One of those days, people... one of those days... I'm going to have to leave you with a bit of ancient text, and I want to broaden the horizon a little today by giving you one of the spells/prayers from the Papyri Graecae Magicae, also known as the 'Greek Magical Papyri'. They are a body of papyri from Graeco-Roman Egypt, which each contain a number of magical spells, formulae, hymns and rituals. The materials in the papyri date from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD. The manuscripts came to light through the antiquities trade, from the 18th century onwards. One of the best known of these texts is the so-called Mithras Liturgy.

Today I would like to quote the logos--the invocatory utterance--of the document. It would have been spoken upon entering the magical rites and it's uzzeling and deliciously un-Hellenic. Enjoy!


Logos

"O Primal Origin of my origination; Thou Primal Substance of my substance; First Breath of breath, the breath that is in me; First Fire, God-given for the Blending of the blendings in me, [First Fire] of fire in me; First Water of [my] water. the water in me; Primal Earth-essence of the earthy essence in me; Thou Perfect Body of me - N. N. son of N. N., son of N.N. (fem.) - fashioned by Honoured Arm and Incorruptible Right Hand, in World that's lightless, yet radiant with Light, [in World] that's soulless, yet filled full of Soul!
 
If, verity, it may seem good to you, translate me, now held by my lower nature, unto the Generation that is free from Death; in order that, beyond the insistent Need that presses on me, I may have Vision of the Deathless Source, by virtue of the Deathless Spirit, by virtue of the Deathless Water, by virtue of the [Deathless] Solid, and [by virtue of] the [Deathless] Air; in order that 1 may become re-born in Mind; in order that 1 may become initiate, and that the Holy Breath may breathe in me; in order that 1 may admire the Holy Fire; that 1 may see the Deep of the [New] Dawn, the Water that doth cause [the Soul] to thrill; and that the, Life-bestowing Æther which surrounds [all things] may give me, Hearing.
 
For 1 am to behold to-day with Deathless Eyes - I, mortal, born of mortal womb, but [now] made better by the Might of Mighty Power, yea, by the Incorruptible Right Hand - [I am to see to-day] by virtue of the Deathless Spirit the DeathlessÆon, the master of the Diadeins of Fire - I with pure purities [now] Purified, the human soul-power of me subsisting for a little while in purity; which [power] I shall again receive transmitted unto me beyond the insistent Bitterness that presses on me, Necessity whose debts can never go unpaid - I, N. N., son of N. N. (fem.) - according to the Ordinance of God that naught can ever change.
 
For that it is beyond my reach that, born beneath the sway of Death, I should [unaided] soar into the Height, together with the golden sparklings of the Brilliancy that knows no Death. Stay still, O nature doomed to Perish, [nature] of men subject to Death! And straightway let me pass beyond the Need implacable that presses on me; for that I am His Son; I breathe; I am!"
The awesome people over at Ancient Origins recently posted a very iteresting article entitled: 'The Tunnel of Eupalinos: One of the Greatest Engineering Achievements of the Classical World'. It's about a subject I previously knew nothing about and perhaps the same holds true for you: an ancient tunnel that acted as an aquaduct to supply water for a prosperous and growing town.


The Tunnel of Eupalinos (or Eupalinos Tunnel) is located on the Greek island of Samos, and has been considered as one of the most important engineering achievements of the Classical world. It has been claimed that the construction of the Eupalinos Tunnel represents the first time in the history of mankind that a project on such a scale had been undertaken. Moreover, the planning and mathematical calculations that went into this project may be said to be on par with those employed by modern day engineers.

The Tunnel of Eupalinos was a project conceived during the 6th century BC. During this time, the ancient town of Samos, now known as Pythagorio / Pythagoreio / Pythagorion, was experiencing a period of prosperity. Along with this growing wealth, the town also saw an increase in the size of its population. Unfortunately, water sources in the town were not enough to satisfy the needs of its people. To maintain the prosperity of his town, the tyrant Polykrates had to find a solution to this problem, and employed the engineer Eupalinos of Megara to build an aqueduct.

