While I wrap up the last things for college, I'm going to leave you with part one of two of a BBC Two series about ancient Hellas. In this documentary series, Classicist Dr. Michael Scott, explores 'the legacies of the Ancient Greeks, what they have given us today, and asks why these legacies have lasted through time'.

The Hellenic online communities I am a part of seem to be unanimously in love with this series. For me, the series paints ancient Hellas with too... sensational a brush. The focus on the differences between ancient Hellas and the modern world seems counterproductive to the goal of providing an understanding of how life in ancient Hellas worked.
I also have to admit, I knew almost everything in this video already, which does not help with my judgment upon it. It was nice seeing the medical tools, though. For those of you looking for more information on some of these subjects, try these blog posts:
Part two of this series airs Thursday at 9 PM, on BBC Two, and as far a I'm concerned, it's shaping up to be a lot more interesting than part one.
Like anyone passionate about their work field and religion, I greatly enjoy it when the two overlap. Through the wonders of Facebook, I was made aware of a recent study by Pedro Miranda, Murilo Babtisa, and Sandro de Souza Pinto, who appear to be students at Cornell University. Their study analyses the social network between characters in Hómēros' Odysseia, and they have discovered that this network is remarkably similar to real social networks today. That suggests the story is based, at least in part, on real events.

The study itself is full of math and statistical data, and exposes the network to a variety of tests to examine basic characteristics of networks, mostly determined by psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960's. Milgram's work was the foundation for the 'six degrees of separation' theory which states that in any given social network, it requires only six (sometimes less) steps to connect everyone to each other in the network. Real world social networks all have this characteristic, and it is reflected in the Odysseia.

We know that social networks are often layered in hierarchical terms and is highly clustered. Both characteristics of the Odysseia, the researchers have found. The model also held up under 'random attack', in which non-specific people were taken out of the model to see if Milgram's theory was upheld. This was the case. Interestingly enough, when the researchers took central figures out of the model, the strength of the network faltered--another feature of real social networks. 

In order to test that last statistic, the researchers first had to remove 'loose verticals'--characters, mostly mythological ones like Gods and heroes, who have no connection to anyone but a single (main) character. This indicates to the researchers that the Odysseia is part factual, part narrative, where the mythological undercurrent of the tale was added to the existing facts.

This is a conclusion drawn before, by those this research was based upon. The existing study, conducted by P.M. Carron and R. Kenna in 2012 on the Iliad, Beowulf and Táin Bó Cuailnge, concluded that only the Iliad (and to a lesser degree, Beowulf) matched real world social network behavior, when the mythological under layer was removed.

Personally, I would be curious to see if the skill of the author has an influence on the model. I would love to see Harry Potter plotted like this, or the Lord of the Rings. We know those are entirely fictional, but will the model reflect that if the interconnectedness is tested? All in all, I am a fan of this type of research, and hope to see more of it in the future. It does add another layer to the epic, don't you think?
I love to meditate. I think it's a wonderful way to quiet ones mind, and to become closer to the Theoi. Although it has been a long time since the last one, I have even shared some of my meditations on this blog. When I first progressed into Hellenismos over a year ago (can you believe it has already been over a year since the start of this blog? I sure can't!), I was sure I would have to leave the practice behind. It seemed logical to me that the ancient Hellenes would not have meditated. Thankfully, I was very wrong.

The ancient Hellenes were there for the birth of Buddhism. Bactrain (Βακτριανή) was a region northwest of India which Alexander the Great occupied between 331 and 325 BC. Legend says that two merchant brothers from Bactrian, named Tapassu and Bhallika, visited the Buddha and became his disciples. The legend states that they then returned to Bactria and spread the Buddha's teaching. It seems like some of the Hellenes who visited the region became inspired by the emerging teachings, and when they returned home, they took the teachings with them. Meditation techniques would have been included.

Several philosophers, such as Pyrrho, Anaxarchus and Onesicritus, are said to have accompanied Alxander in his eastern campaigns. During the months they were exposed to Indian philosophy and Buddhist teachings. Pyrrho (360-270 BC) eventually returned to Hellas and became the first Skeptic and the founder of the school named Pyrrhonism, whose teachings also included a lot of Buddhist thought.

The Stoics also practiced forms of meditation, aimed at living in the present moment. Most famously, these teachings were recorded by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in his aptly titled 'meditations'. Especially from these writings, it is clear that ancient meditation had very little to do with chakra's, mindfulness and other modern conventions. Meditation was a way of centering, a philosophical tool to become a better person. Although quoting a roman man to describe Hellenic practices is always dangerous, I will risk an example from Aurelius none the less:

"Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away."

'Contemplation' is perhaps a less confusing term to use to describe the practice the ancient Hellenes would have considered meditation. This removes the modern sphere of influence from the phenomenon. Plotinus (Πλωτῖνος), who was an Hellenic philosopher who lived from around 204/5 CE to 270 CE, was greatly inspired by Plato's theories of contemplation as a form of betterment of the self. It is said that Plotinus loathed his own body, and preferred to be outside of it as much as possible. As he became inspired by Platonism, he distrusted the material, seeing it as a shadow of the real world. Meditation, or better, contemplation, was one of his most valued tools.

"Sleeplessly alert--Apollo tells--pure of soul, ever striving towards the divine which he loved with all his being, he laboured strenuously to free himself and rise above the bitter waves of this blood-drenched life: and this is why to Plotinus--God-like and lifting himself often, by the ways of meditation and by the methods Plato teaches in the Banquet, to the first and all-transcendent God--that God appeared, the God who has neither shape nor form but sits enthroned above the Intellectual-Principle and all the Intellectual-Sphere." [23]

In my practice, meditation is a combination between modern and ancient views upon the practice; visualization, like the meditations I have posted before on the blog, is one part of it, but contemplating my life and ways to better myself is another part--a bigger part. It always has been. In our busy lives, it's often hard to take time solely for yourself. I run into that problem often. As such, meditation--even just a few minutes a day--is very helpful. It seems the ancient Hellenic philosophers at least agreed.
When we last caught up with Hēraklēs, he had just completed his second labour: to slay the Lernaean Hydra. What his next labour is, depends on the ancient writer you read. Hyginus, for example, remarks that he slew the Erymantian Boar first, while I use the commonly accepted sequence set out by Apollodorus. Speaking of Apollodorus: He has only a few words to spare for this third labour:

"As a third labour he [Eurystheus] ordered him to bring the Cerynitian hind alive to Mycenae. Now the hind was at Oenoe; it had golden horns and was sacred to Artemis; so wishing neither to kill nor wound it, Hercules hunted it a whole year. But when, weary with the chase, the beast took refuge on the mountain called Artemisius, and thence passed to the river Ladon, Hercules shot it just as it was about to cross the stream, and catching it put it on his shoulders and hastened through Arcadia. But Artemis with Apollo met him, and would have wrested the hind from him, and rebuked him for attempting to kill her sacred animal.Howbeit, by pleading necessity and laying the blame on Eurystheus, he appeased the anger of the goddess and carried the beast alive to Mycenae." [2.5.3]

It seems that Euryteus (and Hera, in some versions) were becoming aware that the hope they carried that Hēraklēs would perish at the hands (or teeth) of a monster became a vain hope. If not even the Hydra could end his life, very few other thing would have stood a chance. Changing tactics, Eurystheus gave Hēraklēs a different kind of task: one in which the task itself was not dangerous, and only required a sharp mind. Hēraklēs wasn't a fool: he was well aware that capturing an animal sacred to Artemis was as deadly a task as his previous ones. In fact, it might be more lethal: upsetting the Theia of the hunt had gotten far more powerful men killed.

