Elaion is proud to announce that on the sixth and seventh of Thargelion, 18 and 19 May, we will be hosting another PAT ritual, this time for the Thargelia. The Thargelia (Θαργήλια) was, as said, held over the course of two days. It was an agricultural festival as well as a kathartic one. The purpose was to purify the city in order to please the Theoi and ensure a successful harvest come harvesting time. It also celebrates the birth of the divine twins Apollon and Artemis.

The first day, a sheep was sacrificed to Demeter Khloe on the Acropolis, and perhaps a swine to the Fates, but most telling about that first day was the following that took place:

In ancient times, two poor, ugly men (or a man and one woman) were chosen each year to be Pharmakoi.  They were fed for a while at public expense and were then paraded around Athens as scapegoats for the people, one wearing a string of black figs to represent the men, the other white figs to represent the women. At the end of the procession, they were driven out of the city by flogging and beaten them with branches and squills (sea onions), and killed. The bodies were burned and the ashes thrown into the sea or land, to fertilize.

This sacrifice became symbolic as time wore on, first with banishment, then with play acting where they were beaten with branches of figs and pelted with squills instead of beaten with branches and stoned to death. What matters was that they were driven out and with them, so was the pollution of ever man and woman in the city.

The first day focused on purification and appeasement but the second day was a lot less gruesome: a great pot of vegetables was prepared as an offering of the first fruits to Apollon. A panspermia was ritually sown into the earth. The Thargelia also featured choral contests among pairs of phratriai, and was recognized by phratriai as a day of festival and sacrifice. An eiresione (olive branch of supplication) with fillets of white wool and first fruits attached was carried in procession along with a winnowing basket full of fruit.

Sources tell us clearly that Apollon was linked to the festival as well as the sun, Helios, and the seasons, the Horai. With Apollon's birth, so came the light that grew the vegetation, that ripened the corn and barley. And in line with Apollon is Helios who journeys across the sky every day and the Horai who precede over the lengthening and shortening of the days, giving Apollon and Helios more or less time with us to ripen our crops.

At its core this festival is a festival of Apollon, but myth tells us Artemis helped bring Him into the world and thus She is honored as well. And we bring Demeter offerings because She taught us how to grow crops and once Persephone leaves for the Underworld again, She will kill them all. Add to that the Horai and Helios and you have a very involved and intricate festival that was absolutely essential to ensure a good harvest. And so we shall celebrate it as well and honor to all these Theoi in appeasement.

You can find the rituals for the events here, for both days, and the community page here.

On the fourth of Thargelion, in the deme of Erkhia, located approximately twenty kilometers (twelve miles) east of Athens, a series of sacrifices were held. Most likely, these were in relation to the Thargelia which was soon to follow. Preporatory rites, of a sort. Elaion will hold a PAT ritual to follow in their footsteps on 16 May at the usual 10 am EDT. Will you be joining us?

The Thargelia was one of the major festivals of Athens, and most of ancient Hellas. It celebrates the birthday of Apollon and Artemis and was held over the course of two days, one with the focus on Artemis--the first, as she was born first--and Apollon on the second day, held on the sixth and seventh day of the month of Thargelion, respectively. The thargelia was both an agricultural and a purifying festival: it was a festival intended to lift miasma from the city of Athens (and anywhere else it was celebrated) in order to ensure a good harvest. It was of vital importance and it could be that the people of Erkhia hosted these sacrifices in order to feel entitled to have Erkhia's harvest fall under the results of the katharthic rites of Athens once they would be held a few days later.

The ancient Erkhians would have held separate rituals for (almost) all of the listed deities, more often than not at different locations. It could therefore be that not all of these sacrifices are linked to the Thargelia. The sacrifices to Leto, Apollon and Zeus most likely were. Hermes, perhaps, but it is more likely that He, along with the Dioskuri was honoured due to the influence of Sparta, of whom all three were patrons. Perhaps the sacrifice to Zeus had a joined function as the father of all (Depending on the mythological account, of course).

We won't be distinguishing between the two 'branches' and have made a single rite to be performed on the 16th, at 10 am EDT. You can join the community here and find the ritual here. We hope you will join us!

