DEMETER MYTHS 2
DEMETER was the Olympian goddess of agriculture, grain and bread.
This page contains several versions of the tale of the rape of Persephone and the wanderings of Demeter including those of Ovid, Hyginus, Pausanias and Nonnus.
The most famous version of the tale, from the Homeric Hymns, can be found on the first "Myths" page.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
DEMETER & THE RAPE OF PERSEPHONE (OVID'S METAMORPHOSES)
I. THE RAPE OF PERSEPHONE & DEMETER'S SEARCH (involving Kyane)
Ovid, Metamorphoses 5. 354 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Tyrannus [Haides] had left his dark domains to and fro, drawn in his chariot and sable steeds, inspected the foundations of the isle [earthquake-rent Sicily]. His survey done, and no point found to fail, he put his fears aside; when, as he roamed, Erycina [Aphrodite], from her mountain throne, saw him and clasped her swift-winged son, and said : ‘Cupido [Eros], my child, my warrior, my power, take those sure shafts with which you conquer all, and shoot your speedy arrows to the heart of the great god to whom the last lot fell when the three realms were drawn . . . my power grows less, and less the power of Amor [Eros]. Do you not see how Pallas [Athene] and Diana [Artemis], queen of the chase, have both deserted me? And Ceres' [Demeter's] daughter [Persephone], if we suffer it, will stay a virgin too--her hope's the same. So for the sake of our joint sovereignty, if that can touch your pride, unite in love that goddess and her uncle [Haides].’
So she spoke. Then Cupido, guided by his mother, opened his quiver and of all his thousand arrows selected one, the sharpest and the surest, the arrow most obedient to the bow, and bent the pliant horn against his knee and shot the barbed shaft deep in Dis' [Haides'] heart. Not far from Henna's walls there is a lake, Pergus by name, its waters deep and still; it hears the music of the choiring swans as sweet as on Caystros' gliding stream. Woods crown the waters, ringing every side, their leaves like awnings barring the sun's beams. The boughs give cooling shade, the watered grass is gay with spangled flowers of every hue, and always it is spring. Here Proserpina [Persephone] was playing in a glade and picking flowers, pansies and lilies, with a child's delight, filling her basket and her lap to gather more than the other girls, when, in a trice, Dis [Haides] saw her, loved her, carried her away - love leapt in such a hurry! Terrified, in tears, the goddess called her mother, called her comrades too, but oftenest her mother; and, as she'd torn the shoulder of her dress, the folds slipped down and out the flowers fell, and she, in innocent simplicity, grieved in her girlish heart for their loss too. Away the chariot sped; her captor urged each horse by name and shook the dark-dyed reins on mane and neck. On through deep lakes he drove, on through Palici's sulphurous pools that boil in reeking chasms, on past Bacchiadae [Syracuse], where settlers once from Corinthus' isthmus built between two harbours their great battlements.
A bay confined by narrow points of land lies between Arethusa Pisaea and Cyane. And there lived Cyane, the most renowned of all the Nymphae Sicelidae (of Sicily), who gave her pool its name. Out of her waters' midst she rose waist-high and recognised the goddess. ‘Stop, stop!’ she cried, ‘You cannot take this girl to wife against Queen Ceres' will! She ought to have been wooed, not whirled away . . . like this girl, frightened and forced.’
She held out her arms outstretched to bar his way. But Saturnius [Hades] restrained his wrath no longer. Urging on his steeds, his terrible steeds, and brandishing aloft his royal sceptre in his strong right arm, he hurled it to the bottom of the pool. The smitten earth opened a way to Hell and down the deep abyss the chariot plunged. But Cyane, heartbroken at the rape of Proserpine and at her pool's outrage, in silence carried in her heart a wound beyond consoling, and in endless tears she wasted away. Into the pool--her pool and she but now its deity--she spread dissolved. Ceres [Demeter] meanwhile in terror sought her child vainly in every land, o'er every sea. Never Aurora (the Dawn) rising with dewy hair, nor ever Hesperus (the Evening Star) saw her at rest. She lit pine-torches, one in either hand, at Aetna's fires, and through the frosty dark bore them unsleeping. When the friendly day had dimmed the stars, she sought her daughter still from sunrise until sunset hour by hour . . . [The story of the Demeter and Askalabos follows, see Demeter Wrath: Ascalabus.]
