On 20 June 2019 Greece and the world museum community will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Acropolis Museum in Athens. The state-of-the-art museum is regarded as one of the best in the world and its designers, builders and operators are justifiably entitled to celebrate this defining structure. But amidst all the euphoria, let’s not forget that the museum was seen as the long-awaited catalyst for the return of the Elgin collection of Parthenon Sculptures currently on display in the British Museum. Ten years later, how closer is Greece to reunifying the Parthenon Sculptures? George Vardas (Vice-Chair of Australians for the Return of the Parthenon Sculptures) discusses.

"It is important to recall that one of the main reasons for the new museum was to counter the British argument that the Greeks did not have a suitable museum for the Parthenon Sculptures even if they were ever returned to Athens. Indeed, as one historian has noted, the new museum was intended not only to create a modern museum space that related directly to the Scared Rock, but also served as a

“political vehicle for the vociferous expression of the request for the return of the Parthenon marbles from the British Museum and a proof that they will take good care in the soil that gave birth to them”.

For years, the British Museum had dreaded the moment when an iconic new museum would rise from the ground in Athens. In fact, on 22 March 1991 the former Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum, B M Cook, had sent a memo to the British Museum director with this warning:

“The next phase of the campaign for repatriation is likely to begin any time after the actual start of construction of the new Acropolis Museum. The problem has not gone away, it is merely in hibernation; and when it wakes up, our successors will find that it is fiercer than before.”

The Greeks had also assumed that the new museum would make that case emphatically. As a 2002 report in the Washington Post noted, Greece was building the museum in hopes of reinforcing efforts to change the up-to-now negative stance of the British government and ”shaming the British government into giving back sculptures taken two centuries ago”.

Prior to the actual unveiling of the museum in 2009 the former Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis declared:

“Once the museum is completed, Greece will have a very strong argument for the return of the Parthenon sculptures. We are taking a very important step to finally realise a dream that unites all Greeks.”

The Acropolis Museum has therefore always been the centrepiece of the campaign for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures but unfortunately it was assumed that, once built, the case for return would be made out.

At the actual opening, the then President of the Hellenic Republic, Karolos Papoulias, stated:

“The whole world can see, all together, the most significant sculptures of the Parthenon. Some are missing. Now is the time to heal the monument’s wounds with the return of the marbles to where they belong … their natural setting.”

The Acropolis Museum has therefore always been the centrepiece of the campaign for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures but unfortunately it was assumed that, once built, the case for return would be made out.

For a start, the British Museum had other ideas. Over the last decade it has carefully rebranded itself as the universal museum, the “museum of the Enlightenment”, the “collective memory of mankind”, a museum at the “centre of a conversation with the world” and therefore the logical repository for the marbles. Today, it arrogantly describes itself as the “museum of and for the world”.

According to the British Museum, the life of the Elgin Marbles as part of the story of the Parthenon is over and they are now part of another narrative, that of the British Museum in London, in a not too subtle attempt to suppress the context of their origin.

In April 2018, the British Museum hauled some twelve pedimental sculptures, metopes and parts of the frieze into a separate hall in the museum under the pretext of displaying these works of art together with sculptures by the renown French sculptor, Auguste Rodin. In its press release the British Museum stressed that the exhibition “will provide a new opportunity to focus on the Parthenon Sculptures as individual works rather than as part of an ensemble” as an obvious counter to the claim that the sculptures are integral to a unique monument.”

This followed a similar exhibition – Defining Beauty – in 2015 and the notorious ‘loan’ of the River God Ilissos pedimetal sculpture to the Hermitage Museum in Russia in late 2014.

Whilst Greece may have a new museum in Athens, the British Museum has devised a new political and diplomatic playbook by which it promotes the Parthenon Sculptures as individual works of art which can be dispersed or dismembered as the Trustees see fit, with no intention of ever returning the collection to Athens.

Meanwhile, cultural diplomacy via mediation through UNESCO has been rejected. Resolutions made at the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee on Cultural Property over the last 30 years for meaningful negotiations to be undertaken between Greece and Great Britain over the sculptures have also been routinely ignored by the British side.

So, while we can justifiably celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Acropolis Museum as a magnificent museum and the unifying element for the Parthenon and its sculptures, the unfortunate reality is that we are no closer to the return of the sculptures.

Whilst Greece may have a new museum in Athens, the British Museum has devised a new political and diplomatic playbook by which it promotes the Parthenon Sculptures as individual works of art which can be dispersed or dismembered as the Trustees see fit

The next Greek Government needs to carefully reassess its approach and to embrace all political, diplomatic and legal options that are available to bring about an effective resolution so that one day, when all the known surviving sculptures are finally reunited from the British Museum and elsewhere, the Parthenon Gallery of the Acropolis Museum can truly be called the most famous single room of Classical Greek art in the world.

Only then will the Greek Stones truly speak."
I don't have children, but I can imagine raising any future children in the Hellenistic Tradition. Now the weather is improving, I'm going to describe some fun things to do with children to get them in the mood for a Hellenistic festival, and to help make them feel more included.

