In case you don't have your vacation plans solidified yet. The “Olympias” trireme, the only working model in the world of an ancient trireme, classical Athens’ iconic ship that led to its dominance at sea, will open again this summer to visitors who want to either visit or try their hand at rowing out to the Saronic Gulf. It is the fourth year in a row that the trireme opens to visitors and volunteer rowers.

The Hellenic Navy said actual rowers will have to be at least 15 years old, and trips will begin on June 23.

For those wishing to participate interactively, sitting at a rower’s position and rowing in place, tours will begin on June 19. Information will include the history of the trireme and travelling on one in ancient Greece.

For both kinds of visits, the Navy recommends sport attire, including sport shoes, comfortable clothing and hat, and no food, coffee or refreshments on board. In both cases, reservations are necessary at 6940471218 (09:00-13:00 to July 19, except for June 17; and same hours, from September 2 to 11).

Rowers will additionally need to register online; outgoing trips will not take non-rowing passengers.

Tickets for both kinds of visits are 3 euros each, with no discounts. Tickets can be purchased at the “Averof” battle cruiser/museum stationed in Paleo Faliro, where the trireme will also be stationed.
For specific days and times of tours, please consult the site at (in Greek). The tours take place on Wednesdays (17:00-19:00, June 19, 26, July 3, 17, September 11). The rowing tours will take place on Sundays (10:00-12:00, June 23, 30, July 14, 21, September 8).
Very low on time today, so I am going to share a fun podcast about monsters in ancient Hellenic mythology. Enjoy and see you tomorrow!

"No one did monsters better than the Greeks. A black-figure krater in the Carlos Collection of Ancient Art depicting the hero Odysseus escaping from the cave of the cyclops Polyphemus begins this lively discussion of monsters in the Greek world with Emory faculty members Bonna Wescoat, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Art History; Louise Pratt, professor of Classics; and Marshall Duke, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology."
The Toledo Museum of Art and the Italian Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities announced that they have reached an agreement for the repatriation of an object in the Museum’s collection. The Attic red-figured skyphos, an earthenware drinking vessel decorated with the story of the return of Hephaistos to Olympos, is attributed to the Kleophon Painter of Athens, Greece, and dates to approximately 420 B.C.E. Per the agreement, the vessel will remain on view at TMA for four years, after which the Museum may ask to renew the loan or request another significant object from the Italian government as part of a continuing and rotating cultural exchange.

The Toledo Museum of Art purchased the skyphos in 1982 for $90,000 with funds gifted from Edward Drummond Libbey. The provenance of the object was called into question in 2017 by Christos Tsirogiannis, a forensic archaeologist, after which the Museum began an internal investigation and contacted the Italian authorities.

The vessel has been on display as part of the Museum’s permanent collection since its acquisition and was included in the 1996-97 special exhibition The Fire of Hephaistos: Large Classical Bronzes from North American Collections, which originated at TMA and subsequently traveled to the Tampa Museum of Art in Florida.

It depicts Hephaistos, the metalsmith for the gods, who was thrown out of Olympos by his mother, the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus. Hephaistos sought revenge by making a trap for Hera in the form of a magnificent throne. When she sat in it, she was stuck and none of the gods could free her. Dionysos, god of wine and theater, made Hephaistos drunk and he eventually freed Hera and was reconciled with his divine family.

The skyphos was used at men’s drinking parties and is one of the largest such cups known. As a result, it would have been almost impossible to drink from and may have been used instead as a mixing bowl (krater).

TMA is committed to the protection of cultural patrimony and to the responsible acquisition of archaeological materials and ancient art. Its collections management policy adheres to the strictest ethical guidelines, institutional transparency and professional best practices. TMA rigorously investigates the provenance of all new acquisitions and continues to research objects already in its collections that may have questionable provenances. The Museum has been proactive in resolving all ownership claims and welcomes new information on objects in our collections.

In similar news, the US Homeland Security Department repatriated ten Hellenic coins to the government of Greece on Tuesday, during a reception held at the Greek Consulate in San Francisco. The ten coins were allegedly smuggled out of various Aegean islands including the Island of Samos.

San Francisco Consul General of Greece in San Francisco, Antonios Sgouropoulos, welcomed the US officials. He thanked “our good friends from Homeland Security Investigations of San Francisco, who closely worked with their counterparts in Athens for the last two years, to make possible the repatriation of ten ancient Greek coins.”

