Patron of the Eleusinian Mysteries
Founder of Agriculture
Judge of the Afterlife
Detail of Triptolemus standing between Demeter and Persephone, Great Eleusinian Relief in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
AbodeEleusis, Elysium, Hades
MountDragon-drawn chariot
ParentsOceanus and Gaia, or Celeus and Metanira

Triptolemus /ˌtrɪpˈtɒlɪməs/ (Greek: Τριπτόλεμος, romanizedTriptólemos, lit.'Tripartite warrior') also known as Buzyges (Greek: Βουζύγης, romanizedBuzyges, lit.'Bull-hitcher'), was a hero in Greek mythology, central to the Eleusinian Mysteries. He was either a mortal prince and the eldest son of King Celeus of Eleusis, or according to Pseudo-Apollodorus' Bibliotheca (I.V.2), either the divine son of Gaia and Oceanus, or the grandson of Hermes through Eleusis. He was the ancestor to a royal priestly caste of the Eleusinian Mysteries, who claimed to be Buzygae (Βουζύγαι), that taught agriculture and performed secret rites and rituals, of which Pericles was its most famous descendant.[1]


Persephone's abduction

While Demeter (in the guise of an old woman named Doso) was searching for her daughter Persephone (Kore), who had been abducted by Hades, she received a hospitable welcome from Celeus. He asked her to nurse Demophon—"killer of men", a counterpart to Triptolemus— and Triptolemus, his sons by Metanira. Demeter saw Triptolemus was sick and fed him her breast milk. Not only did he recover his strength but he instantly became an adult.[2] As another gift to Celeus, in gratitude for his hospitality, Demeter secretly planned to make Demophon immortal by burning away his mortal spirit in the family hearth every night. She was unable to complete the ritual because Metanira walked in on her one night. Instead, Demeter chose to teach Triptolemus the art of agriculture and, from him, the rest of Greece learned to plant and reap crops. He flew across the land on a chariot drawn by dragons while Demeter and Persephone, once restored to her mother, cared for him, and helped him complete his mission of educating the whole of Greece in the art of agriculture. Triptolemus was equally associated with the bestowal of hope for the afterlife associated with the expansion of the Eleusinian Mysteries (Kerenyi 1967 p 123).

Adventures of the hero

When Triptolemus taught King Lyncus of the Scythians, the arts of agriculture, Lyncus refused to teach it to his people and then tried to murder Triptolemus. As punishment, Demeter turned Lyncus into a lynx. King Charnabon of the Getae also made an attempt on Triptolemus' life, killing one of his dragons to prevent his escape. Demeter intervened again, replacing the dragon and condemning Charnabon to a life of torment. Upon his death, Charnabon was placed in the stars as the constellation Ophiuchus, said to resemble a man trying to kill a serpent, as a warning to mortals who would think to betray those favoured by the gods.

Triptolemus on a 2nd-century Roman sarcophagus (Louvre Museum).

Eleusinian Mysteries

In the archaic Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Triptolemus is briefly mentioned as one of the original priests of Demeter, one of the first men to learn the secret rites and mysteries of Eleusinian Mysteries: Diocles, Eumolpos, Celeus and Polyxeinus were the others mentioned of the first priests. The role of Triptolemus in the Eleusinian mysteries was exactly defined: "he had a cult of his own, apart from the Mysteries. One entered his temple on the way to the closed-off sacred precinct, before coming to the former Hekataion, the temple of Artemis outside the great Propylaia." (Kerenyi). In the 5th-century bas-relief in the National Museum, Athens (illustration), which probably came from his temple, the boy Triptolemus stands between the two Goddesses, Demeter and the Kore, and receives from Demeter the ear of grain (of gold, now lost).

Porphyry (On Abstinence IV.22) ascribes to Triptolemus three commandments for a simple, pious life: "Honor your parents", "Honor the gods with fruits"—for the Greeks, "fruits" would include the grain—and "Spare the animals" (Kerenyi, p128).

Triptolemus is also depicted as a young man with a branch or diadem placed in his hair, usually sitting on his chariot, adorned with serpents. His attributes include a plate of grain, a pair of wheat or barley ears and a scepter.

Celeus or the peasant Dysaules may be substituted for Triptolemus as the primordial Eleusinian recipient of the first gifts of the Mysteries.

Comparative table of Triptolemus' family
Relation Names Sources
Schol. on Hesiod Orphic Frag.[full citation needed] Pher. Mus. Choe. Pany. Ovid Sch. on Stat. Apol. Hyg. Paus. Serv. Unknown
Parentage Cheimarrhoos and Polymnia [3]
Oceanus and Gaia
Rharos and daughter of Amphictyon
Celeus and Metanira
Celeus and Polymnia
Eleusinos (Eleusis) and Hyona
Eleusinos (Eleusis) and Cothonea
Eleusinos (Eleusis) and Cyntinea
Trochilus and Eleusinian woman
Siblings Eubuleus
Cercyon (half-brother)

See also


  1. ^ Bloch, René (Berne) (2006-10-01), "Buzygae", Brill’s New Pauly, Brill, retrieved 2023-07-27
  2. ^ William Godwin (1876). "Lives of the Necromancers". p. 37.
  3. ^ Scholia on Hesiod, Works and Days, 1, p. 28