The memorial tomb of the ancient Greek didactic poet Aratus in the southern Turkish province of Mersin (Greek Myrsini), continues to intrigue archaeologists. The team led by academic Remzi Yağcı from Dokuz Eylül University, have been carrying out excavations to unearth the monumental grave of the ancient Greek poet Aratus, which is inside the ancient city of Soli Poempiopolis.

The tomb was already discovered three years ago, but archaeologists were not allowed to open it. The tomb of Aratus is of great importance for the region and so are the ruins of the ancient city.

According to reports, the team who were given the ‘green light’, reached the inner walls on the sixth day of the works.  Yağcı said that the team was unearthing pieces one relic at a time, hence, why they don’t know what exactly they are dealing with and how its shape will turn out to be.

Deniz Kaplan, an academic from Mersin University’s archaeology department, said he was thrilled by the findings. “We’re still at the start of things. But we’ve encountered a circular structure surrounded by two rows of hexagonal shapes. The shapes, however, can change the more the digs continue and become clearer. We can say clearer things in the future,” he said.

The team previously unearthed many glorious artefacts from thousands of years ago, including statues of gods, streets lined by columns with busts of emperors and senior managers, a theatre, as well as the city’s harbour and aqueduct.

Mezitli Mayor Neşet Tarhan said he has been visiting the site frequently to encourage the digs and is keen to see the findings unveiled, so that they can be introduced to the world.

The annual sacrifice at Erkhia to Zeus Epoptes (Εποπτες) was held on 25 Metageitnion. It is a sacrifice to the King of the Gods, and we will celebrate it on August 15th, at 10 AM EDT. Will you be joining us?

'Epoptes' (sometimes 'Epopteus' or 'Epopetei') is often translated as 'overseer' or 'watcher'; 'to look down upon'. Among the ancient Hellenes, the title of 'epoptes' was used of those who had attained the third grade of initiation, the highest, of the Eleusinian Mysteries; a religious cult at Eleusis, with its worship, rites, festival and pilgrimages open to all Hellenes willing to undergo initiation. The epopteia were--appropriately--charged with overseeing the proceedings at Eleusis, but seemingly received the name mostly because they had beheld the full mysteries of the Mysteries.

From the calendar we have recovered from Erkhia, we know that the sacrifice to Zeus Epoptes was a pig, burned completely in a holókaustos, without an offering of wine. It cost the Erkhians three drachmas.

You can find the ritual for the sacrifice here, and if you would like to join our community page for it, come on over to Facebook here. We would love it if you could join us!

 Aeschylus (Aiskhulos, Αἰσχύλος) is of the three Hellenic tragedians whose plays can still be read or performed. He was alive from around 525/524 BC to 456/455 BC, and according to Aristotle, he expanded  the number of characters in plays to allow for conflict amongst them, whereas previously characters had interacted only with the chorus. Aeschylus' most famous works are undoubtedly the Seven against Thebes, the Supplicants and the Orestia. Also usually attributed to him is 'Prometheus Bound'.

Prometheus Bound (Promētheus Desmōtēs, Προμηθεὺς Δεσμώτης) is an Ancient Greek tragedy. The tragedy is based on the myth of Prometheus, a Titan who defies the Gods and gives fire to mankind, acts for which he is subjected to perpetual punishment. Much of the play is performed by the chorus, who are, in this play, the representation of the Oceanids. In Hellenic mythology, the Oceanids (Ὠκεανίδες) are sea nymphs who are the three thousand daughters of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys. Each is the patroness of a particular spring, river, sea, lake, pond, pasture, flower or cloud.

Somewhere a little past the middle, Prometheus still firmly chained to the rock Zeus condemned him to, the chorus speaks to Prometheus through a plea to Zeus. It's this plea to Zeus I'd like to share with you today.

"May Zeus, who apportions everything, 
never set his power in conflict with my will,
nor may I be slow to approach the gods, 
with holy sacrifices of oxen slain, 
by the side of the ceaseless stream 
of Oceanus, my father;
and may I not offend in speech; 
but may this rule abide in my heart 
and never fade away.
Sweet it is to pass all the length of life 
amid confident hopes, 
feeding the heart in glad festivities." [529-544]

I have talked about slavery in ancient Hellas quite a bit on my blog. You an read the masterpost, if you will, here. The word 'slave' wasn't known in ancient Hellas, in fact, the first mention of the word dates back to the seventh century C.E.. A Hellenic slave was called a doûlos (δούλος), which would translate best as a 'servant' or 'serf'.  In ancient Hellas, doûlos were the working class. They were teachers, farmers, shop owners, herders, doctors, city militia, cleaners, etc. 

