Oedipus Rex, also known by its Greek title, Oedipus Tyrannus (Οἰδίπους Τύραννος), or Oedipus the King, is an Athenian tragedy by Sophocles that was first performed around 429 BC. Originally, to the ancient Hellenes, the title was simply Oedipus (Οἰδίπους), as it is referred to by Aristotle in the Poetics. It is thought to have been renamed Oedipus Tyrannus to distinguish it from another of Sophocles' plays, Oedipus at Colonus. In antiquity, the term “tyrant” referred to a ruler with no legitimate claim to rule, but it did not necessarily have a negative connotation.

Of Sophocles' three Theban plays that have survived, and that deal with the story of Oedipus, Oedipus Rex was the second to be written. However, in terms of the chronology of events that the plays describe, it comes first, followed by Oedipus at Colonus and then Antigone. Prior to the start of Oedipus Rex, Oedipus has become the king of Thebes while unwittingly fulfilling a prophecy that he would kill his father, Laius (the previous king), and marry his mother, Jocasta (whom Oedipus took as his queen after solving the riddle of the Sphinx). The action of Sophocles' play concerns Oedipus' search for the murderer of Laius in order to end a plague ravaging Thebes, unaware that the killer he is looking for is none other than himself. At the end of the play, after the truth finally comes to light, Jocasta hangs herself while Oedipus, horrified at his patricide and incest, proceeds to gouge out his own eyes in despair.

Oedipus Rex is regarded by many scholars as the masterpiece of ancient Hellenic tragedy. In his Poetics, Aristotle refers several times to the play in order to exemplify aspects of the genre.

I am an active follower of the Delphic Maxims, and they are standard reading material for me. The one that always cuts the deepest, and it one of the most valuable ones in my life is number 90: 'live without sorrow' (Αλυπως βιου). I have struggled with that in my life, an it's good to have a reminder.

I should try to describe what I read when I read this maxim. To me, living without sorrow means to not dwell in the past, to accept your own actions, and to move past them if they were somehow shaming or less than up to par. For me, living without sorrow means to accept my own faults and strive to better them, without wearing myself down over events I cannot change.

In a Hellenistic perspective, this maxim goes hand in hand with a lot of others, mostly those which describe perfection. 'Control anger', for example, or 'make just judgements'; these type of maxims call for a perfect way of being. Yet, we are all human, and in some ways, that will always make us imperfect. What matters is that we strive to be the best we can be, to practice arête. If we fall or struggle in this quest sometimes, accept that it happened an move on. Better yourself.

It seems that, in this interpretation of the maxim, it clashes with another of the maxims: 'regret falling short of the mark' (Αμαρτανων μετανοει). It doesn't; 'live without regret' comes after regretting to accomplish what one sets out to do. Regret is a valuable and powerful emotional response. No only does it signal that our ethical framework is intact, it is also one of the ways we learn. Regret is a signal to examine events and draw conclusions from them. It offers a chance to learn. Getting stuck in that regret, however, is counterproductive.

Once lessons are drawn, it is time to move on, to leave the situation behind and put what has been learned to the test. You set new goals, once more, you will strive for perfection. You forget the regret, because you have a new purpose, new inspiration, to do and be better.

I have tried all my life to be perfect, and there are only two events in my life that I truly regret. These events still hurt to think about, although my examination of the Delphic Maxims has lessened the sting. After each event, I examined the situation and my behavior, and located the warning signs. I haven't relapsed into them so far, and I doubt I ever will. As such, I can live without sorrow that the original events took place... although there are still moments I wish they had not happened at all.
Archaeologists working at the Episcopal Basilica site in Bulgaria’s second city Plovdiv have found a large stone slab, estimated to date from the third century, inscribed in Greek with the names of 44 members of the Dionysus religious grouping. The marble slab had been used as part of the flooring in the atrium of the Episcopal Basilica, which was built in the fifth century. The slab had been part of an earlier building at the site.

The inscription is in honour of the god Dionysus, referred to as the leader of the Thracians, while the members of the mystical grouping also dedicated it to the emperors Varelian and Gallien.

The find was made by the dig team headed by Zheni Tankova and was examined by epigraphist Professor Nikolai Sharankov. Sharankov said that the find provided a wealth of information and was one of the most interesting ever made in Plovdiv.

