In this post we present excerpts from ancient Greek and Latin texts which refer to one of the central Greek and Graeco-Roman myths; the myth of Triptolemus.
We believe that it is a very important and rather neglected myth, which clearly suggests that Agriculture, cultivation and domestication of seeds, initially begun in the Greek peninsula and, by ‘Divine and Human Will’, was then spread towards all over the World, at very ancient but also unknown times, too. Let’s have a good look at the Sources now.
From Apollodorus‘ “Bibliotheca” (or ‘Library’) we learn:
“Pluto fell in love with Persephone and with the help of Zeus carried her off secretly. But Demeter went about seeking her all over the earth with torches by night and day, and learning from the people of Hermion that Pluto had carried her off, she was wroth with the gods and quitted heaven, and came in the likeness of a woman to Eleusis. And first she sat down on the rock which has been named Laughless after her, beside what is called the Well of the Fair Dances; thereupon she made her way to Celeus, who at that time reigned over the Eleusinians. Some women were in the house, and when they bade her sit down beside them, a certain old crone, Iambe, joked the goddess and made her smile. For that reason they say that the women break jests at the Thesmophoria.
But Metanira, wife of Celeus, had a child and Demeter received it to nurse, and wishing to make it immortal she set the babe of nights on the fire and stripped off its mortal flesh. But as Demophon — for that was the child’s name— grew marvelously by day, Praxithea watched, and discovering him buried in the fire she cried out; wherefore the babe was consumed by the fire and the goddess revealed herself. But for Triptolemus, the elder of Metanira’s children, she made a chariot of winged dragons, and gave him wheat, with which, wafted through the sky, he sowed the whole inhabited earth. But Panyasis affirms that Triptolemus was a son of Eleusis, for he says that Demeter came to him. Pherecydes, however, says that he was a son of Ocean and Earth.
But when Zeus ordered Pluto to send up the Maid, Pluto gave her a seed of a pomegranate to eat, in order that she might not tarry long with her mother. Not foreseeing the consequence, she swallowed it; and because Ascalaphus, son of Acheron and Gorgyra, bore witness against her, Demeter laid a heavy rock on him in Hades. But Persephone was compelled to remain a third of every year with Pluto and the rest of the time with the gods.”
NovoScriptorium: First of all, let’s focus on the name ‘Demeter’ (Δαμήτηρ/Δημήτηρ in Greek). It means ‘Mother Earth‘! Other names attributed to the same deity are ‘Deo’ (Δηώ in Greek) and ‘Ceres’ (in Latin). Apollodorus delivers that Demeter gave Triptolemus wheat and a flying chariot with which he ‘sowed the whole inhabited earth‘. Hence, the core of the myth clearly refers to the domestication of wheat in Attica, Greek peninsula, in times unknown and that from there it spread to ‘the whole inhabited earth‘, i.e. to all Humanity. Obviously, we do not believe that Triptolemus used a ‘flying chariot’ -this is most likely an indication that the knowledge of organized wheat cultivation spread rapidly among Men, ‘like air’- neither that some godess offered him this precious knowledge. The Greeks, since very deep Antiquity, tended to link Nature with the Divine, using various symbolic names for their various ‘deities’. Especially the older Myths contain much of Theological views and doctrines mixed with views for Nature and Society, even with actual History. The interested reader may find a number of relative articles in our ‘Philosophy’ section.
From the Homeric “Hymn to Demeter” we learn:
“§ 145. So said the goddess. And straightway the unwed maiden Callidice, goodliest in form of the daughters of Celeus, answered her and said: ‘Mother, what the gods send us, we mortals bear perforce, although we suffer; for they are much stronger than we. But now I will teach you clearly, telling you the names of men who have great power and honour here and are chief among the people, guarding our city’s coif of towers by their wisdom and true judgements: there is wise Triptolemus and Dioclus and Polyxeinus and blameless Eumolpus and Dolichus and our own brave father. All these have wives who manage in the house, and no one of them, so soon as she has seen you, would dishonour you and turn you from the house, but they will welcome you; for indeed you are godlike. But if you will, stay here; and we will go to our father’s house and tell Metaneira, our deep-bosomed mother, all this matter fully, that she may bid you rather come to our home than search after the houses of others. She has an only son, late-born, who is being nursed in our well-built house, a child of many prayers and welcome: if you could bring him up until he reached the full measure of youth, any one of womankind who should see you would straightway envy you, such gifts would our mother give for his upbringing.’
§ 441. And all-seeing Zeus sent a messenger to them, rich-haired Rhea, to bring dark-cloaked Demeter to join the families of the gods: and he promised to give her what right she should choose among the deathless gods and agreed that her daughter should go down for the third part of the circling year to darkness and gloom, but for the two parts should live with her mother and the other deathless gods. Thus he commanded. And the goddess did not disobey the message of Zeus; swiftly she rushed down from the peaks of Olympus and came to the plain of Rharion, rich, fertile corn-land once, but then in nowise fruitful, for it lay idle and utterly leafless, because the white grains was hidden by design of trim-ankled Demeter. But afterwards, as springtime waxed, it was soon to be waving with long ears of corn, and its rich furrows to be loaded with grain upon the ground, while others would already be bound in sheaves. There first she landed from the fruitless upper air: and glad were the goddesses to see each other and cheered in heart.
