The 25th of the month of Thargelion marks the day of the Plynteria festival. This minor festival was held solely in Athens and surrounding areas and was in honor of Athena Polias, protector of the city. It was considered an auspicious day by the ancient Athenians because on this day, they did not have the protection of Athena. Around the time of the Pynteria the Kallunteria also took place, a festival during which the temple of Athena was cleaned throughly and Her sacred fires relit. Elaion will organize PAT rituals for both celebrationss and invites you to join us on 31 May and 3 June. Note! The Plynteria is a nighttime festival and thus not at the usual 10 am EDT.

Plutarch, in his 'Life of Alkibiades' describes the Plynteria festival beautifully:

"But while Alcibiades was thus prospering brilliantly, some were nevertheless disturbed at the particular season of his return. For he had put into harbour on the very day when the Plynteria of the goddess Athene were being celebrated. The Praxiergidae celebrate these rites on the twenty-fifth day of Thargelion, in strict secrecy, removing the robes of the goddess and covering up her images. Wherefore the Athenians regard this day as the unluckiest of all days for business of any sort. The goddess, therefore, did not appear to welcome Alcibiades with kindly favour and good will, but rather to veil herself from him and repel him. However, all things fell out as he wished, and one hundred triremes were manned for service, with which he was minded to sail off again; but a great and laudable ambition took possession of him and detained him there until the Eleusinian mysteries." [34.1]

During the Plynteria, the wooden statue of Athena was disrobed of the Peplos that she received during the Panathenaia by Her priestesses, veiled, and then taken down to the sea for a wash. Veiling a Theos' image from head to toe was considered apophras, unlucky, as it removed Their presence.

The women who removed the robe and jewelry from the ancient wooden image and then veiled her, were part of an Athenian family traditionally entrusted with this task. They were called the Praxiergidai. The procession to the sea, several miles away, was a city-affair. As all other sanctuaries and temples in Athens remained closed on this day, it's likely many attended.

In front of the procession was a single woman, carrying a basket of fig pastries (known as 'hegeteria'), for the fig was believed to be the first cultivated food, and was--like the sea water--a purifier. Mounted young men, known as 'epheboi' escorted the statue deep into the water before coming back to shore. Thee, it was bathed by two girls, the bathers (loutrides). A single priestess was most likely in charge of washing the peplos of the Goddess. her title has not survived. In the evening, a torch-lid procession brought the statue back to Her temple and she was redressed by the Praxiergidai. The statue may have remained veiled for the remainder of the day.

There is another, smaller, festival connected to the Plynteria: the Kallunteria, which was celebrated somewhere in the vicinity of the Plynthria. During this festival, the temple of Athena was swept out--the name of the festival means 'sweeping out' or 'to beautify by sweeping'--and cleaned thoroughly, so that the washed statue would have a clean home to return to. The lamp of Her eternal flame was also refilled and relit by the priestesses on this day. The lamp was a golden vessel, created in the late fifth century by Kallimakhos, and was big enough to hold enough oil to burn day and night for the whole year. It's therefor logical to assume that the festival was held on a day close to the twenty-fifth, possibly the twenty-fourth or twenty-sixth. Ancient sources state that the festival must have taken place after the Bendideia. From Proklos' 'Timaeus of Plato':

"For they say, that the Bendideia were celebrated in the Piraeus on the twentieth day of [Thargelion], but that the festival sacred to Minerva followed these."

Mikalson, in his 'The sacred and civil calendar of the Athenian year', gives the 24th as the date but stresses that the 24th is merely a estimation, and we, in fact, do not know when the festival was held. He assumes it could even have taken place after the Plynteria, and places the Kallunteria between the 24th and the 28th of the month, with the exception of the 25th, as that was the date of the Plyneria. Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood in 'Athenian Myths and Festivals' sets the date as the 27th with a somewhat unshakable certaintly. We have accepted the 27th as the possible date of the Kallunteria festival for our PAT ritual although we again stress that the date of the Kallunteria is unknown.

The rituals for the event can be found here for the Plynteria and here for the Kallunteria, and you can join the community page here.
In the category 'stories that are almost too amazing to believe', it seems an incredibly rare gold crown believed to be more than 2,000 years old has been discovered under a bed in a Somerset cottage. The delicate Hellenic myrtle wreath, which is thought to date to 300 BC, was found in a tatty cardboard box in the modest Taunton property. Its elderly owner, who wants to remain anonymous, was stunned when he found it. Needless to say his shock gauge went through the roof when an auctioneer then told him the valuable artefact it is worth at least £100,000. This reports The Daily Mail.

Valuers from Duke's of Dorchester in Dorset attended the pensioner's home to look at some items he had inherited from his grandfather. But Guy Schwinge from the auctioneers was astonished when he pulled aside the newspaper inside a worn box to reveal the precious ancient piece. He said:

"When the owner pulled the gold wreath from a tatty cardboard box filled with paper, my heart missed a beat. When I went to the cottage the last thing I expected to see was a piece of gold from antiquity. It is notoriously difficult to date gold wreaths of this type. Stylistically it belongs to a rarefied group of wreaths dateable to the Hellenistic period and the form may indicate that it was made in Northern Greece. It is eight inches across and weighs about 100 grams. It's pure gold and handmade, it would have been hammered out by a goldsmith. The wreath is in very nice condition for something that's 2,300 years old. It's a very rare antiquity to find, they don't turn up often. I've never seen one in my career before."

Gold wreaths like the one found were meant to imitate the wreaths of real leaves that were worn in Ancient Hellenic in religious ceremonies and given as prizes in athletic and artistic contests. They usually depicted branches of laurel, myrtle, oak and olive trees, which were symbolic of concepts such as wisdom, triumph, fertility, peace and virtue. Due to their fragile nature, they were only worn on very special occasions. Many were dedicated to the Gods in sanctuaries or placed in the graves of royal or aristocratic people as funerary offerings. It seems this one might have been a funerary offerign as well as bits of dirt embedded on the wreath suggest this one was buried at some point. Most date to the Hellenistic period (323 BC to 31 BC), which this one is also thought to date from, and show the exceptional skill of goldsmiths at that time. Some were made during earlier periods but the wreaths became more frequent after Alexander the Great's Eastern conquests, when gold was more available in ancient Hellas.

The current owner's grandfather was a great collector who was fascinated by archaeology and the ancient world. Although his family do not know how he acquired it, it is likely he bought it sometime in the 1940s when he travelled extensively. The man said:

"I knew my grandfather travelled extensively in the 1940s and 50s and he spent time in the north west frontier area, where Alexander the Great was, so it's possible he got it while he was there. But he never told me anything about this wreath. I inherited quite a lot of things from him and I just put this to one side for almost a decade and didn't really think anything of it. Recently I decided I needed to sort through things and called in Duke's to have look at some of the items he'd passed on to me. The wreath is a beautiful piece but I never expected it to be so valuable. It was a mixture of excitement and just disbelief when they told me what it was."

The most famous of these types of wreaths is one that was found at Vergina in the tomb of Alexander the Great's father Philip II of Macedon in the 1970s, which is in a museum in Greece. A gold wreath similar to this latest one sold at auction in 2012 for almost £200,000. The antiquity will be sold on June 9.
In an announcement that makes me very giddy, archeologist Kostas Sismanidis has stated there are strong indications that a peculiar ancient tomb found in the area of Stagira, in central Macedonia, is the tomb of the Aristotle. The Archaeological News Network reports this after the announcement was made during an international conference on the famous philosopher in Thessaloniki.

Sismanidis, whose team has spent 20 years digging in the area, said the horseshoe-shaped domed building unearthed in the middle of the south side of the Stagira hill was just a few dozen meters from the agora arcade. The tomb had a tiled roof made at the royal pottery workshop, affirming its public function. A two-meter-wide raised, processional, built road lead to the monument entrance that was accessible to people offering bids.

Artefacts, pottery and more than fifty coins found in the area date the tomb and the altar at the times of Alexander the Great. The top of the dome is 10 meters high and there is a rectangular marble floor surrounding a Byzantine tower. Aristotle, considered as one of the most important philosophers, was a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. 

Sismanidis cited two literary sources that in his view indicate the people of Stagira may have transferred Aristotle's remains from Evia, where he died in 322 BC, to his birthplace. The manuscripts he referred to are from The Marciana Library and an Arabic biography of Aristotle from the second half of the 11 century BC. According to the latter:

"...when Aristotle died, the people of Stagira sent and brought back his ashes to their home, placed it in a copper urn and then deposited this urn in a location called ‘Aristotelion’. Every time they had important issues and wanted to resolve difficult problems, they convened their assembly in this place."

Addressing the “Aristotle World Congress”, Sismanidis, upon explaining these sources, stated the following on the transport of Aristotle's remains and a potential hero cult that was formed after his death:

"Based, therefore, on the above written sources, we believe that we cannot challenge the information they give us concerning the transport and burial of Aristotle's remains in the city of Stagira, on the establishment of an altar at the tomb of the philosopher, on the posthumous honours and on the establishment of the annual ‘Aristotelian’ celebration. We believe, but without having proof, just strong indications, that all evidence contribute to this version."

The possibility of a hero cult in honour of Aristotle in his hometown is not far-fetched. We know of many people who inspired or protected a town who, upon death, recieved these honours. The Erkhian calendar, for example, lists many heroes who recieved annual sacrifice but were worshipped nowhere else, at least not in such a way. It is the first time actual evidence has been brought to bear, however, in connection to an actually plausible location of his tomb. Of course, this evidence was immedietly challenged. The major pain points?

- The structure has been standing at Stagira for 20 years, why did Sismanidis wait so long to make his revelation? The announcement was quickly dubbed the “Amphipolis of the Left.”

- The area is found just a few kilometers away from the controversial Skouries mine, a high-grade gold-copper porphyry deposit located in the Halkidiki peninsula that was planned to operate as an open pit mine for about seven years, followed by approximately 20 years of underground development. However, in January 2016, Eldorado Gold suspended work on the controversial Skouries mine, with the decision coming after a year of confrontations with the Greek government that included permits being revoked and delayed by the state multiple times, principally due to environmental concerns, and local opposition. An important finding such as Aristotle’s tomb in the area would further weigh the balance against the operation of the mine.

- Though archaeologists point to Sismanidis as a respected scientist, they are critical of his decision to make his announcement at a conference where the findings would not be put to tough scrutiny by archaeologists but at an event of a philosophical character.

So there you have it. As with many archaeological finds, most likely only time will tell. For now, I love the idea and I'm rolling with it. Call it the privilage of the unscientific.
A unique adaptation of 'The Trojan Women' with a cast of solely Syrian women refugees recounting their stories of loss, flight and exile is coming to the UK with a 3-week summer tour. The tour will be an opportunity for the actresses to convey their personal tragedies and that of Syria, where a five-year war has led to 470,000 deaths and millions of homeless, leading to the biggest refugee crisis since the second world war.

The Trojan Women (Τρῳάδες, Trōiades) is a tragedy by the Hellenic playwright Euripides. It was produced in 415 BC during the Peloponnesian War and is often considered a commentary on the capture of the Aegean island of Melos and the subsequent slaughter and subjugation of its populace by the Athenians earlier that year. The Trojan Women was the third tragedy of a trilogy dealing with the Trojan War. The first tragedy, Alexandros, was about the recognition of the Trojan prince Paris who had been abandoned in infancy by his parents and rediscovered in adulthood. The second tragedy, Palamedes, dealt with Hellenic mistreatment of their fellow Hellenic Palamedes. This trilogy was presented at the Dionysia along with the comedic satyr play Sisyphos and won second place.
Euripides's play follows the fates of the women of Troy after their city has been sacked, their husbands killed, and as their remaining families are about to be taken away as slaves. Throughout the play, many of the Trojan women lament the loss of the land that reared them. It's a theme that rings oh so very true today for these women.
The play began as workshops with the Syrian director Omar Abusaada for 60 refugee women in Jordan from all walks of life to adapt and perform an Arabic interpretation of the play. Initially, several women faced pressure from some of the more conservative members of their community, who did not want them to go on stage. Differences of opinion emerged within the group itself; some wished to speak out publicly against the Assad government, others not. Others feared the consequences of speaking freely. Maha, one of the women in the play, said:
"Going to London is a very good thing indeed because we can tell the whole world about our home tragedy and of course, in a great country like Britain, the world will listen to us."
Several women have spoken about the therapeutic effects of the play, how it has brought them out of isolation, given them a new identity and family, and provided a sense of renewed purpose.
Khaula, another of the actors, said:
"We came to a new society and we were isolated. Doing the play made us break the ice and we started to connect with others and make some friends. It gave us the courage to talk about our problems frankly and clearly."
The UK project is a collaboration between Developing Artists, a charity working to support the arts in countries recovering from conflict, and Refuge Productions, founded by Georgina Paget and husband and wife team Charlotte Eagar and William Stirling. Refuge Productions came up with the original idea of transposing The Trojan Women to the Syrian war. Louise Chantal, the chief executive of the Oxford Playhouse, said it was a privilege to bring the project to Oxford:
“I can’t help thinking that the Queens of Syria might be the most important theatre project of the year.”
To coincide with the UK tour, the British Council will provide material online for thousands of schools in the UK and across the world to enable young people to discuss issues such as exile and trauma, and think about what they can do to welcome refugees. An event is also planned to link students with the cast.

Some things land like a sledgehammer and I would really, really, really love to go see this. For me, this is what the classics are all about: they are plays made by people, for people, to bring something unspoken or taboo into the light. I think one of the women in the trailer nailed it when she said: history repeats itself. It does, and often it's not pretty. The Trojan Woman is one of my, if not my, favourite ancient plays because it is absolutely gut wrenching. I can only imagine the impact it would have to see it with these women performing. If you are interested, you can go here for tickets.
I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.

"I have a very difficult time sorting out and keeping straight different variations of the mythos. I'm trying to learn about Chronos, Phanes, Aeon etc, the Primordial Gods, the Gods of Time, bu I'm struggleing to understand who is an equivalent to who, which is just another name, who was simply an idea more than a God, etc. Can you help?"

Ha! Oh... tall order! I can help you with specific Theoi and I can help you with a bit of background on why it's such a muddled mess. for the prior, I'd need you to contact me with a question about a specific Theoi and I will do the other now.

So, in general, this is what it comes down to: the Hellenic empire stretched out over hundreds of years, was influenced by hundreds of cultures and regional practices and was formed by the voices of thousands of people. What we have in written evidence of the ancient Hellenic views on the Theoi is, pretty much, what happens when all of these things come together: they make a muddled mess.

I tend to go with the idea that the Theoi know what happened and that what mankind recorded is greatly influenced by mankind. I use it as a foundation, not stone cold fact. Accept that Aphrodite may have been born from the castrated genitals of Ouranos in the sea's foam as Hesiod says, or of Zeus and Dione as per Homeros. Or that Ouranos was born either of the world egg formed by Khronos as per the Orphic Tradition or from Gaia with out a father, as per Hesiod. You won't ever find out which one is true--or neither, or both. This is why we have epithets.

An epithet is an attachment to the name of a God or Goddess, used to indicate either a specific domain of the Deity, a specific origin myth or region from which the Deity came, or an entirely different entity, through either domain or origin.  Epithets within polytheism pose a challenge; are all epithets different Gods or different faces of the same God(dess)? I belief Aphrodite Diôniaia (Daughter of Dione) and Aphrodite Anadyomenê (Risen from the Sea) are different Goddesses but the epithet Aphrodite Philommeides (Laughter-Loving) could be applied to both and is not a distinct Goddess. I have no set rule for this; it's a matter of feeling. 

All I can advice you is to read all interpretations and honour all version at the appropriate time. Embrace the practice of epithets, they will save you a monster headache. Worship the Theoi in a way that feels 'true' for you--at the end of the day, that is the best any of us can do.


"What do you know about the ancient Athenian calendar and the seasons? I am trying to figure out when to celebrate festivals we know little about, like the ones for Poseidon, and understanding how the Hellenes experienced the seasons would be quite instructive."

The Mediterranean climate is characterized by two seasons: the first dry and hot, from Mounichion to Metageitnion (April to September) when river beds tended to dry up, the second is humid and marked by often violent rain storms brought in by west winds, with mild, frost free temperatures.

The ancient Hellenes, however, destinguished three seasons: spring, summer and winter, and 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.

To date festivals we don't have a set date about, the focus needs to be on the why of the festival. Why was it held? When would this event take place now? Then you can look at things like sacred days for a deity, the stage of the moon and the presence of other festivals to make a better guestimation. But it will always remain a guestimation--this is not bad, obviously, but it is something to forever remain aware of.


"Can you worship Hellenic deities without practicing Hellenismos? Like can you still worship those deities without defining yourself with that religion?"

