The Ancient Library

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On this page: Eleusinia (continued)



panied by mystical rites, the nature of which is unknown. It was said to have been founded at the wish of Heracles, who, being a stranger, was excluded by usage from the greater Eleusinia. The great Eleusinia were celebrated in the middle of Boedromion (roughly = September), for a space probably of nine days. The first days were devoted to the preparation for the main festival, bathing in the sea, sacrifices of purification, and the like. On the sixth day, the 20th Boedromion, the immense multitude of mystcr,, in festal attire and crowned with myrtle, marched in proces­sion along the sacred way to Eleusis, pre­ceded by the image of lakchos, who gave his name to the celebration Much time

by the potion mixed of water, meal, and penny-royal, supposed to have been the first food tasted by Demeter after her re­ception in Eleusis. It was probably while these celebrations were going on that the Epoptce, and the MystCR who were called to their final initiation, took part in the mys­teries proper. Mysterious rites were first, it would seem, performed in darkness, which threw the celebrants into a state of painful suspense and expectation. Then, in a dazzling light, and amid great splendour, the Hierophantes showed them certain shrines of the goddess and lakchos, explaining their meaning; holy songs being meantime performed, partly by himself, partly by choirs with instrumental accom-

A, outer pertbSlOs; aa, inner peribolos; B, greater propylaa; C, lesser propyla , D, Great Temple of the Mysteries, with portico of Philon (183 ft. x 37i ft,), and Teles. tenon, or interior of the temple (178 ft. x 170 ft.), with eight rows of Beats, partly hewn out of the rock.— Unedited Antiquities of Attica, chap. i. 6.

was spent, partly in the performance of acts of devotion at the numerous holy places on the road, partly in merriment and banter; so that it was late in the evening before they arrived at the T&les-terKn, or house of initiation, at Eleusis. This was a magnificent temple erected by Pericles in place of the ancient temple of Demeter, which had been burnt down in the Persian War. During the following nights various celebrations took place at those spots in Eleusis and its neighbourhood which were hallowed in the story of the goddess. In these were represented the sorrowful searching of the goddess for her lost daughter, and the mother's joy at find­ing her. The transition from sorrow and fasting to joy and festivity was symbolized

paniment. The climax of the whole was the sacred drama, a representation of the story of the three goddesses in the worlds above and below. The festival was brought to a close by a libation of water from two vessels in the shape of a top (plemdchoe). The water was poured in the direction of east and west with mystical formulae.

The ancients speak of the revelations made in the mysteries as having a bene­ficial influence on morality, pointing as they did to reward and punishment after death. They represent them further as giving comfort in the trials and sufferings of life, and as opening brighter hopes after death. It is certain that there were few citizens of Athens who were not initiated ; many who neglected the rite early in life

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