Any natural phenomenon of ancient Greek mythology presented as an activity of various deities. That is why the cultural heritage of Greece combines sufficiently accurate historical information about events taking place in different periods with a set of myths. The Greek goddess Demeter, personifying fertility and patronizing corn ears, was considered one of the most fertile goddesses. She was also the patroness of legal marriage. This heroine of myths is associated with many stories that affect such aspects of a person's life as sedentary life, the change of the seasons and justice to all terrestrial beings.
According to the legends, Demeter was the first of the terrestrial beings to harness the ox into the plow and plow the field. Then she threw the seeds of oats into the soil. People who watched the actions of the goddess were confident that the grains would rot in the ground under heavy rains. But, contrary to their expectations, amorous oats sprouted over the surface of the plowed field. Later, Demeter taught people how to care for crops. She also gave people such plants as dates, figs and figs.
The origin of Demeter, her brothers, husbands and children
The Greek goddess of fertility, which was Demeter, was by birth the daughter of the god Krohn and the goddess Rhea. She was the only daughter in the family. The brothers Hades, Zeus and Poseidon were completely unlike the young virgin, who was originally destined to patronize agriculture. Relations between them were not quite ordinary: Aida the goddess Demeter frankly did not like, to Poseidon was completely indifferent. The only brother who received her respect was Zeus.
Demeter, despite her divine origin, gravitated toward motherhood and marriage. Her first husband was the Cretan patron of the farmers, Jason. The marriage between them was concluded on a three-plowed field. From Jason, the goddess Demeter gave birth to Plutos, who originally represented abundant harvests. A little later, Demeter's son was associated with wealth hidden underground.
Plutos was not the only child of the goddess of fertility. Marriage with Zeus, half-brother of Dmetera, brought her great joy - she became the mother of a beautiful daughter, who was given the name of Persephone. According to myths, the goddess Demeter loved her daughter very much, protected her from all kinds of unrest and misfortunes. Persephone responded mother tenderness, she sincerely worshiped nature and everything that the earth gave birth.
About the son of Demeter of the myths little is known, but the daughters of the goddess ancient tellers paid much attention. One of the most ambitious stories explaining the reason for the change of seasons, describes the myth of Demeter and Persephone. It was he who was described by Homer in the form of a hymn.
The myth of the abduction of Persephone
As the story goes, Zeus promised to give Persephone wife Pluto. During the walk of the young goddess, the god of the kingdom of shadows takes her away. The goddess Demeter heard the call for help, rushed into the field, but Persephone was gone. Days and nights in full despair she rushed around the world, but she could not find her daughter. At night, she lit torches on Etna (apparently, it was this event that the writer explained one of the eruptions of the volcano). Only nine days later Helios told her who had abducted Persephone, and also that all this happened with the permission of Zeus.
The goddess of fertility falls into a great grief and dresses in mourning clothes. In a fit of anger, Demeter says that she will no longer care about the fertility of the earth. Hunger began, which lasted several months. The earth did not bear a single ear, people suffered without bread and fruit. But you can not return Persephone, because there is already a marriage between her and Pluto.
Seeing that all this can turn into thousands of victims, Zeus decides that the daughter of Demeter will stay with her mother for 9 months a year, and spend the rest of the time with her husband. Since then, with the return of the daughter of the goddess of fertility, the earth begins to blossom. People grow bread and vegetables. And when Persephone returns to Pluto, the goddess of fertility and agriculture Demeter dresses in mourning, winter comes. So the myths explain the change of the seasons. Only in a later period works are created, affecting the theme of personal experiences and motives of Demeter, Zeus and Persephone.
Demeter in the literary works of Europe
But not only in the works of ancient masters of the word are mentioned these ancient Greek goddesses. About Persephone and Demeter written a lot of poems. For example, the famous European poet Schiller wrote a rich poem "Eleusinian Holiday". Tennyson retold the myth of Persephone and Demeter to understandable medieval Europeans in a rather large work of Demeter and Persephone. Both of these goddesses are dedicated to many operas, operettas and even ordinary songs. The most famous of them is the opera Jommelli "Demeter the Peaceful".
Demeter granting and punishing
As you know, the ancient Greek gods and goddesses could not only gift humanity with knowledge, skills or some kind of benefits. For the indecent behavior of any of them could punish the person guilty before the gods. Despite the good nature and concern for people, the goddess of fertility is mentioned in the myths, telling about the punishment of people for hardness of heart, betrayal and greed. Recall at least the history of Erisichton, whom she punished for greed and disrespect for the gods. Punished cruelly, but he really deserved it, because his heart was as hard as last year's breadcrumb.
Here I would like to recall two legends describing the period when the ancient Greek goddesses Demeter and Persephone were separated.
The story of Demeter and Triptolemme
In the days of wandering around the world in search of Persephone, Demeter, exhausted and hungry, entered Elvisin. It was hospitably received by the king there, called Kele. The little prince Tryptolum was ill, and the king's wife did not depart from his cradle. In gratitude for food and shelter, the patroness of agriculture heals the infant from the disease.
While living in Elvisina for a while and watching the little Triptolem, Demeter begins to feel maternal love for him. Wanting to reward him with immortality, she puts him in the fire to purify the boy's body and soul from earthly sins. But the ritual was not carried to the end, as the prince's mother, frightened of her son, took it out of the flames. Nevertheless, Demeter gave Triptolemy a divine beginning.