Little is known about Eupalinos today. It is said that he was the son of a man by the name of Naustraphos, and came from a place known as Megara, which is situated between Corinth and Athens. The aqueduct was not the first project that Eupalinos had worked on under Polykrates. It has been recorded that, prior to this, Eupalinos was also commissioned to build the cyclopean wall that surrounded the town of Samos, as well as the mole in its harbor.
Eupalinos’ later project was an aqueduct, which was to connect the town of Samos to the north of Mount Kastro. It was from this mountain that the town would get its supply of water. From a spring on this mountain, water was conducted into a covered basin / reservoir, which is today under the old chapel of a deserted village by the name of Agiades. This aqueduct was completely subterranean, and it has been recorded that the water, from its source, travelled to the town of Samos over a total distance of over 2.5 km (1.5 mi). 1036 m (3398 ft.) of this distance involved a bored tunnel, which is perhaps the highlight of this monumental project.

Eupalinos could have used a much easier method to construct his aqueduct. This is known as ‘cut and cover’, and would allow the water to flow in a channel along the contours of Mount Kastro. For reasons that are unknown today, Eupalinos decided against this course of action, and instead decided to build a tunnel through the mountain.

This feat was accomplished by having the tunnel dug simultaneously from both ends. Using only picks, hammers and chisels, Eupalinos’ workers, many of whom are said to have been prisoners from Lesbos, dug their way through solid limestone. Clay / terracotta pipes were also put into place to facilitate the flow of the water. It has been estimated the whole system took about a decade to build. It has been speculated, that, when completed, Eupalinos’ creation supplied the town of Samos with 400 cubic meters of water per day.
The Tunnel of Eupalinos is said to have served its original purpose until the 7th century AD, when it fell into disuse during the Byzantine period. Following this abandonment, the tunnel was turned into a refuge by the local people, who hid in there when they were attacked by pirates. The tunnel’s defensive role may be seen in the fortressing walls that were built inside this ancient structure just after its southern entrance portal.

Eventually, however, the location of Eupalinos’ Tunnel was lost. Nevertheless, this structure had been mentioned in Herodotus’ Histories, which prompted many to look for it. It was only in 1853 that a French archaeologist by the name of Victor Guerin discovered the first 400 m (1312 ft.) of the aqueduct from the spring at Agiades. Over the next century, more discoveries were made, and eventually, in 1992, the Tunnel of Eupalinos became a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the ‘Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos’.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have pinpointed the elusive factor that makes the ancient amphitheatre an acoustic marvel, the Archaeological News Network reports. It's not the slope, or the wind--it's the seats. The rows of limestone seats at Epidaurus form an efficient acoustics filter that hushes low-frequency background noises like the murmur of a crowd and reflects the high-frequency noises of the performers on stage off the seats and back toward the seated audience member, carrying an actor's voice all the way to the back rows of the theatre.


 
The research, done by acoustician and ultrasonics expert Nico Declercq, an assistant professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Georgia Tech Lorraine in France, and Cindy Dekeyser, an engineer who is fascinated by the history of ancient Greece, appeared in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

While many experts speculated on the possible causes for Epidaurus' acoustics, few guessed that the seats themselves were the secret of its acoustics success. There were theories that the site's wind--which blows primarily from the stage to the audience--was the cause, while others credited masks that may have acted as primitive loudspeakers or the rhythm of Greek speech. Other more technical theories took into account the slope of the seat rows.

When Declercq set out to solve the acoustic mystery, he too had the wrong idea about how Epidaurus carries performance sounds so well. He suspected that the corrugated, or ridged, material of the theater's limestone structure was acting as a filter for sound waves at certain frequencies, but he didn't anticipate how well it was controlling background noise.

