There are only three more constellations in the constellation series, and we will be talking about two of them today. But don't worry, I have a few bonus posts lined up around the theme. Today, we'll be talking about Ursa Major and Ursa Minor: the big and little bear.

Ursa Major (from the Latin: 'Larger She-Bear') is also known as the Great Bear and Charles' Wain. It is visible throughout the year in most of the northern hemisphere. Ursa Minor (from the Latin 'Smaller She-Bear') is also known as the Little Bear. Like Ursa Major, the tail of the Little Bear may also be seen as the handle of a ladle, hence the name Little Dipper. Both are amongst the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and remain two of the 88 modern constellations. Ursa Minor is notable as the location of the north celestial pole, although this will change after some centuries due to the precession of the equinoxes.

The first mention of Ursa Minor in ancient Hellenic texts was by 6th century BC philosopher Thales of Miletus, who pointed out that it was a more accurate guide to finding true north than Ursa Major. This knowledge had reportedly come from the Phoenicians in the eastern Mediterranean, and the constellation bore the term Phoenikē. Homer had previously only referred to one 'bear', leading to speculation over what he saw the stars of Ursa Minor as, or whether they were recognised at all. From Hyginus' 'Astronomica':

"There is a great diversity of opinion, too, as to why the Lesser Bear is called Phoenice, and why those who observe her are said to navigate more exactly and carefully; why, also, if she is more reliable than the Great Bear, al do not watch her. These people do not seem to realize the reason for her being called Phoenice. Thales of Miletus, who searched into these matters carefully, and first called her Bear, was by birth a Phoenician, as Herodotus says. Therefore all those in the Peloponnesus use the first Arctos; the Phoenicians, however, observe the one they received from her discoverer, and by watching her carefully, are thought to navigate more exactly, and suitably call her Phoenice from the race of her discoverer." (II.2)

The ancient Hellenes linked Ursa Minor and Ursa Major to the myth of Kallistô and her son Arcas, both placed in the sky by Zeus. In this myth, Zeus and Kallistô had a son together: Arcas. After Arcas was born, Hera caught wind of the affair and turned Kallistô into a bear. Alternatively, Kallistô was a priestess of Artemis, and Artemis punished her for losing her virginity by turning her into a bear. Because of the metamorphosis, the boy was raised by his maternal grandfather Lycaon. When Arcas grew up, he went out to hunt and found a beautiful bear. He chased her through the woods. The bear--his transformed mother Kallistô--ran towards him as soon as she recognized her son. Arcas was terrified and raised his bow to shoot her. Zeus intervened swiftly and placed Kallistô and her son in the sky. In this interpretation, Kallistô became Ursa Major and Arcas either Ursa Minor or Boötes. A furious Hera asked Tethys to chain the two to the night's sky, so that the constellations would never sink below the horizon and receive water. An alternate myth tells of two bears that saved Zeus from his murderous father Kronus by hiding him on Mount Ida. Later Zeus set them in the sky, but their tails grew long from being swung by the God. Hyginus describes all of this in the following way:

"We begin, then as we said above, with the Great Bear. Hesiod says she is named Callisto [Kallistô], daughter of Lycaon, who ruled in Arcadia. Out of her zeal for hunting she joined Diana [Artemis], and was greatly loved by the goddess because of their similar temperaments. Later, when made pregnant by Jove [Zeus], she feared to tell the truth to Diana. But she couldn’t conceal it long, for as her womb grew heavier near the time of her delivery, when she was refreshing her tired body in a stream, Diana realized she had not preserved her virginity. In keeping with her deep distrust, the goddess inflicted no light punishment. Taking away her maiden features, she changed her into the form of a bear, called arktos in Greek . In this form she bore Arcas.
But as Amphis, writer of comedies, says, Jupiter, assuming the form of Diana, followed the girl as if to aid her in hunting, and embraced her when out of sight of the rest. Questioned by Diana as to the reason for her swollen form, she replied that it was the goddess’ fault, and because of this reply, Diana changed her into the shape we mentioned above. When wandering like a wild beast in the forest, she was caught by certain Aetolians and brought into Arcadia to King Lycaon along with her son as a gift, and there, in ignorance of the law, she is said to have rushed into the temple of Jove Lycaeus. Her son at once followed her, and the Arcadians in pursuit were trying to kill them, when Jupiter, mindful of his indiscretion, rescued her and placed her and her son among the constellations. He named her Arctos, and her son Arctophylax. About him we shall speak later.
Some, too, have said that when Callisto was embraced by Jove, Juno in anger turned her into a bear; then, when she met Diana hunting, she was killed by her, and later, on being recognized, was placed among the stars.
But others say that when Jupiter was pursuing Callisto in the woods, Juno, suspecting what had happened, hurried there so that she could say she had caught him openly. But Jove, the more easily to conceal his fault, left her changed to bear form. Juno, then, finding a bear instead of a girl in that place, pointed her out for Diana, who was hunting, to kill. Jove was distressed to see this, and put in the sky the likeness of a bear represented with stars.
This constellation, as many have stated, does not set, and those who desire some reason for this fact say that Tethys, wife of Ocean, refuses to receive her when the other stars come there to their setting, because Tethys was the nurse of Juno, in whose bed Callisto was a concubine.