Yes, of course you can! The greater Pagan community--and especially the non-recon branches like Religious Witchcraft and Wicca--incorporate many of the ancient Gods in some way, either as separate Gods or as a conglomorated whole in The God and Goddess who are generally understood as the whole of all individual Gods (or the other way around: all individual Gods as part of Them). Personally, I consider most people who worship solely one (or a small handful of) God(s) or Goddess(es) out of the Hellenic pantheon non-Hellenistic as well, so that is also a possibility. Worship however and whoever you are called to!

"How did Greek soldiers worship the theoi while out at war? I am curious how it differed from when home. Is there any practice of them wearing pendants of the theoi as an image of a god or the gods to worship? Sorry I am new to this and curious, thank you!"

To be honest, it wasn't as different as at home. Probably the only difference was that they made an impromptu altar out of sand or rocks instead of using one especially made and installed at the oikos (house) or temple, or they simply used their campfires to get the job done. Let me quote you some Homeros:

"They rose, and scattered quickly among the ships, lit fires in the huts and ate their meal. And each made sacrifice to the immortal gods, to whichever god they chose, praying they might escape death in the tumult of war. Agamemnon, their leader, himself sacrificed a fat five-year old ox to almighty Zeus, inviting the elders, the chiefs of the Achaeans, to attend. Nestor, first, and King Idomeneus, then Ajax and his namesake, and Diomedes son of Tydeus, and Odysseus, sixth, Zeus’ equal in counsel. Menelaus of the loud war-cry had no need of summons, for he knew his brother’s thoughts in the matter. They stood around the victim, and took up the sacred barley, and Agamemnon prayed: ‘Sky-dwelling Zeus, great and glorious lord of the thunder clouds, let the sun not set nor darkness fall before I have razed Priam’s smoke-blackened halls, torching his gates with greedy fire, ripping Hector’s tunic from his breast with the shredding bronze, toppling a host of his comrades round him, headlong in the dust to bite the earth.’ So he prayed, but Zeus would not yet grant his wish; accepting the offering, but prolonging the toils of war.

When they had offered their petition and scattered grains of barley, they drew back the victims’ heads, slit their throats and flayed them. Then they cut slices from the thighs, wrapped them in layers of fat, and laid raw meat on top. These they burned on billets of wood stripped of leaves, then spitted the innards and held them over the Hephaestean flames. When the thighs were burnt and they had tasted the inner meat, they carved the rest in small pieces, skewered and roasted them through, then drew them from the spits. Their work done and the meal prepared, they feasted and enjoyed the shared banquet, and when they had quenched immediate hunger and thirst, Nestor of Gerenia spoke up, saying: ‘Agamemnon, leader of men, glorious son of Atreus, let us stay here no longer, nor delay the work the god directs us to. Come, let the heralds of the bronze-greaved Achaeans make their rounds of the ships and gather the men together, and let us as generals inspect the whole army, so as to swiftly rouse the spirit of Ares in them.’"[Iliad, Bk II:394-483]

The ancient Hellenes did not believe that representations of the Theoi were linked to the Theoi. They did not, for example, believe that the statues in temples were a 'home' for the Gods. They placed them there as a gift to the Theoi in hopes of gaining Their favour and a bit more of Their attention. And because everyone who mattered (Greek citizens) honoured the same pantheon of Gods, they also didn't have the need to display their religious preference. The custom of wearing jewellery 'to keep the Gods close' is very recent; the ancient Hellenes performed sacrifice the way they did exactly for this reason, they did not need representations of Them for worship. The Theoi would always find them once They hear their name called in the beautiful singing of hymns.


"We're (my family and I) going to be culling our chickens this spring, and I have permission from my grandmother and my dad to set aside as an offering. Our chickens are black, so am I right in assuming that they would only be an acceptable offering to chthonic Gods? (This is not a problem for me, considering I feel closest to the chthonic Gods, but I wanted to check.)"

Yes, Khthonic Theoi usually recieved the black offerings. That said, heroes also generally recieved black sacrifices and so did Gaea (and some other Earth deities, as They are all also considered Khthonic). Good luck with your sacrifice!
A sacrifice to Menedeios was performed by the Attic deme Erkhia on the 19th day of the month Thargelion. Menedeios was an entirely local deitified hero and sacrifices to him seems to have been performed only at Erkhia. Because he was most likely a war hero, however, we will honour Him with the Theoi he would have prayed to for guidance and strength: Athena, Ares and Niké. Will you join us in honouring these Theoi and this hero on the 28th of May, 10 am EDT?

Heroes and heroines have a special place in Hellenismos, as they had in ancient Hellas. These were humans--most with at least a part divine heritage--who were considered so brave, so skillful, so extraordinary in their lifetime that they became revered. Some were priests or priestesses of a temple, some excelled in battle, others were skilled healers or good rulers. Once they passed to the realm of Hades, their names were remembered at least once a year on a special ocassion, because the ancient Hellenes believed that if the name and deeds of a person were remembered, they would live forever and potentially look out for those they had looked out for before.

We, unfortunately, know very little about Menedeios. We know he must have been local to the Erkhian area. He recieved a ram that was to be consumed on site. His name means 'the One who Stands his Ground' and as such, he was most likely a war hero, famed for bravery, skill and his ability to protect his home town. For us, this is enough to honour him with sacrifices.

You can find the ritual for the event here and join the community page here. As a note, the ritual calls for an offering of barley cake (shaped like a sheep) with ash placed into a pit in the ground. If you don't have the time or means to make a barey cake, try to at least give sacrifice in an offering pit or on an altar lower than your usual one.
On the 19th of Thargelion, an Athenian festival for the Thrakian Goddess Bendis (Βενδις) was held. This festival, which went on into the night of the 20th of the month, was designed especially for Bendis, who was introduced to Attika by Thrakian métoikoi who took the opportunity to introduce their Goddess into the Athenian pantheon after the Oracle of Dodona decreed that Thrakian worshippers should be granted the right for ground to build a sanctuary on. Their shrine to Her was built on the hill Mounykhia, near to the temple of Artemis Mounikhia, with whom She was identified. The temenos was completed somewhere before 429 BC, and at least one Thrakian festival to the Goddess was held before the Athenians got involved. Would you like to involve yourself with Her worship as well? Elaion is hosting a PAT ritual for Her, Artemis and Hekate on the 28th of May at the usual 10 am EDT.

The Goddess Bendis originated in Thrake, to the north of Hellas. Her cult was imported into Athens around 432 BC, at the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Athens had always had close ties with Thrake, but besides the oracle's decree, it seems that the acceptance of the foreign cult into the city at this time was probably connected with Athens' military alliance with the Odrysian Thrakians, who supplied mercenaries throughout the war.
The Bendideia (Βενδίδεια) itself was celebrated in the port town of Peiraeeus. At first, only the Thrakians honored Her, but within a few years, the Athenians held their own procession alongside the Thrakians, theirs winding down from the Prataneion (Πρυτανεῖον)--the seat of government in ancient Hellas--in the morning  to the sanctuary of the Goddess in the Peiraios, while the Thrakian procession was entirely within the port town. The six-mile procession of the Athenians was so unusual, that a decree called for basins, water and sponges to bathe after it, and garlands. It seems obvious to place a meal here in the timeframe, followed by a period of rest until it became dark enough to perform the most telling of cult worship to the Goddess: an evening torch race on horseback; a true novelty. Plato, in his 'Republic' tells us a little it about this race:
"Polemarchus said to me: I perceive, Socrates, that you and our companion are already on your way to the city.
You are not far wrong, I said.
But do you see, he rejoined, how many we are?
Of course.
And are you stronger than all these? for if not, you will have to remain where you are.
May there not be the alternative, I said, that we may persuade you to let us go?
But can you persuade us, if we refuse to listen to you? he said.
Certainly not, replied Glaucon.
Then we are not going to listen; of that you may be assured.
Adeimantus added: Has no one told you of the torch-race on horseback in honour of the goddess which will take place in the evening?
With horses! I replied: That is a novelty. Will horsemen carry torches and pass them one to another during the race?
Yes, said Polemarchus, and not only so, but a festival will he celebrated at night, which you certainly ought to see. Let us rise soon after supper and see this festival; there will be a gathering of young men, and we will have a good talk. Stay then, and do not be perverse.
Glaucon said: I suppose, since you insist, that we must.
Very good, I replied."
What, exactly, Bendis presided over to either the Thrakians or the Athenians is unclear. She was identified mostly with Artemis, but not equated with Her, as She received a temple of Her own. Due to a connection with grain and the growth cycle of plants, she was identified with Demeter, and sometimes Persephone and/or Hekate. She was thus also associated with Selene.  Mostly, however, she was equated with Artemis Mounikhia.
In the Classical literature and in later traditions, Artemis was portrayed as a huntress; a savage and wild deity of nature, and a virgin maiden. Artemis Mounikhia, however, differed from this Classical image. The characteristics of this particular epithet of Artemis were in fact more similar to the cult of the moon Goddess Hekate. In Classical tradition, the holy day of Artemis was on the 6th day of the month, but the Mounikhia festival was instead held on the 16th day of Mounychion, under the full moon, an element of the cult of Hekate. During the Mounikhia procession, round cakes with little torches were offered to the Goddess, corresponding directly to the torch races of the neighbouring cult of Bendis.
It appears that Artemis Mounychia was seen as a deity of protection, one connecting women with the moon cycle, and one which represents marriage, fertility and the protection of human life and nature. The physical proximity of the Bendis temple to that of Artemis Mounikhia, and the similarity of festival activities (such as the torch use in relation to the moon cycle) suggests their cults were similar and prehaps even linked. And through Artemis, Bendis is also linked to Hekate.
The worship of Bendis outside of Thrake and Athens never caught on; she was revered almost solely at these places. Yet, the Athenians seemed to have held Her in high regard for a Goddess not of their pantheon.