"When I first tackled this problem, I thought that the effect of the splendid acoustics was due to surface waves climbing the theatre with almost no damping. While the voices of the performers were being carried, I didn't anticipate that the low frequencies of speech were also filtered out to some extent."

But as Declercq's team experimented with ultrasonic waves and numerical simulations of the theatre's acoustics, they discovered that frequencies up to 500 Hz were held back while frequencies above 500 Hz were allowed to ring out. The corrugated surface of the seats was creating an effect similar to the ridged acoustics padding on walls or insulation in a parking garage.

So, how did the audience hear the lower frequencies of an actor's voice if they were being suppressed with other background low frequencies? There's a simple answer, said Declercq. The human brain is capable of reconstructing the missing frequencies through a phenomenon called virtual pitch. Virtual pitch helps us appreciate the incomplete sound coming from small loudspeakers (in a laptop or a telephone), even though the low (bass) frequencies aren't generated by a small speaker.

The ancient Hellenes misunderstanding the role the limestone seats played in Epidaurus' acoustics likely kept them from being able to duplicate the effect. Later theatres included different bench and seat materials, including wood, which may have played a large role in the gradual abandonment of Epidaurus' design over the years by the Hellenes and Romans, Declercq said.
In ancient Hellas, violent internal conflict between border neighbours and war with foreign invaders was a way of life, and the ancient Hellenes were considered premier warriors. Sparta, specifically, had an army of the most feared warriors in the ancient world. What were they doing to produce such fierce soldiers? Craig Zimmer shares some of the lessons that might have been taught at Spartan school in this TEDed talk.


I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.


"Okay so I've practiced for a while, but I never feature any gods in my spells. I do say daily prayers to the Theoi, however, like before I sleep and when I wake (like how some people say grace over dinner), and I was wondering if that was alright."

Whatever suits you is alright to do. If you're asking if it's a recon approach then no, it's not. It seems you practice some sort of Neo-Paganism that includes spellcasting and the Theoi. Which is perfectly fine, especially when not combined! The daily prayers are definitely recon inspired, though, You're not giving me a lot to work with but from what I can figure out from these few words, you have got your own thing solidly down and that's brilliant!

~~~

"So I'm planning on taking a day and cleaning the family headstones. And I want to make offerings to the dead. Most of the dead I've never met so I can't give them their favorite food from life. What items would you recommend. And do you know of any short prayers/hymns/etc that I could use while cleaning to let the dead know they are not forgotten?"

First off, let me say that I love that you're going back to your family's headstones to clean them. that act alone matches very well with Hellenismos. The ancient Hellenes believed that as long as a person was remembered, they weren't truly dead. As the believe was that most people end up at the Meadows to wander forever, to be able to return to the surface when libated and spoken to was like a literal lifeline and families gathered at least once a year to honour the dead at the cemeteries. Most of their practices have been recorded in classical literature like for example here, in the Odysseia by Homeros:

“Perimedes and Eurylochus restrained the sacrificial victims while I drew my sharp sword from its sheath, and with it dug a pit two foot square, then poured a libation all around to the dead, first of milk and honey, then of sweet wine, thirdly of water, sprinkled with white barley meal. Then I prayed devoutly to the powerless ghosts of the departed, swearing that when I reached Ithaca I would sacrifice a barren heifer in my palace, the best of the herd, and would heap the altar with rich spoils, and offer a ram, apart, to Teiresias, the finest jet-black ram in the flock. When, with prayers and vows, I had invoked the hosts of the dead, I led the sheep to the pit and cut their throats, so the dark blood flowed.” [Bk XI:1-50]

So we know how it works: blood sacrifice in a pit, followed by libations of milk and honey, then sweet red wine, then water, followed by a sprinkling of barley meal. Prayers to the dead—most likely invoking them by name and the manner in which the person knows them—followed by a promise to do something for them if they appear to drink from the sacrifice and gain life for a few moments.  Then more animal sacrifices. It’s described, by the way, in the Odysseia that the ghosts only drink of the blood in the sacrifice—the life’s blood that makes them solid and restores their memories of life for a while.

I assume you aren’t raising the dead and simply want to honour them, so I am quite sure libations of milk and honey, followed by libations of wine and water and then a sprinkling of barley flour will do. Speak of your relationship to them and while you are cleaning, talk about things you remember about them or what you have been told about them. Make sure they feel remembered and included, that is what matters most. And to those whom you have not met, tell them about how their children’s lives were, or their grandchildren’s lives or how yours is. Tell them you have your family’s tell-tale nose, or that dry sense of humour. Tell them that you always wanted to be a baker or doctor or fireman like they were. Anything to form a bond and remind them of the good things about life and family. If you run out of things to say, list your favourite foods, tell them how a perfect summer day feels and the rain on your skin. Remind them of life and pay your respects. Make it a joyful occasion for both!

