Demeter and Persephone _ Greek mythology - The abduction of Persephone by Hades and the birth of the four seasons


Persephone, Museum Pergamon in Berlin

Demeter, ancient sculpture

Demeter, daughter of Cronus and Rhea was the mother of Persephone, had by her brother Zeus.

One day Persephone, while picking flowers with other companions, moved away from the group and suddenly the earth opened and from the depths of the abyss appearedHades, god of the underworld and lord of the dead who kidnapped her because he had been in love with her for a long time.

The kidnapping was accomplished thanks to the will of Zeus who had given his consent to Hades to carry out the violent amorous action.

Demeter, realizing that Persephone had disappeared, for nine days ran around the world in search of her daughter up to the most remote regions of the earth. But no matter how hard he searched, he could neither find her nor hear of her kidnapping.

Rape of Proserpina (Persephone in Latin mythology is identified with Proserpina),
Bernini, Galleria Borghese, Rome (Italy)

At dawn on the tenth day he came to his aidHecate, who had heard the girl's desperate screams as she was being kidnapped but hadn't had time to see the kidnapper's face and therefore suggested to Demeter to askElios, the Sun. And so it was. Elios told Demeter that Hades had kidnapped her daughter.

It is useless to describe the anger and anguish of Demeter, betrayed by her own family of Olympians. Demeter abandoned Olympus and to take revenge, he decided that the earth would no longer bear fruit to mortals so the human race would be extinguished in the famine. In this way the gods could no longer receive the votive sacrifices of the men they were so proud of.

The goddess then set about wandering the world to try to stifle her despair, deaf to the lamentations of the gods and mortals who already tasted the bitter taste of famine.

Her pilgrimage took her to Eleusis, Attica, in the guise of an old woman, where King Celeus reigned with his wife Metanira. Demeter was welcomed into their home and became the nurse of the king's son, Demophon.

Over time Demeter became fond of the child who made him grow like a god, feeding him, unbeknownst to his parents, with divine ambrosia, the nectar of the gods.

Through Demophon the goddess was thus able to satiate her maternal instinct, stifling the pain for her lost daughter. She also decided to give Demophon immortality and therefore make him similar to a god but, while she was intent on performing the necessary rites, she was discovered by Metanira, the mother of Demophon. At that point Demeter abandoned the clothes of an old woman and manifested herself in all her divinity, making the palace shine with her divine light.

Disappointed by the mortals who did not like the gift he wanted to give to Demophon, he took refuge near the summit of Mount Callicoro where the Eleusinians themselves had in the meantime built a temple for him.

Persephone and Hades on the throne
Pinax, 5th century BC, Locri Epizefiri (Italy)

The pain for the disappearance of her daughter, now that Demofonte was no longer there to distract her, began to make itself felt stronger than ever and the pleas of the mortals who in the meantime were decimated by the famine were worth nothing.

Convincing Hades and Persephone - Etruscan painting IV century. B.C.

At the endZeus, forced to yield to the pleas of mortals and the gods themselves, he sent Hermes, the messenger of the gods, in the afterlife from Hades, to order him to return Persephone to his mother. Hades, unexpectedly, did not complain about Zeus's decision but rather urged Persephone to return to her mother. Deception was lurking. In fact, Hades, before his sweet wife got on the chariot of Hermes, made Persephone eat a pomegranate seed, thus accomplishing the miracle that would have prevented her from remaining forever in the kingdom of light.

Great was the emotion of Demeter when she saw her daughter and in that same instant, he will keep her fertile and the world resumed enjoying her gifts.

Only later did Demeter discover the deception tended by Hades: having Persephone eaten the pomegranate seed in the kingdom of the dead, she was forced to return, every year, for a long period. This was in fact the will of Zeus.

So it was then that Demeter decreed that in the six months that Persephone was in the kingdom of the dead, the cold would fall in the world and nature would fall asleep, giving rise to autumn and winter, while in the remaining six months the earth would flourished, giving rise to spring and summer.

Persephone Demeter and Triptolemus, Greek relief, 5th cent. B.C.

Dr. Maria Giovanna Davoli

Video: The Messed Up Origins of Persephone. Mythology Explained - Jon Solo

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