Mythology

How Persephone Became Queen of the Underworld in Greek Mythology

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Hades and PersephoneThe story of how Persephone became the Queen of the Underworld is about more than just Hades’ almost obsessive love for the young girl. The tale also serves as a way for the Ancient Greeks to explain how the four seasons came to be. Demeter, the goddess of the earth, is also part of this story as well since she is Persephone’s mother, and her actions directly resulted in the existence of the four seasons. Persephone’s father is Hades’ brother, Zeus, and that also plays a part in this tale.

Hades Sees Persephone Picking Flowers

Since Demeter is the goddess of the earth, her young daughter, Persephone, knew that fresh picked flowers would be the perfect gift for her. So, the story begins when Hades, the King of the Underworld, notices Persephone while she is selecting an array of beautiful flowers for her mother. Persephone grew up to be a beautiful young woman but Demeter, who was obsessed with protecting her daughter, kept male suitors away from her.

When Hades saw her that day, however, everything changed. Hades was always looked at as someone who was too hard to love anyone, but his heart softened when he gazed at Persephone. Since no male suitor was allowed to go near Persephone, he knew he needed a different approach. So one day as she was picking those flowers, Persephone’s eyes were drawn to a Narcissus flower but as she touched it to pick it, the ground opened up and swallowed her. Hades had kidnapped her.

Demeter’s Heart Breaks After Persephone is Kidnapped

Although Hades may have been happy with his conquest, Demeter’s heart broke once her daughter was taken from her. Demeter searched everywhere for her daughter, but she vanished without a trace. However, Zeus, the young maiden’s father and Helios, the god of the sun, witnessed Persephone’s abduction. Zeus opted not to say anything about what he saw because he and his brother, Hades, often fought and he didn’t want to start an argument over the maiden.

Hecate, the goddess of wisdom and childbirth, was a close friend of Demeter’s and she advised the grieving mother to visit with Helios for advice on what to do concerning her missing daughter. Helios decided to confess as to what he saw – that Hades had kidnapped her. Demeter was instantly angered, but Helios talked her out of lashing out and seeking revenge. Instead, he reasoned that it could be a positive thing that Persephone was selected to be the Queen of the Underworld.

Zeus Can’t Ignore the Problem Any Longer

Demeter was experiencing such an intense amount of grief that Zeus felt as if he couldn’t ignore the situation any longer. He tried to find a solution to the problem that would please Demeter but that wouldn’t upset Hades. Meanwhile, Persephone herself was a reluctant bride and spent most of her days and nights crying. Persephone was upset that she had been taken against her will and she also missed her mother. However, because Hades had given Persephone pomegranate seeds, which entranced her and made her believe she wanted to stay in the Underworld, when Zeus asked Persephone where she wanted to live, Persephone replied that she wanted to stay with her husband.

The Four Seasons Are Born

This angered Demeter even further because she didn’t believe that Persephone would chose Hades over her. She thought for sure that Persephone had been tricked. Demeter was so angry that she threatened to make the earth completely barren if she couldn’t get her daughter back. If this happened, all the plants in the world would die. To  prevent this from happening, Zeus finally organized a compromise. He ruled that Persephone would spend half the year with her mother and half with her husband in the underworld. That’s why the seasons exist. When Persephone is back with her mother, the earth thrives (spring and summer). When she spends the time with her husband in the underworld, the plants of the earth die and the land becomes barren (fall and winter). Thus, Persephone became Queen of the Underworld while also remaining a loving and devoting daughter.

Sources:

Wikipedia – Persephone

Persephone, Queen of the Underworld

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com

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