On the day of the Hene kai Nea (or sometimes the day after, like this month), 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 Thargelion:
  • Thargelion 4 - May 16 - Sacrifice to Leto, Pythian Apollon, Zeus, Hermes & Dioskuri at Erkhia
  • Thargelion 6-7 - May 18 - 19 - Thargelia - birthday of Apollon and Artemis
  • Thargelion 16 - May 28 - Sacrifice to Zeus Epakrios at Erkhia
  • Thargelion 19 - May 31 - Bendideia - festival in honor of Thracian Goddess Bendis
  • Thargelion 19 - May 31 - Sacrifice to Menedeius at Erkhia
  • Thargelion 25n - June 5n - Plynteria - festival of washing, where the statue of athena was removed from the city of Athens to be cleaned. Auspicious day.
  • Thargelion 27 - June 8 - Kallunteria - spring cleaning of the Temple of Athena

    Anything else?
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    During his childhood (or so goes one legend), the future Olympian wrestler Milo of Croton owned a young calf he used to lift onto his shoulders and carry around for a spell. Milo is said to have done this every single day: as it got bigger, he grew stronger. Four years later, Milo could be seen wandering around with this fully grown pet bull resting on his manly shoulders.

    Nearly 2,500 years ago, Milo of Croton was regarded as the strongest person who had ever lived in the known world. A man of incredible strength and athleticism, he taught us the three basic principles of building muscle: Start very light, don’t miss workouts, and increase training in very small increments.

    Milo, from Croton in Magna Graecia, today’s southern Italy, was almost certainly the most successful wrestler of his day, becoming six-time wrestling champion at the Ancient Olympic Games. In 540 BC, he won the boys’ wrestling category and then proceeded to win the men’s competition at the next five Olympic Games in a row. He also dominated the Pythian Games (7-time winner), Isthmian Games (10-time winner), and Nemean Games (9-time winner).

    Other legends say he carried his own bronze statue to its place at Olympia. One report says the wrestler was able to hold a pomegranate without damaging it while challengers tried to pry his fingers from it, and another report says he could burst a band fastened around his brow by inhaling air and causing his temple veins to swell.

    The Ancient Hellenes typically attributed remarkable deaths to famous persons — in keeping with their characters throughout life. The date of Milo’s death is unknown, but according ancient historians, Milo was walking in a forest when he came upon a tree-trunk split with wedges. In what was probably intended as a display of strength, Milo inserted his hands into the cleft to rend the tree. The wedges fell from the cleft, and the tree closed upon his hands, trapping him. Unable to free himself, the wrestler was devoured by wolves.

    If you want to be as strong as Milo, here are some anchient work-out tips and tricks. Be on the look-out for wolves, though!

    1. Drunk Athletes Still Have to Exercise (Just Not as Strenuously)

    Intoxication wouldn’t excuse you from fitness lessons. The Greco-Roman gymnastics guru Philostratus realized that people couldn’t train as effectively while under the influence. Nevertheless, he maintained that tipsy pupils should still complete their regularly scheduled workouts, just with a bit less intensity than usual.

    2. Ease Up on the Barley
    Denouncing high-carb diets is nothing new; many Roman gladiators bulked up by consuming a dense barley porridge loaded with beans. Claudius Galen—a celebrated Roman physician—believed this made them too flabby for serious combat and criticized the practice.

    3. Your Pre-Workout Routine Should Include Lots of Body Oil
    Ancient Hellenic sportsmen were known to lather themselves in natural oils before exercising, which gave their bods a distinctive glisten. At the time, scholars claimed that doing so kept athletes from getting cold while toughening their skin.

    4. Run Through Sand For Extra Stamina
    Anacharsis, a Mediterranean philosopher who spent much of his time traveling through Athens during the 6th century BCE, once wrote a detailed description of how the Hellenes trained their sprinters. “The [practice] running is not done on hard, resistant ground,” he noted, “but in deep sand where it is not easy to plant a foot solidly or get a grip with it since it slips away from underneath the foot.” As an added bonus, these young men were also instructed “to jump over a ditch, if necessary, or some other obstacle carrying lead weights that are as large as they can hold.”

    5. Wanna Get Toned? Try Digging.
    If your goal is to build chiseled, well-defined muscles without using techniques that involve “violent movement,” the aforementioned Galen recommends digging, rope-climbing, and extending the arms while a workout buddy tries pulling them downwards.

    6. Pick Short and Simple Exercises.
    Seneca the Younger would’ve been a terrible Phys Ed teacher. The Roman philosopher believed that strenuous exercise was, ultimately, pointless. However, if somebody absolutely had to work out, Seneca favored keeping it quick. “There are short and simple exercises which will tire the body without undue delay,” he conceded, “[such as] running, swinging weights about, and jumping—either high jumping or low jumping… But whatever you do, return from body to mind very soon.”

