Eleusis

ELEUSIS ĕl u’ sĭs (̓Ελευσίς). A town fourteen m. W of Athens on the bay of Salamis and opposite the island.

A wealthy and independent town in the 8th and 7th centuries b.c. it later became a part of the city-state of Athens. It was the seat of the cult of Demeter and Persephone. Numerous archeological remains of all periods from the Mycenaean period to Rom. times survive. Most important are the temple and sacred precinct of the mystery cult.

The ceremony connected with the worship of the goddess and her daughter was elaborate, and aimed at stirring the emotions and promoting a feeling of purification and regeneration. Little is known of the rite, but it is likely that part of it involved the elevation of a sheaf of wheat, which symbolized death and rebirth. This may be the explanation of Christ’s remark, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).