I am currently completely swamped with work and writing press releases and rapports has sapped me of all my writing juices. I need a day off to recover a little, so with your permission I am going to leave you with a compilation of all the videos I have ever done on Hellenismos and a request: If you have a topic you would like me to do a video on--something that lends itself better for a video than a written post--please let me know? I would love to do another video but I have zero ideas. Thank you!

How to prepare khernips
A short video on how to make khernips, the lustral water used to cleanse yourself with in Hellenismos.
More information: khernips

How to pour libations
A short video on how to offer libations, in this case, a sponde.
More information: sponde

How to make a kathiskos
A short video on how to prepare a kathiskos, the small jar filled with foodstuffs which is stored from the Noumenia (first day of the lunar month) until the Deipnon (last day of the lunar month) in a shrine to Zeus Kthesios.
More information: how to prepare a kathiskos

Making Manna
A short video on how I make manna, one of the prescribed incenses in the Orphic hymns.
More information: making manna

My Altar Space (requested)
A requested video about my altar space.
More information: my altar space

Ancient Hellenic clothing
A relatively lengthy video on hellenic clothing and how to pin the right look.
More information: ancient Hellenic clothing

Noumenia Ritual
This is a video with some highlights of a Noumenia ritual I did. My apologies for the sound issues--especially during the sacrifice to Artemis--it was supposed to be 16 degrees Celsius and suddenly my camera was out in 26 degree weather, full in the sun. Apparently, it will turn you into a smurf on speed when it overheats.
More information: Noumenia ritual

Guys, GUYS, you know I am a huge space geek, right? I was raised on science fiction books, my dad used to tell me star myths, and I have pretty much seen any science fiction movie in existence. So, why did I not know that there were mentions of Halley's Comet in ancient Hellenic writings?

Okay, so, astronomy lesson! Halley's Comet is a short-period comet, or periodic comet, meaning it is a comet that has a orbital period of less than 200 years. It is visible from Earth every 75–76 years. Halley is the only short-period comet that is clearly visible to the naked eye from Earth, and the only naked-eye comet that might appear twice in a human lifetime. Halley will make its next pass in 2061, and it has been doing this for many, many, many, years.

Daniel W. Graham and Eric Hintz published about a (possible?) ancient Hellenic sighting of Halley's comet in the Journal of Cosmology, 2010, Vol 9, 2130-2136. In the introduction they say:

"The regularity of the orbits of comet Halley has made possible the determination of its visits backwards in time through the Middle Ages to antiquity. Computer models have provided correlations between reports of comets back to the second and third centuries BC and astronomical records of the Babylonians and Chinese. So far the earliest probable sighting is the return of 240 BC, confirmed by Chinese observers. Thus far ancient Greek records, which do not contain systematic diaries of heavenly events, have not been considered in this connection. One famous event recorded by Greek philosophers and historians is the fall of a meteor in northern Greece in 467/6 BC. At the time of the meteor, a comet was visible. This coincides with the retrodicted appearance of comet Halley in the summer of 466 BC. Using computer models we examine the probable path of comet Halley on that return and find it is consistent with reports about features of the observed comet. The philosopher and scientist Anaxagoras is said to have predicted the fall of the meteor. One ancient source corrects this confusion and allows us to see how the Greeks combined theory and observation in this case." 

In the article they go on to list the various accounts, and go into the ancient scientific explanations put forth by the ancient Hellenic greats. In the end they never prove that the comet Anaxagoras of Clazomenae predicted, Daimachos saw, and Aristotle reported on was, in fact, Halley's Comet, but they make a very strong circumstantial case. Enough for me, at least, to get very excited over--because obviously the ancient Hellenes saw this phenomenon, but if they have actually written about it, that solidifies the links from our time to theirs. something like that will always get me excited.
I am always happy to report when money is invested in the restoration and preservation of ancient monuments. Cheimarros Tower is a fine example.

The Cheimarros Tower on Naxos (Credit: GTP)

The tower of Cheimarros is a point of reference for Naxos, the largest island in the Cyclades island group in the Aegean. It's 15 meters tall and was built at the end of the 4th century BC for defence purposes. It was made of local white marble without a binding agent and with great skill that indicated the high quality of stone carving in the classical antiquity.

The strong defensive character of the tower is verified by its height and the presence of only one window at a height of 10 meters off the ground. The tower was built with a double wall; the exterior wall is built by big local marble plinths, while the interior is built by stones of different size with connectors in between. The walls are connected at regular intervals by side-arch bricks, which stand out unrefined, exceeding the interior face. The gap between the two faces is filled up with a mixture of clay and boulder. In the interior of the building there is the ground floor and three further floors connected with a marvellous marble staircase. It is estimated that along with the roof the initial height of the tower was 18m but its shape isn’t certain. Finally, the tower is fenced with a 35 meter long wall.

The tower is a well-know tourist attraction and it's well known amongst the residents, who even have a local folk song for it:
"o kardia mou pou se tharrou, san ton pyrgo tou Cheimarrou"
"Oh my heart, you take courage, like the Tower of Cheimarros"

The Cheimarros Tower was declared archaeological site in 2011 along with two adjacent Byzantine churches, a part of an ancient road and part of the Tower's fencing wall. The tower will be restored following the approval of the Central Archaeological Council.
This blog is very lite on talk of magic, and that is for good reason: I am of the rather strong opinion that modern witchcraft has no place in Hellenismos--especially when that witchcraft is defined as acts which allow humanity influence over their lives and those of others, outside of the realm of the Gods. I call anything else 'praying', and if you need tools for that, than I take no issue besides the fact that it's non-Traditional--save for when it is. Recently I was asked about magic, though, so I've collected some existing words from this blog into a more cohesive blogpost on the subject. The question was:

"Did the ancient Hellenes practice magick? Is it ok to practice magick as a Hellenic polytheist? If so, is it then better to keep the Theoi out of the practice even though it involves their relms for example Poseidon and sea magic or Demeter and earth magic. Why is this a taboo subject in Hellenismos but not in Asatru for example. The Nordic people saw their Gods as the source of magic. Is this opposed to our ideas of the nature of the Theoi? Yet again we can never know their true nature."

Something I often hear about the ancient Hellenic religion, and prescribed about its modern equivalent, is that there was no magic in ancient Hellas. This is true. It's also a lie. It all depends on your definition of magic, and for the purpose of this reply, we are going to see magic as a form of prayer and ritual, conducted outside of the usual ritual steps. The Theoi were always invoked, but for magic, the sacrifices were usually to the khthonic, or Underworld Gods. When reading this post about a very specific subset of this type of magic, try to disassociate it with the modern use of the word: the same goes for 'spells', 'cursing', and 'binding'.

The ancient Hellenes were a competitive people, and struggled with many of the issues we do today: the urge to perform well, the desire for justice to be served, and a need for love. Prayers for these things were made often, usually in their normal ritualized form at the house altar. If these requests were made against, or at the expense of another person, however, they were generally taken out of the realm of regular worship and kharis, and into the realm of the khthonic. The preferred form were katadesmoi.

Katadesmoi are relatively small tablets, inscribed with a desire asked of the Theoi to fulfil. The Katadesmoi that have survived were generally made out of very thin sheets of lead, which were then rolled, folded or pierced with nails. Wax, papyrus, stone, precious metals, and precious minerals would also have been used as a medium. Some katadesmoi were accompanied by a small doll representing the intended victim or even a lock of their hair, especially in the case of love spells. In general, the katadesmoi always included the name of the intended victim and the name(s) of the appropriated Gods--most often Hades, Kharon, Hekate, and Persephone. Exceptions have been found, of course.

There have been around 1600 katadesmoi found around the whole of Hellas, and the practice was wide-spread. In fact, for the Olympic Games, competitors had to vow to Olympian Zeus that they would not cheat, and curse their opponents. Divine retribution would befall those competitors who did. A large percentage of the katadesmoi found contained love spells ("I want [name] to love me beyond all others"), or legal desires ("May [name] stumble on his words in defence of himself"), but many other ill wishes have been found.

