Philicus, or Philikos, of Corcyra was a poet and tragedian, as well as a priest of Dionysos at Alexandria in the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 BC). Sadly, nothing survives of the 24 tragedies attributed to him. Philicus, however, did write a Hymn to Demeter in choriambic hexameters which has been partially preserved on a stone slab. Unlike Horeric and Orphic hymns, this was not a cult song. It was an exercise in poetry.

The hymn is focussed on the cult of Demeter, which was very popular at the time. It narrates some part of Demeter’s search for Persephone, and told how the earth was rendered unfruitful. It also tells the story of how bashful Iambe made the Goddess laugh and lifted her grief off of her.

It seems that the first part of the hymn was a speech by a fellow Goddess. Whom this is, is unclear. It could be Peitho (Persuasion), who consoles Demeter, forecasts the institution of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and offers her assistance in recovering Persephone from the underworld. But more likely it's the oracular Titan Dione. She is sister of Rhea, Zeus’ mother. Her inclusion would fit the mythology and various lines. There is, however, no evidence for a close connexion of Dione with Demeter, and therefore no reason why she should intercede in this poem on Demeter’s behalf.

I am very intrigued by poetry fragments or obscure pieces like this and greatly enjoy reading them. I hope you enjoy it as well.


Philicus' hymn to Demeter

this of the daughter
mother child not
chariot of writhing [snakes
and where (she?) has gone away to
clo?hes predator
torches wood
like a tunic her wrap
.....
to him the girl
fortune nor marriage
to speak
heaven
wandering to a run
words such as these
feet; did you not see
... ...
to me ...
gaping
was thrown without order
and the hot beam was burning upon
and the goddess, beginning to speak first,
I judged in an omen of victory
listen to prayers that are from a sister from the same mother
]in the same womb I nurtured Cypris
I was desirable when I gave my milk to you, and I, of the same stock as your mother
us(?) mighty ladies a common father begat
and she gave birth to mighty-boasting violence
a destined possession; and for me to persuade
to have share in this, and not from me alone my
not failing to hearken to these words, and the goddesses will reward(?) you
for we, I alone, with the Graces, have been announced as to give honour
have been apportioned, but you should accept other honours from us
and greater ones in return for what is a small one--these I shall tell you in detail.
for to none will a friend accord more than to you, and I shall love more and more
in the season(?) to Eleusis with the mystic coursings of the Iacchoi
large [] welcoming the faster by the waves in large numbers
they will swell out for you, nurturing one, perfumed branches
a single fountain water marked out for each
by this two-throned precinct with your tears you will send up a spring
will be called the royal fountain
than these words we shall accord in honour more powerful deeds
do not prematurely take them as untrustworthy before testing
the branches of supplication they bear now
these again will pour forth
to be performed as a ritual at your festival
zealous ... overcome
taking up the sceptre bring Persephone up to where there are stars
with me leading you shall not go wrong at all.
but pick up the torches, relax your heavy brow."
She ceased, and the nymphs and Graces joined in just Persuasion,
and whole swarms of women in a circle about her caressed the ground with their foreheads
and gathered the only living growth from the cropless earth to cast as foliage upon the goddess
But Halimous dispatched the old woman, who had lost her way in the mountain haunts, but arrived at a good time
as a result of some chance: for solemn occasions can an amusing tale be unprofitable?
For she stood and uttered at once in a bold, loud voice: “Do not throw goat-fodder:
it is not this that is a remedy for a starving god, but ambrosia is the support for such a delicate stomach.
But you, divine one, should give ear to Attic Iambe's little benefit;
I am one who has poured out unschooled words, as well as might a chattering living in a distant deme: these goddesses
her [  ] for you cups and garlands and water drawn in a fresh stream;
and from the women, look!, there is grass as a gift, a timorous deer's diet.
None of these things do I have for my gift: but if you loosen up your grieving, then I shall release…”

New Year's message and prayer from Elaion core member Robert Clark

"The first year of the 699th Olympiad has ended. Before and throughout this tumultuous year, we have seen unspeakable atrocities inflicted by people against people, by the powerful against the innocent, by the privileged against disenfranchised. We live in a time of fear, hatred, and bigotry fanned by those who would exploit it for personal gain or to satisfy their misguided egos.

We all need to do all we can to work toward acceptance, understanding, and caring. Where there is hate we need to love, where there is bigotry we need to befriend, and where there fear of strangers we need to welcome them. I share with you one of my daily prayers to Zeus:

May You be with innocent people everywhere who are enslaved and those who are deliberately harmed by the willful and violent acts of others. May those who have been killed have a special place with Thee and may those who suffer have hope that good people shall rise up and put a stop to it, that those who oppress, enslave, and harm them shall be held accountable for their heinous acts and pay for their crimes, and that people around the world shall recognize and respect the sanctity of human life and of all life. So let it be.

It isn’t wealth, position, or even recognition but acts of kindness that brings happiness.

ΟΥΛΕ (Be whole – be well)"

Robert A. Clark
Two thousand years ago the Mediterranean Sea was a haven for two species of whale which have since virtually disappeared from the North Atlantic, a new study analysing ancient bones suggests.


The discovery of the whale bones in the ruins of a Roman fish processing factory located at the strait of Gibraltar also hints at the possibility that the Romans may have hunted the whales. Prior to the study, by an international team of ecologists, archaeologists and geneticists, it was assumed that the Mediterranean Sea was outside of the historical range of the right and gray whale.

Academics from the Archaeology Department at the University of York used ancient DNA analysis and collagen fingerprinting to identify the bones as belonging to the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) and the Atlantic gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus).

After centuries of whaling, the right whale currently occurs as a very threatened population off eastern North America and the gray whale has completely disappeared from the North Atlantic and is now restricted to the North Pacific. Co-author of the study Dr Camilla Speller, from the University of York, said:

"These new molecular methods are opening whole new windows into past ecosystems. Whales are often neglected in Archaeological studies, because their bones are frequently too fragmented to be identifiable by their shape. Our study shows that these two species were once part of the Mediterranean marine ecosystem and probably used the sheltered basin as a calving ground. The findings contribute to the debate on whether, alongside catching large fish such as tuna, the Romans had a form of whaling industry or if perhaps the bones are evidence of opportunistic scavenging from beached whales along the coast line."

Both species of whale are migratory, and their presence east of Gibraltar is a strong indication that they previously entered the Mediterranean Sea to give birth. The Gibraltar region was at the centre of a massive fish-processing industry during Roman times, with products exported across the entire Roman Empire. The ruins of hundreds of factories with large salting tanks can still be seen today in the region. Lead author of the study Dr Ana Rodrigues, from the French National Centre for Scientific Research, said:

"Romans did not have the necessary technology to capture the types of large whales currently found in the Mediterranean, which are high-seas species. But right and gray whales and their calves would have come very close to shore, making them tempting targets for local fishermen."

It is possible that both species could have been captured using small rowing boats and hand harpoons, methods used by medieval Basque whalers centuries later. The knowledge that coastal whales were once present in the Mediterranean also sheds new light on ancient historical sources. Anne Charpentier, lecturer at the University of Montpellier and co-author in the study, said:

"We can finally understand a 1st-Century description by the famous Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, of killer whales attacking whales and their new-born calves in the Cadiz bay. It doesn't match anything that can be seen there today, but it fits perfectly with the ecology if right and gray whales used to be present."

The study authors are now calling for historians and archaeologists to re-examine their material in the light of the knowledge that coastal whales where once part of the Mediterranean marine ecosystem. Dr Rodriguez added:

"It seems incredible that we could have lost and then forgotten two large whale species in a region as well-studied as the Mediterranean. It makes you wonder what else we have forgotten".

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.
On the day of the Hene kai Nea (or sometimes, like this month, the day after), 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.

Statistics:
PAT rituals for Hekatombaion:
  • Hekatombaion 4 - July 17Aphrodisia - festival of Aphrodite and Peitho (Persuasion), where the temple was purified with dove's blood, the altars cleansed, and the two statues washed
  • Hekatombaion 12 - July 25Kronia - festival in honor of Kronos
  • Hekatombaion 15 / 16 - July 28 / 29 - Sunoikia - community festival in Athens. Sacred to Athena. Two-day celebration every other year.
  • Hekatombaion 21 - August 3 - Sacrifice to Kourotrophos, (Hekate &) Artemis at Erkhia
  • Hekatombaion 23n + 30 - August 8n + 12 - Panathanaia - main celebration on the twenty-eighth in honor of Athena. Greater held in the third year of each Olympiad, Lesser held annually for fewer days

Anything else?
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July 17, at 10 am EDT, we will hold a rite for Aphrodite Pandamos and Peitho, as on this day, the fourth of Hekatombaion, They were traditionally honored during a festival of unification. Will you join us?


Pandêmos (Πανδημος) occurs as an epithet of Aphrodite. It identifies her as the Goddess of low sensual pleasures, and the epithet is often translated as 'common to all the people'. She united all the inhabitants of a country into one social or political body. In this respect She was worshipped at Athens along with Peitho (persuasion), and Her worship was said to have been instituted by Theseus at the time when he united the scattered townships into one great body of citizens.

According to some authorities, it was Solon who erected the sanctuary of Aphrodite Pandemos, either because her image stood in the agora, or because the hetaerae had to pay the costs of its erection. The worship of Aphrodite Pandemos also occurs at Megalopolis in Arcadia and at Thebes. 'Pandemos' also occurs as a surname of Eros.

Peithô is the personification of persuasion, seduction and charming speech. She was worshipped as a divinity at Sicyon, where she was honoured with a temple in the agora. Peitho also occurs as a surname of other divinities, such as Aphrodite, whose worship was said to have been introduced at Athens by Theseus, when he united the country communities into towns, and of Artemis.