Through what far lands and seas the goddess roved were long to tell; the whole world failed her search. She turned again to Sicania (Sicily) and there, in wanderings that led her everywhere, she too reached Cyane; who would have told all, had she not been changed. She longed to tell but had no mouth, no tongue, nor any means of speaking. Even so she gave a clue, clear beyond doubt, and floating on her pool she showed the well-known sash which Persephone had chanced to drop there in the sacred spring. How well the goddess knew it! Then at last she seemed to understand her child was stolen, and tore her ruffed hair and beat her breast.
II. DEMETER & THE STARVATION OF MANKIND
Ovid, Metamorphoses cont. :
"Where the girl [Persephone] was she [Demeter] knew not, but reproached the whole wide world - ungrateful, not deserving her gift of grain--and Trinacria (Sicily) in chief where she had found the traces of her loss. So there with angry hands she broke the ploughs that turned the soil and sent to death alike the farmer and his labouring ox, and bade the fields betray their trust, and spoilt the seeds. So there with angry hands she broke the ploughs that turned the soil and sent to death alike the farmer and his labouring ox, and bade the fields betray their trust, and spoilt the seeds. False lay the island's famed fertility, famous through all the world. The young crops died in the first blade, destroyed now by the rain too violent, now by the sun too strong. The stars and the winds assailed them; hungry birds gobbled the scattered seeds; thistles and twitch, unconquerable twitch, wore down the wheat.
III. DEMETER'S SEARCH CONTINUES (involving Arethousa)
Ovid, Metamorphoses cont. :
"Then that fair Nymphe Alpheias [Arethousa] . . . rose from her pool and brushed back from he brow her dripping hair, and said : ‘O thou, divine Mother, who through the world hast sought thy child, mother of crops and harvest, cease at last thy boundless toil and end they savage rage against the land that has kept faith with thee. The land is innocent; against its will it opened for that rape. While beneath the earth I glided in my Stygian stream, I saw, myself with my own eyes, your Proserpina. Her looks were sad, and fear still in her eyes; and yet a queen, and yet of that dark land Empress, and yet with power and majesty the consort of the Tyrannus Infernus (Sovereign Lord of Hell) [Haides].’
VI. THE RETURN OF PERSEPHONE
Ovid, Metamorphoses cont. :
"The mother heard in horror, thunderstruck it seemed and turned to stone. Then as her shock so great gave way to grief as great, she soared borne in her chariot, to the sky's bright realms and stood, with clouded face and hair let loose, indignant before Jove [Zeus] and said : ‘I come to plead for my own flesh and blood, yours too; and if the mother finds no favour, let at least the daughter move her father's heart; love her not less because I gave her birth. Behold the daughter I have sought so long is found, if found is surer loss, or if but to know where she is finding her. Her theft I'll bear if he'll but bring her back; a thief, a kidnapper's no proper husband for child of yours, even if she's mine no more.’
And Juppiter [Zeus] replied : ‘The child is yours and mine, our common care and love, If we allow things proper names, here is no harm, no crime, but love and passion. Such a son-in-law, if you, Ma'am, but consent, will not disgrace us. To be Jove's brother, what a splendid thing!--if that were all! What then, when that's not all, when he yields place to me only because the lots so fell? But if your heart's so set to part them, Proserpina shall reach the sky again on one condition, that in Hell her lips have touched no food; such is the rule forestablished by the three Parcae [Moirai].’
So Jove replied; but Ceres was resolved to win her daughter back. Not so fate permitted, for the girl had broken her fast and wandering, childlike, through the orchard trees from a low branch had picked a pomegranate and peeled the yellow rind and found the seeds and nibbled seven . . .
[The story of Askalaphos follows, see Demeter Wrath: Ascalaphus.]
[Next comes the tale of the transformation of the Seirenes, see Demeter Favour: Sirens.]
Then Juppiter [Zeus], to hold the balance fair between his brother and his sister in her grief, portioned the rolling years in equal parts. Now Proserpine, of two empires alike great deity, spends with her mother half the year's twelve months [summer and spring] and with her husband half [autumn and winter]. Straightway her heart and features are transformed; that face which even Dis [Haides] must have found unhappy beams with joy, as when the sun, long lost and hidden in the clouds and rain, rides forth in triumph from the clouds again. So Ceres [Demeter] had regained her Proserpine.