“Homeland Security Investigations is the investigative arm for the Department of Homeland Security, and we work closely with our international law enforcement partners to combat the illegal trafficking of cultural artifacts,” explained Templet.

“HSI Special Agent David Keller of San Francisco and Hellenic Police Sgt. Orfeas Sotiriou of Athens, Greece, collaborated these past two-plus years to intercept and authenticate these artifacts,” Templet said. “Their hard work resulted in this repatriation. I am happy to be a part of such a great event,” he added.
So, there is this art project. It might be too feminist for you. If so, all good. I'm on the edge because of the appropriation of the myth, but I stand by the sentiment. This project is MWTH, short for Medusa With The Head.

From the site:

"MWTH (Medusa With The Head) is a project entangled in the narrative habits of classical imaginaries, their foundational role in present culture and visions of the future. MWTH seeks to reorient androcentric lore, to queer iconography, to re-reformulate antiquity’s heroic center and its modes of (re)production. 

Through stories that are told and retold over centuries, our iconography shapes our ideology.
MWTH is an artist run project. We are working in collaboration with artist Luciano Garbati, to share his sculpture, Medusa With The Head of Perseus, with the world.

MWTH Project was (immaculately) conceived by Bek Andersen in the immediate wake of the Kavanaugh hearings. The day Kavanaugh was confirmed to the highest court of the land, we were feeling pretty low. Bek came across the viral image of Medusa with the Head of Perseus by Luciano Garbati, an inversion of Cellini’s Perseus With the Head of Medusa. She was inspired to contact the artist in Argentina and bring the sculpture to New York. "

For the record, I love the sentiment, and I love the statue. If I had a spare $750, I'd buy one. I might get the shirt. I just don't like the appropriation.

The legend of Médousa (Μέδουσα) is one of the hardest myths to deal with out of ancient Hellenic mythology. It tells the story of a beautiful woman, who got raped by Poseidon, and gets transformed into a hideous monster who can turn people to stone just by looking at them, by Athena, because of it. She spends the rest of her life trapped on an island, in isolation, while brave warriors try to kill her for her head, which will still turn people to stone once cut off. Perseus eventually does so and gives the head to Athena to place on her shield. The circle is complete and Médousa is dead, after a lifetime of horror which was not her fault to begin with. It's one of the best known Hellenic myths, and the movies, series, books, comics and other mediums which feature it--or Médousa--are endless. Percy Jackson comes to mind, and Clash of the Titans, but there are many others. What's less well known is that this particular myth doesn't date back to ancient Hellas, but ancient Rome: it was written by the Roman poet Ovid, in 8 B.C., in his Metamorphosis.

Yet, Médousa was a well known figure in ancient Hellas, so well known that the images of her cut off head adorned everything from armors to stoves. Her name meant 'guardian', and her head frightened off enemies as well as little children who would otherwise have burned their hands. The blood from the veins on the left side of Médousa's head was allegedly capable of killing, but Asclepius, a great healer, used the blood from the veins on the right side of the head for saving lives.

In ancient Hellenic mythology, Médousa was one of three sisters, Khthonic daímōns called Gorgons. They were named Médousa, Stheno (Σθεννω), and Euryale (Ευρυαλη), and were born to the ancient marine deities Phorkys (Φόρκυς) and Keto (Κητώ), his sister. They were part of the Phorcides (Φόρκιδες), the offspring of Phorkys. Their sisters were Echidna (Ἔχιδνα, half woman, half snake), the Graiai (Γραῖαι, 'old women', sharing one tooth and one eye), and Ladon (Λάδων, the dragon serpent who guarded the golden apples in the garden of the Hesperides). This view comes from Hesiod:

"And to Phorkys, Keto bore the Graiai, with fair faces and gray from birth, and these the gods who are immortal and men who walk on the earth call Graiai, the gray sisters, Pemphredo robed in beauty and Enyo robed in saffron, and the Gorgones who, beyond the famous stream of Okeanos, live in the utmost place toward night, by the singing Hesperides: they are Sthenno, Euryale, and Medousa, whose fate is a sad one, for she was mortal, but the other two immortal and ageless both alike. Poseidon, he of the dark hair, lay with one of these, in a soft meadow and among spring flowers. But when Perseus had cut off the head of Medousa there sprang from her blood great Khrysaor and the horse Pegasos so named from the springs (pegai) of Okeanos, where she was born."