While the Hellenistic rituals are pretty fun, and children are easily included--washing their hands and face, throwing barley grains, acting as carriers of water, wine or offerings, etc.--there are most certainly specifically Hellenistic activities that you can undertake with your children to make the day memorable and prepare them for the rituals, should you so desire.
  • let the children design their own Hellenic clothing, and have a fashion show to show off the designs
  • pick flowers with the children and let them make their own wreath to wear for the festival
  • assist the kids in writing a mythologically inspired play, and let them perform it on the day of the festival; this play can be inspired by existing plays, of course
  • play '20 questions' with the kids by having them stick a post-it with the name of a Theos or Theia on it on their foreheads and asking each other questions to find out who they are
  • make temples of their own design with the kids; these can be drawn, fashioned out of clay, made out (or inside of) shoe-boxes, or with bricks and wood, if you have the resources at your disposal
  • a similar assignment can be done  for altars, pottery, columns, statues, or ancient Hellenic houses
  • Hellenic shields and helmets can be made out of cardboard
  • how about drawing monsters on cardboard and cutting them out? They can play 'Hēraklēs' with them afterwards and vanquish them
  • collect as many rocks and other markers as you can find and lay out the lines of a temple behind the altar, so they can play at being priests and priestesses
  • alternatively, the kids can make a labyrinth and find the heart of it, like Theseus when he went to hunt for the Minotaur. Having them find their way out is also an option, of course
  • cook as much Hellenic food together as you can stomach and have a tasting party
  • let the kids read and study the Hellenic alphabet, and compose coded messages to each other. Use clay or plaster to create a plaque the students can carve their name into. Use a paperclip as a hanger (apply to the plaster or clay while it hardens) so the plaque can go on the wall. Stone fleck paint or simple gray paint can be used to 'stonify' the plaque afterwards.
  • make ancient Hellenic coins out of clay, carving images into it, or using the clay to make a mould that you can pour tin in. Note, tin fumes are poisonous and is has to be melted! Don't let the kids do this themselves!
  • host Olympics with kids-appropriate sports like long jump, sprints, relay races, and things like frisbee throw, space hopper races, and rope jumping competitions
As you can see, there are a thousand-and-one things to do with children that will teach them about ancient Hellas, and make a festival day extra special. Besides, most of these things, I would love to do myself; the space hopper races, especially!

Image taken from: Culture24
Archaeologists in Bulgaria have found a pedestal fragment with an inscription in ancient Greek, dating to the second century BC. The discovery was made last week at the Great Basilica site in Plovdiv.

Overall researchers found three fragments, probably part of a large statue which was later reused for the paving of the atrium. The statue was probably in honour of a prominent citizen of Philippopolis, who organised celebrations in honour of the gods and goddesses, and it was probably placed in the theatre. After all, the word ‘theatro’ is still visible on the inscription.

The inscription is dated to the time of emperor Trajan or Hadrian, namely the first decades of the second century. The Great Basilica is estimated to date to the 4th-5th century. Therefore archaeologists believe the pedestal was probably somewhere nearby and was used as construction material for the basilica.

The inscription is of particular interest since it is the first time the Ancient Theatre of the city is mentioned explicitly. Another inscription found in the past linking the Basilica to the theatre comprised a list of  the Elders’ Council members. This second link between the two sites is therefore quite important.

Epigraphist professor Nikolai Sharankov who examined the letters on the stone slab said that so far two letters of the person represented are visible, and hopefully more fragments will be found in the future and help restore it.
“Excellence, very-hard-work for mortal races,
The finest catch in life
For your beautiful form, Maiden,
it is an enviable fate to die in Greece
and to suffer hard, relentless toils.
This is the kind of bravery you
Toss in the heart, an immortal thing better than gold,
Or parents, or soft-glancing sleep.
Isn’t it for you that Zeus’ Herakles and the sons of Leda
Labored in their deeds,
Trying to gather up your power?
Because of longing for you, Achilles
And Ajax came to Hades’ home.
For your love and beauty too,
The child of Atarneous lost the light of the sun.
For this reason the deeds get a song and the Muses,
Memory’s daughters, will make it immortal,
Shouting out the glory of Zeus the god of hospitality
And the gift of trustworthy friendship.”

Ὁ δὲ ὕμνος ἔχει τοῦτον τὸν τρόπον·
ἀρετά, πολύμοχθε γένει βροτείῳ,
θήραμα κάλλιστον βίῳ,
σᾶς πέρι, παρθένε, μορφᾶς
καὶ θανεῖν ζαλωτὸς ἐν Ἑλλάδι πότμος
καὶ πόνους τλῆναι μαλεροὺς ἀκάμαντας·
τοῖον ἐπὶ φρένα βάλλεις
κάρτος ἀθάνατον χρυσοῦ τε κρεῖσσον
καὶ γονέων μαλακαυγήτοιό θ᾿ ὕπνου.
σεῦ δ᾿ ἕνεχ᾿ οὑκ Διὸς Ἡρακλέης Λήδας τε κοῦροι
πόλλ᾿ ἀνέτλασαν ἔργοις
σὰν ἀγρεύοντες δύναμιν.
σοῖς δὲ πόθοις Ἀχιλεὺς
Αἴας τ᾿ Ἀΐδαο δόμους ἦλθον·
σᾶς δ᾿ ἕνεκεν φιλίου μορφᾶς καὶ Ἀταρνέος
ἔντροφος ἀελίου χήρωσεν αὐγάς.
τοιγὰρ ἀοίδιμος ἔργοις, ἀθάνατόν τε μιν αὐξήσουσι
Μναμοσύνας θύγατρες, Διὸς ξενίου σέβας αὔξουσαι
φιλίας τε γέρας βεβαίου.

