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The myth of her abduction, her sojourn in the underworld, and her temporary return to the surface represents her functions as the embodiment of spring and the personification of vegetation, especially grain crops, which disappear into the earth when sown, sprout from the earth in spring, and are harvested when fully grown. In Classical Greek art, Persephone is invariably portrayed robed, often carrying a sheaf of grain. She may appear as a mystical divinity with a sceptre and a little box, but she was mostly represented in the process of being carried off by Hades.
Plutarch writes that Persephone was identified with the spring season, and Cicero calls her the seed of the fruits of the fields. In the Eleusinian Mysteries, her return from the underworld each spring is a symbol of immortality, and she was frequently represented on sarcophagi.
In mythology and literature she is often called dread(ed) Persephone, and queen of the underworld, within which tradition it was forbidden to speak her name. This tradition comes from her conflation with the very old chthonic divinity Despoina ("[the] mistress"), whose real name could not be revealed to anyone except those initiated into her mysteries. As goddess of death, she was also called a daughter of Zeus and Styx, the river that formed the boundary between Earth and the underworld. In Homer's epics, she appears always together with Hades and the underworld, apparently sharing with Hades control over the dead. In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus encounters the "dread Persephone" in Tartarus when he visits his dead mother. Odysseus sacrifices a ram to the chthonic goddess Persephone and the ghosts of the dead who drink the blood of the sacrificed animal. In the reformulation of Greek mythology expressed in the Orphic Hymns, Dionysus and Melinoë are separately called children of Zeus and Persephone. Groves sacred to her stood at the western extremity of the earth on the frontiers of the lower world, which itself was called "house of Persephone".
Hades complies with the request, but first he tricks Persephone, giving her some pomegranate seeds to eat.[g] Hermes is sent to retrieve her but, because she had tasted the food of the underworld, she was obliged to spend a third of each year (the winter months) there, and the remaining part of the year with the gods above. With the later writers Ovid and Hyginus, Persephone's time in the underworld becomes half the year. It was explained to Demeter, her mother, that she would be released, so long as she did not taste the food of the underworld, as that was an Ancient Greek example of a taboo.
Before Persephone was abducted by Hades, the shepherd Eumolpus and the swineherd Eubuleus saw a girl in a black chariot driven by an invisible driver being carried off into the earth which had violently opened up. Eubuleus was feeding his pigs at the opening to the underworld, and his swine were swallowed by the earth along with her. This aspect of the myth is an etiology for the relation of pigs with the ancient rites in Thesmophoria, and in Eleusis.
In the hymn, Persephone eventually returns from the underworld and is reunited with her mother near Eleusis. The Eleusinians built a temple near the spring of Callichorus, and Demeter establishes her mysteries there.
In some versions, Ascalaphus informed the other deities that Persephone had eaten the pomegranate seeds. As punishment for informing Hades, he was pinned under a heavy rock in the underworld by either Persephone or Demeter. When Demeter and her daughter were reunited, the Earth flourished with vegetation and color, but for some months each year, when Persephone returned to the underworld, the earth once again became a barren realm. This is an origin story to explain the seasons.
The abduction of Persephone is an etiological myth providing an explanation for the changing of the seasons. Since Persephone had consumed pomegranate seeds in the underworld, she was forced to spend four months, or in other versions six months for six seeds, with Hades. When Persephone would return to the underworld, Demeter's despair at losing her daughter would cause the vegetation and flora of the world to wither, signifying the Autumn and Winter seasons. When Persephone's time is over and she would be reunited with her mother, Demeter's joyousness would cause the vegetation of the earth to bloom and blossom which signifies the Spring and Summer seasons. This also explains why Persephone is associated with Spring: her re-emergence from the underworld signifies the onset of Spring. Therefore, not only does Persephone and Demeter's annual reunion symbolize the changing seasons and the beginning o