According to Apollodorus, Médousa and her sisters came into the world with snakes on their heads, instead of hair, with yellow wings and brazen hands. Their bodies were also covered with impenetrable scales, and their very looks had the power of killing or turning to stones. Médousa was the only mortal of the three, and in nearly all versions of the myth, has her head cut off by Perseus, who gifts it to Athena. The big difference? In the Hellenic version of the myth, Médousa was never a beautiful maiden who served as a priestess to Athena and was punished for being raped.

There is a third version of the myth, inspired, it seems, by Hesiod, in which Médousa was a very beautiful maiden who lived far to the north where the sun did not reach. She begged Athena to allow her to leave and see the sun, but Athena refused. Médousa got angry and shouted at Athena that she was only disallowing her request because she was jealous at her beauty. Athena, angered, turned her into the monster she is so famous as today. There is a variation of this myth where Médousa tells the sculpture of a statue of Athena that he would have done better making a sculpture of her, because she was far more beautiful. The result is the same; Athena takes her beauty and forces her into isolation as punishment for her hubris (and was thus a valuable lesson/example for humans to remember their place. Same goes for Ariadne and Niobe, for example). Apollodorus, interestingly enough, also confirms this:

"It is affirmed by some that Medousa was beheaded because of Athene, for they say the Gorgon had been willing to be compared with Athene in beauty."

Archaeologists suspect that Athena, Médousa and Poseidon found their origins in Libya. They came to Hellas through Crete at the dawn of Hellas. In the beginning of Her rein, Athena may have been a snake and fertility Goddess--a trait she shared with her Libyan counterpart, who had Her own cult--and may have either had a priestess who fit the Médousa myth or--and this is more likely--Médousa had her own cult as a snake, fertility and (menstrual) blood Goddess. Especially the latter may be linked to the myths concerning Médousa's blood.

Athena's role as a snake and fertility Goddess is still visible in the myth about the child she had with Hēphaistos; Erichthonios (Ἐριχθόνιος), who was half man, half snake. It's even posed that in the early days, Athena was married to Hēphaistos and had His child willingly. As Athena was stripped of Her roles as a fertility and snake Goddess, Médousa's myth came into being, where Athena distances Herself from sex and snakes, by punishing an epithet of herself (Athena Tritogeneia, perhaps: 'born of Trito', a lake which was supposedly located in Libya), or the Libyan snake Goddess Médousa, who may have still been attached to Her worship. By placing Médousa's head on Her breastplate or shield, Athena's mythology is continuously linked to Her Libyan heritage, but harmlessly so, to Her new image of a virginal warrior.

Few references remain to Médousa's Libyan cult. There's vague reference to Médousa being a patron of Libya as a whole, or that she was the Goddess most worshipped by the Amazons. She was linked to protection, snakes, menstrual blood, blood, fertility, and femininity in general. If this is true, it's understandable why her worship did not match the Hellenic religion: for one, she's most likely a very powerful female deity. This did not match the hierarchy of the ancient Hellens, and so, Médousa became a monster, and was dealt with accordingly. Blood was one of the fluids that caused serious miasma, and menstrual fluid wasn't even spoken of in ancient Hellas, let alone revered. Not a single Goddess would have it in their portfolio.

I don't like Ovid's version of the Médousa myth. In my view, it's an embellished version of the myth which overshoots its purpose. It also puts both Poseidon and Athena in a very bad light, and takes a lot away from Médousa. It also introduces an element to the story that has nothing to do with Hellenic mythology and that makes no sense within the context of ancient Hellenic society.

The Roman empire came up about a thousand years after the rise of the Hellenes. the Hellenes valued physical prowess, but it were poets and scholars who were held in the highest regards. For Rome, it were the warriors who received the most attention. This reflected in the Gods of both people as well: the Roman Gods resemble the Hellenic Gods, but they are stricter, harder, and possess more bloodlust. At the same time, they were also pruder when it came to excesses of any kind. Ares, temperamental God of War, has his Roman counterpart in Mars, yet, Mars is a much stabler God, who is also in charge of agriculture and fertility. Baccus, the Roman equivalent of Dionysos, lost all ecstatic rites that made the worship of Dionysos so famous. Romans tried becoming Gods their whole lives, while the Hellens accepted their lot as mortals, and respected the Theoi as all-powerful and all-ruling. A frame of mind like that shows in Gods that get neatly packaged, made non-threatening and can be rivaled by mortals. Yet, because of the warrior mentality of the Romans, the Gods that became more predictable and less formed, also became harder. They punished socially unacceptable behavior more severely and myths from the Hellenic period got retold from the viewpoint of a warrior's society. Médousa's myth is one of the most classical examples of this shift.