Unable to refuse, Hēraklēs went off in search of the golden hind of Artemis, which was also known as the Keryneian Hind (Κερυνῖτις ἔλαφος), or Krynites. In his 'Hymn to Artemis', Kallimachos describes the sacred animal, and explains that there were more of these animals--five in total--of which Artemis captured four and yoked them to her chariot. The other escaped:
"Thence departing (and thy hounds sped with thee) thou [Artemis] dist find by the base of the Parrhasian hill deer gamboling – a mighty herd. They always herded by the banks of the black-pebbled Anaurus – larger than bulls, and from their horns shone gold. And thou wert suddenly amazed and sadist to thine own heart: “This would be a first capture worthy of Artemis.” Five were there in all; and four thou didst take by speed of foot – without the chase of dogs – to draw thy swift car. But one escaped over the river Celadon, by devising of Hera, that it might be in the after days a labour for Heracles, and the Ceryneian hill received her." [98]

Hēraklēs found a worthy adversary in the hind, which eluded him for almost a year. He chased it to the far corners of Hellas and beyond, and then, eventually, he came upon it. How, exactly, the hind was caught varies, and even varied in ancient times. Diodorus describes:
"The next Command which Heracles received was the bringing back of the hart which had golden horns and excelled in swiftness of foot. In the performance of this Labour his sagacity stood him in not less stead than his strength of body. For some say that he captured it by the use of nets, others that he tracked it down and mastered it while it was asleep, and some that he wore it out by running it down. One thing is certain, that he accomplished this Labour by his sagacity of mind, without the use of force and without running any perils."

Whatever the case, the hind is caught, and Hēraklēs hurries to the king to finish the task. On the way back, however, Artemis and Apollon appear, both rady to end his life. Hēraklēs pleads with Them, lying the blame on Eurystheus. Artemis makes him promise to return the hind to Her when he has shown it to the king, and Hēraklēs agrees. The divine twins spare his life, and thus foil Eurystheus' plan to have Hēraklēs killed.

So Hēraklēs returns with the stag on his shoulders. The king is furious, but he is happy he will at least possess the golden hind now. He orders Hēraklēs to put the hind in the stables, but Hēraklēs knows that the hind must be returned to Artemis without delay. Devising a plan of his own, he tells the king to come and take the hind from him. When he releases the animal, he does so slightly too early, and the swift-footed hind escapes into the woods. Hēraklēs has completed another labour, and he has managed to appease Artemis; not bad for someone previously known mostly for his brute strength.

Image source: sculpture
As we are coming to the end of the scholastic year here, I am currently drowning in college deadlines. I managed to blog pretty well throughout the period, but today, I need to play hooky. Today, I have the last of my deadlines, tomorrow, my last big presentation, and on Monday, my last oral exam; then I will be done with school, I will actually have graduated! Think of the time I will have for the blog then!

I will be back with a proper post tomorrow, with my gratitude for your understanding that I won't be able to put anything up besides this today. As always when I can't pot anything good, I will pot a video today. I scoured Youtube for a good video on Plato's Academy, but came up with nothing. I was going to include something about philosophical schools of thought, but the video below far better reflects my enormous sense of whimsy at being almost done far better than anything the ancient Hellenic philosophers could have come up with. Enjoy the Spartan High School Musical, and hopefully, I'll see you tomorrow.

As those who frequent this blog are well aware, I am a huge geek, and as a huge geek, I can think of very few things more awesome than Cosmo Wenman's latest project: making 3D models of ancient Hellenic and Roman sculptures and releasing those models into the public domain so anyone with access to a 3D printer can print them. No copyright, no charge. Why? To preserve the classics, and to enrich the lives of our children.

"Recent advances in 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies are opening up new opportunities for the average person to possess and enjoy beautiful sculptural artwork of their own. The children growing up today and tomorrow with 3D printers in their homes and classrooms are on the verge of becoming the very first generation to have an aesthetic sensibility informed by direct, hands-on access to the world's sculptural masterworks. Their cultural landscape and visual vocabulary will be richer, more complex, and more varied than ours. Sculpture and artifacts will be able to speak to them in ways that have never before been possible."

Wenman's ambitious project actually started well over a year ago. He has been taking photographs of statues and other sculptures for well over a year, and has released those into the commons as well. Amongst his already available print forms: a bust of Alexander the Great, a portrait of Perikles, and the head of a horse of Selene. He has been invited to the British Museum, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Tate Britain, the Getty Villa, the Louvre, and the Norton Simon museum to photograph some of their extensive collection, and has now been invited to The Skulpturhalle Basel museum in Switzerland, which has an incredible collection of more than 2,000 high quality 19th and 20th century plaster casts of important ancient Hellenic and Roman sculptures. The Skulpturhalle has given Wenman permission to 3D scan sculptures of his choosing, and to share the 3D designs without any restrictions.

3D printing is a relatively new technique where a 3D image is printed pretty much like a 2D image. You can see an example of the process here. Wenman uses an eight year old camera, a range of open-source (free) computer programs, a lot of time, and an even greater amount of patience to make his models. Wenman on his process:
"Once I have a subject selected, I walk around it and find a zoom setting that will keep the entire object in frame from all sides, at all angles, for the entire shoot. I take photos along a continuous path from one position to the next, progressing around the subject several times, holding the camera at medium, high, then low angles. I usually take at least 200 to 250 photos per subject.
Afterwards, I upload [the] photos into the 123D Catch application [to combine the photographs]. After Catch, I’ll export the resulting mesh and bring it into MeshMixer, which is another free Autodesk application. It has some great tools for inspecting and patching holes and tiny errors in the model mesh that would otherwise create problems down the road.
From there I bring the repaired file into Blender, which is what I use to edit the model by sculpting as needed for added detail, or deleting parts I don’t want. Blender is also what I use to scale the model, cut it into pieces sized for my printer’s build volume, and export the printable pieces. Then I use ReplicatorG to orient the pieces. I make the print settings in ReplicatorG too; I usually print stuff completely hollow, four walls thick and around .18mm layer thickness, but sometimes much thicker for larger prints. Then I generate the G-code, then the .s3g files, and then, finally, copy those onto an SD card and put it in the printer and start printing. Then, lunch!"
I think what Wenman is doing is not only revolutionary, it is necessary. We are moving into an age where preservation is not only a must, but a responsibility. Think about it: if  specific work can be preserved, as is, without ever running the risk of loosing access to it throughout time, don't we have a responsibility to do so? If the possibility is there, can we ethically ignore this option and risk loosing the object forever in the event of a natural or man-made disaster? I can't, and that is why I have contributed to the Kickstarter campaign. Wenman has made a wide range of perks available, and his very realistic and modest goal of 35,000,- dollars for traveling expenses, materials, and equipment expenses is a goal that should be easily achievable, even if there are only 11 days left. If you can't contribute financially, then like his Facebook page, friend him on Twitter, and share the link to the Kickstarter project. Help spread the word. Even if you don't have access to a 3D printer to print the sculptures, preservation of the classics is a worthy goal.

It's time for a new constellation, and this one is entirely dedicated to two brothers. While there are many twins in Hellenic mythology--Artemis/Apollon, Iphikles/Hēraklēs, Amphion/Zethos, etc., this constellation is almost solely connected to one set of them: Kastor and Polideukes. In fact, the main stars of the constellation are named after them.


Hyginus briefly describes the constellation in his Astronomica, and focusses almost solely on the Dioscuri:

"These stars many astronomers have called Castor and Pollux. They say that of all brothers they were the most affectionate, not striving in rivalry for the leadership, nor acting without previous consultation. As a reward for their services of friendship, Jupiter [Zeus] is thought to have put them in the sky as well-known stars. Neptune [Poseidon], with like intention, has rewarded them for he gave them horses to ride, and power to aid shipwrecked men.
Those who speak of Castor and Pollux add this information, that Castor was slain in the town of Aphidnae, at the time when the Lacedaemonians were fighting the Athenians. Others say that when Lynceus and Idas were attacking Sparta, he perished there. Homer states that Pollux granted to his brother one half of his life, so that they shine on alternate days." [2.22]

The twins were born from Leda, Zeus, and mortal king Tyndareus. One of the twins was mortal, the other immortal, and both hatch from an egg. Accounts vary about who was the mortal one, and who was the immortal one; in some accounts they were even both mortal or immortal. During their lifetimes, the Dioscuri became great heroes, joining Iásōn in securing the Golden Fleece, and they both fought the Calydonian Boar.

I will discuss their mythology better another time, but for now, let me suffice in saying that eventually, they aspired to marry Phoebe and Hilaeira, who were already betrothed to cousins of the Dioscuri, a second set of twin brothers named Lynceus and Idas of Thebes, sons of Tyndareus's brother Aphareus. This sparked a feud between the cousins that left Polideukes the only one standing. He was given the choice by Zeus of spending all his time on Mount Olympus or giving half his immortality to his mortal brother. He opted for the latter, and thus the two divided their time between Olympos and the Underworld.

The Dioscuri were regarded as helpers of mankind and held to be patrons of travelers and sailors. Because they excelled in horseback riding and boxing, they were regarded as the patrons of athletes and athletic contests, and in all capacities, they had shrines throughout Hellas, and were worshipped well into the Roman era. As the twins lived on after death, they became emblems of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and were said to have been initiated into it during their lifetimes.

Hyginus also mentions a few other duos connected to the constellation:

"Others have called them Hercules and Apollo; some, even Triptolemus, whom we mentioned before, and Iasion, beloved of Ceres [Demeter] - both carried to the stars." [2.22]

Hēraklēs and Apollon earned this honor because, when Apollon commanded that Hēraklēs be sold into slavery to atone for the murder of his family, Hēraklēs became enraged and wrestled the Theos for the Delphic tripod. Their match was memorialized amongst the stars as the constellation Gemini.

Triptolemos and Iasion are the last candidates. The two were favorites of the Goddess Demeter. Triptolemos was a hero who first instructed mankind in the art of agriculture, while Iasion was said to be Her lover on the island of Samothrace. Demeter must have immortalized them out of love.

Gemini is visible at latitudes between +90° and −60°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of February.
Alright, hipsters and Hellenists alike, please take this post as it's intended: in good fun. French photographer Léo Caillard and art director Alexis Persani have created a series of photos where the Louvre's classical statues are dressed up with modern clothes. The 'Street Stone' photography series is not only hilarious to see, but also demonstrate the huge cultural shift society has undergone throughout the centuries, since the original sculptures were created.

All images were created with photoshop and the use of a live model: Caillard first photographed the sculptures and then had his friends strike similar poses, wearing the intended outfit. He would then dress the sculptures using Photoshop as well as Persani’s retouching skills. The result is incredible, and it shows how much we are trained to literally judge a man by the clothed on his back. Take the re-imaged statue of Aristaios, son of Apollon and patron god of cattle, fruit trees, hunting, husbandry and bee-keeping, below: in the François Joseph Bosio original from about 1800, the statue looks powerful and contemplative, in the clothed version, he actually looks like a hipster... and a denim model. For those of you looking to see all the statues--some Hellenic, others Christian or even more contemporary--visit boredpanda.com.

There is a lot of outrage over the project, and a lot of love as well. Very few people seem to just go 'meh' and move on. To some, dressing the statues in this manner--Photoshop, modern clothes--is not only disrespectful to the Gods and people portrayed, but also the original artists. Myself, I'm in the 'love' section. I think the photography reveals a shallowness in human nature without taking away from the statues at all. If we had made a statue today, would he or she be wearing Ray-Bans? And do we appreciate the beauty of the statue more now we can relate to his beauty in a modern way? The clothes have given us a benchmark: we can now judge them against modern males, and Aristaios can compete with the fittest of them. On the other hand, that we automatically place judgment upon the beauty of the statue now he's clothed--something we might not have done when we still considered the statue solely a work of art--tells us something about our frame of mind and our society, and I'm not sure its speaking to the best part of it. This is why I love this project.

I can't speak for the deities and people portrayed in the non-Hellenic statues, but I think the ancient Hellenic heroes and Theoi would not mind one bit being portrayed in a way that is desirable to us: when they were created (or when the images they were based on were created), they were created to be attractive the ancient Hellenes. In fact, I think they might enjoy the attention. That said, some of the fashion choices are atrocious, but mostly in the non-Hellenic department; Jesus in a denim shirt? Yikes!

What do you think of the project? Does it raise your ire, or can you appreciate the statement? What do you interpret the Theoi think of it? I'd love to hear your opinion.
At sundown today, the Dipolieia festival starts, and in ancient Hellas, the Bouphónia was held on this day. I have written about the Bouphonia before; the post can be found here. In short, the odd ritual of the Bouphónia comes down to this:

"Every year on the fourteenth day of Skirophorion, from the time of Erechtheus (1397 - 1347 BC) to--at least--the second century AD, an odd ritual was reenacted. It was called the 'Bouphónia'  (βουφόνια), and was part of another festival; the 'Dipolieia' (τὰ Διπολίεια), a feast in honor of Zeus Polieus (Zeus of the City).
On top of the Acropolis, the oxen are released from the temple of Zeus Polieus. Outside lie cakes on a table, and the oxen are herded past them. Nearby, two women with bowls of water in their hands and a man who is sharpening an axe and knife watch. One of the oxen in line reaches for one of the cakes and devours it. One of the nearby men shouts at the ox, and rushes to the man who is sharpening his weapons. He grabs the double-bladed axe and with one big swing, ends the life of the ox. The Ox-Slayer drops the axe and flees the scene. The slain animal is sacrificed properly to Zeus Polieus. And a hunt begins for the murderer of Zeus' sacred ox. He is found and brought to trial. The blame is passed from the Ox-Slayer, to the man with the weapons, to the women with the water and eventually the weapons themselves. They are found guilt and tossed off of a cliff. The ox is stuffed and put out on the field, in front of a plough.
[...] It seems to me that there is an underlying theme to this myth, and its subsequent festival: that an animal which is slaughtered by a man alone, is killed, yet an animal which is slaughtered by a group becomes a sacrifice. Everyone is 'to blame' for the death of the ox, simply by being there, and in order to break the circle, an inanimate object--which, obviously, cannot defend itself, thus the cycle cannot possibly continue--is chosen to bear the blame, thus taking it off of everyone else. "

The Bouphónia is an ancient ritual, archaic even in classical times. It's most likely best to simply celebrate the Dipolieia, and not the Bouphónia. A simple libation to Zeus Polieus will do. If you feel the need, you could always perform a version of the Bouphónia where no animals are killed, but a (clay or wax) figurine is slain, sacrificed, and the blade that killed it (also clay or wax) is destroyed.
As regular readers know, I am also the founder of Little Witch magazine, which I founded a few years ago. Four times a year, on the solstices, we release both a Dutch and an English magazine about anything surrounding Paganism. This issue, which came out yesterday, Robert A. Clark, one of the founders of Elaion, and a very good friend of mine contributed and wrote an introduction to Hellenismos. As I'm going to need the day to recover from wrapping up magazine, I'm sharing the magazine with you all, in the hopes you enjoy it. Until tomorrow!

During animal sacrifice in ancient Hellas, a very specific portion of the sacrifice is given to the Theoi. This part of the animal is 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 today, we will discuss how it came to be so, and how it related to actual sacrifice.

Mythologically speaking, we have Prometheus to thank for the mēria, as I have mentioned before:

After the Titanomachy, Zeus claimed His throne as rightful King to the Deathless Ones. Humanity did not yet exist. While most Titans were locked away in Tartarus by Zeus, Prometheus and Epimetheus--who were brothers--had been either neutral or on the side of Zeus during the Titan War and were therefor given a task. Prometheus was given the task of creating man and Epimetheus was ordered go give good qualities to all creatures of earth. Prometheus shaped man out of clay and Athena breathed life into him. Epimetheus spread swiftness, cunning, fur and wings but ran out of gifts when he came to man. Prometheus remedied the situation by allowing men to walk upright and gave them fire.