§ 459. Then bright-coiffed Rhea said to Demeter: ‘Come, my daughter; for far-seeing Zeus the loud-thunderer calls you to join the families of the gods, and has promised to give you what rights you please among the deathless gods, and has agreed that for a third part of the circling year your daughter shall go down to darkness and gloom, but for the two parts shall be with you and the other deathless gods: so has he declared it shall be and has bowed his head in token. But come, my child, obey, and be not too angry unrelentingly with the dark-clouded Son of Cronos; but rather increase forthwith for men the fruit that gives them life.’
§ 470. So spake Rhea. And rich-crowned Demeter did not refuse but straightway made fruit to spring up from the rich lands, so that the whole wide earth was laden with leaves and flowers. Then she went, and to the kings who deal justice, Triptolemus and Diocles, the horse-driver, and to doughty Eumolpus and Celeus, leader of the people, she showed the conduct of her rites and taught them all her mysteries, to Triptolemus and Polyxeinus and Diocles also, — awful mysteries which no one may in any way transgress or pry into or utter, for deep awe of the gods checks the voice. Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these mysteries; but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them, never has lot of like good things once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom.”
NovoScriptorium: This is one of the oldest references to Triptolemus, by Homer, were he is attributed the epithet ‘wise‘; he was considered as one of the men who had great power in Attica at his time. He is described as ‘just‘ and ‘hospital‘, too. People of those unknown times are described as having ‘well-built houses‘. Moreover, it is also obvious that they live in an organized society, with laws, roles and hierarchies. Now we shall examine something more interesting. As we previously saw, ‘Demeter’ means ‘Mother Earth’. The myth could refer to two different situations at the same time (in the same way it happens in countless other Greek myths);
a) The climatic year cycle, with Winter, Spring, Fall and Summer. Everything grows during Spring, everything is revived.
b) A harsh climatic period on Earth that made life of Men very difficult for quite a long time. Immediately after its end, Men can again cultivate seeds so that they can feed themselves easier. The climatic change that Homer describes seems a good indication for this: “the plain of Rharion, rich, fertile corn-land once, but then in nowise fruitful, for it lay idle and utterly leafless, because the white grains was hidden by design of trim-ankled Demeter“. We are quite sure that they wouldn’t even mention a normal climatic change between Seasons. Something that surprised them so much and made their lives more difficult is some other sort of climatic change. It could indicate some exceptional climatic phenomenon, even a Glacial period that ends when ‘Demeter’, ‘Mother Earth’, “increases forthwith for men the fruit that gives them life“.
What are the fruits that give life to men though? Grain and corn; “it was soon to be waving with long ears of corn, and its rich furrows to be loaded with grain upon the ground, while others would already be bound in sheaves“. It should be obvious to everyone that here we have a clear description of organized cultivation and, beyond any doubt, domestication of grain and corn seeds.
Diocles is attributed the name ‘horse-driver‘; this obviously refers to domesticated horses as being a fact at the same time that grain and corn were domesticated. The name ‘Diocles’ itself means ‘the glory of Deus/Zeus’ (Διός + κλέος). This is probably because the Greeks always tried to have a ‘divine reference’ in everything they did. And surely they would consider the domestication of seeds and animals as a ‘divine gift’. Especially the domestication of horses, as they could be helpful not only for the cultivation, movement and Trade but for War, too. Everyone knows that κύδος, κλέος and the like that mean ‘glory‘ were linked to deeds of War since very ancient times.
Demeter taught ‘the mysteries’ to the just leaders of the peope of Attica, says the myth. In our opinion, this excerpt, yet again, indicates two different things at the same time;
a) “Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these mysteries; but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them, never has lot of like good things once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom“. There is, obviously, a theological background here, unbreakably linked with the ‘after-life‘ and the soul. It indicates core beliefs of the ancient Greek Philosophers-Theologists-Mystics; Living by/with Nature (κατά Φύσιν) while having constant and continuous reference to the Divine brings Happiness in Life and avoidance of ‘darkness and gloom’ in the ‘after-life’. We shall not analyze more on this here. The interested reader may find a number of relative articles on our ‘Philosophy’ section.
b) It must have been indeed a great mystery for the primitive Man to learn how to cultivate and domesticate animals and seeds. It really made his life far more easy and pleasant. Agriculture is a direct product of Man’s interaction with ‘Mother Earth’, i.e. ‘Demeter’. Civilization irreversibly changed shape after this achievement. It is also possible that ‘the help of Demeter’ was actually Earth’s ‘help’, most likely because of some climatic change, so that the necessary conditions for achieving domestication of seeds appear.