At Athens the statues of Peitho and Aphrodite Pandemos stood closely together, and at Megara, too, the statue of Peitho stood in the temple of Aphrodite, so that the two divinities must he conceived as closely connected, or the one, perhaps, merely as an attribute of the other. For our rite, we will honour both divinities separately.

There is actually not much known about the Aphrodisia. It was most likely linked to the synoikismos, or unification, of the Attic demes into poleis, or city-states. In early Hellas, ancient society was split between the 'demos', country villages, and the 'asty', or 'polis', the seat of the aristocracy. The distinction between the 'polis' and the 'demos' was of great political importance in the ancient states. There was much antagonism between these two bodies, the country and city. In the city-states of ancient Hellas, synoecism occurred when the 'demos' combined with--usually by force--a polis to form one political union. The most notable synoikistes was the mythic or legendary Theseus, who liberated Attica from Kretan hegemony and gave independency back to Hellas under leadership of Athens. Like the Synoikia that was celebrated in a few days--which was a truly political festival and we will thus not celebrate it--the Aphrodisia seems to celebrate Theseus' efforts.

An inscription on a stele of Hymettian marble found near the Beulé Gate at the site of the aedicula on the south-west slope of the Acropolis may tell us something of the preparations for the Aphrodisia festival. Dated between 287 and 283 BC, the inscription records that at the time of the procession of Aphrodite Pandemos, Kallias, son of Lysimachos of the deme of Hermai, was to provide funds for the purification of the temple and the altar with the blood of a dove, for giving a coat of pitch to the roof, for the washing of the statues, and for a purple cloak for the amount of two drachmas.

From this and other ancient sources, we can conclude that the first ritual of the festival would be to purify the temple with the blood from a dove, which we know is the sacred bird of Aphrodite. Needless to say, we won't do this, but we do encourage you to give your altar a good scrub! Afterwards, worshippers would carry sacred images of Aphrodite and Peitho in a procession to the sea to be washed. In Cyprus, participants who were initiated into the Mysteries of Aphrodite were offered salt, a representation of Aphrodite's connection to the sea, and bread baked in the shape of a phallus (feel free to make some of those!). During the festival it was not permitted to make bloody sacrifices, since the altar could not be polluted with the blood of the sacrifice victims, which were usually white male goats. This of course excludes the blood of the sacred dove, made at the beginning of the ritual to purify the altar. In addition to live male goats, worshippers would offer flowers and incense.

As a celebration of the unification of Attica, the Aphrodisia festival may seem redundant, since the Synoikia festival also took place in the month of Hekatombaion, between the Aphrodisia and the Panathenaia. Yet, without help of Aphrodite Pandemos and Peitho, whose powers bring people together, unification would not have been possible. While the Synoikia celebrates a very specific event that is no longer current, the Aphrodisia celebrates not only Aphrodite (and Peitho) as divine, but also represents the beauty of community, solidarity, and the end of strive. In this day and age where it seems the entire world is at war, we offer sacrifice to Aphrodite and Peitho humbly in hopes that They will interfere and lay to rest this terrible animosity.

Will you be joining us on July 17? Join the community here, and download the ritual here.

Exciting news! Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient tablet engraved with 13 verses of the Odyssey in the ancient city of Olympia, southern Greece, in what could be the earliest record of the epic poem, the Greek culture ministry said.


The clay slab is believed to date back to the 3rd century AD, during the Roman era. The culture ministry confirmed that, 

"If this date is confirmed, the tablet could be the oldest written record of Homer’s work ever discovered in Greece."

The extract, taken from book 14, describes the return of Ulysses to his home island of Ithaca.
The tablet was discovered after three years of surface excavations by the Greek Archaeological Services in co-operation with the German Institute of Archaeology.

It was found close to the remains of the Temple of Zeus at the site of the Olympic Games in the western Peloponnese. Composed orally during the 8th century BC, the epic poem – attributed to Homer – was transcribed during the Christian era on to parchment of which only a few fragments have been discovered in Egypt.
The remains of an ancient Thracian settlement from the early Iron Age have been found by archaeologists on St Thomas Island, about 15 km south of Sozopol on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, the National History Museum announced.


The National History Museum team of archaeologists, led by Professor Ivan Hristov, also found Thracian cult pilts and established the locations of the remains of a Roman settlement from the fifth to sixth centuries and a small mediaeval monastery that existed in the 12th to 16th centuries.

The findings were made during the first stage of an archaeological study of the sites on the island, which is about 0.012 square kilometres in size and is part of Bulgaria’s Ropotamo Nature Reserve. The island is 0.2 nautical miles south of Humata Foreland in Arkutino Bay.

The island takes its name from a chapel dedicated to Saint Thomas that once existed on it. It has another name, Snake Island, from the grey water snakes that are plentiful in the waters surrounding it.

The results of the excavations will enrich the database of the rich cultural heritage of the reserve and will be the basis for their preservation and protection, the museum’s statement said.

With funding from Bulgaria’s Ministry of Culture, the archaeological studies in the area of Arkutino near Sozopol will continue underwater, where Professor Hristov’s team will examine a reef believed to have been dry land at the time of antiquity.