It soon became apparent that Prometheus loved man more than the Olympians. When Zeus decreed that man must give sacrifice to the Deathless Ones, Prometheus stood ready to aid humanity. He butchered an animal and divided it into piles; the bones and fat formed one of them, the good meat wrapped in the hide of the animal, the other. Zeus vowed that he would abide by the choice He made now, and picked the tasty looking pile of bones. Zeus was angered but could not take back his vow. What he could take back, was the gift of fire, and this He did.

This, of course, led to the famous bit in the story of Prometheus where he retakes the fire from Zeus and is punished by being tied up on mount Olympos and having his liver eaten out by a giant eagle everyday, as the appendix grew back overnight. Prometheus was eventually set free, but the mēria remained.

Evidence shows that thighbones must be considered as the oldest and most common form of burnt sacrifice. The preference for thighbones may be a practice inherited from the Late Bronze Age, as this part is found in Mycenaean sacrificial deposits and also mentioned in Hómēros. Since the term mēria can mean both thigh and thighbone, it has been suggested by scholars that in many cases the entire, fleshy leg would be burnt as the god’s portion and not just the bones, the choice depending on the piety or generosity of the individual worshipper. Other scholars have said that it were only the thigh bones and the fat which were burned, because the meat on the thigh was given to the priest or priestess who aided in the sacrifice.

There is still a lot unclear about animal sacrifice in ancient Hellas, and about the mēria specifically. Since much of the information gathered on these subjects comes from examinations of bones found in votive-pits, anything else is pure speculation. Most of the ancient writers who mention animal sacrifice do not get beyond the basics of sacrificial etiquette: they did not have to, everyone knew how these sacrifices were supposed to be performed. We know that thigh bones were a standard offering, but then there are also writers who mention no bones at all. An example of this is from Hómēros' Iliad, where we find this:

"When they had offered their petition and scattered grains of barley, they drew back the victims’ heads, slit their throats and flayed them. Then they cut slices from the thighs, wrapped them in layers of fat, and laid raw meat on top. These the old man burnt on the fire, sprinkling over them a libation of red wine, while the young men stood by, five-pronged forks in their hands. When the thighs were burnt and they had tasted the inner meat, they carved the rest in small pieces, skewered and roasted them through, then drew them from the spits. Their work done and the meal prepared, they feasted and enjoyed the shared banquet, and when they had quenched their first hunger and thirst, the young men filled the mixing-bowls to the brim with wine and pouring a few drops first into each cup as a libation served the gathering." [I:428-487]

Needless to say, these accounts complicate things for scholars and modern practitioners alike. Luckily, for many of us, deciding on the practice of mēria is something most Hellenists will never have to ponder, as they have no desire or possibility to offer an animal in sacrifice, regardless. It's also foolish to expect a uniform practice from loosely united peoples over the span of centuries. Still, my mind loves to compartmentalize and label, so the mēria will be on my mind for a time to come.
I have mentioned in passing that the Skiraphoria was one of the few days when the women of ancient Athens would gather in public to honor Demeter and bless the harvest. They refused to sleep with the men on this day and took part in a very odd tradition: casting piglets down into a chasm where they were left to rot until the Stenia. I also promised I would reflect on this festival again when it came about, so here we are, because the Skiraphoria starts tonight, on the 12th of Skirophorion.

I should first elaborate on which deities were involved in the festival, because while Demeter was certainly honored during the festival, She was not the only one. The Skira, or Skiraphoria--both are correct--was first and foremost a fertility festival, mostly of the earth so that a good harvest was ensured for the following year, which started a little more than half a month later. Yet, many other deities are tied to the harvest and the success of the nation in some way, especially in Athens from where most of the surviving material originated. There, Athena Skiras, Poseidon Pater, and Dionysos also had a role to play.

Poseidon and Athena were important Gods in ancient Hellas, and in Athens in particular. Poseidon controlled the seas and tides, caused earthquakes, and gave men the horse; Athena protected the city, resided in its citadel, stimulated its economy and had gifted mankind with the swing plow used in the harvesting of the gifts of Demeter. They looked after Hellas, and Athens especially. Without Their influence, the following year would never be successful, so as the year ended, they were placated--a requirement as Poseidon and Athena most notably did not get along. Dionysos, as Athens' unofficial patron and God of wine was naturally included--perhaps even to help get Poseidon and Athena to get along, but that is pure speculation on my part.

It seems that there were more Gods that needed placating on this day: it seems that a gathering left Athens on the day of the Skiraphoria, and another delegation left Eleusis. At Skiron, a precinct on the road to Eleusis, stood a sanctuary dedicated to Athena Skiras, Poseidon Pater, Demeter and Kore. Here, the two delegations met, and the priests and priestesses of all Theoi involved interacted in some way; Plutarch mentions that one of the three “sacred plowings” of the Athenians took place at this time. It is, perhaps, possible that at this time, the priestesses of Athena and the priests Poseidon made amends with the priestesses of Demeter and Kore--there was bad blood between them for, as Apollodorus reminds us:

"Athena, therefore, called the city Athens after herself, and Poseidon in hot anger flooded the Thriasian plain and laid Attica under the sea." [3.14.1]

The Thriasian plain is where Eleusis is located, and it would have been entirely flooded during this episode. Perhaps the Athenian deities ritually made amends for this during the Skiraphoria? Alternatively, or perhaps additionally, during the reign of Erechtheus in Athens, war broke out against the Eleusinians, who were assisted by Eumolpus, whose mother was Khione, daughter of Boreas, and whose father was said to be Poseidon Himself. Eumolpus attacked Ahens because, as he put it, that land belonged to his father. Could the rituals of the Skiraphoria be penance for this war as well, where Poseidon (and Athena) 'rode out' to meet Demeter and Kore in the middle for a rite that would settle their grievances?

Athena Skiras, it seems, was an epithet of Athena closely related to Eleusis and the war, and connected to both farming and seafaring. From Pausanias', 'Description of Greece':

"[In Attika on the road from Athens to Eleusis is] a place called Skiron, which received its name for the following reason. The Eleusinians were making war against Erekhtheus when there came from Dodona a seer called Skiros, who also set up at Phaleron the ancient sanctuary of Athena Skiras. When he fell in the fighting the Eleusinians buried him near a torrent, and the hero has given his name to both place and torrent." [1. 36. 4]

The details of the procession to the Skiron and the subsequent ritual are largely lost to us. Although debated by certain scholars, it seems that those in the procession--or perhaps only the priests and priestesses--carried umbrella-type canopies over their heads which were of a bright white color. It is possible that this was only one large canopy per group, and it was held over the heads of the priests and priestesses by others in the procession. The canopy was or were called 'skiron' as well. Of the sanctuary itself, we know very little besides its location and deities. It is, however, said to have been the place where the first sowing took place, tying the Skiraphoria rituals back in with the purpose of fertility.

The Skiraphoria was celebrated over a three day period, but when this procession took place is unclear. The Skiraphoria was celebrated mainly by women, perhaps to contrast the Greater Dionysia celebrated mostly by men. To bring fertility, they abstain from intercourse on these days, and to this end they ate garlic to keep the men away. We also know that during the Skiraphoria, offerings were thrown into the sacred caves of Demeter located in a cliff at Eleusis: cakes shaped like snakes and phalluses, and very real piglets. These became the Thesmoi--'things laid down'--that were removed in the Thesmophoria. The piglets were fertility symbols, but also related to the myth of Demeter, Persephone and Hades, because it is said that, when Hades opened a chasm to swallow up Persephone--the caves of Demeter--a swineherd called Eubouleus was grazing his pigs and they were swallowed up in the chasm as well.

For the men, there was a race in which they carried vine-branches from the sanctuary of Dionysos to the temple of Athena Skiras. The winner was given the Fivefold Cup, or 'pentaploa', containing wine, honey, cheese, some corn and olive oil. Only the winner was allowed to pour libations to Athena from the cup, and ask Her to bless these fruits of the season.

