ancient Roman goddess

Proserpina (/prˈsɜːrpɪnə/; Latin: Prōserpina) or Proserpine is the goddess of springtime and the queen of the underworld in Roman mythology. She was the daughter of Ceres. In Greek mythology, there was a goddess who was like Proserpina called Persephone. She was first brought to Rome in the year 204 BC. Many of her stories were based on those of the Greek goddess.

Her name is possibly derived from the Latin proserpere, meaning "to emerge or come forth".[1][2]

Libera and Proserpina


Libera was reated to Proserpina from 205 BC. She and Ceres got a Romanised form of Greek religious events. This was part of Rome's religious acceptance of deities to serve as divine friends against Carthage, towards the end of the Second Punic War. In the late Republican era, Cicero described Liber and Libera as Ceres' children. At around the same time, Hyginus made Libera same to Greek Ariadne, as bride to Liber's Greek equivalent, Dionysus. The older and newer forms of her names, worship, and rites, and their diverse relationships, existed well into the late Imperial times. St. Augustine (354–430 AD) wrote that Libera was a goddess of female fertility, just as Liber was a god of male fertility.[3][4]

As a daughter of Ceres


Proserpina was brought to Rome as the daughter of Ceres in the newly Romanised culture of "Mother and Daughter". The cult originated from southern Italy. It was politically a friend to Rome but culturally a part of Magna Graecia. The cult was based on the women-only Greek Thesmophoria. It was a part public and part secret culture to Demeter and Persephone as "Mother and Maiden". It came to Rome along with its Greek priestesses. The priestesses were given Roman citizenship. They were able to pray to the gods "with an outside knowledge, but for a native and good purpose". In his book on Virgil, Servius writes that Proserpina's divine name is Luna, and her earthly name is Diana.[5][6]

In the underworld


The most popular story of Prosperina is of her being taken away by force by the god of the Underworld. Her mother Ceres searched for her. Her mother stopped doing all the works in the world that she used to do. In Latin literature, several stories are known. All similar mostly to the stories of Greek Persephone being taken away by force by the King of the underworld. The king was named in Latin sources as Dis or Pluto, and in Greek sources as Hades or Pluto. "Hades" can mean both the hidden Underworld and its king ('the hidden one'). In early Greek stories, it is a dark thing. Persephone is "Kore" ('the maiden') who was taken against her will in the underworld.[7]


  1. As in Hesiod's Theogony and the "Homeric Hymn to Demeter; see Rayor, Diane (2004). The Homeric Hymns. University of California Press. pp. 107–109.
  2. "Proserpina". American English Dictionary. HarperCollins. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  3. Wiseman, T.P., Satyrs in Rome? The background to Horace's Ars Poetica, The Journal of Roman Studies, 1988, 78, p. 7, note 52
  4. Spaeth, 1996, p. 131, citing Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2.62, and Saint Augustine, De Civitate Dei, 4.11; both of whom most likely used the Late Republican polymath Varro as their source.
  5. Spaeth, 1996, pp. 4, 6–13, citing Cicero, pro Balbo, 55. Arnobius mistakes this introduction as the first Roman cult to Ceres. His belief may reflect its high profile and ubiquity during the later Imperial period, and possibly the fading of older, distinctively Aventine forms of her cult.
  6. Servius, Commentary on Virgil's Aeneid 6.118.
  7. As in Hesiod's Theogony and the "Homeric Hymn to Demeter; see Rayor, Diane (2004). The Homeric Hymns. University of California Press. pp. 107–109.