Divinities: Demeter, Persephone, Triptolemus

Demeter, Triptolemus, Persephone, Augustan copy of 5th century BC Greek marble. Metropolitan, NY

Today is Sunday and the gods have pushed their way to the forefront of my mind.

This is a Roman copy dating from the birth of Christ of a Greek marble relief found at Eleusis, Greece. The relief dates from between 450 and 425 BCE and is one of several of scenes of the Eleusinian mysteries which are thought to date to 1500 years BCE. This copy is in the Metropolitan Musuem in New York.

Demeter, central figure in the Eleusinian mysteries and the goddess of agriculture and fertility is on the left. Her daughter, Persephone, the abducted wife of Hades, king of the underworld and of death is on the right. Their right hands are extended to the young boy Triptolemus to whom Demeter entrusted the task of teaching grain agriculture to the human race.

This event occurs after the anger and sorrow and vengeance with which Demeter faced the abduction of her daughter by Hades. That she reconciled herself to to the eventual compromise which ended her permanent loss of Persephone speaks to her grace and generosity.

The most remarkable thing about this relief is the extreme tenderness rendered in marble of these two women towards each other, towards Triptolemus and towards us, the viewer.

It is very satisfying to me that the mechanics of the Eleusinian mysteries have never been entirely unraveled. No initiate ever spoke or wrote about the experience.


One thought on “Divinities: Demeter, Persephone, Triptolemus

  1. wonderfully moving account. We can still learn so so much from these ancients who honoured the inexplicable.

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