It has been an important religious centre since ancient times, since it was where the famous Eleusinian Mysteries, an institution that lasted more than 1,500 years, took place. At the dawn of the industrial era, the city became the centre of heavy industry in Greece par excellence. Today, Eleusis continues to contribute to what is known as the «Hellenic construct».
Population-wise, Eleusis developed as a workers’ town, in the same way as industrial centres the world over, and in fact, it acted as the destination for many internal and foreign migrants. As a result, the city became a meltingpot of experiences and ideas, as well as a field for common struggles. From the 1960s to the 1990s, the city was dominated by the concerns and constant efforts of its inhabitants to protect the environment and improve their quality of life.
Environmental pollution damaged the bond between the citizens and their city, and the reason why many people decided to abandon Eleusis. The verses by Nikos Gkatsos «….Where the initiates joined hands reverently before entering the sanctuary/now the tourists discard cigarette butts/and visit the new refinery./Sleep, Persephone, in the earth’s embrace/come out no more to the balcony of the world» expressed the image of the city that most Greeks had at the time.
Towards the end of the 2000s, with de-industrialization having left its powerful footprint in the form of a series of derelict factories along the coastline, the city started to seek a new identity. The first objective was to create and enhance cultural institutions such as the Aeschylia Festival, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, through which the city can take advantage of its historical and cultural background and attempt to build its new mythology and create a sustainable future.
The archaeological site, which was illuminated after 100 years, and the creation of 2 new venues intended for cultural events, the Olive Oil Press and the L. Kanellopoulos cultural centre, combined with infrastructure
works such as the pedestrianization of streets linking the city to the sea, are rehabilitating the city centre and contributing to its financial and natural renaissance.
Balancing between the past and the future, the prospect of the European Capital of Culture finds Eleusis on the way out of its purgatory. On 13/01/2015, the City Council decided unanimously to support the city’s candidacy for European Capital of Culture for 2021, via the Eleusis21 entity.
In response to the widespread demand to house the Capital of Culture offices in the empty railway station, the entire Municipal mechanism reacted dynamically in order to assist in the renovation, while hundreds of citizens responded both through social media and by their physical presence on the day of the inauguration.
It is commonly accepted that most cities are currently at a stage of transition, especially cities with a strong industrial past; this means that they have to renew and reinvigorate their financial basis by investing in creative sectors. Eleusis chooses to invest in culture, because Eleusis is culture.
We want to – and we must – create, even in these times of economic crisis, an attractive environment, so that the younger generations (which are currently closer to intensive learning) can discover incentives and reasons that will keep them in the city.
It is obvious that our city has been in constant motion and creative action over the past few years. However, it also needs a lofty objective, that will function as an incentive for improving and reinforcing its image at national and European level.
With our eyes to Europe and culture as one of the main pillars of stability, cohesion and development, we aspire to encounter the future and become a part of it. In consideration of these objectives, I am confident that Eleusis can become a worthy representative of Greece as the European Capital of Culture.
Mayor of Eleusis