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Audio guide: Caryatid

Audio guide stop: 2102

Crowdsourced transcription of the audio file

The Caryatid from Eleusis (GR.1.1865)
The Caryatid from Eleusis (GR.1.1865)
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The Cambridge professor who brought this colossal statue to England in the early nineteenth century originally identified her as Demeter, the Greek goddess of corn.

He'd come across her at Eleusis, a village near Athens, the site of an important ancient sanctuary to the goddess.

The modern Eleusinians revered her as Saint Demetra and credited her with the success of their harvests. In fact both professor and villages were quite wrong.

Imposing though it is, the statue represents not the goddess herself but one of her priestesses.

She was one of a pair of caryatids, female figures supporting the lintel of a monument of Gateway to Demeter's sanctuary.

The gorgon's-head brooch that you can see on her breast was probably intended to ward off evil.

The cylindrical vessel on this caryatid's head is called a 'cista', and it was decorated with emblems and items associated with the rituals of Demeter's sanctuary.

Ears of corn, rosettes, cakes, bundles of myrtle. Carved directly above the figure's brow is a vessel that probably contained the 'Kykeon', a sacred drink used during the initiation ceremony, but this cult was a mystery religion and devotees were sworn to secrecy.

It is still not known precisely what might have been carried in this priestess's cista.

Co-production of this resource

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The transcription of the audio file for this stop was enabled by the AHRC funded crowd-sourcing platform MicroPasts. The below generously gave their time to transcribe the file.

Roger Wilmot, Jasmine Xie, Adi Levin, Kathryn Giffin, Athena

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