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Eleusis (Elefsina)

Eleusis is located 20 km to the west of Athens and is one of the 5 municipalities belonging to the regional unit of Western Attica, Greece. The other four are Aspropyrgos, Mandra, Megara and Fyli.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, this geographical area has been a hub for the country’s industrial development, with dozens of polluting industries, such as 2 refineries, 2 shipyards, 2 steel factories, 2 cement factories and dozens of other industries in the secondary sector, of small or medium impact on the environment. There is a military airport a few kilometers east of Eleusis.

Attica’s main landfill is located at the boundary of Fyli municipality; it is the largest in Greece and accommodates the urban waste of 4.5 million inhabitants.

Eleusis is located on the coastal front of this area, a natural harbor that became a natural home for the concentration of industrial activity from the second half of the 20th century.

There is a very high percentage of highly educated young people in Eleusis. However, most of them leave the city for either Athens or abroad, since they find themselves overqualified for the job opportunities offered in Eleusis.

Eleusinian Mysteries

Eleusis is considered to be one of the most important sanctuaries of the ancient world. The city has been identified with the worship of Demeter, goddess of agriculture, and her daughter Persephone. The Eleusinian Mysteries were mystical rituals, taking place

 

every September, in honor of the goddess Demeter and Persephone, and which were held consistently for over 2000 years.

In the ancient world, the myth of Persephone acted as a metaphor for the change of seasons, for transition and rebirth. Persephone is in perpetual transition, from the world of the living to the world of the dead and vice versa. At the same time, the Mysteries were a ceremony that transferred the experience of transition to the human level. During the Mysteries, humans were at one with nature and experienced its greatest mystery, the mystery of life and death.

Modern Eleusis

In modern times, the excessive concentration of industry, mainly in Eleusis but also throughout Western Attica, resulted in major degradation of the quality of life of its inhabitants and the environment.

By the second half of the 19th century, Eleusis had already become Greece’s industrial center par excellence. The city’s contemporary human geography is a result of industrial concentration in the area, which transformed the city - in the words of a visitor at the time "from a fishing village to a bustling industrial city." From 2,400 inhabitants in 1907, the community’s population increased to 6,400 in 1927, and rose to 21,000 inhabitants in 1981. These include around 2,000 refugees after the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922, which was also the first major mixing with the local population and radically changed the demographic structure and mentality of the inhabitants. After the 2nd World War were followed by internal migrants to work in the factories from all over Greece, who gave the city its multicultural character.

However the industrial activity has been developed on an anarchical manner on the top of antiquities and next to urban areas. Environmental pollution then became a major issue.

In the 21st century, era of sustainable development, the archaeological history and the recent industrial one shape the image of modern Greece.

Pollution due to the struggle of the citizens has been decreased. The Municipality of Eleusis fights to acquire factories that are not anymore in operation, with the intention to host the contemporary industrial and technological history.

The city of Eleusis has already gain awards for its urban reconstruction and its performance in ecology and recycling.

Today, Eleusis has a registered population of 30,000, while it is estimated that 50,000 people live in the city. Thus, from ancient times to the present day, Eleusis can be described as a city of immigrants and refugees. From the agricultural to the post-industrial revolution, Eleusis narrates 4,000 years of history of humans as producers, as creators and as workers. From those times to the present, Eleusis is a symbol of humans driven by the quest for a better future, which they create with their own hands, while at the same time producing knowledge and wealth for their societies.

Aeschylia Festival

In this contradictory complexity of the city, inhabitants find common ground in the history of the city itself, in its culture. In 1975, directly after the seven-year military junta, Eleusis created its first institution, a festival dedicated to Aeschylus, the first dramatist in the history of theatre, who was born in Eleusis in 525 BC and died in Gela, Sicily in 456 BC. The city’s need to build a new future based on culture had started to become established in the citizens’ collective conscience. Over the last decade, the Aeschylia have managed to become one of the most important festivals in Greece, and a leading institution in the visual arts sector, thanks to the large-scale installations that attract visitors from all over Greece.

Material cultural heritage

  • The archaeological site and Archaeological Museum, which hosts major exhibits of world cultural heritage value. The archaeological site is located in the center of the city, and is surrounded by the main pedestrian area that links the city center to the coastline.
  • The city’s cultural assets dating from up to the mid-19th century include Hadrian’s aqueduct and bridge, samples of the engineering genius of the time, as well as the chapels of Panagitsa in the archaeological site and Saint Zacharias, from the late Byzantine era.
  • The Kronos and Iris industrial buildings and the old Eleourgio, together with modern-day industries, constitute the city’s contribution to the industrial and post-industrial landscape of contemporary Greece.
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