    7. Nobody Likes a Noisy Weightlifter
    Say what you will about Seneca, but at least one of his fitness observations was spot-on. The following rant—inspired by an especially obnoxious breed of bodybuilder which frequented Rome’s urban bath-houses—might as well have been written about a present-day gym:

    "Conjure up in your imagination all the sounds that make one hate one’s ears. I hear the grunts of musclemen exercising and jerking those heavy weights around; they are working hard, or pretending to. I hear the sharp hissing when they release their pent breath."And the bellyaching didn’t stop there. “Add to this,” Seneca moaned, “the racket of a cocky bastard, a thief caught in the act, and a fellow who likes the sound of his own voice … plus those who plunge into the pool with a huge splash of water.”

    Following on from the popularity of their reconstruction of European Castles and Ancient Wonders  award winning Australian insurance company Budget Direct decided to restore a selection of palaces from across the globe, one of these being Greece’s Ancient Knossos Palace. For this project, with the help of a team of architects and a lot of desk research, Budget Direct virtually reconstructed seven ruined palaces around the world including the Knossos Palace.

    The town of Knossos, which surrounds Knossos Palace, is considered to be Europe’s oldest city. It was settled as early as the Neolithic period around 700BC and by 1500BC had a population of 100,000 people. The largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete, the Palace of Knossos is located just south of modern-day Heraklion near the north coast of Crete.

    Constructed around 1700BC, Knossos Palace is the most complex in Greece and thought to be the first palace built in the Middle Minoan IO period.The palace was abandoned sometime in Late Minoan IIIC, 1380 – 1100BC, for reasons which are largely unknown.

    During the Bronze Age, Knossos Palace was the ceremonial, religious, economic and political centre of the Minoan Civilization. The archaeological site of Knossos Palace covers about 20,000 square metres, spread over three acres of land and comprises over 1,500 rooms. Excavation of the site has provided historians with a wealth of insight into the Minoan Civilization. Tools such as clay and stone incised spools and whorls are indicative of a cloth-making industry in existence.

    Artefacts as well as the many vibrant frescoes on the wall of the ruins provide a further understanding of the Minoan culture. Painted in a style emphasising movement and grace, these frescoes illustrate scenes of lithe young athletes, ladies gossiping and dancing, and dolphins and other animals in magical gardens. One frescoe depicts the ancient sport of bull-leaping, a sport which may have given rise to the legend of the mythical Minotaur, a creature of later Hellenic mythology that was half- man and half bull.

    The possibility that there existed a Minotaur became more acceptable once it was understood that, in the Minoan sport of bull-jumping, the male athlete ‘became one with the bull’ as he vaulted over the bull’s horns. It could therefore make sense that this sport may have evoked in ancient consciousness the ‘myth’ of the Minotaur through the impression that these athletes were half men and half bulls.

    The ruins of the palace foundations reveal a vast interconnected maze of small corridors, staircases and private rooms containing residential dwellings, workshops, administrative areas. Since the intricate interior of Knossos Palace has been uncovered it has been speculated that this complex structure, combined with bull symbolism ever-present throughout the ruins, has provided the distant inspiration behind the labyrinth in the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Timber stairways led to large upper rooms have not survived the ages, but probably once rose five stories in height.

    An elaborate and advanced system of drains, conduits, and terra-cotta pipes provided water and sanitation. Vertical shafts in the structure known as light-wells were designed to bring natural light to the lower levels, created an airy and comfortable atmosphere.

    Despite the fact that Knossos Palace was first excavated a century ago, it is still somewhat shrouded in mystery and researched have many questions about the palace and the people who inhabited it. The controversial restoration of parts of the palace over the years has remained the centre of historical debate, with many saying that the rebuilding has been based on “historically incorrect creative licence.”

    The constellation Draco (from the Greek Drakon, meaning dragon) is identified--funnily enough--with some dragons in Hellenic myth but not others. There are quite a few creatures, after all, who would qualify as a dragon in Hellenic myth. For a dragon or hydra not connected to the constellation, think of the one Kadmos vanquished, for example, or the one Apollon vanquished at Delphi, or even the dragon who guarded the Golden Fleece and was slain by Iásōn. In truth, only two dragons were associated with the myth in ancient times, most notably by Hyginus in his Astronomica: Drakon Hesperios, the Hesperian Dragon, and Drakon Gigantomakhios, the Gigantomachian Dragon.