From Ovid‘s “Metamorphoses” we learn:
“Now the youth (Triptolemus) was carried high over Europe and Asia. He turned his face towards Scythia where, Lyncus was king. He stood before the king’s household gods. He was asked how he had come there, and the reason for his journey, his name and his country. He said ‘Athens, the famous city, is my home, Triptolemus, my name. I came not by ship, on the sea, or by foot, over land. The clear air parted for me. I bring you the gifts of Ceres. If you scatter them through the wide fields, they will give you back fruitful harvests, and ripening crops.’ The barbarian was jealous. So that he might be the author, of so great a gift, he received him like a guest, but attacked Triptolemus, with a sword, while he was in deep sleep. As he attempted to pierce the youth’s breast, Ceres turned the king into a lynx, then ordered the youth Athenian to drive the sacred yoke back through the air.”
NovoScriptorium: Here Triptolemus from Athens is described as visiting Scythia, among other places in Europe and Asia; “I bring you the gifts of Ceres. If you scatter them through the wide fields, they will give you back fruitful harvests, and ripening crops“. The ‘gifts of Ceres’ are the ‘gifts of Demeter’ and also ‘the gifts of the Earth’. The expressions used do not indicate that the ‘foreign lands’ didn’t have crops and harvests themselves; Triptolemus went there, according to this narration, to help them improve their crops and harvests; “fruitful harvests, and ripening crops”. So probably he went to a place were cultivation was already taking place but he was willing to teach them domestication.
From Ovid‘s “Tristia” we learn:
“§ 3.8.1. Now I’d wish to drive Triptolemus’s chariot, he who scattered fresh seed on uncultivated soil”
NovoScriptorium: This excerpt informs us that Triptolemus has not only helped people improve their cultivating abilities and improve their production, but he also “scattered fresh seed on uncultivated soil“, i.e. he started -not just ‘improved’- Agriculture at some places, too.
From Callimachus‘ “Hymn to Demeter” we learn:
“§ 1. As the Basket comes, greet it, ye women, saying “Demeter, greatly hail! Lady of much bounty, of many measures of corn.” As the Basket comes, from the ground shall ye behold it, ye uninitiated, and gaze not from the roof or from aloft — child nor wife nor maid hath shed her hair — neither then nor when we spit from parched mouths fasting. Hesperus from the clouds marks the time of its coming: Hesperus, who alone persuaded Demeter to drink, what time she pursued the unknown tracks of her stolen daughter.
Lady, how were thy feet able to carry thee unto the West, unto the black men and where the golden apples are? Thou didst not drink nor didst thou eat during that time nor didst thou wash. Thrice didst thou cross Achelous with his silver eddies, and as often didst thou pass over each of the ever-flowing rivers, and thrice didst thou seat thee on the ground beside the fountain Callichorus, parched and without drinking, and didst not eat nor wash.
Nay, nay, let us not speak of that which brought the tear to Deo! Better to tell how she gave cities pleasing ordinances; better to tell how she was the first to cut straw and holy sheaves of corn-ears and put in oxen to tread them, what time Triptolemus was taught the good craft; better to tell — a warning to men that they avoid transgression — how (she made the son of Triopas hateful and pitiful) to see.”
NovoScriptorium: This excerpt informs us that another name of Demeter was ‘Deo’ (Δηώ). Demeter “was the first to cut straw and holy sheaves of corn-ears and put in oxen to tread them“. Here, Demeter herself appears as the first one to have attempted-achieved domestication of corn and of oxen, with the name of ‘Deo’. Afterwards, she taught Triptolemus “the good craft“, too. In some -older- mythical narrations, Deo appears as a different person than Demeter. Hence, it should not be excluded that Deo could have been an actual woman of unknown times who managed to learn the art of domestication of oxen and corn and then taught it to another mortal with the name Triptolemus. And later on, as with many myths, stories from different people were attributed to a single one with a common name (e.g. Hercules, Dionysus, Apollo, etc.)
From Gaius Julius Hyginus‘ “Astronomica” we learn:
“§ 2.14.2 Many have called him Carnabon, king of the Getae, who lived in Thrace. He came into power at the time when it is thought grain was first given to mortals. For when Ceres was distributing her bounties to men, she bade Triptolemus, whose nurse she had been, go around to all the nations and distribute grain, so that they and their descendants might more easily rise above primitive ways of living. He went in a dragon car, and is said to have been the first to use one wheel, so as not to be delayed in his journey. When he came to the king of the Getae, whom we mentioned above, he was at first hospitably received. Later, not as a beneficent and innocent visitor, but as a most cruel foe, he was seized by treachery, and he who was ready to prolong the lives of others, almost lost his own life. For at the order of Carnabon one dragon was killed, so that Tiptolemus might not hope his dragon car could save him when he realized an ambush was being prepared. But Ceres is said to have come there, and restored the stolen chariot to the youth, substituting another dragon, and punishing the king with no slight punishment for his malevolent attempt. For Hegesianax says that Ceres, for men’s remembrance, pictures Carnabon among the stars, holding a dragon in his hands as if to kill it. He lived so painfully that he brought on himself a most welcome death.”