~~~

"Is it possible to be a soft polytheist and believe in the greek gods? I know this wouldn't be recon. I'm just wondering your opinion on this."

Yes, this is entirely possible. Many people have conflated Gods through the ages--most notably the Hellenic and Roman pantheons. There are ancient examples as well. Most Hellenists tend to stick to a hard polytheistic view but it's not needed to have if you want to honour the Theoi.

~~~

"Is it okay to not view the myths surrounding the gods as fact? For instance, when I read the creation of the universe or of humankind, I don't believe it as fact. Same with a lot of the myths, honestly. I view them as stories to understand the gods.""

Needless to say, at least to those who frequent my blog, I am very invested in mythology, and most--if not all--of my ethical, social, and religious framework comes from the accounts of ancient writers like Hómēros, Hesiod, and all the playwrights.

I believe in a form of literal interpretation of mythology. I believe that we are called to view the myths of the Theoi as a literal interpretation of the nature of the Divine, as well as history as a whole. What happened in the myths, literally happened.

Religion has the reputation of being un-scientific. By its definition, religion--the believe in something one can’t prove--seems the polar opposite of science. What I love about Hellenic mythology and philosophy is that it works with science

I have a multiperspectivalistic view of religion. Multispectivalism, in short, is an approach to knowledge that suggests that it is made up of multiple perspectives, none of which can grasp reality as it is. As such, the more perspectives one takes into account--biological, scientifical, psychological, theological--the better the overall picture one might have of reality. Multispectivalism in relation to religion thus implies that all reality can never be summed up under any one religion, concept, or perspective but is, in essence, a combination of all.

It means seeing the divine in everything. Lightning is just as much a scientific phenomenon as Zeus' mighty weapon cast down upon the earth. The little girl who guided Odysseus to the palace of Alcinous was just as much a little girl as the personification of Athena. The two overlap and co-exist. And as such, Hēraklēs' madness was brought on by Hera, and--at an even more basic level--Hēraklēs existed. He may have existed in multiple men, but there was once a man so powerful that he could only be the child of Zeus, and the many extraordinary things he did could only be attributed to a man aided by the Theoi.

Needless to say, this is my vision, my view, on Hellenismos, and it might not fit yours at all while we both honor the Theoi in a Recon manner. The thing that made me smile about your wording is that you say 'I view them as stories to understand the gods'. So do I. I believe the Gods are real so as an inevitable result I believe the stories of their deeds are real, too. At least within a multiperspectivalistic view.
So, the UK vote is in: everyone under 40 pretty much wanted to stay and everyone white above fourty pretty much wanted out. So this post is for you, generations that will have to deal with this mess. My sympathies are with you today. The true worth and value of a country is in its legacy.

Businessman Vasily Klyukin has been working on a conceptual architecture project for skyscrapers. At least, he was in 2014 as this is old news; I have no idea if the project has continued since then but that is not the point of this post. The whole project began after Klyukin bought a small building in Monaco which he then wished to replace with a tall tower that would become a landmark for the Principate.

In order to convince Prince Albert II, he began drawing original skyscrapers and towers with the aim of creating the most impressive and beautiful architectural landmark befitting the prestigious city-state. After working day and night for months and with the help of his friends, Klyukin (who has no formal training in architecture) came up with numerous highly ambitious designs for iconic buildings and towers, ranging from residential buildings to opera houses and hotels – all a manifestation of his firm belief that 'every serious building, in addition to a concept, should have its own story or legend.'

