Persephone was an offspring of Zeus, the father of the gods, and one of the most mysterious deities in Greek mythology. She was a dual deity since she was the daughter of Demeter, and by extension a goddess of fertility, but also the Queen of the Underworld, since she was abducted by Hades when she was a child so that she would be his wife. This article presents some of the most interesting facts about Persephone.
10 Interesting Facts About Greek Goddess Persephone
Persephone was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter
Persephone was one of the several daughters that Zeus had outside his legal marriage with Hera. She was the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of harvest and agriculture, who presided over grains and the fertility of the earth. Thus, it was only natural that Kore herself, as Persephone was also known, was also a goddess of fertility.
Persephone was abducted by Hades
While still young, Persephone was abducted by Hades, the god of the Underworld, since he was completely enamored by her beauty. With the help of his brother Zeus, he devised a plan in order to captivate her while she was playing out in the fields with her friends, by creating a chasm beneath her feet. From then on, she became the Queen of the Underworld.
Read more about the story of Hades and Persephone.
The myth of Persephone symbolizes the cycle of life
When Demeter had learn that her daughter was abducted by Hades, she was angered and sent the earth into a great famine. Zeus had to intervene, and it was agreed that Persephone would spend half of the year on Earth and rest in the Underworld.
In those months, when Persephone is in the underworld with her husband, Demeter is sad and does not provide a harvest for the earth. This represents the winter months when plants and vegetation die-off, only to be reborn in the spring months when Persephone is reunited with her mother, and the vegetation of the Earth is resurrected once more.
Persephone was forced by Hades to eat a pomegranate
According to myth, if one were to eat a pomegranate, which was considered to be the fruit of the underworld, one was forced to return to the realm of the dead. That is why Hades forced Kore to eat a pomegranate before leaving his kingdom with her mother so that she would be obliged to return. In some version of the myth, she ate 6 seeds from the pomegranate, one for each month that she was going to spend in the Underworld.
You might like: Interesting facts about Hades.
The myth of Persephone forms the basis of the Eleusinian mysteries
Once Persephone was abducted, Demeter started searching every corner of the earth for her. She was disguised as an old lady with a torch in her hands and wandered far and wide, for nine long days, until she arrived at Eleusis.
There the goddess cared for Demophon, the son of Keleos, king of Eleusis, who would later offer the gift of grain to humanity and teach men how to farm. A temple was also built in honor of the goddess, thus commencing the celebrated sanctuary of Eleusis and the Eleusinian Mysteries, which lasted for over a millennium.
These mystery ceremonies promised the initiates a happy existence after death, in the Underworld, and it was the means by which Persephone revealed herself to humanity, enabling her to come back to Earth.
Persephone was ruthless to those who had wronged her
As Queen of the Underworld, Kore had the ability to send wild beasts to kill those who dared to wrong her. In the myth of Adonis, both Persephone and Aphrodite had fallen in love with the mortal man. Zeus order was to split his time between the two goddesses, but when Adonis decided that he did not wish to return to the Underworld, Persephone sent a wild boar to kill him. He later died in the arms of Aphrodite.
Persephone was merciless to those who dared to cross her
Persephone did not have any children with Hades, but she did not approve of her husband extramarital affairs either. When the nymph Minthe, one of Hade’s mistresses, boasted that she was more beautiful than Persephone and that she would one day win Hades back, Persephone took care that such thing should never happen and transformed her into the mint-plant.
Persephone was kind to visiting heroes
In several myths, Kore appears to be the sole maker of vital decisions concerning the fate of mortals, such as allowing Orpheus to leave Hades with Eurydice, or Heracles with Cerberus. She also allows Sysiphus to return to his wife, who agrees to the exchange of souls between Admetus and Alcestis. Moreover, the seer Teiresias reserves the privilege of retaining his intelligence in Hades thanks to Persephone.
In artistic representations, Persephone is depicted in one of two ways
In ancient art, two main motifs usually appear where Persephone is depicted. The first is the moment of her abduction by Hades, while she plays with her friends. Hades is depicted emerging from the underworld in a chariot carrying her away. The other main motif is Kore in the Underworld, where she is shown sited alongside her husband, overseeing the various famous dead heroes, as for example, granting Orpheus the favor of retrieving his dead wife.
Persephone inspired many later artists
The figure of Persephone inspired many several artists of later epochs to create some of them most impressive art works in history. Examples are the famous sculpture by Giovanni Bernini, as well as paintings by Dante Rosseti and Frederic Leighton, among others.
Image Credits: Rape of Persephone – Würzburg Residence gardens – Würzburg, Germany Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons