DEMETER was the great Olympian goddess of agriculture, grain and bread, the sustenance of mankind. She was also worshipped alongside her daughter Kore (or Persephone) in a Mystery Cult which promised its initiates passage to a blessed afterlife.
This page describes the cult of the goddess in the western Peloponnese. Her major shrines in the region were the Karnasian grove at Oikhalia, site of the goddess' revered Messenian Mysteries, and the Arkadian shrines at Phigalia and Akakesion which honoured the horse-headed Demeter Erinys.
A few more cult statues of the goddess are depicted below. The third of these, S3.7, shows a seated matron with head veil. The figure is believed to represent Demeter mourning her lost daughter Persephone.
CULT IN LAKEDAIMONIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) SPARTA Chief City of Lakedaimonia
"The Lakedaimonians [at Sparta] have a temple of Kore Soteira (Saviour Maid). Some say that it was made by Orpheus the Thrakian, other by Abais when he had come from the Hyperboreans." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 3.13.2
"The cult of Demeter Khthonia (of the Lower World) the Lakedaimonians [of Sparta] say was handed on to them by Orpheus, but in my opinion it was because of the sanctuary in Hermione that the Lakedaimonians also began to worship Demeter Khthonia." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 3.14.5
II) AMYKLAI Town in Lakedaimonia
“[At Amyklai, Lakedaimon] stands an image of Kore [Persephone], daughter of Demeter." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 3.18.8
"On the altar [of Apollon at Amyklai, Lakedaimonia] are also [depicted in relief] Demeter, Kore, Plouton." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 3.19.4
III) HELOS Village in Lakedaimonia
"[In the Taygetos Mountains above Helos, Lakedaimonia] is a sanctuary of Demeter surnamed Eleusinia ... From [the town of] Helos, on stated days, they bring up to the sanctuary of Eleusinia a wooden image of Kore (the Maid), daughter of Demeter." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 3.20.5-7
IV) KYTHION Village in Lakedaimonia
"[In Kythion, Lakedaimonia there is] a holy sanctuary of Demeter." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 3.21.8
V) KAINEPOLIS Village in Lakedaimonia
"Kainepolis [in Lakedaimonia] is distant forty stades by sea. Its name also was formerly Tainaron. In it is a hall (megaron) of Demeter." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 3.25.9
VI) AIGILA Village in Lakedaimonia
"There is a place Aigila in Lakonia [Lakedaimonia], where is a sanctuary sacred to Demeter. Aristomenes [the Messenian independence leader] and his men knowing that the women were keeping festival there ... the women were inspired by the goddess to defend themselves, and most of the Messenians were wounded with the knives with which the women sacrificed the victims and the spits on which they pierced and roasted the meat. Aristomenes was struck with the torches and taken alive. Nevertheless he escaped to Messenia during the same night. Arkhidameia, the priestess of Demeter, was charged with having released him, not for a bribe but because she had been in love with him before; but she maintained that Aristomenes had escaped by burning through his bonds." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 4.17.1
CULT IN MESSENIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
Demeter and her daughter Kore were worshipped under the title of Megalai Theai (the Great Goddesses) in Messenia. The Orgia (or Mysteries) of the country were second only to those of Eleusis in importance.
I) MESSENE Chief City of Messenia
"There is a holy shrine of Demeter at Messene [town in Messenia]." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 4.31.9
II) ANDANIA & OIKHALIA Towns in Messenia
"The first rulers in this country [Messenia] were Polykaon, the son of Lelex, and Messene his wife. It was to her that Kaukon, the son of Kelaeinos, son of Phlyos, brought the rites of the Megalai Theai (Great Goddesses) [Demeter and Kore] from Eleusis. Phlyos himself is said by the Athenians to have been the son of Ge (Earth), and the hymn of Musaios to Demeter made for the Lykomidai agrees. But the Orgia (Mysteries) of the Megalai Theai (Great Goddesses) were raised to greater honor many years later than Kaukon by Lykos, the son of Pandion, an oak-wood, where he purified the celebrants, being still called Lykos' wood. That there is a wood in this land so called is stated by Rhianos the Kretan:- 'By rugged Elaion above Lykos' wood.'
That this Lykos was the son of Pandion is made clear by the lines on the statue of Methapos, who made certain improvements in the Orgia (Mysteries). Methapos was an Athenian by birth, an expert in the Orgia and founder of all kinds of rites. It was he who established the Orgia (Mysteries) of the Kabeiroi at Thebes, and dedicated in the hut of the Lykomidai a statue with an inscription that amongst other things helps to confirm my account:- 'I sanctified houses of Hermes and paths of holy Demeter and Kore her firstborn, where they say that Messene established the feast of the Megalai Theai (Great Goddesses), taught by Kaukon, sprung from Phlyos' noble son. And I wondered that Lykos, son of Pandion, brought all the Attic rite to wise Andania [Messene].'
This inscription shows that Kaukon who came to Messene was a descendant of Phlyos, and proves my other statements with regard to Lykos, and that the Orgia (Mysteries) were originally at Andania [in Messenia]. And it seems natural to me that Messene should have established the Orgia (Mysteries) where she and Polykaon lived, not anywhere else." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 4.1.5-9
"Lykos the son of Pandion also came to Arene [in Messenia], when he too was driven from Athens by his brother Aigeus, and revealed the rites of the Megalai Theai (Great Goddesses) [Demeter and Kore] to Aphareus and his children and to his wife Arene; but it was to Andania that he brought the rites and revealed them there, as it was there that Kaukon initiated Messene [a few generations before]." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 4.2.6
"Sybotas the son of Dotadas established the annual sacrifice by the king to the river Pamisos and also the offering to the hero Eurytos the son of Melaneos at Oikhalia before the Orgia (Mysteries) of the Megalai Theai (Ggreat Goddesses), which were still held at Andania." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 4.3.10
"[After Messenia was conquered by the Spartans] those who belonged to the family of the Priests and performed the Orgia (Mysteries) of the Megalai Theai (Great Goddesses), retired to Eleusis." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 4.14.1
"A year after the fight at Derai [in the historical Wars between Sparta and Messenia], both sides being joined by their allies, they prepared to join battle at the Boar's Tomb, as it is called. The Messenians ... were joined by all the Messenians who had previously been in voluntary exile, together with those from Eleusis, whose hereditary task it was to perform the rites of the Theai Megalai (Great Goddesses) ... Tyrtaios and the chief priests of the Theai Megalai (Great Goddesses) took no part in the action, but urged on the hindmost on their own sides." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 4.15.7 & 4.16.2
"To Epaminondas [historical leader of the Messenians in a rebellion against the Spartans] in his difficulty it is said that an ancient man, closely resembling a priest of Demeter, appeared in the night [in a dream] and said: 'My gift to thee is that thou shalt conquer whomsoever thou dost assail; and when thou dost pass from men, Theban, I will cause thy name to be unforgotten and give thee glory. But do thou restore to the Messenians their fatherland and cities, for now the wrath of the Dioskouroi against them hath ceased.' This he said to Epaminondas, and revealed this to Epiteles the son of Aeskhines, who had been chosen by the Argives to be their general and to refound Messene. He was bidden by the dream, wherever he found yew and myrtle growing on Ithome, to dig between them and recover the old woman, for, shut in her brazen chamber, she was overcome and well-nigh fainting. When day dawned, Epiteles went to the appointed place, and as he dug, came upon a brazen urn. He took it at once to Epaminondas, told him the dream and bade him remove the lid and see what was within. Epaminondas, after sacrifice and prayer to the vision that had appeared, opened the urn and having opened it found some tin foil, very thin, rolled like a book. On it were inscribed the Orgia (Mysteries) of the Megalai Theai (Great Goddesses), and this was the pledge deposited by Aristomenes. They say that the man who appeared to Epiteles and Epaminondas in their sleep was [the mythical priest] Kaukon, who came from Athens to Messene the daughter of Triopas at Andania [and founded the Mysteries of Demeter and Kore in Messenia] ...
