Demeter, sister of Zeus, Poseidon and Pluto, was the goddess of agriculture, vegetation and fertility. By Zeus she had a daughter, Persephone, whom Pluto, the god of the underworld, fell in love with and abducted. The distraught Demeter’s wanderings in search of her daughter brought her to Eleusis. Outraged, she suspended the powers of fertility, causing drought and famine. In order to stave off the threat to mankind, Zeus decided to intervene: Pluto consented to Persephone’s spending six months a year with her mother on earth, in exchange for spending the remaining six with him in the underworld. Demeter taught the art of agriculture to Triptolemos, son of the king of Eleusis, who later imparted it to the rest of mankind. The Eleusinian Mysteries, the holiest in antiquity, were held in honour of Demeter and Persephone, as were the Thesmophoria, a religious festival for women only. On account of the importance of agriculture, the cult of Demeter was widespread, while the entire island of Sicily, site of Persephone’s abduction, was sacred to the two goddesses.
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