In democratic city states, the doûlos were protected by law and their masters were urged to care for them and treat them as fellow human beings. If a serf felt they were being mistreated by their master, they could seek asylum in a temple and request a new master. Murdering a doûlos was an equally severe crime as the murder of a free man. No servant could be executed on a whim; a court ruling was required. For a serf to be executed there should be a special reason imposed to the court. Any slave could buy his freedom for a certain amount of money and the state itself sometimes freed its serfs on their own accord. 

Of course, this all sounds a bit too positive. These conditions were prevalent in democratic city states but outside of those, life was hard for serfs. In Sparta, for example, serfs could be executed at will and were worked hard. Revolts happened on occasion. Punishment was prevalent, even in the democratic city states, and lashings were common place. Even if that wasn't the case, a huge portion of serfs were 'barbarian' men, women and children who had been kidnapped from their homes in non-Hellenic territories or who had lived for centuries on the land that the Hellens overtook.

Still, slavery was an ideal condition for some people in ancient Hellas. Poverty and diseases were so prevalent in those days that people preferred to be slaves to wealthy people so that they could survive those hardships. This gave them a level of economic security in that poverty-stricken world. Were all the slaves treated in the same manner? Here are three classifications of slaves.

Domestic Slaves

Domestic slaves in ancient Hellas would do everything around the house, including cooking, gardening, cleaning, washing, reading, writing, taking care of babies, and the sick. They also escorted their masters, carried and delivered messages, acted as travel companions, and did pretty much anything that has to be done at home. Since the slaves were regarded as a breathing piece of property, the quality of their lives just depended on their luck. If they were lucky enough to be acquired by a kind and humane master or mistress, they would perhaps be treated as a family member, of course, with strict limits. The slave would be incorporated into the family through a special ceremony. It was similar to the ceremony for a newborn baby to be incorporated into the family. These domestic slaves were likely to strengthen their ties with their masters or mistresses. If the slave took care of the children as a female nurse or a male paidagôgos, they were more likely to develop such ties. Interestingly, the words pedagogue and pedagogy come from the Greek word paidagôgos, which means a slave working as a tutor.

One such close relationship is portrayed in the Odyssey. We see this in the relationship between Odysseus and his nurse, Eurycleia. They were so close that when Odysseus returned from Ithaca disguised as a beggar, she notices the scar on his thigh. She is particularly trusted by Odysseus and his family because she was a freeborn, and was captured and sold by pirates.

Although there were many cases in which the masters were not totally satisfied with the services of their slaves, they were likely to win the hearts of their masters or mistresses. This was especially true if they had been with them from childhood as their nurses or tutors. Another sign that indicated the slaves were parts of the family was that they were buried in the family plots.

Despite all these close relationships, the owner was free to abuse his slave physically or sexually. Also, if the slave was too old or weak to fulfill their duties, the owner was at liberty to throw them out. At the time of economic crisis or famine, slaves would lose their rations, but otherwise, domestic servants were mostly paid well and their livelihood was secured.

Agricultural Slaves

The size of this slave workforce is much disputed. In Athens, the number depended on the number of peasant proprietors and large landowners. Peasant farmers were more likely to hire seasonal workers than having slaves for the job because the former were considerably cheaper.

The status, comfort, and security of the agricultural slaves were not the same as that of the domestic slaves. That’s because the agricultural slaves had limited contact with their master and couldn’t develop personal relationships with them. If they fell sick, they could be killed because they were not worthy anymore. Although there are no clear clues, it is speculated that the agricultural slaves were restrained in leg irons at night, like those who worked for the Romans.

Other Types of Slaves

In addition to domestic and agricultural slaves, there was a class of slaves called chôris oikountes, or those living separately. They did not live with their masters and worked as managers of shops and factories, bankers, captains of trading ships, bailiffs, artisans, and so on. This class of slaves existed because the Greeks did not like to work for other people. These slaves were considerably free and independent and worked on behalf of their masters on commission.

The dêmosioi, or the public ones, was another class of slaves in ancient Hellas. These slaves were owned by the state. Notaries, coin testers, jury clerks, and public executioners belonged to this class of slaves. Their jobs were generally considered demeaning. Road menders or masons also belonged to this group.

The industrial workers in ancient Hellas were also slaves. Their condition was the worst of the lot. They worked in mines or quarries, like Egyptian slaves. The working conditions were so adverse that some of them died because they had to work 24/7 non-stop.

 The 21th of Metageitnion, Hera Thelkhinia was honoured at Erkhia. Hera Thelkhinia, Goddess of Charm. Will you join us in honouring Her on August 11th (today!), at the usual 10 am EDT?

We know very little about this epithet of Hera, and it is often confused (including by yours truly) with 'Telkineia', missing the  'H'. The epithet Telkinios (Telkineia) is used for Apollon, Hera, and the Nymphs. It is linked to the island of Rhodes and either to metalworking or storm, at this point in time I truly am not sure. Metalworking would make sense, after all Hephaistos is the son of Hera.