    The first of the myths associated with the constellation is the legend of the Drakon Hesperios (Δρακων Ἑσπεριος), who was slain by Hēraklēs during one of his Labours. I will tell the whole myth of the labour soon enough, but I will share what Hyginus wrote about this labour, and Hēraklēs' encounter with Ladôn (Λαδων), as the dragon was often called.

    "This huge serpent is pointed out as lying between the two Bears. He is said to have guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides, and after Hercules killed him, to have been put by Juno [Hera] among the stars, because at her instigation Hercules set out for him. He is considered the usual watchman of the Gardens of Juno. Pherecydes says that when Jupiter [Zeus] wed Juno, Terra [Gaea] came, bearing branches with golden applies, and Juno, in admiration, asked Terra to plant them in her gardens near distant Mount Atlas. When Atlas’ daughters kept picking the apples from the trees, Juno is said to have placed this guardian there. Proof of this will be the form of Hercules above the dragon, as Eratosthenes shows, so that anyone may know that for this reason in particular it is called the dragon." [II.3]

    The sole other dragon this myth is linked to is Drakon Gigantomakhios (Δρακων Γιγαντομαχιος), who rose up during the Gigantomachy. When the Olympians rose to power, they first fought the Titans during the Titanomachy. Vanquishing them, the Theoi thought They had won. Yet, there was one who sought revenge for the defeat of his father: Typhôeus, the most-feared son of Tartaros and Gaea. Some versions of the myth say that Typhôeus was actually the Drakon Gigantomakhios, or one of his offspring. Hyginus shares what happened to the dragon:

    "Some also say this dragon was thrown at Minerva [Athena] by the Giants, when she fought them. Minerva, however, snatched its twisted form and threw it to the stars, and fixed it at the very pole of heaven. And so to this day it appears with twisted body, as if recently transported to the stars."

    The constellation Draco is visible at latitudes between +90° and −15°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of July. Tomorrow, we will talk a little more about the types of dragons in Hellenic myth, because I suddenly realized the association with medieval dragons is very easily made when reading 'dragon', but I assure you, the ancient Hellenes were unaccustomed to giant, fire breathing, lizards.

    With the stories of heroes triumphing over gods, the appearance of spine-chilling ancient beasts, and a variety of other-worldly locations, mythology in games is a trend that is sure to never cease, with fans being treated to a variety of great titles over the years. The Gamer put together a list of games based on real-world mythology

    For players looking to brush up on their Hellenic mythology, there are plenty of games out there that will deliver you to the dazzling temples of Olympia, or delight you with their lore and references based on their ancient tales. From stories of the mythological gods, valiant fabled protagonists, fearsome beasts, and modern games with a Grecian twist, here are some of the best games with lore-based within ancient Hellas.

    10 - Theseus

    Theseus is an immersive VR experience that places you straight into the story of the Minotaur. The Minotaur, a mythical creature with the head and tail of a bull and the body of a man, was born from King Minos of Crete's wife, Pasiphae, after Poseidon made her fall in love with a bull as revenge on the King Minos of Crete. The Minotaur was then placed into an elaborate labyrinth constructed at King Minos' request by Daedalus and his son Icarus.

    The game almost perfectly recreates the legend, with you playing as Theseus, the Athenian Hero who traverses the maze and slays the Minotaur. It mixes exploration of the maze with survival, combat, and some cinematic story elements before your eventual run-in with the large foe.

    9 - NyxQuest

    NyxQuest sees you playing as Nyx, the embodiment of night within ancient Hellas. Nyx befriends Icarus when he flies into her realm within the sky, but when he disappears without warning, she then heads to the surface to search for him in the crumbling ancient Hellenic landscape.

    The mesmerizing setting and game design seem to jump straight out of the artwork of Grecian amphora and temple friezes from the time. Nyx is aided on her journey by the Olympians as she traverses crumbling ruins and defeats ancient monsters like the Hydra with special powers such as manipulating objects, controlling the wind, and casting powerful rays.

    8 - Kid Icarus

    Kid Icarus first jumped onto screens in 1986, quickly becoming one of the more popular games for NES. It's a cult classic and often centers around the protagonist Pit and his quest to equip sacred treasures, traverse platforms, and defeat bosses in order to save the Grecian-inspired world of Angel Land and the Goddess Palutena, who is thought to be based on Athena.