While more precise dating is pending, a reference expressing gratitude for surviving the Gothic invasion of the mid-third century is crucial to placing it in the history of Plovdiv, then known as Philippopolis. The inscription reads:

"For the victory, the health and the eternal existence of the emperors, Publius, Licinius Valerian and Gallien Augustin and for their whole house, for the holy senate and Roman people, and for the council and people’s assembly of Philippopolis – the Thracian leader Dionysus dedicated the surviving mysteries, while the leader of the mysteries and eternal priest was Aurelius Mukianid, son of Mukian." 

This is followed by a list of all 44 members of the mystical society, several with the positions they occupy.

"What is interesting is that the positions of members in the organisation are also listed, and they are very diverse. There are several heads of mysteries, different kinds of priests, people who have an obligation to wear specific sacred objects. We see a very complex structure of this association that we do not have in other inscriptions. This is yet to be studied."

For example, the list of names includes two with the title used for the one who carried the emperor’s image. That there are two names perhaps is because of the two emperors.

"From this epoch, after the Gothic invasion, we have almost no inscriptions. So far, we had two inscriptions from Philippopolis from the second half of the third century. This is the third, largest and most meaningful, with the most information."

Those who were members of the association may have been immigrants from Asia Minor, where such cult practices were common at the time.

Their names were proof that they had survived the Goth invasion, in which almost the entire city’s population was killed or captured. Thanking Dionysus for their rescue, they erected the monument and asked the god to take care of the new emperors, mindful of the Gothic threat and the continuing instability in the empire at the time.
On the 16th of Hekatombaion, the Synoikia (συνοίκια or συνοικέσια) festival was held in Athens. It was a community festival, sacred to primarily Athena, and was a festival held every year. Why the Sunoikia was celebrated, and what its origins are is not entirely clear; best I can tell is that it reaches back to the unification of twelve small towns into the metropolis of Athens, and is thus linked to the myth of Theseus. Will you celebrate with us on July 19th?

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

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

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

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

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

Even in ancient times, the sacrifices were a bit lacklustre: a young ewe on the 15th, and two young bullocks on the 16th. Neither sacrifice included a feast and the meat--save for what was sacrificed, of course--was sold right away, indicating not many people attended and that the festival was held most for form; and antiquated festival even then. Today, reading up on the history of Athens and sacrificing to Athena, Zeus Phatrios, and Eirênê suffices to celebrate the Synoikia--and join in with our PAT ritual, of course! You can find the ritual here and the community page here.
The 12th of Hekatombion marks the start of the ancient Hellenic Kronia festival. The Kronia honours Kronos, Zeus' father, not to be confused with Khronos; creator of the Gods and Lord of Time. Will you be joining us for the celebration on July 15th (so, today!), at the usual 10 am EDT?

In Athens, Kronos and Rhea--His wife and sister--shared a temple. They represented an age before the Theoi took to rule; a time when societal rules did not exist yet, and there was no hierarchy. As such, on the day Kronos was worshipped, the fixed order of society was suspended, and slaves joined--and even ruled over--a banquet given by their masters; they ran through the streets screaming and hollering. On Krete, they could whip their masters. As much fun as this was, the day served as a reminder that for a society to function, societal rules were necessary, and as such, it was also necessary for Zeus to overthrow His father and assume the throne.

Besides a banquette, the Kronia must have been celebrated with an official sacrifice as well, in the temple to Him and Rhea, as the Kronia was a harvest festival of sorts. Unlike many rites to Demeter, the Kronia focused on the harvest--most likely of cereals--that was completed around this time. It was the end of a hectic period where slaves were worked hard, and their masters as well. A communal meal and a little bit of payback on the side of the serfs was most likely at the root of this festival, along with gratitude for the successful harvest; the Hellenic summers were too hot to grow much of anything, so the food eaten in this barren season ahead needed to be taken in and thrashed (where needed) prior to the swell of summer heat. The Kronia was a good mark for this.

There is a little bit of evidence that human sacrifice--in the form of 'scapegoat' rituals was performed on or around the date of the Kronia in the very distant past, but by the time Hellas--and especially Athens--became civilized in the way we speak of today, this practice was long outdated. It seems that a criminal condemned to death was taken outside of the city gates for a reason now lost to us, possibly fed copious amounts of wine, and then killed in honor (or placation) of Kronos. Needless to say, there is no reason to bring this practice back.