 Araethus of Tegea, however, writer of histories, says that she wasn’t Callisto, but Megisto, and wasn’t the daughter of Lycaon, but of Ceteus, and so granddaughter of Lycaon. He says, too, that Ceteus himself was called the Kneeler. The other details agree with what has been said above. All this is shown to have taken place on the Arcadian mountain Nonacris.
Aglaosthenes, who wrote the Naxica, says that she is Cynosura, one of the nurses of Jove from the number of the Idaean nymphs. He says, too, that in the city called Histoe, founded by Nicostratus and his friends, both the harbour and the greater part of the land are called Cynosura from her name. She, too, was among the Curetes who were attendants of Jove. Some say that the nymphs Helice and Cynosura were nurses of Jove, and so for gratitude were placed in the sky, both being called Bears. We call them Septentriones." (II.1, II.2)

Because Ursa Minor consists of seven stars, the Latin word for "North" (i.e. where Polaris points) is septentrio, from septem (seven) and triones (oxen), from seven oxen driving a plow, which the seven stars also resemble. This name has also been attached to the main stars of Ursa Major. About this, Hyginus also has something to say:

"But many have said that the Great Bear is like a wagon, and the Greeks do call it amaza. This reason has been handed down: Those who, at the beginning, observed the stars and supposed the number of stars into the several constellations, called this group no “Bear” but “Wain,” because two of the seven stars which seemed of equal size and closest together were considered oxen, and the other five were like the figure of a wagon. And so the sign which is nearest to this they wished to be called Boötes. We shall speak of him later on. Aratus, indeed, says that neither Boötes nor the Wain has these names for the reason above, but because the Bear seems, wagon-like, to wheel around the pole which is called North, and Boötes, is said to drive her. In this he seems to be considerably in error, for later, in connection with the seven stars, as Parmeniscus says, twenty-five were grouped by certain astronomers to complete the form of the Bear, not seven. And so the one that followed the wagon and was formerly called Boötes, was now called Arctophylax [Bear Watchter], and she, at the same time that Homer lived, was called Bear. About the Septentriones Homer says that she was called both Bear and Wain; nowhere does he mention that Boötes was called Arctophylax." (II.2)
In a variant of the story, in which it is Boötes that represents Arcas, Ursa Minor represents a dog. This is the older tradition, which explains both the length of the tail and the obsolete alternate name of Cynosura (the dog's tail) for Polaris, the North Star. Cynosura is also described as a nurse of Zeus, honoured by the God with a place in the sky.
Ursa Major is visible at latitudes between +90° and −30°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of April. Ursa Minor is visible at latitudes between +90° and −10°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of June.

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

"Another Hades/Plouton ask: why is it kind of taboo to actively worship/invoke Hades? I understand His association with death, but He is not the god of death in the way Thanatos is, nor did he choose to be lord of the dear. I've always been very interested in Him both as Hades and as Plouton. I suppose my question is, why is this not really encouraged? Have I interpreted Him all long? Does He prefer not to be invoked by us?"

As king of the Underworld, the ancient texts tell us Hades became quite cut off from the world above. It were only the oaths and curses of men that reached His ears, as they reached those of the Erinyes. This is why when people invoked Him, they dug a pit to sacrifice in and struck the earth with their hands to get His attention. Black male sheep were offered to Him and the person who offered the sacrifice had to turn away his face.

