The head of the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Region Christos Metsios has approved the spending of 2.3 million euros from the region’s 2014-2020 Operational Programme to carry out improvements at the Philippi archaeological site, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre since 2016.

According to an announcement on Thursday, the money will be spent on works to improve the site, making it more accessible and functional. The project will be supervised by the Kavala-Thassos Antiquities Ephorate, which is responsible for the ancient theatre at Philippi, the Roman Forum and Octagon and the early Christian churches.

It includes removal of the tarmac of the old national road from Kavala and Drama, which for many years had split the site in half. The road had previously been the only one connecting the two cities and had passed through the middle of the site. Its removal will finally allow the site to be fully unified, while the ancient road network between the monuments will be excavated and unified to improve access, while excess earth and rubble from previous excavations will be removed.

Other improvements will include a new perimeter fence, a new entrance to the west of the site, restoration of the eastern fortifications and archaeological verification of the finds, with the production of the necessary informational material for visitors.
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 June 4th 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 Mounikhion, 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 neighboring cult of Bendis.

It appears that Artemis Mounikhia 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 perhaps 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 honoring Bendis with us on June 4th, at 10 am EDT? You can find the ritual here and the community page here.
A Corinthian helmet was found in a 5th century BC grave in the Taman Peninsula, southwest Russia, according to RIA Novosti news agency. Made of bronze, Corinthian helmets covered the entire head and neck, with slits for the eyes and mouth, protruding cheek covers (paragnathides) and a curved protrusion in the back to protect the nape of the neck.

The helmet has a padded interior made of fabric or leather to protect the warrior’s skull. These helmets were essential for the Greek hoplites, the famous foot soldiers of the phalanxes.
The one found is corroded and highly fragmented, but its discovery is extremely important for historical purposes. The Corinthian helmet is the only one of its kind discovered north of the Black Sea. Corinthian helmets appeared in Greece around the 6th century BC and is one of the symbols of ancient Hellas. Athena and Pericles are frequently depicted wearing them.

When a warrior died, his helmets would be buried next to him. According to Roman Mimohod, director of the expedition of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IA RAS), “the helmet of the Taman peninsula belongs to the Corinthian Hermione-type and would date back to the first quarter of the fifth century BC,” an Archaeology News Network report says.

For two years now, Russian archaeologists study a necropolis of 600 burial mounds where many Greek warriors of the Bosporus kingdom are buried. Several Greek colonies were established in the region. Their settlement extends from the end of the 7th century BC until the second quarter of the 4th century BC.

The Greeks founded large cities on the northern coast of the Black Sea. The main ones were Olbia, at the mouth of the Dnieper; Panticapaion, today’s Kerch, in the extreme west of the Crimea, and Chersonese (Sevastopol); on the Russian bank, one found Phanagoria (Taman), also the name given to the peninsula on which the Corinthian helmet was discovered.

According to the Archaeology News Network report, the Kingdom of the Bosporus was created in 480 BC around the Kerch Strait and the Taman Peninsula, west of the Bosporus.

The kingdom, with Panticapaion as its capital, lasted almost a millennium, the last written traces going back to the 5th century AD. It was a place where the Greek culture merged with the successive nomadic cultures of the steppe, be it the Scythians or the Sarmatians. Between the 6th and 3rd centuries BC, Greeks and Scythians maintained extremely close cultural as well as commercial ties.
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 Gods and this hero on June 4th, at 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 occasion, 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 received 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 barley cake, try to at least give sacrifice in an offering pit or on an altar lower than your usual one.
How relevant and influential is the legacy of the ancient Hellenes to the western civilisation even today, is a question that has often been asked by many. The truth is the effects of the ancient Hellenic world have been ingrained so deeply into the West’s collective unconscious that we do not even notice it.

