Adapted from Eyewitness Travel Guide, Greece

 
 
Site Plan of Ancient Eleusis

(from http://www.utexas.edu/courses/introtogreece/lect18/img8eleusplan.html)

 

  • for nearly 2000 years Eleusis was the site of the most celebrated initiation rites in the ancient world

  • said to have been established by Demeter

  • rites based on story of Persephone (Kore) and Demeter

  • initiates sacrificed, fasted, paraded, were ritually cleansed, re-enacted the goddesses’ story, repeated sayings, were shown sacred items, and were sworn to secrecy
    • mysterion = “the thing you don’t talk about”
    • very little written in antiquity about rites


    

  • Demeter is said to have sat here while grieving for her lost daughter, Persephone


    

  • built 2nd century A. D. by Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius

  • made of pentelic marble

  • patterned after propylaia of Athenian Acropolis


    

  • only fragments remain, with reliefs of grain and poppies


    

  • cave, which was a sanctuary of Hades, the uncle and abductor of Persephone

  • said to be the place were Persephone was returned to the Earth


    

  • name from Greek teleio (‘complete’, ‘fulfill’, ‘initiate’)

  • sight of the conclusion of the mysteries

  • built 5th century B. C.

  • designed by Iktinos (one of the architects of the Parthenon)

  • could house several thousand people

  • destroyed by Persians in 480 B. C.
    • rebuilt by Pericles

  • in 318 B. C., Philon added portico with 12 Doric columns

  • destroyed by Costoboci in A. D. 170
    • rebuilt by Marcus Aurelius

  • permanently destroyed by Alaric the Visigoth in A. D. 396


    

  • name means ‘palace’, ‘king’s place’

  • small, rectangular building of stone

  • holiest part of site

  • Telesterion was built around it

  • housed sacred objects that were shown to initiates

  • only officials of the mysteries could enter the Anaktoron