When the Orgia (Mysteries) were recovered, all who were of the priestly family set them down in books. As Epaminondas considered the spot where the city of the Messenians now stands most convenient for the foundation, he ordered enquiry to be made by the seers if the favour of the gods would follow him here. When they announced that the offerings were auspicious, he began preparations for the foundation, ordering stone to be brought, and summoning men skilled in laying out streets and in building houses, temples, and ring-walls. When all was in readiness, victims being provided by the Arkadians, Epaminondas himself and the Thebans then sacrificed to [the patron gods of Thebes] Dionysos and Apollo Ismenios in the accustomed manner, the Argives to [their patron gods] Hera Argia and Zeus Nemeios], the Messenians to [theirs] Zeus Ithomios and the Dioskouroi and their priests to the Megalai Theai (Great Goddesses) and Kaukon. And together they summoned heroes to return and dwell with them, first Messene the daughter of Triopas ... But the loudest summons from all alike was to Aristomenes. For that day they were engaged in sacrifice and prayer, but on the following days they raised the circuit of the walls, and within built houses and the temples. They worked to the sound of music, but only from Boiotian and Argive flutes, and the tunes of Sakadas and Pronomos were brought into keen competition. The city itself was given the name Messene, but they founded other towns." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 4.26.7 - 4.27.7
"Facing the plain [of Messenia] is a site anciently called Oikhalia, in our time the Karnasian grove, thickly grown with cypresses. There are statues of the gods Apollon Karneios and Hagne (the Holy One), also Hermes carrying a ram. Hagne (Holy One) is a title of Kore the daughter of Demeter. Water rises from a spring close to the statue. I may not reveal the rites of the Megalai Theai (Great Goddesses), for it is their Orgia (Mysteries) which they celebrate in the Karnasian grove, and I regard them as second only to the Eleusinian in sanctity." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 4.33.5
CULT IN ELIS (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) ELIS Chief City of Elis
"There are also in the gymnasium [of the city of Elis] altars of the gods, of Herakles Idaios ... of Eros, of the deity called ... Anteros (Love Returned), of Demeter and of her daughter [Kore]." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 6.23.3
II) OLYMPIA Town & Sanctuary in Elis
"[In the temple of Hera at Olympia there are statues of] Kore (the Maid) and Demeter sitting opposite each other." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 5.17.3
“[Depicted on table made by Kolotes dedicated at Olympia] are Plouton [Haides], Dionysos, Persephone and Nymphai." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 5.20.2-3
"Along the left side of the great temple [of Zeus at Olympia] Mikythos dedicated other offerings: [statues of] Kore, daughter of Demeter, Aphrodite, Ganymedes and Artemis." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 5.26.2
"Opposite the umpires [of Olympia, Elis] is an altar of white marble; seated on this altar a woman looks on at the Olympic games, the priestess of Demeter Khamyne, which office the Eleans bestow from time to time on different women. Maidens are not debarred from looking on at the games." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 6.20.9
"The other side of the [race] course [of Olympia in Elis] is not a bank of earth but a low hill. At the foot of the hill has been built a sanctuary to Demeter surnamed Khamyne. Some are of opinion that the name is old, signifying that here the earth gaped (khanein) for the chariot of Haides and then closed up once more. Others say that Khamynos was a man of Pisa who opposed Pantaleon, the son of Omphalion and despot at Pisa, when he plotted to revolt from Elis; Pantaleon, they say, put him to death, and from his property was built the sanctuary to Demeter. In place of the old images of Kore (the Maid) and of Demeter new ones of Pentelic marble were dedicated by Herodes the Athenian." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 6.21.1-2
III) LEPREUS Village in Elis
"[The town of Lepreus, Elis has] no sanctuary of any deity save one of Demeter. Even this was built of unburnt brick, and contained no image." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 5.5.6
IV) Near TRIPHYLLIAN PYLOS Village in Elis
"Two rivers flow near these places [Pylos in the region of Triphyllia in Elis], the Dalion and the Akheron [named after the famous River of Haides], both of them emptying into the Alpheios. The Akheron has been so named by virtue of its close relation to Haides; for, as we know, not only the temples of Demeter and Kore [Persephone] have been held in very high honor there, but also those of Haides." - Strabo, Geography 8.3.14
