Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Abduction of Persephone

Persephone (also called Kore or Proserpina) is the daughter of Demeter and Zeus (her uncle).
In the story of the Abduction of Persephone she is kidnapped by her other uncle Hades (also called Aidoneus or Pluto) and forced to live in the underworld as her queen.

The story begin with Persephone gathering flowers and frolicking with her companions, no parental supervision present.

And then...
He caught her up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. Then she cried out shrilly with her voice, calling upon her father, the Son of Cronos, who is most high and excellent. But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tender-hearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave, and the lord Helios, Hyperion's bright son, as she cried to her father, the Son of Cronos. But he was sitting aloof, apart from the gods, in his temple where many pray, and receiving sweet offerings from mortal men. So he, that Son of Cronos, of many names, who is Ruler of Many and Host of Many, was bearing her away by leave of Zeus on his immortal chariot -- his own brother's child and all unwilling.
Homeric Hymn, II To Demeter, 19.

Pluto and Persephone by Edmund Dulac

Rape of Persephone by James Childs, 2002

Persephone by Thomas Hart Benton, 1938-39

The Rape of Proserpine by Hans Von Aachen, 1587

Pluto and Proserpina by John Smith

Hades abducting Persephone. Wall painting from Macedonia, 4th Century BC

The Marriage of Persephone by Henry Siddons Mowbray, c. 1895

The Rape of Persephone by Rupert Bunny, 1913

The Rape of Proserpine by Simone Pignoni, c. 1650

Rape of Proserpina by Rembrandt, 1631-32

Abduction of Proserpine on a Unicorn by Albrecht Durer, 1516

The Rape of Proserpina by Joseph Heintz, 1598-160

Demeter felt her daughters pain and went searching for her. No one would tell her anything except Hecate who led Demeter to Helios. Helios told Demeter who abducted her daughter and to where.
"golden-haired Demeter sat there apart from all the blessed gods and stayed, wasting with yearning for her deep-bosomed daughter. Then she caused a most dreadful and cruel year for mankind over the all-nourishing earth: the ground would not make the seed sprout, for rich-crowned Demeter kept it hid. In the fields the oxen drew many a curved plough in vain, and much white barley was cast upon the land without avail. So she would have destroyed the whole race of man with cruel famine and have robbed them who dwell on Olympus of their glorious right of gifts and sacrifices, had not Zeus perceived and marked this in his heart."
Homeric Hymn, II To Demeter, 301.

Persephone Refuses the Pomegranet by Virginia Sterrett
If you only take one thing away from this post, let it be this: Never it the food of the underworld.

Pomegranate aka Persephone by Alina Chau, 2011
So Demeter's angry, Zeus is trying to calm her down, Hades is racking his brain for why Persephone doesn't like him, and Persephone is getting hungrier by the minute.

Proserpina by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1874

Persephone by Patricia Ariel, 2008-9
No matter what Zeus did, Demeter could not be appeased.
"Now when all-seeing Zeus the loud-thunderer heard this, he sent the Slayer of Argus whose wand is of gold to Erebus, so that having won over Hades with soft words, he might lead forth chaste Persephone to the light from the misty gloom to join the gods, and that her mother might see her with her eyes and cease from her anger. And Hermes obeyed, and leaving the house of Olympus, straightway sprang down with speed to the hidden places of the earth. And he found the lord Hades in his house seated upon a couch, and his shy mate with him, much reluctant, because she yearned for her mother."
Homeric Hymn, II To Demeter, 334.
Hades and Persephone by Edward Kwong
And Aidoneus, ruler over the dead, smiled grimly and obeyed the behest of Zeus the king. For he straightway urged wise Persephone, saying: "Go now, Persephone, to your dark-robed mother, go, and feel kindly in your heart towards me: be not so exceedingly cast down; for I shall be no unfitting husband for you among the deathless gods, that am own brother to father Zeus. And while you are here, you shall rule all that lives and moves and shall have the greatest rights among the deathless gods: those who defraud you and do not appease your power with offerings, reverently performing rites and paying fit gifts, shall be punished for evermore." When he said this, wise Persephone was filled with joy and hastily sprang up for gladness. But he on his part secretly gave her sweet pomegranate seed to eat, taking care for himself that she might not remain continually with grave, dark-robed Demeter.  
Homeric Hymn, II To Demeter, 357-70.
The Return of Persephone by Frederick Leighton, 1891
And when Demeter saw them, she rushed forth as does a Maenad down some thick-wooded mountain, while Persephone on the other side, when she saw her mother's sweet eyes, left the chariot and horses, and leaped down to run to her, and falling upon her neck, embraced her.
Homeric Hymn, II To Demeter, 384.

But Demeter sensed that Persephone had eaten the pomegranate and was therefore bound to the underworld.
It was agreed that Persephone would spend one third of the year in the underworld with Hades and the other two thirds with her mother.
And Demeter restored the bounty of the earth to man.

Aidoneus and Persephone

There are different versions of this myth, like every other, I took my quotes and summations from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. It should be noted Demeter gets up to a lot of stuff after learning that Hades has Persephone, I didn't go into it here but if you're interested you can read all about it at the full Homeric Hymn.

And Persephone lived ever after as Queen of the Underworld and wife to Hades.

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