Sanctuary of the Cabeiri at Lemnos
The Mysteries of the Cabeiri of Lemnos and Samothrace were very important. The Cabeiri were a group of deities of the ancient Greek religion, while in the dictionary of Sudas, Cabeir means Daemon. According to Welcker and Maury, the word Cabeiri is produced by the Greek verb καίω (burn), and are the evil daemons born in the depths of the sea, who expel the flame of their father Hephaestus and destroy the ground. The religion of Hephaestus prevailed in Lemnos (the location of his workshop) and the Cabeiri were considered his children, whom he had with Kabeiro, the daughter of Proteus, who accompanied the chariot of Poseidon.
There is also the opinion, according to Pausanias, that the worship of the Cabeiri is associated with fire worship, which was introduced by the Thraco-Pelasgians and received by the Achaeans in 2.200 B.C.
Apollo is also mentioned as a Cabeiri deity.
The modern inhabitants of the island give it a plural name: Cabeiri. It was discovered by L. Bernarbo Brea at the cape of Chloe in NE Lemnos, opposite the site of ancient Hephaestia. It was excavated by the Italian Archaeological School of Athens in 1937-39. Since 1982 research and excavations are continued.
The sanctuary of the Cabeiri was protected, by land, by a long wall at the top of the hill which hid it from the eyes of the uninitiated. The main buildings of the sanctuary were large halls of initiation (Telestiria) within which the “sacred” was revealed to the initiate, the so called Cabeirian mysteries. Their ruins are preserved in two flat areas, held up on the steep slope towards the sea, by supports.
At the back of the cella (the main interior of the temple) are the foundations of a small temple, destined for the “sacred”. The cella is divided into three compartments by two rows of five marble columns, and with a portico supported towards the sea by a strong stylobate.
A rich repository of offerings, lamps for night ceremonies, kantharoi, skyphoi, “compasses”, pottery for the sacred symposia, belong to the classical and Hellenistic phase. In the sanctuary, fragments of sculptures, terracotta and bronze figurines, glassware and many votive, honorific, liberating inscriptions were found.
The archaic telesterion is located in the southern plateau, with benches of half-baked plinths along the walls where the initiates sat. In the back there was the most holy place, the adyton, where the priest entered and the statues of the gods were situated.
It is perhaps the oldest known telesterion in Greece, even older than the Soloneio Telesterion in Eleusis. It was destroyed by fire, probably by the invading Persians in 512 BC.
The Hellenistic telesterion was built on the northern plateau and is the first thing someone sees when entering the site. It is rectangle, measuring 33 x 46.10 meters, double in size compared to the sanctuary of Samothrace and at the front it had a portico with 12 columns. It was divided into three aisles, by two rows of four Ionic columns.