For a festival so elaborate and vague, it is in my opinion one of the easiest festivals to reinvent in modern times--especially if you're practicing with a group. Personally, I'd leave the piglets out of it, but that's just personal preference. If you are practicing in a group, the meeting of (the priest(esse)s) of Athena, Poseidon, Demeter, and Kore, can be loosely reenacted. On the spot where you meet, you could dig a shallow pit and all pour out libations with hymns to the deity you are representing. If you are alone, pour out all libations into a shallow pit yourself after a short hike. The men in your group can then partake in a race for the pentaploa and the honor to libate to Athena Skiras from it. If you're alone, make the mixture yourself and pour it out to Athena, asking for blessings for the coming year. No sex during these days is kind of a given, and although I could not find actual reference to it, this day is connected to the Eleusinian mysteries, so I would refrain from eating pomegranates, apples, eggs, fowls, and fish. Have a blessed Skiraphoria!
The Archaeology News Network reports that after 1,700 years of neglect and silence, the ancient theatre of Messeni is slated to re-opens its doors for the public, this summer. Restoration work took nearly 20 years, but the theater is now ready for use again--as the theater was intended to be.

“We want the theatre to operate for events, schools, conferences. We want all areas of ancient Messene to operate in a multifaceted manner. We want the whole city to become alive, to be related to society and the institutions. The only damage is caused by women’s high heels; the risk of damages comes through time not people.”

Archeologist Petros Themelis has spearheaded the project from the beginning, and he believes that the purpose of a theater is the be used, not remain clothed. This from a man who has spent years trying to piece together the theater. From the article:

“When we first started the excavations, we found ourselves discouraged. The theatre was practically non-existent, the only thing left were some barrier walls and the olive groves surrounding it (…). Huge earth deposits covered the orchestra and the koilon” says Petros Themelis, head of the excavations.
After operating for six centuries, the theatre was abandoned, it declined and eventually succumbed. Characteristic for the apathy of the residents of the area regarding its fate is the fact that during Byzantine era, they removed many of the seats and used them as building material for temples and houses. The restoration of the ancient theatre lasted more than 20 years. The archaeologists managed to re-unite the scattered pieces and put back to their places more than 2,000 seats."
Ancient Messeni (Αρχαία Μεσσήνη) is a local community within the regional unit of Messenia, and is located in the far south of modern Greece. Most of the area of Ancient Messene contains the ruins of the large classical city-state of Messene refounded by Epaminondas in 369 BC, after the battle of Leuctra and the first Theban invasion of the Peloponnese. The ancient city can be visited an is a major tourist attraction. In ancient times, it was founded by Helots (Spartan slaves) running from Sparta. The defensive wall they built around the city to keep them out still exists in some places. Pausanias describes the ancient city in great detail in his 'Description of Greece'; a few choice selections.

"Round Messene is a wall, the whole circuit of which is built of stone, with towers and battlements upon it. I have not seen the walls at Babylon or the walls of Memnon at Susa in Persia, nor have I heard the account of any eye-witness; but the walls at Ambrossos in Phocis, at Byzantium and at Rhodes, all of them the most strongly fortified places, are not so strong as the Messenian wall." [4.31.5]
"The Messenians possess a statue of Zeus the Saviour in the market-place and a fountain Arsinoe. [...] There are sanctuaries of the gods Poseidon and Aphrodite, and, what is most deserving of mention, a statue of the Mother of the Gods, of Parian marble, the work of Damophon,31 the artist who repaired the Zeus at Olympia with extreme accuracy when the ivory parted. [...] By Damophon too is the so-called Laphria at Messene. The cult came to be established among them in the following way: Among the people of Calydon, Artemis, who was worshipped by them above all the gods, had the title Laphria, and the Messenians who received Naupactus from the Athenians, being at that time close neighbors of the Aetolians, adopted her from the people of Calydon.
The Messenians have a temple erected to Eileithyia with a stone statue, and near by a hall of the Curetes, [...] There is a holy shrine of Demeter at Messene and statues of the Dioscuri, carrying the daughters of Leucippus. [...] The most numerous statues and the most worth seeing are to be found in the sanctuary of Asclepius. For besides statues of the god and his sons, and besides statues of Apollo, the Muses and Heracles, the city of Thebes is represented and Epaminondas the son of Cleommis, Fortune, and Artemis Bringer of Light." [4.31.6 - 4.31.10]

The theater is only mentioned in passing:

"There is also a bronze statue of Aristomenes in the Messenian running-ground. Not far from the theater is a sanctuary of Sarapis and Isis." [4.32.6]

The restored theatre will open on the third of August with an opera performance in ancient Hellenic festival style. It will be performed by the Athens State Orchestra, conducted by Giorgos Kouroupos. Soloists Dimitris Platanias and Tselia Kostea will participate. The event is organized in cooperation with the “Diazoma” Association.vDuring the event, 2,500 spectators will be hosted at the theatre. After the completion of restoration works, its capacity is estimated to reach 5,000 seats, which is half the capacity the theater had in antiquity.

Image property: theater.
Yesterday, I received an e-mail from a frequent reader of Baring the Aegis who had seen my post on the small packages of the ancient statues and the post about taboos where nudity also plays an important role, and had begun to wonder about nudity at large in ancient Hellas, and specifically in a religious setting. They also wondered how I feel about nudity in modern Hellenismos. I would like to share my--slightly edited--reply with the readers of this blog, because others might be wondering about the ancient Hellenic attitude towards nakedness as well.
‘Naked’, gymnos, in the ancient Hellenic language has a double meaning: it means both nudity and ‘to go without chiton’, which complicates drawing conclusions from the written word. As such, most of the information gathered on this topic is based upon artwork, with a few exceptions. The ancient Hellenes had a very complicated view of nudity, and I don’t think I did that view justice back in 2012.
Before I get to the religious part, I feel I must look at every day life first. I want to start with ancient Hellenic clothing, which varied for males and females, although both only wore one or two rectangular pieces of cloth. Undergarments of any kind were unknown to the ancient Hellenes, and they were thus naked under them. Men throughout the whole of the ancient Hellenic time period wore either a chiton and himation, only a chiton, or only the himation. Socrates is famous for wearing only the latter, and so is Agesilaus, King of Sparta, and Phocion, who Plutarch joked about in ‘Phocion’, saying: 
“His countenance was so composed that scarcely was he ever seen by any Athenian either laughing or in tears. He was rarely known, so Duris has recorded, to appear in the public baths, or was observed with his hand exposed outside his cloak, when he wore one. Abroad, and in the camp, he was so hardy in going always thin clad and barefoot, except in a time of excessive and intolerable cold, that the soldiers used to say in merriment, that it was like to be a hard winter when Phocion wore his coat.“
There were very strict social rules about what was considered proper and improper for men when wearing only one of the two layers of clothing, and even when wearing both. Under no circumstances was the clothing to slide up above the knee during social affairs. It seems that any setting where nudity was not required--something we will come to below--nudity was forbidden quite strictly. Partial exposure like that was considered not only improper but irreverent, again, something I must explain later.
Women, whose style of clothing varied greatly throughout the ancient Hellenic time period, had to hold fast to different social rules concerning nudity. Statues and frescos show that in very archaic Knossos, for example, highly placed women wore garments which proudly exposed their breasts. When this style faded, others took its place. For their clothing, women in ancient Hellas often wore translucent materials, which left very little to the imagination. Many ancient writers, including Lucian, Petronius, and Seneca write about this, Seneca most tellingly:
“I see silk clothes, if they can be called clothes, which can protect neither the body nor the modesty.” [De Beneficiis, 7.9.5.]
It seems that women, while not nude, displayed a nakedness in the streets that was completely accepted. The social rules concerning these displays of the body depended on the intent of the nudity: either natural or erotic. Erotic nudity had no function in public, and was heavily frowned upon. Natural nakedness went accepted. For ancient Hellenic men, a woman’s girdle holding in place her dress was much more erotic than seeing her breasts through the thin fabric of her clothing.
Public nudity was not originally an Hellenic custom, but became one. From Thucydides’ ‘History of the Peloponnesian War’: 
“The Athenians were the first to lay aside their weapons, and to adopt an easier and more luxurious mode of life; indeed, it is only lately that their rich old men left off the luxury of wearing undergarments of linen, and fastening a knot of their hair with a tie of golden grasshoppers, a fashion which spread to their Ionian kindred and long prevailed among the old men there. On the contrary, a modest style of dressing, more in conformity with modern ideas, was first adopted by the Lacedaemonians, the rich doing their best to assimilate their way of life to that of the common people. They also set the example of contending naked, publicly stripping and anointing themselves with oil in their gymnastic exercises. Formerly, even in the Olympic contests, the athletes who contended wore belts across their middles; and it is but a few years since that the practice ceased. To this day among some of the barbarians, especially in Asia, when prizes for boxing and wrestling are offered, belts are worn by the combatants. And there are many other points in which a likeness might be shown between the life of the Hellenic world of old and the barbarian of to-day.“ [1.6]
Sports were a frequent platform of nudity: not only did males (and in Sparta and a few other choice city-states, females) who studied at the gymnasium practice sports and even their classes in the nude, there is evidence to support that the two genders did not hide their bodies from each other when women were permitted, and even that they wrestled each other while naked, showing that this type of nakedness was considered completely natural and accepted. Athenaeus records a Spartan custom of this, saying
“The fashion, too, of Sparta is much praised, I mean that of displaying their maidens naked to their guests; and in the island of Chios it is a beautiful sight to go to the gymnasia and the race-courses, and to see the young men wrestling naked with the maidens, who are also naked.” [13, 566e]