The recognition of the impact of the ancient Hellenes was once more highlighted by a BBC poll about the “100 stories that shaped the World”. Homer’s Odyssey topped the poll of 100 Stories that Shaped the World, with the other famous Homeric poem “The Iliad” coming in 10th spot. Natalie Haynes of the BBC looks at why the epic poem has survived for millennia.

"If any story can be considered the greatest tale ever told, Homer’s Odyssey has a better claim than most. Twenty-four books long, it runs to more than 12,000 lines of hexameter verse (the poetic form used in Greek epic and Latin epic after it) and follows the adventures of the wily, complicated Greek hero, Odysseus, in the aftermath of the Trojan War. The Odyssey has been valued as a cultural highpoint for millennia: in the 5th Century BCE, the Athenian playwright Aeschylus referred to his tragedies as “slices from the banquet of Homer”.

Writers from Dante to James Joyce to Margaret Atwood have taken inspiration from this original quest story. But Odysseus’ quest itself is an almost mundane affair, amid the gods and monsters which populate the poem. Because it is not about sailing off to find something wondrous and new (a golden fleece, for example, or an undiscovered land). It’s about a man trying to get home at the end of a 10-year war."

These are the top 10 book that changed the world:

1. The Odyssey (Homer, 8th Century BC)
2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852)
3. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
4. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)
5. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe, 1958)
6. One Thousand and One Nights (various authors, 8th-18th Centuries)
7. Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes, 1605-1615)
8. Hamlet (William Shakespeare, 1603)
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez, 1967)
10. The Iliad (Homer, 8th Century BC)
On the June 1st, which coincides with 16 Thargelion, 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 2,300-year-old tomb in Aegean Turkey — once revered as a saint’s shrine — turns out to have been the final resting place of an ancient Hellenic boxer.

Local people in the Marmaris district of Turgut thought the unusual hilltop pyramid tomb was the burial place of a holy person. Young men going into the army to do their military service would take a handful of earth from the site as a good-luck talisman.

Many residents continued to treat it like a holy place until the 1970s when, Turkish newspaper Milliyet reports, the structure was ransacked after it was discovered it had no religious roots.
Now, experts who examined the tomb, claim it belonged to a boxer called Diagoras of Rhodes who lived in the third century BC. A statue depicting the legendary warrior and his wife was also stolen by thieves.

An inscription in the tomb apparently claims Diagoras will be eternally vigilant “that no coward will come” to disturb his rest. Other sources say the boxer was the victor in the 79th Olympiad in 464 BC. There is a statue to the fighter in modern-day Rhodes. It is rumored Olympia crowned three generations of his family for their athletic feats, adding to the boxer’s fame.
A former Swedish ambassador to Greece has called for the return of the Parthenon sculptures during an event held at the National Theatre in Stockholm.

Ett Levande Parthenon (A Living Parthenon) was a collaborative effort by the Swedish Committee for the Return of Parthenon Marbles, the National Theatre of Stockholm (Dramaten) and the Embassy of Greece to Sweden. Krister Kumlin, who served in Greece between 1993 and 1997, is the president of the Swedish Committee for the return of the marbles.

The Swedish diplomat described the marbles as a moral issue, saying it was essential that all the parts of the ancient carvings be housed in the Acropolis Museum in Athens. Kumlin argued that the timeless marbles “yearn for the sun of Attica” and their natural place is in the new Acropolis Museum.

During the event, Kumlin read a speech by Greek Culture Minister Lydia Koniordou in which she argues that “the reunification of the Parthenon marbles constitutes the main strategy of the Greek government and culture ministry.

“Our position that a solution must be found through diplomacy and dialogue with the British government and the British Museum in the framework of the international organizations, such as UNESCO, remains the same.”
A wonderful friend and reader of this blog sent be a box with gifts. She's a lovely friend that way! I wanted to share two of the items with you, because they are already oh so dear to my heart.

Let's start with the coins! they're replicas of ancient ones and they're heavy and absolutely splendid! I've added them to my various shrines and I can't stop playing with Athena's owl one. I love coins, period, and (replicas of) ancient Hellenic ones? Heaven!

