Learn More About Persephone Before Your Visit to Eleusis

View of the historical site and town at Eleusis, Greece
 miriam.mollerus / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Eleusis is a magical place to visit in Greece. Today it's a town about 11 miles northwest of Athens, but in the past, it was home to the Eleusinian Mysteries. These mysteries revolved around the ancient Greek myth of Persephone, the Goddess of the Underworld. According to legend, parts of the mysteries took place in Eleusis.

In addition to this connection with the legend, there is also an ancient temple in the town.

The Nekromanteion (“the Oracle of the Dead”), dedicated to both Hades and Persephone, was used by ancient people in rituals to try to communicate with the dead.

Myth of Persephone

Persephone is sometimes known just as Kore or the Maiden and she was sometimes called "the maiden of the beautiful ankles." She appears as a beautiful young maiden, just on the edge of womanhood. Known as a lovely and loving goddess, her beauty was so ravishing it attracted the unwanted attention of Hades.

Symbols of Persephone include the narcissus and the pomegranate. According to the story, Hades planted narcissus flowers to entice Persephone. When she stopped to pluck the flowers, he sprang out of the earth and captured her, dragging her off to be his queen in the Underworld. Hades was Persephone's uncle and her dad, Zeus, had given him permission to take her as his bride. Hades fed her pomegranate seeds in the Underworld, forever tying her to that place.

Her mother, Demeter, searched for her and, in her distress, stopped all food from growing on Earth.

While most sources indicate Persephone was not happy to be "married" by Hades, others assert that she ate the pomegranate seeds deliberately, as a way of breaking free from her mother. As the crops of the Earth withered, Zeus had to intercede and he helped work out a deal with Hades.

 One myth says Persephone had to stay one-third of the year with her husband, Hades; one-third of the year serving as a handmaiden to Zeus; and one-third with her mother. The better-known tale equally divides her time just between Demeter and Hades.

Temples of Persephone

Eleusis and the spooky Nekromanteion can be visited by travelers even today. Agia Kore—or Saint Kore—is a church built by a raging river near the village of Brontou in the foothills of Mount Olympus. This site is believed to mark an ancient temple to Persephone and Demeter.