NovoScriptorium: “at the time when it is thought grain was first given to mortals“; this phrase either indicates that grain was not always present on Earth or, most likely, indicates the difference between wild grain and domesticated grain. Triptolemus had to go “around to all the nations and distribute grain, so that they and their descendants might more easily rise above primitive ways of living“. It really looks like an exaggeration but this is it; Triptolemus was appointed a ‘divine’ mission to teach all nations how to organize grain cultivation. The ‘primitive way of living’ is clearly linked, in the text, with the ignorance of Agriculture.
Triptolemus was also “said to have been the first to use one wheel“. In other words, when grain domestication was achieved, people started using the wheel, too.
From Gaius Julius Hyginus‘ “Fabulae” we learn:
“§ 147. When Ceres was hunting for her daughter, she came to King Eleusinus, whose wife Cothonea had borne the boy Triptolemus, and pretended she was a wet nurse. The queen gladly took her as nurse for her son. Since Ceres wanted to make her charge immortal, she fed him by day with divine milk, but by night secretly hid him in the fire. In this way he grew more than mortals are wont to grow, and so, when the parents wondered at it, they watched her. When Ceres was about to put him in the fire, the father was terrified. In her anger, she struck down Eleusinus, but on Triptolemus, her foster-son, she conferred everlasting honour, for she gave him her chariot yoked with Serpents to spread the cultivation of grain. Riding in it he sowed grain throughout the earth. When he returned, Celeus bade him be killed for his benefactions, but when this was known, by Ceres’ order he gave the kingdom to Triptolemus, who called it Eleusis from his father’s name. He also established sacred rites in honour of Ceres, which have called in Greek Thesmophoria.
§ 277. The Parcae, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos invented seven Greek letters — A B H T I Y. Others say that Mercury invented them from the flight of cranes, which, when they fly, form letters. Palamedes, too, son of Nauplius, invented eleven letters; Simonides, too, invented four letters — Omega E Z PH; Epicharmus of Sicily, two — P and PS. The Greek letters Mercury is said to have brought to Egypt, and from Egypt Cadmus took them to Greece. Cadmus in exile from Arcadia, took them to Italy, and his mother Carmenta changed them to Latin to the number of 15. Apollo on the lyre added the rest. The same Mercury first taught wrestling to mortals. Ceres showed how to tame oxen, and taught her foster-son Triptolemus [to sow grain]. When he had sown it, and a pig rooted up what he had planted, he seized the pig, took it to the altar of Ceres, and putting grain on its head, sacrificed it to Ceres. From this came the custom of putting salted meal on the victim. Isis first invented sails, for while seeking her son Harpocrates, she sailed on a ship. Minerva first built a two-prowed ship for Danaus in which he fled from Egyptus his brother.”
NovoScriptorium: In this text, Triptolemus is said to have”sowed grain throughout the earth“, “established sacred rites in honour of Ceres“, and, additionally, “Ceres showed how to tame oxen, and taught her foster-son Triptolemus [to sow grain]”. Hence, here we learn that Demeter-Ceres showed Triptolemus how to tame oxen (domestication of oxen) and how to sow grain (domestication of grain). Then, Triptolemus moved on to sow grain ‘throughout the earth‘. It is clear to us that the ancients believed that domestication of grain started from the Greek peninsula and then this knowledge was spread Worldwide.
From Xenophon’s “Hellenika” we learn:
“§ 6.3.6. The right course, indeed, would have been for us not to take up arms against one another in the beginning, since the tradition is that the first strangers to whom Triptolemus, our ancestor, revealed the mystic rites of Demeter and Core were Heracles, your state’s founder, and the Dioscuri, your citizens; and, further, that it was upon Peloponnesus that he first bestowed the seed of Demeter’s fruit. How, then, can it be right, either that you should ever come to destroy the fruit of those very men from whom you received the seed, or that we should not desire those very men, to whom we gave the seed, to obtain the greatest possible abundance of food? But if it is indeed ordered of the gods that wars should come among men, then we ought to begin war as tardily as we can, and, when it has come, to bring it to an end as speedily as possible.”
NovoScriptorium: Triptolemus “revealed the mystic rites of Demeter and Core” to Heracles and the Dioscuri. Additionally “it was upon Peloponnesus that he first bestowed the seed of Demeter’s fruit“. Interestingly, Triptolemus revealed the mysteries to Heracles (Ήρα + κλέος), i.e. ‘the glory of Hera’, and to Dioscuri (Διός + κούροι), i.e. ‘the sons of Deus/Zeus’. To people that already had some ‘divine connection’ then -something rather expected, as this was a common procedure for the mystics/philosophers/theologists to pass the knowledge to similar people adequately prepared for this. It is also interesting to note that the above knowledge passed firstly from Attica to the Peloponnese. Similarly, the knowledge of organized cultivation of ‘Demeter’s fruit’ followed the same path; Peloponnesus was the first soil outside Attica to accept the domesticated seeds of Triptolemus.