And then there is the dodecagram! In my most viewed post to date (by a landslide) I examined some symbols of Hellenism, in the hope of figuring out one that might unify the community. My choice out of a select few was the dodecagram.

The dodecagram, or twelve pointed star, is already one of the more widespread symbols of Hellenismos. The twelve points represent the twelve Olympic Gods and thus the symbol serves its purpose as a dedicational symbol well. Another version of this symbol is the Star of Vergina, a symbol with sixteen points. The Star was used in ancient Hellas (Macedonia, mostly) and is still part of the Macedonian flag today. Because of this association, the Star does not have my preference, but I'm a great fan of the dodecagram.

In that post I also mentioned that what will decide the battle is the availability of the symbol. Back in 2012 (!) you couldn't order it anywhere, not even online. I have found versions throughout the years but they were either too small or just plain ugly. My friend had one made especially for me (!!!) and had one cast in bronze for herself (mine is silver). 

I love it. I love everything about it. It's absolutely stunning and of course, I wanted to share it with you all. Tell me, if you could and it can be an affordable option, would you like to buy one? I'm sure I can figure out if that's a possibility some way. 
Βronze pieces of a Hellenic warrior’s breastplate have been unearthed near an ancient Celtic fortified settlement in southern Slovakia.

Regine Thomas of Cologne University digitized and analyzed the pieces, and determined they were once part of a relief that depicted the mythical battle between the Greeks and the Amazons. The pieces are thought to have been made in southern Italy in the middle of the fourth century B.C. Karol Pieta of the Slovak Archaeological Institute stated:

“It is the oldest original Greek art relic in the area of Slovakia."

He thinks the bronze artifacts may have traveled with Celtic warriors, who could have plundered them from the Greeks early in the third century B.C. The spot where the breastplate pieces were found is said to have been used by the Celts for ritual sacrifices. Archaeologists uncovered a sacrificial hole containing burned human and animal bones, bracelets made of blue glass, a spur, and a lot of pottery fragments. The Celts are thought to have thrown their beverage containers into a bonfire after sacrificial feasts.

Polyphemus (Πολύφημος Polyphēmos) is the giant son of Poseidon and Thoosa in Hellenic mythology, one of the Cyclopes described in Homeros's Odyssey. His name means "abounding in songs and legends".

In Homeros's epic, Odysseus lands on the island of the Cyclops during his journey home from the Trojan War and, together with some of his men, enters a cave filled with provisions. When the giant Polyphemus returns home with his flocks, he blocks the entrance with a great stone and, scoffing at the usual custom of hospitality, eats two of the men. Next morning, the giant kills and eats two more and leaves the cave to graze his sheep.

After the giant returns in the evening and eats two more of the men, Odysseus offers Polyphemus some strong and undiluted wine given to him earlier on his journey. Drunk and unwary, the giant asks Odysseus his name, promising him a guest-gift if he answers. Odysseus tells him "Οὖτις", which means "nobody" and Polyphemus promises to eat this "Nobody" last of all. With that, he falls into a drunken sleep. Odysseus had meanwhile hardened a wooden stake in the fire and drives it into Polyphemus' eye. When Polyphemus shouts for help from his fellow giants, saying that "Nobody" has hurt him, they think Polyphemus is being afflicted by divine power and recommend prayer as the answer.

In the morning, the blind Cyclops lets the sheep out to graze, feeling their backs to ensure that the men are not escaping. However, Odysseus and his men have tied themselves to the undersides of the animals and so get away. As he sails off with his men, Odysseus boastfully reveals his real name, an act of hubris that was to cause problems for him later. Polyphemus prays to his father, Poseidon, for revenge and casts huge rocks towards the ship, which Odysseus barely escapes.

I came across the above artwork yesterday and it broke my heart to see the gentleness of the giant knowing his fate. So, today's post is in honor of Polyphemus. Your life would have been much better if a certain stray hero hadn't set foot on your island.

