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About the Project

This database consists of images of ancient inscriptions on stone from Eleusis. The images currently available are derived from photographs copyrighted by Professor Kevin Clinton (Department of Classics). Images from museums will be added as permission from the museums is granted; in the meantime only thumbnail views can be presented. All the photographs will be printed in Professor Clinton's edition of all documents of the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore and the public documents of the deme, currently being published by the Archaeological Society at Athens. See Eleusis, The Inscriptions on Stone: Documents of the Sanctuary of the Two Goddesses and Public Documents of the Deme, Volume IA (Text) and IB (Plates), Athens 2005 (ISSN 1105-7785, Set 960-8145-48-1, The Archaeological Society at Athens, Panepistimiou 22, Athens 106 72). Volume II (Commentary) is in press.

Significance of the Collection for Digital Scholarship

The documents are all from the sanctuary of the Eleusinian Mysteries, at Eleusis, a town belonging to Athens. "The Mysteries," as they were officially called, are usually recognized today, as they were in ancient times, as one of the most important religious cults in ancient Greece. Walter Burkert, for example, wrote: "The words mystical, mystery, mysterious are still common today. Their origins are in the ancient Greek cult, in particular the most famous one, the Eleusinian Mysteries" (Homo Necans, 248).

The festival culminated in secret rites within the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore at Eleusis, which was located about fourteen miles west of Athens. Hundreds of people from all over the Greek world converged annually on Athens and Eleusis to take part in the sacred rites over the course of a week, and they were pledged to secrecy on penalty of death. Cicero said of the Mysteries that Athens had given to mankind "nothing finer..., and as they are called an initiation (initia), so indeed do we learn in them the basic principles of life, and from them acquire not only a way of living in happiness but also a way of dying with greater hope" (De legibus, 2.36).

Several Roman emperors, including Augustus, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius, made the journey to Eleusis and became initiates. By the end of antiquity the Mysteries had left their mark on Christianity, certainly in terminology, such as "mystery" (the word for "sacrament" in the Greek Orthodox Church), "mystagogue," "mystic," and probably in other significant ways, which remain a subject of debate. Thus mystery ritual constitutes a tradition that extends, in varying form, from Archaic Greece to our own day.

Contact Information

Cornell University
Department of Classics
Goldwin Smith Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853

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