Katadesmoi were usually deposited where they would be closest to the Underworld: in chasms, pools of water, wells, caves, temples to the deity in question, buried underground, or placed in graves. The latter was usually a special form, however, and the katadesmoi placed with the dead were usually requests to avenge the death of the deceased.

In general, katadesmoi were used out of desperation: regular channels had been exhausted, human courts would never convict the perpetrator of a crime, or the murderer could no be found. Pleading with the Gods--who knew more, saw more, ad had a much farther reach--was considered the only alternative to get justice. This was even the case in many love spells. Katadesmoi were not made willy-nilly: there needed to be a strong incentive to make one.

One other such incentive was the fear that a katadesmos curse had been placed upon you. In this case, the subject of the curse could make their own, and ask that the perpetrator of the katadesmos may suffer for it, and that his or her katadesmos may have no effect at all, except maybe to backfire on them. In this case, the katadesmos acts as a binding curse.

There is magic in the Classics as well; the most famous witch in Hellenic mythology is undoubtedly Kirkê (Κιρκη)--better known by her Roman name, Circe. She is the woman whom Odysseus comes upon on the island Aiaia, who turns his men into pigs, and keeps Odysseus with her--and in her bed, no less--for a year before she helps him get back to his quest to return home. The account of Kirkê is one of the founding myths for the modern witch stereotypes: she is the evil temptress, free with her sexuality, and freer with the magic that women possess by nature. She seduces Odysseus while beguiling his men, transforming them into docile animals--de-humanizing them, and stripping them of their masculinity. In the end, Odysseus overcomes her, and leaves, outside of her grasp forever. At least, that is the modern interpretation of her character.

Kirkê, in the time of Hómēros was not evil at all, yet she was dangerous. Kirkê, when looked at through the lens of ancient Hellenic society, is Odysseus' superior by far. It may seem a bit off-topic to go into this, but I must to make my point. Kirkê is the daughter of the Sun God Helios--which makes her a Goddess in her own right, but a more accurate term would be 'Nymph', putting her in control of nature. Her pedigree--by default--means that Odysseus can never master her, as Odysseus may be the favourite of the Gods, but he is not divine himself.

So, what of her magic? Kirkê is a Goddess whose powers manifest through herbs; what she does to men is not much different as many other--more powerful--Gods do unto humans as well with just a thought; Hellenic mythology is full of humans who get turned into animals (or plants) for their protection, or for the protection of the God in question. It's important to note that in the Odysseia, Kirkê's 'victims' are happy and domesticated; they are friendly and curious to visitors and Kirkê alike.

Kirkê's status over Odysseus takes her away from being a witch in the modern sense; she is a Goddess, and as someone lower in standing, Odysseus' wishes are something she can take into advisement but only needs to agree upon out of a sense of honour, not because her magical hold over him has broken. She never controls Odysseus--the moly potion/herb Odysseus is given establishes that--and they work out an agreement where they are on roughly equal footing, with Kirkê forever having the upper hand, but bound by her personal honour and oath to Odysseus. Her magic--her divinity--is made a moot point between them.

The Odysseia gives plenty of reasons why the words 'witch' and 'witchcraft' are dangerous for modern interpretation. These powers--and those that use them--are established as divine, taking these powers fully outside of the realm of humanity. Yes, there was 'magic' and 'witchcraft' in ancient Hellas and its mythology, but not in the way we know it now; this was divine magic; a manifestation of a trait major Gods manifest with a thought. These lesser deities require a medium to manifest their powers--especially in the case of Kirkê--but their powers are still the powers of a God. This is exactly why I feel we, as Hellenists, should pray to the Gods for any aid we might require, and blessings we would wish upon our lives; to practice magic ourselves would be to equate ourselves with the (minor) Gods, and Hellenismos is clear upon the status of humans: we are human, not divine. To practice magic is to practice hubris, and that is decidedly dangerous in a Hellenistic context.

Again, I want to stress that this concerns Traditional Hellenismos--as everything on this blog does. That is my practice, and it is what I understand best. If you want to practice magic; go for it. Who am I to tell you can or cannot do something? As for Asatru; it's hard--and in my opinion useless--to compare ancient cultures like this. The people were different, the thoughts about the divine were different, and unless you are a soft polytheist who conflates all Gods and Goddesses, lumping them and their culture together is detrimental to all Gods in question. Again, my opinion. Magic is a touchy subject in Hellenismos because it borders on hubris, and as a Traditional Hellenist I find myself shying away from everything that could possibly induce hubris and damage my kharis with the Gods. I gave up my magical practice--as sporadic as it was--once I progressed into Hellenismos. It's a personal choice, but one that was very clear for me. How you decide is up to you.
You may recall that a long while ago, a petition made the rounds to help πατο Συμβούλιο των Ελλήνων Εθνικών, the 'Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes', become a governmentally recognised institution. The organisation, also called 'YSEE', is in modern Greece, and if you have ever looked through the YSEE website, you are well aware that its members have a pretty rough time in their homeland, trying to re-establish the ancient religion.

Modern Greece is a very Christian country, and any attempt to practice a different religion--let alone reconstruct an ancient one--is met not only with resistance, but violence, property damage, and a great deal of threats. On top of that, the Greek government refuses to recognize Hellenismos as a valid religion, making it hard to receive funding for temples and celebrations, protection of its members and facilities, and opportunities to worship at the ancient sites. To help aid the Hellenist practicing in Greece, Stylianos K. created an on-line petition for those who supported this cause to sign. His plea:

"Please Help the ethnic Hellenes in Greece to get their native tradition recognized as a Statutory corporation and having equal rights, just as every other native tradition should have in the EU. Help the native hellenic tradition and religion, because it is the tradition which gave us democracy, liberty of speech and Humanism."

The use of these online petitions is debatable, but a new round of petition signing has commenced and if your name is not on there yet, now is the time to do it. The goal is to get to two thousand signatures, and the petition is well underway. Take a moment out of your day and sign your name here. It might not help but it certainly won't hurt.
Recently I was asked if I define as religious or spiritual, or both, and I found myself with an easy answer but a lack of words to explain why. As such, I decided to make a post out of it (because that is what you do when you are a blogger--you fill the page with your ramblings). Anyway, I'm religious. Always have been; that's what got me into Paganism: the belief (or desire to believe) in the Gods and to worship Them to the best of my ability. I am also of the firm belief you can't be both but that you can practice both, regardless. This depends on your definition, though, which means I should give that a go.

The definition of 'religious' that resounds most with me is 'believing in a God or a group of Gods and following a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects'. In general, this means you accept the worldview laid out before your by those who designed or furthered the religion; you can be critical of this world view and tinker with it a little to fit your own views, but in general, you will accept the beliefs of the group.

'Spiritual' is the hard one; the definition of the term that resonates most with me is 'the personal, subjective, dimension of religion'. A spiritual person, in my opinion, defines their own religious boundaries, creating their own worldview and definition of the divine. A spiritual person has made the conscious decision not to be attached to a specific set of religious rules, allowing them greater freedom to define rules of their own. They may find inspiration in existing religious worldviews but feel uncomfortable adopting the whole of it because it conflicts with their own views or simply does not feel truthful to their reality.

I think the conscious choice we make between religious or spiritual defines our viewpoint and the label we adopt. You can be religious and follow a specific religious framework, be religious and not follow a specific framework for whatever reason, be spiritual but practice a religious framework, or spiritual and practice a spiritual framework. You identify as one or the other, though.

When I was just starting out with religion, I didn't have a specific framework in which to pour my religious views; many religions resonated with me and I had many views of the divine that refused to be bound into a specific school of thought. I wanted to be religious, though. I wanted that framework. That is why I never labelled myself as spiritual, and I still don't. I am now a religious person who practices a religious framework, but I was religious to start with.
A year and a half (!) ago, I spoke of the remains of the Temple of Aphrodite in Thessaloniki which were then in danger of being covered by a new city block. There was a petition which over 3000 people signed, and a passionate plea, which included the video below. It seems the work done was for naught though... because the Archaeology News Network reports that the site is still in danger, much to the anger of local residents.

