Image from Toundra (III)
Ariadne, that daughter of subtle Minos whom Theseus bore off from Crete towards the hill of sacred Athens; yet he had no joy of her, since, before that could be, she was slain by Artemis in the isle of Dia because of the witness of Dionysos. (Homer, Odyssey 11.320)
I think it’s significant that Artemis is the one responsible for Ariadne’s death since she is the Goddess who presides over a woman’s transformation from girl to wife – thus by slaying Ariadne, Artemis is preparing her to be married to Dionysos. (A subject I discuss more fully here.)
It is noteworthy that in the Sicilian tradition Artemis is counted among the companions of Kore who are out picking flowers when Haides comes up from the earth to claim the maiden daughter of Demeter as his bride. This hieros gamos with death formed the basis of the mysteries in Southern Italy whereas at Eleusis the focus was more on the grievous searching and joyous reunion of the Mother.
The pinakes from the sanctuary of Persephone in Lokroi Epizephyrii depict a sequence of events and scenes not found in the Homeric Hymn – for instance the involvement of Hermes and Aphrodite and the Gods and Goddesses bringing presents to the King and Queen of the Underworld to celebrate and legitimize their wedding.
There is also the Young Abductor. Paralleling the story of Persephone and Haides are a sequence of pinakes showing a mortal bride and groom enacting their own sacred union in imitation of the divine pair.
What if it’s not metaphor?
What if it’s not two stories, the one patterned after the other, but rather a single tale that begins here and ends in the other world? A woman is abducted from her home by a brazen youth and along the way is abducted again, by death, which culminates in her marriage to the god below. In other words Ariadne, by dying, becomes Persephone and weds Dionysos-Haides.
This would certainly explain 1) why there are Dionysiac motifs in the sanctuary of Persephone 2) why there’s almost no allusion to the Zagreus myth in Southern Italian Orphic and other sources and 3) the prominence of Iakchos at Tarentum who is regarded as a child of Dionysos and Persephone contra Eleusis where Iakchos is either a child of Demeter or an alternate form of Dionysos.
I was already on this track but contemplating Artemis’ role in the myth has really helped cement things. Such richness and complexity of thought is only possible in a polytheist system.