After the Olympians had defeated their Titan ancestors, they came to rule the universe. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades were brothers and needed to decide which god would rule which area of the universe, so they divided the universe and drew lots. Zeus would rule the sky, Poseidon would rule the sea, and Hades would rule the underworld. As god of the underworld, Hades did not reside on Mount Olympus with his brothers and sisters. Instead, he would reside in the underworld, watching over the souls who had died.
Hades Sees Persephone
Persephone is the Greek goddess of vegetation and grain. She is the daughter of Demeter, Greek goddess of the harvest, and Zeus, the Greek god of the sky.
One day, Persephone was in a meadow picking wildflowers when Hades saw her. Hades was captivated by her beauty and wanted her as his wife, so he opened up the ground underneath Persephone’s feet to the underworld where he lived. Hades had abducted Persephone and taken her to the underworld to live with him for eternity.
Demeter Searches for Her Daughter
When Demeter discovered her daughter was missing, she searched everywhere for her. Demeter was sad and lifeless, bringing a famine upon the earth to show her sorrow. Demeter vowed that she would not end the famine until her daughter was returned to her. The drought and famine on the earth had taken multiple victims and there was no end in sight.
Hermes Talks to Hades
Zeus sent Hermes, the messenger god, to talk to Hades. Zeus needed the famine on the earth to end and knew the only way this would happen is if Hades released Persephone.
Hermes told Hades that there was a great famine on the earth sent by Demeter that was causing multiple casualties. Hermes told Hades that the only way the famine would end is if he would return Persephone to her mother Demeter.
Hades agrees to release Persephone, but not before he gives her a piece of pomegranate fruit to eat.
Persephone Returns to Demeter
After Hades releases Persephone to Demeter, Demeter is so happy to have her daughter back and she ends the famine. She quickly asks her daughter if she had eaten anything while in the underworld. Persephone answers yes; she had eaten a pomegranate that Hades forced upon her.
Demeter is heartbroken because she knows that anyone who eats the sacred fruit in the underworld is bound to Hades and the underworld forever. Demeter knows that, no matter what, the law says her daughter must now live with Hades.
Zeus Negotiates a Plan
Zeus was a just and fair god who understood the laws but also needed to take care of the people who were going to be famished by Demeter’s wrath and sadness. Therefore, he came up with a compromise.
For one-third of the year, Persephone would live with Hades in the underworld as his wife and queen of the underworld. The remainder of the year, Persephone would live in the upper world with her mother, Demeter.
The Seasons are Born
In the months that Persephone lives in the underworld with Hades, Demeter is sad and missing her daughter. As the goddess of the harvest, Demeter does not allow any vegetation to be produced. This is symbolic of winter when vegetation dies. When Persephone is with her mother in the upper world, vegetation grows and it is harvested. This is symbolic of the spring and summer months when vegetation is planted, grown, and harvested.