In Greek mythology, Persephone was the beautiful daughter of Zeus, king of the gods, and of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture. Persephone became queen of the underworld when she married Hades. The Romans knew her as Proserpina.
As a young girl, Persephone traveled around the world with her mother, who ruled over the earth and everything that grew from it.
Hades, the god of the underworld, wanted her for his wife. He spoke to his brother Zeus, who agreed to help him. One day Zeus caused a beautiful flower to grow in a place where Persephone was walking. The girl stooped to admire the flower. At that moment, Hades rode out of the underworld on a chariot, seized Persephone, and took her back to his kingdom.
Unaware of these events, Demeter searched everywhere for her missing daughter. For days she wandered the earth with a flaming torch in each hand and in her distress caused all crops to wither and die. Famine threatened. Zeus feared that humankind would perish, leaving no one to perform sacrifices to the gods. He begged Demeter to restore life to the earth, but she refused to do so unless Persephone was returned to her.
underworld land of the dead
Zeus sent Mercury, messenger of the gods, to fetch Persephone from the underworld. As she was leaving, Hades gave her a sweet pomegranate, and she ate several of its seeds. Persephone did not realize that eating food from the underworld meant that she could not leave it. As a result, Zeus declared that Persephone
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would have to spend part of each year in the underworld with Hades and the remainder of the year on earth with her mother.
The story of Persephone was used to explain the cycle of the seasons. For most of the year, the earth is alive and covered with growing plants. However, during the barren months, when Persephone is with Hades, Demeter mourns her daughter's absence, and the earth lies bare and lifeless.