Will you be honoouring Bendis with us on the 28th of May, at 10 am EDT? You cn find the ritual here and the community page here.
In 1985–1987 a shipbuilder in Piraeus, financed by Frank Welsh (an author, Suffolk banker, writer and trireme enthusiast), advised by historian J. S. Morrison and naval architect John F. Coates (who with Welsh founded the Trireme Trust that initiated and managed the project), and informed by evidence from underwater archaeology, built a reconstructed Athenian trireme, 'Olympias'. Crewed by 170 volunteer oarsmen, Olympias in 1988 achieved 9 knots (17 km/h or 10.5 mph). Additional sea trials took place in 1987, 1990, 1992 and 1994. In 2004 Olympias was used ceremonially to transport the Olympic Flame from the port of Keratsini to the main port of Piraeus as the 2004 Olympic Torch Relay entered its final stages in the run-up to the 2004 Summer Olympics opening ceremony. Due to high maintenance costs, was subsequently put in dry dock at the Naval Tradition Park in Faliro, Athens, on November 25, 2005, where it has remained ever since. Until now.

For several days now, the wooden trireme is decorating the grove of the Greek Navy Tradition in Faliro, Greece, this reports the Archaeological News Network and many other news outlets with it. Ten years of disuse had taken its tole and it has undergone extensive maintenance works, but now it sails again, currently without purpose but hopefully to be put to work once more--in a ceremonial fashion, of course. While it is a commissioned ship in the Greek Navy, the only commissioned vessel of its kind in any of the world's navies, it would be outdone by today's warships. In ancient Hellenic times, this was the gold standard, however.

The trireme was a fast attack, light displacement vessel. It was rowed by 170 oarsmen, three rows per side, who were either poor citizens or dolos--slaves. A trireme would try to sink an enemy ship by ramming it from the side with its bronze nose. Alternative, they would sail past and allow the soldiers to throw spears at their enemy. Sometimes, however, they threw pots filled with burning liquids, or even poisenous snakes.

It was estimated that a trireme's ramming speed should have been in excess of 16 kilo Newtons, something the present reconstruction could not achieve, possibly because it was overweight. Crewed by 170 volunteer oarsmen, Olympias in 1988 achieved 9 knots (17 km/h or 10.5 mph). These results, achieved with inexperienced crew, suggest that the ancient writers were not exaggerating about straight-line performance. However, since modern humans are on average approximately 6 cm (2 inches) taller than Ancient Hellenes, the construction of a craft which followed the precise dimensions of the ancient vessel led to cramped rowing conditions and consequent restrictions on the modern crew's ability to propel the vessel with full efficiency, which perhaps explains why the ancient speed records stand unbroken.

While much attention was placed on achieving a copy of the ancient ship--the bronze Olimpias' ram is a copy of the original ram now in the Piraeus archaeological museum and weights 200 kg--some liberties had to be taken. This ship was built from Oregon pine and Virginia oak. The keel is of iroko. The ancient Hellenes would, of course, have used local wood. The bracing ropes, called hypozomata', had to be replaced by a steel rope because no natural fibre or synthetic fibre ropes with about the same elastic modulus as hemp could be obtained. The steel cables tension varied as the hull bent on the waves, rather than exerting constant tension like a natural fibre rope. This caused the alarming possibility of the rope breaking and endangering the crew, so protective measures had to be taken.

The trireme was a true engineering marvel of its time and it used a lot of manpower to get around. A trireme of the classical period would have had a crew of 200, including five officers. This would be made up of:

- the trierarchos (τριήραρχος, 'commander of trireme') — the commanding officer, responsible for supporting the ship
- the kybernetes (κυβερνήτης, 'steer') — executive officer, responsible for the cruising safety
- the keleustes (κελευστής, 'command') — responsible for the training and morale of the crew
- the pentekontarchos (πεντηκόνταρχος, 'commander of fifty') — administration officer
- the prorates (πρῳράτης, 'prow') — bow officer, responsible for keeping a sharp lookout
- the auletes (αὐλητής, 'flute') — a musician supplying the oar timing with his flute
- 170 eretai (ἐρέται, 'oarsmen'), positioned in three banks  of which 62 were thranitai (θρανῖται, 'bench'), located on the upper bank, 54 zygitai (ζυγῖται, 'yoke'), those sitting on the middle bank and 54 thalamitai (θαλαμῖται, 'inner chamber'), those sitting on the lower bank
- 10 sailors for handling the sails
- 14 epibatai (ἐπιβάται, marines, literally 'passengers') - 10 spearmen and 4 archers for protection and battle.
May we soon see the Olympias' sails on the horizon, because it is a true beauty to behold!

Many people--myself included--sometimes forget how extensive the ancient Hellenic empire was. It wasn't just what is now modern Greece. It extended all the way to, for example, Italy. Today: Akragas.

The ancient Hellenic city of Akragas (Ἀκράγας)  was one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia during the golden age of Ancient Hellas. It was founded on a plateau overlooking the sea, with two nearby rivers, the Hypsas and the Akragas, and a ridge to the north offering a degree of natural fortification. Its establishment took place around 582-580 BC and is attributed to Hellenic colonists from Gela, who named it. Gela (Γέλα), was and is a town and comune on the south coast of Sicily, Italy. It, in turn, was founded by Hellenic colonists from Rhodes and Krete in 689 BC. Aeschylus lived here and died here as well, in 456 BC.

After its establishment, Akragas grew rapidly. It became one of the richest and most famous of the Hellenic colonies of Magna Graecia, the name of the coastal areas of Southern Italy on the Tarentine Gulf that were extensively populated by Hellenic settlers. It came to prominence under the 6th century tyrants Phalaris and Theron and became a democracy after the overthrow of Theron's son Thrasydaeus. At this point the city could have been as large as 100,000 - 200,000 inhabitants.

Although the city remained neutral in the conflict between Athens and Syracuse, its democracy was overthrown when the city was sacked by the Carthaginians in 406 BC. Akragas never fully recovered its former status, though it revived to some extent under Timoleon in the latter part of the 4th century.
The Romans laid siege to the city in 262 BC and captured it after defeating a Carthaginian relief force in 261 BC and sold the population into slavery.

Although the Carthaginians recaptured the city in 255 BC, the final peace settlement gave Punic Sicily and with it Akragas to Rome. It suffered badly during the Second Punic War (218-201 BC) when both Rome and Carthage fought to control it. The Romans eventually captured Akragas in 210 BC and renamed it Agrigentum, although it remained a largely Greek-speaking community for centuries thereafter. It became prosperous again under Roman rule and its inhabitants received full Roman citizenship following the death of Julius Caesar in 44 BC.

Currently it's named 'Agrigento' and it's a major tourist centre due to its extraordinarily rich archaeological legacy. Ancient Akragas covers a huge area, much of which is still unexcavated today. The archaeological focus is on the famous 'Valle dei Templi' (Valley of the Temples:, which is not a valley at all but a ridge. It's comprised of a large sacred area on the south side of the ancient city where seven monumental Hellenic temples in the Doric style were constructed during the 6th and 5th centuries BC. Now excavated and partially restored, they constitute some of the largest and best-preserved ancient Hellenic buildings outside of Greece itself. They are listed as a World Heritage Site.

