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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
Eleusis. A small hilly site about 22 km to the W of Athens, lying at the head
of the Thriasian plain and on the coast of a lake-like sea bordered by Salamis.
Because of its location, it has been inhabited from the Early Bronze Age to the
present. Its periods of fame were due to the secret cult of Demeter, known as
the Eleusinian Mysteries, celebrated once a year. The cult, introduced during
the Mycenaean Age, became Panhellenic in the 6th c. B.C. and acquired universal
status in Roman Imperial times. In the Classical period the township was identified
with the Sanctuary of the Goddess. It was devastated first by the army of Xerxes
in 480-479 B.C., then by the Kostovoks in 170 B.C., and finally by the hordes
of Alaric in A.D. 395. The first two destructions were followed by rebuilding;
the site never recovered from the last destruction and by the end of the 5th c.
it was completely ruined by the Christians.
Excavations, continuous since 1882, have revealed the ruins of the
famous Sanctuary of Demeter. For privacy its area was surrounded by fortifications
in successive eras, in Geometric and archaic times, in the days of Peisistratos,
Kimon, and Perikles, and in 380-370 B.C. Surviving in good length, they prove
that an ever increasing popularity of the cult was followed by enlargements of
the sanctuary area.
At its N edge is the outer court, 65 x 40 m, paved in Roman times.
Along the E side of the court we find the remains of a fountain-house, 11.30 m
in length, dating from the Roman period. At its two corners, the SE and the SW,
triumphal arches identical to that of Hadrian in Athens were erected after A.D.
129. The SW arch, now being restored, is better preserved. Above its single archway
we read the inscription, All the Greeks to the Goddesses and the Emperor. That
arch opened to a road running along the peribolos wall of Kimon, strengthened
in Roman times. On its N side survive remnants of buildings in which the initiates
once could find temporary accommodations.
On the paved court stands the high podium, made of Roman concrete,
of the Temple of Artemis of the Portals and Father Poseidon. Built of Pentelic
marble before the reign of Marcus Aurelius, it had a front and rear portico with
Doric columns. Beyond its NE corner is a well-preserved, unique ground altar of
baked brick set in a rectangular court, dating from Roman times. To the S and
E the outer court was blocked by the Greater Propylaia and by a fortification
wall of Peisistratean times, which was continued to the SE to enclose the township
The Greater Propylaia face NE, toward Athens, and form the main entranceway
to the sanctuary. They stand on a stepped platform rising 1.70 m above the floor
of the court. Of Pentelic marble, they are an exact duplicate of the central section
of the Periklean Propylaia of the Acropolis, with an inner and an outer portico
fronted by Doric columns. The outer portico, 15.24 m in depth, uses six Ionic
columns in two rows in its depth. The inner portico, facing the sanctuary, is
only 7.36 m in depth. The cross-wall between the porticos was pierced by five
doorways. The floor has survived, as have fragments of the entablature, and even
some blocks of its pediment decorated with a bust of its builder, Marcus Aurelius,
in a shield. The lowermost step on the E side was interrupted to allow access
to one of the sacred landmarks of Eleusis, a well rebuilt by Peisistratos and
since then known as the Kallichoron.
To the S of the Greater stand the Lesser Propylaia. They were built
of Pentelic marble after 50 B.C. by the nephews of Appius Claudius Pulcher in
fulfillment of his vows over the Peisistratean Gate, the N Pylon, whose flanking
tower can be seen under its platform of Roman concrete. At the depth of a forecourt
(9.80 x 10.35 m) paved with large slabs, is the doorway, 2.95 m wide. It was sheltered
by a prothyron on the outside and a vestibule on the inside. The prothyron, 4.40
m in depth, has two Corinthian columns whose bases and elaborate capitals with
winged animals among the corner tendrils have survived. The entablature has an
Ionic architrave, on which is cut the Latin dedicatory inscription, and a frieze
of triglyphs and metopes embellished with cists, bukrania, and stylized double
poppies. The inner vestibule, facing the sanctuary, was fronted by two Caryatids
set on high podia. One of these is in the local museum, the other in the Fitzwilliam.
To the SW of the Lesser Propylaia, separated by a wall built by Valerian,
are foundations of structures which served the functionaries of the sanctuary.
