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On this page: Perse – Perseides – Persephone



PERSE (riepo-Tj), a daughter of Oceanus, and wife of Helios, by whom she became the mother of Aeetes and Circe. (Horn. Od. x. 139 ; Hes. T/ieoff. 356, 956.) She is further called the mo­ ther of Pasiphae (Apollod. i. 9. § 1, iii. 1. § 2 ; Hygin. Praef.), Perses (Apollod. i. 9, in fin.), and Aloeus (Tzetz. ad Lye. 174). Homer and Apol- lonius Rhodius (iv. 591) call her Perse, while others call her Perseis (eomp. Tzetz. ad Lye. 798) or Persea. (Virg. Cir. 66.) [L. S.]

PERSEIDES or PERSEIUS (Ilepo-et'oV, riepfrrjiaSrys, nep(7€?os, or ncpfftfios), a patronymic of Perseus, used to designate his descendants. (Horn. II. xix. 123; Thucyd. i. 9.) But it is also used to designate the descendants of Perse, viz. Aeetes and Hecate. (Val. Flacc. v. 582, vi. 4.95 ) [L. S.]

PERSEPHONE (Ilepo-e^oV??), in Latin Pro­serpina, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. (Horn. II. xiv. 326, Od. xi. 216 ; Hes. Theog. 912, &c.; Apollod. i. 5. § 1.) Her name is commonly derived from (f)€peiv (pdvov, " to bring " or " cause death," and the form Persephone occurs first in Hesiod (Theog. 913 ; comp. Horn. Hymn, in Cer. 56), the Homeric form being Persephoneia. But besides these forms of the name, we also find Persephassa, Phersephassa, Persephatta, Phersephatta, Pherre-phassa, Pherephatta, and Phersephoneia, for which various etymologies have been proposed. The Latin Proserpina, which is probably only a corruption of the Greek, was erroneously derived by the Romans from proserpere, "to shoot forth.'1 (Cic. deNat. Deor. ii. 26.) Being the infernal goddess of death, she is also called a daughter of Zeus and Styx (Apollod. i. 3. § 1) ; in Arcadia she was worshipped under the name of Despoena, and was called a daughter of Poseidon, Hippius, and Demeter, and said to have been brought up by the Titan Anytus. (Paus. viii. 37. §§ 3, 6, 25. § 5.) Homer describes her as the wife of Hades, and the formidable, venerable, and majestic queen of the Shades, who exercises her power, and carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead, along with her hus­band. (Horn. Od. x. 494, xi. 226, 385, 634, TL ix. 457, 569 ; comp. Apollod. i. 9. § 15.) Hence she is called by later writers Juno Inferna, Averna, and Styyia (Virg. Aen. vi. 138; Ov. Met. xiv. 114), and the Erinnyes are said to have been daughters of her by Pluto. (Orph. Hymn. 29. 6, 70. 3.) Groves sacred to her are said by Homer to be in the western extremity of the earth, on the frontiers of the lower world, which is itself called the house of Persephone. (Od. x. 491, 509.)

The story of her being carried off by Pluto, against her will, is not mentioned by Homer, who simply describes her as his wife and queen ; and her abduc­tion is first mentioned by Hesiod ( Theog. 914). Zeus, it is said, advised Pluto, who was in love with the beautiful Persephone, to carry her off, as her mother, Demeter, was not likely to allow her daughter to go down to Hades. (Comp. Hygin. Fab. 146.) Pluto accordingly carried her off while she was gathering flowers with Artemis and Athena. (Comp. Diod. v. 3.) Demeter, when she found her daughter had disappeared, searched for her all over the earth with torches, until at length she discovered the place of her abode. Her anger at the abduction obliged Zeus to request Pluto to send Persephone (or Cora, i. e. the maiden or daughter) back. Pluto indeed complied with the request, but first gave her a kernel of a pomegranate to eat, whereby she


became doomed to the lower world, and an agree­ment was made that Persephone should spend one third (later writers say one half) of every year in Hades with Pluto, and the remaining two thirds with the gods above. (Apollod. i. 5. § 1, &e.; Ov. Met. v. 565 ; comp. demeter.) The place where Persephone was said to have been carried off, is different in the various local traditions. The Sici­lians, among whom her worship was probably in­troduced by the Corinthian and Megarian colonists, believed that Pluto found her in the meadows near Enna, and that the well Cyane arose on the spot where he descended with her into the lower world. (Diod. v. 3, &c.; comp. Lydus, De Mens. p. 286; Ov. Fast. iv. 422.) The Cretans thought that their own island had been the scene of the rape (Schol. ad Hes. Theog. 913), and the Eleu-sinians mentioned the Nysaean plain in Boeotia, and said that Persephone had descended with Pluto into the lower world at the entrance of the western Oceanus. Later accounts place the rape in Attica, near Athens (Schol. ad Soph. Oed. Col. 1590) or at Erineos near Eleusis. (Paus. i. 38. $ 5), or in the neighbourhood of Lerna (ii. 36. § 7 ; respecting other localities see Conon, Narr. \ 5; Orph. Argon. 1192 ; Spanheim, ad Callim. Hymn, in Cer. 9).

The story according to which Persephone spent one part of the year in the lower world, and another with the gods above, made her, even with the an­cients, the symbol of vegetation which shoots forth in spring, and the power of which withdraws into the earth at other seasons of the year. (Schol. ad Theocrit. iii. 48.) Hence Plutarch identifies her with spring, and Cicero (De Nat. Deor. ii. 26) calls her the seed of the fruits of the field. (Comp. Lydus, De Mens. pp. 90, 284 ; Porphyr. De Ant. Nymph, p. 118, ed. Barnes.) In the mysteries of Eleusis, the return of Cora from the lower world was regarded as the symbol of immortality, and hence she was frequently represented on sarco­phagi. In the mystical theories of the Orpines, and what are called the Platonists, Cora is de­scribed as the all-pervading goddess of nature, who both produces and destroys every thing (Orph. Hymn. 29. 16), and she is therefore mentioned along, or identified with, other mystic divinities, such as Isis, Rhea, Ge, Hestia, Pandora, Artemis, Hecate. (Tzetz. ad Lye. 708, 1176; Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. iii. 467 ; Schol. ad Theocrit. ii. 12 ; Serv. ad Aen. iv. 609.) This mystic Persephone is further said to have become by Zeus the mother of Dionysus, lacchus, Zagreus or Sabazius. (He-sych. s. v. Zaypeds • Schol. ad Eurip. Or. 952 ; Aristoph. Ran. 326 ; Diod. iv. 4 ; Arrian, Eocped. Al. ii. 16 ; Lydus De Mens. p. 198 ; Cic. de Nat. Deor. iii. 23.) The surnames which are given to her by the poets, refer to her character as queen of the lower world and of the dead, or to her sym­bolic meaning which we have pointed out above. She was commonly worshipped along with Deme­ter, and with the same mysteries, as for example, with Demeter Cabeiria in Boeotia. (Paus. ix. 25. §5.) Her worship further is mentioned at Thebes, which Zeus is said to have given to her as an ac­knowledgment for a favour she had bestowed on him (Schol. ad Eurip. Plioen. 687): in like manner Sicily was said to have been given to her at her wed­ding (P'md.N'em. i. 17 ; Diod. v.2 ; Schol. ad Theo­crit. xv. 14), and two festivals were celebrated in her honour in the island, the one at the time oi

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