Berlin police confirmed Wednesday that they are investigating the vandalism of dozens of antiquities in three of the capital's museums this month. About 70 artifacts were visibly damaged at the Pergamon Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie and Neues Museum, police said. All three are on Berlin’s Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Spree River that courses through the city.

Carsten Pfohl, the criminal director at the State Criminal Police Office, said police have not been able to identify the perpetrator or perpetrators on security video footage. He said he would not “engage in speculation” about a motive. Investigators have looked for links among the objects that were damaged but have not found any, he said.

German media have noted that the Pergamon Museum has become a target for conspiracy theorists in recent months. QAnon, a theory that falsely alleges that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and battling to bring down President Trump, has gained new followers in Germany during the coronavirus pandemic.

Attila Hildmann, a vegan chef who has become prominent during anti-lockdown protests in Germany spouting baseless theories on topics such as forced vaccines and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, is one of QAnon’s most vocal proponents in Germany, and he has also taken aim at the Pergamon Museum.

He has described the museum’s Pergamon Altar, a 2nd-century B.C. artifact built in ancient Greece during the reign of King Eumenes II, as the throne of Satan and a site for child sacrifice. It is undergoing a long refurbishment and is not displayed to visitors. Hildmann called on his followers to storm the museum in August, according to German news reports.

Christina Haak, the deputy director general of state museums in Berlin, said several acts of vandalism occurred outside the museums over the summer, with posters cut up and graffiti sprayed. However, she said, the latest attacks on dozens of exhibits amounted to the worst vandalism at the city’s museums.

“The vandalism shocked us,” she said, adding that 63 exhibits were soiled, three or four of which were on loan. It was not immediately possible to put a price on the damage, she said.

 A touch of Roman today. Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (80–70 BC – after c. 15 BC), commonly known as Vitruvius, was a Roman author, architect, civil engineer, and military engineer during the 1st century BC, known for his multi-volume work entitled De architectura. His discussion of perfect proportion in architecture and the human body led to the famous Renaissance drawing by Leonardo da Vinci of Vitruvian Man. He was also the one who, in 40 BCE, invented the idea that all buildings should have three attributes: firmitas, utilitas, and venustas, meaning: strength, utility, and beauty. These principles were later adopted by the Romans. His only surviving work is 'De Architectura.'

De architectura (On architecture, published as Ten Books on Architecture) is a treatise on architecture, dedicated to his patron, the emperor Caesar Augustus, as a guide for building projects. As the only treatise on architecture to survive from antiquity, it has been regarded since the Renaissance as the first book on architectural theory, as well as a major source on the canon of classical architecture. It contains a variety of information on Greek and Roman buildings, as well as prescriptions for the planning and design of military camps, cities, and structures both large (aqueducts, buildings, baths, harbours) and small (machines, measuring devices, instruments). Since Vitruvius published before the development of cross vaulting, domes, concrete, and other innovations associated with Imperial Roman architecture, his ten books are not regarded as a source of information on these hallmarks of Roman building design and technology.

A few paragraphs from Book 1 today.

“The building of temples relies on symmetry and architects need to most carefully understand the reason for this. It comes from proposition, which was called “analogy” in Greek. Proportion derives from fixed segments of the parts of the building and the whole—and the balance of symmetry is achieved through this. For no building can have an order in its design without symmetry and proportion, unless it has something like the precise design of a well-figured human body.  For nature has so composed the human body that the face from the chin to the top of the brow and the roots of the hair is one tenth of the whole and the palm of the hand from the wrist to the end of the middle finger is the same.

The head from the chin to the top is one eighth and the top of the chest where it meets the neck to the hair’s roots is a sixth. From the middle of the chest to the crown is one quarter of the whole. The third part of the length of the face extends from the bottom of the chin to the base of the nostrils. The nose from the nostril base to the space between the brows is the same. From that line to hair forms the forehead, a third part. The foot comprises a sixth of the body’s height and the chest is a quarter. The other limbs all have appropriate measures too. And ancient painters earned great praise by observing all these measures.

In the same way, the limbs of temples should have proportions of their various parts responding appropriately to the general size of the whole construction. Consider that the navel is the natural center of the body. For, if a person should lie on the ground with hands and feet spread wide and a circle has the navel as the center, fingers and toes will touch the line of the circumference. In addition, a square can be traced within the figure in the same way. For, if we take the measure from the sole to the top of the head and compare to measure to the distance from one hand to another, the lengths will be found equal, just like foundations squared with a rule. For this reason, if nature designed the body so that the parts correspond in their dimension to the whole design, then ancient people seem to have decided with good reason that they should keep in their works the exact proportions of the separate components to the design of the whole. Therefore, they have handed down orders in all of their works, especially in temples to the gods, the kinds of accomplishments whose excellence and weakness persist for generations.”

"Just a random question - do you happen to know if a portion of chthonic sacrifices was offered first to Hestia?  I had always heard that She received the first and last portion of all sacrifices, but given the difference between Olympian and Chthonic sacrifices, I have to wonder.  Any light you can shed on the question would be appreciated!"

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. That said, there is a difference between rituals held for the Ouranic deities and the Khthonic; most notably for this question, in the altar used.

In ancient Hellas, an altar was called a 'bômos' (βωμός)--properly signifying any elevation--with an 'epipuron' (ἐπίπυρον)--a movable pan or brazier--used on top of the bômos so it could serve as an altar for burnt-offerings. The household hearth was used to make sacrifices as well, and thus served as an altar of sorts. It was named after the Theia of the home and hearth: 'hestía' (ἑστία). Some state-owned altars--especially when they were simply large fires--were named 'hestía' as well.

