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The story of Persephone, the sweet daughter of goddess Demeter who was kidnapped by Hades and later became the Queen of the Underworld, is known all over the world. It is actually the way of the ancient Greeks to explain the change of the seasons, the eternal cycle of the Nature's death and rebirth. Persephone is understood in people's mind as a naive little girl who flows between the protection of the mother and the love of her husband. The myth of Persephone was very popular in the ancient times and it is said that her story was represented in the Eleusinian Mysteries, the great private and secret celebrations of ancient Greece.
According to Greek Mythology, Persephone, the queen of the underworld, was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, the goddess of harvest and fertility. She was also called Kore, which means "maiden" and grew up to be a lovely girl attracting the attention of many gods. However, Demeter had an obsessed love for her only daughter and kept all men away from her.
The most persisting suitor of Persephone was Hades, the god of the Underworld. He was a hard, middle-aged man, living in the dark, among the shadows of the Dead. But his heart softened when he saw Persephone and was amazed by his youth, beauty and freshness. When he asked Demeter to marry her daughter, Demeter got furious and said there wasn't the slightest chance for that to happen. Hades was heart-broken and decided to get Persephone no matter what.
One day, while the young girl was playing and picking flowers along with her friends in a valley, she beheld the most enchanting narcissus she had ever seen. As she stooped down to pick the flower, the earth beneath her feet suddenly cleaved open and through the gap Hades himself came out on his chariot with black horses. Hades grabbed the lovely maiden before she could scream for help and descended into his underworld kingdom while the gap in the earth closed after them.
The other girls had not seen anything because everything happened very quickly. They didn't have a clue for the sudden disappearance of Persephone. The whole incident, however, had been witnessed by Zeus, father of the maiden and brother of the abductor, as well as by Helios, god of the Sun. Zeus decided to keep silent about the whole thing to prevent a fight with his brother while Helios wisely thought it better not to get involved in anything that didn't concern him.
A distraught and heartbroken Demeter wandered the earth looking for her daughter until her good friend Hecate, goddess of wilderness and childbirth, advised her to seek for the help of Helios, the all-seeing Sun god, in order to find her daughter. Helios felt sorry for Demeter, who was crying and pleading him to help her. Thus she revealed her that Persephone had been kidnapped by Hades. When she heard that, Demeter got angry and wanted to take revenge but Helios suggested that it was not such a bad thing for Persephone to be the wife of Hades and queen of the dead.
Demeter, however, could not let it gone. She was furious at this insult and deeply believed that Hades, who after all had only dead people for company, was not the right husband for her sweet daughter. She also got angry at Zeus for not having revealed this to her. To punish gods and to grief, Demeter decided to take a long and indefinite leave from her duties as the goddess of harvest and fertility, with devastating consequences. The earth began to dry up,harvests failed, plants lost their fruitfulness, animals were dying for lack of food and famine spread to the whole earth, resulting in untold misery.
The cries of the people who were suffering reached Olympus and the divine ears of Zeus. The mighty god finally realized that if he wouldn't do something about his wife's wrath, all humanity would disappear. Thus he tried to find another solution to both calm Demeter and please Hades. He promised Demeter to restore Persephone to her if it can be proved that the maiden stays with Hades against her will. Otherwise, Persephone belongs to her husband.
The crafty Hades learned this agreement and tricked his reluctant bride, who was crying all day and night from despair, to eat a few seeds of the pomegranate fruit. This was the food of the Underworld and every time someone ate even a few seeds of this, then, after a while, he would miss life in the Underworld. When the gathering in front of Zeus took place and Persephone was asked where she would like to live, she answered she wanted to live with her husband. When Demeter heard that, she got infuriated and accused Hades that somehow he had tricked her daughter.
A great fight followed and Demeter threatened that she would never again make the earth fertile and everyone on Earth would die. To put an ed on this quarrel, Zeus decided that Persephone would spend half months with her husband in Hades and half months with her mother on Olympus. This alternative pleased none of the two opponents, nevertheless that had no other option but accept it.
Thus the lovely maiden Persephone became the rightful wife of Hades and Queen of the Underworld. During the six months that Persephone spent in the Underworld, her mother was sad and not in the mood to deal with harvest. Thus she would leave the Earth to decline.
According to the ancient Greeks, these were the months of Autumn and Winter, when the land is not fertile and does not give crops. Whenever Persephone went to Olympus to live with her mother, Demeter would shine from happiness and the land would become fertile again and fruitful. These were the months of Spring and Summer. Therefore, this myth was created to explain the change of the seasons, the eternal cycle of the Nature's death and rebirth.
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