From the Lesser Propylaia begins the ascending Sacred Way, paved in
Roman times, which terminated to the S at the Temple of Demeter known as the Telesterion,
since in it was completed the Telete, the initiation service. Immediately to the
right of the Sacred Way is a cave within which survive the foundations of a 4th
c. B.C. temple (2.98 x 3.77 m) dedicated to Pluto. Built of poros stone in the
form of a templum in antis, it stands in a triangular court retained by a wall
of poros stone. Adjacent to the cave on the S is a stepped platform cut out of
the rock, 10.50 x 6.25 m, which perhaps served as a stand from which the initiates
followed an act of the sacred pageant, for somewhere in front of it was the Mirthless
Stone, another sacred landmark. Above its S side stood a small treasury, some
6 x 2.90 m, by the side of which, still to be seen, is a boulder used as a donation
box for small gifts.
Next to the platform on the S is a deep cutting in the rock in which
can be seen the foundations of a building, 14.10 x 11.20 m, whose front was built
over an artificially constructed terrace. It was in the form of a templum in antis
with a wide stairway in its front elevation. The building was at first identified
as the pre-Persian Temple of Demeter, but it is proved to have been constructed
in Roman times and perhaps was dedicated to Sabina, the New Demeter. Between this
temple and the Telesterion exists a narrow stairway cut in the rock, an ascent
to another Roman temple built on the hill.
No building was constructed along the E, or left-hand side of the
Sacred Way. Beyond its edge and limited by the Kimonian wall can be seen remains
of the Peisistratean peribolos composed of a stone sole surmounted by a mudbrick
wall, as well as foundations of a variety of buildings. Most important of these
is a triangular structure of Periklean times with three rows of square pillars:
the famous Siroi, or magazines, where the tithes to the goddess were stored. Again
on the left-hand side, as we approach the Telesterion, we can see the retaining
walls built in the Geometric, archaic, and Periklean periods and in the 4th c.
B.C. to support the terrace on which were constructed the successive Telesteria
On that terrace, above the Mycenaean remains, a fragment of an apsidal
wall, built ca. 750 B.C., seems to belong to the earliest Telesterion of the historic
period. To that temple and terrace access was obtained through a stairway on the
S side near which remains of sacrificial pyres attest to the sacred character
of the terrace and its building. Mound 600 B.C. a larger Telesterion, known as
the Solonian, was built over the same area of the slope, but on an enlarged terrace.
Its SW corner survives, proving that at least the lower part of the temple was
built of bluish-gray Eleusinian stone in the Lesbian polygonal style. The temple
had an oblong plan, 24 x 14 m, with a double sloping roof ending in triangular
pediments. In front of it spread a triangular court where the altars of the goddesses
stood. Below the terrace to the NE a stepped platform faces a lower court bordered
by an altar and a well. In the archaic period it served the initiates to follow
the sacred dances held in front of the well in honor of the goddess.
In the days of Peisistratos and his sons, 550-510 B.C., the Solonian
Telesterion was replaced by a larger one, built of well-cut poros stone over the
same area of the slope. Its foundations of hard limestone were lowered to rock
level. The temple possesses an almost square naos or cella, 25.30 x 27.10 m, fronted
on the E side by a prostoon with perhaps 10 Doric columns in its facade. The roof
of the naos was supported by 22 Ionic columns. In the SW section of the naos was
the anaktoron, a separate shrine, where the hiera were kept. On three lengths
of its walls, interrupted only by the shrine, rose tiers of nine steps from which
the initiates could follow the rites. Three doors opened from the naos to the
prostoon. The entablature was of poros stone, but its raking cornice and the simas,
with ornamental rams' heads at the corners, were of Parian marble.
The Peisistratean Telesterion was devastated by the Persians in 480-479
B.C. Using its foundations, Kimon began the building of a new Telesterion whose
scanty remains prove that it was never completed. Literary (Vitruvius, Strabo,
Plutarch) and epigraphical evidence indicates that two different buildings were
attempted in the Periklean Age. One was designed by Iktinos and its construction
was begun but soon abandoned. The few surviving remains, especially foundations
of columns, indicate that it was composed of an almost square naos whose roof,
supported by 20 columns, had an opaion or lantern in the center. Its W side was
cut deeply into the rock of the hillside. The second building was designed and
executed by Koroibos, Metagenes, and Xenokles. It was burned in 170 B.C. and was
rebuilt by Marcus Aurelius. The only change made in the original plan was to increase
the length of the naos by 2.15 m. What we can see today belongs to the rebuilt
The Telesterion designed by Koroibos was composed of a square naos,
ca. 51 m in length (increased to ca. 53 m in Roman times) and ca. 51 m in width.
