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The Greek goddess Persephone

Persephone (Proserpina in Italy) was the consort of Hades and queen of the Underworld. She was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Persephone was abducted by Hades at Zeus' suggestion, as he knew Demeter would not willingly allow her to be taken to the Underworld to live. Zeus caused beautiful flowers to spring up, and it was while she was gathering these that Persephone was snatched up into Hades' chariot. Demeter, in grief at her loss, caused the crops of the earth to fail. Eventually she and Persephone were reunited, but it was necessary for Persephone to spend part of the year underground, as she had eaten one or more pomegranate seeds in Hades. While she was away Demeter mourned and the earth experienced winter.

Many rites shared by mother and daughter celebrated the return of life in spring, including the festival known as the Thesmophoria and the Eleusinian mysteries. In these Persephone seems generally to have been referred to not by name but simply as Kore - the maiden.

Persephone appears to have been reconciled to her life in the Underworld and appears in mythology as a stern goddess controlling the activities of the dead. Occasionally she could unbend - in some versions of the story it was she, not Herakles, who allowed Alcestis to come back to life after she had nobly died in her husband's place.

Persephone is hard to recognize in art except from context, though sometimes, like her mother Demeter, she wears a cylindrical headdress or polos.

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Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99

Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99