An ancient stone tablet bearing a historic inscription of the Nikouria decree, dating back to the 3rd century BC, has resurfaced on the island of Amorgos after it had gone missing for roughly a century, the Greek culture ministry announced last week.

The stele was found by a final-year archaeology student from Amorgos, Stelios Perakis, and German archaeologist N. N. Fischer with the help of local residents. It was embedded in the outer wall of a recently renovated house  in the village Tholaria, Amorgos that had previously belonged to a shepherd from Nikouria.

According to a ministry announcement, the inscription on the stele contained key information on the history of the Aegean and was first discovered in 1893 in the Panagia Church on the islet of Nikouria, opposite Aigiali on Amorgos. It had been temporarily transferred to a nearby stable where it remained until 1908 but then disappeared from view and its fate was entirely unknown.

The decree contains a decision of the League (Koinon) of the Islanders', a political union set up by the Ptolemies, to participate with official representatives in the feast and games organised by Ptolemy II in Alexandria in the memory of his father Ptolemy I, the ministry said. The specific stele is considered important since it provides evidence concerning the balance of power during the first half of the 3rd century BC and the transition of control from the Macedonians to the Ptolemies.

Dozens of researchers had tried and failed to track down the Nikouria decree over the years.
The Cyclades Antiquities Ephorate said it will remove and transfer the stele to the Amorgos archaeological collection.
On the first day of the Lênaia (Λήναια), Elaion is hosting a PAT ritual for it. This three-day festival honours Dionysos and has a multitude of links to the Lesser Dionysia. In fact, it's been described as an urban version of the Lesser Dionysia, but without the grander of the greater Dionysia. Will you join us for a nighttime ritual on 18 January (or 10 am on 19 January)?

The Lênaia is held--roughly--at the coldest time of year in Hellas. It's dedicated to Dionysos Lênaios (Ληναιος, of the wine press), and is almost undoubtedly a fertility festival, which was celebrated to encourage the earth to thaw and soften, and become ready for sowing. It is said that the Lênaia celebrates the birth of Dionysos--or at least the version of His birth from Zeus's thigh, but this is most definitely not a supported theory by the whole of the scholastic community. This festival is tied to Dionysos' role as Year-Daímōn in which He was conceived at Agrai, located on the banks of the Ilissus River on the Hellenic peninsula near Athens. The word 'Agrai', pertains to both the place name and the rites of Dionysos held there--most commonly referred to as the 'lesser Mysteries' (20-26 Anthesterion). Another reason for the name of the festival might be the female revelers that often partook of Dionysos' worship and were named Maenads, or Lenai.

The Lênaia starts at the twelfth and ends either on the fourteenth or fifteenth of the month. At Elaion, we feel it ends at dusk on the fifteenth, as that would make up the full three days attested to (from dusk on the twelfth, to dusk on the fifteenth).

The Lênaia was an ancient, local, mostly Athenian, festival, although it was locally celebrated elswhere as well. In Athens, no one from another city could attend. This was partly an inevitability, seeing as the seas at this time were the most dangerous of the year. It's documented that the Lenaion--most likely a theatre outside of the city or a section of the Agora--was the stage for the Lênaia, and might have been the earliest shrine of Dionysos at Athens. Eventually, the Theatre of Dionysos was built, and the Greater Dionysia became the main festival for the performance of drama, but tragedies and comedies were also put on during the Lênaia. In fact, they were the main event.

At the public level this was primarily a theatrical and civic affair, and the city invoked the god Dionysos in his role as bringer of wealth and the blessings of civilization. The festival might have started with a procession from the wilds outside of Athens, into the civilization of Athens itself. During the procession, the Daidukhos (Torch-bearer) yelled, “Invoke the God!” and the celebrants responded, "Son of Semele, Iakkhos, Giver of Wealth!”. (Parke, Festivals of the Athenians, p 104–4) This procession might have played out (parts of) the early myths surrounding Dionysos, where He and his revelers came to His cousin Pentheus, but were imprisoned. Dionysos broke Himself and His revelers out, and tried to explain His worship to His cousin. Yet, Pentheus would not listen, so Dionysos left him to his anger. He took His followers--including many local women, including Pentheus' mother and sister--to the hills. When Pentheus pursued Him, He drove the women mad. To them Pentheus appeared to be a moutain lion. In a berserk rage, they attacked him, and his mother--who was first to reach him--ripped his head off, while the others tore off his limbs.

