After the battle of Cronus, Hades, the sister of Zeus and Poseidon, became the ruler of the dark realm of the Underworld. Due to Hades’ kingdom, she became known as the goddess of the Underworld or the Queen of the dead, however, she is not Death (Thanatos) herself.
Hades was a dark-haired, regal goddess who was known for being stern, unyielding, and unmoved by prayer or sacrifice like other gods. She rarely left her kingdom and she was often carrying her pitchfork, which she used to create earthquakes on Earth. Hades was also known as the goddess of wealth due to the hidden riches and metals that could be found only in the Underworld.
Since Hades’ main interests were increasing the subjects in her Kingdom she favored anyone whose deeds resulted in people dying, like the Erinnyes (the Furies).¹ Although Hades did not like very much company she did want a husband to become her King. Since Hades had trouble finding a god who was keen on living in the land of the dead, Zeus offered his son, Persephone, to be the husband of the goddess of the Underworld.²
Persephone, the son of Demeter and Zeus, was once known for being the god of agriculture, but after his abduction by Hades, he became known as the mistress of the kingdom of the dead.
Persephone was raised among nature along side his father Demeter, the god of the cornfield, planting, and harvesting. Hades was captivated by Persephone’s youth, beauty, soft nature, and delicateness. He looked like a flower in that his body was pliant as a stem, his skin was soft as petals, and he had pansy eyes.³ Persephone was often found in the glade collecting flowers, creating new types flowers, and naming them.
One day Persephone was playing in his glade and collecting flowers as he usually did. As he explored the glade he came upon a unique bush. Persephone was curious and excited to discover this plant, so he began to brush the leaves between his fingers as he searched for a name to call it. As Persephone stood touching the leaves and branches the ground rumbled beneath him. The plant began to grow. Larger and larger the plant grew until a large opening to a cave appeared.
Out from the cave rumbled two giant black horses carrying a monstrous golden chariot. Within the chariot sat Hades. Persephone fell backwards in fear as the horses strode forward. Hades, almost in a moment, saw Persephone, prized him and took him swiftly upon her chariot. As Hades abducted Persephone, his tunic ripped open in the front causing the flowers he collected to fall to the ground.4 Persephone, frightened and tearful, cried out for help to his father, Demeter, as Hades, Persephone, and the chariot disappeared into the cave, which, turned back into a bush leaving no trace to what had transpired except loose flowers scattered on the Earth.
Soon after Persephone’s abduction, Demeter became worried when his son hadn’t returned home. Demeter searched across the glade. He looked everywhere for his son, causing mayhem and destruction as he went. Eventually, Demeter spoke to the birds who told him that Hades had stolen Persephone.
Furious and sad, Demeter boarded his chariot and flew to Olympus to speak with Zeus and ask for justice for their son. Zeus, however, refused to allow Persephone to come home for she thought Persephone was a perfect match for Hades, and she refused to break a compact she had made with her sister, the Queen of the Underworld.
Demeter returned to Earth defeated and saddened. Unable to process his grief, all the crops began to die. Plants were unable to grow, animals became barren, and the land became cold and lifeless.
Meanwhile, in the Underworld, Persephone explored the dark realm. He resented Hades and dearly missed his father; however, after some time, he secretly became to like his new world and his abductor. Hades, at first abusive and mean, began to treat Persephone with kindness and affection. She lavished Persephone in gifts of rubies, diamonds, and of rare magical metals and flowers that could only be found in the Underworld. Hades frequently ordered her servants to create divine meals for Persephone to enjoy, but Persephone did not eat because he was unhappy and he missed his home.
Hades was desperate for Persephone to like her and to be happy, so she created a garden for Persephone to plant new and exotic flowers and greenery. Persephone worked in the garden and planted various forms of flowers he had never seen on Earth. Being in the garden reminded Persephone of home even though he ached for the warmth and light of the sun.
One day, Persephone walked to the garden and picked up a red pomegranate that grew there. Persephone’s mouth watered at the site of sweet juicy fruit. He hadn’t eaten since living on Earth with his father. Tempted by the sweet aroma, Persephone opened the delicious red fruit and plucked six seeds into his mouth.
Back on Earth the land lay barren. Crops didn’t grow, trees died, and people began to starve. Zeus, seeing the new state of Earth, summoned for Demeter. When Demeter arrived, Zeus asked him why he was neglecting his duties and allowing the Earth to suffer. Demeter told Zeus, while his son was gone “no tree will bear and no grass will spring.” He said, “while I mourn, the Earth will grow as dry and shriveled as my heart.”5
Hearing Demeter’s grief and taking his threat seriously, Zeus conceded. She decided to send Hermes, the messenger goddess, to retrieve Persephone from the Underworld and return him to his father.
As Hermes arrived at the garden in the Underworld, Persephone finish swallowing the six pomegranate seeds. Persephone was excited when he saw Hermes because he knew that Hermes was going to bring him home; however, Hermes told Persephone he was unable to bring him back to Earth due to an ancient law which states anyone who swallows food in the Underworld would never be able to leave the Underworld. Since Persephone consumed the pomegranate seeds he was bounded forever to the dark kingdom.
Although Zeus was a stickler for the ancient rules and laws he had to consider the current state of Demeter and the mortals of the Earth. Since Demeter was living in grief the Earth was still cold and lifeless. In order to please both Hades and Demeter, Zeus decreed that Persephone would spend six months out of the year (a month per seed that Persephone ate) with Hades, and he would spend the remaining six months on Earth with his father, Demeter.
Due to Persephone’s abduction, Zeus’ manipulation, Demeter’s grief, and, what I like to call, the pomegranate prison, people on Earth now have winter. Six months out of the year when Persephone lives in the Underworld nothing grows on Earth due to Demeter’s grief, but when Persephone returns home the world thrives with crops, flowers and greenery.
Hades and Persephone
1. “GreekMythology.com” – Hades, authored by Charilaos Megas
2. “Greek Gods & Goddesses” – Persephone and Hades
3. Evslin, Bernard (1966). “Heroes, Gods, and Monsters of the Greek Myths”
4. Ovid. “Metamorphoses,” V., lines 391-401
5. Evslin, Bernard (1966). “Heroes, Gods, and Monsters of the Greek Myths”