Persephone was Queen of the Underworld, married to Hades. She was also the goddess that, along with her mother Demeter, allowed for things to grow across the world. Among other things, she was also called Kore, or “maiden”. I keep coming across different versions of this myth and by far this is the most popular:
Kore was born of Demeter and Zeus. Hades, brother of Zeus, wanted a wife. He went to his brother and asked for his help. Immediately he thought of Kore, but he knew her mother was overbearing, keeping her from the other gods on Olympus. Zeus told Hades that the only way he would be able to take her as his wife would be to abduct her into the Underworld. Hades agreed. One day she is playing in a field with nymphs but she is distracted by this beautiful flower. And so she moves toward it to retrieve it. Suddenly the ground before her opened up and out of the blackness below came Hades on his golden chariot. He reached for her and pulled her beside him as he flew quickly back down into the abyss with the ground closing up behind them. Kore would become Persephone.
Demeter, upon hearing that he daughter had disappeared went into a blind rage, swearing that until her daughter was returned to her, she would not allow the earth to produce anything. She wandered, looking for her daughter until the mortals cries for food reached the ears of Zeus. He knew that he must return Persephone to her mother, or else doom the mortals to a horrible fate. He sent Hermes to Hades to retrieve the girl.
Hades, before she departed in joy to see her mother, told her to not forget him and offered her half of his kingdom as his bride and queen. He then gave her a pomegranate. This version says that Hades tricked Persephone into eating the seeds so that she would have to return to him for at least part of the year. Hermes took Persephone back to Demeter, who was beyond happy to see her daughter. Stopping to ask her if she had eaten of anything while she was is the Underworld, Persephone bowed her head and said she had been tricked into eating the pomegranate seeds. Zeus declared she would have to spend part of the year with her husband and the other part with her mother. Thus explaining the seasons.
But did Hades truly trick her?
- Persephone may have been young, but she was not dumb. Many accounts call her “wise”.
- Hades offered her half of his kingdom in exchange for her loving him! In a world where it was rare for a woman to have anywhere near that much power, this is quite a suggestion. Hera did not even have that much power and she was married to Zeus!
- Homer wrote that the gods and goddesses did not need to eat, or drink. And when they did they ate and drank of ambrosia and nectar. Anything else they ate, or drank, was simply because they decided to do it.
- Her mother kept her from the world and was overprotective.
So, all of these things come together and you wonder. Did Persephone truly eat of the fruit unwillingly? Personally, I think she did it for her own sort of freedom. As Kore, goddess of the spring, she was simply her mother’s daughter. Kept from the world, nothing more than flowers. But, as Persephone, wife of Hades, Queen of the Underworld, she ruled at his side. She had power. She had freedom. She was feared by the mortals who dared not speak her name. She knew exactly what she was doing, and because of it her and Hades probably had the best marriage of all the gods in Olympus.