Klyukin’s designs are to say the very least, diverse; as they are mostly conceptual designs that are not planned to be built in the near future, they are also rather daring and experimental. His concepts include skyscrapers inspired by Ancient Hellenic statues, namely the Aphrodite of Milos and the Nike of Samothrace: considered two of the most celebrated sculptures in the world, for Vasily Klyukin they embody the essence of Beauty and Victory, two concepts that fit quite naturally with the ambitious spirit of designing such architectural legends.







Perhaps one day, these--or buildings like these--will truly be created and a touch of the Gods will return to our city's skylines. The point is: greatness remains, in both thought and practice.
The ancient Hellenic writers were dedicated historians, but they often neglected to mention the achievements of ancient Hellenic women. Now it so happens that I am a woman and I quite like having a few female heroes to look up to, so I want to introduce you to them. Today: the poet and warrior Telesilla of Argos.
Telesilla of Argos was a lyric poet of the 5th century BCE, listed by Antipater of Thesalonike (c. 15 BCE), the author of over a hundred epigrams in the 'Greek Anthology', as one of the great Nine Female Lyric Poets of Greece (along with Praxilla, Moiro, Anyte, Sappho, Erinna, Corinna, Nossis, and Myrtis). She was responsible for the metrical innovation of lyric poetry known as the Telesillean Metre. She is also said to be the masermind behind the defense of Argos when Cleomenes, king of Sparta, invaded the land of the Argives in 510 BC. He defeated and killed all the hoplites of Argos in the Battle of Sepeia and massacred the survivors, leaving Argos seemingly defenseless. Telesilla, however, organized all the slaves and women to the defense of the city and won (although it was mostly because the Spartans realized that fighting women and slaves would be very shameful and left).

First we must address her value as a very renowned poet. When Telesilla was younger, she was often sickly. She visited an oracle for help in restoring her health and heard that she should devote herself to the Muses. So Telesilla dedicated herself to the study of poetry and music. Her health did improve and she rose to great fame as a lyric poet. Of the considerable body of work she produced, only two lines remain extant as quoted by the ancient grammarian Hephaistion of Alexandria in his Handbook on Meter (c. 96 CE). References to her, however, appear in the works of Pausanius (c. 110-180 CE), Plutarch (45-120 CE), Athenaeus (c. 3rd century CE), and the work Bibliotheca ascribed to Apollodorus of Alexandria (2nd century CE), among others. She was an extremely influential artist who is always cited with respect by other ancient authors, no matter the subject. Antipater writes in the 'Greek Anthology':

"These are the divine-voiced women that Helicon
fed with song, Helicon and Macedonian Pieria's
rock: Praxilla; Moero; Anyte, the female Homer;
Sappho, glory of the Lesbian women with lovely
tresses; Erinna; renowned Telesilla; and thou,
Corinna, who didst sing the martial shield of Athena;
Nossis, the tender-voiced, and dulcet-toned Myrtis —
all craftswomen of eternal pages. Great Heaven
gave birth to nine Muses, and Earth to these ten,
the deathless delight of men." [9.26]

Now, the tale of how she organized the salvation of Argos. Some background first. The Spartan king Cleomenes I consulted the Oracle of Apollo on what would happen if he marched on Argos, and he would be victorious if he tried. So Cleomenes I took to the field and met Argives at Sepeia. He tricked his way to victory, killed most of the warriors and murdered those who fled by more trickery and cruelty, even going so far as to set fire to a sacred grove where they had sought refuge. After the massacre, Cleomenes I  marched on the city. Telesilla heard of what had happened to the men of the army and mobilized the women, youth, and elders of Argos for defense. Plutarch writes in his 'Moralia':

