Mysteries at Eleusis: Images of Inscriptions

About the project

This database consists of images of ancient inscriptions on stone from Eleusis. The images currently available are derived from photographs copyrighted by Professor Kevin Clinton (Department of Classics). Images from museums will be added as permission from the museums is granted; in the meantime only thumbnail views can be presented. All the photographs will be printed in Professor Clinton's edition of all documents of the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore and the public documents of the deme, currently being published by the Archaeological Society at Athens. See Eleusis, The Inscriptions on Stone: Documents of the Sanctuary of the Two Goddesses and Public Documents of the Deme, Volume IA (Text) and IB (Plates), Athens 2005 (ISSN 1105-7785, Set 960-8145-48-1, The Archaeological Society at Athens, Panepistimiou 22, Athens 106 72). Volume II (Commentary) is in press.

Significance of the collection for digital scholarship

The documents are all from the sanctuary of the Eleusinian Mysteries, at Eleusis, a town belonging to Athens. "The Mysteries," as they were officially called, are usually recognized today, as they were in ancient times, as one of the most important religious cults in ancient Greece. Walter Burkert, for example, wrote: "The words mystical, mystery, mysterious are still common today. Their origins are in the ancient Greek cult, in particular the most famous one, the Eleusinian Mysteries" (Homo Necans, 248).

The festival culminated in secret rites within the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore at Eleusis, which was located about fourteen miles west of Athens. Hundreds of people from all over the Greek world converged annually on Athens and Eleusis to take part in the sacred rites over the course of a week, and they were pledged to secrecy on penalty of death. Cicero said of the Mysteries that Athens had given to mankind "nothing finer..., and as they are called an initiation (initia), so indeed do we learn in them the basic principles of life, and from them acquire not only a way of living in happiness but also a way of dying with greater hope" (De legibus, 2.36).

Several Roman emperors, including Augustus, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius, made the journey to Eleusis and became initiates. By the end of antiquity the Mysteries had left their mark on Christianity, certainly in terminology, such as "mystery" (the word for "sacrament" in the Greek Orthodox Church), "mystagogue," "mystic," and probably in other significant ways, which remain a subject of debate. Thus mystery ritual constitutes a tradition that extends, in varying form, from Archaic Greece to our own day.


Table of references for other corpus and other journal, with full name and abbreviation
Full name Abbreviation
Other corpus  
Corpus inscriptionum graecarum CIG
Corpus inscriptionum latinarum CIL
Graindor, Paul. Marbres et textes antiques d'epoque impériale, Ghent, 1922. Graindor, Marbres
Document number in Eleusis, The Inscriptions on Stone: Documents of the Sanctuary of the Two Goddesses and Public Documents of the Deme, Athens 2005 IE
Inscriptiones graecae IG
Inscriptiones Italiae II
Clinton, Kevin. The Sacred Officials of the Eleusinian Mysteries (Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 64.3), Philadelphia, 1974. Sacred Officials
Supplementum epigraphicum graecum SEG
Other journal  
American Journal of Archaeology AJA
Annual of the British School at Athens BSA
Annuario della Scuola archeologica di Atene e delle Missioni italiane in Oriente ASAtene
Archaiologike Ephemeris AE
Bulletin de correspondance hellénique BCH
Deltion Deltion
Eleusiniaka Eleusiniaka
Hellenika Hellenika
Hesperia. Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Hesperia
Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts JdI
Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Athenische Abteilung AM
Philistor Philistor
Polemon Polemon
Praktika Praktika
Revue des études grecques REG
Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik ZPE


Cornell University
Department of Classics
Goldwin Smith Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853

For questions about this collection, please email or use our feedback form.


The original internet database was produced in 1997-99 largely through the assistance of Nora Dimitrova and Gregory Clinton, with the support of a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. The data in the non-image fields have been drawn from a database compiled by K. Clinton.

Digitization and Image Migration
Danielle Mericle, Rhea Garen, Mira Basara

Metadata Design and Conversion
Nancy Holcomb, Marty Kurth, Greg Nehler, Rick Silterra, Nancy Solla

Luna Database Creation and Collection Development
Gale Halpern, Rick Silterra, David Jones

Web Design
Melissa Kuo

Fiona Patrick

Project Management
Danielle Mericle

This project has been made possible by the Faculty Grants for Digital Library Collections: Advancing E-Scholarship program.