Demeter, goddess of all plants that grew and bloomed on the earth, cherished her only daughter, Persephone.
One day, while walking through some fields, Persephone was seized by Hades, god of the underworld, and taken down into the earth on his chariot.
Demeter was crushed with grief by the disappearance of her daughter.
As she searched for Persephone, nothing grew on the earth, and humankind suffered through a devastating famine.
The other gods pleaded with Demeter, but she refused to allow any flowers to bloom or any trees to bear fruit until she held her daughter again.
Zeus ordered Hades to free Persephone.
As long as Persephone had eaten nothing in the underworld, she would be released.
But Hades tricked Persephone into eating six pomegranate seeds. Consequently, Zeus decided that Persephone had to spend six months of every year with Hades in his dark realm.
During the six months when Persephone was gone each year, Demeter pined for her daughter, and all of earth lay barren in the grip of winter.
When Persephone returned, Demeter expressed her joy as the plant life burst into the bloom of spring.
Herakles, wearing a lion skin and wielding his club, battles the deadly Hydra in late 19th century illustrations.
The myths of the Greeks have inspired artists of all eras and cultures for more than two millennia.