"Of all the deeds performed by women for the community none is more famous than the struggle against Cleomenes for Argos (494 B.C.), which the women carried out at the instigation of Telesilla the poet. She, as they say, was the daughter of a famous house, but sickly in body, and so she sent to the god to ask about health; and when an oracle was given her to cultivate the Muses, she followed the god's advice, and by devoting herself to poetry and music she was quickly relieved of her trouble, and was greatly admired by the women for her poetic art.

But when Cleomenes (I), king of the Spartans, having slain many Argives (but not by any means seven thousand seven hundred and seventy seven [cf. Herodotus, VII.148] as some fabulous narrative have it), proceeded against the city, an impulsive daring, divinely inspired, came to the younger women to try, for their country's sake, to hold off the enemy. Under the lead of Telesilla, they took up arms, and, taking their stand by the battlements, manned the walls all round, so that the enemy were amazed. The result was that they repulsed Cleomenes with great loss, and the other king, Demaratus, who managed to get inside, as Socrates [FHG IV, p. 497] says, and gained possession of the Pamphyliacum, they drove out. In this way the city was saved. The women who fell in the battle they buried close by the Argive Road, and to the survivors they granted the privilege of erecting a statue of Ares as a memorial of their surpassing valor. Some say that the battle took place on the seventh day of the month which is now known as the Fourth Month [tetartou], but anciently was called Hermaeus among the Argives; others say that it was on the first day of that month, on the anniversary of which they celebrate even to this day the 'Festival of Impudence', at which they clothe the women in men's shirts and cloaks, and the men in women's robes and veils.

To repair the scarcity of men they did not unite the women with slaves, as Herodotus (VI. 77-83) records, but with the best of their neighboring subjects, whom they made Argive citizens. It was reputed that the women showed disrespect and an intentional indifference to those husbands in their married relations from a feeling that they were underlings. Wherefore the Argives enacted a law, the one which says that married women having a beard must occupy the same bed with their husbands." [245c-f]

The reference to 'women who have beards' above is thought to refer to the women who fought for the city as though they were men and then refused to return to their former status as subservients. as such, laws had to be enacted to restore the community to the traditionalsituation that existed before the battle and the rise of the women in defense of Argos.

Historians have questioned the validity of the story of Telesilla and the Spartans for centuries, most notably because Herodotus, in Book VI of his Histories, writes about Cleomenes’ assault on Argos and the massacre of the Argives, and even references the oracle, but does not mention Telesilla. The credibility of women and slaves manning walls to attack invaders is also often called into question, even though there are historic accounts of women and slaves in other cities doing the same. After all, many ancient Hellenic cities lended themselves very well for this type of assault from above.

What happened to Telesilla after the battle with the Spartans is unknown, but she was remembered for her heroic achievement for centuries. Clement of Alexandria (c.150-215 CE) preserved an earlier poem regarding her heroism which contains the lines:

"They say that the women of Argos, under the leadership of the poetess Telesilla, by their simple appearance put to flight the Spartans, strong at war, and made themselves fearless in the face of death."

Her reputation for courage was such that, almost 700 years after the event, she continued to be remembered and honored for it as well as her poetry. In the city of Argos, a stele of her was errected in the temple of Aphrodite. Pausanias writes in his 'Periegesis Hellados':
"...and in front of the seated statue of the goddess is a stele engraved with an image of Telesilla the writer of poems. These lie as though thrown down beside her feet, and she herself is looking at a helmet which she holds in her hand and is about to put on her head." [II. 20 8]