A good part of its W section was cut out of the living rock. The roof was supported
by 42 columns arranged in seven rows of 6 columns in each row. The floor columns
supported a second tier of lighter columns and in the middle of the roof there
was an opaion. Under the opaion in the naos was the anaktoron, scanty traces of
which have been recently recognized; at its NE comer stood a niche containing
the throne of the Hierophant. Tiers of eight steps for the initiates were arranged
along the walls on all four sides of the naos, interrupted by two doorways on
each of three sides, the N, E, and S. In the 4th c. B.C. a portico was built in
front of its E side, known as the Philonian Stoa from the name of its architect.
Today we have the foundations of the stoa, the stereobate or its floor, some drums
of its columns, and parts of its superstructure, all built of Pentelic marble,
while the foundations were of poros stone. The stoa measures 54.50 x 11.35 m.
The exterior aspect of the naos with its unbroken wall of gray-blue stone unrelieved
by columns, solemn and austere, must have been awe-inspiring, well suited to its
Behind the Telesterion, some 7.35 m above its floor, a terrace, 11.45
m in width, is cut in the rock. This terrace, as well as the narrow stairway to
the N and the broad stepped platform cut in the rock to the S, are of Roman date.
The terrace led to a stepped approach of a Roman temple built on the NE extremity
of the hill. The temple had a cella, 18 x 12 m, roofed by a vault and a portico,
ca. 4.5 m in depth, with four columns in antis. Perhaps it was dedicated to Faustina
the elder, who also had the title of New Demeter. The terrace and the temple extended
to the wall--known as the diateichisma, few remains of which survive--that separated
the sanctuary area from the summit of the hill.
The broad stepped platform to the S of the Telesterion faced the S
court, where perhaps the rites of the balletys, the pelting with stones, was performed
and was witnessed by people standing on the platform. The S court to the E is
bound by fortification walls built by Perikles and extended in 370-360 B.C. to
the SE and S. The 4th c. wall, averaging 2.55 m in thickness, is the best-known
example of Greek fortification walls. Along its inner side was built a long structure
divided by cross-walls into six compartments. Its use is problematical; perhaps
it served important members of the personnel, or was used for storing the tithes.
Along the S section of the 4th c. B.C. wall, where we find the well-preserved
Gate to the Sea, exist the foundations of a 3d c. building identified as the bouleuterion,
where the City Council, and occasionally the 500 of Athens, met. Farther W from
the Gate to the Sea scanty remnants of a long stoa survive, dating perhaps from
the 4th century B.C.
The sanctuary area, cleared to the rock, has yielded remains that
enable us to piece together the history and the architectural activity of the
site. Of the village itself very little survives. Most important are the remains
of the Peisistratean fortification wall that surrounded the N section of the village
with its gate toward Athens, the Asty Gate. On the S slope of the hill a well-known
relic in the form of a vaulted round chamber with a passage attached to its E
side, was taken to be a tholos tomb of Mycenaean times. It has been proved to
be a cistern of the 4th c. B.C. belonging to the village.
G. E. Mylonas, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites,
Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from
Perseus Project URL below, which contains 47 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
Eleusis or Eleusin. A city of Attica, equidistant
from Megara and the Piraeus, and famed for the celebration of the mysteries of
Demeter. According to some writers it derived its name from a hero, whom some
affirmed to be the son of Hermes but others of Ogyges (Pausan. i. 38). Its origin
is certainly of the highest antiquity, as it appears to have already existed in
the time of Cecrops, but we are not informed by whom, or at what period, the worship
of Demeter was introduced there. Eusebius places the building of the first temple
in the reign of Pandion; but, according to other authors, it is more ancient.
Celeus is said to have been king of Eleusis when Demeter first arrived there.