From Plutarch’s “Against running in debt, or taking up money upon usury”
“§ 4. …as did heretofore Triptolemus, when he went through all places teaching the people to sow corn…”
NovoScriptorium: Triptolemus “went through all places teaching the people to sow corn“. Interestingly, Plutarch does not refer to grain but to corn. The core of the myth remains the same; Triptolemus visited all people on Earth and taught them how to sow, obviously domesticated, corn.
From Pausanias‘ “Description of Greece” we learn:
“§ 1.14.2. The Greeks who dispute most the Athenian claim to antiquity and the gifts they say they have received from the gods are the Argives, just as among those who are not Greeks the Egyptians compete with the Phrygians. It is said, then, that when Demeter came to Argos she was received by Pelasgus into his home, and that Chrysanthis, knowing about the rape of the Maid, related the story to her. Afterwards Trochilus, the priest of the mysteries, fled, they say, from Argos because of the enmity of Agenor, came to Attica and married a woman of Eleusis, by whom he had two children, Eubuleus and Triptolemus. That is the account given by the Argives. But the Athenians and those who with them . . . know that Triptolemus, son of Celeus, was the first to sow seed for cultivation.
§ 7.18.2. About eighty stades from the river Peirus is the city of Patrae. Not far from Patrae the river Glaucus flows into the sea. The historians of ancient Patrae say that it was an aboriginal, Eumelus, who first settled in the land, and that he was king over but a few subjects. But when Triptolemus came from Attica, he received from him cultivated corn, and, learning how to found a city, named it Aroe from the tilling of the soil.
§ 7.18.3. It is said that Triptolemus once fell asleep, and that then Antheias, the son of Eumelus, yoked the dragons to the car of Triptolemus and tried to sow the seed himself. But Antheias fell off the car and was killed, and so Triptolemus and Eumelus together founded a city, and called it Antheia after the son of Eumelus.
§ 8.4.1. After the death of Nyctimus, Arcas the son of Callisto came to the throne. He introduced the cultivation of crops, which he learned from Triptolemus, and taught men to make bread, to weave clothes, and other things besides, having learned the art of spinning from Adristas. After this king the land was called Arcadia instead of Pelasgia and its inhabitants Arcadians instead of Pelasgians.”
NovoScriptorium: Here again we see the same description for Triptolemus; “he was the first to sow seed for cultivation“. Eumelus “received from him (Triptolemus) cultivated corn“. Again, we have a reference to corn intead of grain. Then we see a description of an accidental death of Antheias, son of Eumelus, in his effort to sow the seed himself. This demands for an explanation.
In our opinion, what is encrypted here is the fact that sowing should be done only by people who know how to do it and should not be attempted by anyone ignorant. On the other hand, the reference to the car used for sowing could be an indication that this warning is especially valid for all those ignorant of using the various means of sowing, that includes a possible vehicle/car. The use of a possibly ‘wrong/harmful seed’, that could even lead to death, is not impossible to be encrypted here.
Interesting information can be also received from the names used in the text. Eumelus (Εύμηλος in Greek) means (εὑ + μήλα) ‘he who has good/many sheep’. Triptolemus taught him organized cultivation and instead of being a leader of a few people like before, Eumelus ends up founding a new city, Aroe. Aroe (Αρόη in Greek) derives from the word άροσις which means ‘plowing‘. After his son’s accidental death, together with Triptolemus, they founded another new city after the name of the dead youth. The name of Eumelus’ son was Antheias and the new city’s name was Antheia. The name Antheia(s) derives from the verb ανθώ which means ‘bloom‘, ‘flourish‘. What we are then told by the myth is that stockraising and farming/cultivation make a place grow, be wealthier and better in many other aspects. Agriculture helped Men to leave back the primitive way of living, as we saw earlier.
Arcas, who was a contemporary of Triptolemus, having learnt “the cultivation of crops” from him, then “taught men to make bread, to weave clothes, and other things besides, having learned the art of spinning from Adristas“. So, what Arcas achieved is to ‘civilize’ the Peloponnese so much that “After this king the land was called Arcadia instead of Pelasgia and its inhabitants Arcadians instead of Pelasgians“. We believe that this is a clear indication that the name ‘Pelasgians’ refers to the Prehistoric inhabitants -and this should be before the Neolithic Age– of the Peloponnese, before organized Agriculture appears.
From Ampelius‘ “Liber Memorialis” we learn:
“§ 15. Cecrops was the king who founded the city of Athens and he called the citizens Cecropides after himself; because he was indigenous, it is said in fables that he was a snake from the hips down.
