dreaded hound, on watch, who has no pity, but a vile stratagem: as people go in he fawns on all, with actions of his tail and both ears, but he will not let them go back out, but lies in wait for them and eats them up, when he catches any going back through the gates."
    Hesiod, Theogony 769 ff

  • Most excellent analysis. Thanks!

  • Yes – all the above are correct. Ryan explained it sort of backwards. While Cerberus guarded hell, his job was to keep people in! Now – map that to the private equity business.

  • I always knew that you were smarter than me.  Clearly, I’d be an exception.  J

  • Jill S.

    Cerberus' main job was to keep the spirits of Hades from getting out. He also kept living people from entering, since once you got in, you never got out. Of course, there are always a few exceptions.

  • I always thought Kerberos was a model of good naming conventions since it evokes the image of the guardian, while differentiating in pronunciation "K" for Kerberos, and "S" for Cerberus.

  • So you're trapped in Hell and try to escape. You end up getting eaten by a three headed dog. Big deal, try again the next day… eventually you'll get through.
    Kind of a Groundhog Day aspect to the whole thing.

  • Atleast I need a guard Dog. Atleast it makes me feel safe. Even if it is just to make a fake impression that we are safe. Some Guard dogs can be really helpful. Opsss… I love Dogs..!!

  • Anonymous

    I think everyone may need a dog ..HAHA
    dog is friendly …..!

    • It was at that point that I admitted to Ryan that I really didn’t know how to correctly pronounce the name “Cerberus” and asked for a little guidance.  

  • Hannah

    He kept Cerberus to keep anyone dead inside of his kingdom of Hell. Some people did escape, but most died trying.