At midnight on at least one of the days, revellers took to an all-night ecstatic dance, dressed up and bearing various musical instruments (the thyrsus, castanets, tambourines and flutes, primarily). They danced in front of a representation of Dionysos, usually a simple post, dressed in a man’s tunic, with garlanded branches like upraised arms, and with a bearded mask of Dionysos. It's this bear that often discourages scholars from interpreting the Lênaia as a festival to celebrate Dionysos' birth. Wine was a large part of the dance and stood on a table in front of the idol; generally, this wine was the last of the old.

There were massive parades through the streets during the days, which were led by the Archōn Basileus and the officials who oversaw the sacred ceremonies of the Eleusinian mysteries. There were speeches by political figures, awards were given to outstanding citizens, veterans and their families, and business was discussed in the open, and with gusto. Tragedies and comedies were performed, but comedies were the main focus. While the plays were wonderful, many people looked forward to the household part of the festival more, though, as it was encouraged to get at least somewhat tipsy and ward off the cold in bed with your partner.

It's interesting to note that during the midwinter celebrations of Dionysos, a group of revelers roamed Mount Parnassos at Delphi (we mostly know this from an account where they had to be rescued off of the mountain when a blizzard struck), and it is attested that every second year, the Delphic women were joined by women from Athens. The Lênaia might have been the main Dionysian festival for these Athenian women.

You can join the community for the event here, and download the ritual here. We look forward to have you participate!
Two more sacrifices took place at the start of Gamelion: a sacrifice to and a sacrifice to Athena. Will you join us for these on January 15 (today) and January 16, at the usual 10 am EST?

The sacrifice to Apollon Apotropaios, Nymphegetes, and the Nymphs
On 15 January, 10 am EST, we honour Apollon in His epithets of Apotropaios and Nymphegetes as well as His consorts, the Nymphs. This ancient sacrifice was held at Arkhia on Gamelion 8 and we invite you to join us.

Apollon Apotropaios (Ἀποτρόπαιοs) was and is the averter of evil. Rituals dedicated to the deity were apotropaic, intended to turn away harm or evil influences, as in deflecting misfortune. This could be anything from warding off a plague to keeping mice out of the grain storage.

Apollon Nymphegetes (Νυμφηγέτης) is 'Apollon who looks after nymphs', or 'Apollo who leads nymphs'. In this epithet, Apollon was and is a pastoral God, who was considered the protector of shepherds and pastoral life.

Nymphs are the female divinities of the natural features of the landscape, and there are many kinds, depending on the landscape they frequent.

Combining these traits into a single ritual can tell you all about it you need: this was a ritual to ward of the dangers of rural living (by addressing Apollon in his two protective epithets) and to invite blessings (from the nymphs) onto those who partook.

We welcome you to worship with us at 10 am EST on 15 January. You can join the community here and find the ritual here.

The sacrifice to Athena
At ancient Erkhia, on the 9th of Gamelion, a sacrifice was performed in honour of Athena. The calendar does not state a specific epithet or further details, so we will be honouring Her in all Her glory. Will you join us at 10 am EST on 16 January?

The ritual for the event can be found here and the community page here.
The Cyprus Mail recently posted a nice write-up about the difficulties of uncovering ancient mosaics that I thought you might like to read. I've taken the relevant parts out of the post, which is interesting as a whole as well!

The Roman antiquities the article is about were unearthed while the Larnaca sewerage board was carrying out road works in the area, but it soon became clear that they could not be excavated further as a building was in the way. An uninhabited and abandoned house on the plot of land needs to be demolished before uncovering the antiquities can be completed. Only when the mosaic is completely revealed can the department of antiquities decide what to do with it, whether to leave it in situ or move it.

Greece is one example where moving a mosaic has been successfully managed when the mosaic of the Epiphany of Dionysus was moved to the local Archaeological Museum of Dion for restoration and protection between 2015 and 2017. The position and shape of individual mosaic stones were first recorded. The mosaic was then divided into several plates which could be transported and reassembled at its destination.

When winter is over, the stones will be uncovered little by little while the whole mosaic will be kept under the shelter. This way, the conservationists will clean and stabilise the stones bit by bit while the rest remain protected. Some of the stones are very well preserved, others are fragile, hence it is not clear how long the work will take.

Even when this part of the job is done, the area around needs to be carefully examined to establish what kind of building the mosaics were part of. Only when the work is finished will the site be opened to the public.
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
wandering to a run
words such as these
feet; did you not see
... ...
to me ...
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…”

A legal fight over whether a prized ancient Greek statue at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles should be returned to Italy will head to Europe’s highest court, an attorney said Friday in Rome. The legal wrangling centers on a life-sized bronze statue of a naked Olympic athlete called the “Victorious Youth.” It is believed to have been made by Lysippos, Alexander the Great’s personal sculptor.

The Italian government claims the statue belongs to Italy’s cultural heritage and should be returned to Italy. It was found by two Italian fishermen in 1964, then allegedly sold illegally to art dealers. On Nov. 30 last year, Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, agreed. Last week the court issued a scathing 47-page decision rejecting the Getty Museum’s claims to rightful ownership. On Friday, Alfredo Gaito, a lawyer working on behalf of the museum in Rome, said the ruling would be appealed to the European Court of Justice.

“Things don’t finish here,” he said in a telephone interview with Courthouse News. He called the Court of Cassation’s ruling “hardly convincing,” on a number of grounds. He said the Getty’s claims of ownership hold up under international laws governing private property, and that a proper trial to establish whether the Getty broke the law should take place before the statue can be seized.

“I’m not a magician, I can’t predict the future, but there are a lot of perplexities with this case,” Gaito said. He said an appeal to the European high court must be made within six months of the ruling by the Italian court.

The statue was hauled up from the depths of the Adriatic Sea in the nets of two Italian fishermen in the summer of 1964 and then sold to antique dealers. In 1977, the Getty bought it for $4 million. It has become a centerpiece of the museum.  But under Italian law, the statue should have been handed over to Italian authorities when it was found because of its cultural importance, the Italian court said in its decision, issued in Italian.  The ruling said the fishermen hooked the statue in waters off the coast of Pedaso in the region of Le Marche. The court said the fishermen did not report finding the statue to authorities and hid it at a friend’s house before selling it to three entrepreneurs.  In 1965, Italian police, the carabinieri, became aware of the statue’s existence and began looking for it, the court said.

Italian prosecutors filed charges against the three businessmen and a priest who allegedly hid the statue in his house, the court said. All four men were eventually cleared of wrongdoing due to lack of evidence about what they had found and where it had been found, the ruling states. Italian police continued searching for the statue, which by 1972 had ended up in the possession of an antiques dealer in Munich, Germany, the court said. But German authorities determined that the dealer, Heinz Herzer, could not be extradited for the crime of possessing smuggled art works, according to the ruling.

Herzer then sold the statue to a Luxembourg company called Artemis. It was then sold to the Getty and by Aug. 15, 1977, had arrived in the United States, according to court documents. U.S. authorities declined requests by Italian authorities to investigate the matter, according to the ruling. Italian authorities then closed their investigation. In 2007, the case was reopened by the public prosecutor’s office in Pesaro, a city in Le Marche. In 2010, an Italian judge ordered the statue to be seized, sparking the long-running legal fight.