Ericthonius was the king, for whom Celeus established the Eleusinian Mysteries, with the stranger Eumolpus as the priest, the virgin daughters as attendants, with Triptolemus as prefect of the fruits, who restored Greece when it was suffering from famine by sending around grain.”
NovoScriptorium: Here we receive another interesting piece of information about Triptolemus. He is said to have “restored Greece when it was suffering from famine by sending around grain“. Triptolemus must have been a pioneer of seeds’ domestication and Agriculture in general. He had mastered the cultivation of seeds at such a level that he was able to send grain all over Greece and cure the hunger of the people. He not only systematically cultivated various -obviously domesticated- seeds, but he had also the ability to store very big quantities of them.
From Porhpyry‘s “De abstinentia” we learn:
“§ 4.22 It now remains that we should adduce a few examples of certain individuals, as testimonies in favour of abstinence from animal food. For the want of these was one of the accusations which were urged against us. We learn, therefore, that Triptolemus was the most ancient of the Athenian legislators; of whom Hermippus, in the second book of his treatise on Legislators, writes as follows:
“It is said, that Triptolemus established laws for the Athenians. And the philosopher Xenocrates asserts, that three of his laws still remain in Eleusis, which are these, Honour your parents; Sacrifice to the Gods from the fruits of the earth; Injure not animals.” Two of these, therefore, he says, are properly instituted. For it is necessary that we should as much as possible recompense our parents for the benefits which they have conferred on us; and that we should offer to the Gods the first-fruits of the things useful to our life, which they have imparted to us. But with respect to the third law, he is dubious as to the intention of Triptolemus, in ordering the Athenians to abstain from animals. Was it, says he, because he thought it was a dire thing to slay kindred natures, or because he perceived it would happen, that the most useful animals would be destroyed by men for food? Wishing, therefore to make our life as mild as possible, he endeavoured to preserve those animals that associate with men, and which are especially tame. Unless, indeed, because having ordained that men should honour the Gods by offering to them first-fruits, he therefore added this third law, conceiving that this mode of worship would continue for a longer time, if sacrifices through animals were not made to the Gods. But as many other causes, though not very accurate, of the promulgation of these laws, are assigned by Xenocrates, thus much from what has been said is sufficient for our purpose, that abstinence from animals was one of the legal institutes of Triptolemus. Hence, those who afterwards violated this law, being compelled by great necessity, and involuntary errors, fell, as we have shown, into this custom of slaughtering and eating animals.”
NovoScriptorium: Triptolemus “was the most ancient of the Athenian legislators“. Triptolemus “established laws for the Athenians“. “abstinence from animals was one of the legal institutes of Triptolemus”. Triptolemus “endeavoured to preserve those animals that associate with men, and which are especially tame“. So, this source displays Triptolemus as having vegetarian preferences in his diet. He also formed laws/legislations to enforce these ideas to all of the Athenians. There is an evident rejection of meat consumption in various ancient Greek philosophical (and mythological) texts. This narration of the myth most likely encrypts some form of religious ascesis (i.e. fasting-abstinence from meat) related to the Great Mysteries, that dates back to the beginnings of the Agricultural times.
From Aelius Aristides‘ “Eleusinian oration” we learn:
“§ 257. As for the spectacles, they have been seen in the secret apparitions by numerous generations of blessed men and women. As for what is public knowledge, this is celebrated by all the poets, writers of myths and historians: that for a time the daughter of Demeter vanished, and Demeter wandered over all the earth and sea in search of Her daughter. Meanwhile, She was unable to find Her, but, having come to Eleusis, She created a name for the place, and when She had found Her daughter, She created the Mysteries. And the Two Goddesses gave wheat to the city of Athens and the City in turn gave it to all the Hellenes and barbarians. And Celeus, Metaneira and Triptolemus are referred to in connection with these acts, and winged chariots of dragons borne over every land and sea.”
NovoScriptorium: “the Two Goddesses (Demeter and Persephone) gave wheat to the city of Athens and the City in turn gave it to all the Hellenes and barbarians“. This excerpt provides the same information as the majority of the ancient Sources do; Agriculture was firmly believed to have started in Attica and then was spread to all “the Hellenes and barbarians“. Triptolemus is “referred to in connection with these acts“. From this source though we are also informed that this story was “public knowledge” and “celebrated by all the poets, writers of myths and historians“, i.e. it was considered as a “fact beyond doubt’ for countless generations of Greek and Latin speakers, one of the core myths of Greek (and Graeco-Roman) Civilization.
From Libanius‘ “Oration in praise of Antioch” we learn:
“§ 45. Inachus, seeking his daughter and unable to find her, and desiring mightily to recover her, put ships to sea, and sent aboard them the Argives who are well known in the tale, making Triptolemus the leader of the whole undertaking, and sent them forth in search of his vanished daughter.