The initial decision of the Central Archaeological Council, shortly after the excavation of the monument, was to expropriate the land and proceed with the excavation of the temple. Later, the decision was revised and the Council decided to keep the basement of the apartment building under construction. Two years ago the fate of the temple was discussed again at the CAC (Central Archeological Council) and was given positive votes for the expropriation of land, since this time the issue has been 'frozen'. If the expropriation is rejected and the opposition accepted, the temple will remain buried and a national treasure will be left unseen.
According to the school of Architecture of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Antigonidon square can be reformed in two levels, so that the temple would be rebuilt and become visible in its entirety--and that is still a worthy struggle. There is a new petition people can sign. It's in Greek, but follows the basic format so everyone should be able to find their way around. Let's come together, spread the word, and get some names on that petition; this beautiful temple needs saving.
Yesterday I published my 800th blog post. That is more than I had ever thought I would publish. When I started this blog, I wasn't sure how long I would keep up this blog, nor how frequently I would be posting. I was at the start of my Hellenistic journey when I started, and we are now a little over two years in. Some of you have been with me since the beginning, and that is amazing to me.

Depending on the blog post, it takes me anywhere from half an hour to three or four to get done--every day. Say it takes me an hour, that means I have spent 800 hours on this blog, which--for the math inclined--is a little over 33 days of non-stop blogging. This does not include the reading I do, the rituals I perform, or the talks I have with people. It's a major investment and I invest my time happily. 800 blog posts; I wish Blogger had a way to count words. I think it would be staggering.

Especially in the last half year or so, you guys have been more vocal, asking me questions, letting me know you read and appreciate the blog, and more notes along those lines. I love this. I love hearing that my blog is your first stop in the morning, or that my words have helped you form your practice. Baring the Aegis has well over 200.000 views; nothing major, but well-appreciated.

This is a post to say thank you, for coming here, for sticking with me, for being friendly, respectful, and understanding. I am very blessed, and very aware of that. I hope you will continue to come back and read what I write. I am always open to receiving questions on my email or Tumblr or Facebook. It might take a while for me to get to it, but I will--eventually.

Once more, thank you. May the Theoi bless you and yours, and may you honour Them with love and kindness--and while having a lot of fun.
It's the holiday season, and that means vacationing! For those who are visiting Greece this year--or who are planning to visit it in the future--I would like to give you my top fifteen of sites to visit, things to do, and thing to see as a Hellenist visiting this beautiful country. Let's start the countdown and happy holidays!

15. Klaros
This was an ancient Hellenic sanctuary on the coast of Ionia, an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey. It contained a temple and oracle of Apollon, honoured here as Apollo Klarios, and was considered a very important centre of prophecy as in Delphi and Didyma. It may have dated back to the sixth or seventh century BC, and is perhaps even older. It was also the site of ancient games, held every five years.

14. Aristotle's Trail
Aristotle is one of the most famous Greek philosophers and scientists. He was born in Northern Greece in a town called Stagira, in 384 BC. He founded the Peripatetic School (Wandering School), an informal institution where members tried to answer difficult scientific and mostly philosophical questions. After Aristotle’s death, a legend travelled around Greece that he used to walk while teaching, mainly around Stagira. There are various paths for visitors to choose from, depending on difficulty and length, and there are paths for mountain biking also. In addition to the trail, the local community recently opened an Aristotle theme park.

13. 'The Woman of Zakynthos' performed at twenty-five ancient sites
The Athens Festival institution, in collaboration with the Diazoma association, have taken the initiative of opening 25 ancient Greek theatres and archaeological sites to the public in order to promote the country’s cultural heritage. Most are ancient Hellenic theatres will host various theatrical productions during the summer. For an overview of the sites, go here.

12. Samothrake
Samothrake is a Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea. It was the home of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, site of important Hellenic and pre-Hellenic religious ceremonies. In ancient times, the site served as a worship area to Axieros, a deity related to Cybele and Demeter, Kadmilos, an ithyfallic deity identified with Hermes, and the Cabeiri, ithyfallic demons identified with the Dioskouroi. It was also the site of a Mystery Cult. Currently, the site houses some fo the treasures found at the site, in both a storehouses and a museum.

11. Naxos
Naxos is a Greek island, the largest island in the Cyclades island group in the Aegean. It was the centre of archaic Cycladic culture. According to Hellenic mythology, young Zeus was raised in a cave on Mount Zas ('Zas' meaning 'Zeus'). It boasts ruins of a temple of Apollon, as well as one of Demeter, and it also has many beaches that draw heaps of tourists.

10. The temple of Zeus at Nemea
Built c. 330 BC over the remains of an earlier temple, the Temple of Zeus lies in the centre of the Sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea. The 9,240 square foot Temple played a significant role in the Nemea Games, one of the original Pan-Hellenic Games of Ancient Greece. It was before this Temple that, prior to the Nemea Games, the athletes would pay homage to the father of their gods, Zeus. The Temple’s construction included three Greek architectural forms, the Doric, the Corinthian, and the Ionic. 32 limestone columns each standing 42 feet tall, and composed of 13 cylindrical stones, called “drums”, each weighing approximately, 2.5 tons, surrounded the Temple of Zeus.

9. Ancient Messeni
This is a local community within the regional unit of Messenia, and is located in the far south of modern Greece. Most of the area of Ancient Messene contains the ruins of the large classical city-state of Messene refounded by Epaminondas in 369 BC, after the battle of Leuctra and the first Theban invasion of the Peloponnese. The ancient city can be visited and is a major tourist attraction. In ancient times, it was founded by helots (Spartan slaves) running from Sparta. The defensive wall they built around the city to keep them out still exists in some places. The most important monuments of the archaeological site are the Asklepieion (see 7), the Temple of Poseidon, the Sanctuary of Demeter and the Dioskouroi, the stadium and gymnasium of Heroon where sons of noble families were trained, as well as the Theatre of Messeni, which has recently been cleared for a make-over.

8. The palace of Knossos
The palace of king Minos at Knossos is legendary because it was home to the minotaur who roamed the maze beneath it. In the myth, Theseus--a young, brave, hero--lets himself be amongst those who will be sacrificed to it, and with the help of Ariadne's string, is able to kill the minotaur and leave the maze again, unharmed. It's one of the myths that everyone knows. The palace in which the myth takes place, however, is less well known but equally impressive. It is an architectural marvel, which was incredibly ahead of its time. Even the ruins are impressive. Knossos was undeniably the capital of Minoan Crete. The ruins of the palace are located about twenty minutes south of the modern port town of Iraklio.

7. Epidaurus
Worship places of Asklēpiós were called 'asklepieia'. An asklepieion served as a temple, a hospital, and as a training-institute of the healing arts. The most famous of all the asklepieia was located at Epidaurus, and large parts of it are preserved. The site is open to visitors. In ancient Hellas, the sick would come to an asklepieion and offer a sacrifice to Asklēpiós--amongst the recorded sacrifices are black goats or sheep, gold, silver, or marble sculptures of the body part that required healing, and coins--in hopes of healing. They would then settle into the abaton or enkoimeterion, a restricted sleeping hall, which was occupied by the sick alone, or sometimes by a group of them, as well as a good few snakes.

Epidaurus also boasts a famous theatre. It's was--and is--a huge theatre, seating 15.000 people. The theatre was designed by Polykleitos the Younger in the 4th century BC. In the time of the Hellens, the theatre had thirty-four rows. Another twenty-two were added in the time of the Romans. While there were many theatres in ancient Hellas, the theatre of Epidaurus is famous for its perfect acoustics. Even today, you can hear a match being struck on the stage from any point in the theatre. For a limestone construction that's 2400 years old, that's pretty impressive.

6. Olympia
A sanctuary located in Elis, known for having been the site of the Olympic Games in classical times. The sanctuary consists of an unordered arrangement of various buildings including the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Zeus, the Pelopion (the alleged tomb of Pelops) and the area of the altar where the sacrifices were made. The hippodrome (a stadium for horse racing and chariot racing) and later stadium were also nearby. The Prytaneion (the building where the officials and winners of the Olympic games mets) and the Philippeion (an Ionic circular memorial) are located to the north of the sanctuary, as well as the array of treasuries representing the various city states. In Ancient Hellas, Olympia was sacred ground to the Greeks.