At one period Eleusis was powerful enough to contend with Athens
for the sovereignty of Attica. This was in the time of Eumolpus. The controversy
was ended by a treaty, wherein it was stipulated that Eleusis should yield to
the control of Athens, but that the sacred rites of Demeter should be celebrated
at the former city. Demeter and Triptolemus were both worshipped here with peculiar
solemnity, and here also was shown the Rarius Campus, where Demeter was said to
have first sown corn. The temple of Eleusis was burned by the Persian army in
the in vasion of Attica, but was rebuilt, under the administration of Pericles,
by Ictinus, the architect of the Parthenon. This magnificent structure was entirely
destroyed by Alaric in the year A.D. 396. Eleusis, though so considerable and
important a place, was classed among the Attic demes and belonged to the tribe
Hippothoontis. The colossal statue of the Eleusinian Demeter, the work of Phidias,
after having suffered many mutilations, was taken to England by Dr. Clarke and
Mr. Cripps in 1801, and now stands in the vestibule of the University Library
at Cambridge. The temple itself was cleared by Sir William Gell, and important
excavations have been made by the Greek Archaeological Society since 1887.
This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Perseus: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)
Eleusis or Eleusin: Eth. Eleusinios (Lepsina). A demus of Attica, belonging
to the tribe Hippothoontis. It owed its celebrity to its being the chief seat
of the worship of Demeter and Persephone, and to the mysteries celebrated in honour
of these goddesses, which were called the Eleusinia, and continued to be regarded
as the most sacred of all the Grecian mysteries down to the fall of paganism.
As an account of these mysteries, and of the legends respecting their institution,
is given elsewhere where, it only remains now to
speak of the topography and history of the town. Eleusis stood upon a height at
a short distance from the sea, and opposite the island of Salamis. Its situation
possessed three natural advantages. It was on the road from Athens to the Isthmus;
it was in a very fertile plain; and it was at the head of an extensive bay, formed
on three sides by the coast of Attica, and shut in on the south by the island
of Salamis. The town itself dates from the most ancient times. It appears to have
derived its name from the supposed advent (eleusis) of Demeter, though some traced
its name from an eponymous hero Eleusis. (Paus. i. 38.7.) It was one of the
12 independent states into which Attica was said to have been originally divided.
(Strab. ix. p. 397.) It was related that in the reign of Eumolpus, king of Eleusis,
and Erechtheus, king of Athens, there was a war between the two states, in which
the Eleusinians were defeated, whereupon they agreed to acknowledge the supremacy
of Athens in every thing except the celebration of the mysteries, of which they
were to continue to have the management. (Thucyd. ii. 15; Paus. i. 38.3.) Eleusis
afterwards became an Attic demus, but in consequence of its sacred character it
was allowed to retain the title of polis (Strab. ix.; Paus. i. 38.7),
and to coin its own money, a privilege possessed by no other town in Attica, except
Athens. The history of Eleusis is part of the history of Athens. Once a year the
great Eleusinian procession travelled from Athens to Eleusis, along the Sacred
Way, which has been already described at length. The ancient temple of Demeter
at Eleusis was burnt by the Persians in B.C. 484 (Herod. ix.); and it was
not till the administration of Pericles that an attempt was made to rebuild it.
When the power of the Thirty was overthrown after the Peloponnesian War, they
retired to Eleusis, which they had secured beforehand, but where they maintained
themselves for only a short time. (Xen. Hell. ii. 4. 8, seq., 43) Under the Romans
Eleusis enjoyed great prosperity, as initiation into its mysteries became fashionable
among the Roman nobles. It was destroyed by Alaric in A.D. 396, and from that
time disappears from history. When Spon and Wheler visited the site in 1676, it
was entirely deserted. In the following century it was again inhabited, and it
Ad is now a small village called Lephina, which is only a corruption of the ancient
name. Eleusis was built at the eastern end of a low rocky height, a mile in length,
which lies parallel to the sea-shore, and is separated to the west from the falls
of Mount Cerata by a narrow branch of the plain. The eastern extremity of the
hill was levelled artificially for the reception of the Hierum of Demeter and
the other sacred buildings. Above these are the ruins of an acropolis. [ "Castellum,
quod et imminet, et circumdatum est templo," Liv. xxxi. 25.] A triangular
space of about 500 yards each side, lying between the hill and the shore, was
occupied by the town of Eleusis. On the eastern side the town wall is traced along
the summit of an artificial embankment, carried across the marshy ground from
some heights near the Hierum, on one of which stands a castle (built during the
middle ages of the Byzantine empire). This wall, according to a common practice
in the military architecture of the Greeks, was prolonged into the sea, so as
to form a mole sheltering a harbour, which was entirely artificial, and was formed
by this and two other longer moles which project about 100 yards into the sea.
