The most interesting mysteries of Ancient Greece
Archeological Site of Eleusis

Ancient Greece is considered to be the birthplace of western civilization. However, since this period of antiquity, so many years have been passed, documents have been lost and different stories cross each other. Here are 5 mysteries of ancient Greece that trigger off our interest still today.

The Constitution of Athens

The authorship of the creation of the Athenians Constitution is debated in modern years. There are two different ancient Greek documents claiming the authenticity of the Constitution of Athens. The first one, and the older of the two is said to belong to Xenophon -the ancient Greek philosopher, and student of Socrates. However, nowadays, is regarded as not an actual work of his own, as it is dated before the years of his mature writing career. So, the author that hasn’t been identified till today, is often described as ‘Pseudo-Xenophon’. 

The second document is considered to have been written by Aristotle – the ancient Greek philosopher of the classical period, and student of Plato. Although the style of the writing is very different from his other work, something that makes sense, thinking of the different form of writing that the Constitution had to have, the prevailing opinion about the origins of this document is that Aristotle was the author.

The disappearance of the Statue of Zeus

Ancient Olympia – credits: Matěj Baťha / wikipedia.org

The Statue of Zeus was housed in the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, Peloponnese. It was created by Phidias, one of the most renowned sculptors of ancient Greece, and it was a huge, chryselephantine sculpture, ornamented with ivory, gold, and precious stones, which depicted the God Zeus, sitting on a wooden throne. As for its loss, there are different versions, none of them approved. The one says that the temple in Olympia was destroyed by fire, and so, this was the ending of the Statue of Zeus. The other one says that it was removed from there and moved to another place, where it was lost or destroyed. No one knows what indeed happened to one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient World, only that the statue was lost and destroyed during the 5th century AD.

The disappearance of the Statue of Athena Parthenos

Parthenon, Acropolis

The chryselephantine Statue of Athena Parthenos, was considered as one of the greatest achievements of Phidias. According to the ancient historian Pausanias, the statue was created with ivory and gold, the head of Medusa was engraved on her breast, and with her right hand, Athena seemed to hold a smaller, winged statue, a Victory (Nike) statue. The statue of Athena was 9-11 meters tall, and was designed to be in the central point of the temple of Pathenonas, depicting the Goddess after combat. What actually happened to this statue is still an unanswered question. It might have been damaged by fire or moved to a city abroad Greece.

Life and Work of Pythagoras

Pythagoras of Samos, the ancient Greek mathematician famous today for his theorem that the square of the longest side of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the remaining two shorter sides -the Pythagorean Theorem- is connected with a really unclear personal life and work. This is basically because of the philosophical school he worked within that was operating under secretive conditions. As a result, it is hard to say with certainty which piece of work belongs to whom, including Pythagoras, unless there are incontrovertible facts. On top of that, and according to wikipedia.com ‘most of the major sources on Pythagoras’s life are from the Roman period, by which point, according to the German classicist Walter Burkert, the history of Pythagoreanism was already… the laborious reconstruction of something lost and gone”.

The Eleusinian Mysteries

Every year at Eleusis in ancient Greece, secret religious rites were held dedicated to Demeter and her daughter Persephone. They were called Eleusinian Mysteries, and the initiation was allowed to men, women and even slaves. The only requirements were to not have committed murder, and not being a ‘barbarian’ (unable to speak Greek). However, in order to participate in these mysteries, one had to swear a vow of secrecy. As all the ceremonies were secret, (it was even claimed that if someone revealed the truth about what was happening during the rituals, they risked to be killed), many of these are remaining unknown till today. What is known is that the Eleusinian Mysteries were full of symbols and the main topic of them was the representation of Persephone’s abduction from her mother Demeter, by the king of the underworld, Hades. All that secrecy, however, helped to define the concept of ‘mystery’ as we understand it and use it today.

If you want to experience some of the above mysteries of Ancient Greece, the best you have to do is to try the Athens Full Day Mythology Tour: Acropolis and Museum + Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, the Percy Jackson Half Day Mythology Tour of Acropolis & Acropolis Museum, or the 7 Day Family Greek Mythology Tour – Follow the Percy Jackson Trail!

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