Pausanias wrote in his 'Description of Greece' about the one temple (at Elis) where Hades was worshipped as Lord of the Dead:

"The sacred enclosure of Hades and its temple (for the Eleans have these among their possessions) are opened once every year, but not even on this occasion is anybody permitted to enter except the priest. The following is the reason why the Eleans worship Hades; they are the only men we know of so to do. It is said that, when Heracles was leading an expedition against Pylus in Elis, Athena was one of his allies. Now among those who came to fight on the side of the Pylians was Hades, who was the foe of Heracles but was worshipped at Pylus.
Homer is quoted in support of the story, who says in the Iliad:–
And among them huge Hades suffered a wound from a swift arrow,
When the same man, the son of aegis-bearing Zeus,
Hit him in Pylus among the dead, and gave him over to pains. Hom. Il. 5.395-397
If in the expedition of Agamemnon and Menelaus against Troy Poseidon was according to Homer an ally of the Greeks, it cannot be unnatural for the same poet to hold that Hades helped the Pylians. At any rate it was in the belief that the god was their friend but the enemy of Heracles that the Eleans made the sanctuary for him. The reason why they are wont to open it only once each year is, I suppose, because men too go down only once to Hades. " [6.25.2]

The only other time Hades as Lord of the Underworld was part of religious services seems to have been at funerals.

Hades was worshipped throughout ancient Hellas, but mostly in His epithet of Plouton; 'Wealth-giver', who was mostly connected to the fruitful earth, not the dead. He had a temple in Elis, near Mount Menthe, at Olympia, and was worshipped at Athens in the grove of the Erinnyes. In ancient Hellenic religion and myth, Ploutōn represents a more positive concept of the God who presides over the afterlife. The name Ploutōn came into widespread usage with the Eleusinian Mysteries, in which Ploutōn was venerated as a stern ruler but the loving husband of Persephone.

Ploutōn and Hades came to differ in character, but they are not distinct figures and share their  mythology. Ploutōn as the name of the ruler of the underworld first appears in Hellenic literature of the Classical period, in the works of the Athenian playwrights and of the philosopher Plato, who is the major Hellenic source on its significance. Under the name Ploutōn, the God appears in other myths in a secondary role, mostly as the possessor of a quest-object, and especially in the descent of Orpheus or other heroes to the underworld.

In general, Khthonic--Underworld--deities have Ouranic epithets that make them less scary and more helpful to humanity. It were these epithets that received worship, not the Kthonic ones. Worhipping Hades in His role as Lord of the Dead is a modern concept. Not wrong, per se, but modern.


"My husband and I are started looking into Hellenismos recently and we had a question pertaining to the Percy Jackson books. Percy uses a hand gesture described as a claw over the heart being pushed out to ward off evil. We were wondering if this is a real hand gesture and if so what are its origins? And are there any gestures in the Hellenistic religion that we should know about?"

This hand gesture is unknown to me, based on ancient sources. There are a few others I know of:

- During Ouranic sacrifice, the palms of both hands are turned upwards and the arms raised. During Khthonic sacrifices, this is reversed (palms down, arms down).
- Libations for Ouranic deities are poured out from a bowl in the right hand, libations to Khthonic deities are poured out from a bowl in the left hand.
- The 'fig sign', a gesture made with the hand and fingers curled and the thumb thrust between the middle and index fingers was a fertility and good luck charm designed to ward off evil in ancient Hellas, but is often seen as obscene now.
- The 'Mountza sign' was and is a traditional Greek insilt. It's made by extending and spreading all five fingers and presenting the palm or palms toward the person being insulted.
- When you swear an oath to the Theoi, hold up your right hand, bend your pinkie and ringfinger down to your palm and extend all other fingers up.


"Do you believe that you can consider yourself a practitioner of Traditional Hellenismos if you practice mindfulness, which has its origins in Buddhism? I have issues with anxiety and depression, and I find the techniques of mindfulness immensely helpful."

Yes, I do. The ancient Hellenes were big on meditation and practiced many other self-awareness and tempering techniques as they believed (rightfully so) that it sharpened their minds. Go for it, especially if it helps you! I truly believe that nothing should ever come between you and your mental health, even if it was frowned upon in ancient Hellas.


"What do you think will happen with your soul when you die? In a Hellenic Polytheistic way."

