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CHAP. VII.

The Ceremonies peculiar to each Day of the Greater Mysteries, as enume

rated by Meursius, and an Attempt to explain the Exhibitions in the Propylæa. --- Characters assumed by the Priests. These Characters discovered on a Sicilian Vase, illustrating the Mysteries of the Idæi Dactyli.

But it was more particularly by the splendour and secrecy of the Greater Mysteries, that the priests at Eleusis contrived to excite the curiosity of their countrymen, and to convene both sexes, from every part of Greece, at the time of their annual celebration. The exhibition lasted nine days. But the designation of each day's employment, as collected by Meursius from ancient authorities, evidently refers to very little more than introductory rites, and only partially to the mysterious display within the temple.

According to Meursius, the first of these days was termed équipeos, the general meeting, in which it may be conceived, that those who had been admitted to the lesser mysteries at Agra, were questioned very strictly as to their several qualifications ; and this, I imagine, must have taken place in the small temple of Diana Propylæa, which stood before the outer propylæa, or portal of entrance to the first enclosure of the temple at Eleusis. See the unedited Antiquities of Attica, published by the Society of Dilettanti in London, chap. i. plate 111. E.

The second is supposed by Meursius to have been employed in a procession to the sea, to which the mystä were encouraged by the exclamation άλατε μύς αι. I have already suggested the probability of the statue of the goddess, alluded to by Themistius, being then committed to the sea, like the Durga of the Hindus; and I may add, like the Adonis at Alexandria, which was allegorical of a descent to Hades, and was considered to be an apaviruos or disappearance of this allegorical representative of Nature. The manner of the appearance, and the stage on which the figure was exhibited may be conjectured from the passage of Themistius, above referred to, considered in connection with the observations of the English dilettanti, respecting the topography of Eleusis.

Themistius illustrates his father's expositions of the Aristotelic philosophy, by the priest throwing open the propylæa of the temple at Eleusis ; whereupon the statue of the goddess, under a burst of light, appeared in full splendour, and the gloom and utter darkness in which the spectators had been enveloped, were dispelled.

These propylæa must necessarily be the second portals, at the entrance to the inner enclosure of the temple. The foundations of them as detailed in the Unedited Antiquities of Attica, exhibit the vestiges of a theatre, and of theatrical mechanism. Upon this supposition, the mystæ, after delivering the satisfactory proofs of their moral purity, and previous initiation, in the temple of Dianu Propylæa, would have been allowed to pass through the first propylæa; and upon their descending the steps of the inner façade of that building, the second propylæa would appear, but placed obliquely. The intervening breadth of ground would be the spot to be occupied by the spectators. Before them would have been a pavement elevated by two steps above the level of the area of the outer enclosure, 40 feet 3 inches wide, fenced in by walls on each side, but open toward the spectators, and covered with a ceiling or roof, as may be suspected from the bases of three columns ranging in depth along the walls on each side, which must have been designed to support a ceiling. Such a covering would have been necessary to darken the front of the stage. The ground plan in the before-cited work exhibits the vestiges of two columns in the centre of the pavement, at a depth of about 20 feet from the front of it, and advanced before the façade of the second propylæa, which formed, as it were, the

scene, separated also from the façade by an inclined plane, upon a descent of 16 inches in 18 feet, which are about the length of it. In this inclined plane two parallel grooves, or ruts for wheels, are channelled, of considerable depth. This very gentle descent was calculated only for the gradual movement of the object to be advanced by means of it. The central gateway, thus elevated 16 inches above the pavement, exhibits two grooves in its level Aloor, each describing the quadrant of a circle, for the doors to traverse, upon their being thrown open internally. Hereupon we may conclude, the statue of the goddess, lodged in this central recess, must have been drawn forward, and lowered down the inclined plane to its extreme station, between the two before-mentioned columns. Two wings were added to the central gateway; but from the remains of walls extant in front, and a window frame found near them, the scientific authors of the work alluded to were induced to believe that they were not designed for passages of entrance.

