Disney's "Hercules" (1997) is a beloved animated retelling of the classic Hellenic myth, but even die-hard fans may not have caught all these hidden gems. The film is full of references to Hellenic mythology, including the tale of the Titans and the divine guests at Zeus and Hera's party. There are also jokes related to more recent cultural phenomena, like "Buns of Bronze" and the Marilyn Monroe constellation. Did you catch them all? Insider did!


One of the Muses is attracted to Hercules.

The Muses are the musical goddesses who narrate the movie. All of them are fans of Hercules, and throughout the movie they praise him for his heroic feats. However, one of the Muses in particular — Thalia, the muse of comedy — focuses on Hercules' attractiveness and calls him "Hunk-ules." She also says that she'd "like to make some sweet music with him" while lying next to his image before another Muse interrupts her.

Though this movie only shows Megara as Hercules' love interest, in Greek mythology, the demigod had several wives throughout the course of his life. So, this blatant showing of other women's attraction to him could be a subtle acknowledgment of that.

The Muses explain some pretty accurate Titan mythology.

The story of the Titans that the Muses sing about at the beginning of the film is mostly accurate to Greek mythology. They explain that the Titans wreaked havoc until Zeus overthrew them, which follows the Greek myth where Zeus imprisons the Titans and ends their rule over Earth. However, "Hercules" only shows four Titans, and there are actually 12 in the classic myth. 

There's an alcohol reference that kids likely don't understand.

The Muses describe life on Mountain Olympus as "neat and smooth as sweet vermouth." Vermouth is a wine that is used in a variety of mixed drinks. Although the alcohol can be "neat and smooth," so it makes sense in the Muses' metaphor, this reference would presumably go over the heads of the young audience that the movie is aimed at. 

Several recognizable gods and goddesses are shown at Zeus and Hera's party.

There are many gods and goddesses in attendance at the party that  Zeus and Hera throw on Mount Olympus when Hercules is born. Hermes delivers a gift to Zeus, a fitting act for the messenger of Mount Olympus, and he's shown wearing his famous winged cap and sandals. In another brief scene, Narcissus, famous for his self-love, is seen looking at himself in a mirror. There are also several non-speaking gods and goddesses scattered in the background with distinct physical characteristics that make it clear who they're supposed to represent.

A goddess with long, heart-shaped hair and a heart clip on her toga appears to be Aphrodite, the goddess of love. A god with a massive helmet and sword is identified as Ares, the god of war. One god with a fin on his head and a trident in his hand is recognizably Poseidon, the god of the sea. And another goddess in the background of the scene is shown holding an owl, the symbol of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war. 

Zeus uses the major cloud types when making Pegasus.

Zeus makes Hercules' winged-horse companion, Pegasus, out of clouds, and as he does this, he mentions each cloud type he's using by name. The god of the sky makes Pegasus out of three of the main cloud types: cirrus (high-level ice clouds), nimbostratus (mid-level rain clouds), and cumulus (low-level fair-weather clouds).

Zeus and Hercules have matching medallions.

During Hercules' party scene, viewers can see that Zeus and Hercules are both wearing medallions with the same symbol. Zeus has his pinned to the shoulder of his toga, and Hercules wears his as a necklace. Both medallions show a cloud with a lightning bolt, and this symbol is later described by Hercules' adoptive mother as "the symbol of the gods."

Hades travels across a river of dead souls.

Viewers first see the Underworld when Hades returns after visiting Mount Olympus for the party. He travels across a river, but instead of water, there are floating ghost-like people under his boat — which may have been a little jarring for any child who noticed.

This is reflected in Greek mythology, which depicts the Underworld as having five different rivers that Hades and other gods can travel on by boat. Later, when Hercules rescues Meg from the Underworld, it's clear that the transparent people in the river represent the souls of people who have died. 

The movie makes some odd word choices, such as "lugubriousness" and "furshlugginer."

This movie includes not only references but also words that children aren't likely to know. Two examples of this that particularly stand out are "lugubriousness" and "furshlugginer." Pain, one of Hades' henchmen, calls Hades "your most lugubriousness" the first time he is on screen. Lugubrious means exaggeratedly mournful or brooding, which is certainly fitting for Hades, but it's odd that the word is included offhandedly as though children will understand it.

