Taxation in ancient Hellas was much different than any modern system. It’s difficult to imagine now, but in ancient Hellas, the richest of the rich actually competed to pay the most in taxes. Direct taxation paid to the government at regular intervals, like our contemporary system, was unheard of in ancient Hellas. Rather than collecting regular taxes from citizens, there was only one method of taxation in ancient Hellas, called “eisphora.”

The eisphora was a tax levied on only the very richest members of society in ancient Hellas, yet it was only in place during times of great need, such as war. Hellenes were also given the right to reject this eisphora, or taxation, if they believed that someone wealthier than themselves was not being taxed, as only the wealthiest were subject to the tax.

Yet there was another system, called “liturgies,” in which the wealthy of Athens were asked to provide funds for public works projects, such as the construction of a trireme ship or gymnasium, or to support a choral or theatrical production.

In certain instances, the wealthy were asked to donate a specific amount to help in funding the project. Yet, some believed that the prestige associated with providing financial support for such endeavors was worth giving away massive sums.

Frequently, in ancient texts, the super wealthy of Athens competed to donate the largest sums during these periods of “liturgy.” They would flout their wealth by bragging about the extravagant theatrical festivals they had funded, or by the large triremes that were built from their massive fortunes.

The economy of ancient Hellas was quite advanced, even during the Archaic period before the birth of democracy. The available land for crops in Hellas was limited, and the soil is suited mainly to plants like grapes and olives. Thus, trade was essential to Hellas’s economy.

Luckily, the country is located in one of the best areas in terms of trade, as it is at the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. Instead of simply eking out a living by planting whatever the local villages wanted and desired, farmers as far back as the Archaic era were already planning their crops according to the needs of international trade. This means that separate individual markets for a consumer good would become merged with others to form one large market, aimed at large-scale trading.

Adam Izdebski of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and his colleagues, in a paper published in the November edition of The Economic Journal of Oxford University Press, are saying that this is proof that a true market economy existed in that era.

It has long been known that trade existed between groups of people as far back as the Neolithic era, before man had invented the wheel or even domesticated horses. And the concept of money and even counterfeiting was extant as far back as those times. But now, researchers have combined varying fields of scientific research to provide evidence for a market economy in ancient Hellas — even including areas around the Black Sea where Greeks had settled — characterized by integrated agricultural production and a major expansion of trade.

It's time for another constellation: Piscis Austrinus: the great (or 'Southern') fish. It's also known as Piscis Australis, and prior to the 20th century, it was known as Piscis Notius. It was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and it remains one of the 88 modern constellations. The stars of the modern constellation Grus once formed the 'tail' of Piscis Austrinus.



In Hellenic mythology, this constellation is known as the Great Fish and it is portrayed as swallowing the water being poured out by Aquarius, the water carrier. The two fish of the constellation Pisces are said to be the offspring of the Great Fish. From Hyginus' 'Astronomica' comes the follow reason for his placement in the sky:

This is the Fish that is called Southern. He seems to take water in his mouth from the sign of Aquarius. Once, when Isis was in labor, he is thought to have saved her, and as a reward for this kindness she placed the fish and its young, about whom we have spoken before, among the stars. As a result the Syrians generally do not eat fish, and worship their gilded likenesses as household gods. Ctesias, too, writes about this. [II.41]

Aratos, too, confirms the position of the Great Fish in his 'Phaenomena'. Amongst other mentions, he writes:

"Below Aegoceros before the blasts of the South Wind swims a Fish, facing Cetus, alone and part from the former Fishes; and him men call the Southern Fish. Other stars, sparsely set beneath Hydrochoüs [Aquarius], hang on high between Cetus in the heavens and the Fish, dim and nameless, and near them on the right hand of bright Hydrochoüs, like some sprinked drops of water lightly shed on this side and on that, other stars wheel bright-eyed though weak." [385 - 389]

Needless to say, this is a minor constellation. It is visible at latitudes between +55° and −90°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of October.

The best preserved shipwreck from the 2nd century BC was found in the waters surrounding Losinj near the island of Ilovik. This important archeological discovery was discovered at a depth of only two and a half metres, and previously undertaken research has confirmed that it is indeed the oldest ancient ship ever discovered in the Adriatic.

As Morski writes, this ancient wooden ship was built using the technique of "joining grooves and tabs", and in the process of its creation, the formwork was first constructed, and then the skeleton of the ship was placed onto it, all of it connected by wooden wedges.

It is merchant ship that sailed along an important maritime route, right next to the island of Ilovik in Croatia. The ship is between 20 and 25 metres long, and given that it sank into its watery grave at a depth of a mere two and a half metres, it is a real miracle that it remained so well hidden for centuries.