X. DEMETER TEACHES MANKIND AGRICULTURE
Ovid, Metamorphoses cont. :
"Bounteous Ceres [Demeter] yoked her Angues Gemini (Serpent-Pair) to her chariot, and fixed the curbing bits and made her way between the earth and sky to Tritonia's city [Athens], and brought the chariot to Triptolemus, and brought the chariot to Triptolemus, and gave him seed and bade him scatter it. Partly in virgin land and part in fields long fallow. Scouring high the young prince [Triptolemos] rode through Europe and the realms of Asia ... [declaring :] ‘I bring the gifts of Ceres [Demeter]. If you sow them wide over your ploughland, they will give you back bountiful harvests, gentle nourishment.’"
DEMETER & THE RAPE OF PERSEPHONE (OVID'S FASTI)
I. THE RAPE OF PERSEPHONE & DEMETER'S SEARCH
Ovid, Fasti 4. 417 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"I present The Virgin's [Persephone's] Rape. You will learn some things and recognise more. Jutting into the vast ocean with its three cliffs is Trinacris [Sicily], named after its shape. It is Ceres' [Demeter's] dear home. Its many cities include fertile Henna with its well-ploughed soil. Cool-fresh Arethusa had called divine matrons to a sacred feast; the blonde goddess came. Her daughter [Persephone] and usual entourage of girls rambled barefoot across their meadows . . . but her passion for plucking gradually leads her away; no attendant happened to follow her. Her uncle [Hades] sees her and swiftly abducts what he sees her and swiftly abducts what he sees, and bears her to his realm on black horses. She screamed, ‘Oh, dearest mother, I'm being taken!’ And had ripped her frock apart at her breasts. Meanwhile a path gapes open for Dis; his horses barely endure the foreign daylight. Her band of servant friends, piled with flowers, call out, ‘Persephone, come and see your presents.’ When the shout meets silence, their howling fills the hills; they hammer naked breasts with grieving hands. Their lament stunned Ceres [Demeter] (she had just reached Henna). No delay: ‘Ah! My daughter, where are you?’ She is swept away mindless, like a Thracian Maenad with streaming hair. As a cow bellows for the calf ripped from her udder and ransacks every grove for her brood, so the goddess roars out her pain and rushes pell-mell. She begins with you fields, Henna.
There she found the footprints of a girl and observed the familiar tracks in the soil. That day would have terminated her wandering, if pigs had not disturbed the marks she found . . . [Demeter searches throughout Sicily:] She fills everywhere she goes with pitiful wailing, like the bird grieving lost Itys. And she shouts by turns, ‘Persephone!’ and ‘Daughter!’, she shouts and screams each name in its turn. And whether she saw shepherd or ploughman, the one question was, ‘Did any girl pass this way?’ . . .
II. THE SELF-IMPOSED EXILE OF DEMETER AT ELEUSIS
Ovid, Fasti cont. :
"[Demeter finally came to Eleusis in her search for Persephone.] [In the house of Keleus :] a baby son [Triptolemos] lay sick in a cot . . . [Keleus offered Demeter hospitality.] Crossing the threshold [of the house of Keleus], she sees everything steeped in tears: no hope remained for the boy's health. She greeted the mother (her name was Metanira), and saw fit to place her mouth on the boy's. Pallor goes, they see sudden strength in the body; such vitality came from divine lips. The entire house rejoiced, that is, mother, father and daughter: the three were the entire house. They quickly lay out a feast: curds dissolved in milk, apples, and golden honey in its combs. Gentle Ceres abstains and offers you warm milk to drink, child, with sleep-inducing poppies. It was midnight and peaceful sleep's silent hour. She took Triptolemus into her lap, and stroked him three times with her hand, uttered three spells, spells which a mortal voice may not repeat, and buried the child's body in the hearth's living embers to purge his human dross with fire. His foolishly loving mother wakes, crazily roars ‘What are you doing?’ and rips him from the fire. The goddess said : ‘You're not criminal, your action was. Your motherly fear has cancelled my gift. He will stay mortal, but will be the first to plough and sow and reap rewards from the tilled soil.’ She spoke, and left wrapped in a cloud. She finds her Serpents and flies up high in her winged chariot . . .