Later in the film, Phil refers to Achilles' famed weakness as "that furshlugginer heel of his." Furshlugginer, which is a slang word with Yiddish origins that means foolish, is also somewhat out of place in a film geared toward kids.

The Fates kill a woman during their first scene.

The Fates, magical women who can see into the past, present, and future, only have one eye between the three of them. They're typically remembered for the humorous scenes in which they take turns using this eye, but if you pay attention, they have a pretty dark introduction. When viewers are first introduced to the Fates, they are holding and cutting a thread — a symbol traditionally included in the Fates mythology — that they say is connected to a mortal's life. Immediately after they cut this thread, a woman screams and appears in the Underworld, showing that they did indeed kill her.

There are only six planets shown during the prophecy scenes.

The Fates tell Hades that in 18 years, if he releases the Titans while the planets are aligned (and Hercules does not interfere), he will have the chance to usurp Zeus. However, the image that's shown alongside this prophecy only depicts six planets. Later, when the prophecy comes true, six planets are again shown instead of eight. 

The decision to leave out a few of the planets from our modern knowledge of the solar system may have been done to accurately reflect Ancient Greece's understanding of the planets. At that time, Mercury, Earth, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn had been identified, but Uranus and Neptune had not. 

Hercules' human parents are accurately named after their mythological counterparts.

In the film, Hercules' adopted mortal parents are his mother, Alcmene, and his father, Amphitryon. Alcmene and Amphitryon are accurate names from the Hercules myth, but their roles are depicted a little differently in the Disney film. In Greek mythology, Zeus cheats on his wife and has Hercules with the human Alcmene — which explains Hercules' demigod status. This differs from the movie, which shows Hercules being born to Zeus and Hera before becoming a demigod when Hades arranges for him to drink a poisonous potion. 

Philoctetes' interaction with the wood nymphs shows classic satyr behavior.

Hercules first finds Philoctetes in a forest where he is watching a group of wood nymphs. Phil runs after the nymphs, trying to catch them, but they turn into flowers and trees before he can reach them. Phil, who appears to be half-goat, half-man, tells Hercules that he is a satyr. In Greek mythology, satyrs are fertility spirits known to engage in sensual acts with nymphs, making Phil's chase scene accurate — but perhaps a bit inappropriate for a kid's movie.

Phil brags about training some major mythological figures.

Phil's home is full of objects related to some of the heroes he used to train. Hercules hits his head on what Phil says is the mast of the Argo — a ship that belonged to Jason, the mortal hero of the Argonauts, in Greek mythology. This head bump is also ironic because Jason died after a rotting beam of the Argo fell on him. Phil then mentions that he trained the Greek legends Odysseus, Perseus, Theseus, and he shows off a giant statue of Achilles, his most promising hero-in-training. 

There's a visual pun to go along with the term "greenhorn."

When Hercules first starts training with Phil, he struggles to complete the practice drills the satyr arranges for him. As part of his big song "One Last Hope," Phil complains about having to work with a "greenhorn," which roughly translates to mean an amateur. As Phil sings the line, "I get the greenhorn," there's a clever visual pun to go along with it. Green olives get stuck on his horns, making him look as though he actually has green horns.

There's also a visual reference to "The Karate Kid" in the training montage.

In the same training montage that takes place during "One Last Hope," Phil, Hercules, and Pegasus stand on wooden posts and strike fighting poses in front of a setting sun, which resembles one of Daniel LaRusso's famed training sequences in "The Karate Kid" (1984). 

The centaur Hercules fights plays into a traditional Greek myth.

Hercules first meets Meg when he saves her from a centaur, and when Meg and Hades are talking afterward, they mention that the centaur's name is Nessus. Nessus the centaur is a creature from Greek mythology who Hercules fights to save one of his wives. But in contrast to the movie, it wasn't Megara, it was his second wife, Deianeira. 

Thebes is compared to New York City multiple times.