I think I've lost most of my trail of thought at this point, but let me end by saying that I don't condone rape, and while we can frown upon the Roman empire for the more brutal depiction of violence against women, it really serves no purpose to get retroactively angry over something that happened nearly 2000 years ago. So many years later, our attitudes have changed. Women's rights have come a long way, and with them, the criminalization and social rejection of rape. The current resurgence of male-driven legislation can trigger anger at the ancient sources, but it's important to note that those stories came to fruition in a society where this practice was accepted, and were told in myths that were cautionary. Rape is not accepted in modern society, and anger should be directed that way, not towards the ancient stories that (except for one Roman example) didn't even include rape.
An ancient Hellenic temple dedicated to the Nemesis has been discovered in the ruins of an ancient theater in Mytilene, AMNA news agency reported on Thursday. The remains of the temple were found in the south entry passage (párodos in Greek) of the theater, under a series of large limestone blocks.

According to experts who are conducting archaeological excavations in the area, the theater was completed in two different phases of construction, during the Hellenistic era (in the third century BC) and the Roman era (in the first century AD).

Its vast size leads the experts to believe that the theater had room for more than 10,000 spectators.
The temple itself dates to the first century AD and was identified by the existence of a stone altar, created for offerings, and a series of dedicatory inscriptions by priests and prominent personalities of the era.

Pavlos Triantafyllides, the leading excavator and head of the Lesvos Ephorate, noted that the temple’s location in the southern párodos was not arbitrary, since an arena for gladiator combat was built in the orchestra area of the theater during Roman times.

"As their contests had to conclude with the serving of justice and the awarding of victory to the best gladiator, the existence of a temple dedicated to Nemesis was obligatory."

The excavation is continuing, with the contribution of Italy’s University of Bari and its school of civil engineering.

Nemesis, to which the temple discovered was dedicated is the Goddess who exacted retribution against those who succumb to hubris, the sin described as extreme or foolish pride and dangerous overconfidence, which often occurs in combination with arrogance. Her name is related to the Greek word ”némein,” which is means “to give what is due.”
Sorry, dying of headache today and going back to bed. Don't worry, though; I am leaving you in very capable hands.

Mary R. Lefkowitz, former professor of classical studies at Wellesley College, says we can learn much about what it means to be human by studying the myths of the ancient Greeks. In the Distinguished Faculty Lecture during Wellesley's family weekend and in her fantastic book, 'Greek Gods, Human Lives: What We Can Learn from Myths' (Yale University, November 2003), Lefkowitz shows how myths have fascinated people through the ages while helping them cope with the uncertainties of their lives.

Diana Chapman Walsh, president of Wellesley College, introduces Mary Lefkowitz as she discusses this intriguing topic.

Greece’s Central Archaeological Council (KAS) earlier this week approved a study which aims to preserve, restore part of the 'Monumental Propylon' and 'Building I' of the massive Royal Palace complex of ancient Pella in Greece’s Central Macedonia. This resolution comes as the finalization of the 2016 decision which aimed, for the first time, to restore and recreate one of ancient Greece’s most impressive palaces.

Ancient Pella was the capital and one of the most important urban settlements of Northern Greece in antiquity. The Palace of Pella was originally built in the fifth century BC, during the reign of Archaelaos, and is where the legendary Alexander the Great was born and raised.

The ancient Macedonian palace was a massive construction, comprised of a complex network of buildings which were connected to each other through stoas, staircases and pathways. The ancient palace occupied an area of some 56,000 square metres, making it without question one of the most impressive buildings in the ancient world. Access to the palace was via the Propylon, which was framed by the Doric colonnades of two buildings, Building I (to the east) and Building II (to the west).

Today, all that is left is the foundation of the complex, with several columns and impressive mosaics still visible in certain areas across the site. Much of the palace was destroyed during the Byzantine era, when most of its stones were reused for the construction of nearby settlements.