The Valley includes remains of seven temples. All were namedn of the named in Renaissance times, apart from the the Olympeion. The temples are:
- the Temple of Concordia, whose name comes from a Latin inscription found nearby, and which was built in the 5th century BC. It was turned into a church in the 6th century AD and is now one of the best preserved in the Valley.
- the Temple of Juno, also built in the 5th century BC. It was burnt in 406 BC by the Carthaginians.
- the Temple of Herakles, who was one of the most venerated deities in ancient Akragas. It is the most ancient in the Valley. It was destroyed by an earthquake and today it consists of only eight columns.
- the Temple of Olympian Zeus, built in 480 BC to celebrate the city-state's victory over Carthage.
- Temple of Kastor and Pollux of which only four columns (famously) remain
- the Temple of Vulcan, also dating from the 5th century BC. It is thought to have been one of the most imposing constructions in the valley; it is now however one of the most eroded.
- the Temple of Asklepius, located far from the ancient town's walls.

For images of these ancient sites, go here.
It seems like one of the absolute hardest things about Hellenismos to truly understand for new (and experienced) practitioners is miasma. As I have said many times before: within Hellenic practice, miasma describes the lingering aura of uncleanliness in regards to a person or space through which contact is made with the Gods.

Miasma occurs whenever the space or person comes into contact with death, sickness, birth, sex, excessive negative emotions and bodily fluids. It also comes from a lack of contact with the Hellenic Gods. Not the actual acts of dying, sex and birth cause miasma but the opening up of the way to the Underworld (with births and deaths) as well as contact with sweat, blood, semen, menstrual blood and urine pollutes us. Miasma is an incredibly complicated and involved practice and it's often misunderstood. The most important things to remember about miasma is that it holds no judgment from the Gods, and that everyone attracts miasma. It's a mortal, human, thing. The ancient Hellenes washed their hands as a precaution before ritual and then attended rites every single day.

After a lot of research into the workings of miasma, I have come to the conclusion that true, practice stopping, miasma is linked to distraction. Anything that takes your mind off of the Gods during ritual can be considered miasmic. For example, the ancient Hellenes agreed that murder causes miasma (when not committed as part of a war, soldiers were not tainted with miasma for killing their enemies), but only once other people became aware of the fact that you had committed an act of murder. As such, if you were exiled and you travelled to another town where no one knew what you had done, in essence, you were not miamic to the rites and people around you.

Many people seem to read and consider this valid but find the translation into their own lives and hard to make. So I am going to give you a rule of thumb that you can go by in whatever situation you find yourself concerned about practicing because of miasma. The rule of thumb is as follows:

“If you were practicing in a large group of people, would either they or you be distracted by your perceived source of miasma to the point where practicing with full concentration becomes impossible?”

If the answer is ‘no’, you’re most likely not miasmic. If they answer is ‘yes’, you might be. And by ‘distracted’ I don’t mean a glance and move on, I mean the full on high school awkward hushed whispers, secret glances, moving away from you, paying more attention to you than the rite treatment. I mean distraction to the point where you would be very uncomfortable attending. If whatever you think is miasmic would cause that feeling, then don’t do ritual.

Some ancient examples that you will see hold true to this day. Picture the scene: a large temple square, a lit sacred fire, oxen moo in the distance, ready to be slaughtered and then a person comes into the square who has/has committed this:

- murder: naturally everyone who knows becomes uncomfortable—you wouldn’t feel safe, you would want to get away. This fear is miasma.
- given birth very recently: the first few days after giving birth, every mom looks run over by a donkey cart. It’s a reminder that the baby might still die (newborns often did in ancient Hellas). On the other hand, everyone would want to congratulate the new mom and see/touch the baby. This fear as well as the joy is miasma. Both distract from the ritual at hand.
- a close relation that has passed: everyone is aware they are grieving. They probably haven’t seen them yet and want to console them. This sympathy is miasma.
- just had sex: unless they were really loud in the next alleyway or are wearing stained and crumpled clothing, no one would know and as such, sex is not miasmic. But the lovers would know. And they might be more interested in enjoying the afterglow together than attending the ritual. This personal distraction means they are miasmic and they might cause distraction (miasma) for others by giggling, touching and generally being in their own private world.
- a (mental) illness that is currently actively present: being sick is not miasmic. Coughing all over the place, ranting about being Zeus or having recently tried to (publicly) commit suicide are. Now, a broken leg that everyone knows about is not miasmic, a chronic illness that everyone knows about is not miasmic, even a mental illness that everyone knows about is not miasmic—unless they manifest in a way that causes the high school reaction described above. Someone in a deep depression or a psychosis might find it hard to impossible to experience the rites, for example. I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone struggling with a chronic illness or who is struggling psychologically when I write this. This is why I say miasma is human, it holds no judgement and it is part of daily life: it happens. It could happen to anyone.
- their period: cis ladies only, of course, but because of the men. Men in ancient Hellas were scared of women. They considered them wild and unpredictable and the whole ‘should-not-leave-the-house’-thing was a direct attempt to ‘tame’ women and make sure they did not run off with their kids. Nothing screams ‘wild’ and ‘dangerous’ more than someone who once a month loses the inner linings of their uterus during a bloody, messy, smelly week long (on average) affair that causes her great discomfort. Men in ancient Hellas (and, admit it, modern culture) were scared absolutely shitless by a woman’s menstrual cycle. So if anyone knew a woman was on her period and she attended ritual, there was no way they would be able to keep their attention on the rite. None. Today, it’s easy to make sure no one knows a woman is on her period and the act as such is not miasmic anymore, but the discomfort of the whole affair might be a distraction to the women themselves and as such, they can be miasmic for themselves and a distraction to others.

I could go on and on and on with examples, but I think the gist of it should be clear now: does whatever it is put the attention on you instead of the Gods? Miasmic. Does it distract you to the point where you can’t fully participate? Miasmic. Doesn’t it do either? Not miasmic. Wash your hands, maybe wash your face, get in the spirit of things and enjoy.

In the cases where a person was/is miasmic to the point where they should not be participating in the rite, there were two things that could be done and it depended greatly upon the circumstances. For anything but committing murder (or any other type of crime, I suspect), time is the healer. Sit this rite out, wait a week, re-evaluate.

A new mother was considered miasmic for ten days, by that time the baby would probably live and her wounds would have recovered to the point of being able to function again. Everyone will have seen the baby. Life has returned to normal. The miasma on grief over a close family member like a mother, son, or grandparent was considered to lift in a month. A woman’s period passes. Illnesses can be treated or will go in remission/become manageable. People will get used to chronic illnesses. Just give it time. And when the person whose waiting period was up got ready to practice again, a thorough cleansing by means of a bath and a small ceremony was held privately prior to it, I suspect mostly for the person themselves, to get in the right mindset again.

Murder and crime, by the way, had specialized midnight rites which cleansed the person of their act. Truthfully, I think it was more helpful to the public when the person’d had their day in court and I suspect the cleansing rite took place after the trial and punishment were over, just like with all other instances of miasma. It closed a chapter and put everyone at ease.

Miasma is not a bad thing, it is a human thing. We live, things happen, we move on. Miasma is not something that should stop you from practicing. What is does is ask of you to be mindful of when you should and should not be practicing. Practice when you are your best, when you can practice arête: the act of living up to one's full potential. Practice when you can give full attention to the rites despite of your distractions. What matters is that you practice, because the Theoi want you to. Stop only when you feel what you can give is not up to par to the Gods. Only then. Those instances are very, very rare and you will know it when they happen.
On the 23th of May, which coincides with 16 Thargelion in 2016, Elaion will hold a PAT ritual to Zeus Epakrios as was done on this day in ancient Erkhia. Will you be joining us at the usual 10 AM EDT?

Zeus Epakrios (Ἐπάκριος) is an epithet of Zeus derived from 'epi akrios', literally 'on the height' or 'upon the high place'. Zeus Epakrios had an altar on Mount Hymettos (Υμηττός), along with an altar to Zeus Hymettios (overseer) and Zeus Ombrios (of the rain). The cult to Zeus Epakrios seems to have been separate from the cults of Zeus Hymettios and Zeus Ombrios, with the altars of Zeus Epakrios and Ombrios located on the very summit of the mountain and the altar to Zeus Hyettios further down the slope. The altar of Zeus Epakrios lay unused for a while, even though the altar of Zeus Hymettios remained in use. The altar to Zeus Ombrios remained in use well into the 8th-7th centuries BC. All ancient remains of the altar to Zeus Epakrios have been obliterated by recent military building operations.

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites tells us about Mt. Hymettos:

"Separating the southern end of the plain of Athens from that of the Mesogaia to the east is the mountain range of Hymettos. In antiquity Hymettos was famous for honey and marble, and the scars of the worked-out quarries can be seen concentrated for the most part on the western slopes for a distance of 3 km south from Kaisariani. The bare summit performed a different function: even as today, it gave the Athenians a reliable indication of weather by the presence, or absence, of threatening clouds."