Hercules and Phil journey to the city of Thebes, where Hercules can accomplish his heroic feats. As they travel there, Phil calls the city "the Big Olive," a pun that seems to be a take on New York City's nickname, "the Big Apple." In the same scene, Phil tells Hercules, "If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere," a phrase from the popular Frank Sinatra song "New York, New York." Later on in the film, Meg also uses the phrase "in a Peloponnesian minute," which, with all the other references to New York, seems like a play on the phrase "New York minute."

There's a not-so-subtle Roman numeral joke.

While pretending to be trapped under a boulder, Hades henchmen Pain and Panic appear as young boys crying for help, and one of them shouts, "Somebody call IX-I-I!" That's the Roman-numeral equivalent of 9-1-1, which seems like a clever way to include a modern American cry for help in an era-appropriate numerical style. However, the film takes place in ancient Greece, not ancient Rome, so Greek numerals would've been the norm in Thebes.

Modern references are made while describing Hercules' new popularity.

Throughout the film, there are a few allusions to modern culture. While singing about Hercules' popularity, the Muses remark that he can make an arena "SRO," which is usually used as a concert term that stands for "standing room only." Phil also advertises Hercules-themed merchandise, including a "Buns of Bronze" workout scroll, which is likely a reference to the "Buns of Steel" workout videos that were popular in the 1990s when the film was made. Another merch item featured in the film, "Air Hercs," seem to be a take on Nike's famous Air Jordan sneakers. But the reference is even more meaningful when you remember that Nike is the Greek goddess of victory. 

Hercules passes a constellation that imitates a famous Marilyn Monroe scene.

During "Zero to Hero," Hercules rides Pegasus through the sky and we see a constellation in the shape of a woman with short hair wearing a halter-neck dress. When Hercules rides past this group of stars, the woman's dress flies up and she uses her hands to push it back down. This, along with her appearance, makes it clear that the constellation is a recreation of Marilyn Monroe's most famous movie moment from "The Seven Year Itch" (1955).

There's also a reference to Grauman's Chinese Theatre in "Zero to Hero."

After the Marilyn Monroe reference, Hercules and Pegasus are shown leaving their handprints (or hoof prints) in wet cement, much like celebrities do in front of LA's famed TCL Chinese Theatre (also known as Grauman's Chinese Theatre). If you look closely, Hercules' signature is addressed "To Sid," which is likely a reference to the original owner of the Chinese Theatre, Sid Grauman. 

Scar from "The Lion King" makes an unfortunate appearance.

Three years before Hercules hit US theaters, "The Lion King" (1994)introduced the Disney fandom to one of the studio's most despicable villains, Scar. However, the brother-murdering lion seems to have gotten what was coming for him seeing as he makes a brief appearance in the 1997 film as a dead lion's mane that the Hercules wears while he's getting his portrait painted. We get a clear view when Phil uses the thwarted villain as a wipe to remove paint from his face, and it's a little creepy that his pricing green and yellow eyes are still intact. 

Hercules and Meg see a play about Oedipus.

When Hercules and Meg return from spending the day together, they talk about having gone to a restaurant and seeing a play about "that Oedipus thing." This is most likely a reference to the Ancient Greek play "Oedipus Rex." In the play, and classic Greek mythology, Oedipus was the ruler of Thebes, so it makes sense that they would be performing it there. However, the real joke comes with Hercules' next line, "Man, I thought I had problems," which is probably a reference to Oedipus' romantic relationship with his mother. 

The film tries to answer the age-old question of how a famous statue lost its arms.

At the end of his date with Meg, Hercules skips a stone in a fountain and accidentally breaks the arms off of a statue of a woman. The result resembles the famous Venus de Milo statue by Greek sculptor Alexandros of Antioch that is well known for its mysterious lack of arms. As the statue's name refers to the Greek goddess, its appearance in the movie adds another reference to mythology while also providing a fun explanation for why the real statue is armless.

The Muses recreate a scene from Disney's popular Haunted Mansion ride.

During "I Won't Say I'm in Love," the Muses transform themselves into stone busts that are arranged in an eerily similar way to the singing busts on Disney's famed Haunted Mansion attraction. Six years after "Hercules," the busts also made an appearance in Disney's live-action movie, "The Haunted Mansion" (2003). 

Hades uses legal terminology when describing his contract with Hercules that ends up thwarting him in the end.