The Getty’s attorneys have disputed the claims by Italian authorities on numerous grounds and say the law is on their side. They say the statue was found in international waters and that Italy’s high court ruled in 1968 that there was no evidence the statue belonged to Italy. The museum also claims that the statue has never been part of Italy’s cultural heritage and that its accidental discovery by Italian fishermen “does not make the statue an Italian object.”

But the high court ruled that the statue belongs to Italy because it was transferred from an Italian vessel to Italy. It said the statue should be returned to Italy because it was illegally exported without paying customs duties and because the statue is an important cultural piece of Italy’s heritage. Although the statue is Greek in origin, the court said a “cultural continuity” between Roman and Greek cultures makes the statue important to Italy. The court noted that many historical Greek figures were born on the Italian peninsula in Greek colonies. It said that the statue was likely aboard a ship bound for the Italian territory when it sank.

The statue shows an athlete crowning himself with an olive wreath, an award victors received at the Olympic Games in ancient Greece. According to the Getty, the statue’s eyes likely were inlaid with colored stone or glass paste and the statue’s nipples inlaid with copper. In 2007, the Getty, without admitting any wrongdoing, agreed to return 40 ancient treasures in exchange for the long-term loans of other artifacts, according to The Associated Press. Italy and the Getty have since worked on numerous collaborations in restoration, exhibition and research projects.
I don't know how things are in your neck of the woods, but it's cold here. It finally feels like winter has arrived. I read some Plutarch today, as a little pick-me-up. He was a Hellenic historian, biographer, and essayist, who later in his life became a Roman citizen and he wrote a lot about a lot of things. Of course, he also wrote about cold, in his "Moralia." Well, about the philosophy behind cold.

"Is there, then, Favorinus, an active principle or substance of Cold (as fire is of Heat) through the presence of which and through participation in which everything else becomes cold? Or is coldness rather a negation of warmth, as they say darkness is of light and rest of motion? 

Cold, indeed, seems to have the quality of being stationary, as heat has that of motion; while the cooling off of hot things is not caused by the presence of any force, but merely by the displacement of heat, for it can be seen to depart completely at the same time as the remainder cools off. 

[...] It is the nature of coldness, however, to produce affects and alterations in bodies that it enters no less than those caused by heat. Many objects can be frozen solid, or become condensed or made viscous, by cold. Moreover, the property whereby coldness promotes rest and resists most is not inert,
but acts by pressure and resistance, being constrictive and preservative because of its strength. This explains how, though negation is a disappearance and departure of the contrary force, many things may yet become cold while all the time containing within themselves considerable warmth.

[...] Furthermore, we find that cold can be perceived as well as heat; but mere negation cannot be seen or heard or touched or recognized by the other senses. [...] If, therefore, cold were a privation of warmth, we ought not to be able to feel it, but only to infer it from the deficiency in warmth; but if cold is perceived by the contraction and condensation of our flesh (just as heat is by the warming and loosening of it), clearly there is some special first principle and source of coldness, just as there is of heat.

[...] Is cold, then, so like this sort of privation that it produces no effects that differ? Or is the contrary true: Do not great and useful pleasures accrue to our bodies from the presence of cold, as well as mighty detriments and pains and depressions, before which the heat does not always depart and quit the field? Often, rather, though cut off within, it makes a stand and gives battle. This struggle of hot and cold is called shivering or shaking; and if heat is overcome, freezing and torpor set in; but if cold is defeated, there is diffused through the body a relaxed and pleasantly warm sensation which Homer calls "to be aglow." Surely these facts are obvious to everyone; and it is chiefly by these effects that cold is shown to be in opposition to heat, not as a negation or privation, but as one substance or one state13 to another: it is not a mere destruction or abolition of heat, but a positive substance or force. Otherwise we might just as well exclude winter from the list of seasons or the northerly blasts from that of winds, on the pretext that they are only a deficiency of hot weather or southerly gales and have no proper origin of their own."