Classical Wisdom Litterae - August 2021

LITTERAE / ISSUE 64 9 C onjuring up images of se- cret initiation rites held under cover of darkness, Demeter’s Rites of Eleusis, better known as the Eleusinian Mysteries, reputedly had its foundations in Myce- nae. One of the most ac- claimed religious festivals in ancient Greece, and later in Rome, the Mys- teries was more than just a festival; it was part of the country’s civic iden- tity. In fact, its rituals were so secret that the Greek tragedian Aeschylus (525–455 BCE) was nearly killed on stage just for referencing them. But what were the Mysteries and why were they so popular?