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Life, Death, and a Lokrian Goddess

Revisiting the Nature of Persephone in the Gold Leaves of Magna Graecia
Hanne Eisenfeld
p. 41-72


This article argues for a reevaluation of the goddess Persephone as she appears in a subcorpus of the funerary gold leaves. It is argued that the presence of the regionally powerful Lokrian Persephone shaped the representation of the goddess in the leaves crafted for consumption in Magna Graecia. Representations of myth and cult on the clay tablets (pinakes) dedicated to this goddess reveal not only a ‘Chthonian Queen,’ but also a deity concerned with the spheres of marriage and childbirth. These competencies evoked resonances with the concepts of transition and rebirth expressed in the texts of the gold leaves. Through her regional importance Lokrian Persephone functioned as a familiar figure, capable of anchoring the innovative and individualized initiatory experience expressed in the leaves within the existing fabric of local belief.

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Full text document will be published online on October 2018.


A Jaunt Through the Leaves
The Lokrian Maiden
Points of Contact
The Rooster or the Egg?

First lines


“Pure I come from the pure, Queen of the Chthonian Ones.” This is the opening line of a gold leaf — one element of a geographically and chronologically disparate corpus that has variously been described as ‘Orphic,’ ‘Pythagorean,’ and ‘Bacchic’ — from the site of Thurii in northern Calabria. The speaker is the soul of the initiate who presents the credentials that guarantee her a privileged status in the afterlife. The text goes on to identify the Chthonian Queen as Persephone and to characterize the initiate addressing her as a supplicant. A similar relationship can be glimpsed between Persephone and her worshippers in her cult at Epizephyrian Lokri in southern Calabria which Diodorus in his own time knew as the most illustrious in Italy. We lack the written evidence to know how this Persephone was addressed by her worshippers, but the visual evidence depicts her as a majestic goddess presiding over the lands of the dead, yet approachable by worshippers who came to seek...

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Bibliographical reference

Hanne Eisenfeld, « Life, Death, and a Lokrian Goddess », Kernos, 29 | 2016, 41-72.

Electronic reference

Hanne Eisenfeld, « Life, Death, and a Lokrian Goddess », Kernos [Online], 29 | 2016, Online since 01 October 2018, connection on 20 February 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/kernos.2388

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About the author

Hanne Eisenfeld

Boston College
Classical Studies Department
Stokes S260
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467–3806

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