5. Kórinthos
Kórinthos, or Corinth, is a city and former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese, Greece. It is located about 78 kilometres (48 miles) southwest of Athens. Ancient Kórinthos was a city-state (polis) on the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece, roughly halfway between Athens and Sparta. The modern town of Corinth is located approximately 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) northeast of the ancient ruins. Ancient Corinth was one of the largest and most important cities of Greece, with a population of 90,000 in 400 BC. After the Romans built a new city in its place and made it the provincial capital of Greece in 44 BC, the city population was between 100,000 to 700,000 according to different sources. It boasts many museums filled to the brim with findings from various ancient sites, and boasts the 'Acrocorinthis', the acropolis of ancient Corinth, two ports, a converted a temple to Aphrodite, a temple of Apollon, and many, many, other site to visit.

4. Delos
The island of Delos near Mykonos, near the centre of the Cyclades archipelago, is one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece. Investigation of ancient stone huts found on the island indicate that it has been inhabited since the 3rd century BC. By the time of the Odyssey the island was already famous as the birthplace of the twin gods Apollo and Artemis. Between 900 BC and AD 100, sacred Delos was a major cult centre where Dionysus is also in evidence as well as the Titaness Leto, mother of the divine twins. Eventually acquiring Panhellenic religious significance, Delos was initially a religious pilgrimage for the Ionians. The island houses the Temple of the Delians (Apollon and Artemis), the famous Terrace of the Lions, several market squares, the Temple of Hera, the House of Dionysus', and much, much, more.

3. Eleusis
The temple complex at Eleusis was one of the most elaborate and widely used sanctuaries around in ancient Hellas. It was the home of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and thus served as the cult's sanctuary. The Mysteries had festivals throughout the year, which were tied to agriculture through Demeter'srefusal to perform her duties as an agricultural Theia while her daughter Persephone is with Hades, and to the afterlife and Underworld through Persephone's return to the surface of the earth after Her mandatory stay with Hades has ended. Initiation ceremonies were held every year at Eleusis. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, the mysteries at Eleusis are assumed to be of great importance to a large portion of the ancient Hellens. The cult itself likely has origins dating back to the Mycenean period of around 1600 to 1100 BC, and it is believed that the cult of Demeter Herself was established in 1500 BC.

2. Athens
Athens is a sprawling city established among seven historic hills and surrounded by remarkable mountains. Inhabited for more than 3,000 years, Athens is widely known as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy. As the largest and capital city of Greece, Athens is also the political, commercial, financial and cultural centre of Greece. It boasts a great variety of sites for the Hellenistic tourist to visit, from the Acropolis, to the New Acropolis Museum, to the National Archaeological Museum, to the temple of Olympian Zeus, to Aristotle’s lyceum,and much, much, more. The Acropolis boasts the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike, and the The 'Lyceum' was a gymnasium and before that a public meeting place in a grove of trees in Classical Athens. It was named in honour of Apollo Lyceus. Though best known for its connection with Aristotle, the Lyceum was in existence long before his founding the school there in 334 / 335 BCE, providing a teaching ground for long list of philosophers and sophists, including Prodicus of Ceos, Protagoras, Isocrates, Plato, and Socrates.

1. Delphi
The number one always had to be Delphi. The Delphi complex held the temple of Apollon, the Amphictyonic Council (a council of representatives from six Greek tribes that controlled Delphi and also the sports events), various treasuries where the votive offerings to Apollon and/or the oracle were stored, the altar of the Chians (the main altar, located in front of the temple of Apollon, funded by the people of Chios, the stoa of the Athenians (A series of seven futed columns, used to house Athenian war trophies and collect the stories of freed slaves), Sibyl rock (the rock where the prophet Sibyl sat to deliver her prophecies), a theatre, the Tholos (the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia), a gymnasium, a stadium, the Hippodrome (where the running events took place), the Polygonal wall, the Castalian spring, and a large variety of athletic statues. The complex was also the site of one of the Panhellenic Games.

The site was at the epicenter of important travel routes; the road leading from northeastern and eastern Hellas to the plain of Amfissa--where it met the road joining northern Hellas with Naupactus--passed through Delphi. From the beach of Itea, it was easy to pass to nearby Peloponnesus. This not only made Delphi an important religious site, but a commercial one, and it was one of the major keys to its success.
In my introduction series, I try to put a spotlight on Gods and Goddesses who may be easy to overlook, but who hold posts very important to our lives. Recently I was asked to write a little about Eirênê (Ειρηνη), Goddess of Peace, and representative of the season of spring.

"I've been searching for prayers/rituals to Eirene, but I haven't been able to find much, besides new-age/wicca stuff which is not what I'm interested in. If you have anything on Eirene, would you post something about her on your blog?"

The ancient Hellenes were aware of only three seasons: Spring, Summer and Winter, and only these had deities presiding over them--the Hôrai: Eunomia (Good Order, Good Pasture), Eirene (Peace, Spring), and Dike (Justice). They were originally the personifications of nature in its different seasonal aspects, but in later times they were regarded as Goddesses of order in general and natural justice, because these were required for farming prosperity. The association of agriculture with law and order can also be found in the divinities of Zeus and Demeter, for example. She had three more sisters: the Moirai, the Goddesses of fate. Their names are Kloto (Κλωθώ, spinner), Atropos (Ἄτροπος, unturnable), and Lakhesis (Λάχεσις, Alotter).

Eirênê and Her sisters are old Goddesses, being born of Themis and Zeus. Themis is the Titan goddess of divine law and order--the traditional rules of conduct first established by the Gods. She was an early bride of Zeus and his first counsellor and was often represented seated beside His throne advising Him on the precepts of divine law and the rules of fate. Zeus hardly requires an introduction, does he? According to Hesiod in his 'Theogony':

"Next he married bright Themis who bare the Horae (Hours), and Eunomia (Order), Dike (Justice), and blooming Eirene (Peace), who mind the works of mortal men, and the Moerae (Fates) to whom wise Zeus gave the greatest honour, Clotho, and Lachesis, and Atropos who give mortal men evil and good to have." [ll. 901-906]

The Horai, Eirênê, Eunomia, and Dikē

Eirênê was born to Zeus and Themis in a coupling before He took Hera as his wife and queen. Her family tree would look as follows:
  Chaos ------------ Gaea
             |                |
      Ouranos   ---   |
              Themis -- Kronos --- Rhea 
                 |              |
                      |            Zeus
                  |     ---     |

Eirênê was particularly well regarded by the citizens of Athens. After a naval victory over Sparta in 375 BC, the Athenians established a cult, erecting altars to her. They held an annual state sacrifice to her after 371 BC to commemorate the Common Peace of that year and set up a votive statue in her honour in the Agora of Athens.

As for prayers to her; there are actually hymns to her, and a few beautiful prayers that have survived to now. The Orphic Hymn to her is well known and prescribes fumigation from Aromatics.

"Daughters of Jove [Zeus] and Themis, seasons bright, Justice [Dike], and blessed Peace [Eirene], and lawful Right [Eunomia], Vernal and grassy, vivid, holy pow'rs, whose balmy breath exhales in lovely flow'rs. All-colour'd seasons, rich increase your care, circling, for ever flourishing and fair: Invested with a veil of shining dew, a flow'ry veil delightful to the view: Attending Proserpine [Persephone], when back from night, the Fates [Moirai] and Graces [Kharites] lead her up to light; When in a band-harmonious they advance, and joyful round her, form the solemn dance: With Ceres [Meter] triumphing, and Jove [Zeus] divine; propitious come, and on our incense shine; Give earth a blameless store of fruits to bear, and make a novel mystic's life your care."

