The Ancient City of Athens
Eleusinion in the City
(City Eleusinion)

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This site was created for educational purposes by Kevin T. Glowacki. All content on this website (including text and photographs), unless otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

The City Eleusinion was one of the most important sanctuaries in the religious life of the ancient Athenians.  As the urban “branch” of the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore at Eleusis, the City Eleusinion played a key role in the initial stages of the Greater Mysteries held each fall in the month of Boedromion (corresponding to September in the modern calendar).  This festival commemorated Demeter’s search for and reunification with her daughter Kore (Persephone), who had been abducted by Hades/Plouton and taken to the Underworld. Those initiated into the Mysteries were promised a better condition in the afterlife. Originally open only to Greek men and women, the Eleusinian Mysteries later included foreigners who spoke Greek, and eventually became one of the most famous religious festivals in antiquity.  It is likely that City Eleusinion was also one of multiple locations in Athens used for celebrations of the Thesmophoria, an ancient festival of Demeter and Kore celebrated throughout the Greek world but open only to the women of each community. In contrast to the Eleusinian Mysteries, which centered on a shared religious experience and hope for a better afterlife, the festival of the Thesmophoria focused more directly on rituals designed to guarantee the fertility of both women and crops.

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Select Bibliography:
  • Clinton, K. 1974. The Sacred Officials of the Eleusinian Mysteries [TAPS 64.3], Philadelphia.
  • Clinton, K. 1992. Myth and Cult: The Iconography of the Eleusinian Mysteries, Stockholm.
  • Cole, S.G. 1994. "Demeter in the Ancient Greek City and Its Countryside," in Placing the Gods: Sanctuaries and Sacred Spaces in Ancient Greece, S.E. Alcock and R. Osborne, eds., Oxford, pp. 199-216.
  • Miles, M. 1998. Agora 31: The City Eleusinion, Princeton. (The official publication of the excavations in the City Eleusinion. Extensive bibliography.)
  • Thompson, H.A, and Wycherley, R.E. 1972. Agora 14: The Agora of Athens, Princeton.
  • Wycherley, R.E. 1957. Agora 3: Literary and Epigraphical Testimonia, Princeton.

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