The ship was discovered quite by accident by Slovenian archaeologist Milan Eric while anchoring in this particular Ilovik bay. After that, the research started, which has been being conducted since 2018 by the Department of Underwater Archeology of the Croatian Restoration Institute, in cooperation with French colleagues from the University of Marseille (Aix-Marseille University, the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), and the Camille Jullian Centre), and the Losinj Museum. This is all being done with the logistical support of the Diving Centre of the Special Police of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Croatia (MUP) and the Subseason Diving Centre.

The research procedure in the waters surrounding Ilovik was carried out by the most modern methods of documentation, using photogrammetric techniques. The movable archeological material found on the ancient sunken ship confirms the dating of the ship's wood, which undoubtedly belongs to the older horizon of ships sailing the Adriatic, and testifies to the importance of the Losinj archipelago in the context of ancient waterways.

The site of this ship near Ilovik is extremely significant because of the shipbuilding tradition to which we attribute it, its dating, the ship's cargo and the very shallow working conditions that both facilitate and complicate research and pose a challenge to preserve the site. Since it is a site on loose sand, the archeological excavation itself was difficult due to the constant backfilling of the site, so a dam was built in parallel with the excavation,'' they said from the Losinj Museum.

Upon completion of the research and the preparation of documentation, the remains of the ''Ilovik ship'' were covered with sand, geotextiles, then again with sand and with iron nets, which are connected by concrete blocks. The movable archeological finds discovered there were brought back up to the surface, added to the list of finds, and were stored in the premises of the Croatian Air Force in Split during the desalination process.

Upon the completion of the conservation and restoration works, the findings from the Ilovik wreck will be stored in the Losinj Museum.


The festival that gives its name to the month. It might have been sacred to Apollon, and was thus most likely held on His sacred day--the seventh of the month. The Boedromia might have been another war commemoration. The epithet of Apollon associated with this festival is 'Boedromios', the helper in distress. The origin of the epithet and festival are explained in different ways. According to Plutarch, the name was awarded to Him (and the festival created) because he had assisted the Athenians in the war with the Amazons, who were defeated on the seventh of Boedromion, the day on which the Boedromia were afterwards celebrated. According to others, the name was awarded after the war of Erechtheus and Ion against Eumolpus, because Apollon had advised the Athenians to rush upon the enemy with a war-shout (Boê), if they wanted to win--and they did.

We have already commemorated many ancient wars, but with this ritual, we would like to address the many wars currently taking place in our world. We want to plead the Theoi to bring them to a swift end and bring refuge to the many displaced. We ask that xenia--hospitality--prevail in a time where many would turn these refugees away.

You can join the community page on Facebook here and the ritual can be found here. We hope you join us today, on 14 September, at 10 AM EDT.

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



"Hey, since they didn't have the letter J in Ancient Greece what would it be replaced with? Would Jennifer just become Ennifer?"

The Greek alphabet shows that there is no letter J or sound. In fact, there was no letter ‘J’ in  any language prior to the 14th century in England. The letter did not become widely used until the 17th century. Any name which we now spell with the letter 'J' would have been spelled with the letter 'I' instead. The modern spelling for the Hellenic hero 'Jason', for example, was 'Iason' in ancient times. As such, 'Jennifer' would most likely become 'Ieniffer' instead. But I will leave that open to the (native) Greek speakers!

~~~

"Would proper etiquette require that I say a prayer to Hestia every time I wish to pray to another god, or does recognizing her role during more formal ritual settings cover this?"

There are records that at least in some parts of ancient Hellas, Hestia was always sacrificed to first and last in state festivals, and I have adopted that for my household worship as well; many modern Hellenists have. Do you have to? No, you don't. But Hestia is the Goddess of the hearth, of the household, and the sanctity and safety of the house and family. To me it makes sense to always include her, except for during Kthonic rites--rites to the Underworld Gods.

It is my personal opinion that Hestia was not honoured (first, last or at all) in Khthonic rites. In fact, I think as few as possible Gods were called in these rites, and all of them had a Khthonic character. I think this is tied to the practice of miasma--after all, contact with the Underworld (and thus the Khthonic Gods) was a major source of it.

~~~

"Hello Mrs. Elani, I have a question pertaining to the burning of offerings in Hellenismos. I've seen a video in which you use ethanol to burn barley and wine in a simple libation. You said that you burn all libations. On your blog, I remember reading that you also burn nearly all of your other offerings as well. I was wondering how you would burn offerings other than libations and barley when you are indoors. Any help would be wonderful, thank you! :)"
 
I burn everything, and because of space limitations, I burn everything indoors. That video can be found here, by the way. I have found that everything can be burned indoors without upsetting the firealarms as long as you stick to one simple rule: keep the offering small. Meat, honey, cakes, whatever--everything can be burned as long as you either feed it to the fire in small quantities or make a small symbolic offering of it. A six ounce steak is gonna kill the fire but a small cut of it will do the trick.
 
