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Demeter (mural in Pompeii )
Demeter and Persephone consecrating the young Triptolemus (relief of Eleusis, Athens)
Fresco by Cosmè Tura (1430–1495)

Demeter ( ancient Greek Δημήτηρ, Δήμητρα, Δηώ Dēmḗtēr, Dḗmētra, Dēṓ ) is a mother goddess from the Greco-Asia Minor area in Greek mythology . She is one of the twelve Olympic deities , the Olympioi, and is responsible for the fertility of the earth, the grain, the seeds and the seasons. Demeter's Roman god name is Ceres .

Etymology and epithets

The derivation of the name Demeter or Damater (also Dōmater ) is not certain. During the second part of the name μήτηρ meter "mother" can be derived easily, the first link allows De- different approaches. The most widespread is the derivation from the Greek γῆ gḗ "earth", where Δῆ Dḗ corresponds to the proven Doric δᾶ "earth" and would represent a phonetic variant. Another etymology leads the name back to a form * Δησμάτηρ Dēsmátēr (from Indo-European * dṃs- , the genitive to * dem- "house") "mother of the house". Another interpretation, documented in late antiquity, relates to a word for grain in the first part of the word (Cretan dēaí , "barley").

Other names and titles of Demeter were "Despoina" (Mistress), "Daeira" (Goddess), "Chloe" (The Green Woman), "Barley Mother", "Wise of the Earth", "Wise of the Sea" and "Abundance".


Parentage and offspring

Demeter is the daughter of the titans Kronos and Rhea and thus the sister of Hestia , Poseidon , Zeus , Hera and Hades . With Zeus she had the daughter Persephone , with her lover Iasion the son of Pluto , the personification of wealth. Hyginus names Philomelus as the twin of Plutos, and Diodorus mentions Korybas and Eubouleus in addition to Plutos . With Poseidon she is mother of Areion in the library of Apollodorus , with Callimachus the mother of Despoina and with Pausanias mother of both.

Demeter is said to have sent the hero Triptolemus of Eleusis into the world so that he could spread the art of agriculture.

Rape of Persephone

Hades wanted a wife, and with the acquiescence of Zeus, he abducted Demeter's daughter Persephone into the underworld. Demeter mourned her daughter and looked for her everywhere, but could not find her anywhere. She was so sad that she forbade plants to grow, trees to bear fruit, and animals to reproduce. When people began to die, Demeter's siblings, the other gods of Olympus, began to fear and forced Hades to release Persephone. Demeter made the earth fertile again out of joy and gratitude. Persephone can spend part of each year with her mother on earth, the rest of the time she has to rule the dead as queen in the underworld.


Demeter's main attributes are the wheat ear and the poppy. She was also depicted with flowers, fruits and seeds, often with a poppy flower. Her animals are the pig and the dolphin that she rides on. The bee was also assigned to Demeter.

The oldest statue of Demeter found so far comes from the Black Cave (Mavrospelya) in Phigalia ( Arcadia ). She is shown there with a black cloak and a horse's head, Gorgonian snakes wrap around her head. The goddess is accompanied by a dolphin and a dove. In Mycenae , the Demeter cult was already in the 13th century BC. Known.

In art you can see that Demeter is closely connected to her daughter Persephone and her husband Hades . All three deities stand for fertility and are accordingly often represented with ears of corn. Reliefs and vases often show the return of Persephone from the underworld or, in turn, their descent.

A well-known relief is the Eleusinian consecration relief, which shows Demeter and Persephone with a young mystic.


The most important place of worship of Demeter was in Eleusis , where an entrance to the underworld (Hades) was assumed. The Eleusinian Mysteries took place every year in honor of Demeter. With the spread of Christianity, the cult of Eleusis lost its reputation. After the attempt of the emperor Iulianus Apostata to revive the mysteries, emperor Theodosius I had the temple closed in 392. Four years later, the Temple of Eleusis was by the Visigoths under Alaric I destroyed.

A church was later built on the site of the Demeter shrine in Patras .

All over Greece there was a three-day festival in honor of Demeter, the Thesmophoria .


Demeter is considered to be a particularly clear expression of the mother archetype in the sense of the analytical psychology of Carl Gustav Jung .

See also


Web links

Commons : Demeter  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Demeter  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Henry George Liddell , Robert Scott : A Greek-English Lexicon . Clarendon Press, Oxford 1940, sv δᾶ ( online ).
  2. Hjalmar Frisk : Greek etymological dictionary. Volume 1. Carl Winter, Heidelberg 1960, p. 379 f. ( Digitized version ).
  3. On this point of the etymology see Fritz Graf : Demeter. In: The New Pauly (DNP). Volume 3, Metzler, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-476-01473-8 , column 420.
  4. Hesiod : Theogony 453; Libraries of Apollodorus 1, 4; Hyginus : Fabulae Praefatio.
  5. Hesiod: Theogony 912; Homeric Hymn to Demeter 2; Libraries 1, 29; Ovid : Metamorphoses 5, 501.
  6. Hesiod: Theogony 969.
  7. a b Diodorus 5, 48, 2.
  8. ^ Hyginus: De astronomia 2, 4.
  9. ^ Diodorus 5, 76, 3.
  10. ^ Libraries 3, 77.
  11. Callimachus : Fragment 652.
  12. ^ Pausanias 8:25 , 5.