These altars were used for sacrifices to the Ouranic Theoi, but were rarely--if ever--used for sacrifices for the Khthonic Theoi. For Khthonic Theoi, an offering pit--'bothros' (βόθρος) in Greek texts--was used. Bothroi were usually dug when the occasion called for it, and closed up afterwards. As written previously, the Khthonic Theoi received special nighttime offerings of black animals, unmixed wine and special libations of milk and honey. Animal sacrifice was always done in a holókaustos--a sacrifice where the entire animal was burned and none of the meat was saved for human consumptions.

State festivals were almost always held for Ouranic deities, and they included a feast, consisting of the meat of the sacrificed animal. This wasn't possible with sacrifices to the Khthonic deities; there was no meat to feast on--and no occasion to feast. This matters, because our primary evidence on the topic is one of the Homeric Hymns to Hestia:

"Hestia, in the high dwellings of all, both deathless gods and men who walk on earth, you have gained an everlasting abode and highest honour: glorious is your portion and your right. For without you mortals hold no banquet, -- where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last." [XXIX]

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.

Within Hellenic practice, miasma describes the lingering aura of uncleanliness in regards to a person or space through which contact is made with the Gods. Next to piety, being ritually clean is one of the most important things to adhere to within Hellenismos. Miasma occurs whenever the space or person comes into contact with death, sickness, birth, sex, excessive negative emotions and bodily fluids. It also comes from a lack of contact with the Hellenic Gods. As a note, I should say that not the actual acts of dying, sex and birth cause miasma but the opening up of the way to the Underworld (with births and deaths) as well as contact with sweat, blood, semen, menstrual blood and urine.

Our Gods are immortal and are sometimes called the Deathless Ones. It's our duty to uphold this sacred name by making sure no Gods but psychopomps (guides of the dead) come in contact with death even if it's through us. If we can not respect Their purity, They might be inclined to withhold Their gifts from us. As such, I cannot even phantom inviting Hestia into a ritual with a Khthonic character.

One of the most important private collections of ancient Hellenic and Roman marble sculptures opened for the first time to the general public in Rome last week. The 90 works from the Torlonia Collection – the most prestigious private collection of Greek-Roman sculptures in the world – opened in the newly rebuilt Palazzo Caffarelli, overlooking the Roman Forum.

The collection began more than a century ago by Prince Alessandro Torlonia. He found many of the pieces on the grounds of his family’s Roman properties. Wealthy from a business relationship with the Vatican, the family purchased other well-known sculpture collections. In 1884, the Prince built his own museum to show off his collection. When the museum closed in 1976, the pieces went into storage.

Italy’s Culture Minister Dario Franceschini says the works “take your breath away,”  when he spoke to reporters on Monday. He added that it was unfortunate that COVID-19 safety restrictions would limit the number of people who can visit.

The show will stay open until June 29, 2021. It is the result of public and private cooperation among the culture ministry, the city of Rome, the Torlonia Foundation, and the Roman jeweler Bvlgari.

Archaeologists working in the ancient Hellenic city of Soli Pompeipolis in the southern Mersin province in Turkey have unveiled the memorial tomb of the Greek poet and astronomer Aratus, who was born in 315 BC.

The city, located in the ancient region of Paphlagonia, was still prominent during Roman times but was only rediscovered in the 1800s with the unearthing of the ruins of Zımbıllı Tepe in the Black Sea region of the country.

Soli Pompeipolis, lying just across the river from Taşköprü, in the Gökırmak (Greek: Amnias) Valley, in ancient times stretched as far as the Küre and Ilgaz mountains

The tomb of the gifted poet and astronomer is being excavated by Professor Remzi Yağcı, who is the head of the Department of Museology at Turkey’s Dokuz Eylül University.

According to the archaeologist, the discovery is of lasting importance to the history of the area and will be of great interest to travelers who will want to see the monument. Speaking to interviewers from the Anadolu News Agency, Yağcı said “For the first time, a memorial tomb has been unearthed linked to the archaeology of the ancient city of Soli Pompeiopolis.

“Aside from more familiar structures, such as the colonnaded streets, the ancient port, the theater, and the bathhouse, something very unique has been found. This find brings dynamism to the ancient city and can influence tourism in the region – for both those interested in cultural heritage and general visitors to the region.”

The unearthing of the ruins has been ongoing since July 20 of this year, Yağcı said. Showing photographs of the unique discovery, he indicated the two rows of hexagonal structures and arches around the memorial tomb that had been unearthed by his workers.

“This place looks like a crater, and has a circular area (that could have been used by) an astronomer. We have also come across a solid and large monumental structure.”

Yağcı added that Aratus was widely known during both the Hellenistic and Roman periods and his works on astronomy, as well as his poetry, are still read and studied to this day.

Additionally, he noted that NASA had named a crater on the moon after the brilliant Greek thinker, leading the archaeologist to hope that the tomb of the great man will one day be included on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.

 On the day of the Hene kai Nea (or sometimes, like this month, on the day after), I post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog and in projects and organizations related to it. I will also announce Elaion's coming PAT rituals.

PAT rituals for Maimakterion:
  • 16 Maimakterion - 2 November - 20 Maimakteria - festival for Zeus Maimaktes ('Blustering') to be gentle come winter.
  • 25 Maimakterion - 11 November - Pompaia - festival in honor of Zeus Meilikhios ('Kindly') and Hermes

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

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

The 29th of Pyanepsion is the date for the Khalkeia. It's the only festival to be held on a Deipnon and we will be celebrating it on 17 October, 10 am EDT.

The Khalkiea was the festival of bronze workers, a religious festival devoted to the God Hēphaistos and the Goddess Athena Ergane (Εργανη, Worker). In ancient Hellas, this was the day priestesses of Athena started work on a special peplos to be presented to Her during the Panathenaia. This festival involved a procession of workers with baskets of grain for offerings as well as meat sacrifices. Originally, it seems to have been a festival for Athena solely but over the centuries the focus shifted to Hēphaistos instead.

