(among the Greeks Demeter), in pagan mythology, was the daughter of Saturn and Rhea. Saturn had swallowed Ceres, together with the rest of his children, but when Jupiter gave him an emetic, prepared by Metis, the daughter of Oceanus, he vomited them all up. By Jupiter Ceres became mother of Proserpina (in Greek Persephone, or Kore), and according: to some also of Bacchus. The Snares of Neptune she sought to avoid by changing herself into a horse; but the god did the same, and thus she gave birth by him to the famous horse Arion. The most important part of the mythical history of Ceres is found in the story of the rape of Proserpina. Jupiter had promised to give Proserpina to Pluto, without the knowledge of Ceres. Therefore when the daughter was gathering flowers with her companions near Enna, in Sicily, Pluto appeared suddenly, with four black steeds, out of the earth, and carried off the struggling and crying maiden. Nobody had heard the cry for help save Hecate and the sungod. The mother of the maiden then sought her nine days, until she met Hecate, who led her to the sun god, from whom she learned the whole story. Angry, she now avoided the society of the gods, and dwelt unknowns among men, but was hospitably received in the form of an old woman by Celeus. She soon caused unfruitfulness in the country. At that time she dwelt in a cave near Phigalia, in Arcadia. Her whereabouts remained unknown to all the gods, until Pan, hunting in Arcadia, discovered her, whereupon Jupiter sent the Parcee to her, who succeeded in calming her. Mercury was thereupon ordered to get Proserpina from the infernal regions; but Pluto gave her the fruit of the pomegranate-tree to eat, in consequence of which she remained bound to his kingdom. Jupiter therefore ordered that Proserpina should remain two thirds of the year with her mother, and one third with her husband. Other stories relate of the goddess that she gave birth to Plutus (wealth) by Jupiter; that she transformed the Scythian king Lyncus into a lynx, because he sought to kill Triptolemus; that she caused bees to spring from the corpse of Melissa, a woman of the Isthmus, who had been killed by other women because she would not betray the mysteries of Ceres, thus making her the giver of honey; also that she caused Erysichthon, son of Triopas, to be continually plagued by a craving for food, because he cut down some trees in a sacred wood; and finally that she endowed Pandareus, son of Merops of Miletus, with the power of eating as much as he wished without being at all troubled in his body.
Ceres is the goddess of the fruit-bearing earth, therefore of agriculture; but she is also the goddess of marriage and of married women especially. The myth of her daughter returning from the depths of the earth was frequently used, especially in the mysteries relating to the immortality of the soul. The worship of Ceres was universal in Greece, especially in Athens. Her chief mysteries among the Athenians were the Thesmophoria and Eleusinia. The former were celebrated in October, and lasted three or four days, with a nine days' preparation. The Eleusinia were twofold, the lesser in February, the greater for nine days in September. Fruittrees, also the elm, the hyacinth, and the poppy were sacred to Ceres. In Italy she was worshipped among the highest deities, and was placed on a level with Vertumnus. The name Ceres is said to have come from the Sabines, and to denote bread in their language. In formal representations she is similar to Juno, but has a milder look; she is draped in full, and sometimes has her head covered. As accessories she was crowned with ears of wheat, in her hand was a scepter; also poppy-stalks, and a basket containing the sacred articles used in her mysteries he was sometimes borne in a car drawn by horses ( winged dragons. SEE CEREALIA.