CULT IN AKHAIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) PATRAI Chief City of Akhaia
"They [the people of Patrai, Akhaia] have also a grove by the sea, affording in summer weather very agreeable walks and a pleasant means generally of passing the time ... Next to the grove is a sanctuary of Demeter; she and her daughter [Kore] are standing, but the image of Ge (Earth) is seated. Before the sanctuary of Demeter is a spring. On the side of this towards the temple stands a wall of stones, while on the outer side has been made a descent to the spring." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 7.21.11
II) AIGION Town in Akhaia
“By the sea at Aigion [in Akhaia] is a sanctuary of … Kore, daughter of Demeter.” - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 7.24.2
"The surname Homagyrios (Assembler) was given to Zeus because in this place Agamemnon assembled the most eminent men in Greece, in order that they might consult together how to make war on the empire of Priamos ... Adjoining Zeus Homagyrios is a sanctuary of Demeter Panakhaia (Of all the Greeks) [probably also connected with Agamemnon's assembly]." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 7.24.3
III) BOURA Village in Akhaia
"[In Boura, Akhaia] there is a temple here of Demeter, one of Aphrodite and Dionysos, and a third of Eileithyia. The images are of Pentelic marble, and were made by Eukleides of Athens. There is drapery [of cloth] for Demeter." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 7.25.9
IV) Near PELLENE Town in Akhaia
"About sixty stades distant from Pellene is the Mysaion [in Akhaia], a sanctuary of Demeter Mysia. It is said that it was founded by Mysios, a man of Argos, who according to Argive tradition gave Demeter a welcome in his home. There is a grove in the Mysaion, containing trees of every kind, and in it rises a copious supply of water from springs. Here they also celebrate a seven days' festival in honor of Demeter. On the third day of the festival the men withdraw from the sanctuary, and the women are left to perform on that night the ritual that custom demands. Not only men are excluded, but even male dogs. On the following day the men come to the sanctuary, and the men and the women laugh and jeer at one another in turn." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 7.27.9
CULT IN ARKADIA (SOUTHERN GREECE)
I) MEGALOPOLIS Chief City of Arkadia
"At the end, the western, of the [market] portico [in Megalopolis, Arkadia] is an enclosure sacred to the Megalai Theai (Great Goddesses). The Megalai Theai are Demeter and Kore, as I have already explained in my account of Messenia, and Kore is called Soteira (Saviour) by the Arkadians. Carved in relief before the entrance are, on one side Artemis, on the other Asklepios and Hygeia. Of the Megalai Theai (Great Goddesses), Demeter is of stone throughout, but Soteira (the Saviour) has drapery of wood. The height of each is about fifteen feet. The images [missing text] and before them he made small maids in tunics reaching to the ankles, each of whom carries on her head a basket full of flowers. They are said to be daughters of Damophon, but those inclining to a more religious interpretation hold that they are Athena and Artemis gathering the flowers with Persephone. By the side of Demeter there is also a Herakles about a cubit high. This Herakles, says Onomakritos in his poem, is one of those called Daktyloi Idaioi. Before it stands a table, on which are carved in relief two seasons, Pan with pipes, and Apollon playing the harp. There is also an inscription by them saying that they are among the first gods. Nymphai too are carved on the table: Neda carrying an infant Zeus, Anthrakia, another Arkadian nymph, holding a torch, and Hagno with a water-pot in one hand and a bowl in the other. Ankhirhoe and Myrtoessa carry water-pots, with what is meant to be water coming down from them. Within the precinct is a temple of Zeus Philios .... Behind this temple is a small grove of trees surrounded by a wall; nobody may go inside, and before it are images of Demeter and Kore some three feet high. Within the enclosure of the Megalai Theai (Great Goddesses) is also a sanctuary of Aphrodite ... In a building stand statues also, those of Kallignotos, Mentas, Sosigenes and Polos. These men are said to have been the first to establish at Megalopolis the Orgia (Mysteries) of the Megalai Theai (Great Goddesses), and the ritual acts are a copy of those at Eleusis. Within the enclosure of the goddesses are the following images, which all have a square shape: Hermes, surnamed Agetor, Apollon, Athena, Poseidon, Helios too, surnamed Soteiros (Savior), and Heracles. There has also been built for them a sanctuary of vast size, and here they celebrate the Orgia (Mysteries) in honor of the goddesses.