You can find the ritual here  and the community page here.
A joint Albanian-American underwater archaeology project says it has found amphorae that are at least 2,500 years old in the Ionian Sea off the Albanian coast, which might yield an ancient shipwreck.

The research vessel Hercules of the RPM Nautical Foundation said Friday they had found 22 amphorae—a two-handled jar with a narrow neck used for wine or oil—40-60 meters deep scattered around the seabed close to a rocky shores near the Karaburun peninsula. Archaeologist Mateusz Polakowski said they believe the Corinthian A type amphorae date to between the 7th and the 5th century B.C.

"If the remains of a wreck can be found, it will put this discovery as the earliest ship ever to be sailing along the Albanian coast."

RPM chairman James Goold considered the site as "one of the most important of all of our discoveries ... (and) it will be very important from a historical and archaeological perspective" if confirmed. Further investigation of the site will be necessary.

Albanian archaeologist Neritan Ceka said similar wine amphorae of Corinthian and Kerkyra origin have been found in Durres (historically known as Epidamnos and Dyrrachium) and Apollonia and other inland areas in Albania, something which indicates the intensive trade during the second half of the 7th century BC along the Albanian coast. Since 2004, RPM has mapped Albania's offshore seabed for ancient and modern shipwrecks, with ongoing plans to open an underwater museum in western Albania.

"It certainly would be a great starting point for a national program around which to establish a museum and show the pivotal role of Albania in antiquity."

Ceka said Albanian authorities are planning a new four-to-five-year project with RPM and the Texas-based not-for-profit Institute of Nautical Archaeology, to explore the possibilities of excavating shipwrecks, a financially expensive and scientifically delicate process.

The research in Albania has so far uncovered 28 wreck sites as well as several amphora mounds and additional finds all the way from southernmost Sarande and Butrint to Durres and it is planning to go north of Durres afterward.

RPM's presence in the last 12 years has been a "huge step" to Albania's science of underwater archaeology, according to Auron Tare, UNESCO head of the Scientific and Technical Committee for World Underwater Heritage.

"If confirmed this ship wreck can be associated with the foundation of two major cities in Albanian coastline, Dyrrachium and Apollonia, both the gates of Via Egnatia, the ancient road to the eastern trade. We have discovered not only ancient shipwrecks but also a good number of WWI and WWII shipwrecks shedding light to an unknown chapter of our history."

Albania is trying to protect and capitalize on its rich underwater heritage, with scant funding for its preservation from the government one of Europe's poorest nations.
Ethics are at the very core of Hellenismos, and they support the heart of human life: arête, the act of living up to one's full potential. When one lives the way of arête, they live their life ethically, consciously, and in happiness. That is the true potential of arête: a life of happiness.

Living up to arête is not easy: it challenges up to be our best mentally, physically, and spiritually. It means taking control of our life, to become an active participant in it. To place blame only on yourself when things go wrong, and to keep trying to reach your goals, no matter what setbacks you suffer. Arête should become a way of life, and in that way of life, an ethical framework is essential. Ethics give you the tools to create internal order and consistent action. Both are necessary for happiness. Ethics will remove doubt, fears and regrets from your life, as you know exactly what you should and should not do to become the best you can be.

The ancient Hellenes had many guidelines for this ethical framework. As such, Hellenismos is known for its highly developed ethical system, derived from ancient scripture like the Delphic Maxims. I'd like to talk about a Delphic Maxim today, namely "Be (religiously) silent" (Ευφημος ιοθι), because I have been thinking about it.

There are three parts to this Maxim; the first is to be silent. When you're silent, you allow yourself to listen. you open yourself up to the (proverbial) voice of the Gods, your own needs and even your own demons. When you're silent, you have nowhere to hide from all that we tend to run scared of. Being silent is a virtue. Too many people, myself sometimes included, talk because we need to talk. To not think, not hear, not acknowledge. There is honesty and purity in silence.

Being religiously silent is completely different. There are echoes in those words, whispering voices, secrets. Mystery religions, oaths sworn, experiences which can't be put into words. In my years of practice, I have experienced things I can not possibly put into words. Not because I'm not allowed to but because I simply can not adequately convey what I heard, felt, tasted, saw, and smelled.

Many ancient practices have been lost because those who partook in them practiced religious silence. There are days I wish they hadn't, but when I read this maxim, it reminds me that being religiously silent is an honor. It's a sign of respect towards the Gods; when They show Themselves to us, in whatever way, we acknowledge that They came to us--and only us--for a reason. We keep our mouth shut about these experiences and don't boast about them. We accept them as the gifts they are.