Hades makes a deal with Hercules in which the demigod agrees to give up his strength for a day as long as Meg is safe. While explaining the contract to Hercules, Hades describes the deal as "boilerplate," which is a legal term that refers to a standard contract format. Interestingly, boilerplate provisions call for rules for how the contract will be interpreted, which in this case should have included a definition of what Meg's safety entailed. Since Meg's injury is what breaks the contract and returns Hercules' strength, Hades probably should have been a bit more careful with the wording of the deal he drew up.

The different monsters Hercules fights at the end of the film include some of his most famous mythological enemies.

Some of Hercules' most famous accomplishments in mythology were part of his 12 Labours. The 12 Labours of Hercules was a series of tasks he completed as part of a punishment. Fighting a Hydra and the three-headed dog Cerberus were two such tasks, both of which are included at the end of the movie. The "Zero to Hero" montage also shows Hercules fighting a boar, a lion, a bird, and a bull — all creatures that were part of his 12 Labours. 

For image proof, visit Insider!

Sometimes I find myself very aware of how much text from ancient Hellas we have lost. I was leafing through my collection of ancient Hellenic plays and I wondered how many more there must have been. Well, it seems that Sophocles wrote over 120 plays of which only seven survive in full. We also, however, have fragmentary versions of several others: including from his "Hermione," "Troilus," and "Niobe."

We have eighteen of the ninety-five plays Euripides penned, included the only complete surviving satyr play, "Cyclops" (the satyr play was the comedic play which followed the performance of three tragic plays in Hellenic dramatic festivals). And we have only seven of the ninety-two that Aeschylus penned: including the "Oresteia" ("Agamemnon," "The Libation Bearers," and "The Eumenides") which is the only surviving complete trilogy (three plays meant to be performed together).

It's also worth noting that there's little logic behind why these particular plays survive. We also know of several other playwrights writing at the time, but for some reason their work has not survived. I found myself compiling a list of plays that have survived and I have to admit, that's a very sorry list.

Tragedy:

Aeschylus (525 - 456 BC)
The Persian
The Supplicants
Seven Against Thebes
The Oresteia
Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides
Prometheus? 

Sophocles (496 - 406 BC)
Ajax
Antigone
Oedipus Rex
Electra
Trachiniae
Philctetes
Oedipoes at Colonus

Euripedes (480 - 407 BC)
Alcestis
Medea
Hippolytus
the Children of Heracles
Andromache
Hecuba
Cyclops
Heracles
The Supplicants
Ion
the Trojan Woman
Electra
Iphigenia in Tauris
Helen
The Phoenician Women
Orestes
The Bacchae
Iphigenia at Aulis

Comedy:

The Acharnians
The Knights
The Clouds
The Wasps
Peace
The Birds
Lysistrata
The Thesmophoriazusae
The Frogs
The Ecclesiazusae
Plutus

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, gender equality activist and cultural and feminist icon, died Friday, 18 September, 2020. The Supreme Court announced her death, saying the cause was complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas. The court, in a statement, said Ginsburg died at her home in Washington, D.C., surrounded by family. She was 87.


Heroes and heroines have a special place in Hellenismos, as they had in ancient Hellas. These were humans--most believed to have 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, 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.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of my heroes. Her intelligence, poise, kindness, dedication, and dogged determination have shaped my life in ways I've only become aware of in later years. The news of her passing, so close before the reelections, strikes me with terror and great sorrow. Ginsburg was a bastion; a beacon of hope and light in dark, dark times. She was a hero of justice, and Diké weeps today, as I do. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg? I'm sure she is so pissed that she couldn't be here to sit out the shitshow that is America's political landscape.

Architect of the legal fight for women's and men's rights in the 1970s, Ginsburg served 27 years on the nation's highest court, becoming its most prominent member. Her death will inevitably set in motion what promises to be a nasty and tumultuous political battle over who will succeed her, and it thrusts the Supreme Court vacancy into the spotlight of the presidential campaign.

Ginsburg's death will have profound consequences for the court and the country. Inside the court, not only is the leader of the liberal wing gone, but with the court about to open a new term, the chief justice no longer holds the controlling vote in closely contested cases.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves behind life-long pursuits of justice, equality for men and women alike, and a legacy that will never be forgotten. In fact, I suspect it will be felt strongly in the time to come. 