To the right of the temple of the Megalai Theai (Great Goddesses) there is also a sanctuary of Kore (the Maid). The image is of stone, about eight feet high; ribbons cover the pedestal all over. Women may enter this sanctuary at all times, but men enter it only once every year." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.31.1-8
"[Beyond the Marsh Gate of Megalopolis, Arkadia there is] a temple of Demeter styled 'in the Marsh' and her grove, which is five stades away from the city, and women only may enter it." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.36.6
II) NESTANE Village in Arkadia
"After the ruins of Nestane [in Arkadia] is a holy sanctuary of Demeter, and every year the Mantineans hold a festival in her honor. By Nestane there lies, on lower ground, about ... itself too forming part of the Untilled Plain, and it is called the Dancing Floor of Maira." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.8.1
III) MANTINEIA Town in Arkadia
"The Mantineans [of Mantineia, Arkadia] have other sanctuaries also ... there is a sanctuary ... of Demeter and Kore (the Maid). Here they keep a fire, taking anxious care not to let it go out." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.9.2
IV) MT ALESION Mountain in Arkadia (near Mantineia)
"[Near Mantineia, Arkadia] is Mount Alesion, so called from the wandering (ale) of Rhea, on which is a grove of Demeter." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.10.1
V) PHENEOS Town in Arkadia
"The people of Pheneos [in Arkadia] have also a sanctuary of Demeter, surnamed Eleusinia (of Eleusis), and they perform a ritual to the goddess, saying that the ceremonies at Eleusis are the same as those established among themselves. For Naos (Temple), they assert, came to them because of an oracle from Delphoi, being a grandson of Eumolpos. Beside the sanctuary of Eleusinia has been set up Petroma, as it is called, consisting of two large stones fitted one to the other. When every other year they celebrate what they call the Greater Rites, they open these stones. They take from out them writings that refer to the rites, read them in the hearing of the initiated, and return them on the same night. Most Pheneatians, too, I know, take an oath by the Petroma in the most important affairs. On the top is a sphere, with a mask inside of Demeter Kidarie. This mask is put on by the priest at the Greater Rites, who for some reason or other beats with rods the Folk Underground. The Pheneatians have a story that even before Naos arrived the wanderings of Demeter brought her to their city also. To those Pheneatians who received her with hospitality into their homes the goddess gave all sorts of pulse save the bean only. There is a sacred story to explain why the bean in their eyes is an impure kind of pulse. Those who, the Pheneatians say, gave the goddess a welcome, Trisaules and Damithales, had a temple of Demeter Thesmie (Law-goddess) built under Mount Kyllene, and they established for her rites also, which they celebrate even to this day. This temple of the goddess Thesmia is just about fifteen stades away from the city." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.15.1-4
“The water of the river of Arkadia known as the Styx cuts through all vessels, even though they be made of iron ... It was Demeter who caused this water to well up [from the underworld] in the neighbourhood of Pheneus.” - Aelian, On Animals 10.40
VI) KLEITOR Village in Arkadia
"The most celebrated sanctuaries of the Kleitorians [of Kleitor, Arkadia] are those of Demeter, Asklepios and, thirdly, Eileithyia." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.21.3
VII) Near THELPOUSA Village in Akadia
"From Halos [in Arkadia] it [the river Thelpousa] descends to Thaliades and a sanctuary of Demeter Eleusinia. This sanctuary is on the borders of Thelpousa. In it are images, each no less than seven feet high, of Demeter, her daughter [Kore], and Dionysos, all alike of stone. After the sanctuary of Eleusinia the Ladon flows by the city Thelpousa on the left, situated on a high hill ... After Thelpousa the Ladon descends to the sanctuary of Demeter in Onkeion. The Thelpousians call the goddess Erinys (Fury), and with them agrees Antimakhos also, who wrote a poem about the expedition of the Argives against Thebes. His verse runs thus:- 'There, they say, is the seat of Demeter Erinys.'
