Eleusis Tourist Attractions
Within the present-day industrial town of Elefsína, on the coast 22km/14mi west of central Athens, is the site of ancient Eleusis, home of the Eleusinian mysteries, an important sanctuary dating back to Mycenaean times.The Eleusinian cult arose out of the myth of the goddess Demeter, who lamented at the Kallichoros well here the loss of her daughter Persephone, abducted by Hades; and no corn grew until Zeus commanded that Persephone should be allowed to return annually in spring. Demeter thereupon established the Eleusinian mysteries, in which she was honored as the granter of fertility and Persephone (also known as Kore, the Maiden) as an annually returning vegetation goddess.The initiates of the mysteries, who were admitted in two stages to the Lesser and the Greater Eleusinia, appear to have been given the promise not only of the annual renewal of nature but also of a resurrection.The Aiskhylia festival, with ancient dramas, are held on the site annually in August and September.
From the entrance to the site of Eleusis we come first to remains dating from the Roman period - two triumphal arches and between them the Greater Propylaia, a gateway in the old precinct wall of the sanctuary built in the reign of Antoninus Pius (A.D. 138-161) in imitation of the Propylaia on the Acropolis of Athens. The pediment was set to the right of the entrance, which was approached by a broad flight of steps. In the interior of the marble Propylaia are five gateways.
To the south of the Propylaia (outside the precinct wall) at Eleusis and on a lower level can be seen the circular mouth of the Kallichoron well at which Demeter lamented the loss of her daughter. In order to avoid disturbing this ancient structure the base of the Propylaia was cut away. Behind the well is the polygonal wall built by Kimon in the fifth century B.C.
Beyond the Greater Propylaia at Eleusis we come to the Lesser Propylaia (54 B.C.). To the right, on the slopes of the hill on which the ancient city lay, is the Cave of Pluto, the legendary entrance to the underworld.On the hill is a chapel of the Panayía (Mother of God), occupying the site of a Roman megaron. From here the Sacred Way leads past an altar on the right to the central feature of the sanctuary, the Telesterion.
The central feature of the sanctuary at Eleusis is the Telesterion. In this hall, concealed from the eye of the non-initiate, the mysteries were celebrated. The Solonic Telesterion was erected about 600 B.C. on the site of a small Mycenaean temple of the 14th century B.C., with an Anaktoron (holy of holies) which remained until Roman times the central element in the structure. Remains of these earlier buildings were found near the east corner of the Telesterion.Various additions and alterations were carried out in the sixth and fifth centuries. Peisistratos enlarged the Telesterion into a square structure measuring 27m/89ft each way, with five rows of five columns supporting the roof. After suffering damage during the Persian wars the building was enlarged again by Kimon, to become a rectangular structure 27m/89ft by 44m/144ft, with three rows of seven columns. Finally Pericles restored the square plan, with the dimensions that can be seen today (54m/177ft by 52m/171ft) and seven rows of six columns (traces of which can be seen on the ground).Between 330 and 310 B.C. the Portico of Philo was added on the southeast side. Round the hall ran tiers of seating, those hewn from the rocky hillside being still preserved.Recent Greek excavations have identified the position of the Anaktoron.
The Sanctuary of Demeter is complex with the remains of structures and a history dating back to the 14th C B.C.
The Aiskhylia festival, with ancient dramas, is held on the site annually in August and September.
A folkloric festival is held in Eleusis every May.
Map of Eleusis Attractions