If you weren't planning to vote in the election, please, vote in honor of her.

I feel defeated today, but in that defeat is also hope. Ginsburg never gave up her fight, just relinquished battles. With her passing, a battle was lost, but not the fight. Her power is in all of us. In every protestor, in every court case fought and won, in every election vote. Her voice is the voice of equality and justice, and I can hear it roaring. 

When we honor the heroes of our religion, I'll set a plate for her at the table for the rest of my life. She died fighting our battles, and that's true heroism. She must be remembered, her impact must be felt, and her legacy must live. In us, the people, not just inside the USA but also outside of it. 

Rest in peace, Ruth. You will be so very sorely missed. 

 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.


Statistics:
PAT rituals for Pyanepsion:
  • 6 Pyanepsion - 24 September - Proerosia - agricultural festival for Demeter held at Eleusis
  • 7 Pyanepsion - 25 September - Pyanepsia - festival in honor of Apollon and Theseus
  • 8 Pyanepsion - 26 September - Oskhophoria - festival of the vintage (grapes)
  • 8 Pyanepsion - 26 September - Theseia - festival in honor of Theseus
  • 9 Pyanepsion - 27 September - Stenia - women's festival in honor of Demeter and Persephone
  • 11-13 Pyanepsion - 29 September - 1 October - Thesmophoria - festival in honor of Demeter
  • 14 Pyanepsion - 2 October - Sacrifice to The Heroines at Erkhia
  • 16 Pyanepsion - 4 October - Apatouria - paternity festival. The first day (Dorpia) was celebrated with a communal feast within the brotherhood, the second day ('Anarrhusis') sacrifice were made to Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria, and the third day ('Koureotis') young boys admitted to their father's brotherhood.
  • 30 Pyanepsion - 17 October - The Khalkeia - festival in honor of Athena and Hephaestus.

Anything else?
Are you looking for an online shop to buy incenses and other Hellenistic basics from? Try The Hellenic Handmaid on Etsy.

Would you like to support me? Buy me a coffee.

 The ancient Hellenes did not have a consensus on the Dodekatheon, or "The Twelve," or even "The Counsel of Twelve." What mattered was that there was a council of twelve, the Dodekatheon, at all. Who resided on the golden thrones atop Snowy Olympos was subject to debate and varied per location.


The most canonical version of the Dodekatheon is represented in a relief currently located at the Walters Art Museum. The relief dates back to the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD and depicts the Twelve Olympians carrying their attributes in procession: from left to right, Hestia (scepter), Hermes (winged cap and staff), Aphrodite (veiled), Ares (helmet and spear), Demeter (scepter and wheat sheaf), Hēphaistos (staff), Hera (scepter), Poseidon (trident), Athena (owl and helmet), Zeus (thunderbolt and staff), Artemis (bow and quiver), and Apollon (cithara). No mention of Dionysos.

There is a story floating about the internet and even some modern texts on Hellenic mythology, that Hestia gave up Her throne to Dionysos. Apparently, this is an ancient myth, and the ancient Hellenes would have believed this as well. It's a story so frequently told, one that is so common-knowledge, that very few people bother to check the source. Well, the source is Robert Graves' 'The Greek Myths', written in 1955. From that book (27.12):

"Finally, having established his worship throughout the world, Dionysus ascended into Heaven, and now sits at the right hand of Zeus as one of the Twelve Great Gods. The self-effacing goddess Hestia resigned her seat at the high table in his favour; glad of any excuse to escape the jealous wranglings of her family, and knowing that she could always count on a quiet welcome in any Greek city which it might please her to visit."

Graves provides two sources for this story: Apollodoros’ Bibliotheka 3.5.3, and and Pausanias’ Hellados Periegesis 2.31.2. As you can read for yourself, there is no mention what so ever of Hestia giving up Her throne. In fact, the sources only address the part of Graves' text that follows afterwards, about Dionysos bringing His mother Semele up to Olympos as well.