Today, I would like to announce the last PAT ritual for Skirophorion, the Diisoteria. It will be held on 3 July, 10 am EDT--our usual time--and we would like you to join us in honoring Zeus, Athena, Asklēpiós, and Hygeia.

The Diisoteria was held on the last day of Skirophorion in the Piraeus, the ancient port of Athens. Fourth century accounts show that a large number of bulls were sacrificed at the festival. The sum set aside for the sacrifice in 323 BC is reported as either 50 talents or 30 talents but neither figure can be regarded as wholly realistic since Demosthenes, who was put in charge of the sacrifice for that year, was expected to pay the bulk of an outstanding fine from the money allocated. It was presided over by the archon.

The sacrifice was performed to mark the end of the old year and beginning of the new. It was held in honor of Zeus Soter and Athene Soteira, as well as Asklēpiós and Hygeia. The purpose of the sacrifice was to place the state under the protection of the God and Goddess during the upcoming year.

Will you join us in this PAT ritual to reign in the new year? You can find the ritual here and join the community here.
How about a little overview today? An overview of the fertility gods of Hellenismos. I'm going to start off with a lesser known deity: Priapos (Πριαπος), protector of sheep, goats, bees, the vine and of all garden produce. He was depicted with a huge male member, and can be petitioned for aid with any issues regarding the male genitalia. He was native to the Mysian city of Lampsakos on the Hellespont but the ancient Hellenes adopted the God as the son of either Hermes or Dionysos. His mother was usually Aphrodite. Fun fact: primitive statues of Priapos were traditionally set-up in vegetable plots to promote fertility with the added benefit of functioning as a type of 'scarecrow' scaring away birds.

Rhea (Ρεα), wife of Kronos, is a female fertility Goddess--amongst other things. She also looks after mothers and children, and is one of the great mother Goddesses in the pantheon having obviously given birth to the Olympians. Anything female-related (including issues with fertility) can be put before Her. Hera, by the way, has many of the same domains as Her mother--logical as she is the new generation's mother figure.

Aphrodite is also a fertility Goddess. She along with Zeus, Hera, Eileithyia and Hymenaios were the Theoi Gamelioi (Gods of Marriage) who presided over the wedding rites. She was invoked as the Goddess of the consummation of marriage and the fertility of the bride.

Speaking of which, Eileithyia (Ειλειθυια) is the Goddess of childbirth and labour pains. According to some there were two Eileithyiai, one who furthered birth and one who protracted the labour. Her name means 'she who comes to aid'.

Demeter and Persephone were regarded as fertility Goddesses in the Eleusinian Tradition, and during Their Thesmophoria festival, women actively asked for fertility from Them. Demeter, especially, is obviously also very important for the growth of plant life.

Dionysos is mostly associated with the fertility of the soil, and especially in regards to the grape vine, but human fertility is amongst His descriptors. Pan is regarded as much the same, as are many of the Satyrs and daimons connected to Them--like Tykhon, Konisalos, and Orthannes.

Phanes (Φανης) is the Protogenos of procreation in the Orphic cosmogony. He is the primal generator of life, and was the driving force behind reproduction in the early cosmos. Phanes was hatched from the world egg when it was split into its constituent parts by the ancient gods Khronos and Ananke. Arguably, He still drives the process of reproduction, be it in plants, animals, or humans.
Last week, I announced that Ubrisoft is working on a game with Hellenic mythology themes. During E3, one of the largest game fairs, Ubisoft released its reveal trailer and it looks awesome! It shows a lone hero who we hear is pretty important.

"When heroes need help, they turn to the Gods. When Gods need help, they turn to you”. Said hero is charged with saving the Hellenic gods from the monsters that have overpowered them – so, it only follows that he’s going to have to take on things at least equal to the gods’ mightiness. The chief of these, and the orchestrator of the gods’ trouble, is the Titan Typhon.

The trailer also seems to show one of the biggest, baddest baddies it looks like your hero will tackle – a kind of harpy-type creature. It’s not confirmed this is what it is – but, boy, it sure looks angry.
Following this, the Gods & Monsters site says you’ll face off against some of Hellenic myths’ other beasts – including Gorgons, Hydras, and Cyclopes.

It looks then like the “painterly” and visually pretty world Ubisoft has created in the game may be a little at odds with the scary things you’ll find occupying it. However, take these beasts on successfully, and you’ll be the hero of all Olympus. There’ll definitely be some kind of hard-earned reward for that, right?

Gods & Monsters will release February 25, 2020. So excite!