Another one of my favourites is from Euripides, from his play 'The Suppliant Women' (or 'The Suppliants'):

"How far peace outweighs war in benefits to man; Eirene, the chief friend and cherisher of the Mousai; Eirene, the enemy of revenge, lover of families and children, patroness of wealth. Yet these blessings we viciously neglect, embrace wars; man with man, city with city fights, the strong enslaves the weak." [484]

In Hómēros' Epigrams we find another line which always moves me:

"Open of yourselves, you doors, for mightly Ploutos (Plutus, Wealth) will enter in, and with Ploutos comes jolly Euphrosyne (Mirth) and gentle Eirene (Irene, Peace). May all the corn-bins be full and the mass of dough always overflow the kneading-trough." [XV]

The link between Eirênê and Ploutos (Πλουτος, 'Wealth') was well-established, and the image to the side depicts both. Ploutos is a son of Demeter, the Goddess of agriculture, who bore him after lying with the hero Iasion in a thrice-ploughed field. He was blinded by Zeus so he would distribute wealth indiscriminately and without favour towards the good or the virtuous. He was almost always depicted as a boy or baby, and was often carried by either Eirênê or Tykhe, the Goddess of fortune. Ploutos was identified with Plouton, the God Haides (Hades) in His role as the deity of the earth's hidden stores of wealth.
In art, She was depicted as a beautiful young woman carrying a cornucopia, the staff of Hermes and a torch or rhyton--a container from which fluids were intended to be drunk or to be poured in some ceremony such as libation.

I hope this is enough to satisfy your curiosity about Her, dear reader, and give you a good start to Her worship.
There are very few things more important than the basic pillars of Hellenismos. There are also few things harder to grasp. As such, getting questions about katharmos or, as in this case, kharis is not odd to me. This question came through Tumblr. I am going to recycle bits and pieces from older post for this reply.

"Helloo! I haven't been able to find the answer to this question and i really really would like that someone answer..! Did everyone believe in/practice kharis in ancient greece? Like was it common knowledge that a reciprocal relationship with the gods was the right kind or something? Thank you!!"

One of the most important practices within Hellenismos and ancient Hellenic orthopraxy is kharis (xάρις). Kharis is--to give an incredibly limited definition--the act of giving to the Gods so They might give something in return. It's religious reciprocity. It's also so much more.

Kharis is an important word. It means everything from beauty to joy, delight, kindness, good will, grace, favor, benefit, boon, charm, attraction, appeal, elegance, gracefulness, pleasure, cheerfulness, wit, gratitude, thankfulness and gratification. It's the name of a Goddess as well; the Goddess of Grace and Beauty. This seems to complicate matters, but it actually ties in pretty well.

When we, in Hellenismos, petition the Gods for aid, we always do so with an offering. This offering can be incense, a libation, a food offering or anything else. It must be something tangible. Good thoughts and intentions don't count. This offering is given freely, joyfully, with pleasure, out of respect and love for the Gods. We ask what we feel we need--sometimes that's a new job, sometimes just a vague sentiment like honour and prosperity to the household--and never expect to be granted this request. Petitions aren't bribery. We give to the Gods and should They feel inclined to grand us our request, we thank Them by offering to Them again, to which the Gods might respond, to which we will sacrifice, and so on. This circular practice of voluntary giving is called kharis.

Kharis is one of the pillars of Hellenismos, together with xenia and katharmos. Those who practiced kharis properly in ancient Hellas were seen as humble, grateful and good people in general. Kharis is the base of a good few words we use to describe related acts and characteristics to this day; charisma, for instance, and charity. To word it differently; kharis represents your reputation with a specific Deity.

Building a relationship with the Theoi was vital for the ancient Hellenes and it's vital in Hellenismos today. It's the foundation of daily practice, of the large-scale festivals of old, of Xenia, katharmos and the whole of Hellenismos. You can't practice Hellenismos without striving for a reciprocal relationship with the Gods.

Did everyone believe in the practice of kharis...? Well, no one will ever be able to answer that question, but I can tell you that from what we have found out about their society, the huge majority of the ancient Hellenes did, in fact, practice their religion this way. The Theoi were seen as people, as powerful persons who could interfere in your life either positively or negatively. Keeping Them happy was of major importance. It was not just the right thing to do, it was the vital thing to do; it was an extension of xenia--ritual hospitality--linked to Theoxenia. It was a way of living that extended to the Gods, and in reverse, extended from the Gods to humanity.

One of my favourite Hellenic myths shows the link between kharis and xenia in great detail, and also shows that the ancient Hellenes were very aware of the way they related to the Theoi; it's the story of how Baucis and Philemon received some unexpected visitors. You can read a long version of the myth here but it comes down to this: 

"Zeus and His son Hermes descended to earth to test the hospitality of the little town that is home to the elderly couple of Baucis and Philemon, who live in a run down hut a little ways away from the small, rural village. The Gods are dressed as simple travellers, weary from their long journey on foot. They knock on the doors of all of the houses in the village but find no one willing to open the door and take them in. With every house the Gods pass, the anger of the Gods rises, but before They punish this town for their despicable ways, They decide to test the last house in the village as well; the house of Baucis and Philemon. 

It is Philemon who opens the door after the first knock and begs the travellers to enter. The hut is tiny and the two, who have been together for almost all of their long years, have not much to give. Still, the two bustle around the hut to repair enough stools for all to sit, to find enough food for all to eat and, as the night progresses, enough places for all to sleep. Neither Baucis nor Philemon realizes the true nature of their guests until they realize the small jug of wine has not run out, betraying the divinity of their guests.

Both Baucis and Philemon throw themselves down in front of the Gods, begging for forgiveness for such a sorry welcome but the Gods, who have not been offended in the least, beg them to rise and walk out with Them, to the top of the hill. There, Zeus turns to the village and floods the valley completely, killing all residents. He spares the hut that belongs to Baucis and Philemon and even transforms it into a temple. He then asks what favour the pair would want from the Gods, as they have truly deserved one. The pair asks to honour the Gods for their remaining years in the temple created below and ask that, when their dying day comes, that they may go together so they will never be without the other. This, the Gods grant happily."
This is how the ancient Hellenes saw religious reciprocity, and their relation to the Gods; it mattered greatly, and truly was a cornerstone of their life--and it should be ours as well.
We are currently in the middle of a heat wave and I am hot, I haven't slept too great, and I'm a little miserable because I'm not exactly made for heat so I'm going to keep this short, take a shower and find a way to get through another day of hot weather. Sorry.

The Archaeology News Network reports that a team of archaeologists is excavating the remains of a vast ancient Mycenaean citadel, known as Glas or Kastro (castle). Under the leadership of Associate Professor Christofilis Maggidis of Dickinson College and the auspices of the Athens Archaeological Society, teams of specialists have been systematically surveying the imposing, island-like, flat-topped bedrock outcrop that rises 20-40 meters above a surrounding plain with a summit area stretching 49.5 acres at the northeastern edge of the Kopais basin in southeastern Greece. The area is estimated to measure ten times the size of the ancient citadel of Mycenaean Tiryns and seven times that of Mycenae.
Extensive remains of vast Mycenaean citadel revealed
Aerial view of Glas showing the massive cyclopean walls enclosing and defining
the site of the ancient remains [Credit: C. Maggidis]

 Glas was apparently the regional storage center of production and fortified administrative seat and residence of two local rulers who were probably appointed by the palaces of Thebes and Orchomenos to supervise and maintain the complex draining system, organize and regulate the agricultural production, manage taxation, central storage and redistribution of products (crops and wine), control and defend the satellite peripheral settlements and populations.

Beginning in 2010, Maggidis and his colleagues conducted a systematic geophysical survey of the citadel using ground penetrating radar (GPR), a Fluxgate gradiometer, electrical resistivity, and satellite imagery. The team focused primarily on unexplored areas and some already excavated sectors.

