Ten marble fragments of the Great Eleusinian Relief

Period: Early Imperial, Augustan

Date: ca. 27 B.C.–A.D. 14

Culture: Roman

Medium: Marble

Dimensions: H. 89 3/8 in. (227 cm)

Classification: Stone Sculpture

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1914

Accession Number: 14.130.9


Demeter, the goddess of agricultural abundance, stands at the left, clad in a peplos and himation (cloak) and holding a scepter. At the right is Persephone, her daughter and the wife of Hades, the god of the underworld. She is dressed in a chiton and himation. Each goddess extends her right hand toward a nude youth, but it is no longer possible to determine what they held. The boy is thought to be Triptolemos, who was sent by Demeter to teach men how to cultivate grain. On contemporary Athenian vases, he is usually shown as a bearded adult seated in a winged chariot about to set out on his civilizing mission. The original marble relief was found at the sanctuary of Demeter at Eleusis, the site of the Eleusinian mysteries, a secret cult that was famous throughout antiquity.
The original Greek work and a number of Roman copies survive. Here the ten Roman fragments are embedded in a cast of the Greek relief. Compared to the original, the execution of the hair and drapery in the copy is sharper and accords with the style current in Augustan art.