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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Museum at Eleusina is brimming with treasures excavated from the site. A model of the ancient city brings it to life.
Showcases of artifacts, displays of statues, and enormous vases breathe life into the city.
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.”
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/.