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The settlement of Eleusis was founded in ca. 2000 B.C. on the
slopes of the hill, and during the Mycenaean period it developed into
a large fortified settlement, mostly due to its strategic position.
During this period the cult of Demeter was introduced, as the
worship of a deity connected to nature and the growing of cereals.
The continuity of Demeter's cult is attested until Roman times, by
the erection of successive temples on the east side of the hill.
In the 8th century B.C. the sanctuary aquired a panhellenic
character, and in the time of Solon, the Eleusinian Mysteries were
established as one of the most important Athenian festivals. During
the tyranny of Peisitratos the sanctuary and the settlement were
enclosed with a massive fortification wall reinforced with towers.
Splendid buildings were erected during the Classical and Roman
periods, but with the spread of Christianity and especially after the
invasion of the Ostrogoths, the sanctuary was abandoned.
TELESTERION=Temple of Demeter
The Telesterion itself was unique compared to any other Greek
temple. Its seats were cut into the rock itself, and it was designed
to hold the large number of initiates in the darkness so that they
would experience the "things said, things done, and things
The Telesterion does not have the columns and sculpture we
associate with Greek sacred architecture.
Large square hall with six entrances, two on each of the three sides,
and eight tiers of seats along all of the four sides, where the
initiates sat (only their foundations are preserved today). The centre
of the hall was occupied by the "megaron", the adyton of the
Eleusenian cult, where only the hierophantes (the high priest) was
allowed to enter in order to perform the mysteric rites. Several
architectural phases are distinguished in the building, dated from
the 5th century B.C. until the 2nd century A.D.
Telesterion _Demeter’s temple=
Eleusis, plan and reconstruction
Reconstruction of the entrance to
the Eleusis precinct (left) what
survives now- Built in Roman times
Eleusinian Mysteries
The Eleusinian Mysteries were a cult associated with the god Demeter and
her daughter Persephone. The cult rites were performed at Eleusis because
it was there, according to the myths, that Demeter found her daughter
again after Persephone had been carried off by HADES. Though the
Mysteries may have been performed earlier, it was during the Classical
period that they attained a special place in the religious life of Athens.
 There are frequent references to the Mysteries in ancient writers,
inscriptions, prosopographies of priests, and art. Yet the precise
reconstruction of the rite and its philosophical underlay is extremely
difficult. The basic reason for this is that a veil of secrecy surrounded the
proceedings, inasmuch as the initiates pledged themselves not to make
them common knowledge. Hints can be gleaned from Plutarch, when he
refers in his Life of Alcibiades to an attempt - "sacrilegious and ill-tuned " he and some friends had made to copy the Eleusinian Mysteries and guy
them in the privacy of their homes. From the archaeological data we have
details about the place and the building in which the Mysteries were
celebrated - the great Telesterium at Eleusis.
The festival of the Mysteria took place every
year in the month Boedromion (late September).
Organizing it was the privilege of two famous
clans: the Eumolpids and the Kerykes. The
hierophant - the person presiding over the
secret rites - was always a Eumolpid; while the
dadouchos (torchholder) - who played a key part
in the process of initiation - and the hierokeryx
(sacred herald) were always Kerykes. The
female priest of Demeter worked closely
together with the hierophant, residing
permanently in the shrine of Eleusis.
Votive clay tablet of
Ninnius, with scenes of
Eleusinian worship.
(Bottom): Iacchus leading
the initiates to Demeter
in the preliminary stage
of the Eleusinian
Mysteries. (Top):
Persephone leading the
initiates to Demeter at
the 'Mysteries-in-theFields'. First half of the
fourth [4th] century B.C.
Athens, National
Archaeological Museum