There are many remains of walls and buildings along the shore, as well as in other
parts of the town and citadel; but they are mere foundations, the Hierum alone
preserving any considerable remains. (Leake.) Pausanias has left us only a very
brief description of Eleusis (i. 38. 6): The Eleusinians have a temple of Triptolemus,
another of Artemis Propylaea, and a third of Poseidon the Father, and a well called
Callichorum, where the Eleusinian women first instituted a dance and sang in honour
of the goddess. They say that the Rharian plain was the first place in which corn
was sown and first produced a harvest, and that hence barley from this plan is
employed for making sacrificial cakes. There the so-called threshing-floor and
altar of Triptolemus are shewn. The things within the wall of the Hierum [i. e.
the temple of Demeter] a dream forbade me to describe. The Rharian plain is also
mentioned in the Homeric Hymn to Artemis (450): it appears to have been in the
neighbourhood of the city; but its site cannot be determined.
The present state of the antiquities at Eleusis is described by the
Commission of the Dilettanti, of whose researches a brief account is given by
Leake. Upon approaching Eleusis from Athens, the first conspicuous object is the
remains of a large pavement, terminating in some heaps of ruins, which are the
remains of a propylaeum, of very nearly the same plan and dimensions as that of
the Acropolis of Athens. Before it, near the middle of a platform cut in the rock,
are the ruins of a small temple, 40 feet long and 20 broad, which was undoubtedly
the temple of Artemis Propylaea. The peribolus, which abutted on the Propylaeum,
formed the exterior inclosure of the Hierum. At a distance of 50 feet from the
propylaeum was the north-eastern angle of the inner inclosure, which was in shape
an irregular pentagon. Its entrance was at the angle just mentioned, where the
rock was cut away both horizontally and vertically to receive another propylaeum
much smaller than the former, and. which consisted of an opening 32 feet wide
between two parallel walls of 50 feet in length. Towards the inner extremity this
opening was narrowed by transverse walls to a gateway of 12 feet in width, which
was decorated with antae, opposed to two Ionic columns. Between the inner front
of this propylaeum and the site of the great temple lay, until the year 1801,
the colossal bust of Pentelic marble, crowned with a basket, which is now deposited
in the public library at Cambridge. It has been supposed to be a fragment of the
statue of Demeter which was adored in the temple; but, to judge from the position
in which it was found, and from the unfinished appearance of the surface in those
few parts where any original surface remains, the statue seems rather to have
been that of a Cistophorus, serving for some architectural decoration, like the
Caryatides of the Erechtheium.
The temple of Demeter itself, sometimes called mustikos sekos, or
to telesterion, was the largest in all Greece, and is described by Strabo as capable
of containing as many persons as a theatre (ix. p. 395). The plan of the building
was designed by Ictinus, the architect of the Parthenon at Athens; but it was
many years before it was completed, and the names of several architects are preserved
who were employed in building it. Its portico of 12 columns was not built till
the time of Demetrius Phalereus, about B.C. 318, by the architect Philo. (Strab.
l. c.; Plut. Per. 13; Dict. of Biogr. vol. iii. p. 314, a.) When finished, it
was considered one of the four finest examples of Grecian architecture in marble.
It faced the south-east. Its site is occupied by the centre of the modern village,
in consequence of which it is difficult to obtain all the details of the building.
The Commission of the Dilettanti Society supposed the cella to be 166 feet square
within; and comparing the fragments which they found with the description of Plutarch
(Per. 13), they thought themselves warranted in concluding that the roof of the
cella was covered with tiles of marble like the temples of Athens; that it was
supported by 28 Doric columns, of a diameter (measured under the capital) of 3
feet 2 inches; that the columns were disposed in two double rows across the cella,
one near the front, the other near the back; and that they were surmounted by
ranges of smaller columns, as in the Parthenon, and as we still see exemplified
in one of the existing temples at Paestum. The cella was fronted with a magnificent
portico of 12 Doric columns, measuring 61 1/2 feet at the lower diameter of the
shaft, but fluted only in a narrow ring at the top and bottom. The platform at
the back of the temple was 20 feet above the level of the pavement of the portico.