“Oh gentle ram, why do you come from the cave behind the rest of the flock? You never before tarried behind the other skeep, but striding far before the others you snatched the mild blossoms, you came first to the banks of the rivers, and you ever desired first to return home in the evening. But now you are last by far. Are you worried about my eye, which that rotten bastard Noone and his awful friends took from me after wrecking my mind with wine – I do not say that he has escaped death. Would that you could be of one mind with me, and could tell me where that man has fled from my wrath. Once slain, his brain would drip through my cave here and there to the ground, and it would ease my heart from those troubles which that worthless bastard Noone gave me.”
(Odyssey 9.446-460)

The 'history' of Ionian shipwrecks emerges after three cases of antiquity smuggling in one month were investigated by the Ioannina Police and two Germans living for 30 years in the coastal town of Perdika in Thesprotia were arrested, as well as a scuba diver in Igoumenitsa and a business man in Parga. Hundreds of antiquities were found in their possession and confiscated.

From Prehistoric times, the Ionian had been a 'sea bridge' between East and West. It was only a relatively safe passage since there was the threat of the open sea and ships sailed without losing sight of the coast. Pari Kalamara, head of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities (EUA) to the Athens and Macedonian News Agency states:

“It may not have been a particularly dangerous sea for navigation, but the frequency of travelling presupposes the existence of a great number of nautical incidents over the centuries.”

She also points out that important naval battles took place there that influenced the course of the Mediterranean peoples, such as: the naval battles of Actium in 31 BC, of Lepanto in 1571, of which no trace remains in the sea, as well as the battle of Navarino in 1827, evidence of which can still be seen in the bay.

The Ionian is a sea that compared with the Aegean remains relatively unexplored, says Mrs Kalamara. Μasses of antiquities such as amphorae, tablets and other vessels from the Hellenistic period up to the Late Byzantine era are buried in the depths and at times get entangled in the nets of fishermen who hand them over to the proper services.

At the same time, confiscated antiquities, mainly amphorae used for trade from many parts of the Ionian, a large number of which are in the storerooms of the region’s Antiquities’ Ephorate, give a picture of significant shipping activity in the area over the centuries, which constitutes a field of marine research of great archaeological interest.

Most of the research, some of it conducted even before the official founding of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, was in connection with regions where important naval battles had taken place. Surface surveys, carried out on occasions by the EUA in specific places, yielded significant evidence and uncovered shipwrecks.

In 2002, shipwrecks from Roman times were located in Kephalonia and Ithaca, as well as a Prehistoric one of the Early Helladic period in Giagana. Likewise in the region of Methoni, two important shipwrecks of Roman times should be mentioned; one with a cargo of columns and the other with sarcophagi.

During surface surveys in the Northern Ionian, between Corfu and Paxoi, for controlling the transit of the natural gas pipeline 'Poseidon', three shipwrecks of the 4th, 7th and 18th centuries AD were located at a depth of more than 1,000 metres.

Moreover, systematic surveys were conducted on a 16th century shipwreck at the Dimitris or Sinialo reef in Zakynthos as well as at the Xi peninsular in Kephalonia, where six marble statues were found and pulled up, three marble column bases and two marble capitals which were probably part of the cargo of a Roman ship transporting works of art.

Equally important, adds the head of the EUA, are the surveys of the coastal sunken prehistoric settlements at Methoni and Platygiali in Astakos, where a port has now been constructed, as well as the Medieval harbour of Glarentza in Kyllini. Special mention is also made by Mrs Kalamara of

“...more modern but equally tragic events, such as the shipwrecks and airplane crashes mainly of the Second World War, which are also protected by Greek archaeological law, because they are monuments associated with Europe’s recent history and they too must be absolutely respected and protected.”