III. DEMETER'S SEARCH CONT.
Ovid, Fasti cont. :
"She [Demeter] roams the heaven, too [in search of Persephone], and accosts the Stars free of limpid Oceanus near the chilly pole : ‘Parrhasian Stars (you can know everything, since you never sink beneath Oceanus' stream), show this wretched parent her daughter, Persephone.’ She spoke. Helice replies this to her : ‘Night is guiltless. Consult Sol (the Sun) on the virgin's rape. He gazes far and wide on the day's deeds.’ Sol (the Sun) is approached. ‘Don't waste time,’ he says, ‘You seek the bride of Jove's brother [Haides], the third realm's queen.’
IV. THE RETURN OF PERSEPHONE
Ovid, Fasti cont. :
"She moaned long within herself. Then she addressed the Thunderer [Zeus] (deep sorrow engraved her face) : ‘If you remember who fathered Proserpina [Persephone], half this anxiety should be yours. My scouring of the world simply made the outrage known: the rapist keeps the rewards of sin. Persephone did not deserve a bandit husband; no son-in-law is acquired this way . . . Let him go unpunished, I'll endure it unavenged, if he returns her and repairs the past.’
Jove [Zeus] calms her and uses love to excuse the act, and says, ‘He's not a shameful son-in-law. My rank is no greater. I hold court in the sky; another rules the sea, and one the void. But if your heart will not alter and you resolve to burst the bonds of contracted marriage, let us also test whether she maintained her fast. If not, she is her husband's wife in hell.’ The winged Herald [Hermes] visits Tartarus as ordered, returns quicker than hope, tells what he witnessed. ‘The ravished girl,’ he said, ‘broke her fast with three seeds buried in a pomegranate's tough rind.’
The grieving mother wept, as if the loss were new. At length she recovered, but not easily. She said : ‘Heaven is not my home either; order the Taenarian dell to admit me, too.’ And she would have done this, if Jove [Zeus] had not arranged that the daughter spend six months in heaven. Then at last Ceres revived her own look and spirit, and crowned her hair with chaplets of corn. A bounteous harvest burst upon idle fields; the bards barely held the heaps of wealth."
DEMETER & THE RAPE OF PERSEPHONE (OTHER SOURCES)
I. THE WANDERINGS OF DEMETER (according to PAUSANIAS)
Pausanias relates a number of local legends from Arkadia, Argos and Attika about the wanderings of Demeter in her search for Persephone.
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 15. 3-4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The Pheneatians [of Pheneos, Arkadia] have a story that ... the wanderings of Demeter brought her to their city also. To those Pheneatians who received her with hospitality into their homes the goddess gave all sorts of pulse save the bean only. There is a sacred story to explain why the bean in their eyes is an impure kind of pulse. Those who, the Pheneatians say, gave the goddess a welcome, Trisaules and Damithales, had a temple of Demeter Thesmie (Law-goddess) built under Mount Kyllene, and they established for her rites also, which they celebrate even to this day."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 25. 3 :
"When Demeter was wandering in search of her daughter, she was followed, it is said, by Poseidon, who lusted after her. So she turned, the story runs, into a mare, and grazed with the mares of Onkios; realizing that he was outwitted, Poseidon too changed into a stallion and enjoyed Demeter. Demeter was angry at what had happened."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 42. 1-4 :
"Mount Elaios, is some thirty stades away from Phigalia [in Arkadia], and has a cave sacred to Demeter surnamed Melaina (Black). The Phigalians accept the account of the people of Thelpousa about the mating of Poseidon and Demeter, but they assert that Demeter gave birth, not to a horse, but to Despoine (the Mistress), as the Arkadians call her. Afterwards, they say, angry with Poseidon and grieved at the rape of Persephone, she put on black apparel and shut herself up in this cavern for a long time. But when all the fruits of the earth were perishing, and the human race dying yet more through famine, no god, it seemed, knew where Demeter was in hiding, until Pan, they say, visited Arkadia. Roaming from mountain to mountain as he hunted, he came at last to Mount Elaios and spied Demeter, the state she was in and the clothes she wore. So Zeus learnt this from Pan, and sent the Moirai (Fates) to Demeter, who listened to the Moirai and laid aside her wrath, moderating her grief as well. For these reasons, the Phigalians say, they concluded that this cavern was sacred to Demeter and set up in it a wooden image . . . They say that they named her Melaina (Black) because the goddess had black apparel."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 35. 4 :
