Persephone (pərsĕfˈənē) [key] or Proserpine prōsûrˈpənē, in Greek and Roman religion and mythology, goddess of fertility and queen of the underworld. She was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. When she was still a beautiful maiden, Pluto seized her and held her captive in his underworld. Though Demeter eventually persuaded the gods to let her daughter return to her, Persephone was required to remain in the underworld for four months because Pluto had tricked her into eating a pomegranate (food of the dead) there. When Persephone left the earth, the flowers withered and the grain died, but when she returned, life blossomed anew. This story, which symbolizes the annual vegetation cycle, was celebrated in the Eleusinian Mysteries, in which Persephone appeared under the name Kore.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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