Eleusis - History and Facts | History Hit

Eleusis

Eleusis, Attica, Greece

An archaeological site of great national importance, the Greco-Roman ruins at Eleusis are beautifully preserved and steeped in the richness of Greek mythology.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020

About Eleusis

Eleusis archaeological site contains a range of impressive Greco-Roman ruins, steeped in the richness of Greek mythology.

Eleusis history

Due to its key role in the religious and thus, political life, in the ancient world, control of Eleusis was considered vital and was sought after by many great powers. Moreover, its geographical location was of great importance, connecting Peloponnese with Athens. The city’s prominent location meant that many monuments and temples were built in the city to impress travellers.

Surrounded on all sides by a thriving modern industrial town, the site of Eleusis is renowned as the home of the Eleusinian Mysteries, a series of annual initiation ceremonies for the cult of Demeter and Persephone which ranked among the most sacred religious rites of ancient Greece.

Eleusis was independent until the 7th century BC, when Athens annexed the city and made the Eleusinian Mysteries a major Athenian religious festival. After the Peloponnesian War, when the Thirty Tyrants were expelled from Athens and briefly occupied Eleusis, the city was again independent in 403 BC, but Athenian hegemony was restored within two years. The Gothic leader Alaric destroyed Eleusis in AD 395, and the site remained deserted until the 18th century, when it was revived as the modern town of Eleusis, now an industrial suburb of Athens.

The site was also the birthplace of Aeschylus, a playwright who is known as the ‘father of tragedy’ and whose plays are still performed and read.

Eleusis today

Today, the Eleusis archaeological site houses a number of important ruins including the Sacred Court, a Roman reproduction of Hadrian’s Arch in Athens and the Kallichoron Well, according to the Homeric Hymn, the resting place of Demeter. There is also a museum located on-site which gives more detail on the history of Eleusis and provides further explanation on the myths associated with the site.

Getting to Eleusis

Today, the city has become a suburb of Athens, to which it is linked by the freeway, the Athens metropolitan freeway (Attiki Odos), and Athens metro. A toll post named after the community is on the westbound lanes of GR-8A. North of Eleusis are Mandra and Magoula, while Aspropyrgos is to the northeast. The town lies at the northern apex of the Gulf of Eleusina.

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