Classical Mythology, Day 4

In this class we focus on the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, which tells the story of the abduction (rape) of Persephone and her mother’s struggles to find out what happened to her. This Hymn draws on many different types of myth and responds to interpretations that focus on its functions as a natural allegory, an anthropological allegory (about marriage, gender roles, and the family), a ritual etiology (for the Eleusinian Mysteries) and cultural discourse (structural and cognitive) reinforcing patriarchy. In addition, the story of Demeter’s response refines ‘cosmic history’ and establishes limits on Zeus’ power (reinforcing themes from the end of Hesiod’s Theogony).

Ancient Authors Discussed

Homer, Archaic Period

Bacchylides, Early Classical Period

Aeschylus, Classical period

Callimachus, Hellenistic Period

Ovid, Roman Imperial Period

Pausanias, Greek, Roman Imperial Period

Links to Blogposts


Some Suggested Course Texts

Homeric Hymn to Demeter

Student Links

Nan Fry, “From Persephone’s Letters to Demeter.”

Modern Authors Mentioned

Victor Turner

Joseph Campbell

Other Articles for Additional Reading

Wikipedia on the Eleusinian Mysteries

Marcia W. D-S. Dobson, 1992. “Ritual,Death, Patriarchal Violence and Female Relationships in the Hynms to Demeter and Inanna. NWSA Journal 4.1:42-58 

Erwin Cook. “Epiphany in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and the Odyssey.”

Evans, Nancy A. “Sanctuaries, Sacrifices, and the Eleusinian Mysteries.” Numen, vol. 49, no. 3, 2002, pp. 227–254. JSTOR,
Demeter and Persephone from the Beazley Archive
Image found here

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