Words have power. They can hurt, flatter, curse, bless and a million other things. Words carry weight. Picking our words carefully when we do choose to speak is another thing this maxim reminds us of. Say only what you must, and think about every single word. So the next time you open your mouth to speak, consider your words. Look for the positive, avoid gossip, avoid lies, avoid revealing things that should not be revealed. Practice piety. Honor silence.
Okay, this is wickedly interesting. Archeologist think they may have discovered the origin of the ancient Hellenic Empire and it's a tiny pyramid shaped island off the coast of Keros in Greece.
Excavations on the islet of Daskalio have revealed the earliest ancient Hellenic monumental buildings ever unearthed, dating back 4,600 years.

The pyramid island is only 150 metres in diameter and may also have inspired the concept in the ancient Hellenic religion that mountain tops are where Gods lived. The discovery of the vast monumental complex on the tiny island is now totally changing what archaeologists thought they knew about this time period.

Research is being carried out there by a multinational team, supported by the Greek government and the British School in Athens as well as many other international institutions. They have found evidence of metal shops, indoor plumbing and marble buildings on the island, all indicating that this is where the sophisticated society could have started.

It is thought that the ancient people who lived on the island deliberately made it into a pyramid shape.
Some of the buildings found have two floors and fancy marble staircases. In fact, the archaeologists think it would have taken at least 3,500 maritime voyages to transport between 7,000 and 10,000 tons of marble to the island so that the intricate buildings could be made. This huge scale of work suggests the people were living in a powerful and unified state.

The project's co-director Michael Boyd told the Independent:

"Our investigation has been transforming our understanding of early Bronze Age Cycladic culture and suggests that these very early Greeks were organisationally, technically and politically much more advanced than previously thought."

The island could have been the start of the major trend of pyramid building across the world as it's a similar age to Stonehenge and earliest pyramids in Egypt. Dr Alan Peatfield of University College Dublin's School of Archaeology, a renowned expert on Greek mountaintop sanctuaries told the Daily Star:

"It is potentially a fundamental place of origin for the phenomenon of sacred mountains within the Greek world."

Archaeologists have also found lots of knives, tools and small sculptures on the island and will be doing more investigating.
What is it with these busy days this week? I'm going to leave you with this very interesting podcast about life as a woman in ancient Hellas. More tomorrow!

"Ancient Greece is notorious for keeping women silent, veiled, and firmly fixed beside the loom. But was life for the ladies in places like Athens really so restrictive? What did they get up to behind those veils and shaded screens? Let's time travel back to the Classical period to find out what it was like to be them."

Professor Clemente Marconi of New York University on Thursday presented the results and discoveries of the 13th international archaeological dig in the Selinunte Acropolis, conducted by NYU and the University of Milan in collaboration with the archaeological park in western Sicily. Particularly important were the findings of a votive deposit of perfectly preserved red deer antlers (Cervus Elaphus) and two large adult bull horns (Bos Taurus). The remains are the first archaeological evidence of bull sacrifice in Selinunte.

The ancient city of Selinunte in Sicily is a city whose inhabitants were slaughtered or enslaved by North African invaders in the late 5th century BC. Like ancient Pompeii, the whole city remained at least partially intact, despite the tragic loss of most of its inhabitants. At Pompeii, all the houses and other buildings were interred almost instantaneously under volcanic ash, but at Selinunte they were buried more gradually by hundreds of thousands of tons of earth and windblown sand. Archaeological excavations are now revealing how the exact moment that Selinunte ceased to exist as a major living city was preserved in graphic detail.

Marconi led the dig, in which over 50 students and experts from eight countries participated. The seminar and a guided tour of the dig site were organised as part of the "Worksites of Knowledge" project sponsored by the new director of the Selinunte archaeological park, architect Bernardo Agrò. Agrò previously organised and directed similar seminars and tours at Medieval and modern monuments in other areas of Sicily.

This year's Selinunte dig focused on deepening two trenches that were opened last year along the southern side of Temple R and between the western side of Temple R and the southern side of Temple C. The dig produced important results regarding the most ancient phases in which the large urban sanctuary was inhabited, and regarding activities associated with the construction of Temple R and Temple C.
Restoration and support works on the Kasta tomb at the Amphipolis site in northern Greece, are set to be completed by August, the Greek culture ministry said this week, adding that the Serres Ephorate of Antiquities will then proceed with studies for support interventions.