The results were illuminating; the citadel of Glas was not left void of structures outside the central enclosures after all, but was apparently covered with many buildings of various uses, including at least five large and well-built complexes, extensive residential quarters and clusters of buildings stretching between these complexes, (semi)circular structures (silos?), a cistern, staircases, retaining walls and terraces. The systematic investigation of the Mycenaean citadel of Glas will continue and intensify in the next decade

Please read the entire article, because it is incredibly illuminating, and well worth the time.
I feel a little like the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland today, so I fear I must keep this short. Today, I would like to share with you the The Palaikastro Hymn to Cretan Zeus. At the end of May in 1904 a fragmentary inscription bearing a Hymn to Zeus was discovered at Palaikastro in East Crete, during the excavation of the sanctuary of Dictaean Zeus, on top of the ruins of a Minoan harbour town which contained this hymn. From the very informative, and very well researched paper by Mark Alonge on the subject:

"The Palaikastro Hymn—better known as the Hymn of the Kouretes—does not celebrate a god of pre-Hellenic pedigree, who is Zeus in name only, as scholars have believed with virtual unanimity. Rather, an understanding of the conventions of Greek hymnic performance in its ritual context goes far to elucidating many of the ostensibly peculiar features of the Hymn. Moving out from Palaikastro, in eastern Crete, to survey the island as a whole, I show that the Cretan iconographic and epigraphic records contradict the widely accepted theory of a special, Minoan 'Cretan Zeus.' "

 The hymn goes as follows:

"O supreme son of Kronos, salutations! All-powerful over refreshment, you stand at the head of the gods. Come to Dicte at the turn of the year and take pleasure in our song. We weave it for you with lyres, having blended it with pipes, and we sing having taken our places around your well-walled altar.
O supreme son of Kronos, salutations! All-powerful over refreshment, you stand at the head of the gods. Come to Dicte at the turn of the year and take pleasure in our song. For on this very spot, your shield-bearing guardians received you, an immortal child, from Rhea and beating their foot, kept you hidden.
O supreme son of Kronos, salutations! All-powerful over refreshment, you stand at the head of the gods. Come to Dicte at the turn of the year and take pleasure in our song. [two verses missing]…of the beautiful dawn.
O supreme son of Kronos, salutations! All-powerful over refreshment, you stand at the head of the gods. Come to Dicte at the turn of the year and take pleasure in our song. The Seasons teemed year by year and Justice held mortals in her power, and Peace, who loves prosperity, governed all creatures.
O supreme son of Kronos, salutations! All-powerful over refreshment, you stand at the head of the gods. Come to Dicte at the turn of the year and take pleasure in our song. But, lord, leap to our wine jars, and leap to our fleecy flocks, and to our fields of fruit leap, and to our homes made thereby productive.
O supreme son of Kronos, salutations! All-powerful over refreshment, you stand at the head of the gods. Come to Dicte at the turn of the year and take pleasure in our song. And leap to our cities and leap to our seafaring ships, and leap to our new citizens and leap to fair Themis.
O supreme son of Kronos, salutations! All-powerful over refreshment, you stand at the head of the gods. Come to Dicte at the turn of the year and take pleasure in our song."
Ancient Hellas was the birthplace of a lot of things, but did you know that the story of Cinderella also has its foundations in Hellenic mythology?

Cinderella, or 'The Little Glass Slipper', is a European folk tale. The best known version of it was written by the Brothers Grimm in their folk tale collection Grimms' Fairy Tales, although most of us will know it best from the Disney movie of the same name. It's the tale of a kind-hearted young woman whose father marries a woman with two daughters of her own. Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters are wicked and treat her like a slave, yet they cannot stop her from attending the King's ball. During the ball, Cinderella loses her (glass) slipper as she hurried to make it out of the palace by the midnight curfew, and the prince finds her slipper, scouring the land for the woman it fits because he fell for her right away. Once he finds Cinderella, they marry and live happy ever after. The end.

Now, back to ancient Hellas where the first Cinderella and her slipper: the Hellenic geographer Strabo first recorded the tale of the Greco-Egyptian girl Rhodopis (Ροδώπις) in his Geographica. The story goes as follows: Rhodopis, a courtesan, was bathing. An eagle snatched one of her shoes from her maid, carried it to Memphis, and dropped it into the lap of the king (named Psammetichus in Aelian's account written in his 'Various History', book 13, chapter 33). The king searched for the owner of the shoe. He found Rhodopis in Naukratis (Ναύκρατις), and married her.

"High up, approximately midway between the sides, it has a movable stone, and when this is raised up there is a sloping passage to the vault. Now these pyramids are near one another and on the same level; but farther on, at a greater height of the hill, is the third, which is much smaller than the two, though constructed at much greater expense; for from the foundations almost to the middle it is made of black stone, the stone from which mortars are made, being brought from a great distance, for it is brought from the mountains of Aethiopia; and because of its being hard and difficult to work into shape it rendered the undertaking very expensive. It is called "Tomb of the Courtesan," having been built by her lovers — the courtesan whom Sappho the Melic poetess calls Doricha, the beloved of Sappho's brother Charaxus, who was engaged in transporting Lesbian wine to Naucratis for sale, but others give her the name Rhodopis.
They tell the fabulous story that, when she was bathing, an eagle snatched one of her sandals from her maid and carried it to Memphis; and while the king was administering justice in the open air, the eagle, when it arrived above his head, flung the sandal into p95his lap; and the king, stirred both by the beautiful shape of the sandal and by the strangeness of the occurrence, sent men in all directions into the country in quest of the woman who wore the sandal; and when she was found in the city of Naucratis, she was brought up to Memphis, became the wife of the king, and when she died was honoured with the above-mentioned tomb." [33]

Naukratis, loosely translated as '(the city that wields) power over ships', was a city of Ancient Egypt, on the Canopic branch of the Nile river and the later capital of Ptolemaic Egypt, Alexandria. It was the first and, for much of its early history, the only permanent Hellenic colony in Egypt.

Herodotos told the story of the slave Rhodopis in his 'Histories' almost five centuries before Strabo, without referring to any element of the Cinderella tale. He wrote that she was a beautiful Thracian courtesan, acquainted with the ancient story-teller Aesop. Later on, she was taken to Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Amasis (570–536 BC), and freed there for a large sum by Charaxus of Mytilene, brother of Sappho, the lyric poet.

"[F]or very many years later than these kings who left the pyramids came Rhodopis, who was Thracian by birth, and a slave of Iadmon son of Hephaestopolis the Samian, and a fellow-slave of Aesop the story-writer. For he was owned by Iadmon, too, as the following made crystal clear: when the Delphians, obeying an oracle, issued many proclamations summoning anyone who wanted it to accept compensation for the killing of Aesop, no one accepted it except the son of Iadmon's son, another Iadmon; hence Aesop, too, was Iadmon's. Rhodopis came to Egypt to work, brought by Xanthes of Samos, but upon her arrival was freed for a lot of money by Kharaxus of Mytilene, son of Scamandronymus and brother of Sappho the poetess. Thus Rhodopis lived as a free woman in Egypt, where, as she was very alluring, she acquired a lot of money—sufficient for such a Rhodopis, so to speak, but not for such a pyramid. Seeing that to this day anyone who likes can calculate what one tenth of her worth was, she cannot be credited with great wealth.

For Rhodopis desired to leave a memorial of herself in Greece, by having something made which no one else had thought of or dedicated in a temple and presenting this at Delphi to preserve her memory; so she spent one tenth of her substance on the manufacture of a great number of iron beef spits, as many as the tenth would pay for, and sent them to Delphi; these lie in a heap to this day, behind the altar set up by the Chians and in front of the shrine itself. The courtesans of Naucratis seem to be peculiarly alluring, for the woman of whom this story is told became so famous that every Greek knew the name of Rhodopis, and later on a certain Archidice was the theme of song throughout Greece, although less celebrated than the other." [2.134.3 - 2.135.5]

So, there you go, another mythological and historical titbit to share at birthday parties and impress your friends. I bet you are looking at Cinderella different now.

Image source: Wikipedia.
I am currently swamped with work, and seeing as there are only so many hours in the day, I wanted to quickly share some news with you guys before I rush off. Remember me geeking out about researchers who were going to use an exosuit to search the wreck of the 2000 year old shipwreck which yielded the Antikythera mechanism? Well, it hasn't happened yet, but it's still news worthy.

