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ELEUSINA (ELEUSIS)

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Located 23 kilometres west of Athens, it was founded in the 2nd millennium BC; the sanctuary became pan-Hellenic in the 8th century BC. Today, the city haw mainly industrial character with obvious however indications of its older attributes, such as the aristocratic houses of the early 20th century (mainly on Pangalou Str and Nicolaidou Str), as well as the neighbourhoods with onestorey houses and the old industrial buildings. The district around the harbour, where ruins of the ancient breakwater are preserved, is also of interest. However, uninitiated visitors will not appreciate its glorious past, the history and the mythology regarding the local gods, the deities and the worship thereof.

Demeter and Persephone

The citizens of Eleusina worshipped Demeter, the goddess of nature, spring and agriculture. The myth of Demeter and her daughter Persephone is, like most myths, allegorical. It refers to the rebirth of plant life, following its ‘’death’’ in winter, and the eternal longing for immortality. According to a hymn of the 7th century B.C., one day the earth opened up in two, Plouton, the god of the underworld appeared, and seized the young Persephone. He took her to his kingdom and made her his wife. Her mother looked for her in despair. She looked for her nine days and nights, without success. She arrived despairing at the doorstep of the palace of Keleos, king of Eleusina. She became the nurse of his son, not revealing that she is a goddess. When her real identity was revealed, she requested that a temple be built in her honour. She remained in the temple, devastated by the loss of her daughter. The following year, not a seed grew on the world. Zeus was worried. He sent Hermes to appeal to Plouton. A compromise was reached: Persephone would remain in the kingdom of Plouton 1/3 of the year, and the remaining time she could stay with her mother. Overjoyed, Demeter allowed the plants and flowers to grow, and the earth became fruitful again.

The Mystreries of Eleusina

The Eleusinian mysteries were named mysteries because the most important part of the event, involved intense mysticism, We don’t know much about the worship of Demeter by thousands of people over 15 centuries. The Great Eleusinian Mysteries had their starting point in Eleusina. The remarkable procession moved on to Athens through the Sacred Way and headed by the priestess and the sacred symbols of the worship of Demeter. The Mysteries were concluded with ceremonies in honour of the dead. After the ceremony, Athenians returned to Athens. The Eleusinian mysteries were abolished in the 4th century BC by the Byzantine emperor Theodosios.

THE SIGHTS

The Archaeological site

During your visit, bear in mind that the greater part of the area was avaton – a place inaccessible to the uninitiated – for many centuries. Worth seeing are the remains of the Telestirion (ceremonial chamber), also known as the lero ton Mystirion, located in the centre of the area, the leri Avli (Sacred Ciurtyard), the Great and Small Propylaea and Ploutoneio.

The Archaeological Museum

Displayed at the Museum of Eleusina are the finds of the digs of the sanctuary and the western cemetery. Worth seeing is the Early-Attic Amphora of Eleusina (650 BC). The neck of the amphora is decorated by a depiction of the blinding of the Cyclops Polyphimos by Ulysses. On the main body of the amphora, Perseus beheads Medousa. Also worth seeing is the Kori from the pediment of the leri Oikia (leri Oikia in Greek means Sacred House)(490-480 BC). It is the statue of a running maiden, her head turned to the left.

West Cemetery

Located near the archaeological site, it was the most significant necropolis of the the ancient city. A conglomeration of prehistoric graves, presumably belonging to the personage of the tragedy Hepta epi Thebas (Seven against Thebes)

Roman Bridge

Located on the east entrance of the city (near the highway Athens-Corinth). Dating to the 2nd century A.D. it is a 50 m. long bridge made of stone and it was part of the Sacred Way. Also, in central parts of the city, sections of the Roman Aqueduct (125 A.D.) are preserved.

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