The scattered ancient material was recorded in 2016 for use in the proposed restoration work, while the project's objectives are to make the plan of the monument discernable to the visitor, to project the theatricality and monumentality of the palace. To this end four columns in the peristyle of the courtyard of Building I and three of the Propylon's stoa will be restored.
Porphyry of Tyre (Πορφύριος, Porphyrios) lived from 234 to 305 AD. He was a Neoplatonic philosopher who was born in Tyre, in the Roman Empire. He wrote many works on a wide variety of topics but one was on his dislike of idolatry--the worship of an idol or a physical object as a representation of Deity. It is only the uneducated, Porphyry says, who identify the gods with the images. The images are to be taken purely as symbols, both as regards their material, their color, and their form. White marble typifies the quality of light in the Gods, gold Their stainlessness, and so on. He then goes into detail about Zeus to make the point that any representation of the God is chosen by men to portray His characteristics and attributes. His image, however, does not define Him.

Fragment 3
Now look at the wisdom of the Greeks, and examine it as follows. The authors of the Orphic hymns supposed Zeus to be the mind of the world, and that he created all things therein,containing the world in himself. Therefore in their theological systems they have handed down their opinions concerning him thus:

Zeus was the first, Zeus last, the lightning's lord,
Zeus head, Zeus centre, all things are from Zeus.
Zeus born a male, Zeus virgin undefiled;
Zeus the firm base of earth and starry heaven;
Zeus sovereign, Zeus alone first cause of all:
One power divine, great ruler of the world,
One kingly form, encircling all things here,
Fire, water, earth, and ether, night and day;
Wisdom, first parent, and delightful Love:
For in Zeus' mighty body these all lie.
His head and beauteous face the radiant heaven
Reveals and round him float in shining waves
The golden tresses of the twinkling stars.
On either side bulls' horns of gold are seen,
Sunrise and sunset, footpaths of the gods.
His eyes the Sun, the Moon's responsive light;
His mind immortal ether, sovereign truth,
Hears and considers all; nor any speech,
Nor cry, nor noise, nor ominous voice escapes
The ear of Zeus, great Kronos' mightier son:
Such his immortal head, and such his thought.
His radiant body, boundless, undisturbed
In strength of mighty limbs was formed thus:
The god's broad-spreading shoulders, breast and back
Air's wide expanse displays; on either side
Grow wings, wherewith throughout all space he flies.
Earth the all-mother, with her lofty hills,
His sacred belly forms; the swelling flood
Of hoarse resounding Ocean girds his waist.
His feet the deeply rooted ground upholds,
And dismal Tartarus, and earth's utmost bounds.
All things he hides, then from his heart again
In godlike action brings to gladsome light.

Zeus, therefore, is the whole world, animal of animals, and god of gods; but Zeus, that is, inasmuch as he is the mind from which he brings forth all things, and by his thoughts creates them. When the theologians had explained the nature of god in this manner, to make an image such as their description indicated was neither possible, nor, if any one thought of it, could he show the look of life, and intelligence, and forethought by the figure of a sphere.

But they have made the representation of Zeus in human form, because mind was that according to which he wrought, and by generative laws brought all things to completion; and he is seated, as indicating the steadfastness of his power: and his upper parts are bare, because he is manifested in the intellectual and the heavenly parts of the world; but his feet are clothed, because he is invisible in the things that lie hidden below. And he holds his sceptre in his left hand, because most close to that side of the body dwells the heart, the most commanding and intelligent organ: for the creative mind is the sovereign of the world. And in his right hand he holds forth either an eagle, because he is master of the gods who traverse the air, as the eagle is master of the birds that fly aloft - or a victory, because he is himself victorious over all things. 
On the May 21st, 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.
Running by the 31.000 people town of Livadeia (Λιβαδειά) in central Greece runs the Herkyna river. Pausanias, writing in the 2nd century AD, reported that the original name of the city was Mideia, and that it took its name Lebadeia from Lebados of Athens, who moved the city from high to low ground, to its current location on the banks of this river. The sacred protector of the city was the hero-turned-God Trophonios, whose oracle, involving a harrowing descent into an underground chamber, was famous beyond the borders of Hellas. At the springs of the Herkyna river are shallow grottos with niches and marble remnants said to be the site of the oracle. This river was named after the Naiad Herkyna (Ἕρκυνα).

Herkyna was the daughter of Trophonios (Τροφώνιος), a son of Erginos. According to the Homeric Hymn to Apollon, he built Apollon's temple at the oracle at Delphi with his brother, Agamedes. Once finished, the oracle told the brothers to do whatsoever they wished for six days and, on the seventh, their greatest wish would be granted. They did and were found dead on the seventh day.