So, did Graves lie? Well, yes and no. Graves is a storyteller; he spun stories based on facts he could find. If he could not find a fact, he made it up to fit the story. Because of this, his books are a great read but they are not reliable as far as ancient mythology goes.

Obviously, Theoi who were held in high regard in a certain city-state would have held the thrones, according to the people who lived in that city-state. This means that it's quite likely there were people in ancient Hellas who firmly believed that Dionysos occupied one of the thrones of the Dodekatheon. Most likely, there were also people who believed Hestia did not occupy one of the thrones. It's entirely possible that some people--perhaps even the same people who believed Dionysos was part of the Dodekatheon, but not Hestia--believed that Hestia gave up Her seat to Dionysos. The problem is that there are no ancient sources to support this, and there was most certainly not a wide-spread myth to this effect that held sway in ancient Hellas.

In my personal practice, who hold the thrones of the Dodekatheon is nearly irrelevant. I follow the festival calendar and have my daily ritual practice. through that, all 'major' Theoi are honoured and many of the 'lesser' as well. The pantheon, after all, is much larger than just the children of Kronos and Rhea.

Exactly 2,500 years after it first happened, the epic marathon swim by Hydna and her father Scyllis, in 480 BC, was replicated recently by three members of the Underwater Survey Team, representing the School of Rural and Surveying Engineering at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.


Kaitlyn Waters, who was one of the participants, along with Dr. Kimon Papadimitriou, Dimitris Giouzepas, retraced the route taken by the ancient Greek father and daughter on the eve of the Battle of Artemisium, which was fought between Greek and Persian naval forces ten years after the Battle of Marathon, during the same year of the Battle of Thermopylae.

The original 16-kilometer swim between the Pelion peninsula and the island of Evia, first recorded by the Greek geographer Pausanias, who wrote his accounts during the 2nd century AD, occurred on the eve of the Persian leader Xerxes’ naval campaign.

On that dark day, a menacing fleet of 1,207 of his ships was moored off the Pelion peninsula, facing the island of Evia, ready to take part in his renewed attacks in the effort to take over Greece — and thereby gain an important foothold on the European mainland.

The Greek forces were represented by a much smaller group of only 271 ships, according to the historian Herodotus.

At the same time, a man named Scyllis and his daughter Hydna had become so proficient at deep-sea diving that their services had been requisitioned by Xerxes as a means to plunder the many shipwrecks that were already under the waves at that time.

Unbeknownst to him, the daring Greek father and daughter duo had other plans. Taking advantage of a huge storm that blew up as the ships from both sides sat at their moorings the day before the battle, the anchors of the Persian fleet’s vessels were dragged away by Hydna and Scyllis, causing many of them to be destroyed in the maelstrom. As Pausanias wrote, in his work entitled Description of Greece, 

“When the fleet of Xerxes was attacked by a violent storm off Mount Pelion, father and daughter completed its destruction by dragging away under the sea the anchors and any other security the triremes had.”

As Kaitlyn Waters, one of the participants, writes of her experience in the epic swim, “Having used knives to cut the ropes of the anchors to destroy the ships and also being able to do so undetected by the multitude of soldiers from every corner is an impressive feat in and of itself.

“What Hydna and Scyllis did next — swimming, side by side, 10 miles to Evia Island to reunite with the Greeks and inform them of the Persian’s battle plans- was able to give the Greek forces a huge advantage in the battle.”

In a fascinating twist to the story, Waters related that the father and daughter became so famous for their feat that statues of them were even erected at Delphi, the beautiful religious sanctuary on the Greek mainland.

Tragically, however, the statues have been lost to time, Waters writes, as the Roman emperor Nero was known to have taken at least 500 statues from Delphi back to Rome. Pausanias noted at the time that one of these statues was indeed of Scyllis’ heroic daughter, Hydna.

On September 4 though 6, swimmers from Japan, Russia, Great Britain, Germany, Bulgaria and Greece took to the waters of Pefki, Evia for the inaugural Authentic Marathon Swim commemorating this seminal event in history.

Covering a range of lengths to accommodate all swimmers regardless of age, the event, which saw the participants swimming over the wrecks at Artemisium, was a great success. The winner of the 10 km race was won by Bulgarian Olympic champion Peter Stoychev. Women’s Open Water swimming world champion Vicky Kouveli won first place in the female division.