With funding from the EU’s NSRF program, the project is moving ahead as scheduled, said the ministry’s restoration department, adding that works will then proceed with the maintenance of the monument’s mortar and stone segments.

The ministry adds that work carried out on three of the four sites of the monument have already reveled the “architecture, size, scale, sculptures and  inscriptions of the brilliant ancient construction”.
The culture ministry has repeatedly expressed its intention to open parts of the site to the public.

In this direction, last year it announced the construction of a network of walking routes offering visitors a chance to tour the excavated monuments in the central area of the archaeological site which includes the Christian Acropolis and two separate sub-sections of the city.

The site, which is where Alexander the Great prepared for campaigns leading to his invasion of Asia, revealed in 2014 a Macedonian tomb with archaeologists still seeking to find the identity of the person buried there. Many were hoping it was the grave of Alexander the Great.
Ethics are at the very core of Hellenismos, and they support the heart of human life: arête, the act of living up to one's full potential. When one lives the way of arête, they live their life ethically, consciously, and in happiness. That is the true potential of arête: a life of happiness.

Living up to arête is not easy: it challenges up to be our best mentally, physically, and spiritually. It means taking control of our life, to become an active participant in it. To place blame only on yourself when things go wrong, and to keep trying to reach your goals, no matter what setbacks you suffer. Arête should become a way of life, and in that way of life, an ethical framework is essential. Ethics give you the tools to create internal order and consistent action. Both are necessary for happiness. Ethics will remove doubt, fears and regrets from your life, as you know exactly what you should and should not do to become the best you can be. 

The ancient Hellenes had many guidelines for this ethical framework. As such, Hellenismos is known for its highly developed ethical system, derived from ancient scripture like the Delphic Maxims I keep going on about as well as scholarly works like the Homeric Hymns, the Tenets of Solon, the Ethics of Aristotle (1,2), the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, the Philosophy of Epicurus, the Stoics, Works and Days by Hesiod and many, many others.

Today, I want to look into Solon and his tenets. Solon (Σόλων) was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet, who lived from 638 BC to 558 BC. He spend most of his adult life trying to legislate against political, economic, and moral decline in archaic Athens. His ideologies are often credited with having laid the foundations for Athenian democracy.

As a statesman, Solon put principles before expediency. In a time when Athens was struggling under the burden of civil war, his reforms strove to bridge the gap between the rich an the poor. He cancelled all debts, and purchased the freedom of all slaves, allowing everyone to start with a clean slate. This caused a massive financial crisis, for which new reforms were necessary, including new trade ties, and an halt in the export of all foodstuffs but olive oil, of which there was plenty. Solon did not stop there, however. Once he was given full legislative powers, he abolished political distinctions of birth in politics. Instead, he created four new groups:
  • Thetes, the lowest group, who paid no taxes, provided no equipment city state or its army, and who were not eligible to hold an office of any kind.
  • Zeugitae, the second lowest group, who paid tax at the lowest rate, provided body armor to the Athenian army, and who were eligible to hold office.
  • Hippeus, the second highest group, who paid higher taxes at the middle rate, provided their own war horse when they served in the army, and they were eligible for higher offices.
  • Pentacosiomedimni, the top class of citizens, who paid the highest amount of taxes, and were eligible for all top positions of government in Athens. Archons were chosen from this class.
Further political reforms brought stability to the political landscape, and eventually to the economic climate as well. From Diogénes Laértios (Διογένης Λαέρτιος), a Hellenic biographer, in his 'Lives of Eminent Philosophers':

"He was the first person also who assembled the nine archons together to deliver their opinions, as Apollodorus tells us in the second book of his Treatise on Lawgivers. And once, when there was a sedition in the city, he took part neither with the citizens, nor with the inhabitants of the plain, nor with the men of the sea-coast."

He gave the following advice, as is recorded by Apollodorus in his Treatise on the Sects of Philosophers (as written down by Laértios):
(1) Consider your honour, as a gentleman, of more weight than an oath.
(2) Never speak falsely.
(3) Pay attention to matters of importance.
(4) Be not hasty in making friends; and do not cast off those whom you have made.
(5) Rule, after you have first learnt to submit to rule.
(6) Advise not what is most agreeable, but what is best.
(7) Make reason your guide.
(8) Do not associate with the wicked.
(9) Honour the gods;
(10) respect your parents. 