Herkyna was a childhood companion of Kore and a minor deity of the khthonian oracle of her father. Her name means "Guard Dog" or "She who Wards Off" from the Greek words "to guard", "dog", and "to ward". The Lebadeans, however, connected the name with "herkos>, a bird-catching net or noose. It's possible Herkyna was connected to or identified with Hekate, because both were childhood companions of Kore, and khthonic deities associated with dogs.

Once, while Herkyna was playing with Kore in the grove of Trophonios, near Lebadeia in Boeotia, she let a goose fly away, which she carried in her hand. The bird flew into a cave, and concealed itself under a block of stone. When Kore pulled the bird forth from its hiding place, a well gushed forth from under the stone, which was called Herkyna. On the bank of the stream, a temple was afterwards erected, with the statue of a maiden carrying a goose in her hand; and in the cave there were two statues with staves surrounded by serpents, Trophonios and Herkyna, resembling the statues of Asklepios and His daughter Hygeia. Herkyna founded the worship of Demeter at Lebadeia, who hence received the epithet of Hercyna. Herkyna was worshipped at Lebadeia together with Zeus, and sacrifices were offered to both in common.

The cave and oracle were forgotten for quite some time, until the Lebadaeans suffered a plague, and consulted the Delphic Oracle. The Pythia advised them that an unnamed hero was angry at being neglected, and that they should find his grave and offer him worship forthwith. Several unsuccessful searches followed, and the plague continued unabated until a shepherd boy followed a trail of bees into a hole in the ground. Instead of honey, he found the sanctuary, and Lebadaea lost its plague while gaining a popular oracle.

Pausanias, in his account of Boeotia (9.39), relates many details about the cult of Trophonios. Whoever desired to consult the oracle would live in a designated house for a period of days, bathing in the river Herkyna and living on sacrificial meat. He would then sacrifice, by day, to a series of Gods, including Kronus, Apollon, Zeus, Hera, and Demeter. At night, he would cast a black victim into a pit sacred to Agamedes, drink from two rivers called Lethe and Mnemosyne, and then descend into the cave. Here, most consultees were frightened out of their wits, and forgot the experience entirely upon coming up. Afterward, the consultee would be seated upon a chair of Mnemosyne, where the priests of the shrine would record his ravings and compose an oracle out of them. "To descend into the cave of Trophonios" became a proverbial way of saying "to suffer a great fright".

In 2000, local sculptor Spyros Gourgiotis created and donated the beautifully crafted bust of the naiad depicted above.
'If you are a stranger, act like one' is a Delphic Maxim that can be interpreted in many, many ways. I'm going to try to cover all the angles, but I am sure your interpretation of this maxim will be slightly different than mine, regardless. 

Traveling in ancient Hellas was not done on a whim. Most people stayed at home, or at least near their city or village, unless work or emergency called them away. The road could be a treacherous place, and the sea even more so. Family tended to stay close together, so people rarely had to travel out to visit parents or other loved ones. While there were mot certainly reasons to visit or move to other city states, a lot of people in ancient Hellas never had to, so why the maxim?

As I have written before, ancient Hellenic society was notoriously strict about who was part of it and who was not. If you were not a citizen, you were either a doûlos--slave--or a métoikos, more commonly referred to as 'metic'. All three classes had their parts to play in Classical Hellas. Métoikos were citizens of other Hellenic cities and beyond who came to Athens because of the unique opportunities the metropolis offered.

In ancient Athens, métiokos, while welcomed, were disadvantaged from the get-go. They had to register their status within a month of arrival. They had no political influence, were not entitled to governmental aid in case of emergencies, the could own no farm land or real estate unless they were given special permission by the government, and they were not allowed to procure a contract with the government to work the mines. They were, however, expected to enter the army, and pay taxes if they were wealth enough, like citizens. On top of that, they also had to pay a métoikos poll tax--the metoikon--which was twelve drachmas ($ 720,-) a year for men and six for women, as well as another special tax--xenikon telos--if they wanted to set up a stall in the market place.

Métiokos did have access to the judicial system; they could both prosecute others and be prosecuted themselves. Unlike citizens and very much like slaves, métiokos were not allowed to represent themselves; they needed a citizen to vouch for them--a sponsor, called prostates. Métiokos were entitled to take part in religious ceremony. Like slaves but unlike citizens, métiokos could be made to undergo judicial torture. The penalties for killing a métiokos were not as severe as for killing a citizen.