The ancient Hellenes believed that the moment a person died, their psyche--spirit--left the body in a puff or like a breath of wind. Proper burial was incredibly important to the ancient Hellenes, and to not give a loved one a fully ritualized funeral was unthinkable. It was, however, used as punishment of dead enemies, but only rarely. Funerary rites were performed solely to get the deceased into the afterlife, and everyone who passed away was prepared for burial according to time-honored rituals.

Orphic ideas of the soul and afterlife are most often defined by explicit contrast with the Homeric view of the afterlife, which is taken as the standard view for ancient Hellenic culture. The Homeric afterlife is that of a grim, joyless and tedious existence in the Underworld. The Underworld of Homeros exists solely--at least for the now departed mortal--of the Asphodel meadows. The dead drink from the river Lethe and forget who they were. Sacrifical (animal) blood returns a sense of life to the shades and they recover their memories for a short time. In this tradition, life is lived while you are alive. One you die, you are dead. You might cling to life, but you will never truly be part of it again.

The Orphics were an ancient mystical cult with affinities to Indian religious systems. They believed in reincarnation and the possibility of liberation. Orpheus, the movement's legendary founder, is said to have taught that soul and body are locked together during life; the soul is divine, immortal and aspires to freedom, and during life, the body acts as a prison to the soul. Death releases the soul for a short while, but is then captured by another body until that, too, dies, and so the soul moves from body to body--both human and animal--until it can attain the highest good: liberation. In order to reach liberation, the Orphic way teaches to turn to God by ascetic piety of life and self-purification: the purer the life lived, the higher will be the next reincarnation, until the soul has completed the spiral ascent of destiny to live for ever as God from whom it comes.

The ancient Hellenes called this process 'Metempsychosis' (μετεμψύχωσις). It is a philosophical term which refers to the transmigration of the soul, especially its reincarnation after death. The notion that the human soul enters another body upon death, though unfamiliar in Hellenic religion, was widespread in Hellenic philosophy. The doctrine of transmigration is first associated with the Pythagoreans and Orphics and was later taught by Plato and Pindar. For the former groups, the soul retained its identity throughout its reincarnations; Plato indicated that souls do not remember their previous experiences. Although Herodotus claims that the Hellenes learned this idea from Egypt, most scholars do not believe it came either from Egypt or from India, but developed independently.
My personal believes of life after death have shifted over the years. I transitioned into Hellenismos from Eclectic Religious Witchcraft and in my former Tradition, reincarnation was the primary belief. Since the ancient Hellenes had a version of it in metepsychosis, I simply went with that. Now, the older I get and the better my understanding becomes of the ancient Hellenic culture and religion, the more I pull to a more Homeric version of the afterlife. A bit later, perhaps, where Elysium is an option for those who live the highest, purest, of lives. I long for the meadows now. I don't strive for Elysium; I don't think it's for the common folk like me. Give me the meadows and the water of the river Lethe. Let me live life to the fullest. Let me live its up and downs. Give me the completion of my goals and my challenges, and then let me forget and wander in contentment, remembered sometimes--hopefully fondly--by those I leave behind.


The Minoan civilization was an Aegean Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and other Aegean islands and flourished from approximately 3650 to 1400 BC. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of British archaeologist Arthur Evans. Historian Will Durant referred to it as "the first link in the European chain."

It was not until roughly 5000 BC in the late Neolithic period, that the first signs of advanced agriculture appeared in the Aegean, marking the first signs of civilization. The term "Minoan" refers to the mythic King Minos. Minos was associated in Greek myth with the labyrinth and the minotaur, which Evans identified with the site at Knossos, the largest Bronze Age Minoan site. The poet Homer recorded a tradition that Crete once had 90 cities.

The Minoans were primarily a mercantile people engaged in overseas trade. Their pottery provides the best means of dating. As traders and artists, their cultural influence reached far beyond the island of Crete — throughout the Cyclades, to Egypt's Old Kingdom, to copper-bearing Cyprus, Canaan, and the Levantine coasts beyond, and to Anatolia. Some of its best art is preserved in the city of Akrotiri, on the island of Santorini, very near the Thera eruption.

Though we cannot read their language (Linear A), and there is much dispute, it is generally assumed there was little internal armed conflict in Minoan Crete itself, until the following Mycenaean period. The armed Mycenaeans or the eruption at Thera are two popular theories for the eventual demise of Minoan civilization around 1,400 BC.