And remember: during most sacrifices the Theoi recieved only a small portion, the mēria (μηρια), consisting of both thigh bones in their fat, which was placed on the altar, sprinkled with a liquid libation and incense, and then burned. The scented smoke was said to sustain and please the Theoi, and the sacrificial smoke also carried the prayers of the worshippers to Them. The mēria is a very specific portion, and you can read how it came to be and how it related to actual sacrifice here.
 
~~~

"Hi - do you have any advice for libations for someone who doesn't drink alcohol? Would it be best to offer wine and not drink it or offer something else that I can drink? I know some people offer the things they drink regularly, such as tea or coffee, but I'm not sure if this would be appropriate. Thanks x"
 
Wine is the traditional libation liquid; as drinking water was often stagnant, wine was used to purify it, and mask the taste. All men, women and children drank water which had some wine added to it. Wine was believed to be a healer--and it is--so everyone drank it, sometimes more when they were sick. Now, that is the Traditional side of it; what you do as a modern Hellenist is allowed to differ due to the changed from the ancient to the current society. One part of that is finding substitutes if wine is not something you want to consume--or can't consume.
 
As wine pretty much was the ancient Hellenic equivalent of water, water is a good replacement. That said, it may feel a little to plain and personally I enjoy the fact that I libate wine because it has ties to the grape vine and Dionysos. So, as a replacement, I would suggest plain grape juice--as pure and sugarless as you can find it. It still has the same ties to the Gods, but without the alcohol.

Bit of a Roman one today, but one that can be retroactively applied to the ancient Hellenes, I think. Perhaps not exactly so, but it's a step closer. And just plain fun! (And time consuming!)

Through archeology, food writer and researcher Farrell Monaco wants to revive our primal relationship with bread. As an experimental archaeologist, the founder of the award-winning blog tavolamediterranea.com has spent years studying Panis Quadratus, the carbonized loaves excavated from an oven in Pompeii, Italy. Now, she’s ready to reveal her findings and her own version of the recreated recipe, which she based on her research on this bread that dates back to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. 

Between archaeological evidence, written records, and fresco paintings, not to mention scientific experimentation, the story of Panis Quadratus slowly revealed itself. It’s been a long time coming, and some of the loaves’ characteristics have stumped archaeologists for decades. But Monaco has come to a few conclusions.

For starters, there’s the shape of the bread—a round piece that appears to have been imprinted so diners could easily break it into eight triangular sections. She believes this was meant to help the portioning of the bread in a time when serrated knives for this purpose weren’t widely available. 

Panis Quadratus also showed evidence of a band wrapped around the outside of each of the loaves. Most experts still don’t know for certain what ancient bakers used it for, but Monaco believes it likely served two purposes: keeping the pieces from spreading during baking in commercial ovens where space was at a premium, and making it easier for porters or bread hawkers to loop loaves onto poles and carry them around town.

As for the composition of the bread, it was likely made of common wheat and not spelt, as many historians postulate. Monaco posits the bread may even have contained parsley, fennel, poppy seeds, and Roman Coriander in some markets, a testament to the Romans’ sophisticated style of bread-making and adventurous flavor combinations.

Several forthcoming publications to be released starting this winter will fully reveal these findings, including a chapter by Monaco in The Bloomsbury Handbook of Experimental Approaches to Roman Archaeology. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait to make this Pompeiian bread yourself.

Monaco reconstructed this recipe for Panis Quadratus with Git (Roman coriander) to mirror several of the loaves found in Pompeii. You can bake it in a modern oven or using more authentic methods. Just don’t expect there to be any leftovers tomorrow.

Stats
Time: 6 to 12 hours
Cost: Between $5 and $10 per loaf
Level of difficulty: Medium

Ingredients:
- 8 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup bread starter
- 2 3/4 cups tepid water
- 1 tsp coarse sea salt
- 1 tsp toasted git seeds
- Additional flour for dusting

Tools:
Bowls
Tea towel
Kitchen twine
A reed, chopstick, or a thin object like a skewer
Bench knife (optional)

Instructions:

1. (Optional) Make a bread starter. If you don’t have one already, start by growing one. We recommend using this recipe for a legume sourdough starter from Monaco’s blog. 

Alternatively, create a sponge by mixing 65 grams of flour and the same amount of water with a teaspoon of baker’s yeast. Sponges work just as well as starters, and you can make exactly the amount you need using store-bought baker’s yeast. After an hour or two, once the sponge has risen and tripled its size, add it to the recipe as a starter. 

2. Parch the git seeds. Pour the seeds onto a dry, hot skillet on high heat for a few minutes until the seeds begin to pop. Finish by taking them off the heat.

3. Dissolve your starter or sponge in tepid water.

4. In a bowl, mix your dry ingredients. Make sure the git seeds have cooled down and fold them into the flour.

5. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and knead. Adjust your water and flour content to achieve a firm dough. Your goal is to get a ball that doesn’t stick nor leaves flour behind. 

Adjust the stickiness of your dough sprinkling flour or water drops as you need them. Photo courtesy of Farrell Monaco

Note: The texture of the flour you use (coarse or fine) may affect the level of hydration of your dough. To solve this, sprinkle a couple of drops of water or a light layer of flour accordingly. 

6. Let the dough rest for 2 hours. Leave it in a bowl in a warm, humid place and cover it with a clean, damp cotton tea towel to keep the surface moist.

7. Knead the dough again for 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle the salt on the dough as you knead and fold. 

8. Let the dough rest for 2 hours. Follow the same instructions as in step 6.

9. Shape the loaf. Rotate and tuck the sides and seams under and towards the center of the dough to make a round cake.  

Pro tip: You can use a bench knife or the side of your hand to control the underside of the dough and shape it as you work it. 

10. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

11. Let the dough rest and rise again for another hour. This time, place your uncooked loaf on a surface dusted with flour or on the sheet that you will bake it on. Cover the dough with a damp tea towel and leave it in a warm place. Warmth (like that from near a preheating oven) promotes yeast growth. 

Note: The dough should be roughly 1.3 kilograms or 2.8 pounds, the equivalent of 4 Roman libre. This is enough to make a modern-age Panis Quadratus that matches several of the archaeological specimens found at Pompeii and Herculaneum.

11. Dust the top of the loaf with flour.

12. Decorate your loaf. Panis Quadratus is famous for its characteristic beltline. Create it by tying twine snuggly around the outside edge of the loaf. Next, mark the eight wedges on the top side of the bread. You can do it by pressing twine, a reed, a skewer, or a chopstick. These are not incisions: Do not use a knife as cutting the loaf causes splitting and further expansion during baking.

Finally, create the puncture at the top of the loaf. Use a sharp knife or the tip of your reed and press it into the center of the loaf straight down to the bottom. If using a reed, pivot it back and forth a few times to create a small slit in the dough.

12. Bake for 60 minutes at 400 degrees.

13. Let the loaves rest for about 2 to 3 hours or until completely cool. Serve with sides or condiments that the Romans commonly used, such as salted broth, lentils, stews, milk, olive oil, red wine mixed with water (“You read that right—drinking wine straight in ancient Rome was in very poor form!” says Monaco), ricotta, aged or smoked cheese, figs or dates.


Little food remains in the ruins of Pompeii, making these loaves discovered in an oven by Giuseppe Fiorelli in 1862, even more intriguing. Since 2019, Monaco has studied the carbonized bread at the National Museum of Archaeology, in Naples. There, she has examined its composition, shape, and anomalies, while referencing archaeological and written records to back up her theories.

She’s not new to this either. Monaco’s specialty is studying ancient food—particularly Greek and Roman—and recreating recipes and narratives to help us better understand not only the culture and civilization of the period but our shared history. That’s the experimental part of experimental archaeology. 

“Looking at something in a glass cabinet doesn’t tell you much, but when you’re deconstructing and reconstructing an object, you are able to step into the shoes of the creator and understand the object and its purpose much better.”

But it’s not just about the bread. Telling the stories of the people behind it—largely women and slaves, who tend to be invisible in historical records and modern scholarship—are just as important to Monaco. There’s a human connection in every loaf that she wants to bring into focus.

Two more PAT ritual announcements today, both on September 12th. This time it's a sacrifice to the Erkhian hero Epops and an optional celebration of the dead: the Genesia. Join us for both (in that order) at 10 AM EDT.




Sacrifice to Epops at Erhia
In the calendar from Erkhia, the hero Epops received two holókaustoi on the fifth of Boedromion. The victims of the two holókaustoi to Epops were piglets and the sacrifices were to be followed by wineless libations designated. Sacrifices to Epops are known only from the Erkhia calendar. The mythological context of Epops is not clear, but he was a hero, perhaps linked (by Kallimachos) to the conflict between the city-states Paiania and Erkhia.

We hope you will join us for this sacrifice! The community page on Facebook can be found here and the ritual here.



Genesia
The Genesia seems to have been a festival of the dead--especially of dead parents. It was celebrated on the fifth of the month of Boudromion in Athens, but that is all we know for sure. There is reason to believe that the Genesia was panhellenic--although we do not know if all city-states performed the rites on the same day. We are also unsure if the Genesia was a set day for all children to visit their parents' grave and perform sacrifices there, or if there was a public commemoration of all the dead. It's most likely linked to honouring fallen warrior (for which there was a state festival) and it was a day to visit the tombs of deceased family members. The day is also sacred to Gaea, who housed the remains of the dead, and brought fertility and wealth to the living.

If you have family members--especially parents--to commemorate, we invite you to take part in this ritual. For our community page, please go here. You can find the ritual here.