While citizens, métiokos and doûlos were indistinguishable in appearance and behavior, society functioned largely on their separation. Only Corinth and Athens had large populations of métoikos, but all city states had rules concerning their legal, religious, and societal status. Athens had the most lenient ones, but it was still easy for a métoikos to step out of line, and that could easily lead to a life of slavery. As such, knowing to 'act like a stranger' was a vital piece of knowledge for anyone choosing to visit or live in a city that was not the one he was born in. As such, the maxim in this regard does not so much allude to attitude, but awareness: a constant sense of knowing your place, even if you lived in a city for many years. You, as a métoikos, had a role to fulfill, and clear lines which not to cross. As such, specific behavior was asked of you, and you had to be familiar with these rules.

A second interpretation is related to xenia. Hospitality in ancient Hellenic was a complicated ritual within both the host and the guest has certain roles to fill and tasks to perform. Especially when someone unknown to the host came to the door, the ritual held great value. The host has many tasks in his process, but the guest has an important part to play as well: the guest is expected to be courteous and not be a burden to the host. The house was a sanctuary in ancient Hellas with a lot of social rules attached to it. Guests could not enter certain parts of the house, and male guests were kept away from women at all times. Long term guests had a slightly different statues, as they became part of the oikos, but they were still subject to restrictions when it came to social an religious behavior. Again, the maxim would have reminded guests to be mindful of their hosts and to be grateful to be included in the oikos of another.

The last point from ancient Hellas I want to make is religious. Métoikos and houseguests were almost always passive participants of religious rites. In the oikos, the kurios performed the rites, and in state festivals, Archons and priests performed that function. Métoikos were barred from attending a number of festivals. That said, the way Hellenic ritual structure worked, meant that even visitors of a city would recognize what was going on, and they would be able to partake of the rite fairly easily. There were undoubtedly differences between city states, but the basics were always there. This meant that rituals did not have to be adjusted for métoikos, and kharis would be preserved. In this spirit, I still call for standardization of practices within modern Hellenismos.

In a modern context, acting like a stranger, when you are one, means to be an attentive guest, to not overstay your welcome, to follow the rules of the house you are in and to ask for clarification if you are not sure what the host expects of you. It means investing time and energy into getting to know the place and people you are visiting, and to observe that this place and these people are not there to serve you: you are a guest, and as such, it is your place to follow their lead. To me, this maxim calls for modesty and attentiveness, and those are not bad virtues to foster within yourself. 
The J. Paul Getty Museum acquired at auction last week a group of seventeen ancient engraved gems from the collection of Roman art dealer Giorgio Sangiorgi (1886-1965). The great majority of the Sangiorgi gems were acquired before World War II, and many derive from notable earlier collections amassed by Lelio Pasqualini, the Boncompagni-Ludovisi family, the Duke of Marlborough, and Paul Arndt in Munich. Comprising some of the finest classical gems still in private hands, the Sangiorgi gems were brought to Switzerland in the 1950s and have remained there with his heirs until now.

Roman amethyst ringstone with a portrait of Demosthenes, signed by Dioskourides,
circa late 1st cent. BC [Credit: © 2019 Christie’s Image Ltd]

The group acquired by the Getty includes Greek gems of the Minoan, Archaic and Classical periods, as well as Etruscan and Roman gems, some of which are in their original gold rings. They have never been on public view and were only recently published for the first time in Masterpieces in Miniature. Engraved Gems from Prehistory to the Present (London and New York, 2018) by Claudia Wagner and Sir John Boardman. Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum explained:

"The acquisition of these gems brings into the Getty’s collection some of the greatest and most famous of all classical gems, most notably the portraits of Antinous and Demosthenes. But the group also includes many lesser-known works of exceptional skill and beauty that together raise the status of our collection to a new level. Two such are the image of three swans on a Bronze Age seal from Crete, which has an elegance and charm transcending its early date (c. 1600 B.C.); and the image of the semi-divine Perseus, a marvel of minute naturalism that cannot fail to enthrall. This acquisition represents the most important enhancement to the Getty Villa’s collection in over a decade."

The extraordinary frontal portrait of Demosthenes, the 4th century B.C. Greek orator, is one of the great masterpieces of the Sangiorgi collection. It is signed by the gem engraver Dioskourides, who is mentioned by ancient writers as the court gem engraver to the emperor Augustus (ruled 27 BC-AD 14) and is today regarded as one of the greatest gem engravers of Roman times.