There was also an 800-meter swimming race for children so that they could also take part in this important commemoration of the great Battle of Artemisium. If you would like to follow the Authentic Marathon Swim’s events in the future, please see the organization’s Facebook page, here.

Significant progress has been made in the restoration of the Archaic temple and the refectory of the Apollo Sanctuary on Despotikon, which are nearing their completion, with the monument having now regained a significant part of its original height and dominating the area. As early as November 2019, the scaffolding had been removed from the refectory’s colonnade after being completely restored. This year, work was done on the temple’s north and west walls, with an addition of new and ancient structures, on the wall of the doors of the temple chambers and the thresholds, on the temple and refectory pilasters and the temple and refectory column drums. Lastly, an important step was achieved by placing and adapting to the temple cornice five ancient triglyphs, two ancient and two new metopes.

Despite the difficult conditions, owing to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic,the systematic excavation of  the Apollo sanctuary on Despotikon and Tsimintiri was conducted again this year by the Cyclades Ephorate under Dr Yiannos Kouragios (Cyclades Ephorates), in collaboration with archaeologists Ilias Daifas and Alexandra Alexandridou (assistant professor at the University of Ioannina), and the participation of a small number of students from Ioannina University. The work lasted four weeks (June 22-July 17, 2020), while for one month (June 5-July 4, 2020) restoration works were also conducted in the temple and refectory of the Apollo Sanctuary.

A large rectangular building (8.65 x 8.50 m) was located on Despotikon, a short distance west of a sheepfold, in the southernmost part of the site explored to date. It had been severely damaged and the  walls on its interior had collapsed.

However, based on the surviving architectural remains, at least two architectural phases can be distinguished. In the earlier phase it had an almost square plan and was formed by four walls founded on natural rock. In the second phase, a Π shaped addition in portico style was constructed on the north side.

The strong construction of its walls with foundations as deep as 1.85 m, the discovery of mortar and a small amount of finds inside it are strong indications of this building being a cistern , which when abandoned was gradually “filled up” with stones, soil and other transportable materials.

Although the construction of the walls proves that the building was erected in Archaic times, the discovery of ceramics from different eras points to its use over a long period of time , perhaps as far back as Late Antiquity. Lastly, a strong wall was located in the eastern part of the site,11 m long, 0.60 m wide and 0.65 m high, which was not excavated due to lack of time. At a distance of 2.5 m, the marble base of a votive column was unearthed.

Most of the 2020 excavation period was centered on researching the islet of Tsimintiri, which in antiquity was joined to Despotikon by an isthmus and was part of the  extensive satellite installation for the cult of the Apollo Sanctuary. At the end of this year’s 2 weeks research, eight buildings had been located that take up the island’s south and east side and face the sheltered harbour and the sanctuary opposite.

The Building Ατ is the westernmost of all those located. It is elongated, built on a steep slope with a North-South orientation and comprises three spaces. A short distance from it, two more buildings were located but not excavated; Ht which comprises at least two spaces and Building Θτ.

Building Βτ is the largest ever to have been found and the first to be encountered when approaching the island from the south. It consists of at least five spaces, in one of which a large number of ceramic utensils and fragments of jars with relief decoration were discovered. The findings from the building, among which many fragments of archaic jars with engraved and embossed decoration, give a time horizon of its use from the 7th to the early 5th century.

Further north is the elongated Building Γτ divided into at least four spaces. A short distance to the west is the almost square Building Δτ. Next to this is the Building Ετ with a rectangular floor plan divided into three spaces.Research is being continued West of the Building Ετ as well as the cleaning of the Building Ζτ which has a circular floor plan with a 16.90 m diameter.

All the buildings on Tsimintiri have very large dimensions and are strongly constructed, while they all seem to be structurally related to each other, creating a high density of  buildings on the south side of the islet that in ancient times would have been the northeastern side of the sheltered harbour. These were probably public buildings related to the harbour’s operation.Moreover, Tsimintiri was essentially the isthmus that joined Antiparos with Despotikon, thus making access to the Sanctuary also possible via Antiparos.

For many more images, go here.