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3334 Provincial Road 3

Places of the Myth of Pluto and Proserpina (Enna)

 Myth of Pluto and Proserpina

Luca Giordano: Rape of Prosperina (XNUMXth century)

Summary sheet

Demeter, daughter of Cronus and Rhea, had, from a relationship with her brother Zeus (Jupiter), a daughter to whom she gave the name of Persephone. Pluto, the god of the dead, fell in love with this girl, who, having obtained the consent of Zeus, kidnapped her while she was picking flowers in the countryside of Enna. Persephone only had time to let out a cry that was heard by her mother, but to no avail, since, rushed to help her daughter, she could not find her because Pluto had already carried her underground, into the kingdom of the dead. After the kidnapping of her daughter, Demeter took hold of a torch lit with the flames of the volcano Etna and looked for her continuously for nine days and nine nights, but could not find her. During the search, she arrived in Eleusis, in central Greece, where she was welcomed by Triptolemus' parents, who offered her some wine which the goddess refused. However, he did prepare a potion called Ciceone, made of flour, water and mint and which will be used as a potion for initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries. Demeter, grateful for the hospitality received, taught Triptolemus the art of cultivating the land and sent him around the world to spread the cultivation of wheat. On the tenth day, the God Helios (the sun) revealed the truth to her and Demeter, irritated with Zeus for having been an accomplice of Pluto, refused to go back to Olympus, until her daughter was returned to her. Missing from Olympus, Demeter no longer fulfilled her functions as protector of the fields and the earth became more and more sterile, so Zeus, who was the guarantor of the harmony of the universe, asked Pluto to return his daughter. Unfortunately this was no longer possible since Persephone, during her stay in the kingdom of the dead, had broken the rule that imposed fasting on her; pushed by Pluto, she had, in fact, eaten a pomegranate grain, thus binding herself definitively to him. However, an agreement was reached, Persephone, for two thirds of the year she would have lived underground with Pluto and for a third in Olympus with her mother. Here, therefore, that every year, in spring, Persephone flees from the underground to return there in the autumn.

The relationship between Persephone's exit from the subsoil and the sprouts of wheat that come out of the earth in spring and her return to hell is all too clear, which corresponds instead, with the sowing period in which the seeds of the wheat are planted underground, consecrating the start of the winter season.

Another version of the Rape of Proserpina wants that instead it took place near Syracuse, the nymph Ciane tried to oppose the kidnapping, companion of Persephone who, in an attempt to oppose Pluto who wanted to kidnap Persephone, was transformed into a source: the current Ciane torrent located in Syracuse, where a temple would have been erected [1]. The link between the cult of Ciane and that of Persephone is also derived from the story of Diodorus who, speaking of Heracles' trip to Sicily, says that the hero placed one of his bulls in the source of Ciane in Syracuse to sacrifice it to Persephone ordering the inhabitants to make the same sacrifice every year in honor of Persephone and Ciane. It is probable that behind the sacrifice of the bull there was, in reality, the ancient memory of human sacrifices that took place at the source, as was often the case in oriental cultures. This fact and the reference to the Phoenician Hercules would give an oriental imprint to the cult of Ciane.

Ciane and the Rape of Proserpina Jan Soens 1580

Places indicated in the IWB register of the Sicily Region (Places of Identity and Memory) - Sector "Places of gods and minor divinities:

  • Pergusa Lake (Enna)  
  • Source of Ciane (Syracuse) 


Bernini: Rape of Proserpina (1621-1622)

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