Since then, the young man traveled all over the world, teaching people the art of farming. Later he will be called patron of tillers. The temple in his honor will be rebuilt near the temple of Demeter in Elvisin. Thus, the goddess really made his name immortal.
The punishment of Erisichthon
The situation in the myth about Demeter and Erichikhton is somewhat different. In the days of wanderings, when Persephone was in the kingdom of Pluto, the goddess of fertility and agriculture was resting in the shadow of a sacred grove planted in her honor. Erisichton, confident of his impunity, wanted to cut down trees for the construction of the palace. Demeter tried to appeal to the conscience of the man, but he swung her with an ax and ordered to free the road for his slaves.
Enraged at this disrespect for her divine person, the goddess Demeter imposed on Erisichton the curse of eternal hunger. Since that moment the greedy man does not leave the table, eating all the supplies in the house. Soon they ended, and Erisichton had to sell all his property to buy food and satisfy an intolerable famine. So he becomes a beggar. But the famine does not abate, and Erisichton decides to sell her daughter to slavery. The girl, distraught from grief, escapes from her masters. Time after time she returns to her father's house, but the father again sells it. In the end, Erisichton eats himself. So Demeter punished him for greed.
Elvisinsky mysteries: holidays dedicated to the goddess of fertility
Like other ancient Greek gods and goddesses, Demeter was revered by the common people and the nobility. In honor of her, festivals were held, on which her kindness and generosity were glorified. Initially, only residents of Elvisin took part in the events. A few decades later, the cult of the goddess of agriculture and fertility spread throughout ancient Greece, and people from all over the state began to come to the town.
Later, the festival of Demeter celebrated in the temple of the goddess in Athens in two stages: in the spring there passed the Small Elfisins, dedicated to the beginning of spring, and in the autumn - the Great Elfisins, lasting 9 days and nights. On the first day of the festival, the victims of Demeter were brought, the inhabitants of Greece performed ablutions and cleansing with rituals. An obligatory condition for the celebration was fasting. Then within 5 days it was decided to pass a large colorful procession from the temple to the sea. Athletic competitions were also held.
On the sixth day of the celebration, a mass march from Athens to Eleusis was organized. Participants in the holiday dressed in elegant clothes, their heads decorated with myrtle wreaths. In their hands people carried torches and agricultural tools. On the way, the procession often stopped. Young girls performed ritual dances, and the young men competed in dexterity and strength.
In Elvisina, when night came, they played a very realistic performance based on the myth of Persephone's abduction. The weeping and moaning of the distraught Demeter depicted the sounds reproduced with the help of brass instruments. Out of the darkness, vague voices and rustling were heard every now and then. The spectators of this action were encompassed by mystical horror. The return of Persephone to Demeter entailed a flicker of light from the numerous lamps and torches, joyful chants and dances.
Demeter, although she was the patroness of agriculture and fertility, according to the beliefs of the Greeks could not keep order throughout the territory of ancient Greece. Therefore, it acquired special helpers in various branches of agriculture. Ancient Greek mythology tells about several deities, embodying the flora. Since they were considered secondary and often of human origin, their names were rarely mentioned in literary sources. But the bas-reliefs and frescoes depicting Demeter and his retinue were preserved.
It is assumed that they were all spirits of forests, fields, flowers and trees. It was they who helped the fertility goddess to hear the "whisper of the earth", and also conveyed to her the pleas of farmers about the harvest or requests for help.
Sculptures and other images of the goddess of fertility
Unfortunately, at the moment there are practically no genuine images of Demeter created in the days of Ancient Greece. Today, the sculptural images of this goddess of ancient Greek mythology are often a fake or an image of quite other deities or representatives of noble families. Archaeologists identify parts of the statues of Demeter by such features as the presence on the head of a wreath of ears, as well as a piglet and a basket full of ears and fruits, in the hands. Often sculpted or frescoes of ancient Greek gods and goddesses are given out for Demeter only because they have a poppy flower in their hands or on their clothes.
However strange it might sound, the authentic images of the goddess of fertility from Ancient Greece are most easily found on old coins, frescoes in the dead city of Pompeii, and also in the crypts near the city of Kerch in the Crimea.
Gods of fertility in the culture of other countries
Not only the ancient Greek goddess followed the order in the plant world and helped people to master all the subtleties of soil cultivation and cultivation. An example of this can serve as deities from Roman mythology, which in their characteristics are not much different from the ancient Greek gods. The complete analogue of Demeter in this culture is Ceres. She, as well as the Greek patroness of agriculture, first plowed a strip of land and showed how to plant seeds and take care of plants.
Just like Demeter, Ceres had several gods-assistants, who were responsible for certain elements and plants. For example, Flora was the patroness of flowers. She was depicted in a wreath and with a magnificent bouquet in her hands. Her images were preserved in Herculaneum, as well as in the Capitol and Rome.
Forests and fields in the understanding of the Romans were under the patronage of Silvanus. He was also considered a defender of gardens and arable lands. Images of Sylvan have been preserved in part, but it is clear from them that they portrayed him with a sickle in one hand and a branch of a tree in the other. Worshiped this god and artisans involved in woodworking.
The fruit gardens of Ancient Rome were under the auspices of two gods - Vertumna and Pomona, who were married to each other. Vertumn, the god of vegetables and fruits (that is, fruits), was portrayed as a stout man with a broad beard, holding in his hands a cornucopia. Images of Pomona, goddess of orchards, are not preserved, but it can be seen in the bas-reliefs created in the 18th century, surrounded by other gods of Ancient Rome.