Elaion is holding a PAT ritual for the Khalkeia on 17 October, EDT. You can find the ritual here and join the community here. Also, make sure to celebrate the day by doing something crafty!

Do you know MWTH, short for Medusa With The Head (of Perseus)? A seven foot bronze version of it will be installed in Collect Pond Park, located on Centre St, Lower Manhattan, as part of NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks program. In 2018, Garbati posted a photograph of his original sculpture to social media. This re-imagined Medusa went viral and became a symbol of resistance worldwide, inspiring thousands of women to reach out and share their own stories. Garbati’s Medusa questions the mythic figure’s characterization as a monster, and investigates the woman behind the myth.

From the site:

"MWTH (Medusa With The Head) is a project entangled in the narrative habits of classical imaginaries, their foundational role in present culture and visions of the future. MWTH seeks to reorient androcentric lore, to queer iconography, to re-reformulate antiquity’s heroic center and its modes of (re)production. 

Through stories that are told and retold over centuries, our iconography shapes our ideology.
MWTH is an artist run project. We are working in collaboration with artist Luciano Garbati, to share his sculpture, Medusa With The Head of Perseus, with the world.

MWTH Project was (immaculately) conceived by Bek Andersen in the immediate wake of the Kavanaugh hearings. The day Kavanaugh was confirmed to the highest court of the land, we were feeling pretty low. Bek came across the viral image of Medusa with the Head of Perseus by Luciano Garbati, an inversion of Cellini’s Perseus With the Head of Medusa. She was inspired to contact the artist in Argentina and bring the sculpture to New York. "

For the record, I love the sentiment, and I love the statue. I just don't like the appropriation.

The legend of Médousa (Μέδουσα) is one of the hardest myths to deal with out of ancient Hellenic mythology. It tells the story of a beautiful woman, who got raped by Poseidon, and gets transformed into a hideous monster who can turn people to stone just by looking at them, by Athena, because of it. She spends the rest of her life trapped on an island, in isolation, while brave warriors try to kill her for her head, which will still turn people to stone once cut off. Perseus eventually does so and gives the head to Athena to place on her shield. The circle is complete and Médousa is dead, after a lifetime of horror which was not her fault to begin with. It's one of the best known Hellenic myths, and the movies, series, books, comics and other mediums which feature it--or Médousa--are endless. Percy Jackson comes to mind, and Clash of the Titans, but there are many others. What's less well known is that this particular myth doesn't date back to ancient Hellas, but ancient Rome: it was written by the Roman poet Ovid, in 8 B.C., in his Metamorphosis.

Yet, Médousa was a well known figure in ancient Hellas, so well known that the images of her cut off head adorned everything from armors to stoves. Her name meant 'guardian', and her head frightened off enemies as well as little children who would otherwise have burned their hands. The blood from the veins on the left side of Médousa's head was allegedly capable of killing, but Asclepius, a great healer, used the blood from the veins on the right side of the head for saving lives.

In ancient Hellenic mythology, Médousa was one of three sisters, Khthonic daímōns called Gorgons. They were named Médousa, Stheno (Σθεννω), and Euryale (Ευρυαλη), and were born to the ancient marine deities Phorkys (Φόρκυς) and Keto (Κητώ), his sister. They were part of the Phorcides (Φόρκιδες), the offspring of Phorkys. Their sisters were Echidna (Ἔχιδνα, half woman, half snake), the Graiai (Γραῖαι, 'old women', sharing one tooth and one eye), and Ladon (Λάδων, the dragon serpent who guarded the golden apples in the garden of the Hesperides). This view comes from Hesiod:

"And to Phorkys, Keto bore the Graiai, with fair faces and gray from birth, and these the gods who are immortal and men who walk on the earth call Graiai, the gray sisters, Pemphredo robed in beauty and Enyo robed in saffron, and the Gorgones who, beyond the famous stream of Okeanos, live in the utmost place toward night, by the singing Hesperides: they are Sthenno, Euryale, and Medousa, whose fate is a sad one, for she was mortal, but the other two immortal and ageless both alike. Poseidon, he of the dark hair, lay with one of these, in a soft meadow and among spring flowers. But when Perseus had cut off the head of Medousa there sprang from her blood great Khrysaor and the horse Pegasos so named from the springs (pegai) of Okeanos, where she was born."

According to Apollodorus, Médousa and her sisters came into the world with snakes on their heads, instead of hair, with yellow wings and brazen hands. Their bodies were also covered with impenetrable scales, and their very looks had the power of killing or turning to stones. Médousa was the only mortal of the three, and in nearly all versions of the myth, has her head cut off by Perseus, who gifts it to Athena. The big difference? In the Hellenic version of the myth, Médousa was never a beautiful maiden who served as a priestess to Athena and was punished for being raped.

There is a third version of the myth, inspired, it seems, by Hesiod, in which Médousa was a very beautiful maiden who lived far to the north where the sun did not reach. She begged Athena to allow her to leave and see the sun, but Athena refused. Médousa got angry and shouted at Athena that she was only disallowing her request because she was jealous at her beauty. Athena, angered, turned her into the monster she is so famous as today. There is a variation of this myth where Médousa tells the sculpture of a statue of Athena that he would have done better making a sculpture of her, because she was far more beautiful. The result is the same; Athena takes her beauty and forces her into isolation as punishment for her hubris (and was thus a valuable lesson/example for humans to remember their place. Same goes for Ariadne and Niobe, for example). Apollodorus, interestingly enough, also confirms this:

"It is affirmed by some that Medousa was beheaded because of Athene, for they say the Gorgon had been willing to be compared with Athene in beauty."

Archaeologists suspect that Athena, Médousa and Poseidon found their origins in Libya. They came to Hellas through Crete at the dawn of Hellas. In the beginning of Her rein, Athena may have been a snake and fertility Goddess--a trait she shared with her Libyan counterpart, who had Her own cult--and may have either had a priestess who fit the Médousa myth or--and this is more likely--Médousa had her own cult as a snake, fertility and (menstrual) blood Goddess. Especially the latter may be linked to the myths concerning Médousa's blood.

