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The Story of Demeter and Persephone

Watch the video below of story of Demeter and Persephone or read along.

Ancient Greek people loved to tell the stories of their gods from memory.

The story

Demeter was the Ancient Greek goddess of the harvest. She was a very important goddess to Ancient Greek people, who farmed a lot of their food. Demeter had a kind and beautiful daughter, called Persephone, who she loved very much.

Persephone, like her mum, loved nature. One day she was walking in a beautiful meadow and gathering flowers to take home when a huge hole opened up in the ground. Hades – the God of the Underworld – arrived through the hole and captured Persephone. He wanted the lovely Persephone to be his wife. How do you think Persephone felt?

Demeter could no longer see her daughter and missed her hugely. She was so sad, it affected the harvest across Greece. Crops, fruit and nature all stopped growing. She went to Zeus, the king of the gods, to ask him to help get her daughter back from Hades. Zeus could see how Demeter’s sadness was affecting Earth and so he agreed to help her.

Meanwhile, Hades wanted to make it more difficult for Persephone to leave the Underworld, and gave her some delicious Underworld food – a fruit called a pomegranate. Zeus visited Hades to ask him to let Persephone leave. Hades said, ‘Persephone can only leave if she hasn’t eaten any of the food that I’ve given her.’

But she already had. Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds.

Zeus and Hades agreed that Persephone would have to spend six months in the Underworld, but that she could return to Earth for the other six months of the year. One month for every pomegranate seed. From then on, whenever Persephone was with Demeter on Earth, Demeter would be so happy and crops, fruit and plants would grow and flourish beautifully – but when she went back to the Underworld, to live with Hades for six months, the plants would stop growing entirely.

The ancient Greeks used this myth to explain something that affects how plants grow. What do you think it is?

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