That is a video of the exosuit and its diver, Dr. Brendan Foley. He is the head of the American section of the international underwater expedition which boasts members of a variety of different ethnicities and disciplines which has spent the last two years preparing for the challenges ahead. The biggest of these, he says, is whether they will be able to get below the wreck and dig underneath, adding to previous searches of the surface of the shipwreck conducted by the sponge divers who discovered it in 1900 and Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1976.

"The ship was used for commercial purposes and we can speculate that there are more items to be found from its valuable cargo, which will most likely be very well preserved. We are also certain of the existence of a second wreck near the one where sculpture, amphorae and the mechanism were discovered. It is 250 meters away and was carrying similar ceramic objects. We discovered it about two years ago. It was obviously following the same route and may have been traveling with the ship carrying the [Antikythera] mechanism."

The exhibition in Athens on the finds of the wreck that went down in the second quarter of the 1st century BC--'The Shipwreck of Antikythera: The Ship – the Treasures – the Mechanism'--has recently ended, and is now on its way to Switzerland, where it will go on display in 2015. The dive for more treasure is scheduled to take place in September 2014, and will last a month.
Look who has returned back 'home'! Right on schedule, the Nike of Samothrake is back on its pedestal in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Winged Nike of Samothrace back in Louvre

Winged Nike of Samothrace back in Louvre
The Winged Victory of Samothrace is back on its pedestal in the Louvre Museum
in Paris following restoration wok [AP/Remy de la Mauviniere]
A little less than a year ago, it was announced that the statue--which had last been restored between 1880 and 1884, when the right wing and left breast were rebuilt with plaster and a metal structure was created to keep together the garments of the left wing--would get a new make-over. The goal was to clean the marble which had become darker with time and ascertain the state of conservation of the artwork and the assembling of various pieces as well as reintegrate fragments found over the past century. A block of cement at the statue's feet that was added in 1934 to highlight the leaping effect was removed.

Of the four million dollar project, three million was raised from sponsors and private donations. The effort was coordinated by the Anna Lindh Foundation, and personally, I would say they did an amazing job. From the sooth-stained marble to the beauty above, I would say it was four million well spent!
I love cats. We have one at home, a 17 year old black ex-pirate cat who secretly enjoys curling up on your lap but won't do it if others are around. Our grumpy feline friend is just as much as part of our household as we are, and I am sure it's the same for many of you. As such I wasn't very surprised to get a question about cats in my inbox. The question went as follows:

"Is there a greek goddess/god of cats? I know Dionysos is the god of leopards, jaguars (?) and such, but does that make him a god of smaller felines as well?"

As you are probably all well aware, the ancient Egyptians were big fans of cats, and one of their main Goddesses, Bastet, Goddess of protection and motherhood, carried the head of one. Alexandria had a temple to Bastet, for example, so the ancient Hellenes would have come in contact with Her. Most likely not everyone, but at least a few of the ancient Hellenes would have equated Bastet with Artemis--especially in Late Antiquity. Bast was a lioness goddess of the sun throughout most of Ancient Egyptian history, but later she was changed into the cat goddess Bastet. She also was changed to a Goddess of the moon by Hellenes occupying Ancient Egypt toward the end of its civilization. In Hellenic mythology, Bast also is known as Ailuros. Hyginus, for example, in his 2nd century AD 'Astronomica' writes:

"Egyptian priests and some poets say that once when many gods had assembled in Egypt, suddenly Typhon, an exceedingly fierce monster and deadly enemy of the gods, came to that place. Terrified by him, they changed their shapes into other forms: Mercurius [Hermes] became an ibis [the god Thoth], Apollo [Apollon], the bird that is called Thracian [the god Horus], Diana [Artemis], a cat [the goddess Bastet]. For this reason they say the Egyptians do not permit these creatures to be injured, because they are called representations of gods." [2.28]

You can read more about this bit of mythology here.

Returning to ancient Hellas--and not so much the Roman era--the question of the cat as a pet in ancient Hellas is rather vexing. Modern Athens is home to countless feral cats, however, the status of the cat in ancient Hellas is unclear, as images of cats are fairly rare. This is obviously a sign that even if there is a God or Goddess of cats in the ancient Hellenic pantheon cats are most likely a side-line.

Cats were probably kept by Greek households as liminal animals--animals who were free to come and go as they pleased, roaming houses and streets alike. This may account for the fact that few cat bones have been found in domestic situations. Historically, the main reason to keep cats is to get rid of mice, only in ancient Hellas the job of 'mouser' seems to have been handled by weasels and ferrets, many of which were also considered liminal pets. Yet some clear representations of cats do exist, primarily on funeral stele. These show caps on leashes, or being shown off as prized possessions, so we do know that some cats were updated to the status of 'pet'. The comic playwright Aristophanes liked to include cats in his productions and often used the phrase 'the cat did it' for comic effect, as cats were blamed for things breaking in the household.

So no, there isn't a God or Goddess of cats, but there is a Goddess associated with cats: Hekate. There is one single piece of mythology I have to base this on: the myth of Galinthias, the nurse of Alkmene, transformed by the angry Eileithyia, but received by Hekate as her animal. Again, I have only late sources, second century AD again, although this time recorded by Antoninus Liberalis in his 'Metamorphoses':

"At Thebes Proitos had a daughter Galinthias. This maiden was playmate and companion of Alkmene, daughter of Elektryon. As the birth throes for Herakles were pressing on Alkmene, the Moirai (Fates) and Eileithyia (Birth-Goddess), as a favour to Hera, kept Alkmene in continuous birth pangs. They remained seated, each keeping their arms crossed. Galinthias, fearing that the pains of her labour would drive Alkmene mad, ran to the Moirai and Eleithyia and announced that by desire of Zeus a boy had been born to Alkmene and that their prerogatives had been abolished.

At all this, consternation of course overcame the Moirai and they immediately let go their arms. Alkmene’s pangs ceased at once and Herakles was born. The Moirai were aggrieved at this and took away the womanly parts of Galinthias since, being but a mortal, she had deceived the gods. They turned her into a deceitful weasel (or polecat), making her live in crannies and gave her a grotesque way of mating. She is mounted through the ears and gives birth by bringing forth her young through the throat. Hekate felt sorry for this transformation of her appearance and appointed her a sacred servant of herself." [29]

As for Dionysos, He is God of wild, predatory, felines--of those felines who pose a wild threat, who can rip flesh and inspire fear. I doubt He looks out for the smaller felines as well, although of course you could ask if you have a feline companion you are worried about. Your best bet, though, would seem Hekate to me, as She has taken mercy on felines before.
Last year around this time, I reported on a Kickstarter project by Cosmo Wenman, who is making 3D models of ancient Hellenic and Roman sculptures and releasing those models into the public domain so anyone with access to a 3D printer can print them. No copyright, no charge, just to preserve the classics, and to enrich the lives of our children. Unfortunately, the Kickstarter wasn't a huge success, but Wenman hasn't given up on his project. In fact, he has just published another 3D capture from the Skulpturhalle where he is currently working: Athena of Velletri. You can see photos and download the model at Thingiverse.

on February 3, 2014, LACMA (the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) hired Wenman to give their new Art + Technology Lab its very first presentation. It was a private presentation to approximately fifty of LACMA’s staff, including curators, asset managers, and fundraisers. The topic was 3D printing, 3D capture, and opportunities for museums to use these new technologies to bring art to a wider audience. An online online adaptation of the presentation was published here. According to Wenman:

"There were a few raised eyebrows when it came to the topics of copyright and public domain, but it went well overall. Reactions ranged from positive and enthusiastic to–and I quote–”this is bullshit.” So I must be doing something right."

If you would like to support Wenman's work, please go here and/or spread the word.
On the 15th and 16th of Hekatombaion, the Synoikia (συνοίκια or συνοικέσια) festival was held in Athens. It was a community festival, sacred to primarily Athena, and was somewhat of a two-day festival held every year. Why the Sunoikia was celebrated, and what its origins are is not entirely clear; best I can tell is that it reaches back to the unification of twelve small towns into the metropolis of Athens, and is thus linked to the myth of Theseus. The festival started last night and will run until sundown the 14th this year.