Now Onkios was, according to tradition, a son of Apollon, and held sway in Thelpousian territory around the place Onkion; the goddess has the surname Erinys (Fury) for the following reason. When Demeter was wandering in search of her daughter, she was followed, it is said, by Poseidon, who lusted after her. So she turned, the story runs, into a mare, and grazed with the mares of Onkios; realizing that he was outwitted, Poseidon too changed into a stallion and enjoyed Demeter. At first, they say, Demeter was angry at what had happened, but later on she laid aside her wrath and wished to bathe in the Ladon. So the goddess has obtained two surnames, Erinys (Fury) because of her avenging anger, because the Arkadians call being wrathful 'being furious,' and Lousie (Bather) because she bathed in the Ladon.
The images in the temple are of wood, but their faces, hands and feet are of Parian marble. The image of Erinys (Fury) holds what is called the chest, and in her right hand a torch; her height I conjecture to be nine feet. Lousie seemed to be six feet high. Those who think the image to be Themis and not Demeter Lousie are, I would have them know, mistaken in their opinion. Demeter, they say, had by Poseidon a daughter [Despoine], whose name they are not wont to divulge to the uninitiated, and a horse called Areion. For this reason they say that they were the first Arkadians to call Poseidon Hippios (Horse). They quote verses from the Iliad and from the Thebaid in confirmation of their story. In the Iliad there are verses about Areion himself: 'Not even if he drive divine Areion behind, the swift horse of Adrastos, who was of the race of the gods.'
In the Thebaid it is said that Adrastos fled from Thebes: 'Wearing wretched clothes, and with him dark-maned Areion.' They will have it that the verses obscurely hint that Poseidon was father to Areion." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.25.3-7
VIII) Near BASILIS Village in Arkadia
"As you go down again from Trapezos [in Arkadia] to the [river] Alpheios, there is, not far from the river, a place called Bathos (Depth), where they celebrate Orgia (Mysteries) every other year to the Megalai Theai (Great Goddesses) [Demeter and Kore] ... Some ten stades distant from the place named Bathos is what is called Basilis ...Today Basilis is in ruins, among which remains a sanctuary of Demeter Eleusinia." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.29.1-5
IX) Near PHAIDRIES Village in Arkadia
"About fifteen stades distant from Phaidries [in Arkadia] is an Hermaion (Shrine of Hermes) called 'kata Despoine (by the Mistress)'; it too forms a boundary between Messenia and Megalopolis. There are small images of Despoine (the Mistress) and Demeter; likewise of Hermes and Herakles." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.35.2
X) ZOITEA Village in Arkadia
"[Zoitea, Arkadia] today is without inhabitants. In Zoitea, however, there still remains a temple of Demeter and Artemis." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.35.7
XI) AKAKESION Village in Arkadia
"From Akakesion [in Arkadia] it is four stades to the sanctuary of Despoine (the Mistress). First in this place is a temple of Artemis Leader, with a bronze image, holding torches, which I conjecture to be about six feet high. From this place there is an entrance into the sacred enclosure of Despoine. As you go to the temple there is a portico on the right, with reliefs of white marble on the wall. On the first relief are wrought Moirai (Fates) and Zeus surnamed Moiragetes (Guide of Fate), and on the second Herakles wresting a tripod from Apollon ... In the portico by Despoine there is, between the reliefs I have mentioned, a tablet with descriptions of the Orgia (Mysteries). On the third relief are Nymphai and Panes; on the fourth is Polybios, the son of Lykortas. On the latter is also an inscription, declaring that Greece would never have fallen at all, if she had obeyed Polybios in everything, and when she met disaster her only help came from him. In front of the temple is an altar to Demeter and another to Despoine, after which is one of the Meter Megala (Great Mother). The actual images of the goddesses, Despoine and Demeter, the throne on which they sit, along with the footstool under their feet, are all made out of one piece of stone. No part of the drapery, and no part of the carvings about the throne, is fastened to another stone by iron or cement, but the whole is from one block. This stone was not brought in by them, but they say that in obedience to a dream they dug up the earth within the enclosure and so found it. The size of both images just about corresponds to the image of