Sporting competitions were always in the nude. It seems that in antiquity, the athletes did wear something to hide their nether regions, but when this covering slipped off of a sprinter, and he tripped and fell to his death, any type of covering was forbidden. Married women, in most city states, (interestingly enough) were not allowed to watch sporting events, not even the major ones like to Olympics, although testimony Pindar (in Pythia) hints at the possibility that the Hellenic city-state of Cyrene allowed married women to watch. Maidens were more often allowed to view the games. Scholars pose that the distinction between maiden and married is made purely aesthetically: the ancient Hellenes valued beauty very much, and maidens were considered beautiful. They were virtuous and thus desirable. Married women were not to be seen as desirous; they were married.
Before I come to the religious part of this longwinded tale, I must address two more points: bathing and the ancient Hellenic practice to either be completely dressed, or completely naked. Bathing, in ancient Hellas, had quite an interesting set of social rules attached to it, especially before the Peloponnesian war. ’Baths’, when referred to in ancient texts, unless otherwise specified, nearly always alluded to bathing in hot or warm water, as many bathing house offered. at least until the previously mentioned war, bathing in warm water was  considered taboo for men. Warm water was for women; men were supposed to be a heartier breed and thus bathed in cold water. Aristophanes, in Clouds, forbids men from entering the baths, because they are baneful and effeminizing. From the writings of Plato, Demothenes, and Plutarch, we can see that this view was quite widespread (see Plutarch on Phocion above).
For my last point before I get to religion, it must be said that the ancient Hellenes felt no shame about their body, quite the opposite, in fact. The ancient Hellenes took great pride in beauty, and displayed their bodies proudly. Especially young males were considered pleasing, as described in my post about the small packages of statues. Sexual organs of both sexes were considered not only natural, but sacred. Aidos (Αἰδώς) is a term (and Goddess) interpreted often as ‘shame’ or ‘modesty’, and linked to he displaying of a person’s genitals, but the term can also mean ‘awe’ and ‘reverence’. The ancient Hellenes were well aware that their sexual organs--when brought together in an intimate setting--produced children. As such, these body parts were treated with an almost religious reverence as the mystical tools of propagation. These instruments produced life, something definitely awe inspiring. This is also how the phallus became a religious symbol; it represents the inexhaustible fruitfulness of human nature and the gratitude that came with this understanding.
Because sexual organs were considered somewhat sacred, covering them up--especially when otherwise naked--was considered impious, and so any socially acceptable situation where clothes were deemed cumbersome, unnecessary or impossible led to a state of complete nakedness. The ancient Hellenes took great pride in this fact, and to cover up one’s groin was considered barbaric. As Herodotos puts it so beautifully in his ‘Histories’:
“For among the Lydians, and indeed among the barbarians generally, it is reckoned a deep disgrace, even to a man, to be seen naked. ” [1, 7-11]
To conclude, nudity was generally accepted by the ancient Hellenes, although social rules had to be observed. Women rarely went completely uncovered in every day life, but displayed their bodies through their clothing. Men could cast off their clothing more readily. If either gender undressed, it was seen as irreverent to do so partly, and thus they appeared either fully clothed or naked. Partial nudity was frowned upon in almost all social settings, while full nudity was often accepted.
Now, as for religious worship: there are definitely some instances where complete nudity became required. In other festivals, I would assume--based on the above--that nudity was allowed, if the person went completely uncovered. A few examples of rituals where we know nudity was included:
  • The young maidens who ‘played the bear’ to Artemis at the Brauronia are depicted naked at various stages of the ritual
  • Athenaeus describes a 'naked-boy dance' in relation to the cult of Dionysos:  “The naked-boy-dance is like what is called the anapale among the ancients. For all the boys who dance it are naked, performing certain rhythmical movements and describing certain positions with the arms gently, so as to represent certain scenes in the wrestling-school during a wrestling-and-boxing match, but moving the feet in time to the music. Variations of it are the Oschophoric and the Bacchic, so that this dance also is traceable to the worship of Dionysus. Aristoxenus says that the ancients, practicing first the naked-boy-dance, proceeded into the pyrriche before entering the theatre.”
  • Arisophanes in ‘Clouds’ hints at this type of dance being performed during the Panathenaea as well: “But you, you teach the children of to-day to bundle themselves quickly into their clothes, and I am enraged when I see them at the Panathenaea forgetting Athene while they dance, and covering their tools with their bucklers.”
  • Stabo recorded the following example of public nudity at Acharaca in ancient Hellas:  “On the road between Tralles and Nysa is a village of the Nysaeans, not far from the city Acharaca, in which is the Plutonium, to which is attached a large grove, a temple of Pluto and Proserpine, and the Charonium, a cave which overhangs the grove, and possesses some singular physical properties. The sick, it is said, who have confidence in the cures performed by these deities, resort thither, and live in the village near the cave, among experienced priests, who sleep at night in the open air, on behoof of the sick, and direct the modes of cure by their dreams. The priests invoke the gods to cure the sick, and frequently take them into the cave, where, as in a den, they are placed to remain in quiet without food for several days. Sometimes the sick themselves observe their own dreams, but apply to these persons, in their character of priests and guardians of the mysteries, to interpret them, and to counsel what is to be done. To others the place is interdicted and fatal.
    An annual festival, to which there is a general resort, is celebrated at Acharaca, and at that time particularly are to be seen and heard those who frequent it, conversing about cures performed there. During this feast the young men of the gymnasium, and the ephebi, naked and anointed with oil, carry off a bull by stealth at midnight, and hurry it away into the cave. It is then let loose, and after proceeding a short distance falls down and expires.”
  • Vase paintings and frescos of Dionysios’ festivals often have men and women dancing naked.
  • I’m sure I have read somewhere that Aphrodite’s worship was also sometimes conducted naked, but I simply can not find the reference again.
Nudity was a part of ancient Hellenic religion, but not often a requirement. In most cases, clothes were cot considered a burden, so they remained on. In the case of Dionysian worship, clothes would hinder the ecstatic dances usually tied to them, so clothes were discarded. Functional nudity. That said, I have not found any references to festivals where public nudity was expressly forbidden.
I come from a Neo-Pagan background and was quite accustomed to performing rituals in the nude. It was a big shift to go to clothed ritual for me, but it does seem fitting somehow. The ancient Hellenic viewpoint of functional nudity seems practical and a good standard to uphold. That said, I am not against nudity in Hellenic ritual at all, if agreed upon by all participants and the occasion warrants it.
If you have a question for me, please, do not hesitate to contact me at the gmail address 'baring.the.aegis'.
Especially for those of us not living in Greece or the United States, finding other Hellenists can be a mighty challenge. I'm sad to report that I'm still pretty sure I'm the only Hellenist living in The Netherlands. Remind me to ask the Young Flemish Hellenist exactly where in Belgium he lives, because he might very well be the closest Hellenist to me. Of course, with modern technology, nothing is preventing us from overcoming this distance with a little help. Today, I want to discuss some possibilities of starting an e-thiasos and Practicing Apart Together (like a LAT relationship but for religion).

