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Eleusis - a town from prehistoric time to the present - Ilias Monacholias

The cult of two major deities of the Greek Pantheon, Demeter and Persephone, was directly connected, from the prehistoric era, to Eleusis, the holy city of Attica, one of the most important religious centers in Greece, which maintained its sanctity for two millennia and spread the cult of the Eleusinian gods in the ancient world. The oldest written document referred to in the primordial cult of Demeter is the Homeric Hymn (second half 7th cent. BC), which tells the passions and operations of the goddess, according to the local tradition of Eleusis.

The archaeological excavations have brought to light evidence of human presence in this area, since the Proto-Helladic times (2800-2000 BC). Sanctuary and settlement dating back to Middle Helladic period (2000-1580 BC) were pointed out again by archaeologists, while during the Mycenaean period (1580-1100 BC) the plant testified clearly, both on the hill, and on the findings of the western cemetery. In the area of Telesterion special investigations revealed Megaroid building remains, which is identified by many as the first temple of Demeter.

When the Mycenaean civilization was catalyzed by the Dorians, the last tribe of Indo-Europeans who moved to south (approximately 1100 BC), and the center of gravity of political and military power of ancient Greece moved from Mycenae to Argos and Sparta, Attica and Eleusis appear to have suffered major disasters. Throughout this period, known as Proto-Geometric and will last three centuries, Eleusis is not completely abandoned and the cult of Demeter continues. Perhaps the mansion of Mycenaean years also continues to be used.

Archaeologists uncovered parts of buildings religious use, especially retaining walls that supported the area of the Mycenaean megarian temple of the goddess and belong to the Geometric Period (around 700 BC), a further proof of Demeter’s continuous worship. At the time of Solon (650-600 BC) a temple is built, closed in a tall enclosure. Pisistratus (550-510 BC) extended the limits of the wall and forms the Telesterion.

Despite the important strategic position and the fact that it was an important stronghold of Athens, Eleusis was not able to stop, before the Persian wars, nor the king of Sparta Cleomenes to loot the temple of Demeter or halt Xerxes during the Persian Wars, who checked it into the fire, as the entire Attica indeed. In the middle of the 5th cent. BC Eleusis is established as Panhellenic sanctuary, and Kimon, in 470 BC, had prepared a draft for renewal Telesterion. After the peace of 445 BC the reconstruction of the sanctuary was completed with the initiative of Pericles himself. People from around the world will flock to this time, to experience the splendor of the cult of Demeter, and the Athens policy enforcement.

During the Peloponnesian War, Sparta respected the sacred, like many other conquerors later, although the raids against the town and its inhabitants were mostly disastrous. After the Peloponnesian War Eleusis became important center of military operations, when, during the time of the Thirty Tyrants (403-400 BC), was separated from Athens. Eleusis remained strong fortress of Athens till the years of Macedonians (4th-3rd century BC.).

During the Roman era Eleusis acquired again the glory and splendor of the Classical period. Roman emperors favored not only the temple but also the town. The Lesser Propylaea date back to the era of the High Appian Claudius Pulcher (54 BC). Hadrianian aqueduct, starting from the sources of Parnitha mountain and ending the sacred, and the bridge at the intersection of the Sacred Way on the today Highway, are works of Emperor Hadrian, who was initiated into the Mysteries in 125 AD. The Greater Propylaea, and the development of paved square due to Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD).

Crowd of people from every corner of the Graeco-Roman world flocked to Eleusis that time to find the truth, religious and philosophical, for the beginning and end of human life and the immortality of the soul.

With the dominance of Christianity, the cult of Demeter was endangered. Four hundred years after the introduction of the Christian religion, the Hierophants of Demeter desperately hold torches of sacramental worship. And maybe the light could shine little for much longer, if the sanctuary was not destroyed and the humble attendants of the goddess were not delivered to fire by Alaric and the Visigoths in 395 AD. In 392 AD the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II explicitly forbade the celebration of the Sacraments, in the effort to combat idols and to permanently establish the new religion. Then the speaking and secret source of the cult of the Eleusinian gods, who for hundreds of years gave people peace of mind, and happiness of the soul after death, was silenced.

