Eleusis. The great mysteries

Absolute secrecy was demanded by the goddess Demeter to the Eleusinians for the sacred ceremonies and the reputed mysteries that taught to them along with the cultivation of the earth. By worshiping the goddess of vegetation, the Sanctuary of Eleusis was featured as one of the most important religion centers of the ancient world having the Eleusinian Mysteries fascinating the entire well known world. Without, of course, revealing their secrets, in which the new periodical exhibition of the Acropolis Museum entitled "Eleusis. The great mysteries" is dedicated. The exhibition is conducted with the collaboration of the Acropolis Museum and the Ephorate of Antiquities of West Attica and it will be open from February 26 until May 31 2018.

"The exhibitions’ goal is to make the visitor understand what the sacramental ceremonies, taking place in Eleusinion of Athens during antiquity, were

Ανάγλυφο με παράσταση Δήμητρας και Κόρης, 1ο μισό 5ου αιώνα π.Χ. © Μουσείο Ακρόπολης. Φωτογραφίες Σωκράτης Μαυρομμάτης.

The exhibition’s goal is to make the visitors understand what the Eleusis was, the sacramental ceremonies that celebrated there along with their twin worships at Eleusinion, a sanctuary built on the northwest edge of Acropolis of Athens. This means that the exhibition “connects the Eleusinian Mysteries with Athens and Acropolis”, which consists of its special feature, as the president of Acropolis Museum, Dimitrios Pandermalis mentions. The Sanctuary of Athena, the first Pan-Hellenic sanctuary, has also a connection with the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Eleusis since the late 7th c. B.C.

Eleusis – Athens
Eleusis was sharing the Eleusinian Mysteries celebration with Athens in which the ceremonies of the first four days were taking place before they were transferred to the former with a splendid procession in the Sacred Way. The secret “sacred” of the Mysteries which were kept at the Athenian Eleusinion were transported to Athens inside hermetical closed ceremonial vessels before the beginning of the celebration. All men, women and slaves, except barbarians (due to the difficulties of understanding the language), could have been initiated in the mysteries, provided that they fulfilled certain conditions. And, of course, the pilgrims obeyed the state's rules which forbid the disclosure of Mysteries secret. This also was dictated by god’s respect while it is also possible that the secrets of the Eleusinian Mysteries could not be revealed as an "unstated experience that could not be described in words", as Mrs. Kalliope Papangeli, Director of the Ephorate Of Antiquities of West Attica said.

"The exhibition hosts the most important artifacts found n Eleusis. Amongst them the unique statue of the Fleeing Persephone and the early classical relief with the depiction of Demeter and Kore

The Fleeing Persephone, 1st half of the 5th c. B.C. © Acropolis Museum. Photographs by Socrates Maurommatis.

The exhibition was preparing for two years and hosts the most important artifacts brought to light by the archaeological excavation in Eleusis. Amongst them the unique statue of the Fleeing Kore, the early classical relief with the depiction of Demeter and Kore, ceremonial vessels as kernos, plemochoe and thymiaterion, as well as other monuments depicting the leading figures of the great mysteries: Hierophant and Dadouchos.

Following the tracks of the celebratory procession which started from Athens with a host of initiates and candidates for initiation walking in Sacred Way a 20km –distance and ended up in the Eleusis, the exhibition presents findings from there. Before the visitor crosses the entrance, he sees a relief from the area of Eleusinion and distinctive findings from the Sanctuary of Aphrodite, which is located next to the Sacred Way at the area of Daphne.

Information: Temporary exhibition “Eleusis. The great Mysteries”, Acropolis Museum, 15 Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, Athens, Duration: Monday, 26 February-Saturday, 30 June, 2018.

Kernos, ceremonial vessel from Eleusis. © Acropolis Museum. Photographs by Socrates Maurommatis.

In the form of Telesterion
The exhibition hall was designed to simulate the Eleusis’ Telesterion in which the initiates made an entrance with the building of the dark palace in miniaturization to accommodate a fifteen minute video by Kostas Arvanitakis. Aerial photographs of the Sacred Way, representations, mock -ups, photographs from the archaeological site of Eleusis and emblematic exhibits give the visitor a holistic view of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which preserve their myth up to present. Let us add that the exhibition is a good precursor to what we will see in 2021, when Eleusis will be the European Capital of Culture.


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