We are not entirely certain of the funtion of the sacrifice or the epithet. 'On the height' speaks for itself when taken together with the location of the altar, but it says nothing of its function. We do know that the altar was only visited once a year, for this sacrifice. It stands to reason that Zeus Epakrios oversaw the weather, as did Zeus Ombrios and Zeus Hymettios. In this time of year, sacrifices would have called for good weather for the continuation of the agricultural cycle and perhaps the herding of sheep and other grazers on the mountain who were presumably used to keep the area open for herbs and flowers for the honey creating bees to feast on.

The sacrifice was nephalios (wineless) and au phora (not carried – totally consumed (on site)).

The ritual for the event can be found here and you can join the community page on Facebook here.
A group of British, American and French scholars is calling for the immediate resumption of excavations at the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, reports The Art Newspaper. The Herculaneum was buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. The villa, which is near Pompeii, was first explored in the 1750's when archaeologists discovered the only intact library of texts from the Classical era. The papyri found so far are Greek works of philosophy; the hope is that other Greek texts as well as Latin ones by some of the greatest writers of Antiquity may still be underground. The Art Newspaper invited the lead signatory to the Times letter, Robert Fowler, to make the case for excavation while Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, the scientific director of the Herculaneum Conservation Project, sounds a note of caution.

Some background first: in a letter to the Times newspaper in late March, academics lamented the fact that 'there has been no new [excavation] work since 2009'. 'The excavation must be finished', they wrote.  In their letter to the Times in London calling for further excavation of the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, the academics warned that 'another eruption of Vesuvius may put the villa beyond reach forever'. Vesuvius is closely monitored and an updated plan for the evacuation of the population in the 'red zone' (increased from 18 communities to the 25 in the red ring above) was issued in 2014 and has been revised again this year.

Scientists expect that there will be a period of increased seismic activity before any major eruption, giving enough warning to evacuate the population of more than 600,000. However, there is a 95% certainty that, in the event of a major eruption, the red zone would have a radius of 10 km to 12 km around the central crater, encompassing Herculaneum and Pompeii. This whole area would be covered in deadly pyroclastic flows of molten rock and gas, which can reach temperatures of 1,000°C and advance at speeds of up to 450 miles per hour.

 Robert Fowler, professor of Greek at the University of Bristol is in favour of further excavations. He explains his standpoint as follows:

"The Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum contains the only library to have survived intact from the ancient Greco-Roman world. In the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79, the scrolls were first carbonised, then miraculously preserved in a flood of airless volcanic mud. Some 1,800 fragments representing perhaps 800 original books were recovered in the 18th century. The hundreds so far identified present a lopsided profile: overwhelmingly, they are books of Epicurean Greek philosophy.
This appears to be the personal library of Philodemus, the leading Epicurean of the first century BC, whose patron was Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, the father-in-law of Julius Caesar and owner, in all probability, of this villa. Cultivated Romans kept sumptuous libraries in their country homes, where philosophers and artists gathered to discuss literature and ideas. Virgil and Horace were members of Piso’s circle. Philodemus too was a poet. The library would have contained many other books both Greek and Latin. The rest of it is most probably in the southeast corner of the villa, which the early tunnelers failed to reach. The lost works waiting to be found there stagger the imagination.
The villa was rediscovered and partially excavated in the 1990s. The excavation must be finished. Counter-arguments are familiar. Resources are desperately scarce, people say, and should be used for pressing emergencies (Pompeii is falling down), not for digging up new things that only add to the burden of conservation. The trouble is, this argument will always be advanced. It amounts to an argument for never excavating.
Meanwhile, the volcano may erupt again and put the villa effectively beyond reach. It has erupted on average every 20 years since 1631. The last eruption was in 1944.
People say archaeology is not about treasure hunting (highly disputable: define “treasure”). Of course it must be a responsible excavation, not a grab and run. One need not exhume the whole building. The long peristyle can be left to sleep, minimising the disruption to the town above.
The 1990s revealed previously unknown lower levels, offering good reason in themselves for further exploration. But the library makes this building unique. We shall soon have the technology to scan and read the rolls without even touching them. They will not lie around neglected and deteriorating, as has sometimes been charged.
 Posterity will not forgive us if we squander this chance. The excavation must proceed."

Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, director of research, faculty of Classics, Cambridge University; scientific director of the Herculaneum Conservation Project, is against further excavation and explains his standpoints as follows:

"It is hard not to share the enthusiasm of the group of specialists who have renewed their pleas to resume excavation of the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum. An initial attempt at full excavation was made in the 1990s, though this only reached one corner of the building and demonstrated not only how fraught with difficulties such an excavation is, but how easy it is to cause damage in the process, and how difficult to conserve what is exposed.

Fourteen years ago, I argued in this newspaper that continued excavation was not a priority compared with conservation. Is the time right now? A decade’s heroic work by the Packard Humanities Institute has addressed many of the existing problems of conservation on the main site at Herculaneum, but the villa may be regarded as a case apart.

Is there an imminent threat to the site of the villa? Volcanic eruption can scarcely do more damage to what lies buried: it is the parts exposed that are most at risk. And the problem is precisely that by exposing them in part, the risks have been greatly increased. The steep embankment around the trench is not stable: the edges constantly crumble and do damage to the protective shelter. This can be addressed by stepping the embankment back, but simply increasing the size of the excavation only moves the problem on.

The gravest risk is from water. The consequence of creating a trench 30m below the ground level of the present city is to release a flow of water. This cascades out of the edge of the excavated area, passing through the lower floors of the villa, precisely those which were not explored by Karl Weber [in the 1750s] and have the most potential interest. One room of this lower floor has been partially excavated, and its rich decoration only underlines the potential interest of this area.

There is a strong case for urgent work to stop the embankment crumbling and the flow of water further damaging the lower floors. This might reveal further papyri. It would certainly reveal finds of great interest. But the logic that drives any modern excavation must be preservation, not the pursuit of a dream."

Personally, I think we have time to work up to a new excavation and do it right, but I do wish for another dig. Herculaneum has yeilded some of the greatest Hellenic finds there are and simply the thought of there being more in the ground is tantalising.

The Herculaneum papyri are a treasure. The official list amounts to 1,814 rolls and fragments, of which 1,756 had been discovered by 1855. The inventory now comprises 1826 papyri. More than 340 are almost complete, about 970 are partly decayed and partly decipherable, and more than 500 are merely charred fragments.

Among the recovered scrolls are large parts of Books XIV, XV, XXV, and XXVIII of the magnum opus of Epicurus, 'On Nature'. Works by early followers of Epicurus are also represented among the papyri. 44 of the rolls have been identified as the work of Philodemus of Gadara, an Epicurean philosopher and poet. The manuscript 'PHerc.Paris.2' contains part of Philodemus' On Vices and Virtues. The Stoic philosopher Chrysippus is attested to have written over 700 works, all of them lost, with the exception of a few fragments quoted by other authors. Segments of his works 'On Providence' and 'Logical Questions' were found among the papyri; a third work of his may have been recovered from the charred rolls.

Who knows what more is to be found? I am in favour of at least trying--or at the bare minimum preserving the site as best we can until funds can be found for another dig. Prosterity should have the option and possibility to dig, I feel.
I was recently asked an interesting question that I pondered on for a while:

"In Homeric Hymn 24 to Hestia is the following line: 'with soft oil dripping ever from your locks'. What does this mean?"

I can think of two reasons for the inclusion of this sentence: personal hygiene and Hestia's eternal flame.

To us the ancient world would most likely have been overpowering in terms of smell. Sweating men and animals and their waste filled a city’s streets, making it vital to set off sacred spaces as well as those of luxury by making them smell sweet. Fragrance was everywhere in the ancient world, from scented oils used to adorn the body to incense burnt in homes and temples. For personal use, perfumes were the way to go to ward off the stink.

In the ancient world oils were used as the carrier medium for perfumes, where the medium today is alcohol. This must have meant that ancient perfumes were far less noticeable than modern ones, and would have lain more thickly on the skin. The Gods, obviously, must smell very, very sweet and thus Hestia would have pleasant smelling oil literally 'dripping from Her locks'.

The second reason I can think of is Hestia's sacred flame. Back in ancient Hellas, most religious activities surrounding the household revolved around the central hearth, which was seen as the physical manifestation of Hestia. All the household fires were lit with a flame from the prytaneion (Πρυτανεῖον), the structure where state officials met and where the city kept a fire for Hestia burning day and night. Every single heart fire in the city or town was linked to that central one. This network of fires, which were never allowed to go out, brought all Hellenes together.

