News site The Atlantic recently ran a very interesting background article on, well, a lot of things of interest to me at least. It's titled 'Searching for Lost Knowledge in the Age of Intelligent Machines' and uses the Antikythera Mechanism as an example of how modern online databases may make it possible to find and combine information in a way that we never thought would be possible. Read the whole article, it is truly interesting. I'll copy unto here only a small portion that I would like to share as I think it presents an opportunity that is very important to us: the furthuring of the understanding of the ancient Hellenic culture and religion.


"Scholars have long wrestled with 'undiscovered public knowledge,' a problem that occurs when researchers arrive at conclusions independently from one another, creating fragments of understanding that are 'logically related but never retrieved, brought together, [or] interpreted,' as Don Swanson wrote in an influential 1986 essay introducing the concept. 'That is,' he wrote, 'not only do we seek what we do not understand, we often do not even know at what level an understanding might be achieved.' In other words, on top of everything we don’t know, there’s everything we don’t know that we already know.

Thirty years after he published his essay, we no longer have to rely on human contrivances alone. Now, with the ubiquity of the internet and the rise of machine learning, a new kind of solution is beginning to take shape. The infrastructure of the web, built to link one resource to the next, was the beginning. The next wave of information systems promises to more deeply establish links between people, ideas, and artifacts that have, so far, remained out of reach—by drawing connections between information and objects that have come unmoored from context and history.

Discovery in the online realm is powered by a mix of human curiosity and algorithmic inquiry, a dynamic that is reflected in the earliest language of the internet. The web was built to be explored not just by people, but by machines. As humans surf the web, they’re aided by algorithms doing the work beneath the surface, sequenced to monitor and rank an ever-swelling current of information for pluckable treasures.

The search engine as we know it now is undergoing a period of radical reinvention, in processing power and in structure, and is likely to be transformed even more dramatically in the years to come. If there is any hope of finding new information about the Antikythera Mechanism—or, for that matter, any additional devices like it—it is likely that machines, working alongside human researchers, will play a pivotal role.

People who are thinking deeply about the future of search tend to agree that this sort of machine inference will be possible, yet there’s still no straightforward path to such a system. For all the promise and sophistication of machine learning systems, inference computing is only in its infancy. Computers can carry out massive contextualization tasks like facial recognition, but there are still many limitations to even the most impressive systems. Nevertheless, once machines can help process and catalogue huge troves of text—a not-too-distant inevitability in machine learning, many computer scientists say—it seems likely that a flood of previously forgotten artifacts will emerge from the depths of various archives.

Artificially intelligent systems are already creating and distilling robust models of human knowledge, but they’ll still be constrained by the datasets that feed into them. So there will be some degree of luck involved if, for instance, a machine happens upon an ancient document that reveals the whereabouts of more machines like the Antikythera Mechanism, or determines who built the one found on the Mediterranean seafloor so many decades ago. At the same time, the evolution of information systems makes remarkable discoveries seem more possible now than ever before."

The article references the Antikythera Mechanism but the same holds true for information about ancient religious festivals, about which deities were worshipped where, about details of how rituals were performed and sacrifices given. Information about all of these things could be in a box in some museum's cellar. They could be in a paper written about something else entirely. They could be found one day, linked and interpreted to further our knowledge and modern technology and search engine technology will play a major role then. I'm eager for these times; eager to know more. Because one thing is for sure: there are large gaps in our knowledge now.
In a move I had not seen coming--but which in retrospect makes at least a little sense--Greece has made an official request to France to return the Aphrodite/Venus de Milo to Greece. The Times has reported that as the 200-year anniversary of its discovery is swiftly approaching, the mayor of Milos, Gerasimos Damoulakis, is echoing the thoughts and sentiments of many Greeks in his request to have the statue returned to its home, on the island.


"The claim itself isn’t new. There’s not a Greek out there who hasn’t wondered why Greece’s finest piece of antiquity is sitting in France rather than in its birthplace. Our island’s treasures have been looted and we’re finally ready to fight to win them back."

