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Book 5: The Rape of Proserpine Notes from Metamorphoses

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Metamorphoses Book 5: The Rape of Proserpine

Ceres, goddess of the harvest had a daughter fathered by Jove, and the girl's name was Proserpine. When Pluto, god of the underworld, had come up to earth, Cupid's arrow instilled love for Proserpine in his heart. The king of Hades kidnapped the girl from the field she played in, and he took her, unwillingly, to the Underworld.

Cyane, a water nymph who pitied Proserpine, tried to block Pluto's entrance to the Underworld, but he used his powers to make a hole in the earth and descend to his realm despite her. Cyane was so sad for Proserpine and so hurt that the glade around her stream had been violated that she cried herself away and dissolved into her own pool.

Ceres looked everywhere for her daughter, but no one knew where to find Proserpine until she came to Cyane's pool and saw Proserpine's scarf floating on the water. Furious that no one could help her, Ceres began to destroy the crops of Sicily, where she had discovered her daughter's scarf. Then another water nymph helped her. Arethusa told Ceres that she had come to Sicily from her homeland, and she had traveled through the Underworld to get there. While she had been part of the river Styx that flows through Hades, she had seen Proserpine below as the Queen of Hell.

Ceres was undone. She went to Jove demanding that he get Proserpine back for her, and though he tried to argue that Pluto was a fine son-in-law, Ceres would have none of it. She wanted her daughter back, and Jove said that if Proserpine had eaten none of the food of Hades, she could return. Unfortunately, Proserpine had eaten six pomegranate seeds, and she had been seen by Ascalaphus. He told what he had seen, and so Proserpine was forced to stay in the Underworld for half the year while she could spend the other half with her mother. In revenge, Proserpine turned the boy into a screech owl, the harbinger of bad news. It was said that Proserpine's ascent to earth and descent to Hades cause the change in seasons.

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