"[In the new city of Hermione in Argolis:] is a sanctuary of Demeter on Pron. This sanctuary is said by the Hermionians to have been founded by Klymenos, son of Phoroneos, and Khthonia, sister of Klymenos. But the Argive account is that when Demeter came to Argolis, while Atheras and Mysios afforded hospitality to the goddess, Kolontas neither received her into his home nor paid her any other mark of respect. His daughter Khthonia (Of the Earth) disapproved of this conduct. They say that Kolontas was punished by being burnt up along with his house, while Khthonia was brought to Hermione by Demeter, and made the sanctuary for the Hermionians."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 18. 3 :
"By the side of the road from Mykenai to Argos [in Argolis] . . . there is on the left a place called Mysia and a sanctuary of Demeter Mysia, so named from a man Mysios who, say the Argives, was one of those who entertained Demeter."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 14. 1 :
"The Greeks who dispute most the Athenian claim to antiquity and the gifts they say they have received from the gods are the Argives . . . It is said, then, that when Demeter came to Argos she was received by [the ancient King] Pelasgos into his home, and that Khrysanthis, knowing about the rape of Kore (the Maid), related the story to her."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 43. 2 :
"Near the Town-hall [of Megara] is a rock. They name it Anaklethris (Recall), because Demeter (if the story be credible) here too called her daughter back when she was wandering in search of her. Even in our day the Megarian women hold a performance that is a mimic representation of the legend."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 37. 2 :
"As you go to Eleusis from Athens along what the Athenians call the Sacred Way you see [before crossing the River Kephisos] . . . a sanctuary of Demeter and her daughter [Kore] . . . There is a legend that in this place Phytalos welcomed Demeter in his home, for which act the goddess gave him the fig tree."
II. THE RAPE OF PERSEPHONE (according to HYGINUS)
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 146 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Pluto [Haides] asked from Jove [Zeus] that he give him in marriage Ceres' [Demeter's] daughter and his own. Jove said that Ceres would not permit her daughter to live in gloomy Tartarus, but bade him seize her as she was gathering flowers on Mount Etna, which is in Sicily. While Proserpina [Persephone] was gathering flowers with Venus [Aphrodite], Diana [Artemis], and Minerva [Athena], Pluto came in his four-horse chariot, and seized her. Afterwards Ceres [Demeter] obtained from Jove [Zeus] permission for her to stay half of the year with her, and half with Pluto."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 25 :
"Those who, by permission of the Parcae [Moirai], returned from the lower world. Ceres [Demeter], seeking Porserpina [Persephone], her daughter."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 141 :
"The Sirenes . . . wandering away after the rape of Proserpina [Persephone], came to the land of Apollo, and there were made flying creatures by the will of Ceres [Demeter] because they had not brought help to her daughter."
III. THE WANDERINGS OF DEMETER (according to various OTHER SOURCES)
Callimachus, Hymn 6 to Demeter (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"Hesperos [the star Venus] from the clouds marks the time of its coming [the festival of the Thesmophoria]: Hesperos, who alone persuaded Demeter to drink, what time she pursued the unknown tracks of her stolen daughter [Persephone].
Lady, how were thy feet able to carry thee unto the West, unto the Melanoi (Black Men) and where the golden apples are? Thou didst not drink nor dist thou eat during that time nor didst thou wash. Thrice didst thou cross Akheloios with his silver eddies, and as often didst thou pass over each of the ever-flowing rivers, and thrice didst thou seat thee on the ground beside the fountain Kallikhoros [well at Eleusis], parched and without drinking, and didst not eat nor wash. Nay, nay, let us not speak of that which brought the tear to Deo! . . . Tell how she [Demeter] was the first to cut straw and holy sheaves of corn-ears and put in oxen to tread them, what time Triptolemos was taught the good craft."
Callimachus, Fragment 469 (from Scholiast on Clement Protrept. 16) (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"By the well of Kallikhoros thou [Demeter] didst sit, having no tidings of thy child."
Orphic Hymn 41 to Demeter (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"Cerulean Queen (Basileia Antaia) [Demeter], of celebrated name, from whom both men and Gods immortal came; who widely wandering once, oppressed with grief, in Eleusis' valleys foundest relief, discovering Persephone thy daughter pure in dread Aides (Hades), dismal and obscure. A sacred youth while through the earth you stray, Dysaulos [Iakkhos], attending leader of the way; the holy marriage Khthonios Zeus [Haides] relating, while oppressed with grief you rove. Come, much invoked, and to these rites inclined, thy mystic suppliant bless, with favouring mind."
Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2. 16 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"The entire bulk and substance of the earth, was dedicated to father Dis [Haides] (that is, Dives, ‘the rich’, and so in Greek Plouton), because all things fall back into the earth and also arise from the earth. He is said to have married Proserpina (really a Greek name, for she is the same as the goddess called Persephone in Greek)--they think that she represents the seed of corn, and fable that she was hidden away, and sought for by her mother. The mother is Ceres [Demeter]."
Statius, Thebaid 12. 270 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"The bereaved Ceres [Demeter] lighted her torch and from Aetna's rocks cast the shifting glare of the mighty flame here over Sicily, there over Ausonia, as she followed the traces of the dark ravisher [Haides] and the great wheel-furrows in the dust; Enceladus [the giant buried beneath Mount Aetna] himself re-echoes her wild wailings, and illumines her path with bursting fire; ‘Persephone’ cry woods and rivers, seas and clouds : only the palace of her Stygian lord calls not ‘Persephone.’"
Seneca, Hercules Furens 659 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[Persephone] whom, stolen from Enna, thy mother [Demeter] sought in vain . . . hidden away and buried beneath the earth."
Apuleius, The Golden Ass 6. 2 ff (trans. Walsh) (Roman novel C2nd A.D.) :
"By the furrows in your [Demeter's] Sicilian soil, by Proserpina's [Persephone's] descent to a lightless marriage, and by your daughter's return to rediscovered light."
Suidas s.v. Azesia (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Azesia : Kore the Maiden, whereas Demeter is Amaia. And a proverb: Amaia looked for Azesia. Applied to those taking a long time in searches."
Suidas s.v. Salaminos :
"Salamis lies a little way in front of the city of Eleusis, sacred to Demeter and Kore [Persephone] . . . There is also a rock called Agelastos (Gloomy) amongst Athenians, where they say . . . Demeter sat there weeping, when she was searching for [Persephone] the maiden."
IV. THE RETURN OF PERSEPHONE (according to various OTHER SOURCES)
Callimachus, Hecale Fragment 31 (from Suidas s.v. Porthmeion) (trans. Trypanis) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"In Aigialos is a descent to Haides, where Demeter got news of her daughter, and, it is said, she granted them a remission of the ferryman's [Kharon's] fee."
Callimachus, Hecale Fragment 31 (from Suidas) :
"Only in that city [Hermione in Argolis] the dead carry not a fee for the ferry [of Kharon], such as it is the custom for others to carry in the mouth to pay their passage on the ship of Akheron (a drachma)."
Orphic Hymn 43 to the Horae (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"[The Horai goddesses of the seasons] attending Persephone, when back from night the Moirai (Fates) and Kharites (Graces) lead her up to light; when in a band harmonious they advance, and joyful found her form the solemn dance. With Mother [Demeter] triumphing, and Zeus divine, propitious come, and on our incense shine; give earth a store of blameless fruits to bear."
DEMETER & THE SUITORS OF PERSEPHONE (NONNUS)
Nonnus of Pannoplis describes a myth from the Orphic tradition, a prelude to Persephone's abduction at the hands of Haides, in which the goddess is seduced by her father Zeus in the form of a serpent.
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 5. 562 - 6. 168 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Zeus] ravished the maidenhood of unwedded Persephoneia; though she was hidden, when all that dwelt in Olympos were bewitched by this one girl, rivals in love for the marriageable maid, and offered their dowers for an unsmirched bridal. Hermes . . . offered his rod as gift to adorn her chamber. Apollon produced his melodious harp as a marriage-gift. Ares brought spear and cuirass for the wedding, and shield as bride-gift. Lemnian Hephaistos held out a curious necklace of many colours . . . And father Zeus was much more bewitched by Persephoneia . . . Not the Father alone felt desire; but all that dwelt in Olympos had the same, struck by one bolt, and wooed for a union with Deo's divine daughter.
