Psyché obtenant de Proserpine l'elixir de beauté (Charles-Joseph Natoire, 1735)

Psyché obtenant de Proserpine l’elixir de beauté (Charles-Joseph Natoire, 1735)

This blog has addressed many different deities of the underworld, but one of the most important figures of classical Greco-Roman underworld mythology has been left out.  Persephone (or Proserpine to the Romans) was the queen of the underworld, the reluctant consort of Hades who ruled over a dark and mournful kingdom (as pictured above).  However Persephone was one of the few figures in classical mythology who could leave the underworld.  Like her mother Demeter, Persephone  was a vegetation goddess—a deity that dies and is reborn with the annual growth cycle of plants.

Persephone was not just the queen of the underworld, but also the goddess of spring.  When she emerged from the underworld, winter ended and life begin to grow and flower again.  The vase below shows her returning with Hermes from the dark realm so that spring could once more come and winter’s darkness be banished for another year.

The Return of Persephone (Attic Red Figure Vase, Greek Classical Period)

The Return of Persephone (Attic Red Figure Vase, Greek Classical Period)