Eleusis is a magical place to visit in Greece.
Today, it’s actually a town about 11 miles northwest of Athens. In the past, it was home to the Eleusinian Mysteries, also known as the Mysteries of Demeter and Kore the Maiden (also known as Persephone), which revolved around the ancient Greek myth of Persephone, the Goddess of the Underworld. Parts of the legend took place in Eleusis.
Then there’s the ancient temple, the Nekromanteion (“the Oracle of the Dead”), dedicated to Hades and Persephone.
Ancient people used the temple for rituals to try to communicate with the dead.
Who Was Persephone?
Here's a quick review of the key facts about Persephone.
Persephone's appearance: Persephone appears as a beautiful young maiden, just on the edge of womanhood.
Persephone's symbol or attribute: The pomegranate. The narcissus, which Hades planted in a meadow to entice her to pluck it; pulling on the flower opened up the Underworld and Hades sprang out, carrying her off.
Her strengths: Loving and lovely.
Her weaknesses: Beauty so ravishing it attracts Hades' unwanted attention.
Persephone's spouse: Hades, with whom she must stay part of each year because she ate a few pomegranate seeds in the Underworld.
Some major temple sites: The spooky Nekromanteion, still visitable today; Eleusis, where her mother's "Mysteries" were celebrated for centuries.
Agia Kore or Saint Kore is a church built by a raging river near the village of Brontou in the foothills of Mount Olympus, and it is believed to mark an ancient temple to Persephone and Demeter.
Basic story: Hades springs out of the earth and captures Persephone, dragging her off to be his queen in the Underworld; her dad, Zeus, told him it was okay to take her as his bride, and Hades took him a bit literally. Hades was also her own uncle, which didn't make this exactly a myth of good family mental health.
Her distraught mother, Demeter, searches for her and stops all foods from growing until she is returned. Even Zeus has to give in and help work out a deal. One myth says Persephone stays one-third of the year with Hades, one-third of the year serving as a handmaiden to Zeus and one-third with her mother Demeter, an interesting ancient balancing of family, spouse and "career." The better-known tale equally divides her time just between hanging out with Mom and then ruling the underworld with Hades.
Interesting fact: Persephone is also sometimes known just as Kore or the Maiden. She was sometimes called "the maiden of the beautiful ankles." While most sources indicate Persephone was not happy to be "married" by Hades, others assert that she ate the pomegranate seed (or seeds) deliberately, as a way of breaking free from Mom and that she was actually content with the final arrangement.
Learn More About Persephone
- See art about Persephone.
- Learn more about Hades.
More Fast Facts on Greek Gods and Goddesses
- The Olympian Gods and Goddesses
- Greek Gods and Goddesses at Home
Plan Your Trip to Greece
Book your own day trips around Athens here.