Athena's role as a snake and fertility Goddess is still visible in the myth about the child she had with Hēphaistos; Erichthonios (Ἐριχθόνιος), who was half man, half snake. It's even posed that in the early days, Athena was married to Hēphaistos and had His child willingly. As Athena was stripped of Her roles as a fertility and snake Goddess, Médousa's myth came into being, where Athena distances Herself from sex and snakes, by punishing an epithet of herself (Athena Tritogeneia, perhaps: 'born of Trito', a lake which was supposedly located in Libya), or the Libyan snake Goddess Médousa, who may have still been attached to Her worship. By placing Médousa's head on Her breastplate or shield, Athena's mythology is continuously linked to Her Libyan heritage, but harmlessly so, to Her new image of a virginal warrior.

Few references remain to Médousa's Libyan cult. There's vague reference to Médousa being a patron of Libya as a whole, or that she was the Goddess most worshipped by the Amazons. She was linked to protection, snakes, menstrual blood, blood, fertility, and femininity in general. If this is true, it's understandable why her worship did not match the Hellenic religion: for one, she's most likely a very powerful female deity. This did not match the hierarchy of the ancient Hellens, and so, Médousa became a monster, and was dealt with accordingly. Blood was one of the fluids that caused serious miasma, and menstrual fluid wasn't even spoken of in ancient Hellas, let alone revered. Not a single Goddess would have it in their portfolio.

I don't like Ovid's version of the Médousa myth. In my view, it's an embellished version of the myth which overshoots its purpose. It also puts both Poseidon and Athena in a very bad light, and takes a lot away from Médousa. It also introduces an element to the story that has nothing to do with Hellenic mythology and that makes no sense within the context of ancient Hellenic society.

The Roman empire came up about a thousand years after the rise of the Hellenes. the Hellenes valued physical prowess, but it were poets and scholars who were held in the highest regards. For Rome, it were the warriors who received the most attention. This reflected in the Gods of both people as well: the Roman Gods resemble the Hellenic Gods, but they are stricter, harder, and possess more bloodlust. At the same time, they were also pruder when it came to excesses of any kind. Ares, temperamental God of War, has his Roman counterpart in Mars, yet, Mars is a much stabler God, who is also in charge of agriculture and fertility. Baccus, the Roman equivalent of Dionysos, lost all ecstatic rites that made the worship of Dionysos so famous. Romans tried becoming Gods their whole lives, while the Hellens accepted their lot as mortals, and respected the Theoi as all-powerful and all-ruling. A frame of mind like that shows in Gods that get neatly packaged, made non-threatening and can be rivaled by mortals. Yet, because of the warrior mentality of the Romans, the Gods that became more predictable and less formed, also became harder. They punished socially unacceptable behavior more severely and myths from the Hellenic period got retold from the viewpoint of a warrior's society. Médousa's myth is one of the most classical examples of this shift.

Medusa With The Head of Perseus will be installed directly across from the New York County Criminal Court, the location of high profile abuse cases including the recent Harvey Weinstein trial. Garbati’s Medusa stands facing the courthouse, as an icon of justice and the power of narrative.

The statue cast in Bronze by Vanessa Solomon of Carbon Sculpt Studios in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York and Laran Bronze Foundry in Philadelphia. 

Medusa With The Head of Perseus will be on view from October 13, 2020 - April 30, 2021.

 The ancient Hellenes had an odd view of blood; for one, they made a very clear distinction between human blood and animal blood, and ascribed powers of pollution and purification to it. It's a fascinating--if not somewhat dark topic--and I'd like to take a moment to discuss blood and blood rituals in ancient Hellas today.

To a modern practitioner, 'blood' most likely has a negative connotation to it; it's considered miasmic, after all, at least the blood of humans. Miasma--the lingering aura of uncleanliness in regards to a person or space through which contact is made with the Gods--is a constant concern for the modern practitioner, and judging by the amount of purification rituals and methods we have available from the ancient Hellenes, it was for them as well.

Human blood has connotations of death; bleeding is a human thing, a weakening, an act that brings us closer to death even though we may have only cut our thumbs. We still spill our life's blood. While the ancient Hellenes studiously avoided talking about menstrual blood and the menstrual cycle of women, this reasoning is exactly why I feel menstruating women were most likely barred from religious rites: especially to the men who dictated these rules, a woman loosing blood would be a terrifying thing; a literal bloodletting and something that brings the woman closer to death and more in tune with her humanity. Miasma are those things that taint us as human while we long to be in the presence of the Gods, and take it from me, very few things make a woman feel more humbly human than suffering through her period.

Animal blood in Hellenism has an entirely different connotation; not only was it a religious sacrifice, but it was used as a purifier as well. During an animal sacrifice, the animal was killed by a blow to the head or the slitting of the throat. Even if the animal was killed by a blow to the head, the throat was slid afterwards, and the blood was collected. Some blood was sprinkled on the front of the altar and poured into the fire as part of the sacrifice; a representation of the animal's life force, and along with the barley groats that were tossed into the fire previously, a purifier.

Animal blood as a purifier was especially important in the ritual absolution of murderers. If we look at the Eumenides by Aeschylus, we can see how Apollon has purified Orestes of the murder of his mother by killing a swine and holding it out over him, letting the blood of the animal drip down over his head and hands. In this regard, the blood serves to make visible the blood guilt--Orestes is literally covered in blood, more so than he ever was during or after the murder of his mother--and then have something physical to wash away, taking the blood guilt with it. It's one of the many steps of Orestes' redemption which is only complete when Athena absolves him, but it starts with the presentation of a substitute to the daimons of vengeance, and the physical manifestation of blood guilt.