In the Erkhian calendar, however, the epithet of Hera is Thelchiniai (ΘΕΛΧΙΝΙΑΙ), with an 'H'. The only references to this epithet is ‘charm’ and ‘charming’, not metal working. H. W. Parke, in Festivals of the Athenians' writes on page 179:

“Hera besides her festival with him [Zeus] had a sacrifice alone on the 20th of the same month under a title which seems to mean ‘Goddess of Charm’ (Thelchinia). So in Erkhia she may have included in her sphere the functions of the classical Aphrodite who was not worshipped in the deme."

The ritual for this sacrifice can be found here, and you can join our community page here.

Strabo (64 or 63 BC – c. AD 24) was a Hellenic geographer, philosopher, and historian who lived in Asia Minor during the transitional period of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. Strabo is most notable for his work Geographica ("Geography"), which presented a descriptive history of people and places from different regions of the world known to his era. I came across this part about the use and importance of mythology that I wanted to share with you today. I think his reasoning was true in ancient times, but holds true even today. A wonderful reminder!

"For every illiterate and uneducated person is in some way a child and delights in the same way in stories—similar as well is the case of a person educated moderately. For this person is not ruled by reason, and this is the custom from childhood. Since the marvelous is not only sweet but also frightening, there is a need for both types for children and those in the next age. We use the sweet stories to encourage children and the frightening ones to discourage them. The Lamia, for example, is a story like this, as is that of Ephialtes and Mormolukê.

Many of those who live in cities are compelled toward certain action by incitements of myths when they hear the poets praising the mythical courageous deeds—the deeds of Herakles or Theseus—or the honors accorded from the gods or when they see Zeus in a picture, or cult image, or images signaling the mythical tale in some way. To discourage them, they have tales whenever there are punishments from the gods and fears or threats or things they have received through some tale or unexpected punishment even if they believe it has happened to other people.

For it is not possible to persuade the mass of women and every kind of common person by reason with philosophy and to encourage them to piety, and righteousness, and fidelity; but it is necessary to do this through fear. And that is not [possible] without myth-making and wonder. For the lighting, aegis, trident, torches, dragons, thyrsis-shaking, weapons of the gods, the myths and all the ancient theology, these are all things those who found states use as bogeymen for childish minds.

This was myth-making and it was a good support for the commonwealth and the political arrangement of life and the inquiry of the way things really are; the ancients pursued their childhood’s education into their later years and they supposed that every age could become sufficiently prudent through poetry. In later years, the writing of history and then philosophy entered our consciousness. But these work only for the few; poetry is more useful to the public and can fill the theaters. The poetry of Homer supersedes: but the first historians and natural philosophers were myth-makers as well."

[Geography 1.2.8] 

Will you be joining us at 10 AM EDT on 9 August (today!) to celebrate the female heroes that we have so plentifully in our religion?

The ancient Erkhians honoured the Heroines twice a year, once on the 19th of Metageitnion, and once on the 14th of Pyanepsion. Certain heroines--like Basile--were worshipped separately from the group as well, most likely because they were local heroines instead of universally accepted heroines like Atalanta, who hunted the Calydonian boar, slew Centaurs, and defeated Peleus in wrestling, or Kallisto, who was an Arcadian princess and hunting companion of the Goddess Artemis. The Heroines received a white sheep in sacrifice, of which the meat was partly sacrificed and partly eaten by those who came out to sacrifice. The skin of the animal went towards the priestess.

Heroes and heroines have a special place in Hellenismos, as they had in ancient Hellas. These were humans--most with at least a part divine heritage--who were considered so brave, so skillful, so extraordinary in their lifetime that they became revered. Some were priests or priestesses of a temple, some excelled in battle, others were skilled healers or good rulers. Once they passed to the realm of Hades, their names were remembered at least once a year on a special occasion, because the ancient Hellenes believed that if the name and deeds of a person were remembered, they would live forever and potentially look out for those they had looked out for before.

Archaeological evidence suggests that hero worship was closer to Khthonic sacrifices in execution than Ouranic ones the further back in time you go; especially in the archaic period, it seems that hero worship consisted of destructive sacrifices--sometimes in the form of a holókaustos where the entire animal was burned, sometimes in a sacrifice where only a part (most often 'a ninth' of the animal) was burned and the rest remained on the altar for the heroes to eat from until gone. The sacrifices were generally burned in an offering pit known as a bothros. The food offered to heroes consisted of meat, blood, and 'food eaten by men' like grains, fruits and other every-day dishes. These were usually offered to the heroes on a table--known as a trapeza--and the heroes were sometimes offered chairs or a bench to sit on. As time went on, the living began to eat part of the meal laid out for the heroes, joining them in celebration.

You can find the ritual here and join our community page here. We have added some of the other main Hellenic Goddesses to the ritual as well. Feel free to add more of our Goddesses and heroines to your own ritual, especially if you feel close to Them! This ritual will be a celebration of the feminine power in our religion!