the Meter (Mother) at Athens. These too are works of Damophon. Demeter carries a torch in her right hand; her other hand she has laid upon Despoine. Despoine has on her knees a staff and what is called the box, which she holds in her right hand. On both sides of the throne are images. By the side of Demeter stands Artemis wrapped in the skin of a deer, and carrying a quiver on her shoulders, while in one hand she holds a torch, in the other two serpents; by her side a bitch, of a breed suitable for hunting, is lying down. By the image of Despoine stands Anytos, represented as a man in armour. Those about the sanctuary say that Despoine was brought up by Anytos, who was one of the Titanes, as they are called ... That Artemis was the daughter, not of Leto but of Demeter, which is the Aigyptian account, the Greeks learned from Aiskhylos the son of Euphorion. The story of the Kouretes, who are represented under the images, and that of the Korybantes (a different race from the Kouretes), carved in relief upon the base, I know, but pass them by. The Arkadians bring into the sanctuary the fruit of all cultivated trees except the pomegranate. On the right as you go out of the temple there is a mirror fitted into the wall. If anyone looks into this mirror, he will see himself very dimly indeed or not at all, but the actual images of the gods and the throne can be seen quite clearly. When you have gone up a little, beside the temple of Despoine on the right is what is called the Megaron (Hall), where the Arcadians celebrate Orgia (Mysteries), and sacrifice to Despoine many victims in generous fashion. Every man of them sacrifices what he possesses. But he does not cut the throats of the victims, as is done in other sacrifices; each man chops off a limb of the sacrifice, just that which happens to come to hand. This Despoine the Arkadians worship more than any other god, declaring that she is a daughter of Poseidon and Demeter. Despoine (the Mistress) is her surname among the many, just as they surname Demeter's daughter by Zeus is called Kore (the Maid). But whereas the real name of Kore (the Maid) is Persephone, as Homer and Pamphos before him say in their poems, the real name of Despoine (the Mistress) I am afraid to write to the uninitiated. Beyond what is called the Megaron (Hall) is a grove, sacred to Despoine and surrounded by a wall of stones, and within it are trees, including an olive and an evergreen oak growing out of one root, and that not the result of a clever piece of gardening. Beyond the grove are altars of Poseidon Hippios (Horse), as being the father of Despoine, and of other gods as well. On the last of them is an inscription saying that it is common to all the gods." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.37.2-10
XII) PHIGALIA & MT ELAIOS Town & Mountain in Arkadia
"In the reign of [the historical Arkadian king] Simos, the son of Phialos, the people of Phigalia lost by fire the ancient wooden image of Demeter Melaina (Black). This loss proved to be a sign that Simos himself also was soon to meet his end." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.5.8
"Mount Elaios, is some thirty stades away from Phigalia [in Arkadia], and has a cave sacred to Demeter surnamed Melaina (Black). The Phigalians accept the account of the people of Thelpousa about the mating of Poseidon and Demeter, but they assert that Demeter gave birth, not to a horse, but to Despoine (the Mistress), as the Arkadians call her. Afterwards, they say, angry with Poseidon and grieved at the rape of Persephone, she put on black apparel and shut herself up in this cavern for a long time. But when all the fruits of the earth were perishing, and the human race dying yet more through famine, no god, it seemed, knew where Demeter was in hiding, until Pan, they say, visited Arkadia. Roaming from mountain to mountain as he hunted, he came at last to Mount Elaios and spied Demeter, the state she was in and the clothes she wore. So Zeus learnt this from Pan, and sent the Moirai (Fates) to Demeter, who listened to the Moirai and laid aside her wrath, moderating her grief as well. For these reasons, the Phigalians say, they concluded that this cavern was sacred to Demeter and set up in it a wooden image. The image, they say, was made after this fashion. It was seated on a rock, like to a woman in all respects save the head. She had the head and hair of a horse, and there grew out of her head images of serpents and other beasts. Her tunic reached right to her feet; on one of her hands was a dolphin, on the other a dove. Now why they had the image made after this fashion is plain to any intelligent man who is learned in traditions.
