Exploring the ancient, modern and contemporary history of Elefsina, one is amazed by its rare diversity, its rich historical and mythological past and its multifaceted and ambitious present. The fabric of the city comprises extraordinary traces of antiquity, modern stories of population displacement, labor movements and industrial and cultural development, as well as texts and songs, making it a unique historical landmark of ancient and modern Greek history.
Elefsina, the birthplace of Aeschylus, was known since ancient times for the Eleusinian Mysteries, one of the most important religious ceremonies of ancient Greece. Their ritual represents the myth of Persephone’s abduction by Hades, the god of the underworld, the journey of her mother, the goddess Demeter in search for her daughter, the rise of Persephone from the world of the dead, and her reunion with her mother. During her tragic journey, the goddess finds herself in Elefsina, and is hosted by King Celeus. Wishing to thank him for his hospitality, she reveals to the Elefsinians the secret rites and the blessed art of cultivating the fields, while urging them to build a sanctuary in her honor. Apart from its mythological tradition, Elefsina, as one of the five most important Holy Cities of antiquity, has a rare archaeological wealth. The Archaeological Museum of Elefsina is being renovated to house the city’s great monumental heritage, ensuring a unique experience for visitors from all over the world.
Thanks to its natural port and strategic location—21 km west of Athens, in the Thriassian Plain, the northwesternmost tip of the Saronic Gulf, opposite the mythical Salamina, home of Ajax the Great—Elefsina has always occupied a prominent position on the Greek map. From the 19 th century onwards, the city was transformed into a productive engine, taking its place among the largest industrial centers in Greece, often creating the perception of a place that keeps its cultural wealth well-guarded, as a timeless mystery.
The importance of Elefsina as the birthplace of Aeschylus, the notable position of women throughout the long life of the city, the special place of the city in folk songs about emigration, unfulfilled love and hard work—through the presence of the legendary bard Stelios Kazantzidis—add color and aspects of uniqueness to this city. Elefsina is, after all, a city inextricably linked to the cultural industries, while the Aeschylia Festival, which has been held in the city every summer for the past 40 years, is one of the most important national events in the field of culture and the arts.