Girls Playing Persephone (in Marriage and Death)

in Mnemosyne
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Arguably, the most famous myth told about Persephone is her abduction and marriage to Hades. The story clearly articulates the strong connection between marriage and death, and this episode became significant in both literature and religious practice in the wider classical Greek world. Reference to the story of Persephone’s abduction came to be used as a shorthand for evoking this connection, particularly in myth. This paper discusses two particular ways in which Persephone’s narrative was used in marriage and death. I examine the pre-marriage offerings to Persephone at Lokroi Epizephyrioi, in southern Italy, and the tradition of Athenian girls who died unmarried being buried as brides. These cultic instances frame a discussion of Brides of Hades, particularly in tragedy. Overall, I conclude that these girls do not attempt to replace Persephone, but rather to imitate her: they ‘play the role’ of Persephone at various stages of her own abduction and marriage story.


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