The internet--and especially e-mail, Yahoo groups, and social media--have made it possible to connect to anyone, anywhere, anytime. There are forums, groups, and lists aplenty where one can find modern practitioners. Elaion, for example, or Facebook groups like the Hellenic polytheistic Community. Yet, talking with someone is not the same as worshipping with someone, even if the discussions you are having are very in-depth and religious. Religious discussion is--or should be, in my opinion--part of communal worship, communal worship needs something more: shared ritual. That is the basic foundation of group worship, and also of PAT.

There are, of course, various ways to go about this. The simplest way is to find people you connect with and decide on a date, a time, a purpose and a deity to honor in your own way. Hellenion, for example, does this with its monthly libation schedule where--at 12 PM local time--everyone pours a libation to the deity that is honored in that month. It is also possible to match time tables so all participants are executing the libation or ritual at the exact same time.

A step slightly more involved than that is to write the ritual with the group, or taking turns writing the ritual. This ritual can then be performed individually. This requires a bit more shared practice--who receives libations besides the Theoi for whom you are performing the ritual? How do you perform a ritual? What basic steps are observed?--but also gives a greater sense of community. Logistically, you will all be doing the same thing after the same starting time, but it's still impossible to line the worship up exactly, or to take up a specific role in the ritual, although opinions may vary on that.

Beyond this option, there is the option of shared audio/video ritual. Anyone with a laptop, tablet, smart phone or even a PC with a webcam and microphone can start a Google Hangout or other type of video sharing session and point the camera at what they're doing. This interaction will allow roles to be integrated into the ritual; one of the members of the e-thiasos recites the hymn to Hestia, another prays to Apollon, and a third sacrifices honey cakes to Him afterwards, while libations are poured by all. It's not exactly traditional, but it sure helps you to feel included in a group. You might want to announce to the Theoi who, exactly, is taking part in this ritual, and practice a couple of times to get the weight of technology off of you, but for many of us, this kind of elaborate set-up might be the only way in which we can take part in regular group worship. I would suggest sticking to a single continent, though, when forming these Thiasoi, simply because it might be harder to plan daytime or night time specific rituals if the time zones are too far apart.

With such a distinct lack of people to worship with in my neck of the woods, I would love the opportunity of being part of an e-theisos, and I would love to try out a shared video ritual. I've been part of the other three, and it was very satisfying to do. Hellenismos is not a solitary religion, it was never intended as such. For the festivals, especially, I feel a great longing to practice with others. Perhaps the internet will one day allow me to do so.
Well then, it seems Google decided that any blogger who had their Google+ comment plug-in installed was not interested in allowing any other method of commenting on a blog post. Today, I was warned that commenting was, indeed, reserved for the Google+ elite, so naturally, I turned off the Google+ plug-in. Commenting is now open again to anyone with a blogger, Google+, and OpenID account. I apologize for the inconvenience.
Today, like with Plato's allegory of the cave, I want to discuss one of the major developments in thinking contributed to the ancient Hellenes. When I was in high school, I was terrible at math. Especially geometry was a huge problem for me. I had nightmares about the Pythagorean theorem even years after high school--I understood the overall theory, but then my teacher dragged in a lighthouse or tent pole and I was lost. It took my brain a good couple of years to understand that those lighthouses and tent poles didn't have anything to do with math and were just an overlay intended to make math easier for people whose brain was wired differently than mine. For me, it made me hate anything connected to mathematics. In a roundabout way, I was eventually reintroduced to math in a way that made a lot more sense to me, and looking back now, the Pythagorean theorem is really not that difficult anymore. If I have readers who are struggling with this in school, trust me, it gets better.

Back to Pythagoras. Pythagoras of Samos (Πυθαγόρας ὁ Σάμιος) was an Ionian Hellenic philosopher, mathematician, and founder of the religious movement called Pythagoreanism. He was an influential voice in philosophy, religion, mysticism and science in the late 6th century BC, and is best known for the Pythagorean theorem which bears his name. Because almost everything we now know about Pythagoras was written down centuries later, it may very well be that the theorem as well as anything else attributed to Pythagoras was discovered by his colleagues, students, successors, or even his mother. That said, I'm just going to assume that Pythagoras was brilliant and came up with one of the most basic fundaments of geometry, that in any right-angled triangle, the area of the square whose side is the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the areas of the squares whose sides are the two legs (the two sides that meet at a right angle). Gods, that sounds complicated when posed like this. The Pythagorean theorem is better known as the formula used to solve it: a2 + b2 = c2.

The easiest form of the Pythagorean theorem

We often call the ancient Hellenes the founders of modern thinking, and although the theorem was very influential even then, it had been discovered before. What Pythagoras did--and which man other Hellenic scholars did in their time--was proof why the theorem works. Instead of simply going with it, they struggled to find proofs of the theories. To prove the Pythagorean theorem, we must realize that it does not actually concern the triangle depicted above; it concerns the squares that you can connect to them. In the example above, there will be a square with a value of 3 on all sides to the left of the shortest side (a), a larger square with a value of 4 on all sides tagged to the bottom line (b), and an even larger square with a value of (in this example) 5 on all sides tagged to the hypotenuse (c). You can see this in the image to the left, below. Pythagoras then realized that this theory works because the area encompassed by the outer square never changes, and the area of the four triangles is the same at the beginning and the end, so the black square areas must be equal, therefore a2 + b2 = c2. Actually, we don't know if this is the proof Pythagoras used, but it sure is one that works.

Pythagoras's theorem has been at the core of mathematics and geometry ever since its discovery, and even though the discoveries by Pythagoras and his contemporaries at his school were supposed to be kept secret within the brotherhood that surrounded those who studied, lived, and worshipped with Pythagoras, many of them were leaked to the public eventually. This allowed those who were not part of Pythagoreanism to understand and develop the foundations Pythagoras had laid out. His influence could be seen in the work of the greats--like Plato--but the influence of his brotherhood can be found even as far down the line as Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism.
Pythagoras made many more brilliant discoveries in his time, many of which w will talk about at a later date. For now, I want to share with you this lengthy, but hugely interesting lecture by N.J. Wildberger at the University of New South Wales for the college course 'History of Mathematics'. In this first lecture (with two parts) a very rough outline of world history from a mathematical point of view is given, with a focus on the position the work of the ancient Greeks as following from Egyptian and Babylonian influences has in that timeline. It also introduces the Pythagoras' theorem in a very elaborate and understandable way. The disposition about Pythagoras starts at about 13 minutes in. Part b can be found here, and is equally interesting. Enjoy!

