Daily Archives: December 12, 2017

The Rape of Persephone, Part 3

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve established that the “Rape of Persephone” refers to abduction rather than sexual assault. However, Persephone’s myth often speaks to those who have experienced sexual assault. So it makes sense that some see it as assault.

Rape by modern definition or ancient definition aside, Hades still abducted her and held her in the Underworld. How long was she there before Zeus sent Hermes to retrieve her?

It must have been quite some time, at least by human standards. Zeus only made his decision because he was no longer receiving offerings at his altars and temples because so many of the humans had died due to the blight Demeter had caused. It would probably take a few years for enough people to starve to death that no one was honoring the Gods. Or the equivalent of years, because supposedly there were not seasons before this myth.

And what are years to an immortal being? How long does it take for an immortal to grow from an infant to an adolescent to an adult? We don’t hear much about the childhood of the different Gods. Zeus was raised in secret, with no indication of how long it took. Athena sprang fully formed from Zeus’s forehead; Artemis helped deliver her twin brother after she was born; Hermes stole Apollo’s cattle when he was just an infant.

What may take years for mortals, may seem like mere minutes to a God or Goddess. We really don’t know. Would it have been enough time for Persephone to develop an attachment to her captor? Would it even have been enough time to realize that she was a captive? Probably, actually.

Demeter goes through quite a lot in between Persephone’s disappearance and her return. She grieves. She blights the earth. She wanders for nine days before learning what happened to her daughter. Once told, Homer merely says she wandered “a long time” before settling in Eleusis, where she became nursemaid to Queen Metaneira’s son Demophoon.

Persephone therefore spend at least a few weeks in Erebos, if not closer to a couple of years. There definitely would have been time to realize that she was not free to leave, whether because of Hades himself or the rules of the Underworld. Or perhaps simply because she didn’t have a guide to get out. (“One does not simply walk out of Erebos…”)

Homer doesn’t tell us what happens, other than through what Persephone tells Demeter upon her return, which still isn’t much. She tells of Hermes arrival, and Hades giving her the pomegranate seed, and then of her abduction. No romance, and no tales of torture. No horror stories of how badly she was treated, and no protesting of how wonderful or kind or misunderstood her captor might be.

Generally speaking, Stockholm syndrome consists of “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.”

Mackenzie, Ian K. “The Stockholm Syndrome Revisited: Hostages, Relationships, Prediction, Control, and Psychological Science”. Journal For Police Crisis Negotiations. 4: 5–21 – via Wikipedia.

There is no textual evidence that Hades harassed, beat, threatened, or abused Persephone. Intimidated? Maybe. I’d be pretty intimidated if the Dark Lord abducted me! If he were an abusive partner, though, I doubt he would encourage her to go back to her mother, and promise her great honor by ruling at his side.

To me, Hades seems like a very lonely God, who only wanted someone with whom to share his rule. His actions were misguided by our modern standards, but not out of line for the laws of the time.

Next week I’ll talk more about Persephone’s coming of age, and how that plays into the myth.