The Ministry of Culture and Sports announced the completion of the preliminary and exploratory works for the year 2021 on the Shipwreck of Antikythera. The new five-year underwater research programme is being conducted by the Swiss School of Archaeology under Dr. Angeliki G. Simosi, Head of the Euboea Ephorate of Antiquities and Lorenz E. Baumer, Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Geneva. Based on the results of this year’s research, a detailed programme will be prepared for the following years (2022-2025), in collaboration with all competent bodies involved. As noted in the announcement, maximum results were achieved in this year’s short expedition despite quite difficult weather conditions.

The first expedition of the second five-year programme took place between October 1-10 and focused on a detailed mapping of the site of the Antikythera wreck and the creation of its complete photogrammetric three-dimensional model in high resolution. On the one hand the mapping allows a much more accurate analysis of the distribution of the findings on the sea floor, fundamental to the accurate representation of the sinking of the ship in the 1st century BC. On the other hand it offers a new cutting-edge tool for an accurate planning of further research.

The successive integration of new and older findings in the model will result in the shipwreck’s complete documentation. It also makes it possible to access the space virtually through the internet. Moreover, this year’s expedition recorded most of the wreck’s surroundings, providing new and important information that will be investigated in future expeditions .

Despite the plethora of findings salvaged from the shipwreck from 1900 to the present, recent research between 2014 and 2019 shows that the scientific community is on the verge of discovering more important archaeological evidence that will help to better understand the site, answering key questions that have remained unanswered for more than 100 years.

The purpose of the investigation is to complete the collection of data necessary to draw conclusions regarding the following : the existence of other remnants of the Antikythera Mechanism at the site of the shipwreck, the ship and its cargo that remain covered as a result of a landslide, the possible connection between wrecks A and B, as well as the number of people aboard ship wreck A. An equally important goal is the discovery and collection of findings which include human skeletal remains, parts of the Antikythera ship and cargo which are exposed and vulnerable to possible human interventions and the adverse effects of the environment.

The most important find is part of a marble statue trapped under a heavy boulder. The initial analysis and documentation of the artefact was carried out by in situ photogrammetry and in due course will be further investigated. During the research, some smaller wooden and bronze structural elements of the ship were retrieved, as well as fragments of ceramics that give valuable information on the cargo’s dating and composition.This and other findings yielded by the future excavation will contribute to a more complete understanding of the valuable cargo on board the ship.

The field teams were coordinated by commodore Alexandros Palatianos and the director of underwater research was Alexandros Sotiriou, a collaborating archaeologist at the University of Geneva, with the participation of members of the Special Diving Team of the Submarine Missions Unit of the Coast Guard, underwater archaeologist Orestis Manousos and Italian researcher Dr. Elisa Costa of Ca ‘Foscari University in Venice.

The research is being conducted by the Swiss School of Archaeology under the supervision of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and with the funding of the Ekaterini Laskaridis Foundation and Swiss Watch Manufacturer Hublot. The Athanasios K. Laskaridis Public Benefit Foundation has provided the Norwegian ship Typhoon, while Cosmote supports the project’s telecommunications.

The project is under the auspices of President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou and actively supported by the Municipality of Kythera and the people of Antikythera.

According to Hellenic mythology, the deities Aphrodite and Dionysos had a grand love affair. So, perhaps it's fitting that archaeologists found the ancient statuary heads of the Goddess of love and the reveler near each other during a dig in the ancient city of Aizanoi, in western Turkey.

The discovery of the deities' heads helps top off a previous find; on an earlier dig, archaeologists found the statues' headless bodies, Gokhan Coskun, an archaeologist at Kütahya Dumlupınar University in Turkey and the excavation coordinator, told Anadolu Agency, a Turkish state-run news organization. 

"These are important findings for us, as they show that the polytheistic culture of ancient Greece existed for a long time without losing its importance in the Roman era," Coskun said. "The findings suggest that there may have been a sculpture workshop in the region."

The ancient city of Aizanoi has a rich history filled with ancient Greek and Roman period settlements. Its earliest settlement dates to the second millennium B.C., but many of its remaining ruins date to the Roman Empire, including its Roman baths, Zeus temple and macellum, or Roman indoor market. Aizanoi is listed as a "tentative" World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 

Archaeologists found the Roman-era heads of Aphrodite and Dionysos buried in a creek bed in the ancient city. Each head is made of limestone, with Aphrodite's head measuring 19 inches (50 centimeters) and Dionysus' head measuring 17 inches (45 cm) tall, according to the news site GEO. It's unknown how the statues' heads became separated from their bodies.

