Eleusis (modern Elefsina) stands in a flat part of ASttica known as the Thriasian Plain. Human habitation in the area dates back to the Bronze Age, and the influence of Athens began in Mycenean times. In antiquity, Eleusis was the setting for mystical rites in honour of the deity Demeter, goddess of agriculture. The ceremonies had their beginnings in the myth according to which Demeter’s daughter Persephone was abducted by Pluto, king of the underworld. After nine days of searching for her daughter, Demeter arrived in Eleusis, where she was treated kindly by Celeus, the king. With the mediation of Zeus, agreement was reached that Persephone would be allowed to return to her mother – but only for six months of the year, staying in Hades for the rest of her time. The Eleusians set up a sanctuary in honour of Demeter and her daughter, and the mysteries were performed their without interruption into Roman times. The Eleusinian Mysteries, which attracted initiates from all over the Greek world, lasted nine days. They began with a procession which made its way down the Sacred Way to Athens, returning to the sanctuary of the goddess after purification and sacrifices.
The Mysteries were held in the building called the Telesterium, and they seem to have created in the initiates a sense of heightened tension with spiritual and intellectual elevation. Even today, we do not know exactly what took place during the Mysteries. On the site in Elefsina, which is now a modern industrial city, there are remains of the Telesterium and of many other buildings connected with the rites. The Archaeological Museum of the town has important finds from the site.