"Taught by misery, I know many purification rituals, and I know where it is right to speak and equally to be silent; and in this case, I have been ordered to speak by a wise teacher. For the blood is slumbering and fading from my hand, the pollution of matricide is washed away; while it was still fresh, it was driven away at the hearth of the god Phoebus by purifying sacrifices of swine. It would be a long story to tell from the beginning, how many people I have visited, with no harm from association with me." [276]

This link between blood and the tension between death and life shows more often in Hellenic mythology; the blood from the vein on the left side of Médousa's head was allegedly capable of killing, but Asclepius, a great healer, used the blood from the veins on the right side of the head for saving lives. Dionysos--a God very close to the cycle of life and death due to his troubled birth--was intricately linked with blood. There are many stories on His birth, but two are of importance to this post. In one, he is born from Semele and Zeus, and while Semele is pregnant with Him, Hera plants seeds of doubt in her mind about the father of the child truly being Zeus. Semele asks Zeus to reveal Himself to her in his true form, and when he is left with no other option, He does so, killing her in the process. Zeus takes pity on His child, and takes Him into either His thigh or testicle, where He is eventually born from.

In the other version of the myth, stemming from Krete, Dionysos is the child of Zeus and Persephone (or Demeter). In this version, Dionysos is born, but ripped to pieces by Titans, under orders of a jealous Hera. Zeus smites the Titans, but is too late to save anything of Dionysos but His heart, which He gets implanted into His thigh like the first myth, or implants into Semele.

In both versions of the myth, Dionysos is twice-born, hence his epithet 'Dimêtôr' (Διμητωρ). Dionysos was considered a fertility God, but also closely related to nature's eternal cycle of birth and death. The ancient Hellens considered the moment a plant--especially the grape--began to grow for the first time after being planted its first birth, and counted its second birth when it became laden with ripened fruit. As Dionysos is so closely related to  the grape vine, it was Dionysos Himself that was considered being born once from the earth and again from the vine--and as such, wine was literally his blood. Many of His festivals allude to this, and the wine so copiously drunk during them often has a bitter connotation because of it.

There are many hidden references to blood in Hellenic mythology and ritual. It's both a corrupter and a purifier; a gateway to birth, and to death; a manifestation of the divine and of humanity. This is only an introduction on the subject--at best--but I hope it at least serves as something to ponder on.

 Those who visit this blog on a regular basis know that I'm a fan of Solon and his reformations of the political landscape of Athens in the sixth century BC. Solon (Σόλων) was an Athenian statesman and lawmaker who lived from 638 BC to 558 BC. He spent most of his adult life trying to legislate against political, economic, and moral decline in archaic Athens. His ideologies are often credited with having laid the foundations for Athenian democracy. Solon's reforms created a system where the power was in the hands of the people, because instead of leaving justice to be administered by the aristocracy. He was also a poet and some of his work has miraculously survived. Today, I would like to share one of the fragments of his work that have survived.

O ye fair children of Memory and Olympian Zeus,
ye Muses of Pieria, hear me as I pray.
Grant, that I may be blessed with prosperity by the Gods,
and that among all men I may ever enjoy fair fame ;
that I may be as a sweet savor to my friends and
a bitterness in the mouth of my enemies,
by the ones respected, by the others feared. 

Wealth I do indeed desire, but ill-gotten wealth I will not have :
punishment therefor surely cometh with time.
Wealth which the gods give, cometh to a man as an abiding possession,
solid from the lowest foundation to the top;
but that which is sought with presumptuous disregard of right and wrong,
cometh not in the due course of nature. 

It yields to the persuasion of dishonest practices and followed against its will ;
and soon there is joined thereto blind folly which leadeth to destruction.
Like fire, it taketh its beginning from small things;
but, though insignificant at first, it endeth in ruin. 

For the works of unprincipled men do not continue long.
Zeus watcheth all things to the end.
Often, in the spring season, a
wind riseth suddenly and disperseth the clouds,
and, stirring up the depths of the surging, barren sea,
and laying waste the fair works of the husbandman
over the surface of the corn-bearing earth,
cometh to the lofty habitation of the gods in heaven
and bringeth the blue sky once more to view ;

the sun shineth forth in his beauty over the fertile earth,
and clouds are no longer to be seen.
Like such a sudden wind is the justice of Zeus.
He is not, like mortal men, quick to wrath for each offense ;
but no man who hath an evil heart ever escapeth his watchful eye,
and surely, in the end, his justice is made manifest.

One man payeth his penalty early, another late.
If the guilty man himself escape and the fate of the gods come not upon him
and overtake him not, it cometh full surely in aftertime :
the innocent pay for his offense —
his children or his children's children in later generations. 
[Fragment 13]

Another side-step today, but hey, it's my blog and I'm excite! Paramount Pictures has acquired the rights for a historical epic centered around Cleopatra, and Gal Gadot is set to team-up with director Patty Jenkins once again for the film. Gadot is attached to star as the Egyptian queen herself in the film, which is tentatively titled Cleopatra, Deadline reports. Jenkins, meanwhile, will serve as the director. 

Gadot and Jenkins previously worked together on Wonder Woman and its upcoming sequel Wonder Woman 1984, with Jenkins as director for both films and as a producer on the latter. The deal for the film, which was Gadot's idea, closed yesterday following pitches for the film across Zoom. Laeta Klogridis, who has written screenplays for films such as Shutter Island and more recently Alita: Battle Angel, will pen the script and serve as executive producer. The deal was reportedly expedited because Paramount is looking to put together a heavy-hitting theatrical release relatively quickly, possibly over concerns as to how coronavirus has stalled film and TV productions across the world.

Reactions to the casting have ranged from positive to outright confusion on social media. While an Egyptian queen, scholars have often identified Cleopatra as someone of Greek ancestry with debates regarding some Persian and Syrian ancestry, too. Gadot is an Israeli actress, and some have raised questions regarding whether she is fit to play the role. Personally, I would much prefer her over Lady Gaga, Angelina Jolie, or Scarlett Johansson, who are all various shades of 'much whiter' than Gadot. 