Previously, archaeologists in Aizanoi uncovered the statue of Hygieia, Goddess of health, cleanliness and hygiene, according to GEO. 

A white, hermetically sealed door, secured by an electronic lock, is what visitors to the British Museum encounter when they attempt to admire the Parthenon Sculptures. The Sculpture Room, like five other rooms with Greek exhibits, has remained inexplicably closed for ten months, heightening fears in the international lobby for the return of the Sculptures that the damage to the Museum's glass roof, which has resulted in water dripping next to (!) the Marbles, has not been repaired.

A recent inspection of the British Museum, in Bloomsbury, Central London, revealed that the Duveen Gallery, the room housing the priceless ancient Greek treasures sculpted by Pheidias, is still inaccessible to the public, unlike the other rooms that have been open since last May, when the last lockdown in Britain ended. This is despite assurances from officials at the beginning of the summer that 'the "Greek" galleries will open soon'. A spokesman for the museum was unable to give specific answers, speaking generally of a "programme of repairs and maintenance" being carried out on the halls. As for when they will reopen? Sometime "later this fall"...

In total, six rooms with ancient Greek exhibits remain closed: rooms 15, 16, 17 and 18 (ed. the last one exhibits the Sculptures), which are not open due to "repairs", and rooms 19 and 20, which do not admit visitors due to "compliance with measures for the coronavirus". Surprisingly, Museum officials, when asked, give different versions of both the reason for keeping the "Greek" halls closed, from December 2020, and when they will reopen. We asked four members of the Museum's staff who have the authority to answer questions from the public, and received four different answers! "We don't know exactly when they will open. Maybe in a month. Do you live in London? If so, come back in a while or give us a call," the first employee told us. Why are the halls closed? Because of a leak in the roof, I asked her. "Yes, and also for general maintenance." "We hope the halls will be open by the end of the year," said the second museum employee we asked, also admitting that what is keeping them closed is the water leak. "You know, it's an old building", she explained. A third employee made the same admission. "We are working to address the leak," she noted, adding that "our expectation is that the halls will reopen before the end of 2021." However, a fourth employee disagreed with the previous officials: "Renovation work is taking place. The reports of leakage are rumours and are very 'far-fetched'. I think the hall will be opened soon," he said.

Representatives of the campaign to repatriate the Marbles are alarmed, even expressing concern about the integrity of the sculptures. On August 15, the International Association for the Restoration of the Parthenon Sculptures (IARPS), which represents 21 national commissions from around the world, wrote to the museum's president Sir Richard Lambert, its director Dr. Hartwig Fischer and its commissioners on the issue. In the letter - shown here - the Union expresses its "deep concern" that the hall remains closed, stressing that the "potential moisture problem creates a dangerous situation for the sculptures". At the same time, it calls on the Museum to "reconsider its position on the ongoing division of the Sculptures", noting its "moral obligation" to reunite all the surviving Sculptures in the Acropolis Museum". "It is sad that Room 18 has remained closed since last December until further notice," IARPS president Dr. Chris Titgutt said, noting that "the inadequate air conditioning conditions in the room are a cause for concern." "I hope," he added, "that we don't have to wait another 22 years to admire the Parthenon Sculptures in London again, as happened in 1940 when the Duveen Gallery was hit by a bomb and remained closed until 1962! Then, of course, the Sculptures were kept in a safe place and remained intact."

Almost two months later, the museum has not responded to the letter, which Dr. Titgutt calls "regrettable." "That they have not responded is extremely disappointing. I wonder if this is how they are having a dialogue on such a pressing issue? It is time for the British Museum and Britain to move into the 21st century," added Paul Cartledge, a renowned Cambridge Hellenist, vice-chairman of IARPS and the British Commission on Sculpture (BCRPM).

"I would be happy if Room 18 were closed permanently, rather than temporarily as it is now, because it would mean that the magnificent sculptures snatched by the looter Lord Elgin would be reunited in the Acropolis Museum," said Janet Susman, chair of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Sculptures (BCRPM). "No one can say with certainty what kind of works are being done in the Greek halls of the British Museum and for how long," the internationally renowned Shakespearean actress added, stressing that "the poor conditions of the Sculptures' display have been pointed out by the BCRPM on many occasions: portable heaters in winter, open fire exits in summer, water leaking from the roof when it rains. We call on the British Museum to allow the Sculptures to be reunited in the iconic Acropolis Museum."

