The Story of Persephone – Queen of the Underworld
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Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, and Zeus, the King of the gods. She eventually caught the eye of Hades, which led to a series of events that caused Demeter a lot of anguish. Here is an overview of who Persephone really was and what she ultimately meant to the people of Ancient Greece.
Demeter and Her Moods
The Ancient Greeks believed that Demeter was in charge of whether or not they would have a bountiful harvest. If she was happy, they believed the harvest would be a good one. If she was sad or anguished, they believed the harvest would be terrible. Though famines weren’t common, when they did occur, the people believed that it was because of Demeter’s state of mind.
Persephone Brought Her Joy
The reason why Demeter was so happy and generous to the people was because of her daughter, Persephone, the goddess of new spring growth. Persephone was a young and happy goddess, who spent most of her time playing with her nymph companions. Demeter watched her daughter play in the fields and this gave her a lot of joy. As a result, she gave the people good harvests, and life continued to be good.
Beautiful young goddesses do not go unnoticed for long. Hermes and Apollo both tried to court her. Apollo even declared that he was in love with her. Demeter refused their advances on behalf of her daughter, however. She would return all their gifts and send them away.
The King of the Underworld
Hades, the King of the Underworld, also liked Persephone. Like Demeter, he would also sit for hours and watch her play. As he did, he fell more and more in love with her. As she grew into a beautiful young woman, he knew that he could no longer be content by just merely watching. He needed more.
Hades waited until Demeter was distracted with other matters. He then burst forth from a cleft in the earth, and snatched the beautiful Persephone away to the underworld before anyone even knew she was gone. He had kidnapped her.
Demeter Wouldn’t Stop Searching
Demeter returned to find no trace of her beloved daughter. Distraught, she began searching for Persephone. As time went on, she became more and more desperate to find her daughter. She even recruited the goddess Hekate, who guided Demeter through the night with her flaming torches. Demeter and Hekate searched every inch of the earth for Persephone, but she was nowhere to be found. Demeter became depressed, which eventually killed all the crops. The people grew tired and hungry, but Demeter was blinded to their pain by the loss of her precious daughter.
After searching the earth, Demeter petitioned Zeus, Persephone’s father and Hades’ brother, for help in finding her. Zeus knew she was in the Underworld with Hades and convinced Hermes, who still loved Persephone, to get her.
Rather than part with her willingly, Hades tricked Persephone by giving her some pomegranate seeds to eat. She didn’t realize that anyone who eats in the Underworld was bound to spend a third of the year living there.
Persephone returned to Demeter, which brought her joy for much of the year. However, she dutifully returned to the Underworld once a year, which depressed Demeter and caused all the crops to die. This is the time period that became the barren winter. This, according to Greek mythology, is why the four seasons exist.
Categorized in: Greek Mythology
This post was written by Greek Boston