During the Byzantine era the authors report Eleusis as a "small village". During Justinian time the Eleusinian fortress was repaired to resist the barbarians of the North. During the Frankish time it will be submitted together with Attica and Viotia under the Franks (French, Catalan, Florentines). The "Frankish Tower" in the west of the citadel was built shortly after the Frankish conquest, upon ancient foundations with ancient building materials and stones (currently knocked down by the cement factory).

Before the Turkish conquest, the place was devastated by constant persecution, raids, captivities, kidnappings. The solitude helped Albanians Tosca, between 1418 and 1425, to build their huts and cultivate the land. During the 17th century the place was deserted again by pirates and Albanians withdrew to the village of Mandra. Traveler who visited Eleusis in February 1676, said that he found the plain cultivated, but saw no house and no resident. The place began again to be inhabited permanently in the early 18th century from the descendants of the old inhabitants, who came mostly from the western foothills of Kitheronas mountain.


The 5th century AD found Eleusis as Christian. The pirate raids began from the early 7th century. After the conquest of Crete by the Arabs, about 881, there was a destructive raid on the shores of the western Peloponnese, Western Attica and the Saronic islands. Residents, fleeing the mainland, arrive in cities with more security, Thebes, Athens.

Arab pirates give way to others - Muslims, Genovese, Normans and so the return of the people is impossible.

Conquerors Franks and Catalans follow. Since 1333 for the first time the fleet of the Turks appears in the Eleusis Bay, where is faced by Byzantine and Venetian forces.

In 1388 when the Attica came under the Florentine Atzagioli, Eleusis is still uninhabited.

At the same time the Albanians completed their penetration in Greece, till 1333 when they declared allegiance to the Byzantine emperor. New Albanian groups settled in the mid-14th century and the early 15th century. With some few locals, because of the raids, they withdrew into the interior, in Kountoura, choosing the land where they will live for centuries an agricultural and bucolic life. The Kountourian Albanians, only towards the end of the Turkish occupation, will move to Mandra, Magoula and Eleusis, now assimilated with other residents of Attica.

In 1458 Attica was occupied by the Turks permanently.

The consolidation of the Turkish domination, but mainly the limitation of pirates, led the way in Kountourians to the sea coast.

The 18th century the population remained stable, despite some activity that develops the port of Eleusis. In 1798 indicated that the population reaches 200. But the surrounding areas looks like towns: The Mazi had 30 houses, Kountoura 300 houses, Vilia 150.

In 1815 Pouqueville says he found in Eleusis forty families who cultivated the plain and small ships arriving at the port to load olives, resin, wine and a little wheat. An inn, a customs office and a few shops were the only buildings. In Kountoura 300 families used to live, with a total of 2100 inhabitants, and among them 730 were armed.


In 1821 Eleusis joins the battles against Turks and fights until 1824.

In 1839 the construction of two vehicular roads to Megara and to Thebes began and the port showed some activity, as agricultural products were channeled to the Peloponnese and the islands.

In 1850 the population of Eleusis was 137 families with a total of 585 people. In 1854 an earthquake struck the region and the last residents of Kountoura leave their homes and go down to the sea.

In 1879 the residents amounted to 1185.

In the years 1837 - 1852 six students are reported attending the University of Athens.

In 1860 Eleusis began to change appearance with the construction of new housing and the establishment of occasional merchants for handling of little agricultural and livestock surplus to Athens and Corinth.


In 1875 the soap factory “Charilaou” was founded. The founders were led there by the operation of some household soap crafts. The product is transported very easily by ships to Patras, Syros and Piraeus. In 1895 production reached 600.000 tons, in 1900 it had 90 workers and in 1928 about 250. The operation ended in the 1960s. In 1892 was the second soap factory was founded.

In 1900 a Winery - Spirits Company was founded, which in 1906 was one of the most important industrial plants. In 1906 the name changed to "Greek Company of Wines and Spirits", with the trade name "Votrys". It produced wines, spirits and brandy. As raw material it used raisins. In 1929 it had more than 250 employees. The operation stopped in 1986.