A rapid tourist development of the Ionian, already since the 1950s, has also offered antiquity smugglers scope for action. Many cases have been recorded by the port and police authorities and the Ephorate always tries to assist, says the head of the EUA and adds:

“Unfortunately, over recent years, these events tend to build up, since nowadays technology for surveying the seabed can be obtained more easily and access to greater depths by deep sea diving is simpler. In no way however should one generalize and consider everyone a potential illicit trader in antiquities. We cannot under any circumstances become complacent and should be constantly on the alert, so as to respond directly and assist the authorities who patrol the seas and who at this time are shouldering great burdens in the Eastern Mediterranean in general.”

As Mrs Kalamara points out, in a region such as the Ionian with its intense tourist and business activities, large hotel units, marinas, ports and aquaculture, the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities responds to the demands for the protection of antiquities and of underwater cultural heritage which in turn can become a major attraction for a particular type of tourism in the future.
In a country whose archaeological wealth is one of its main sources of income, at a time when archaeologists make an impressive entrance into the lives of local communities whose support they are counting on to continue their important work, an excavation is now confronted with the danger of being left incomplete. Not for lack of money, but because it seems that a private citizen can obstruct access to the excavation site.

This is the case in the systematic excavation of the Minoan cemetery in Petras, Siteia (Eastern Crete), being conducted since 2004 by Metaxia Tsipopoulou, honorary Head of the Ministry of Culture and Sports. Earlier on, specifically since 1985, Ms Tsipopoulou had excavated the town and the Minoan palace, which since 2006 are archaeological sites open to the public. In 2012, a 5 year excavation programme was approved by the Ministry of Culture and in 2017 the permit was renewed for another five years (2017-2021).

As we are informed by the excavation’s head: “The extensive Minoan cemetery so far consists of 17 large funerary buildings (approximately 80-100 m2) dating from 2800 to 1750 BC. It is to date the largest burial assemblage of that era in Crete and the only one being systematically excavated in its entirety in the 21st century using modern methods of excavation, documentation and treatment of the material.

“The Petras cemetery, then used by the elite of the palatial settlement, had not been plundered and has yielded important finds both in quality and quantity, many of which are made of precious imported materials (gold, silver, bronze, ivory, semiprecious stones) and their study essentially changes our knowledge of the Minoan period in Eastern Crete and beyond. Moreover, the uniquely important skeletal material is being excavated and documented by expert palaeoanthropologists from the University of Thessaloniki.”

It should be noted that Petras is being studied by a 30-member international and interdisciplinary team of scientists from 9 countries and several monographs and numerous articles on it have already been published ( for bibliography, see and, while material has been granted to young scientists for post graduate papers and three doctoral theses.
This year’s excavation period is in danger of being lost.

As we are informed by Ms Tsipopoulou, the Ministry of Culture and Sports has approved the expropriation of 2.47 acres of land on which the cemetery is located (former Tsakalakis property) which is also part of the boundaries of the archaeological site. The Head of the Petras Excavation explains: 

"The land is on a plateau high on the Kefala hill. The only access to it is via a dirt road about 4m wide which starts from the bypass round the main Siteia to Palaiokastro road (see attached aerial photograph) crossing the adjacent property of Mr Joseph Plakiotakis. Both the road and the property are inside the defined and demarcated archaeological site. This road has been shut with a gate by the above individual and father of the New Democracy MP of Lasithi, who, until 2016, allowed us access by giving us the key to the padlock for the 5-6 weeks duration of the excavation. According to the topographic plan made by the Department of Land registration and Expropriation of the Ministry of Culture and the contracts of the Tsakalakis property, this dirt road is RURAL.

The Ephorate of Antiquities of Lasithi granted Mr. J. Plakiotakis a document stating that ‘This year’s excavation period, which runs from 1-7 until 6-8-16, completes the five-year systematic excavation programme at the Kefala site in Petras’ and that ‘Our Ephorate has no ownership rights to the passage that is within your property.’ In 2017, Mr. Plakiotakis allowed us access because of this document, but only after a great struggle and pressure from many sides. He did not however let the workers take the tools and materials used for stabilizing the walls.