    Kid Icarus has come a long way from his humble NES beginnings, with 3DS game Kid Icarus: Uprising being released in 2012 and Pit, Dark Pit, and Palutena becoming recurring characters in the Smash Bros franchise.

    7 - Persona 3

    Persona 3 is the game that set the tone of what was to become the success of every Persona game to follow it and is still thought of today as one of the best JRPG's of the 2000s. You play as a character that attends a modern Japanese high school during the day whilst exploring Tartarus in the evening. Tartarus was a location in Hellenic mythology, described as the deep abyss used for the torment and suffering of the wicked, and the prison for the Titans.

    Persona 3 has a vast collection of characters you need to maintain relationships with, all of which have Personas based within Hellenic and Roman mythology. Journeying to Tartarus also puts you face to face with a plethora of monsters, including the final boss Nyx, the embodiment of night.

    6 - Okhlos

    In Okhlos, you play as a mob of ancient Hellenic civilians, warriors, slaves, and animals who have become sick and tired of the abuse and antics of the Gods, and so take up arms to destroy every building, temple, Grecian monster, and Olympian in their path.

    Okhlos embodies the scenery and settings of ancient Hellas with lush temples and large fearsome Gods, but that's nothing but an obstacle to your mob of toga and sandal-wearing ruffians. Okhlos is a one-of-a-kind battle game, and can even see you wielding the power of iconic Grecian figures such as the hero Heracles, Pandora, and even Socrates.

    5 - Apotheon

    A 2D action-adventure game that sees you playing within the minimalist artwork from the pottery of ancient Hellas. Apotheon sees you playing hero Nikandreos as he traverses a vibrant artistic world to ascend Mount Olympus and take on the Pantheon of Gods to save humankind.

    In Pantheon, the Gods of Olympus have abandoned the humans, leaving you to traverse Artemis' forests, Apollo's palace, and climb Mount Olympus to take their powers for yourself. The heroic narrative is a direct look into the heroic tales of ancient Hellenic lore, with the game even tying in excerpts from famous stories like the Iliad.

    4 - Assassins Creed: Odyssey

    Assassins Creed Odyssey places you onto the lush streets and volcanic islands of ancient Hellas, moving from an unknown outcast to a living Spartan legend amongst humans and Gods as you play through a struggling, war-torn world during the mythological Peloponnesian war.

    Assassins Creed Odyssey sees you forge your own path and destiny through ancient Hellas, influencing the history of the stories and land around you as you fight a list of formidable Grecian foes from Aegean naval fleets on the sea to legendary beasts of myth such as the Minotaur, Nemean Lion, and even Medusa, the legendary Gorgon.

    3 - Immortals Fenyx Rising

    Immortals Fenyx Rising is a new take on ancient Hellenic lore, as you play as Fenyx, a newly recruited winged Demigod on a quest to not destroy the Hellenic Gods, but save them! There is also the DLC 'The Lost Gods' which sees you play as Ash, a mortal hero who ventures to the Pyrite islands in order to locate the missing Gods.

    This is a grand open-world Hellenic myth adventure brought to life, giving you the ability to wield the powers of heroes and Gods alike from Achilles Sword to Daidalos' wings to battle monsters such as the Cyclops, Cerberus, and Gorgons, as well as encountering rare mythological creatures such as Griffins.

    2 - God Of War

    The God of War franchise has recently seen lore-based within Norse mythology but began its journey in ancient Hellas, following the story of protagonist Kratos.

    Kratos was a war general forced to kill his wife and daughter unknowingly under Ares command. After exacting revenge on Ares and ascending to godhood himself, he then goes on to seek revenge against the Olympians, Titans, and his own father for their betrayal. God of War is based in an alternate 495 BC Hellas, and as well as Gods and beasts also features critical moments from Grecian tales such as Heracles' 12 Labors, Jason and the Argonauts, and the sinking of Atlantis.

    1 - Hades

    Hades is a rogue-like dungeon crawler where you defy your father, Hades. You'll battle your way through a vivid reimagination of the Grecian Underworld as the immortal prince Zagreus, This game is renowned as one of the best games of its kind to have come out in recent years.

    Hades is a new take on the Grecian theme, seeing you hack and slash your way through the underworld to break free of Hades' grip. Zagreus is helped on his journey by the Olympians, who grant him an assortment of powerful boons that help you take on the Underworld's monsters, courtesy of Gods such as Zeus, Athena, and Hade's wife and Zagreus' own mother, Persephone.