This fire, at least in many recorded instances concerning temples, was lit not as a traditional hearth fire but in a lamp--an oil lamp. As such, the dripping oil from Hestia's locks could be a metaphor for the leaping flames from the fire of an oil lamp.
Yesterday I posted a poem by Sappho and today I am, indirectly, doing so again because news broke that scientists have used advanced astronomical software to date Sappho's 'Midnight Poem' (number 49). This reports the Archaeological News Network. The poem reads as follows:

"The moon has set,
and the Pleiades;
it is midnight, the time is going by
and I recline alone.
The sinking moon has left the sky,
The Pleiades have also gone.
Midnight comes--and goes, the hours fly
And solitary still, I lie.
The Moon has left the sky,
Lost is the Pleiads' light;
It is midnight,
And time slips by,
But on my couch alone I lie."

Physicists and astronomers from the University of Texas at Arlington have now used advanced astronomical software to accurately date the poem, which describes the night sky over Hellas more than 2,500 years ago. The scientists described their research in the article "Seasonal dating of Sappho's 'Midnight Poem' revisited," published in the Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage. Martin George, former president of the International Planetarium Society, now at the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand, also participated in the work. Manfred Cuntz, physics professor and lead author of the study stated:

"Sappho should be considered an informal contributor to early Greek astronomy as well as to Greek society at large. Not many ancient poets comment on astronomical observations as clearly as she does. This [research] is an example of where the scientific community can make a contribution to knowledge described in important ancient texts. Estimations had been made for the timing of this poem in the past, but we were able to scientifically confirm the season that corresponds to her specific descriptions of the night sky in the year 570 BC."

Sappho's 'Midnight Poem' describes a star cluster known as the Pleiades having set at around midnight, when supposedly observed by her from the Greek island of Lesbos. Cuntz and co-author and astronomer Levent Gurdemir, director of the Planetarium at UTA, used software called Starry Night version 7.3, to identify the earliest date that the Pleiades would have set at midnight or earlier in local time in 570 B.C. The Planetarium system Digistar 5 also allows creating the night sky of ancient Greece for Sappho's place and time. Gurdemir stated:

"Use of Planetarium software permits us to simulate the night sky more accurately on any date, past or future, at any location. This is an example of how we are opening up the Planetarium to research into disciplines beyond astronomy, including geosciences, biology, chemistry, art, literature, architecture, history and even medicine."

The Starry Night software demonstrated that in 570 BC., the Pleiades set at midnight on Jan. 25, which would be the earliest date that the poem could relate to. As the year progressed, the Pleiades set progressively earlier. Cuntz explains:

"The timing question is complex as at that time they did not have accurate mechanical clocks as we do, only perhaps water clocks. For that reason, we also identified the latest date on which the Pleiades would have been visible to Sappho from that location on different dates some time during the evening."

This date would have been at the end of astronomical twilight--the moment when the Sun's altitude is -18 degrees and the sky is regarded as perfectly dark. In this year, that date was March 31. This allowed Cuntz to draw his conclusions.

"From there, we were able to accurately seasonally date this poem to mid-winter and early spring, scientifically confirming earlier estimations by other scholars."

Those interested can read the full report here.
I am on vacation with my girlfriend and her family and that's always a time for me to go very mushy and loving. We're both busy people and don't get to spend as much time together as we would like, but now we do and it's wonderful! So, today you are getting Sappho's thoughts on how love feels and you can see if you relate as much as I do. Have a lovely day, people. While you are reading this, chances are that I am packing up to go home or on a boat or in a car to do so. Thank you, Wiki people, for the help today. I have to pack.

Sappho 31 is an archaic Hellenic lyric poem written by Ancient Hellenic female poet Sappho of the island of Lesbos. This poem was in antiquity known as 'phainetai moi' (φαίνεταί μοι) after the opening words of its first line. The poem is a good representation of archaic lyric poetry, in that the persona and personal emotions of the poet are central to the poemʻs form; it is written in the first person singular, and the speaker is a woman in love with another woman, as in so many of Sapphoʻs poems. Some have seen it as a fragment from an epithalamion - a wedding poem, intended to be sung to the bride at the entrance to her nuptial chamber; it does not share any of the attributes of the classic form called enkomion--a poem of praise. It is perhaps Sappho's most famous poem.

Sappho 31 was one of the two substantially complete poems by Sappho to survive from ancient times, written in Sappho's vernacular form of Greek, the Lesbian-Aeolic dialect. Sappho's poems were designed to be sung, and use direct and emotional language, in this case about the longing of love. Sappho starts by praising the beauty of the bridegroom, likening him to a god, but then describes her jealousy and the physical manifestations of her distress upon seeing a young woman whom she loves with her new husband, the epiphany bringing her to a symbolic death.

Longinus's treatise 'On the Sublime' (Περὶ ὕψους, Perì hýpsous) selects the poem as an example of the sublime for the intensity of its passionate emotions. It was quoted in Plutarch's 'Dialogue on Love' (Έρωτικός, Erotikos) in his Moralia (a Latin translation of the original Greek title, Ἠθικά, Ethika, Ethics).

Sappho - Fragment 31
He appears to me, that one, equal to the gods,
the man who, facing you,
is seated and, up close, that sweet voice of yours
he listens to
And how you laugh your charming laugh. Why it
makes my heart flutter within my breast,
because the moment I look at you, right then, for me,
to make any sound at all won’t work any more.
My tongue has a breakdown and a delicate
— all of a sudden — fire rushes under my skin.
With my eyes I see not a thing, and there is a roar
that my ears make.
Sweat pours down me and a trembling
seizes all of me; paler than grass
am I, and a little short of death
do I appear to me.
I was requested to write a sort of 'khernips masterpost', so here we are. Because the concept of khernips is so linked to ritual purification--because khernips is the method through which we become ritually clean--we will also discuss the practice of katharmos and the notion of ritual pollution: miasma.

Within Hellenic practice, miasma describes the lingering aura of uncleanliness in regards to a person or space through which contact is made with the Gods. Miasma occurs whenever the space or person comes into contact with death, sickness, birth, sex, excessive negative emotions and bodily fluids. It also comes from a lack of contact with the Hellenic Gods. Not the actual acts of dying, sex and birth cause miasma but the opening up of the way to the Underworld (with births and deaths) as well as contact with sweat, blood, semen, menstrual blood and urine pollutes us. Miasma is an incredibly complicated and involved practice and it's often misunderstood. The most important things to remember about miasma is that it holds no judgment from the Gods, and that everyone attracts miasma. It's a mortal, human, thing.

The practice of purification is called katharmos (Καθαρμός). The process of katharmos is elaborate because the process not only involves the physical but also the emotional, mental and spiritual. In modern practice, it usually starts with a shower, but this is not a historic necessity. Step two is the preparation and use of khernips. Beyond the practical, there is a large mental component to katharmos. It means leaving behind negativity, worry, pain and trouble before getting in contact with the Gods.

The greatest barrier in understanding miasma and katharmos, to me, is our modern frame of mind. On the one hand, we know too much about personal hygiene, about the human body and about science as a whole, on the other hand religion has become something separate from life in general. As a result, we colour ancient Hellas with our 'hygiene brush'. Secondly, not everyone has faith, our society does no longer revolve around it, and as a result, we--as modern religious people--struggle for a mindset of simple, all-encompassing, unquestionable worship. There might be a few remnants of 'Original Sin Thinking' lodged in there as well.

After a lot of research into the workings of miasma, I have come to the conclusion that miasma is linked to distraction. Anything that takes your mind off of the Gods during ritual can be considered miasmic. For example, the ancient Hellenes agreed that murder causes miasma (when not committed as part of a war, soldiers were not tainted with miasma for killing their enemies), but only once other people became aware of the fact that you had committed an act of murder. As such, if you were exiled and you travelled to another town where no one knew what you had done, in essence, you were not miamic to the rites and people around you.

We all incur miasma, every single day of our lives. It has nothing to do with sin, shame or guilt. Miasma is a consequence of living. We breath, make decisions, come in contact with others, and along the way, we become too human--for lack of a better term--to petition the Gods. The divide between the purity and cleanliness of the Theoi and our human mortality and imperfection keeps us away from Them. Miasma is not about being physically dirty, although that is a part of it, and katharmos is not about becoming physically clean, although that is a part of it as well. Katharmos is devotional. It not only helps you get in a ritualistic mood, it prepares the room and your body for it. Even if you do not understand the use, it's a vital part of Hellenistic worship.