Cleopatra VII Philopator (Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ), who lived from 69 – 10 or 12 August 30 BC, was the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. As a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, she was a descendant of its founder Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general and companion of Alexander the Great. After the death of Cleopatra, Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire, marking the end of the second to last Hellenistic state and the age that had lasted since the reign of Alexander (336–323 BC).  Her native language was Koine Greek, and she was the only Ptolemaic ruler to learn the Egyptian language.

In 58 BC, Cleopatra presumably accompanied her father, Ptolemy XII, during his exile to Rome after a revolt in Egypt (a Roman client state) allowing his daughter Berenice IV to claim the throne. Berenice was killed in 55 BC when Ptolemy returned to Egypt with Roman military assistance. When he died in 51 BC, the joint reign of Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII began, but a falling-out between them led to open civil war. After losing the 48 BC Battle of Pharsalus in Greece against his rival Julius Caesar (a Roman dictator and consul) in Caesar's Civil War, the Roman statesman Pompey fled to Egypt. Pompey had been a political ally of Ptolemy XII, but Ptolemy XIII, at the urging of his court eunuchs, had Pompey ambushed and killed before Caesar arrived and occupied Alexandria. Caesar then attempted to reconcile the rival Ptolemaic siblings, but Ptolemy's chief adviser Potheinos viewed Caesar's terms as favoring Cleopatra, so his forces besieged her and Caesar at the palace.

Shortly after the siege was lifted by reinforcements, Ptolemy XIII died in the 47 BC Battle of the Nile; Cleopatra's half-sister Arsinoe IV was eventually exiled to Ephesus for her role in carrying out the siege. Caesar declared Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIV joint rulers, but maintained a private affair with Cleopatra that produced a son, Caesarion. Cleopatra traveled to Rome as a client queen in 46 and 44 BC, where she stayed at Caesar's villa. After the assassinations of Caesar and (on her orders) Ptolemy XIV in 44 BC, she named Caesarion co-ruler.

In the Liberators' civil war of 43–42 BC, Cleopatra sided with the Roman Second Triumvirate formed by Caesar's grandnephew and heir Octavian, Mark Antony, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. After their meeting at Tarsos in 41 BC, the queen had an affair with Antony. He carried out the execution of Arsinoe at her request, and became increasingly reliant on Cleopatra for both funding and military aid during his invasions of the Parthian Empire and the Kingdom of Armenia. The Donations of Alexandria declared their children Alexander Helios, Cleopatra Selene II, and Ptolemy Philadelphus rulers over various erstwhile territories under Antony's triumviral authority. This event, their marriage, and Antony's divorce of Octavian's sister Octavia Minor led to the Final War of the Roman Republic. 

Octavian engaged in a war of propaganda, forced Antony's allies in the Roman Senate to flee Rome in 32 BC, and declared war on Cleopatra. After defeating Antony and Cleopatra's naval fleet at the 31 BC Battle of Actium, Octavian's forces invaded Egypt in 30 BC and defeated Antony, leading to Antony's suicide. When Cleopatra learned that Octavian planned to bring her to his Roman triumphal procession, she killed herself by poisoning (contrary to the popular belief that she was bitten by an asp).

Cleopatra's legacy survives in ancient and modern works of art. Roman historiography and Latin poetry produced a generally critical view of the queen that pervaded later Medieval and Renaissance literature. In the visual arts, her ancient depictions include Roman busts, paintings, and sculptures, cameo carvings and glass, Ptolemaic and Roman coinage, and reliefs. In Renaissance and Baroque art she was the subject of many works including operas, paintings, poetry, sculptures, and theatrical dramas. She has become a pop culture icon of Egyptomania since the Victorian era, and in modern times Cleopatra has appeared in the applied and fine arts, burlesque satire, Hollywood films, and brand images for commercial products.

Not Hellenic, but too cool to pass up on! Brain cells have been found in exceptionally preserved form in the remains of a young man killed in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius almost 2,000 years ago, an Italian study has revealed.

The preserved neuronal structures in vitrified or frozen form were discovered at the archaeological site of Herculaneum, an ancient Roman city engulfed under a hail of volcanic ash after nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted in the year 79. Study lead author Pier Paolo Petrone, forensic anthropologist at Naples' University Federico II, told AFP:

"The study of vitrified tissue as the one we found at Herculaneum... may save lives in future. The experimentation continues on several research fields, and the data and information we are obtaining will allow us to clarify other and newer aspects of what happened 2000 years ago during the most famous eruption of Vesuvius."

The victim whose samples were examined was a man aged around 20 whose remains were discovered in the 1960s splayed on a wooden bed. 

The extreme heat of the eruption and the rapid cooling that followed essentially turned the brain material to a glassy material, freezing the neuronal structures and leaving them intact, Petrone explained in the study, published Tuesday by US peer-reviewed science journal PLOS ONE.

"The evidence of a rapid drop of temperature -- witnessed by the vitrified brain tissue -- is a unique feature of the volcanic processes occurring during the eruption, as it could provide relevant information for possible interventions by civil protection authorities during the initial stages of a future eruption."

Vesuvius' eruption covered Herculaneum in a toxic, metres-thick layer of volcanic ash, gases and lava flow which then turned to stone, encasing the city, allowing an extraordinary degree of frozen-in-time preservation both of city structures and of residents unable to flee.

As they investigated the organic material turned up by the study, researchers managed to obtain unprecedented high resolution imagery using scanning electron microscopy and advanced image processing tools.

With the post-eruption preservation locking in the cellular structure of the victim's central nervous system, researchers have seized on the chance "to study possibly the best known example in archaeology of extraordinarily well-preserved human neuronal tissue from the brain and spinal cord," the study noted.

