Monday, July 29, 2013

Morgantina: Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone

Photos by Jack Waldron

Above, a view from the acropolis of Aidone, with ancient Morgantina in the distance left of photo, and the Ionian Sea on the horizon.
Above and below, the Deity of Morgantina, recently repatriated from the U.S. after being sold illegally on the black market in the 1970's.
Below, two tholos in the sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone:

  • Zeus, the king of all the gods, had three sisters. 
  • Hera was both his wife and his sister. Hera was the goddess of marriage and the queen of all the gods. 
  • Hestia, another of his sisters, was a much loved goddess by the woman of Greece - Hestia was the goddess of home and hearth. 
  • His third sister, Demeter, was in charge of the harvest. All the gods jobs were important. But Demeter's job was very important. If she was upset, the crops could die. Everyone, gods and mortals alike, worked hard to keep Demeter happy. What made her happy was enjoying the company of her daughter, Persephone.  
  • Persephone had grown into a beautiful young woman, with a smile for everyone. One day, while picking flowers in the fields, Hades, her uncle, the god of the underworld, noticed her. 
  • Hades was normally a gloomy fellow. But Persephone’s beauty had dazzled him. He fell in love instantly. Quickly, before anyone could interfere, he kidnapped Persephone and hurled his chariot down into the darkest depths of the underworld, taking Persephone with him.  
  • Locked in a room in the Hall of Hades, Persephone cried and cried. She refused to speak to Hades. And she refused to eat. Legend said if you ate anything in Hades, you could never leave. She did not know if the legend was true, but she did not want to risk it in case someone came to rescue her. 
  • Nearly a week went by. Finally, unable to bear her hunger, Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds. It seemed her fate was sealed. She would have to live in the Underworld forever.
  • Meanwhile, back on earth,  Demeter was miserable. She missed her daughter. She was not able to care for the crops. She was not able to do anything much except cry.
  • Zeus, king of all the gods, was worried about the crops. The people would die if the crops failed. If that happened, who would worship Zeus? He had to do something. Zeus did what he often did. He sent Hermes, his youngest son, the messenger, to crack a deal, this time with Hades. 
  • Even as a baby, Hermes was great at making deals. Everyone knew that. But this deal might be the challenge of his life. His uncle Hades, king of the underworld, was really in love. This was no passing fancy. 
  • When Hermes heard that Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds, he had to think quickly. The deal he made with Hades was that if Persephone would marry Hades, she would live as queen of the underworld for six months out of the year. However, each spring, Persephone would return and live on earth for the other six months of the year. Hades agreed. Zeus agreed. Persephone agreed. And finally, Demeter agreed.  
  • Each spring, Demeter makes sure all the flowers bloom in welcome when her daughter, Queen of the Underworld,  returns to her. Each fall, when Persephone returns to Hades, Demeter cries, and lets all the crops die until spring, when the cycle starts again.
Thought by many experts to have been a Roman invention, the domed bath (with a square opening in the roof) of the North Bath at Morgantina was a revolutionary development of the Greek Hellenistic period.  
The excellent lecture in the video below explains the history, archeology and design of the north bath at Morgantina.
Above, a pipe which delivered water to the ancient city also displays a unique design, with a removable cap that to allow for cleaning.  Pictured below, a near full view of the sanctuary.

*All photos and content property of Jack Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)

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