Khernips are the traditional way to cleanse yourself from miasma. As far as basic information goes,
khernips is created by dropping smoldering incense or herb leaves into water. When throwing in the lit item, one can utter ‘xerniptosai’ (pronounced 'zer-nip-TOS-aye-ee') which translates as ‘be purified’. Both hands are washed with khernips and you can wash the face as well. The vessel holding the khernips is called a khernibeionas (Χερνῐβεῖον).

Artwork has taught us that khernips was often applied just outside the temenos, with hands being washed in a bowl or water poured out of a jug while the supplicant washed their hands. The water was collected from a moving source of water, which could be a natural spring, a river, or even the sea. Moving water was considered sacred, and often viewed as an extension of the body of a stream/river/sea God(dess). For my video tutorial on how to prepare and apply khernips, go here.

As with anything concerning miasma, most books on ancient Hellas and/or Hellenic religion don't mention khernips at all, or under a synonym. As with miasma, I am going to assume this is because the evidence of its existance is so flimsy besides a resounding 'it was used and important'. My rather vast collection of scholarly material is silent on any details beyond the basic information already provided. As such, I am forced to speculate based upon what I know.

Personally, I tend to mix tap water with sea water into a large vessel from which I take a measure every evening to use throughout the day. I drop the smoldering firebrand (a match when traveling, a bit of burning wood or herbs when home) into the measure poured our, not the vessel itself. So, in short, I prepare the base in advance but the actual mixture on the spot. I only use one measure one day, after that, I dip it out onto the earth and replace it with a fresh batch before my evening rituals.

Khernips is important, and it's important they are properly prepared, but in the large scheme of things, I feel it's more important you actually perform the ritualistic motions without a specific part of it than skipping it altogether. So, no, you can't make khernips without dropping something smouldering in, but that doesn't mean you can't wash before ritual and improvise a little. Drop herbs into the water and wash with that, drop essential oils in it, if you don't have herbs. Find something to make the water special, and then use it to cleanse yourself. Just go through the motions and focus on the rites ahead. That is its function and it should be used as such.
I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.

"I'm looking into getting a bowl for burning my sacrifices. However, I'm terrified of getting a bowl that will crack (or...explode?) under the heat of the flame. How did you know your bowl could withstand the fire and how can I know if any bowl I'm looking at can do the same?"

When it comes to sacrificial bowls, my number one tip is this: if it can withstand the heat of the oven, it can withstand the heat of a sacrifice. This means two things: if you buy it anywhere (cooking store, departement store) and it says 'oven proof', you are usually good. Fire it up in the oven at the hottest setting for 20 minutes, let it cool down, then take it outside, start a fire and see what it does. Let it cool down and start another fire. Let it cool down and start another fire. Check it for any cracks, bubbles, weak spots and if it looks secure, you are probably safe to use it. Do a stress test like this every few months and always clean the bowl after your sacrifices so you can inspect it properly. If it starts showing imperfections, switch it out. Don't take chances with fire indoors.


"I wanted to ask if it was possible to be a Hellenic recon and still pray to other Gods on occasion (Odin and Thor for example) Did the ancient Greeks sometimes pray to non Olympian Gods? I know for instance that the Romans did. Thank you in advance."

The ancient Hellenes rather liked their Gods and not so much the Gods of others. In Athens, for example, the Decree of Diopeithes made the introduction of and belief in foreign Gods a criminal offence. They allowed outsiders to pray to their own Gods in separate temples, but in general, the ancient Hellenes prayed to their own and considered integrating other Gods into (temple) worship miasmic. If the ancient Hellenes really, really, really wanted to pray to another God, They were integrated into the pantheon through syncretism. This happened mostly with local Gods or foreign cults, including those of Cybele and the Thracian Goddess Bendis.
Syncretism functioned as a feature of Hellenistic ancient Hellenic religion, although only outside of the Hellenic empire until the time of Alexander the Great. As the empire expanded, it begun to show more syncretist features, blending Mesopotamian, Persian, Anatolian, and Egyptian elements within an Hellenic formula. The Egyptian God Amun is a good example as the ancient Hellenes developed Him as the Hellenized 'Zeus Ammon' and His worship was brought back mostly to Sparta where He even had a temple and oracle. Alexander the Great, by the way, was considered to be a son of Zeus Ammon and thus considered himself divine.
If you can and want to pray to non-Hellenic Gods is a personal choice. We don't live in ancient Hellas anymore. I don't do it because I don't want to taint my bomos and Elaion as an organisation discourages it, but if it works for you, it works for you. I'm not one to dictate what you can and cannot do. But this is the history behind why I don't.

"I want to make khernips, but I have no incense or leaves, but I do have lots of tea on hand. Could I burn those as a substitute? And if so, how do you suggest going about burning loose leaf or bagged tea safely?"

Hum... yes, you could use tea. It's not exactly traditional but it could work. I have a few issues with the concept though: a teabag will catch flame like 'omgfirehelpputitoutnowwhereismybowlomfg' and burning loose tea (from a teabag, anyway) is... I won't say impossible but setting fire to it in, for example, a spoon and dumping it in the water before it burns out would take some magnificent feats of athleticism. And you'll end up with water full of junk in it that you'll get in your hair and on your clothes and just... no. Besides, the loose tea will burn up--literally--and be a fire hazard. Truly, you are better off going to your grocery store, buying a big pot of bay leaves for a dollar and burning one of those. Cheaper, easier, and much less of a fire hazard.
"Do you know any myth about wisteria? I'd like to offer wisteria to the Gods..."

I don't, because I am fairly certain (but I am not a botanist so someone correct me if I am wrong) is a fairly modernly sprouted (sub)species of the tree. I know it developed in China first and came to Japan and the US somewhere in 1800+. I also know the ancient Hellenes reached China at some point and named 'China' 'Sinae'.

Drawing on ancient Hellenic maps and what we know if the time of Alexander the Great and his campaign, I think it's fair to say that Alexander the Great got past the Indus River, but his conquests stalled in India. So, he never fought the Chinese, and it is unlikely that he encountered them. Alexander the Great founded the city of Alexandria Eschate ("Alexandria the Farthest") in 329 BC, in the Furghana Valley of what is now Tajikistan. The Hellenistic descendants of these settlers probably were the first people of European descent to encounter the Chinese around 220 BC. This contact, with the efforts of the Chinese Han dynasty, led to the development of the Silk Road in the next century.

So this is the first point in time by which wisteria could have been brought to ancient Hellas--and I am not sure if the genus existed alread by then. So there are certainly no myths and I am also not sure the ancient Hellenes (or even the Romans) offered it to the Gods. But if you would like to, you can, of course!


"Is Euterpe or Apollon the theos connected to music? My theory is that when you are moved by music, beautiful lyric or sound that gives you chills and brings tears to your eyes, that it is the theoi. That they come to where the energy and passion calls them."

The short answer is 'both', and I agree that when you feel that shiver run down your spine, there is a touch of the divine in the tunes you hear.

The Muses (Μοῦσαι) are either three or nine in number, depending on the source. Plutarch, in his Quaestiones Conviviviales, named three Muses; Melete (Practice), Mneme (Memory), and Aoede (Song), but Hesiod described nine of them in his Theogony; Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Euterpe (flutes and lyric poetry), Thaleia/Thalia (comedy and pastoral poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Terpsikhore (dance), Erato (love poetry), Polyhymnia/Polymnia (sacred poetry) and Urania (astronomy). Due to the influence of Hesiod, Hómēros and others of their time, it's the nine Muses we now go with.

These nine muses were born from Zeus and his aunt and fifth wife, Mnemosyne, who was the personification of memory. The Muses, back then, were simply Deities, in charge of Their own aspects of mortal life. Euterpe was the 'Giver of light', for example. Their function and status as Muses was a later, Roman, addition.

The muses are well represented in both mythology as Hellenic art. Not only does nearly every hero, poet and even some of the Theoi call out for Them when They're in a bind, but there is even a tragic story in which nine young women get turned into birds for their hubris. In this myth, King Pierus, king of Macedon named his nine beautiful and talented daughters after the muses and went on to boast that the Pierides--his daughters--were equal or even better in their arts than the Muses ever were. Needless to say, neither the Muses, nor the Gods took to this kindly. As punishment for his hubris, Pierus had to watch as his beautiful daughters were transformed into Magpies.

Apollon Mousagetēs, an epithet of Apollon, is said to lead the Muses. His name means 'Apollon Muse-leader'. As such, he can be seen depicted on vases and murals with the Muses.