 "...but most of all I love Icarus, who knew the wax would melt but still flew towards the sun."

 -- 'Ik hou van Icarus' - Tjitske Jansen (translated from Dutch)

One of my all-time favorite Hellenic myths is about Íkaros; Daidalos' son who escaped the labyrinth on the island of Krete with wings made of feathers and wax. He was warned not to fly too high because the sun would melt the wax, or too low because wet feathers wouldn't carry him, yet Íkaros got too caught up with the marvel of flying, and did fly too high or too low. As a result, he drowned somewhere between the island and the main land.

Daidalos (Δαίδαλος) was an inventor, a craftsman, who had murdered a gifted student of his--his nephew--in a fit of jealousy. This caused him to flee his home town (most often referred to as Athens, although there are some timeline problems if this was the case) and find refuge on Krete. King Minos saw in Daidalos a gifted man, and asked him to draw and constructed the labyrinth of the Minotaur, son of King Minos. Because he knew the secrets of the labyrinth, and the deformations of the Minotaur, he was never permitted to leave the island.

As often, many details of this myth come from the Roman poet Ovid. In earlier versions of the tale, the labyrinth is an actual labyrinth: it has one pathway that leads inexorably from the entrance to the goal, albeit by the most complex and winding of routes. In Ovid's version--and other like him--the labyrinth is not a labyrinth at all, but a maze: a design with choices in pathways, aimed to confuse the seeker. In fact, Ovid's version of the 'labyrinth' is so complex that Daidalos himself almost gets lost in it:

"Great Daedalus of Athens was the man
That made the draught, and form'd the wondrous plan;
Where rooms within themselves encircled lye,
With various windings, to deceive the eye.
As soft Maeander's wanton current plays,
When thro' the Phrygian fields it loosely strays;
Backward and forward rouls the dimpl'd tide,
Seeming, at once, two different ways to glide:
While circling streams their former banks survey,
And waters past succeeding waters see:
Now floating to the sea with downward course,
Now pointing upward to its ancient source,
Such was the work, so intricate the place,
That scarce the workman all its turns cou'd trace;
And Daedalus was puzzled how to find
The secret ways of what himself design'd."
(The Labyrinth)

It takes many years for Daidalos to get restless on the island, but when he does, he goes to King Minos and asks to be set free. Minos refuses him every time, and eventually, Daidalos is forced to think of another plan. Being a master craftsman, he constructs wings of feathers, wax, and string, and creates one for his young son, Íkaros (Ἴκαρος) as well. Apollodorus describes the tale in a very compact manner in his Epitome:

"On being apprized of the flight of Theseus and his company, Minos shut up the guilty Daedalus in the labyrinth, along with his son Icarus, who had been borne to Daedalus by Naucrate, a female slave of Minos. But Daedalus constructed wings for himself and his son, and enjoined his son, when he took to flight, neither to fly high, lest the glue should melt in the sun and the wings should drop off, nor to fly near the sea, lest the pinions should be detached by the damp.
 But the infatuated Icarus, disregarding his father's injunctions, soared ever higher, till, the glue melting, he fell into the sea called after him Icarian, and perished. But Daedalus made his way safely to Camicus in Sicily. [E.1.12 / E.1.13]

It's important to note that not all historians and writers in ancient Hellas quite agreed with the story of Íkaros and his wings. Pausanias mentions that it were not wings at all that carried Daidalos and Íkaros, but boats, crafted especially well by Daidalos:

"Here [at Thebes] is a sanctuary of Herakles. The image, of white marble, is called Promakhos (Champion), and the Thebans Xenokritos and Eubios were the artists. But the ancient wooden image is thought by the Thebans to be by Daidalos, and the same opinion occurred to me. It was dedicated, they say, by Daidalos himself, as a thank-offering for a benefit. For when he was fleeing from Krete in small vessels which he had made for himself and his son Ikaros, he devised for the ships sails, an invention as yet unknown to the men of those times, so as to take advantage of a favorable wind and outsail the oared fleet of Minos. Daidalos himself was saved, but the ship of Ikaros is said to have overturned, as he was a clumsy helmsman. The drowned man was carried ashore by the current to the island, then without a name, that lies off Samos. Herakles came across the body and recognized it, giving it burial where even to-day a small mound still stands to Ikaros on a promontory jutting out into the Aegean. After this Ikaros are named both the island and the sea around it." (Description of Greece 9.11.1.)

Daidalos makes it to the main land. The island Íkaros' body washed upon, was called 'Ikaria' (Ικαρία) from that point on. It still carries that name, and is located ten nautical miles (nineteen kilometers) southwest of Samos. Minos was of no mind to let Daidalos go, however, and so he went from court to court, knowing that a mind as sharp as Daidalos' would be noticed wherever he went. King Minos posed a riddle to every king, as described by Apollodorus:

"And Minos pursued Daedalus, and in every country that he searched he carried a spiral shell and promised to give a great reward to him who should pass a thread through the shell, believing that by that means he should discover Daedalus. And having come to Camicus in Sicily, to the court of Cocalus, with whom Daedalus was concealed, he showed the spiral shell. Cocalus took it, and promised to thread it, and gave it to Daedalus;
And Daedalus fastened a thread to an ant, and, having bored a hole in the spiral shell, allowed the ant to pass through it. But when Minos found the thread passed through the shell, he perceived that Daedalus was with Cocalus, and at once demanded his surrender. Cocalus promised to surrender him, and made an entertainment for Minos; but after his bath Minos was undone by the daughters of Cocalus; some say, however, that he died through being drenched with boiling water." [E.1.14 / E.1.15]

And this was the end of King Minos' hunt and his life. Depending on the source, it might have been Daidalos himself who poured boiling water over King Minos, leading to his death. What happens to Daidalos afterward is unclear. I hope he found a place to remember his son, and build more of his wonderful inventions.