It is therefore probable, that the lights by which the central recess was illumined, were disposed within these wings, and that the grooves in the pavement, and the plug holes yet extant, were designed for supporting mirrors, and machinery by which those mirrors were to be adjusted. A semi-transparent curtain was probably stretched across the opening * between the two columns; and the object intended by thus advancing the illumined statue, must have been to increase the splendour of it gradually until it should be brought to the greatest possible degree of brilliancy. If the supposed transparent curtain had been formed of plates of horn, we might then imagine the folding doors of the portal itself to have been veneered with ivory; and a satisfactory account might be rendered for the allusion of Virgil to the actual vision of the goddess at the first portal, which would have appeared as an unsubstantial dream to those who had been afterwards admitted by a free passage through the second.

* This opening was about 11 feet 6 inches wide.

According to the foregoing speculation, the propylæa of the inner peribolos, or enclosure of the temple, would have been obstructed by this machinery until the close of the second day. The procession to the sea would take place on the conclusion of this scenic exhibition ; and on the third day, these obstructions being removed, the inner propylæa would have been open for the ingress of the mystæ to the last enclosure, where the Anactoron, or temple, with its still more interesting exhibitions, was open to receive them ; and to this, as we may conclude from Themistius *, they were conducted through the inner propylæa, by the daduchus or torch-bearer.

The third day was opened by the sacrifice of a mullet, as we must presume, preparatory to the great scenic exhibition. On the fourth the mystic basket was brought upon a waggon to Eleusis, followed by females carrying other baskets, or cistæ, bound with purple fillets, and containing symbols which Clemens has enumerated. His observations give us reason to suspect, that it was after the arrival of this procession at Eleusis, that a further examination of the inystæ took place, and that their answers were

* After noticing the splendour which succeeded to the previous gloom, Themistius adds (of his father), -" Venus was near, in the character of torch-bearer, and “the Graces, hand-in-hand, performed the perfectory rites.” The whole of this passage in his éloge funèbre is well worth perusal. It is full of allusion to the ceremonies and topography of the temple, but so faintly and delicately expressed, as scarcely to bear translating.

neither free from grossness nor absurdity. Sufficient authorities establish the fact of a torch-race, occurring on the fifth evening: to this the well-known lines of Statius apply :

“ Tuque Actæa Ceres, cursu cui semper anhelo

Votivam taciti quassamus lampada mystæ.”

The word jactare occurring in some lines of Seneca (quoted by Meursius, as having allusion to this,) proves that the torch was tossed from hand to hand, as in the lampadophoria. On the sixth a procession, with the statue of lacchus, moved from Athens to Eleusis, answering, perhaps, to the cúpevis, or return and vivification of Adonis.

On the seventh was an athletic contest. The eighth day was termed Epidauria, from Asculapius, who arrived at Epidaurus too late to partake of initiation. The business of this day was therefore a repetition of ceremonies already performed, and for the benefit of any who might have been prevented attending

sooner.

The ninth and last day of the mysteries I deem particularly deserving of consideration, and intimately connected with the subject of these disquisitions. It was termed slanje.xón, a word which, as Meursius has noticed from Julius Pollux, properly denoted an earthen vase, not ending in a point (like the ordinary amphora) but with a firm and steady base, and being used on the last day of the mysteries, the day was named from it si muoxón. Athenaeus terms the vessel σκεύος κεραμουν, βεμβικώδες, shaped somewhat like a top, and xoturóxos.

Two such vases were used on this occasion. One was placed towards the east, the other to the west ; and they were emptied while certain mystic words were uttered. These have been made known to us by Proclus on the Timæus of Plato. They were, viề, Toxuie. While the first of these was pronounced, they looked up to heaven ; and casting their eyes downward to the earth, they pronounced the latter.

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