I have secured both the renewal of the permit for a systematic excavation from the Central Archaeological Council and also, sufficient financial aid from the US based Institute of Aegean Prehistory which funds the majority of Prehistoric excavations in Greece and supports the excavation at Petras from 1987 to the present. It is important for excavations of this unique cemetery to continue this year since all necessary preparations have been made , the personnel- 40 people from 6 different countries – has booked tickets and a deposit has been made on the rooms where we will be staying for 6 weeks, from July 1 to August10 ?.

I should point out that the cemetery area is without walls and the danger of illegal excavations very real, while the Ephorate of Lasithi itself has no access to the monument it is obliged to protect. We use agricultural vehicles in the excavation, to transport personnel, tools, instruments and finds, a truck and loader to remove debris and transport soil samples for flotation (7,500 large bags), as well as a concrete mixer for the preparation of mortar for stabilizing works. During the previous week Mr. J. Plakiotakis operated a bulldozer on his property directly in the area being excavated and in the demarcated archaeological site. Till Friday afternoon, the Ephorate had not pressed charges as required by archaeological law."

According to the latest developments in the case, Ms Tsipopoulou was informed that a warrant will be issued to the Ephorate of Antiquities of Lasithi for the opening of a new road allowing trucks and loaders to pass through and to access the excavated plateau. The western side of the hill, however, apart from being extremely steep, belongs to owners we are not sure have accepted a road being opened through their properties. Indeed it is very likely that, when this road is opened, antiquities will be found which must be directly excavated. The only solution for the excavation to continue and be completed is to give the Ephorate a key to the gate that blocks the rural road, so that the research can continue smoothly and the Ephorate is able to protect the site by having direct access to it whenever necessary.
Elaion is proud to announce that on the sixth and seventh of Thargelion (so 22 May and 23 May), we will be hosting another PAT ritual, this time for the Thargelia. The Thargelia (Θαργήλια) was, as said, held over the course of two days. It was an agricultural festival as well as a kathartic one. The purpose was to purify the city in order to please the Theoi and ensure a successful harvest come harvesting time. It also celebrates the birth of the divine twins Apollon and Artemis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find the rituals for the events here, for both days, and the community page here.
On the fourth of Thargelion, in the deme of Erkhia, located approximately twenty kilometers (twelve miles) east of Athens, a series of sacrifices were held. Most likely, these were in relation to the Thargelia which was soon to follow. Preporatory rites, of a sort. Elaion will hold a PAT ritual to follow in their footsteps on 20 May at the usual 10 am EDT. Will you be joining us?

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

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

We won't be distinguishing between the two 'branches' and have made a single rite to be performed on the 20th, at 10 am EDT. You can join the community here and find the ritual here. We hope you will join us!
On the day of the Hene kai Nea, I post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog and in projects and organizations related to it. I will also announce Elaion's coming PAT rituals.

New things happening:
PAT rituals for Thargelion:
  • Thargelion 4 - May 20 - Sacrifice to Leto, Pythian Apollon, Zeus, Hermes & Dioskuri at Erkhia
  • Thargelion 6 - May 22 - Sacrifice to Demeter Khloe at Erkhia
  • Thargelion 6-7 - May 22-23 - Thargelia - birthday of Apollon and Artemis
  • Thargelion 16 - June 1 - Sacrifice to Zeus Epakrios at Erkhia
  • Thargelion 19 - June 4 - Bendideia - festival in honor of Thracian Goddess Bendis
  • Thargelion 19 - June 4Sacrifice to Menedeius at Erkhia
  • Thargelion 25n - June 9n - Kallunteria - spring cleaning of the Temple of Athena
  • Thargelion 27 - June 12 - Plynteria - festival of washing, where the statue of athena was removed from the city of Athens to be cleaned. Auspicious day.

Anything else?
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