Return to Greece, 2016. Part Three: Eleusina, Ancient Mysteries

This is the third post in a series about my trip to Greece, June 30-July 20, 2016 — an amazing journey of history, family and discovery. Previous posts can be found here.

When my daughter, Kathy, requested that we visit Eleusina, I nonchalantly said, “sure,” not knowing anything about the history or mysteries of this ancient city. Some speed reading before our trip gave me a general overview, but it wasn’t until we set foot on this ground that I felt the power and spirit that emanates.

Peering into the ancient site of Eleusina, July 2016

Peering into the ancient site of Eleusina, July 2016

Giannis Michalakakos, Eleusina, July 2016

Giannis Michalakakos, Eleusina, July 2016

My friend, historian Giannis Michalakakos, kindly volunteered to be our guide. We were extremely grateful for his insights and knowledge–without which, our experience would not have been as rich or meaningful.Our photos could be mistaken for any ancient site without a brief summary of Eleusina:

The Eleusinian Mysteries, held each year at Eleusis, Greece, fourteen miles northwest of Athens, were so important to the Greeks that, until the arrival of the Romans, The Sacred Way (the road from Athens to Eleusis) was the only road, not a goat path, in all of central Greece. The mysteries celebrated the story of Demeter and Persephone but, as the initiated were sworn to secrecy on pain of death as to the details of the ritual, we do not know what form this celebration took. We do know, though, that those who participated in the mysteries were forever changed for the better and that they no longer feared death….Virtually every important writer in antiquity, anyone who was `anyone’, was an initiate of the  Mysteries1.

Wow! No wonder we felt a strong presence as we walked around fallen columns, peered into troughs and wells, tried to decipher ancient Greek inscriptions, and studied elaborately carved  edifices.

Eleusina ruins, July 2016

Eleusina ruins, July 2016

There are signs in Greek and English which describe the structures that had originally been on the site. Some signs have diagrams which enabled us to visualize the grandeur of the buildings.

Sign that explains, and diagram that depicts, the West Triumphal Arch. Eleusina, July 2016

Sign that explains, and diagram that depicts, the stately West Triumphal Arch. Eleusina, July 2016

The ancients were meticulous and elaborate stone masons. The carvings, even after 3,500 years, have retained their intricacy. One can only imagine the elegant edifices that enclosed the initiates as they performed sacred rites.

Masterpieces, carved by stone masons. Eleusina, July 2016

Masterpieces, carved by ancient artisans. Eleusina, July 2016

No ancient site is without its statues. Exploring the human experience lies at the heart of Greek philosophy, religion, and culture. Stately men and beautiful women grace monuments and temples, depicting God’s ultimate creations in man’s earthly kingdom. Their lives, conflicts, and loves are exhibited in intricate friezes and imposing sculptures.

Frieze, Eleusina, July 2016

Frieze, Eleusina, July 2016

 

Carving, Eleusina, July 2016

Carving, Eleusina, July 2016

 

Vase carving, Eleusina, July 2016

Vase carving, Eleusina, July 2016

 

Elegance. Eleusina, July 2016

Elegance. Eleusina, July 2016

 

The Museum at Eleusina is brimming with treasures excavated from the site. A model of the ancient city brings it to life.

Model of the ancient site. Eleusina, July 2016

Model of the ancient site. Eleusina museum, July 2016

 

Showcases of artifacts, displays of statues, and enormous vases breathe life into the city.

Artifacts excavated and showcased. Eleusina, July 2016

Artifacts excavated and showcased. Eleusina museum, July 2016

 

5001. Statuette of Dionysos holding a kantharos in his right hand. Roman period. Eleusina, July 2016

5001. Statuette of Dionysos holding a kantharos in his right hand. Roman period. Eleusina museum, July 2016

 

Eleusina museum c 07-02

Left: 5144. Portrait head of the emporer Hadyian, AD 117-138; 5262, marble head; 5286-5142-5143, three marble heads of bearded men. Eleusina museum, July 2016

Larger than life statue, with Kathy Lynard. Eleusina, July 2016

Larger than life statue, with Kathy Lynard. Eleusina museum, July 2016

Eleusina museum (2)

Vases used for both liquids and grains. Eleusina museum , July 2016

 

Experiencing Eleusina has given me the incentive to explore lesser-traveled sites and study diligently in preparation to visit them.

As Giannis so wisely counseled me, “Be a traveler, not a tourist.

l-r: Andrew Soper, Ben Soper, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Giannis Michalakakos. Eleusina, July 2016

l-r: Andrew Soper, Ben Soper, Carol Kostakos Petranek, Giannis Michalakakos. Eleusina, July 2016

 

1 Joshua J. Mark, “The Eleusinian Mysteries: The Rites of Demeter,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, last modified January 18, 2012, http://www.ancient.eu /article/32/.

Links for additional reading:  http://www.crystalinks.com/eleusinian.html
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Eleusinian-Mysteries
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleusinian_Mysteries

 

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