|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
THE SIX POMEGRANATE SEEDS
 DEMETER, the goddess of the earth, was often to be seen in the fields
in springtime. As the Greek peasants sowed their seed they
caught glimpses of her long yellow hair while she moved now
here, now there, among them. It almost seemed to these
simple folk as though already the bare fields were golden
with the glory of harvest, so bright shone the yellow hair
of the goddess. Then they smiled hopefully one to the
other, knowing well that Demeter would give them a bounteous
In the autumn she was in the fields again, the peasants even
dreamed that they saw her stoop to bind the sheaves.
Certainly she had been known to visit their barns when the
harvest was safely gathered. And stranger still, it was
whispered among the womenfolk that the great Earth-Mother
had entered their homes, had stood close beside them as they
baked bread to feed their hungry households.
It was in the beautiful island of Sicily, which lies in the
Mediterranean Sea, that the goddess had her home. Here she
dwelt with her daughter Persephone, whom she loved more
dearly than words can tell.
Persephone was young and fair, so fair that she seemed as
one of the spring flowers that leaped into life when her
mother touched the earth with her gracious hands.
Early as the dawn the maiden was in the fields with Demeter,
to gather violets while the dew still lay upon them, to
dance and sing with her playmates. At other times she
 would move gravely by the side of her mother to help her in her
All this time, Pluto, King of Hades, was living in his
gloomy kingdom underground, longing for some fair maiden to
share his throne. But there was not one who was willing to
leave the glad light of the sun, no, not though Pluto
offered her the most brilliant gems in his kingdom.
One day the dark king came up out of the shadows, riding in
chariot of gold, drawn by immortal horses. Swifter was
their pace than that of any mortal steeds.
Persephone was in a meadow with her playfellows when the
king drew near. The maiden stood knee-deep amid the
meadow-grass, and, stooping, plucked the fragrant sweet
flowers all around her—hyacinth, lilies, roses, and pale
Pluto saw the group of happy maidens, beautiful each one as
a day in spring, but it was Persephone who charmed him more
than any other.
"She shall be my queen and share my throne," muttered the
gloomy king to himself. Then, for he knew that to woo the
maiden would be in vain, Pluto seized Persephone in his
arms, and bore her weeping to his chariot.
Swift as an arrow the immortal steeds sped from the meadow,
where Persephone's playmates were left terror-stricken and
On and on flew the chariot. Pluto was in haste to reach
Hades ere Demeter should miss her daughter.
A river lay across his path, but of this the king recked
naught, for his steeds would bear him across without so much
as lessening their speed.
But as the chariot drew near, the waters began to rise as
though driven by a tempest. Soon they were lashed to such
fury that Pluto saw that it was vain to hope to cross to the
other side. So he seized his sceptre, and in a passion he
struck three times upon the ground. At once a great chasm
opened in the earth, and down into the darkness
 plunged the
horses. A moment more and Pluto was in his own kingdom,
Persephone by his side.
When the king seized the maiden in the meadow, and bore her
to his chariot, she had cried aloud to Zeus, her father, to
save her. But Zeus had made no sign, nor had any heard save
Hecate, a mysterious goddess, whose face was half hidden by
None other heard, yet her piteous cry echoed through the
hills and woods, until at length the faint echo reached the
ear of Demeter.
A great pain plucked at the heart of the mother as she
heard, and throwing the blue hood from off her shoulders,
and loosening her long yellow hair, Demeter set forth, swift
as a bird, to seek for Persephone until she found her.
To her own home first she hastened, for there, she thought,
she might find some trace of the child she loved so well.
But the rooms were desolate as "an empty bird's nest or an
The mother's eyes searched eagerly in every corner, but
nothing met her gaze save the embroidery Persephone had been
working, "a gift against the return of her mother, with
labour all to be in vain." It lay as she had flung it down
in careless mood, and over it crept a spider, spinning his
delicate web across the maiden's unfinished work.
For nine days Demeter wandered up and down the earth,
carrying blazing torches in her hands. Her sorrow was so
great that she would neither eat nor drink, no, not even
ambrosia, or a cup of sweet nectar, which are the meat and
drink of the gods. Nor would she wash her face. On the
tenth day Hecate came towards her, but she had only heard
the voice of the maiden, and could not tell Demeter who had
carried her away.
Onward sped the unhappy mother, sick at heart for hope
unfulfilled, onward until she reached the sun. Here she
learned that it was Pluto who had stolen her daughter, and
carried her away to his gloomy kingdom.
 Then in her despair Demeter left all her duties undone, and a
terrible famine came upon the earth. "The dry seed remained
hidden in the soil; in vain the oxen drew the ploughshare
through the furrows."
As the days passed the misery of the people grew greater and
greater, until faint and starving they came to Demeter, and
besought her once again to bless the earth.
But sorrow had made the heart of the goddess hard, and she
listened unmoved to the entreaties of the hungry folk,
saying only that until her daughter was found she could not
care for their griefs.
Long, weary days Demeter journeyed over land and sea to seek
for Persephone, but at length she came back to Sicily.
One day as she walked along the bank of a river, the water
gurgled gladly, and a little wave carried a girdle almost to
Demeter stooped to pick it up, and lo! it was the girdle
that Persephone had worn on the day that she had been
The maiden had flung it into the river as the chariot had
plunged into the abyss, hoping that it might reach her
mother. The girdle could not help Demeter to recover her
daughter, yet how glad she was to have it, how safe she
At length, broken-hearted indeed, Demeter went to
Zeus to beg him to give her back her daughter. "If she
returns the people shall again have food and plenteous
harvests," she cried. And the god, touched with the grief
of the mother and the sore distress of the people, promised
that Persephone should come back to earth, if she had eaten
no food while she had lived in the gloomy kingdom of Hades.
No words can tell the joy with which Demeter
hastened to Hades. Here she found her daughter with no
smile upon her sweet face, but only tears of desire for her
mother and the dear light of the sun. But alas! that very
day Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds. For every
 seed that she had eaten she was doomed to spend a month each
year with Pluto. But for the other six months, year after
year, mother and daughter would dwell together, and as they
clung to one another they were joyous and content.
So for six glad months each year Demeter rejoiced,
for her daughter was by her side, and ever it was spring and
summer while Persephone dwelt on earth. But when the time
came for her to return to Hades, Demeter grew ever cold and
sad, and the earth too became weary and grey. It was autumn
and winter in the world until Persephone returned once more.
Demeter rejoiced, for her daughter was by her side
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