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Hades’ Abduction of Persephone Depicted in Stunning Amphipolis Mosaic

Hades Abduction of Persephone
The mosaic has been described as superbly rich in color and artistic detail. Credit: Ministry of Culture

The abduction of Persephone by Hades, the king of the underworld according to Greek mythology is depicted in a stunning mosaic unearthed at Amphipolis, northern Greece a few years ago.

The female figure is shown with fiery red hair, cloaked in a white robe fastened together with a red ribbon. She raises her left hand and wears a bracelet. Archaeologists are now certain that the mosaic, 4.5 by 3 meters, depicts the abduction of Persephone by Hades.

Persephone is depicted with fiery red hair. Credit: Ministry of Culture

That makes the bearded man crowned with the laurel Hades, not the person buried in the tomb. The third figure is Hermes, who guides the chariot to the Underworld. The abduction of Persephone by Hades is a common theme in artwork of the Hellenistic period. A similar depiction appears in a mural in the Aiges royal tomb.

The culture ministry described the mosaic as stunning, superbly rich in color and artistic detail, that aspects of it appear three dimensional, the figure of Hermes in particular.

Hades, in Roman mythology, is referred to as Pluto. In Greek mythology, he is primarily known as Hades, which refers to both the god and the underworld itself.

Pluto is a Roman name for the same god, derived from the Greek word “Plouton” meaning “wealth” or “riches.” This reflects the association of the underworld with mineral wealth and agricultural bounty.

abduction of Persephone by Hades
The Rape of Proserpina (Persephone in Latin) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1621–22) at the Galleria Borghese in Rome. Credit: Alvesgaspar, CC BY-SA 4.0

Story of the abduction of Persephone by Hades

Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, whose name in Latin is rendered Proserpina, lived a carefree life on Earth. One day, while gathering flowers, Hades, ruler of the underworld, fell in love with her beauty. With Zeus’s consent (some versions depict Zeus as unwilling), Hades tricked Persephone. He split the earth open with his chariot and abducted her to the underworld, making her his queen.

Demeter, heartbroken and filled with grief, neglected her duties, causing crops to wither and famine to spread. Realizing the distress, Zeus intervened and negotiated with Hades.

A compromise was reached: Persephone would spend six months each year with Hades, representing winter, and the remaining six months on Earth with Demeter, signifying spring and summer. This cycle explained the changing seasons in Greek thought.

However, the story doesn’t end there. Before releasing Persephone from the underworld, Hades tricked her into eating six pomegranate seeds, the fruit of the dead. This bound her to return to him for six months each year.

Interpretations of the myth vary. Some see it as a metaphor for loss, grief, and the cycle of life and death. Others interpret it as a commentary on marriage, control, and female agency. It also highlights the interconnectedness of life and the underworld, representing the cycle of renewal and the importance of balance.

Related: Where Was the Entrance to Hades in Greek Mythology?

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