The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.

On this page: Eleusinia



and in this state became dangerous to

friends as well as enemies. Combats of elephants, however, were always the central attraction in the fights of wild animals in the games of the circus, and, from the time of Augustus, the chariots which bore the images of the deified emperors were drawn by elephants in the solemn procession.

Eleusinla. The two mystic festivals of Demeter and her daughter Persephone (COre) celebrated in Attica. They took their name from the city of Eleusis, twelve miles distant from Athens. This was, from time immemorial, a seat of the worship of Demeter, instituted, it was said, by the goddess herself after the disappearance of her daughter. (See demeter.) The wor­ship of Dionysus was early associated with that of the two goddesses of the earth, for Dionysus was himself a god of fertility, worshipped here under the name of lakchSs, as son of Zeus and Demeter or Persephone. The ritual of the Eleusinian service was supposed to have been ordained by Eumol-pus (see eumolpus). The conquest of Eleusis, which took place, according to the story, under king Erechtheus, gave Athens a right to take part in the solemnity, and the lesser of the two festivals was actually celebrated in Athens. Eleusis, however, continued to be the chief seat of the wor­ship, and the highest priesthoods were hereditary in the Eleusinian families of the Eumolpidae and Kerykes. The sanctity which shrouded the Eleusiniau mysteries occasioned the foundation of Eleusinia on their model in other Greek cities. But the initiations at Eleusis were always accounted the most sacred and the most efficacious. The events celebrated in the mysteries were the descent of Persephone into the world below, and her return to light and to her mother. The former was celebrated at the greater Eleusinia between autumn and seed-time; the latter in spring at the lesser Eleusinia. The symbolical representation of both events had the same object. This was to excite and strengthen in the minds of the initiated, by means of the story of Persephone, the faith in the continuance of life, and a system of rewards and punish­ments after death. The right of initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries was in all probability restricted originally to inhabi­tants of Attica, but it was not long before it was extended to all Greeks. In later times, after their closer connexion with the Greeks, the Romans were also admitted. Barbarians were excluded, and so were all

who had been guilty of murder, or any other serious offence. The neophyte was proposed for initiation by an Athenian citizen who had himself been initiated. He was admitted first to the lesser mysteries at the lesser Eleusinia. At this stage the candidates were termed Mysta;, and were allowed to take a limited part in the greater Eleu­sinia the next autumn. They were not initiated, however, into the greater mys­teries- until the greater Eleusinia succeed­ing these ; and after their initiation were called Spoptcc, or seers. The external arrangement of the festival was in the hands of the second archon, or Archon Basileus, who exercised a general superin­tendence over the whole of the public wor­ship. He was assisted by four overseers (gpimZletoi), two of whom were elected from the whole body of citizens, and two from the Eleusinian families of the Eumolpidae and Kerykes.1 The high-priestly officials, who carried out the liturgical functions at the celebration, were also chosen from these two families. The HierSphantes, or chiei priest, belonged to the house of Eumolpus. It was his duty to exhibit to the initiated the mysterious shrines, and probably to lead the performance of the hymns hauded down from his ancestors. The Keryx, 01 herald, was of the house of the Kerykes. He summoned the initiated, in the traditional form of words, to wor­ship, pronouncing for them the form of prayer. The Daduchfis or torch-bearer, and the superinten­dent of the sacri­fice, were also im­portant officials.


(Vase from Kertcb ; Gerhard,

Set. Mh., taf. 77.)

The lesser Eleusinia were celebrated in the month Anthes-terion, which

corresponded roughly to February.

The service was performed at Agrae, a suburb of Athens on the Ilissus, in the temple of Demeter and Core, and accom-

1 Keryx was, according to one account, repre­sented as the son of Hermes and Aglauros, daughter of Cecrops, according to another, one of the sons of Eumolpus-

About | First | Index



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.