Pausanias, in his 'Description of Greece', lists Solon as one of the seven sages whose aphorisms adorned Apollo's temple in Delphi (XXIV), and so it is not odd that many of Solon's tenets have a Delphinian counterpart in the maxims. These are common themes, reflected in most of the ethical teachings listed above. Common themes are honor, honesty, intelligent decision making, and family. Coincidentally--or perhaps not so much--these are also at the base of arête. 
To whom it may concern. The Ancient Historians at UCL would like to encourage applications from outstanding candidates for the following post-doctoral fellowship schemes. We are a sub-group of the History Department, covering between us the ancient middle east from the second millenium BC to the end of the Roman empire. Their profiles can be found here.

Candidates will be considered alongside those applying for other fields of History.

The Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual
The scheme’s deadline is 11 September 2019, so if you are interested in applying for this fellowship contact one of us soon.

The British Academy Postdoctoral
Details of the competition will be made available by the British Academy in mid-August.

The Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship

Applicants are advised to contact the department in the autumn in order to have a draft application ready for internal review by December 2019.

If you are interested in, and eligible for, any of these schemes, please contact an ancient historian working in a relevant field with whom you can discuss and develop your research proposal.
Further information about the Department can be found here.

If you have any questions, please contact the Director of Research, Prof. Margot Finn (until September 2019) or Prof. Nicola Miller (from September 2019), or the Head of Department, Prof. Eleanor Robson here.
A U.S. judge on Friday rejected Greece’s effort to dismiss an unusual lawsuit in which Sotheby’s and the owners of an ancient Greek bronze horse sued the country, seeking court permission to put the statue on the auction block.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla rejected Greece’s claim that she lacked jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, saying the case triggered an exception for “commercial activity” that allowed Greece to be sued. Greece had argued that the case should be dismissed, warning that a broad interpretation of the commercial activity exception “would have a chilling effect on the ability of foreign sovereigns to protect their cultural heritage.”

The June 2018 lawsuit was thought to be Sotheby’s first against a government, according to the Financial Times. Filed by Sotheby’s and descendants of art collectors Howard and Saretta Barnet, the lawsuit sought a declaration that the family owned the 14-centimeter (5.5-inch) high horse, which dates from the 8th century BC - and that Sotheby’s could sell it.

According to the complaint, the horse was purchased by the Barnets for about 15,000 British pounds in 1973, and might have fetched $150,000 to $250,000 at an auction that had been scheduled for May 14, 2018. But the plaintiffs said the auction was scuttled when Sotheby’s received a “demand letter” from Greece’s Ministry of Culture on May 11, 2018, which said the horse had been stolen and must be returned to the country. In her 18-page decision, Failla said Greece engaged in commercial activity by sending the letter, triggering the exception to sovereign immunity.

She also said some U.S. courts have said acts taken to advance a sovereign country’s cultural mission could be deemed commercial in nature. Greece’s demand letter “is analogous to a private citizen attempting to enforce his property rights,” Failla wrote. Gary Stein, a lawyer for Sotheby’s and the Barnet family, said his clients are pleased with the decision “and look forward to bringing this case to a successful conclusion.”

Leila Amineddoleh, a lawyer for Greece, said “we’re obviously disappointed” with the decision, adding that the country may appeal. 
July 7, at 10 am EDT, we will hold a rite for Aphrodite Pandamos and Peitho, as on this day, the fourth of Hekatombaion, They were traditionally honored during a festival of unification. Will you join us?

Pandêmos (Πανδημος) occurs as an epithet of Aphrodite. It identifies her as the Goddess of low sensual pleasures, and the epithet is often translated as 'common to all the people'. She united all the inhabitants of a country into one social or political body. In this respect She was worshipped at Athens along with Peitho (persuasion), and Her worship was said to have been instituted by Theseus at the time when he united the scattered townships into one great body of citizens.

According to some authorities, it was Solon who erected the sanctuary of Aphrodite Pandemos, either because her image stood in the agora, or because the hetaerae had to pay the costs of its erection. The worship of Aphrodite Pandemos also occurs at Megalopolis in Arcadia and at Thebes. 'Pandemos' also occurs as a surname of Eros.

