“…guarding our city’s coif of towers by their wisdom and true judgments: there is wise Triptolemus and Dioclus and Polyxeinus and blameless Eumolpus and Dolichus and our own brave father.” – Homeric Hymn to Demeter

Who is Triptolemus?

According to Greek mythology, Triptolemus (or Triptolemos) ¬†was either a mortal prince, the eldest son of King Celeus of Eleusis or, according to Pseudo-Apollodorus’ Bibliotheca (I.V.2), a god, the son of Gaia and Oceanus. He is connected to the Eleusinian mysteries and he presided over the sowing of grain-seed and the milling of wheat.

In ancient Greek vase painting, Triptolemus is usually depicted seated on his winged chariot in the company of the goddesses Demeter, Persephone and Hekate. He also appears amongst larger gatherings of the Eleusinian gods.

The myth of Prometheus and Pandora

The myth of Demeter, Persephone and Hades

The myth of Pentheus and Dionysus

The myth of Aphrodite and Anchises

The myth of Demeter and Triptolemus

The myth of Demeter and Triptolemus

While Demeter was searching for her daughter (who was abducted by Hades), having taken the form of an old woman called Doso, she received a hospitable welcome from Celeus. Celeus asked her to nurse his sons Demophon and Triptolemus. Demeter saw Triptolemus was sick and fed him her breast milk. Not only did he recover his strength but he instantly became an adult. Demeter also chose to teach Triptolemus the art of agriculture and, from him, the rest of Greece learned to plant and reap crops. Eventually, Triptolemos flew across the land on a winged chariot to complete his mission of educating the whole of Greece, and the whole world, on the art of agriculture.

In the later myths, Triptolemos became after his death the judge in the underworld. According to the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (anonymous text of the 7th century BC), Triptolemus was one of the men who had great power and honor in Eleusis and was one of the chiefs among the people, protecting the city by their wisdom and true judgments. The Hymn also gives us the information that Triptolemus together with Diocles, Eumolpos, Keleus, and Polyxeinus learned the mysteries and rites of the goddess Demeter.

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