The "Greek" halls were closed to the public on 16 December 2020, when the building was locked due to the lockdown imposed by the British government. The museum reopened five months later, on 17 May 2021. However, the halls of Ancient Greece remained closed, with officials continually postponing the date of their reopening. According to reports, the heavy rainfall on 25 July in London caused, once again, water to leak into the Marble Hall, within inches of the exhibits. Advocates for the return have expressed concerns that the moisture could damage the ancient works of art. The British Museum's website states that the "Greek" rooms are "closed until further notice" due to "regular maintenance work". Museum visitors walking to Room 18 - known as the Duveen Gallery - which houses the sculptures, are forced to stop at Room 23. There, a plywood door, recently installed as part of a temporary structure, blocks the entrance to the other Greek exhibitions.

The problem of leaking water in room 18 was first highlighted in December 2018. Since then, it has remained unresolved, with many commentators calling the situation unacceptable and embarrassing for a museum of Britain's stature. The poor exhibition conditions of the sculptures were also highlighted by UNESCO ten days ago, expressing "concern that the Duveen Hall is not open to the public due to necessary repairs" and adding that it "looks forward to its reopening in due course". Almost every time it rains torrentially and the rain is lengthy, water accumulates on the roof, which sometimes drips into the Sculpture Hall. Usually, the situation is handled with buckets placed next to the Marbles and rags spread on the floor! At the same time, signs of mould have been evident on the ceiling for at least 20 years. This time, however, it appears that the problem is more serious and has kept the hall closed for almost a year. 

In an exclusive interview in January 2019, the museum's director Dr. Hartwig Fischer had claimed that it was "a small leak" that was "fixed immediately". Reality, however, contradicts him. "It is shocking that a world-class museum has to close its rooms because of water or moisture leaks. Almost three years later, it seems that this 'minor leak' has still not been fixed. Instead, it has led to the closure of the hall for several months," said Marlene Godwin, International Relations Officer of the British Commission. She added: "The fact that we are not being told when it will open shows a lack of professionalism, to say the least." The last time the issue was raised was in August. "The conditions under which the sculptures are displayed at the British Museum range from offensive to dangerous," Culture Minister Lina Mendoni had said. However, a museum source claimed that "the problem with the leaks has been fixed".

In her statement, the Museum's spokeswoman refrained from answering when exactly the Greek halls will open and what kind of work is underway.

"The British Museum is housed in a historic and listed building. Its facilities are under constant evaluation. We have a team of experts who carry out regular inspections throughout the museum to identify risks to its collection and ensure they are managed appropriately. The care of the collection and the safety of our visitors and staff are our highest priorities.

"The necessary work being carried out is part of a programme of repair and maintenance of the building, which will enable other projects to be carried out on the Museum site in the future. Alongside these essential repairs, we are developing a strategic masterplan for the transformation of the British Museum in the future. This includes refurbishing our historic buildings and grounds, improving the experience of our visitors and an ambitious presentation of our collections in a different way over the next few years.

"Temporarily, rooms 15 to 18 on the ground floor are not accessible to the public. The Museum is developing a programme of work in these rooms. However, the scheduling of the work has been delayed due to the impact of the pandemic on the Museum's schedule. Additional work and inspections were carried out over the summer. These halls are currently closed to ensure the safety of our visitors and our collection while these inspections take place. In the past there has been some water intrusion in some areas of our halls that have been closed. We have not set a date for their reopening, but the goal is to open them later this fall."

Le Monde recently devoted an extensive report to the issue of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures in response to the "urgent" appeal made by UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee to the United Kingdom to reconsider its position. "Athens has been claiming these marble sculptures for 40 years, with a persistence that demands admiration," commented Michel Guerin, editor-in-chief of the French newspaper. He pointed to both the "ocean of support" for the Greek request and the silence of the major Western museums, which see the British position as a "floodgate": "If it collapses, it could open the floodgates of returns, and these involve tens of thousands of works acquired in questionable circumstances."

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 - 21 November - 20 Maimakteria - festival for Zeus Maimaktes ('Blustering') to be gentle come winter.
  • 25 Maimakterion - 30 November - Pompaia - festival in honor of Zeus Meilikhios ('Kindly') and Hermes

Anything else?
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