It has been almost 200 years since the famous statue known to Greeks as Aphrodite of Milos was discovered by a farmer on the Greek island of Milos. The Aphrodite of Milos was discovered on 8 April 1820 by a farmer named Yorgos Kentrotas, inside a buried niche within the ancient city ruins of Milos, the current village of Tripiti, on the island of Milos in the Aegean, which was then a part of the Ottoman Empire.

The statue was found in two large pieces (the upper torso and the lower draped legs) along with several herms (pillars topped with heads), fragments of the upper left arm and left hand holding an apple, and an inscribed plinth.

Olivier Voutier, a French naval officer, was exploring the island. With the help of the young farmer, Voutier began to dig around what were clearly ancient ruins. Within a few hours Voutier had uncovered Venus de Milo. About ten days later, another French naval officer, Jules Dumont d'Urville, recognized its significance and arranged for a purchase by the French ambassador to Turkey, Charles-François de Riffardeau, marquis, later duc de Rivière.

News of the discovery took longer than normal to get to the French ambassador. The farmer grew tired of waiting for payment and was pressured into selling it to Nicholas Mourousi, Grand Dragoman of the Fleet, working as a translator for Sultan Mahmud II in Constantinople (present day Istanbul, Turkey). The French ambassador's representative, Hermes de Marcellus, arrived just as the statue was being loaded aboard a ship bound for Constantinople and seized the statue and persuaded the island's chief citizens to annul the sale. From there on, it was taken to France. The statue of Aphrodite would then end up in the Louvre in Paris and become one of the museum’s most famous items on display.

Damoulakis announced last week that the island was making a formal request to have the statue of Aphrodite returned to Milos as well as a petition to the European Union signed by 1 million individuals.

Personally, I do not see it happening that the statue will return home; too much money is involved and--like the UK when it comes to the Parthenon Marbles--there is a history of sale (wether recognized or not) which means Milos has to rely on the kindnes of the Louve and the French governement. As much as I like the French, without a good reason or trade, I do not see them handing over the marble.
After the quiet month of Maimakterion, Poseideon brings with it a slew of festivals. We'll start on Monday, december 5th with the Plerosia. Will you be joining us at 10 AM EST? If you are a woman that is; it seems the Plerosia was a women-only festival.


The Plerosia is a non-Athenian festival. As such, the details of the celebration are somewhat vague. So we extrapolate from the placement of the festival and the little information we have. What we know for sure is that Zeus was worshipped, and that it's often linked to the Proerosia. As such, we can assume Demeter was also honoured, and that it was a harvest festival of sorts--the name translates roughly to 'festival of completion'. This is where the assumptions begin, but we get an extra hint of the intended purpose of the festival because of Zeus' inclusion and the name of the festival.

Poseideon marks the end of the harvesting season, as well as the trading season. The majority of the work is done. Now it's time to return home, take stock, and stay warm. It's a time to thank the Theoi for all that has been recieved and all that will get us through the winter. The word ‘plerosis’ means fulfillment, satiated, filled, and implies banqueting and celebration of the bounty of the season that is ending. This is also the spirit we have tried to capture in the ritual.

As a separate--and very important--note: the Plerosia seems to have been a women-only festival, like the Skira(phoria) and the Thesmophoria. We're not sure this is correct, but we'll go with it anyway. Once reason I could think of is that now the winter is upon us, we turn to the domain of the women: the house(hold). As such, it is her prerogative to thank the Gods for the food she can feed her family with.
 
The ritual for this sacrifice can be found here, and you can join our community page here. We hope you will join us in celebrating this joyous event.
We are proud to announce that Pandora's Kharis members have come through for the restauration of the ancient theatre of Cassope! Together, they have raised $ 80,- to help support this very worthy cause.

 

The Grand Theatre of Cassope is located in the ruined hill northwest of cassope. It was constructed in the 3rd century BC and had a capacity of about 2,500 people. According to some authors it could accommodate 6,000 people. It was the largest of a total of two theaters that existed in the city. The other, called the Conservatory of distinction, could seat 300 to 500 people. The large theater is now largely destroyed due to natural decay and is nearly inaccessible. This is about to change, though.

