About this artwork
This panel—once the long side of a sarcophagus, or coffin––depicts the abduction of the maiden Persephone by Hades, the Greek god of the underworld. On the left, Demeter, the Greek goddess of the harvest, drives a chariot in search of her daughter. Kneeling in front is Persephone, who looks upward in the moment before her abduction. On the right, Hades flees with the girl thrown over his shoulder.
While searching for her daughter, Demeter stopped cultivating the land, and a great famine ensued. The supreme god Zeus intervened, commanding Hades to release Persephone so that Demeter might restore fertility to the earth. Before doing so, Hades tricked Persephone into eating pomegranate seeds, which required that she return to the underworld for part of every year.
The theme of death and regeneration is central to this myth. In the Greek and Roman worlds, it explained the changing seasons and the agricultural cycle. When Persephone descended to the underworld, the earth lay fallow. When she returned, abundance was restored. The myth was also considered appropriate for the decoration of a sarcophagus: to be taken by Hades was a popular metaphor for death itself.
- Ancient Roman
- Panel from a Sarcophagus Depicting the Abduction of Persephone
- 190 CE–200 CE
- 99 × 170.2 × 17.8 cm (39 × 67 × 7 in.)
- Anonymous loan