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Modern scholars studying Eleusis have consistently made some assumptions about the sanctuary and the famous rites that took place there throughout antiquity. Although we have no evidence for altars within the sanctuary walls, archaeologists continue to produce plans with altars in the courtyard before the temple, while historians of religion propose narratives for the Mysteries that feature scenes of animal sacrifice. While precise details of the famous nocturnal teletai may remain unknown to us, we can infer other significant details about the festival from the evidence that we do have. This essay argues that the type of animal sacrifice known as thusia that regularly took place at public altars in ancient Greece was deliberately excluded from the interior of the sanctuary at Eleusis. Beginning with a review of the development of the sanctuary, the essay focuses on the Anaktoron and Telesterion, and then turns to important features that were consistently located outside the sanctuary walls. Objects were dedicated both within the sanctuary walls and outside them. The analysis of the locations where the dedications were made suggests that mediation with the divine during the nocturnal teletai was not accomplished by priests officiating over animal sacrifices. Altars were absent from the interior of the sanctuary because the Mysteries entailed a more egalitarian experience of the gods than did the traditional customs of thusia.


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