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Kallidike

Kallidike was the daughter of King Celeus of Eleusis and Metaneira. She had three sisters (Kleisidike, Demo, and Kallithoe) and two brothers (Demophon and Triptolemus). According to the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, the sisters looked like goddesses with their “bloom of adolescence”, but Kallidike was the most beautiful. One day, she went with her sisters to get water from the Parthenion (Maiden’s) wel…

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Kallidike

Kallidike was the daughter of King Celeus of Eleusis and Metaneira. She had three sisters (Kleisidike, Demo, and Kallithoe) and two brothers (Demophon and Triptolemus). According to the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, the sisters looked like goddesses with their “bloom of adolescence”, but Kallidike was the most beautiful. One day, she went with her sisters to get water from the Parthenion (Maiden’s) well, near the palace, to carry it in bronze water jars to their father’s home. They came across Demeter sitting under the thick growth of an olive tree. The sisters failed to recognise Demeter as the old woman resting in the shade. Demeter told them she had been kidnapped by pirates from her native Crete, only to escape when their ship came to Attica. Kallidike consoles the goddess as if she were a mortal, reminding her that “humans [must] endure the gifts the gods give” and lists the names of the kings who rule Eleusis. The sisters returned to the palace and informed their mother about the old woman's presence at the well. Metaneira urged them to bring her to the royal residence since she had been looking for someone to nourish her youngest son, Demophon. Demeter attempts to immortalise the young prince by burning away his mortal nature in the fire, but Metaneira discovers the nightly ritual and puts a stop to it in horror. Kallidike and her sisters heard their mother’s screams and rushed to Demophon’s chambers. One of them picked up the child in her arms; another one rekindled the fire, and the third tried to support her mother as she staggered out of the room. The sisters attempted to comfort the boy, wailing because he was now “being held by nursemaids who were far inferior” to the goddess. The girls spent the night praying to Demeter and trembling with fear. At dawn, they told Celeus what had happened and revealed Demeter’s request for a temple and an altar in her honour.