Image source: squares, Pythagorean proof
I like piety. I discuss it quite often here. I am a pious person. Elizabeth, over at Twilight and Fire has launched a survey to help index how the greater community thinks about the subject, and I have decided to enter. I have also decided to discuss it here, both because I want to help spread the word, and because I think her questions are interesting. If you want to enter too, please follow the instructions below:
  • copy and paste the questions into your email browser and send your replies to lokisthrowpillow@gmail.com with the subject header 'Piety Survey' 
  • answer each question as fully and thoughtfully as possible
  • parts of your reply may be used in the results
  • deadline: August 31, 2013
  • full guidelines here
I would greatly encourage everyone to fill in this survey, to give Elizabeth the best possible focus group for results. Here are mine:

Name (real or “Craft name”)
Elani Temperance
How long have you been Pagan/polytheistic?
Thirteen years, twelve as a variety of Neo-Pagan, one as a Hellenist.
What is your tradition (i.e. Wiccan, reconstructionist Heathen, eclectic, etc.)
Hellenismos (Reconstructionistic Greek polytheism)
Do you have any patron gods/goddesses or deities you are especially close to? If so, who are They?
Not in the patron sense, no.
How do you define your own relationship(s) to the gods? For instance, do you view one or more of Them as your beloved or spouse, or are They more like parents to you? Do you consider Them friends, allies, mentors? All of the above? None of the above? How does this differ between various gods?
No, the Gods are the Gods. Some of Them guard the household, and are therefor closer to us, but They are Gods--not my friends, not my family, my Gods, who can either help me or hurt me if They so desire. Even the Gods I have built kharis with (a reciprocal relationship), I do not have a personal relationship with. I am one of many.
How do you define “piety” as it relates to Paganism/modern polytheism?
I define piety as thoughts and actions performed out of devotion and respect to Deity. Piety, to me, in a Hellenistic setting, means putting the work I do for my Gods above anything else and never expecting anything in return. To me, it means living your life in the way the Gods desire of you, and to let Them shape your life as They see fit. I cannot define what piety means for the whole of the Pagan community, as the Pagan community is incredibly broad.
Do you find this to be a useful or relevant term concerning your own relationship with the gods? Is it relevant to Paganism/modern polytheism in general?
I think piety is one of the most--if not the most--important terms in my relationship to the Gods. As for the whole of Paganism; there is a lot of 'working with' going on and many paths don't focus on Gods at all, so it might be less useful and relevant for them. For me, it has always been essential.
Is it possible to be pious without an established dogma or authority? Why or why not?
Of course. Piety can be linked to dogma and/or authority, but at its core, it stems from a love for the Gods and the willingness to go the extra mile for Them. You don't need anyone to tell you how to love, although Recon Traditions like mine do have certain established means for that.
Is there anything you consider impious (i.e. behavior, modes of worship)? Why?
Lots of things, honestly. Much of the behavior of the greater Pagan community seems impious to me; 'working with', 'patronage', not addressing the Gods in the way they were addressed by those who originally worshipped them, etc. It's just that I am only accountable for the path I walk, so I don't mind how others walk theirs. For me, to not hold twice daily libations and prayers to the Gods, to speak ill of Them, to invest more time in one than the others, to neglect the heroes, Titans, nymphs, and minor deities, to not follow the sacred calendars of the month and year, to not practice xenia (ritual hospitality), to not live arête (the best I can be), to neglect Them in any way, is impious. 
Are you for or against the establishment and observance of rules about piety in your particular tradition and/or within Pagan/polytheist religion in general? Please explain your response.
For, naturally. These are already in place; xenia, kharis, arête, and many more are adopted pious acts within Hellenismos. Without practicing them, what you are practicing is a shadow of the religion; valuable for you, perhaps, but distant from fellow practitioners and perhaps even the Gods. That said, I can not walk, nor dictate, anyone else's path, and so I can and will not judge. It would be impious for me to assume that I had the power to observe the right path: that insight is only for the Gods.
For a tribe of people who are only mentioned once (well, twice...) in the ancient mythological writers, and once in ancient Hellenic history books, the lōtophagoi sure have made a lasting impression on humanity. They have been featured in poetry, in music, and they have inspired books and movies, not in the least Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief. Today, I want to recount the ancient tales.

The lōtophagoi (λωτοφάγοι) are a tribe of people encountered by Odysseus and his crew as they are trying to find their way home after the long Trojan war. In the Odysseia, Odysseus has had quite the adventure already when a strong northern wind has them land on the shores of an island, inhabited by friendly, inviting people. The crew parts with the ship and some partake in the delicacies offered to them by the tribe. The food their receive lulls their mind into forgetfulness, and their bodies into sleep, and when Odysseus sees what is happening to his crew, he drags them away, ties them down to the ship and sets sail. From the Odysseia:

"For nine days I was driven by fierce winds over the teeming sea: but on the tenth we set foot on the shores of the Lotus-eaters, who eat its flowery food. On land we drew water, and my friends ate by the ships. Once we had tasted food and drink, I sent some of the men inland to discover what kind of human beings lived there: selecting two and sending a third as herald. They left at once and came upon the Lotus-eaters, who had no thought of killing my comrades, but gave them lotus to eat. Those who ate the honey-sweet lotus fruit no longer wished to bring back word to us, or sail for home. They wanted to stay with the Lotus-eaters, eating the lotus, forgetting all thoughts of return. I dragged those men back to the shore myself by force, while they wept, and bound them tight in the hollow ships, pushing them under the benches. Then I ordered my men to embark quickly on the fast craft, fearing that others would eat the lotus and forget their homes. They boarded swiftly and took their place on the benches then sitting in their rows struck the grey water with their oars."

Herodotos was sure the lotus-eaters were an actual tribe. In book four of his Histories, he writes:

"In a peninsula which stands out into the sea from the land of these Gindanes dwell the Lotophagoi, who live by eating the fruit of the /lotos/ only. Now the fruit of the lotos is in size like that of the mastich-tree, and in flavour it resembles that of the date-palm. Of this fruit the Lotophagoi even make for themselves wine." [177]

So, what is this lotus? Scholars have pointed to a number of plants which might represent the lotus of the ancient Hellenes, including clovers, fellbloom, water lilies and fenugreek. None of these would have the desired psychoactive effect, however, and personally, I am of the opinion that the lōtophagoi enjoyed the ripe seed pods of the poppy plant, which resemble the pod of an actual lotus. I have no evidence of this, however.

Where the island of the lotus-eaters is located is another mystery entirely. Scholars take the location to be somewhere of the North African shore; quite possibly the island of Djerba, but as we have seen, Herodotos states the lōtophagoi lived in a peninsula, which discredits that theory. All that is certain is that we do not know where the lōtophagoi lived, if they lived at all, although I see no reason why the tribe would not have existed; getting addicted to a hallucinogen is something easily accomplished.
I was going to write about something else, but I have been made aware of a new fundraiser by Laurelei Black which aims to raise 20.000 dollars for a temple to Aphrodite in the US (assuming in Monrovia, Indiana). From the fundraiser page:

"For nearly 15 years, Laurelei Black has been a Priestess of Aphrodite, and her work has included writing books, leading ceremonies and festivals, teaching classes, and tending to a small woodland shrine of the Goddess of Love and Beauty.
It's time to make a physical temple for Aphrodite's worship in the United States. The temples of old (scattered throughout the Mediterranean) are lovely ruins, but the world needs working temples -- places where devotees can interact with the Gods and Goddesses, ceremonies and celebrations can be hosted, and instruction in the Mysteries can happen."
This crowdfunding project will help the Temple of Aphrodite to:
- build a temple structure suitable for personal and public celebration year-round
- buy or commission an icon (statue) of Aphrodite for use in the Temple
- decorate and equip the Temple with furnishings, fixtures, and basic supplies
- design and create a surrounding garden for outdoor celebration and meditation
- build and equip a workshop/teaching space

I greatly applaud this initiative, although I do have a few questions. For example, does she already have land at her disposal? How will the project be funded beyond the build? Where will the temple be? What if she stops being interested in the project? What is the timeframe? Is there already an existing community for worship, or is it just Black? etc. Also, I would feel better if this was not a private initiative from someone I have never heard of, but backed by some kind of Pagan organization. I would also have liked a few more details about a business plan, but then again, 20k is not that much in the grand scheme of things. If you have a credit card--please, if you ever start a crowdfunded project, pick a provider which allows for other methods of payment--you can chip into the project here, something I wholeheartedly support.