§ 46. And they sailed every route, penetrated every strait, passed every headland, went ashore on islands, searched the shores, went up far into the midst of the mainland, being resolved to die before they gave up the search.
§ 47. As they came here to this country*, and came out of their ships, it was night; and they went up to the mountain among the inhabitants, who were few in number, and approached their dwellings and knocked on the doors and made inquiry concerning Io. They found a hospitable welcome; and coming to love the country, they made this the end of their voyage, exchanging their eagerness in the search for a desire to remain. And so, giving up the purpose by which they had been urged on, they put the land which they admired above the goal for which they had set sail.
*The region of Antioch, Levantine.
§ 48. This undertaking had been that they should not fail to find Io, but that they should put aside all thought of their native land; for it had been laid upon them, by him who sent them forth, either to bring the maiden back, or not to return themselves. Thus, when they ceased their search, they were willing to be cut off from their native land.
§ 49. If indeed they had traveled to the ends of the world, and had then decided to stay when nothing remained to be searched, the cause of their guilt would have been necessity, and not simply love of the country; since, however, they made this decision when much of the world remained in which there was some hope of making the discovery, those who put their desire to remain before their hopes really preferred this strange country to their native land. It was to such a degree as this that the land enchanted them.
§ 50. And when they had occupied the land, they were possessed by it completely, and the spell of their fatherland gave way completely before their admiration of the land which had bound them to it. I could wish that Homer, who lived after these events, had not said that nothing is sweeter to men than their fatherland, but had, because of the decision of the Argives, said the opposite, namely that often a better land, drawing men’s desires to itself, drives out the remembrance of their native land.
§ 51. And so Triptolemus, who had set out in search of the Argive maiden, settled the people whom he had brought with him and built a city under the mountain and in the city a sanctuary of Zeus, whom he called Nemean; but he gave the name Ione to the city, from the daughter of Inachus. For since it was on giving up the search for her that they settled in the city, they did honor to her by choosing this name for the town. And when they worked the land and reaped its fruits, they changed the epithet of Zeus from Nemean to Epikarpios (Fruit-bringing).
§ 52. So Triptolemus, when he had laid the first foundations of the city, was removed from among men and because of the honors due him was numbered among the heroes. Then the god according to whose desire the city was created, wishing it to be increased by the finest races, moved Kasos to leave Crete, a goodly man, and brought him here, and the noblest of the Cretans followed him.
§ 53. When they came, they found the Argives better than the people they had left at home. For Minos in jealousy had driven them out; but the Argives received them gladly, and gave them a share of the city and of the land and of whatever they possessed. Kasos indeed did not wish to receive in good treatment more than he gave in good works. And seeing that many of the laws of Triptolemus had been altered, he revived them, and he founded Kasiotis.
§ 54. And as he acquired greater knowledge of affairs, he sought to win the good will of the people of Cyprus for the city, and married the daughter of Salaminus, who ruled over the people of Cyprus. As the maiden set sail, there came with her a fleet which formed an escort over the sea for the bride. And when they tasted the pleasures of our land, they gave up their island and became a part of the city.
§ 55. One could find proof of Kasos being celebrated because of his virtues in the fact that the ruler of so great an island was glad to be connected with him by marriage, and proof also of the kindness of Kasos in the circumstance that those who brought the maiden preferred his protection to their dearest kin.
§ 56. It is said also that some of the Herakleidae, after the exile to which they were driven by Eurystheus, taking with them many Eleans, after they had seen and disapproved of the whole of Europe and the remainder of Asia, put an end here to their toils and settled themselves and built Herakleia as an addition to the city.
§ 57. Let one consider our noble descent, and the way in which whatever was finest in all places has flowed together here, as though to a place chosen by the gods to receive men worthy of admiration. We alone have origins which have brought together in the same place the noble elements provided by each of our sources: the high antiquity of the Argives, the just laws of the Cretans, a royal race from Cyprus, and the line of Herakles.”
NovoScriptorium: The above Source provides us with amazing information; a group of Greeks (Argives) from the Peloponnese, with Triptolemus as leader, goes on an expedition to find the lost daughter of Inachus, Io.
As clearly stated “they sailed every route, penetrated every strait, passed every headland, went ashore on islands, searched the shores, went up far into the midst of the mainland“, their naval capabilities were great (something which is archaeologically confirmed for the Aegeans already since the 13th millennium B.C.).
The group arrives in the region of, well-known historically, Antioch, in the Near East. The territory’s inhabitants “were few in number” back then, but also hospital enough.
The Greek group falls in love with the new country and decides to end the expedition right there and make of it a new homeland. They “really preferred this strange country to their native land“, and also “the spell of their fatherland gave way completely before their admiration of the land which had bound them to it“.
We are also informed that Homer lived after these events.