The act4Greece program is run by National Bank of Greece, with strategic partners including the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation, the John S. Latsis Foundation, the Bodossaki Foundation, the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO, and the Hellenic Network for Corporate Social Responsibility.

Diazoma, a citizens’ group that works to protect and promote Greece’s ancient monuments, recently came up with a proposal to include the Cassope theatre in the act4greece program – an idea that received the green light from National Bank. The target is set at 80,000 euros, and it must be reached by December 31. They are currently not even half way there, but we have hope!

From this moment on, the Pandora's Kharis Facebook page is open to pitches. If you do not have Facebook, feel free to pitch your cause in the comments. We will relay the message to the community. Please pitch your cause before December 10th. On to another month of pitching, voting, and giving!
On the day of the Hene kai Nea, I post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog and in projects and organizations related to it. I will also announce Elaion's coming PAT rituals.

Changes to the blog:
  • I have had no life. sorry, very few changes
  • By the way, next month the number dates of the modern and ancient calendars will be exactly the same; Poseideon 1 is December 1; very rare!
Statistics:
PAT rituals for Poseideon:
  • 5/12 - Poseideon 5 - Plerosiafestival at Attic deme of Myrrhinus
  • 10/12 - Poseideon 10 - Rustic or Lesser Dionysia in honor of Dionysos
  • 16/12 - Poseideon 16 -  Sacrifice to Zeus Horios at Erkhia
  • 21/12 - Poseideon 21 - Poseidea - festival in honor of Poseidon
  • 26/12 - Poseideon 26 - Haloa - fertility festival in honor of Dionysos and Demeter
Anything else?
Act4Greece has become Pandora's Kharis' cause for Maimakteria 2016. The money will go towards the crowdfunded restauration of the ancient theatre of Cassope, in the region of Epirus. The Grand Theatre of Cassope is located in the ruined hill northwest of cassope. It was constructed in the 3rd century BC and had a capacity of about 2,500 people. According to some authors it could accommodate 6,000 people. It was the largest of a total of two theaters that existed in the city. The other, called the Conservatory of distinction, could seat 300 to 500 people. The large theater is now largely destroyed due to natural decay and is nearly inaccessible. This is about to change, though.
The deadline to donate is November 30th, 2016. You can do so by using the PayPal option to the side of the Pandora's Kharis website or by donating directly to baring.the.aegis@gmail.com. Thank you in advance!

Are you looking for an online shop to buy incenses and other Hellenistic basics from? Try The Hellenic Handmaid on Etsy.
I wasn't going to write more about the Terracotta Warriors of China and the recently formed theory that the 8,000 statues may have been crafted under the guidance of ancient Hellenic sculptors in 3rd Century BC. I reported on it, then on the subsequent row that formed in China and by global archaeologists alike. that was enough, as far as I was concerned, seeing as it's not exactly of interest to the modern Hellenist. It's just my inner history nerd that finds this interesting.

And then Heritage Daily wrote a background piece about this affair and darn it, it makes a few points that I do want people to read. Points that are of interest to the modern Hellenist because they speak to something that I encounter a lot: the glorification of ancient Hellas. I would like you to read the full article, but I am going to copy into this post the parts that jumped out at me.

"For centuries, archaeologists and art historians have been eager to see the imprint of the Greeks in works of art and architecture throughout the world. But this view rests on a Eurocentric logic which has long assumed other civilizations were fundamentally incapable of creating highly technical, impressive and aesthetically pleasing works of art.
 
In the West, classical Greek art and architecture is often presented as a singular achievement. The Greeks are credited with the invention of forms and techniques that were leaps and bounds ahead of their contemporaries. [...] Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, explorers and anthropologists [also] explained exotic foreign customs through a lens of Greek traditions. Likewise, travelers and archaeologists often fell back on theories of direct outside influence. How else could they explain sophisticated artistic techniques and engineering genius among “primitive” societies?
 
Whenever we say the cultural achievements of other societies are due to geographically remote – but familiar – genius and inspiration, there’s a cost. [...] It makes us forget the diversity of places that many look to for inspiration and validation. Erased are ideas of origins and narratives of belonging."