Above, I stated that the Synoikia was 'somewhat' of a two-day festival; the 16th was the official sacred day, but the 15th was important as well. Parke, in 'Festivals of the Athenians' (1977), states that:

"Some light on the subject comes from a fragment of the fifth-century code of sacrificial regulations found in the Agora. It records among the festival held every second year as the earliest in the calendar sacrifices held on the 15th and 16th of Hecatombaion. This is evidently the Synoikia though the name does not appear in the inscription. Thuclydides did not mention anything about a two-yearly celebration, and one would naturally expect the commemoration of a historic even to take place annually. But the part of the code dealing with the annual festivals of Hecatombaion is lost, and it probably contained references to the annual Synoikia on the 16th, and one should picture the celebration as taking place on this one day every year, and every second year being held in a larger and more extended form over the two days of the 15th and the 16th." [p. 31]

The second day was the main event, and it contained sacrifices to Zeus Phratrios, Eirênê (Ειρηνη, Goddess of peace and spring), and most importantly: Athena. The Synoikia was believed to have been instituted by Theseus to commemorate the concentration, the Synoecism, of the government of the various towns of Attica and Athens. This unification is described by Thucydides, in his 'History of the Peloponnesian War':

"In this manner spake the Mytilenaeans. And the Lacedaemonians and their confederates, when they had heard and allowed their reasons, decreed not only a league with the Lesbians but also again to make an invasion into Attica. And to that purpose the Lacedaemonians appointed their confederates there present to make as much speed as they could with two parts of their forces into the isthmus; and they themselves being first there prepared engines in the isthmus for the drawing up of galleys, with intention to carry the navy from Corinth to the other sea that lieth towards Athens, and to set upon them both by sea and land. [2] And these things diligently did they. But the rest of the confederates assembled but slowly, being busied in the gathering in of their fruits and weary of warfare." [3. 15]

Prior to this mythical event taking place, it seems the Synoikia was solely a festival for Athena, as caretaker of Athens. All sacrifices went to Her. After the Synoecism, however, Zeus Phatrios gained importance: he oversaw the various phratries (clans) of Athens who had come together to form a unified people. The content of the Synoikia was solidified in a time of many wars, and it seemed many people were not only tired of them, but saw them as a threat to the solidity of Athens and Attica. As such, the inclusion Eirênê makes sense.

Even in ancient times, the sacrifices were a bit lacklustre: a young ewe on the 15th, and two young bullocks on the 16th. Neither sacrifice included a feast and the meat--save for what was sacrificed, of course--was sold right away, indicating not many people attended and that the festival was held most for form; and antiquated festival even then. Today, reading up on the history of Athens and sacrificing to Athena, Zeus Phatrios, and Eirênê suffices to celebrate the Synoikia.
I'm not exactly sure how I missed this, but it seems that antiquities that were unearthed in Greece and ended up in Germany during WWII will soon be repatriated. Among them are 10,600 fragments of clay vessels, stone artifacts, and osteological material that were unearthed during excavations carried out between June and December 1941 by the Nazi occupation forces. The formal ceremony for the return of the antiquities was held at Pfahlibau Museum in the German city of Unteruhldingen.
Antiquities looted by Nazis to be repatriated to Greece
10,600 antiquities kept in German museums since WWII will be
repatriated to Greece [Credit: To Vima]
Culture & Sports Minister Konstantinos Tassoulas referred to the symbolism of the gesture and to incidents of antiquity smuggling and destruction recorded across Greece during the Nazi occupation. He also referred to the recent repatriation of archaeological material unearthed at the site of Magoula Visviki and neolithic sites in Thessaly, central Greece, noting that such moves contribute decisively to the strengthening of bilateral ties. The National Archaeological Museum will be the first stop of the repatriated antiquities before they are transferred to local museums.

Personally, I am very happy to see this step made, and hope many more initiatives like this will follow. Looted antiquities will always remain a sore point, and their return to the country of origin--those pieces that were not destroyed or lost to private collectors--not just to Greece but any country of origin is something I greatly applaud. This is where these pieces belong, after all.
Every once in a while, someone in the community brings up the 'Hellenic days of the week', a seven day calendar with Gods attached to certain days and special names to call these days. In general, the following is the standard:
  • Monday: ἡμέρα Σελήνης (hêméra Selếnês) – "Day of Selene"
  • Tuesday: ἡμέρα Ἄρεως (hêméra Áreôs) – "Day of Ares"
  • Wednesday: ἡμέρα Ἑρμοῦ (hêméra Hermoú) – "Day of Hermes"
  • Thursday: ἡμέρα Διός (hêméra Diós) – "Day of Zeus"
  • Friday: ἡμέρα Ἀφροδίτης (hêméra Aphrodítês) – "Day of Aphrodite"
  • Saturday: ἡμέρα Κρόνου (hêméra Krónou) – "Day of Kronos"
  • Sunday: ἡμέρα Ἡλίου (hêméra Hêlíou) – "Day of Helios"
This website seems to be the source, which, in turn, seems to be based off of the work of Roger S. Bagnall. This research can be found here, and show that the idea has been taken out of context entirely. To quote the paragraphs surrounding the calendar:

"The seven-day week is well attested in Greco-Roman sources, although it was not the only cycle operative in antiquity. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians had a ten-day week, and the Romans observed, in addition to the seven-day. The use of numerals to identify days of the week is seen especially in late inscriptions. The way in which the planets were ordered depended on their perceived order of astrological dominance and not on their presumed distance from earth. This arrangement was informed by the belief that a planet exerted influence over each hour, and the planet that governed the first hour of a 24-hour cycle ruled that entire day. Saturn, the planet farthest from earth, ruled the first hour, and so Saturday began the week; the hour was governed by the sun, so Sunday marked the second day, and so on. Dio Cassius attributed the introduction of the planetary week to the Egyptians, although he acknowledged that the custom was observed elsewhere, too.

When exactly the practice was adopted in the Greco-Roman world is uncertain. We find the first clear evidence in 1st-century CE graffiti from Pompei in which the planets are listed in the order of the planetary week. Earlier references to days, such as several well-known examples found in Latin poetry from the 1st century BCE, attest some preoccupation with a belief in the astrological significance of planets for human affairs, but they do not prove observance of a seven-day week. Similarly, in a small number of Hellenistic and Augustan-period texts we encounter references to the Jewish Sabbath, but these again do not prove that the seven-day week was widely recognized throughout the Greco-Roman world, as it was in Jewish society where days other than Friday and Saturday were numbered. All we can say therefore is that by the 1st c. CE the custom had been established in at least parts of the Greco-Roman world. More abundant evidence for it is to be found in later periods."

For most of their time period, the ancient Hellenes had a 10-day week, fitting three weeks into a lunar month. They were called 'decads':
  • First Decad - Waxing Moon - Mên Histámenos
  • Second Decad - Middle Moon - Mên Mesôn
  • Third Decad - Waning Moon - Mên Phthínôn
In ancient Hellas, days in the first decad were labelled 'the [number] of the waxing moon', or 'the waxing [number]'. Days in the second decad are labelled 'middle [number]', either from 'middle first' to 'middle ninth', and then on to 'early tenth', or from 'middle one and tenth', to 'middle nine and tenth', then on to 'middle twentieth' (or 'early tenth'). The proper labelling of the last decad is 'the [number] of the waning moon', or 'the waning [number]', but they could be counted back from the coming new moon. 'The waning third', for example, is often considered the twenty-third day of the month, but could be interpreted as the twenty-eighth.

While the monthly lunar calendar (the 'Mên kata Theion', 'sacred month') included a lot of recurring sacrifices to the Gods, and while the days did have names sometimes, they did not always relate to a specific deity, and most certainly not in a weekly rotation.

It's fine to use this Roman calendar to honour the Gods; everything is fine as long as you feel you are honouring the Gods well. Is it Hellenismos, though? Not really, not Traditionally so, anyway. The Mên kata Theion is far more accurate for that. Advertising this seven day calendar as 'the calendar of Hellenismos' is therefor false; it was a Roman invention, based off of the ancient Egyptians and most likely even older cultures. It existed in the time of the ancient Hellenes, but it was not the prevailing sacred calendar.