/peuhr sef"euh nee/, n.
1. Also, Proserpina, Proserpine. Class. Myth. a daughter of Zeus and Demeter, abducted by Pluto to be queen of Hades, but allowed to return to the surface of the earth for part of the year.
2. a female given name.

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In Greek mythology, daughter of Zeus and Demeter.

She was gathering flowers when she was seized by Hades, who carried her off to the underworld to make her his wife. On learning of the abduction, Demeter was so distraught that she allowed barrenness and famine to spread over the earth. Zeus commanded Hades to allow Persephone to return to her mother, but because she had eaten some (or, in some versions, just one) pomegranate seeds in the underworld, she had to remain one-third of the year with Hades, spending the other two-thirds with Demeter. This myth accounts for the change of the seasons and the annual cycle of growth and decay.

Persephone abducted by Hades, marble sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1621–22; in the ...

Alinari from Art Resource/EB Inc.

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▪ Greek goddess
Latin  Proserpina, or Proserpine,  
 in Greek religion, daughter of Zeus, the chief god, and Demeter, the goddess of agriculture; she was the wife of Hades, king of the underworld. In the Homeric “Hymn (Homeric Hymns) to Demeter,” the story is told of how Persephone was gathering flowers in the Vale of Nysa when she was seized by Hades and removed to the underworld. Upon learning of the abduction, her mother, Demeter, in her misery, became unconcerned with the harvest or the fruitfulness of the Earth, so that widespread famine ensued. Zeus therefore intervened, commanding Hades to release Persephone to her mother. Because Persephone had eaten a single pomegranate seed in the underworld, she could not be completely freed but had to remain one-third of the year with Hades, spending the other two-thirds with her mother. The story that Persephone spent four months of each year in the underworld was no doubt meant to account for the barren appearance of Greek fields in full summer (after harvest), before their revival in the autumn rains, when they are plowed and sown.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Persephone — Persephone, griech., was Proserpina …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

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