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Useful weblinks: Demeter and Persephone

Gods

  • Aphrodite, Eros, Hades, Demeter, Persephone and Zeus all appear in this story. Find biographies for all of them on this site.

The abduction

  • A statue of Hades carrying Persephone away.
  • This painting also shows Hades without his chariot, running away with Persephone in his arms.
  • This modern representation of the abduction is very well done and does show his chariot!

Cyane

Rumour

  • Ovid’s Metamorphoses includes a personification passage of Rumour and her abode, when news of the Greek ships preparing for war reaches Troy. The whole passage is quoted from Ovid below: [Met. Book XII: 39-61]

orbe locus medio est inter terrasque fretumque | caelestesque plagas, triplicis confinia mundi; | unde quod est usquam, quamvis regionibus absit, | inspicitur, penetratque cavas vox omnis ad aures. | Fama tenet summaque domum sibi legit in arce, | innumerosque aditus ac mille foramina tectis | addidit et nullis inclusit limina portis; | nocte dieque pater. tota est ex aere sonanti, | tota fremit vocesque refert iteratque quod audit. | nulla quies intus nullaque silentia parte, | nec tamen est clamor, sed parvae murmura vocis, | qualia de pelagi, si quis procul audiat, undis | esse solent, qualemque sonum, cum Iuppiter atras | increpuit nubes, extrema tonitura reddunt. | atria turba tenet; veniunt, leve vulgus, euntque | mixtaque cum veris passim commenta vagantur | milia rumorum confusaque verba volutant. | e quibus hi vacuas implent sermonibus aures, | hi narrate ferunt alio, mensuraque ficti | crescit, et auditis aliquid novus adicit auctor. | illic Credulitas, illic temerarious Error | vanaque Laetitia est consternatique Timores | Seditioque repens dubioque auctore Susurri.

At the world’s centre lies a place between the lands and seas and regions of the sky, the limits of the threefold universe, whence all things everywhere, however far, are scanned and watched, and every voice and word reaches its listening ears. Here Rumour dwells, her chosen home set on the highest peak, constructed with a thousand apertures and countless entrances and never a door. It’s open night and day and built throughout of echoing bronze; it all reverberates, repeating voices, doubling what it hears. Inside, no peace, no silence anywhere, and yet no noise, but muted murmurings like waves one hears of some far-distant sea, or like a last late rumbling of thunder-roll, when Jupiter has made the rain-clouds crash. Crowds throng its halls, a lightweight populace that comes and goes, and rumours everywhere, thousands, false mixed with true, roam to and fro, and words flit by and phrases all confused. Some pour their tattle into idle ears, some pass on what they’ve gathered, and as each gossip adds something new the story grows. Here is Credulity, here reckless Error, Groundless Delight, Whispers of unknown source, Sudden sedition, overwhelming Fears. [Translation by A.D. Melville]

The Fates

  • The three Fates are three sisters called Clotho (spinner), Lachesis (allotter) and Atropos (unturnable).
  • Although they are generally seen as three separate deities, some see them as representing the Triple Goddess; Virgin, Mother and Crone (this site looks at the Fates from many different points of view). This idea of a trinity, a three-in-one model, can be seen in this picture.
  • Here is a more traditional biography of the Fates.
  • Due to their different roles, presiding over life, death and prophecy, the Fates are depicted in many different ways:
  • The Fates appear in this clip of Disney’s Hercules as ugly and old.

Persephone's Fate

  • Interestingly, although the main plot of the myth remains the same, there are small changes in the different retellings of it – for instance how many seeds Persephone eats/how many months she ends up spending in the underworld. Here are some animations telling the tale:

Persephone and Hades

  • It is clear that Hades loves Persephone, since Eros shot him with an arrow. It is a love that is somewhat obsessive, leading to his abduction of Persephone. The reason that Aphrodite wanted to control Hades is because his mind was too clear! The idea that love muddles the mind and causes people to do drastic deeds is prevalent throughout history.
  • Persephone’s feelings towards her abductor are open for debate. Some believe that she was horrified and that having to spend half the year with Hades was really unfortunate for her. However, it is Demeter who appears the most upset by the abduction. Take a look at these pictures and ask students what they think Persephone thought about her fate:
    • A picture of Hades (scary!) carrying a limp Persephone. Although Hades isn’t exactly attractive in this drawing, he seems to be honestly trying to woo Persephone!
    • From a photo-shoot of actors dressed as Hades and Persephone, this photo shows Persephone as very passive. She’s not fighting him, but is that because she’s scared, intrigued or love-stricken?
    • Curiosity, or intrigue, can definitely be seen in this drawing. They appear to be sizing each other up, their polar-opposite worlds shown by the colour change splitting the drawing into two.
    • This sketch definitely shows Persephone as being happy with her fate.
    • In this Disney-esque style drawing, Persephone is clinging to Hades and appears to be happy – it is only Demeter who is distraught and doesn’t want to let her daughter go. In contrast, Frederick Leighton painted this scene where Persephone is allowed to return to her mother and the upper world. Persephone’s arms are reaching for her mother longingly – clearly she is very happy to leave the underworld here.

The Seasons

  • The tale of Demeter and Persephone acts as an explanation as to why the weather changes so dramatically throughout the year. In the ancient world, people didn’t have the scientific understanding that we do now so they found other explanations for their experiences of the natural world.
  • Find out why we have seasons: the simplified version or the more in-depth version.
  • This video explains the reason for the seasons: how can it be Summer in Australia and Winter in America at the same time?
  • Check out these beautiful pictures of the changing seasons juxtaposed:

Representations of Persephone