Peithô is the personification of persuasion, seduction and charming speech. She was worshipped as a divinity at Sicyon, where she was honoured with a temple in the agora. Peitho also occurs as a surname of other divinities, such as Aphrodite, whose worship was said to have been introduced at Athens by Theseus, when he united the country communities into towns, and of Artemis.

At Athens the statues of Peitho and Aphrodite Pandemos stood closely together, and at Megara, too, the statue of Peitho stood in the temple of Aphrodite, so that the two divinities must he conceived as closely connected, or the one, perhaps, merely as an attribute of the other. For our rite, we will honour both divinities separately.

There is actually not much known about the Aphrodisia. It was most likely linked to the synoikismos, or unification, of the Attic demes into poleis, or city-states. In early Hellas, ancient society was split between the 'demos', country villages, and the 'asty', or 'polis', the seat of the aristocracy. The distinction between the 'polis' and the 'demos' was of great political importance in the ancient states. There was much antagonism between these two bodies, the country and city. In the city-states of ancient Hellas, synoecism occurred when the 'demos' combined with--usually by force--a polis to form one political union. The most notable synoikistes was the mythic or legendary Theseus, who liberated Attica from Kretan hegemony and gave independency back to Hellas under leadership of Athens. Like the Synoikia that was celebrated in a few days--which was a truly political festival and we will thus not celebrate it--the Aphrodisia seems to celebrate Theseus' efforts.

An inscription on a stele of Hymettian marble found near the Beulé Gate at the site of the aedicula on the south-west slope of the Acropolis may tell us something of the preparations for the Aphrodisia festival. Dated between 287 and 283 BC, the inscription records that at the time of the procession of Aphrodite Pandemos, Kallias, son of Lysimachos of the deme of Hermai, was to provide funds for the purification of the temple and the altar with the blood of a dove, for giving a coat of pitch to the roof, for the washing of the statues, and for a purple cloak for the amount of two drachmas.

From this and other ancient sources, we can conclude that the first ritual of the festival would be to purify the temple with the blood from a dove, which we know is the sacred bird of Aphrodite. Needless to say, we won't do this, but we do encourage you to give your altar a good scrub! Afterwards, worshippers would carry sacred images of Aphrodite and Peitho in a procession to the sea to be washed. In Cyprus, participants who were initiated into the Mysteries of Aphrodite were offered salt, a representation of Aphrodite's connection to the sea, and bread baked in the shape of a phallus (feel free to make some of those!). During the festival it was not permitted to make bloody sacrifices, since the altar could not be polluted with the blood of the sacrifice victims, which were usually white male goats. This of course excludes the blood of the sacred dove, made at the beginning of the ritual to purify the altar. In addition to live male goats, worshippers would offer flowers and incense.

As a celebration of the unification of Attica, the Aphrodisia festival may seem redundant, since the Synoikia festival also took place in the month of Hekatombaion, between the Aphrodisia and the Panathenaia. Yet, without help of Aphrodite Pandemos and Peitho, whose powers bring people together, unification would not have been possible. While the Synoikia celebrates a very specific event that is no longer current, the Aphrodisia celebrates not only Aphrodite (and Peitho) as divine, but also represents the beauty of community, solidarity, and the end of strive. In this day and age where it seems the entire world is at war, we offer sacrifice to Aphrodite and Peitho humbly in hopes that They will interfere and lay to rest this terrible animosity.

Will you be joining us on July 7? Join the community here, and download the ritual here.

On the day of the Hene kai Nea (or sometimes, like this month, the day after), I post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog and in projects and organizations related to it. I will also announce Elaion's coming PAT rituals.

PAT rituals for Hekatombaion:
  • Hekatombaion 4 - July 7Aphrodisia - festival of Aphrodite and Peitho (Persuasion), where the temple was purified with dove's blood, the altars cleansed, and the two statues washed
  • Hekatombaion 12 - July 15Kronia - festival in honor of Kronos
  • Hekatombaion 16 - July 9 - Sunoikia - community festival in Athens. Sacred to Athena. Two-day celebration every other year.
  • Hekatombaion 21 - July 24 - Sacrifice to Kourotrophos, (Hekate &) Artemis at Erkhia
  • Hekatombaion 23n + 30 - July 25 + August 1 - Panathanaia - main celebration on the twenty-eighth in honor of Athena. Greater held in the third year of each Olympiad, Lesser held annually for fewer days

Anything else?
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