Hades and Persephone Essay
Hades and Persephone
Hades, meaning “the unseen” was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. In Greek mythology, Hades is the oldest male child of Cronus and Rhea. According to myth, he and his brothers Zeus and Poseidon defeated the Titans and claimed rulership over the cosmos, ruling the underworld, air, and sea, respectively. Hades, god of the dead, was a fearsome figure to those still living; in no hurry to meet him, they were reluctant to swear oaths in his name, and averted their faces when sacrificing to him. Since to many, simply to say the word “Hades” was frightening, euphemisms were pressed into use.
Since precious minerals come from under the earth (i. e. , the “underworld” ruled by Hades), he was considered to have control of these as well, and was referred to as Plouton, related to the word for “wealth”, hence the Roman name Pluto. He was not, however, an evil god, for although he was stern, cruel, and unpitying, he was still just. Hades ruled the Underworld and was therefore most often associated with death and feared by men, but he was not Death itself — the actual embodiment of Death was Thanatos. Because he lived in the underworld and he was feared, getting a wife was a difficult task to do.
After all, who would want to live in a world where there was no sun, and not a living soul to be seen? Very few mortals could leave his realm once they entered: the exceptions, Heracles and Theseus, are heroic. Hades became incredibly lonely, and began becoming desperate for companionship. Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, and helped her mother flourish the Earth for men all year round. Unlike every other offspring of an Olympian pairing of deities, Persephone had no stable position at Olympus.
Persephone used to live far away from the other deities, a goddess within Nature herself before the days of planting seeds and nurturing plants. In the Olympian telling, the gods Hermes, Ares, Apollo, and Hephaestus, had all wooed Persephone; but Demeter rejected all their gifts and hid her daughter away from the company of the Olympian deities. It was by chance that Hades saw Persephone and fell in love with her instantly. To ensure that the marriage would not be argued with, Hades asked Zeus (the king of the gods) to have Persephone as his wife. Zeus, fearing wrath from either side, merely winked at Hades.
Hades reasoned that because Zeus never said he couldn’t, decided it was alright to take Persephone down to his home, and one day, when Demeter wasn’t watching, Hades ripped the ground open and took her down. A few hours later, Demeter was looking for Persephone frantically; it wasn’t like her child to run away. She asked every god and goddess there was, but none of them had seen what had happened. Meanwhile, Persephone was terrified, the only living soul was Hades, a scary man who had taken her away from sunlight, and the poor child felt so lonely. She walked all through the underworld, avoiding Hades, and eventually, finding a garden.
There was a gardener there, spirit yes, but kind and caring. He offered Persephone twelve pomegranate seeds, after all, the poor girl must be hungry, and she was. So not to seem rude, Persephone only took half of the seeds, and ate them hungrily, wondering when her mother would come for her. After talking to Apollo, the sun god, Demeter realized what happened, and went to Zeus, demanding the release of the child, who was, after all, Zeus’ own flesh and blood. The problem was that Hades was also Zeus’ older brother, and because of this, refused to interfere. Demeter became distraught, and neglected the earth, to busy mourning for Persephone.
Eventually, Mankind faced extinction, and Zeus ordered Hades to release Persephone. Hades shrugged and smiled, saying that Persephone had already eaten food form the dead, and therefore, must stay with the dead. Zeus ruled that because Persephone only ate half the seeds offered, she must only stay with Hades for half a year, the other half she could do as she pleased. From then on, fall and winter was when Persephone left, and Demeter mourns for her. In the spring and summer, she is reunited with her mother, and the Earth prospers.
Another theory tells us that part of Persephone missed her other horribly, but another part had grown rather fond of the god Hades. And Persephone was rather enjoying her role as Queen, even if it was in the underworld. While preparing to return to the earth, Persephone accepted a pomegranate offered to her by Hades. She knew full well that anyone who had eaten while in the underworld would not be allowed to return, even a goddess — Persephone went ahead and ate six of the seeds. Her choice prevented her from ever being fully restored to Demeter, but did open up the possibility of a compromise. Leaving to earth in Spring and Summer and going back to Hades in autumn and winter.
Subject: Greek mythology,
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 12 February 2017
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