An ascent of steps led up to this platform on the outside of the north-western
angle of the temple, not far from where another flight of steps ascended from
the platform to a portal adorned with two columns, which perhaps formed a small
propylaeum, communicating from the Hierum to the Acropolis.
There are no remains which can be safely ascribed to the temple of
Triptolemus, or to that of Poseidon. The well Callichorum may have been that which
is now seen not far from the foot of the northern side of the hill of Eleusis,
within the bifurcation of two roads leading to Megara and to Eleutherae, for near
it are the foundations of a wall and portico. Near Eleusis was the monument of
Tellus, mentioned by Herodotus (i. 30).
The town of Eleusis and its immediate neighbourhood were exposed to
inundations from the river Cephissus, which, though almost dry during the greater
part of the year, is sometimes swollen to such an extent as to spread itself over
a large part of the plain. Demosthenes alludes to inundations at Eleusis (c. Callicl.
p. 1279); and Hadrian raised some embankments in the plain in consequence of an
inundation which occurred while he was spending the winter at Athens (Euseb. Chron.
p. 81). In the plain about a mile to the south of Eleusis are the remains of two
ancient mounds, which are probably the embankments of Hadrian. To the same emperor
most likely Eleusis was indebted for a supply of good water by means of the aqueduct,
the ruins of which are still seen stretching across the plain from Eleusis in
a north-easterly direction. (Leake, Demi of Attica, p. 154, seq., from which the
greater part of the preceding account is taken.) The annexed coin represents on
the obverse Demeter in a chariot drawn by winged snakes, and holding in her hand
a bunch of corn, and on the reverse a sow, the animal usually sacrificed to Demeter.
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD)
Eleusis. Name of a city on the coast of the Saronic
Gulf, a few miles west of Athens
that became an Attic deme after having been annexed to Athens
in the later part of the VIIth century B. C.
Eleusis had been the location of a cult to Demeter, daughter of Cronus
and Rhea, goddess of agriculture, fertility and marriage, since very ancient times,
and was the site of one of her most famous sanctuaries. Because of her relationship
with Athens, Eleusis became
one of the major sacred places of Greece,
especially famed for its “Mysteries”. By Socrates and Plato's time,
the “Eleusinian mysteries” were an official festival of Athens
celebrated under the leadership of the Archon-King with the help of priests from
three noble families (genoi ) of Athens:
the hierophant, in charge of exhibiting the sacred objects (the hiera ), was from
the Eumolpidae (the “good singers”), the priestess of Demeter was
from the Philleidae and torch-bearers (dadouchoi ) from the Ceryces (the “heralds”).
These priests tracked their origins to Eumolpus, the Thracian king son of Poseidon
Eumolpus had lived in Eleusis at some point in time in his life and
had then befriended its citizens, who later, after he had become king in Thracia,
called upon him to help them in their war against Athens
and Erechtheus, a war won by Athens,
in which Eumolpus was killed. Eumolpus was sometimes said to have instituted the
mysteries of Eleusis. The Eumolpidae presented themselves as the offspring of
Eumolpus while the Ceryces pretended to descend from one of Eumolpus' sons named
The “Small Mysteries” were celebrated during the month
of Anthesterion (end of February, beginning of March) in honor of Persephone,
the daughter of Demeter and Zeus, abducted by Hades who made her his wife in the
underworld, and symbol of the seed that has to disappear within the soil before
bearing fruit. The “Great mysteries” were celebrated six months later,
during the month of Boedromion (end of September, beginning of October), in honor
of Demeter herself. The festival lasted 10 days. It included a procession from
the Eleusinion, a temple at the foot of the Acropolis
in Athens to the Telesterion
in Eleusis, along the “Sacred Way” and ended with rites reserved to
the initiates (the mystes) that lasted three days. The ultimate symbol of the
rite of initiation was an ear of wheat, and the mystes were promised some sort
of personnal survival after death in an everlasting life of happiness.
One noteworthy originality of the Eleusinian mysteries was that anybody
could become an initiate without regard to status: initiation was open to free
men and slaves alike, to men and women, Athenians and foreigners, despite the
fact that, unlike most other mystery cults of the time, the Eleusinian mysteries
had an official status in Athens.
Bernard Suzanne (page last updated 1998), ed.
This extract is cited July 2003 from the Plato and his dialogues URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks.