The 23th of Hekatombaion is traditionally the first night in a week long series of events that make up the Panathenaia festival. This birthday celebration of the city of Athens and grand honoring of Athena was one of ancient Athens' highlights and people would have flocked there from afar to take part. Will you take part as well during two days of the event, namely the first and last? The first event will take place on the 14th (or 15th) of July and the second on the 21th of July. For details on the times, see below.


The Panathenaia was an Athenian festival celebrated every year in honor of the Goddess Athena. The Lesser Panathenaia (Panathenaia ta mikra) was an annual event, while the Greater (Panathenaia ta megala) was held every four years and assimilated the practices of the Panathenaia ta mikra into itself. The set date for the festival was from the 23rd to the 29th of Hekatombaion and the festival was similar, in practice, to the Olympic Games but it had its own unique elements as well. In short, The Panathenaia was the 'birthday of the city' and referred to Athens. The actual practice was very involved but usually included:

- a procession from outside of the city walls to the Acropolis
- the hanging of a new (and elaborately woven) garment on the shoulders of the statue of Athena inside the Parthenon, named a Peplos.
- a torch race
- an all-night service called the Pannychos
- a large offering (and ritual slaughter) of a hundred cows in honor of Athena
- a meat meal for everyone at the city's expense
- during the Panathenaia ta megala, wrestling competitions, athletic competitions, chariot races and many other horse-based games were also held. The Panathenaia was known for its boat races.

The athletic contests included foot races, wrestling, boxing, pankration (a combination of wrestling and boxing), pentathlon (five-event contest: stade race, javelin-throw, discus throw, long jump, and wrestling), four-horse chariot and two-horse chariot races, horseback race, javelin-throw from horseback, apobatês race, pyrrhic dancing, euandria (physical fitness or beauty contest), torch relay race, and boat race.  All these events, except for the torch and boat races, were held in each of three age categories: boys (12-16), ageneios (16-20), and men (20+) and took place in the Agora until 330 BCE when a stadium was built in the outskirts of Athens.

Boat races were not typically part of Greek athletic festivals, but they may have found a place in the Panathenaic festival because of Athena's connection with boat-building. Pyrrhic dancing, physical fitness, torch relay race, and boat races were tribal competitions restricted to Athenian citizens, whereas even non-Athenians took part in the track and field and equestrian events.  Except for the four last-named contests, the prizes (for first and second place only) were varying numbers of amphoras filled with olive oil. The olive tree and its fruit were sacred to Athena and the oil was a very valuable commodity in the ancient world used for cooking, as soap, and as fuel for lamps.  The winning athletes normally sold their prize oil for cash. Besides the everyday usefulness mentioned above, olive oil was in great demand by administrators of the numerous athletic festivals throughout the Greek world. Athletes rubbed themselves with olive oil before competition and scraped it off afterwards with a metal device called a stlengis.

As an indication of value, in the fourth century B.C. the prize for the victor in the stade race (a 600 ft. long foot race) in the men's category was 100 amphoras of olive oil. In terms of today's dollar, the olive oil would be worth at a minimum $39,000 and the amphoras, which held the oil, about $1600.  Greeks from other cities were allowed to compete in all the athletic contests among individuals.  The competitions among tribes were limited to Athenians.

The two-mile torch relay race with four runners from each of the ten Athenian tribes was run from the altar of Eros outside the Dipylon gate to the Acropolis. The object was to win the race without causing the torch to go out.  The winning tribe received a bull and 100 drachmas. The fire of the winning torch was used to light the sacrificial fire on the great altar of Athena on the Acropolis. The torch race was part of an all-night (pannychos) celebration also involving music and dancing on the night before the most important day of the festival when the procession and sacrifice took place. The apobatês race and the boat race closed out the festival contests.

Three musical contests involved singers accompanying themselves on kithara (kitharôidos), singers accompanied by an aulos (a reed wind instrument similar to a clarinet or oboe), and aulos players.  The prizes for these contests were crowns (for first place winners only) and cash. For example, the first prize for the kithara-singer was an olive crown in gold worth 1,000 drachmas (at least $32,000 and 500 silver drachmas (at least $16,000).

Reciters called rhapsodes (literally, 'stitchers of song') competed at public festivals in the recitation of epic poetry, in particular the Homeric poems and other poems belonging to the Epic Cycle. They performed without musical accompaniment. Prizes are unknown.

The great procession the Panathenaia was known for assembled before dawn in the following order:

- four little girls carrying a peplos for the life-size statue of Athena Polias 
- priestesses of Athena and Athenian women carrying gifts 
- sacrificial animals (bulls and sheep) for the communal meals of thanksgiving
- metics (resident aliens), wearing purple robes and carrying trays with cakes and honeycombs for offerings 
- musicians playing the aulos and the kithara
- a colossal peplos (for Athena Parthenos) hung on the mast of a ship on wheels 
- old men carrying olive branches
- four-horse chariots with a charioteer and fully armed man (apobatês) 
- craftswomen (ergastinai - weavers of the peplos) 
- infantry and cavalry 
- victors in the games 
- ordinary Athenians arranged by deme

The procession made its way on the Panathenaic Way through the Agora towards the Acropolis.  Some sacrifices were offered on the Areopagus and in front of the temple of Athena Nikê next to the Propylaea (Gateway). Only Athenian citizens were allowed to pass through the Propylaea and enter the Acropolis. The procession passed the Parthenon and stopped at the great altar of Athena in front of the Erechtheum. Each year a newly woven peplos (robe) was taken by the craftswomen (ergastinai) into the Erechtheum and placed on a life-size old wooden statue of Athena Polias ('Guardian of the City'), while every four years in the Great Panathenaea, an enormous peplos was taken to the Acropolis for Athena Parthenos (Athena the Virgin) in the Parthenon. This peplos was so large that it was carried on the mast of a ship on wheels (like a float in a modern parade). The connection between the ship and Athena is unknown, but the use of a ship to carry the peplos must have seem appropriate in the fifth century after Athens had built the great fleet with which it dominated a large part of the Aegean world. This was followed by a huge animal sacrifice at the Athena's altar and representatives from each deme in Attica, chosen by lot, enjoyed a meat banquet along with bread and cakes.

The first day includes a torch-lit procession (which can also be conducted with a wind light or electric candle) and libations to Athena in Her many forms related to the Panathenaia. It can be performed either in the night of the 14th of July or the daylight hours of the 15th (the 14th is the encouraged time). The ritual for the last day of the Panathenaia honors Athena, Zeus, Agathos Daimon, Hera, Poseidon, and Hestia. We will be performing it at 10:00 AM EDT on the 21th of July. The rituals the Panathenaia can be found here. If you would like to join our group for the event, please go here.
On the 21th of Metageitnion, so on 10 am EDT on the 13th of July, we honor Kourotrophos (κουροτρόφος, child nurturer) and the two Goddesses who protect women and children, Hekate and Artemis with sacrifice. Elaion will be organizing another Practicing Apart Together ritual, which we would love to have you join.


The Kourotrophoi are (mostly) female deities who watched over growing children--Gaea, Artemis, Hekate, Eirênê, Aglauros and Pandrosos, especially. Offerings to them are known from the demos Erkhia, but duplicates similar offerings on the Acropolis of Athens. Especially at Erkhia, it varied per sacrifice which Kourotrophoi was/were sacrificed to. In this ritual, we honor Kourotrophos Herself, a deity whose main function was to watch over nursing children and their mothers. We also honor Artemis and Hekate.

Artemis is named Kourotrophos by Diodorus Siculus, a Hellenic historian, in book five of his library:

"And Artemis, we are told, discovered how to effect the healing of young children and the foods which are suitable to the nature of babes, this being the reason why she is also called Kourotrophos." [5.73.5] 

You can find the ritual here and join the community here.
Heraclitus of Ephesus (Ἡράκλειτος ὁ Ἐφέσιος, Hērákleitos ho Ephésios) was a pre-Socratic Hellenic philosopher who lived from about 535 to about 475 BC. He was a native of the city of Ephesus, which was then part of the Persian Empire. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom. Heraclitus was and is famous for his insistence on ever-present change as being the fundamental essence of the universe. This is most tellingly stated in his quote: 'No man ever steps in the same river twice'.

Heraclitus also commented on the elements a lot. Heraclitus considered fire as the most fundamental element. He believed fire gave rise to the other elements and thus to all things. He regarded the soul as being a mixture of fire and water, with fire being the noble part of the soul, and water the ignoble part. A soul should therefore aim toward becoming more full of fire and less full of water: a 'dry' soul was best. According to Heraclitus, worldly pleasures made the soul 'moist', and he considered mastering one's worldly desires to be a noble pursuit which purified the soul's fire. He also posed that the core of transformation is the replacement of one element by another.

Not much has been preserved of Heraclitus' teachings. His words are mere fragments in the works of others now. I would like to give you those who relate to his views on the elements today.

"This world, which is the same for all, no one of gods or men has made. But it always was, is, and will be: an ever-living Fire, with measures of it kindling, and measures going out." [Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, V, 14, 104, 2. / Fragment 30]
"All things are an interchange for Fire, and Fire for all things, just like goods for gold and gold for goods." [Plutarch, On the E at Delphi, 388 DE. / Fragment 90]
"The transformations of Fire: first, sea; and of the sea half is earth, half whirlwind [...] Sea pours out, and is measured by the same amount as before it became earth." [Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, V, 14, 104, 3. / Fragment 31]
"Fire in its advance will judge and convict all things." [Hippolytus, Refutation of all heresies, IX, 10, 7. / Fragment 66]
The death of fire is the birth of air, and the death of air is the birth of water. [Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, IV, 46. / Fragment 76]
"For it is death to souls to become water, and death to water to become earth. But water comes from earth; and from water, soul." [Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, VI, 17, 2. / Fragment 36]
Petras, the elite cemetery of house tombs (c. 2900-1800 BC), is part of a very rare monumental topography consisting of a Minoan palace and several settlements (3400-1100 BC), at the east end of Sitia.


The archaeological sites of Petras have been excavated since 1985 as part of a long-term systematic research programme of the Ministry of Culture, headed by Dr. Metaxia Tsipopoulou, executive member  and Honorary Director, since 2012,  of the Ministry of Culture.

The palace and part of the main settlement have been open to the public since 2006. The Petras excavations are among the largest research projects to have been conducted by members of the Greek Archaeological Service. Significant findings have contributed to a better understanding of Minoan society and its contacts at home and abroad especially in the Pre- and Proto-palatial periods.

The ongoing study of the excavation results, such as the excavation itself, is carried out by an interdisciplinary team of experts. There are now 100 publications including articles, monographs and the proceedings of two conferences. In addition, guided tours are organized annually during excavations for the people of Sitia and its visitors, educational programmes for children and students, as well as photographic exhibitions. It should be noted that all funding for the excavation, conservation of the material, stabilizing work and research come from an Institution abroad and that the excavation conducted by approximately 40 people for six weeks a year, is, from an economic point of view, a development project for the town of Sitia.

The excavation of the cemetery is nearing completion, based on the second five-year programme 2017-2021), approved by Ministerial Decree and renewed annually. This year the license was not renewed and no explanation was given by the Ministry’s Central Services of the Ministry for this (silent) cessation of the project.

The cemetery site is threatened by winter weather and unlawful human activity. Excavating the funerary buildings and stabilizing the walls must be completed in the next two excavation periods, according to the detailed schedule submitted to the Ministry for the annual renewal of the permit.

To persuade Minister of Culture and Sports, Dr. Lina Mendoni to reconsider the decision (silent ,not written) to stop the excavation, for the planned six week field work to go ahead in the autumn, a gathering of signatures has begun online. You can sign here.
On the 16th of Hekatombaion, the Synoikia (συνοίκια or συνοικέσια) festival was held in Athens. It was a community festival, sacred to primarily Athena, and was a festival held every year. Why the Sunoikia was celebrated, and what its origins are is not entirely clear; best I can tell is that it reaches back to the unification of twelve small towns into the metropolis of Athens, and is thus linked to the myth of Theseus. Will you celebrate with us today, on July 7th?


The Synoikia was 'somewhat' of a two-day festival; the 16th was the official sacred day, but the 15th was important as well. Parke, in 'Festivals of the Athenians' (1977), states that:

"Some light on the subject comes from a fragment of the fifth-century code of sacrificial regulations found in the Agora. It records among the festival held every second year as the earliest in the calendar sacrifices held on the 15th and 16th of Hecatombaion. This is evidently the Synoikia though the name does not appear in the inscription. Thuclydides did not mention anything about a two-yearly celebration, and one would naturally expect the commemoration of a historic even to take place annually. But the part of the code dealing with the annual festivals of Hecatombaion is lost, and it probably contained references to the annual Synoikia on the 16th, and one should picture the celebration as taking place on this one day every year, and every second year being held in a larger and more extended form over the two days of the 15th and the 16th." [p. 31]