The intaglio image is cut so deeply that the impression stands out in unusually high relief, reading more like a statue in the round. Demosthenes wears a mantle over one shoulder and turns his head slightly to one side. The orator is bearded, with a full mustache framing his lips. His brows are knitted and his forehead creased, giving him a seriousness of expression appropriate to the subject of his famous Philippics.

When it was in the collection of the Roman collector Lelio Pasqualini (1549-1611), the gem piqued the interest of every antiquarian, Grand Tour traveler, and glyptic scholar of the day, and its renown has only increased over time.

All seventeen gems will be featured as part of a special exhibition opening at the Getty Center in December highlighting recent acquisitions. Following that, they will go on view at the Getty Villa.

For many, many, many more images (and you want to see these!) go here.
I am so excited about this! The northern wall of the cella (or chamber) of the Parthenon in Athens, is set to be reconstructed, completing restoration works that have lasted for over three decades, Greece’s Central Archaeological Council (KAS) decided this week.

KAS said on Wednesday that the completion of the world landmark’s restoration was of “prime importance”, adding that researchers were considering the re-use of hundreds of marble fragments found on the Acropolis premises, as well as marble pieces from Mt Pendeli (Dionysos quarry) for the reconstruction the temple’s northern chamber wall.

The cella of the Parthenon – the inner chamber – housed the 12-meter-high gold-and-ivory statue of the goddess Athena Parthenos, which was sculpted by Phidias in 447 BC and dedicated in 438 BC. The Directorate for the Restoration of Ancient Monuments said:

"Today’s meeting is of great importance because through the application of research findings on the restoration of the cella, we will have reconstructed the facades, a very important factor with regard to the latter history of the Parthenon."

Once completed, the works will have restored to a great degree the geometry of the ancient Greek building, offering insight into the identity and history of the monument, while visitors will have a clearer understanding of its architecture.

Restoration works on the Acropolis began in 1834-1835 but in 1975 and after the establishment of Committee for the Conservation of the Acropolis Monuments in 1983, numerous large-scale restoration projects have been undertaken.

According to estimates, the costly reconstruction and restoration effort will last for at least 15 years.
It should be noted that each year more than 7.2 million people visit the ancient Greek temple standing on the Acropolis and overlooking the city of Athens.
I can't today. I can't share news about archeology. I can't post rituals, talk about life in ancient Hellas, or anything else while our society is on fire. Not today. I am hurting, grieving, over life that should not have been lost. Over governments hell-bent on lining their pockets over the backs of its citizens. I am raging over lives lost because of the threat of healthcare bills and restricted medication. I am outraged, ready to tear at my hair, my skin, my flesh over this crushing, crippling sense of powerlessness.

You don't need your guns.
Government doesn't need more power.
The rich don't need more wealth.
No one needs another shopping mall.

We need children who aren't regularly trained in what to do when there is an active shooter in their school.
We need governments that work for its people.
We need money in the hands of the working class, so they can spread it amongst their local businesses.
We need forests and clean air.

We are dying.
By the one's, ten's, hundreds, thousands.
By the planet.
We are killing ourselves.

And don't you dare point to a higher power in your pursuit of justification for what are essentially war crimes. The Theoi, God, Allah--none would condone what this age has come to. I am sick and tired of religion being used as a veil to shroud the eyes of onlookers while all commandments and ethical guidelines associated with those religions are broken by "the faithful."

That is not religion. That is not what being religious looks like.

Being religious is dying inside because everything you hold dear is being twisted in order to make life better for the few whose life is already saturated by greed and filth. Being religious is real anger, real fear, real tears.

I will leave you today with an out-of-context quote by Sophocles (Ajax, 964):

"Men of ill judgment ignore the good that lies within their hands, till they have lost it."

We've already lost so much. Don't let another child die in a place of education. Don't let another tree perish in the name of greed. Don't let another acre of sacred land be smeared, another person defiled, another billionaire become richer.

If nothing else, use your voice to shout from the rooftops that these are not the ethics of our ancestors, of our Gods.

None of this is someone else's problem. It's all your problem. Every rape of person or land, every lost child, every bomb that goes off--it's all your problem.

And it's solution lies with you.
All of you.
Elaion is proud to announce that on the sixth and seventh of Thargelion (so 11 May and 12 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.