This myth encourages people to look at the consequences of their actions, even those--or especially those--with good intentions. Daidalos' genius cost him his son. On the other hand, whenever I read this myth, Íkaros reminds me that, although great risk comes with a leap of faith, it might just be worth it sometimes. Íkaros chose the dangerous path, and while it led to his death, it also led to one of the most beautiful moments of his life. I'm a cautious person, a tempered person, and remembering Íkaros is a great help in my life sometimes. It reminds me to hunt for happiness, even though the quest requires me to let go of the familiar. I live my life looking for small flights of Íkaros, and I wish the same for you.

Five rare silver coins, which were to be auctioned at houses in Munich and Zurich, were repatriated. Three of them, illegally exported from Greece, were repatriated on September 30, 2020 from Munich: a stater coin of Lindos from the first half of the 5th century BC, an octadrachm of the Edonians, minted around 480-460 BC, and a stater of Εlis from about 328 BC. The coins were handed over by the Bavarian police authorities to the Consulate General of Greece in Munich, returned to Athens and are being kept in the Numismatic Museum which assisted in their identification.

The repatriation of the coins is linked to the disbanding, in October 2016, by the Patras Security Sub-Directorate of a multi-member criminal organization based in Greece extending to many other countries and involved in the illicit trafficking of cultural goods. Found in the possession of those involved in the organization within Greece and confiscated were 126 ancient artefacts and 2,024 coins. In March 2017, 33 vessels of the Mycenaean era, 600 ancient coins and other ancient objects of various eras, which the antiquity smugglers had illegally exported from the country, were repatriated from Germany.

Thanks to information obtained from the case file, it was possible for the Directorate for Documentation and Protection of Cultural Property to locate ancient Greek coins that had been channeled by the criminal organization for sale to auction houses based in Zurich and Munich. In cooperation with the Patras Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, the necessary appeals were made to the  Swiss and German judicial authorities, for the illegally trafficked cultural goods to be handed over .

The result of the above actions was the return on September 27, 2019 of two more silver coins from Zurich. An Athens “New Style” tetradrachm dating from 136 BC, and a tetradrachm of Ptolemy IV Philopator from the Mint of Sidon, dating from the end of the 3rd century BC. The two coins are being kept in the Archaeological Museum of Patras.

he 'highest' palace of Crete, Zominthos continues to be excavated by the Archaeological Society under Honorary Director of Antiquities, Dr. Efi Sapouna-Sakellaraki. Despite the difficult conditions (COVID-19), the excavation was carried out with all the mandatory protection measures.

The purpose of the excavation was to clarify how to access the north entrance of the Central Building, one of the central entrances, and to verify the biomagnetic research carried out by the team of A. Sarris north of the Central Building.

This year’s excavation proved that the existing, two-storey or even three-storey, Central Building had an earlier use, at least from 2000 BC and that from 1700 BC it began to expand to the surrounding area; a fact that has already been acknowledged in previous excavation periods and culminated this year with the unearthing of two new complexes. Ultimately it turns out that the excavation on the northern slope of the hill, where the palace is located, has not been exhausted by excavations and that further investigation is needed.

Once again, it turns out that the palace of Zominthos had a political, economic and religious character throughout its existence, because of its proximity to the large religious centre of the Ideon Andron whose fame spread to the Eastern Mediterranean, the Near East and Egypt.

This year’s excavation showed that access to the northern entrance had already been made as early as the Protopalatial era (around 1900 BC) by a ramp, which ended in a strong retaining wall and was subsequently twice paved with slabs during the Neopalatial period (1700-1600 BC). 

A slanting, ritual corridor was built in the strong retaining wall, which reached the northern entrance. Its use from the period of the first palaces is confirmed by ceramics and especially by cups of the type found in the Middle Minoan period (around 1800 BC), typical of the pottery of Knossos.

On the level of the Late Minoan IA period (around 1650 BC) three stone openings (drainage pipes) were unearthed belonging to areas of the Central Building and the western apartments attached to it immediately after its destruction, around 1650 BC (Complex I).

Standing out from Complex I is what is now called the “north sanctuary” from the Neopalatial period, an important sanctuary outside the Central Building. Part of it was excavated in 2019 and specifically an altar laid out with stones, between and on top of which a number of ritual and other vessels,came to light; mainly rhyta.

The discovery of a small sheet of gold unearthed after rain, led to a search under the altar’s stone layer, where a surprise awaited the excavators. Found in the center of the underlying layer was a piece of burnt wood on which about 90 small sheets of gold were either attached or scattered round it. The finding of this set can only point to the existence of a wooden idol clad in thin gold leaf. Corresponding gold-clad idols are known from ivory figurines of Archanes and Palaiokastro.

On the same level a stone was found, a ritual vat for receiving liquids and a seal with an animal representation on its sealing surface. Obviously, after the first destruction of the new palaces, the occupants of the building preserved the remains of the ruined idol, over which the stone altar was built with the ritual vessels mentioned above.

The timeless sanctity of the place is apparent by the existence on the same spot, on a lower level and north of the altar, of an earlier sanctuary of the Protopalatial period (around 1900 BC), in which fragmentary figurines of people and animals were unearthed. Among them is a beautiful, female figurine, named “the Lady of Zominthos”.

North of Complex I, a second complex of rooms (Complex II) was unearthed, separated from the first by a narrow corridor The rooms are paved and equipped with an important sewerage system, with pipes starting from Complex I and continuing further north. In one of these rooms and among the ceramic finds an important flower-shaped seal came to light, dating from the time of the first palaces.

Both the drainage and sewerage systems prove the advanced expertise that existed in Zominthos. The use over time of the section excavated this year is also proved by a coin of the Doge of Venice Pietro Gradenigo (1289-1311), which coincides with the 4th Crusade and the period of Venetian rule in Crete.

For more images, go here.