In 1902 the "Hadjikyriakos - Zachariou and Co." founded the first Greek cement plant with an annual production of 18,000 tons. In 1911 gets official name as Cement Company "Titan". In 1928, employed 400 people and reached 1,300 at its height. In 1922 the Société Anonyme Distillery was founded that in 1928 had 250-300 employees and in 1970 about 150. In 1925 the first paints industry in Greece was founded with resin as raw material and flourished in the 1950s.

In 1929 there are: TITAN, Winery company KRONOS, SA Wine and Spirits, a glassblazery, seven resin processing plants employing 1.500 people, from Eleusis and surrounding areas and refugees from Asia Minor.

At the beginning of the 1930s there were three potteries.

The years of "superficial prosperity" the first pollution incidents occur. The sea is polluted by oil, which ships unloaded for feeding the plants. The problem is pointed in a resolution of the municipal council on 28/6/1938, which called on the government to take action. Nothing happened. The town’s pollution had begun.

In 1953 starts the great Steel factory, which in 1970 reached 2,700 employees.

In 1955 the "Olive - Central Cooperative Union Greek Olive Oil" was founded.

Several small units were established in the 1960s in Eleusis, which now is called Elefsina.

At the same time, in the region of Thriassio, large oil refineries, gas industry, the second cement factory and shipyards are established.

In 1969 another major shipyard unit begins operations.

In 1973 the second large oil refinery in an area of 1,800 acres is established, adjacent to the city. The waste give the final blow to sea and air of the region.

Other smaller industries start up their activities, at the same time.

In the 1980s and 1990s, many of the existing industries closed and others open, usually smaller. Instead of factories warehouses come, which grow in places on the north side of town.

At Eleusis now about 4 inactive industrial premises are remaining.


The new factories and the development of the port create the need for labor and bring new residents. In the census of 1907 we had 2370 residents in Eleusis.

In 1912, the Eleusis is a separate community.

In 1922 we had 4400 inhabitants and after the Asia Minor catastrophe about 2,000 refugees were added.

In 1924 the lighting of lamps is decided and 40 lamps are placed in squares and streets of the area.

Since 1926 to 1931 water supply, electric lighting, the trees plants, cleanliness, schools, were improved helping Eleusis getting a modern town form.

In 1938 the military airport of Eleusis was created.


On the morning of October 28, 1940 Italian planes bombed Piraeus, Tatoi, Eleusis, but missed the targets.

The few factories are closed or are barely functioning, the port has died.

18 Eleusinians died during the antifascist struggle until April 1941.

On April 26 1941 the German occupation started. The airport was occupied by the Germans. In the city Italian soldiers are patrolling.

In early May the occupation forces have commandeered the school and other buildings, public and private. Orders for inventory of food, led to their concealment, while agricultural production fell dramatically.

Since the October 1941 deaths start from the "disease of hunger." At the end of the year we have 15 deaths from starvation.

1942 could be described as "death" time. Deaths reach 336. Among these, 147 from hunger.

In September 1941 he created the first nucleus of National Resistance. A few months after it numbered about two thousand members, 1/5 of the total city population. They included people from a broad ideological and partisan spectrum.

A large number of residents joined the partisan army. Among them, my beloved father too, who was a worker and communist.


During the decade of 1950 there is a population explosion, of which the decisive factor was the situation that had been created in the countryside by civil war and poverty plaguing many areas. In Elefsina, residents who came from Epirus, Chios, the Dodecanese and Corfu are installed. The presence of the Cretans dates back around the beginning of 1960. In the mid-1960s the installation from Pontos starts, particularly from the Soviet Union.

The reckless industrial development had very serious repercussions on the environment of the area and the archaeological monuments. The voices of those who were trying to ask the State to protect the environment and Monuments were not listened.

The financial crisis of recent years converts Eleusis from Industrial town to Services town mainly, but large industrial units, operating or not, continue to occupy important parts of the city, on the sea coast and even next to the archaeological site, on the hill where Eleusinians of Ancient Greece used to live.

In recent years in Eleusis a grid of Arts promoting and culture activities is being developed rapidly and steadily with better and brighter future. In this context, our town is a candidate city for European Capital of Culture for 2021, having passed the second round of applications with other two competing cities. Eleusis, Kalamata and Rhodes who qualified to compete in October in the final phase, passed the first round among 14 candidates Greek cities.


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