|view towards the Greater Propylaea|
Today our final destination and the climax of our pilgrimage is
Corinth, (it was a very special place for Paul as well - he stayed for one and a half years here plying his trade as a tentmaker and taking full advantage of the reception given to his missionary activities especially by the pagan Gentiles).
But first we visit Eleusis.
So we arrive. Wow! Today the town has become a suburb of Athens and the archaeological remains of this important site, first inhabited during the period 1900 - 1500 BC. when it was more important than Athens, is now surrounded by industrial estates and close to the largest oil refinery site in Greece, where the majority of the country's crude oil is imported. Small wonder that many tourists just drive by on the nearby motorway with scarcely a sideways glance, but it is worth much more attention than that.
The extensive temple ruins here are famous for being the site of the Eleusinian Mysteries, one of the most important religious initiation ceremonies of the Ancient Greeks, held annually since the Mycenian period (c. 1600 - 1100 BC) celebrating the myth of the abduction of Persephone from her mother Demeter by the God of the Underworld Hades. Mara tells us of this myth of Persephone - as we drive to the site. The cult of Demeter and Persephone may have been based on an ancient agrarian cult, the myth being used by the Greeks to explain the different seasons of the year. The secret rites, complex ceremonies and sacred meals were thought to confer rewards to the initiated in the after-life and it is possible, according to some scholars, that psychedelic drugs would have been brought into use to induce visions. It is also thought that these experiences could have influenced the early Christians and even have links with our Eucharistic traditions taught by Christ.
We are driving along the route of the sacred path that Athenians would have taken to
Eleusis. They would have stopped frequently for dancing and making sacrifices along the way. This is one of the few sites not given over by Greeks to archaeological experts from other countries.
|Marble sarcophagus of Roman Times (2nd century A.D.) |
with a scene of the hunting of the Calydonian Boar
on the front
Dean Inge, William Ralph Inge, formerly of St Pauls Cathedral, London, in a series of divinity lectures on Christian mysticism delivered in the late nineteenth century, (now available in digitally remastered book form )
|Eleusis amphora from 7th c. BC|
Dionysius the Areopagite, one of the founders of mystical Christianity, may have been initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries and therefore he was ready for Pauls' further insight into the mysteries of Christ, for example when Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15: 51-58:
|1st c. BC Caryatid in museum|
Here I find my first wonderfully "thin" place, Delphi running a close second. The spirituality is palpable. Perhaps we are the only ones here at the moment. There is clearly much excavation work to do and it seems that the Greeks are very clued up to saving valuable archaeological evidence whenever there are new projects in hand.
There is a fabulous albeit small museum, not to be missed, where the most priceless artefacts from the site are stored. It is small but well worth the visit for all the statues, vases, friezes and many small objects on display. On pressing, the shop produces an excellent English guide which many of us buy for further reading.
The breeze here at
is cool and gives a pleasant relief from the heat for many, although I am one
of the fortunate ones as I have not been overly bothered by this week's
temperatures in the mid 30s. It is such a dry heat, not the enervating humid
sticky heat of so many other places.
We move on towards Corinth...
We move on towards Corinth...