They say that they named her Melaina (Black) because the goddess had black apparel. They cannot relate either who made this wooden image or how it caught fire. But the old image was destroyed, and the Phigalians gave the goddess no fresh image, while they neglected for the most part her festivals and sacrifices, until the barrenness fell on the land. Then they went as suppliants to the Pythian priestess and received this response:- 'Azanian Arkadians, acorn-eaters, who dwell in Phigaleia, the cave that hid Deo, who bare a horse, you have come to learn a cure for grievous famine, who alone have twice been nomads, alone have twice lived on wild fruits. It was Deo who made you cease from pasturing, Deo who made you pasture again after being binders of corn and eaters of cakes, because she was deprived of privileges and ancient honors given by men of former times. AAnd soon will she make you eat each other and feed on your children, unless you appease her anger with libations offered by all your people, and adorn with divine honors the nook of the cave.'
When the Phigalians heard the oracle that was brought back, they held Demeter in greater honor than before, and particularly they persuaded Onatas of Aigina, son of Mikon, to make them an image of Demeter at a price ... This man, about two generations after the Persian invasion of Greece, made the Phigalians an image of bronze, guided partly by a picture or copy of the ancient wooden image which he discovered, but mostly (so goes the story) by a vision that he saw in dreams ... It was mainly to see this Demeter that I came to Phigalia. I offered no burnt sacrifice to the goddess, that being a custom of the natives. But the rule for sacrifice by private persons, and at the annual sacrifice by the community of Phigalia, is to offer grapes and other cultivated fruits, with honeycombs and raw wool still full of its grease. These they place on the altar built before the cave, afterwards pouring oil over them. They have a priestess who performs the rites, and with her is the youngest of their 'sacrificers,' as they are called, who are citizens, three in number. There is a grove of oaks around the cave, and a cold spring rises from the earth. The image made by Onatas no longer existed in my time, and most of the Phigalians were ignorant that it had ever existed at all. The oldest, however, of the inhabitants I met said that three generations before his time some stones had fallen on the image out of the roof; these crushed the image, destroying it utterly. Indeed, in the roof I could still discern plainly where the stones had broken away." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.42.1-13
XIII) PALLANTION Village in Arkadia
“[In Pallantion, Arkadia] there is also a sanctuary of Kore [Persephone], the daughter of Demeter.” - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.44.5
XIV) TEGEA Town in Arkadia
"There is also at Tegea [in Arkadia] a temple of Demeter and Kore (the Maid), whom they surname Karpophoroi (the Fruit-bringers), and hard by is one of Aphrodite ... Not far from it are two sanctuaries of Dionysos, an altar of Kore (the Maid)." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.53.7
XV) Near TEGEA Town in Arkadia
"Along the straight road [from Tegea in Arkadia to Argos] there are many oaks, and in the grove of oaks is a temple of Demeter called 'in Korythenses.' Hard by is another sanctuary, that of Dionysus Mystos (of the Mysteries)." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.54.5
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st BC - C1st AD
- Pausanias, Guide to Greece - Greek Geography C2nd AD
- Aelian, On Animals - Greek Natural History C2nd - C3rd AD