The second day was the main event, and it contained sacrifices to Zeus Phratrios, Eirênê (Ειρηνη, Goddess of peace and spring), and most importantly: Athena. The Synoikia was believed to have been instituted by Theseus to commemorate the concentration, the Synoecism, of the government of the various towns of Attica and Athens. This unification is described by Thucydides, in his 'History of the Peloponnesian War':

"In this manner spake the Mytilenaeans. And the Lacedaemonians and their confederates, when they had heard and allowed their reasons, decreed not only a league with the Lesbians but also again to make an invasion into Attica. And to that purpose the Lacedaemonians appointed their confederates there present to make as much speed as they could with two parts of their forces into the isthmus; and they themselves being first there prepared engines in the isthmus for the drawing up of galleys, with intention to carry the navy from Corinth to the other sea that lieth towards Athens, and to set upon them both by sea and land. [2] And these things diligently did they. But the rest of the confederates assembled but slowly, being busied in the gathering in of their fruits and weary of warfare." [3. 15]

Prior to this mythical event taking place, it seems the Synoikia was solely a festival for Athena, as caretaker of Athens. All sacrifices went to Her. After the Synoecism, however, Zeus Phatrios gained importance: he oversaw the various phratries (clans) of Athens who had come together to form a unified people. The content of the Synoikia was solidified in a time of many wars, and it seemed many people were not only tired of them, but saw them as a threat to the solidity of Athens and Attica. As such, the inclusion Eirênê makes sense, as well as Elaion's additions of Aphrodite and Peitho.

Even in ancient times, the sacrifices were a bit lacklustre: a young ewe on the 15th, and two young bullocks on the 16th. Neither sacrifice included a feast and the meat--save for what was sacrificed, of course--was sold right away, indicating not many people attended and that the festival was held most for form; and antiquated festival even then. Today, reading up on the history of Athens and sacrificing to Athena, Zeus Phatrios, and Eirênê suffices to celebrate the Synoikia--and join in with our PAT ritual, of course! You can find the ritual here and the community page here.
"The Argonauts sailed on in gloom. The Seirenes  were behind them, but worse perils lay ahead, at a place where two seas met and shipping came to grief. On one side the sheer cliff of Skylla  hove in sight; on the other Kharybdis  seethed and roared incessantly; while beyond, great seas were booming on the Wandering Rocks."
-- Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 921

A map of the wanderings of Aeneas, showing the positions of Charybdis and Scylla (underlined in red), from an edition of The Aeneid of Virgil, Book III, edited by Philip Sandford, London: Blackie & Son. 1900


Some of the greatest heroes encountered the terrifying and destructive force of Skylla and Kharybdis on their travels: Odysseus had to pass them twice, and the Argonauts came upon them as well. We will discuss Skylla at a later date, but for now, we will discuss Kharybdis--monster and Goddess--who controls the tide.

The ancient hellenes in the time the Odysseia was written seem to have been largely unaware that the rise and fall of sea levels are caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of the Earth. Instead, they held a single entity responsible: a monster or a Goddess controlling a whirlpool, as described by Hómēros:

"Odysseus, you will notice the other cliff is lower, only a bow-shot away, and a great fig-tree with dense leaves grows there. Under it divine Charybdis swallows the black waters. Three times a day, she spews them out, and three times darkly sucks them back again. No one, not even Poseidon, could save you from destruction if you are there when she swallows." [Bk XII:36-110]

For those of you who grew up with huge differences between high and low tides, it might be hard to grasp how the ancient Hellenes attributed such a difference to a single whirlpool entity. Well, they didn't; Even modern Hellas hardly has a difference between high and low tide; a foot or two at max. As such, it becomes a lot more feasable for that amount of water to be swallowed and regurgitated.

The development of tidal science began in antiquity with the cosmology of Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC), a Hellenic philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. In researching this subject, I keep happening upon a quote by him that I can't place in any of his works, but would love to have someone source for me. It goes:

"It is even said that many ebbings and risings of the sea always come round with the Moon and upon certain fixed times."

The closest I have gotten is from the 'Meteorology':

"Again, most earthquakes and the severest occur at night or, if by day, about noon, that being generally the calmest part of the day. For when the sun exerts its full power (as it does about noon) it shuts the evaporation into the earth. Night, too, is calmer than day. The absence of the sun makes the evaporation return into the earth like a sort of ebb tide, corresponding to the outward flow; especially towards dawn, for the winds, as a rule, begin to blow then, and if their source changes about like the Euripus and flows inwards the quantity of wind in the earth is greater and a more violent earthquake
results." [Bk 2, Pt 8]
And:

"Every one admits this, that if the whole world originated the sea did too; for they make them come into being at the same time. It follows that if the universe is eternal the same must be true of the sea. Any one who thinks like Democritus that the sea is diminishing and will disappear in the end reminds us of Aesop's tales. His story was that Charybdis had twice sucked in the sea: the first time she made the mountains visible; the second time the islands; and when she sucks it in for the last time she will dry it up entirely. Such a tale is appropriate enough to Aesop in a rage with the ferryman, but not to serious inquirers. Whatever made the sea remain at first, whether it was its weight, as some even of those who hold these views say (for it is easy to see the cause here), or some other reason-clearly the same thing must make it persist for ever. They must either deny that the water raised by the sun will return at all, or, if it does, they must admit that the sea persists for ever or as long as this process goes on, and again, that for the same period of time that sweet water must have been carried up beforehand. So the sea will never dry up: for before that can happen the water that has gone up beforehand will return to it: for if you say that this happens once you must admit its recurrence. If you stop the sun's course there is no drying agency. If you let it go on it will draw up the sweet water as we have said whenever it approaches, and let it descend again when it recedes. This notion about the sea is derived from the fact that many places are found to be drier now than they once were. Why this is so we have explained. The phenomenon is due to temporary excess of rain and not to any process of becoming in which the universe or its parts are involved. Some day the opposite will take place and after that the earth will grow dry once again. We must recognize that this process always goes on thus in a cycle, for that is more satisfactory than to suppose a change in the whole world in order to explain these facts. But we have dwelt longer on this point than it deserves." [Bk 2, Pt 3]

In general, I would say the ancient Hellenes were aware of the connection between the Moon (and Sun) and the tides, but neglected to make a causal connection. For a long time Kharybdis was the most logical of options. Another name of hers is 'Trienos' (Τριενος), 'Three Times a Day', alluding to the earlier stated behavior of the whirlpool. Suidas, by the tenth century AD, had placed the actual whirlpool with accuracy. This location is portrayed on the map above:

"Kharybdis (Charybdis): It sucks up the sea around Gadeira and furiously spirals around again. It is said that it all leads down to chaos and destruction. Priskos (Priscus) says about Kharybdis: ‘They sail by Sikelia (Sicily) in front of Messene and by the strait of Italy where Kharybdis [is], taking in stormy winds, and sucking those men in. Kharybdis and Skylla (Scylla), lying in a narrow place, are subject to the currents of the oceans and sink those sailing past. There Odysseus lost all his companions with the ships; he himself was carried away hanging on to a board in the currents of the sea.’"
It is easy to link our modern understanding of tidal physics to the minds of the ancient Hellenes, but I am in no way certain they actually linked the tides to the Moon and Sun. As such, neither Selene, nor Artemis, nor even the Oceanic Gods like Poseidon would have had any influence on the tides: they were in the domain of either another divinity, or a monster, and both were out of reach.
I'd like to share part of a letter written by a famous Hellenic Pagan orator, Libanius, to the Christian Emperor Theodosius. It was written in the late 4th century AD, and describes--from the Pagan perspective--what happened to the temples of the ancient Gods. A teaser:

"But they say, 'We have only punished those who sacrifice, and thereby transgress the law, which forbids sacrifices.' O Emperor, when they say this they lie. For no one is so audacious, and so ignorant of the proceedings of the courts, as to think himself more powerful than the law. When I say the law, I mean the law against sacrificers.

Can it be thought, that they who are not able to bear the sight of a collector's cloak, should despise the power of your government? This is what they say for themselves. And they have been often alleged to Flavian himself, and never have been confuted, no not yet.

For I appeal to the guardians of this law: Who has known any of those whom you have plundered to have sacrificed upon the altars, so as the law does not permit? What young or old person, what man, what woman? Who of those inhabiting the same country, and not agreeing with the sacrificers in the worship of the gods? Who of their neighbours? For envy and jealousy are common in neighbourhoods.

Whence some would gladly come as an evidence if any such thing had been done: and yet no one has appeared, neither from the one nor from the other: [that is, neither from the country, nor from the neighbourhood.] Nor will there ever appear, for fear of perjury, not to say the punishment of it. Where then is the truth of this charge, when they accuse those men of sacrificing contrary to law?"  
Read the rest of the translation here: Libanius, Oration 30: For the temples (Pro templis) (1830) pp.72-96. I promise, it will be a valuable glimpse into the past.