Ancient Hellenic culture produced many great thinkers, scientists and builders. There can be no debate about that. What can be debated, though, is that modern civilization started with them. When ancient Hellas was forming, the Egyptian empire had already largely formed and had made great advances in many fields of science, including medicine. By 1550 BC--long before Hypocrates--they had grasped the basics of medicine in examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. In the ancient Near East they were working on mathemetical laws millennia before Pythagoras became famous for them. And we're not even talking about the truly basic formation of civilization that started from at least 7000 BC on with the formation of a written script, the domestication of plants and animals and the fundamentals of astronmy and alchemy.

I am facinated with ancient Hellas and there is no denying that we have much to be grateful for when it comes to them. Astronomy, medicine, physics, biology, geology--the ancient Hellenes greatly furthered the research into all fields of science. But that is exactly what they did: they furthered it. And civilizations that rose after them furthered that knowledge even more until we end up where we are today.They did not rise to greatness in a vacuum. Many civilizations already existed, mixed and built with them. Not everything is Hellenic--and the ancient Hellenes don't have the basic and sole right to all advances in these fields. Great minds arose everywhere--that's what humanity does. that they came to simplar conclusions and had similar ideas is not unthinkable--and actually quite probable. It's the mixing of cultures we should be interested in, not in claiming victories for a sole people.
For those to whom it may be of interest: Cornell University in collaboration with research network ZOOMATHIA are looking for contributions to a conference on depictions and descriptions of animals in ancient Hellas, Rome and beyond. th deadline to submit is Wednesday, February 1, 2017.


Cornell University, Ithaca NY – September 8-10, 2017

Greek and Roman culture is replete with verbal and visual descriptions and depictions of animals, from Herodotus’ gold-digging ants or Pliny’s bestiary to Greek vase painting or the decoration of Roman houses and gardens. Research on ancient zoological knowledge has traditionally centered on identifying animal species in texts and images, determining the various sources of such knowledge, and relating these inquiries to their broader socio-historical and philosophical contexts. While these approaches can be fruitful, they often operate on the assumption that verbal and pictorial testimonies always record and illustrate specific information, echoing concrete ancient zoological knowledge.

This conference takes a decisively different approach.  We propose to consider depictions and descriptions of animals as methods of inquiry in and of themselves, rather than illustrations of knowledge ex post facto. Thus, for instance, Aristotle’s account of gregarious animals at the start of Historia Animalium may serve as a mode of understanding humans’ position within the animal world, rather than an account of ancient discoveries. In addition, ancient zoographers’ views might have been shaped by encounters with animals in contexts and media other than 'scientific' study or simple observation in nature. In this sense, do we seek to consider visual and textual sources as creative and active modes of representation and thereby forms of knowledge production, rather than reflections of it.

Contributions may focus on a single ancient description or depiction of an animal, or on a group of cases.  We particularly welcome contributions that engage with cognitive or media studies in their approach to texts or images;. And we also encourage contributors to think aboutconsider how ways in which ancient and medieval European zoological knowledge was produced differently from that in other times or areasof other cultures.

Papers Submissions may address the following questions:
- How do ancient descriptions and depictions of animals work as forms of inquiry to produce knowledge? 
- How do visual and verbal studies of animals interact with each other?
- How do descriptions and depictions of animals reflect human observation and experience?
- How do rhetorical images or metaphors work function as methods of inquiry?
- How do common knowledge vs. specialized inquiry influence depiction and description?
- (How) do sources distinguish between mythical and real animals?
- If depiction and description of animals create knowledge, do they shape literary or artistic styles? How do they relate to concepts of aesthetics and rhetoric?
- How do shifts in historical and cultural context affect animal description and depiction?
- What is the reception of famous depictions or descriptions (e.g. Herodotus' crocodile, Aristotle’s elephant, Myron’s cow?)

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words by February 1, 2017 to the conference organizers: Annetta Alexandridis (aa376@cornell.edu) and Athena Kirk (aek238@cornell.edu).