Then Deo lost the brightness of her rosy face, her swelling heart was lashed by sorrows. She untied the fruitful frontlet [a wreath of corn-ears] from her head, and shook loose the long locks of hair over her neck, trembling for her girl; the cheeks of the goddess were moistened with self-running tears, in her sorrow that so many wooers had been stung with one fiery shot for a struggle of rival wooing, by maddening Eros, all contending together for their loves. From all the bounteous mother shrank, but specially she feared Hephaistos to be her daughter's lame bedfellow . . . She hastened with quick foot to the house of Astraios the god of prophecy [astrology] . . . She laid her left hand on the knees of the kindly ancient, and with her right touched his deepflowing beard in supplication. She recounted all her daughter's wooers and craved a comfortable oracle; for divinations can steal away anxieties by means of hopes to come.
Nor did old Astraios refuse. He learnt the details of the day when her only child was new born, and the exact time and veritable course of the season which gave her birth; then he bent the turning fingers of his hands and measured the moving circle of the ever-recurring number counting from hand to hand in double exchange [reckoning the number of days in the years of her life on his fingers]. He called to a servant, and Asterion lifted a round revolving sphere, the shape of the sky, the image of the universe, and laid it upon the lid of a chest. Here the ancient got to work. He turned it upon its pivot, and directed this gaze round the circle of the Zodiac, scanning in this place and that the planets and fixt stars . . .
When he had noticed everything and reckoned the circuit of the stars, he put away the ever-revolving sphere in its roomy box, the sphere with its curious surface; and in answer to the goddess he mouthed out a triple oracle of prophetic sound : ‘Fond mother Demeter, when the rays of the Moon are stolen under a shady cone and her light is gone, guard against a robber-bridegroom for Perephoneia, a secret ravisher of your unsmirched girl, if the threads of the Moirai (Fates) can be persuaded. You will see before marriage a false and secret bedfellow come unforeseen, a half-monster cunning-minded : since I perceive the western point Ares the wife-stealer [the planet Mars] walking with the Paphian [the planet Venus], and I notice the Drakon is rising beside them both . . .’
This said, he let the oracular voice sleep in his mouth. But when Demeter Sicklebearer heard the hope of coming fruits, and how one uninvited and unbetrothed was to ravish her beloved maiden girl, she groaned and smiled at once, and hastening by the paths of high heaven with despondent step. Then beside the drakon-manger she balanced the curved yoke over the two necks of the monsters, and fastened the untamed crawlers with the yokestrap, pressing their jaws about the crooktooth bit. So goldenbrown Deo in that grim car conveyed her girl hidden in a black veil of cloud. Boreas roared like thunder against the passage of the wagon, but she whistled him down with her monster-driving whip, guiding the light wings of the quick drakones as they sped horselike along the course of the wind, through the sky and round the back-reaching cape of the Libyan Ocean . . .
Looking for a stony harbourage, she alighted among the Pelorian cliffs of Threepeak Sikelia (Sicily) near the Adriatic shores, where the restless briny flood is driven towards the west and bends round like a sickle, bringing the current in a curve to southwest from the north. And in the place where that River [Anapos] had often bathed the maiden Kyane . . . she saw a neighbouring grotto like a lofty hall crowned and concealed by a roof of stone, which nature had completed with a rocky gateway and a loom of stone [stalactites] tended by the neighbouring Nymphai.
The goddess passed through the dark hall, and concealed her daughter well-secured in this hollow rock. Then she loosed the drakons from the winged car; one she placed by the jutting rock on the right of the door, one on the left beside the stone-pointed barrier of the entry, to protect Persephoneia unseen. There also she left Kalligeneia, her own fond nurse, with her baskets, and all that cleverhand Pallas [Athena] gives to make womankind sweat over their wool-spinning. Then she left her rounded chariot for the Nymphai to watch, in their lonely home among the rocks, and cut the air with her feet . . .
Ah, maiden Persephoneia! You could not find how to escape your mating! No, a drakon was your mate, when Zeus changed his face and came, rolling in many a loving coil through the dark to the corner of the maiden's chamber."
- Callimachus, Hymns - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Callimachus, Fragments - Greek Poetry C3rd B.C.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- The Orphic Hymns - Greek Hymns C3rd B.C. - C2nd A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Ovid, Fasti - Latin Poetry C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Cicero, De Natura Deorum - Latin Rhetoric C1st B.C.
- Seneca, Hercules Furens - Latin Tragedy C1st A.D.
- Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Apuleius, The Golden Ass - Latin Novel C2nd A.D.
- Suidas, The Suda - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.