We are told that Triptolemus “settled the people whom he had brought with him and built a city under the mountain and in the city a sanctuary of Zeus, whom he called Nemean; but he gave the name Ione to the city, from the daughter of Inachus“. So what we see is a proper occupation-colonization of the territory. Most likely in co-operation and mingling with the few friendly and hospital natives.
Then we see a second wave of colonists arriving from Crete; “the god according to whose desire the city was created, wishing it to be increased by the finest races, moved Kasos to leave Crete, a goodly man, and brought him here, and the noblest of the Cretans followed him“. Then “the Argives received them gladly, and gave them a share of the city and of the land and of whatever they possessed“. Kasos, the leader of the Cretans “seeing that many of the laws of Triptolemus had been altered, he revived them, and he founded Kasiotis“. Kasos is said here to have lived in the times of Minos.
Then we see another wave of colonists arriving now from Cyprus “when they tasted the pleasures of our land, they gave up their island and became a part of the city“.
Then another wave of colonists settles in the region; “some of the Herakleidae…taking with them many Eleans, after they had seen and disapproved of the whole of Europe and the remainder of Asia, put an end here to their toils and settled themselves and built Herakleia as an addition to the city“. Herakleidae were the descendants of Hercules (one of the different ones) and they were from the Peloponnese. The Eleans were also from the Peloponnese. It is very interesting to read that they “had seen and disapproved of the whole of Europe and the remainder of Asia” as it is a fine indication of their movement capabilities, especially of naval ones.
To conclude the analysis of this excerpt, what we have here is a testimony from an ancient text that Greeks from various places colonized the North of the Levantine in Prehistoric times. Taking in account the information that Triptolemus was the leader of the initial expedition, it comes almost as a certainty to assume that he carried there (and possibly taught, too) the knowledge of Agriculture, as he is said to have done throughout the Earth.
From Ammianus Marcellinus‘ “History” we learn:
“§ 22.2.3. For they perceived that the throne, which they were on their way to usurp in the face of the greatest dangers, had beyond their hope been granted to him by the ordinary course of law. And as rumour is wont to exaggerate all novelties, he hastened on from there, now raised still higher, as though in some chariot of Triptolemus, which the poets of old, because of its swift turnings, represented as drawn through the air by winged dragons; and dreaded by land and sea and opposed by no delays, he entered Heraclea, also called Perinthus.”
NovoScriptorium: Here we receive an explanation about the ‘dragons’ of Triptolemus’ chariot. It seems a very reasonable one; it was simply an indication of the chariot’s swiftness while moving.
From Dionysius of Halicarnassus‘ “Roman Antiquities” we learn:
“§ 1.12.1. And finding there much land suitable for pasturage and much for tillage, but for the most part unoccupied, and even that which was inhabited not thickly populated, he cleared some of it of the barbarians and built small towns contiguous to one another on the mountains, which was the customary manner of habitation in use among the ancients. And all the land he occupied, which was very extensive, was called Oinotria, and all the people under his command Oinotrians, which was the third name they had borne. For in the reign of Aezeius they were called Aezeians, when Lycaon succeeded to the rule, Lycaonians, and after Oinotrus led them into Italy they were for a while called Oinotrians.
2. What I say is supported by the testimony of Sophocles, the tragic poet, in his drama entitled Triptolemus; for he there represents Demeter as informing Triptolemus how large a tract of land he would have to travel over while sowing it with the seeds she had given him. For, after first referring to the eastern part of Italy, which reaches from the Iapygian Promontory to the Sicilian Strait, and then touching upon Sicily on the opposite side, she returns again to the western part of Italy and enumerates the most important nations that inhabit this coast, beginning with the settlement of the Oinotrians. But it is enough to quote merely the iambics in which he says: ‘And after this, — first, then, upon the right, Oinotria wide-outstretched and Tyrrhene Gulf, And next the Ligurian land shall welcome thee.’ ”
NovoScriptorium: This ancient Source provides us with the information that Triptolemus also travelled to the Italian peninsula to teach Agriculture. He is told by Demeter that he is going to be welcomed there. And that is because there were already colonists from Greece in the Italian peninsula before his journey; “unoccupied” and “not thickly populated” territories existed back then. We also learn of some wars that took place against the natives; “cleared some of it of the barbarians and built small towns contiguous to one another on the mountains, which was the customary manner of habitation in use among the ancients“. Interestingly, Oinotria and Tyrrhene Gulf are in Southern Italy, while Liguria is at its very North. So, what we have here is a narration for a Prehistoric colonization of the Italian peninsula from people coming from the Greek peninsula, who are spreading and settling at both Southern and Northern regions. Then Triptolemus travels to Italy to support the colonists with the new and life-changing knowledge of Agriculture.
The most prevailing theory in our times is that cultivation and domestication started somewhere in the Near East and then spread Westwards with the aid of some supposed Near Eastern colonists. Anyone who has read the above excerpts realizes that modern theories stand directly against the ancient Tradition, teaching the exactly opposite.
Research-Selection-Comments for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos & Philaretus Homerides