The gods Hermes, Ares, Apollo, and Hephaestus, had all wooed Persephone; but Demeter rejected all their gifts and hid her daughter away from the company of the Olympian deities.
Thus, beautiful Persephone lived a peaceful life until Hades, Lord of the Underworld, fell in love with her. Innocently picking flowers with some nymphs—Athena, and Artemis, the Homeric hymn says—or Leucippe, or Oceanids—, Persephone was in a field when Hades came to abduct and then rape her, bursting through a cleft in the earth. Demeter searched desperately with torches for her lost daughter all over the world. In some versions she forbids the earth to produce, or she neglects the earth and in the depth of her despair she causes nothing to grow. Helios, the sun, who sees everything, eventually told Demeter what had happened and at length she discovered the place of her abode.
Finally, Zeus, pressed by the cries of the hungry people and by the other deities who also heard their anguish, forced Hades to return Persephone. However, it was a rule of the Fates that whoever consumed food or drink in the Underworld was doomed to spend eternity there. Before Persephone was released to Hermes, who had been sent to retrieve her, Hades tricked her into eating pomegranate seeds, (four or six according to the telling) which forced her to return to the underworld for a period each year.
Some versions of the myth hold that Persephone instead ate the seeds knowingly and willingly.