Hieron the Alexandrian or Ephesian tells of the following wonder which occurred in Aitolia.
There was a certain citizen, Polykritos, who was voted Aitolian arkhon by the people. His fellow citizens considered him worthy for three years because of the nobility of his forebears. During the time he was in that office, he married a Lokrian woman. After he shared a bed with her for three nights, he died on the fourth.

The woman remained in their home widowed. When she gave birth, she had a child who had two sets of genitals, both male and female, which was alarmingly different from nature. The parts up top were completely rough and masculine and those near the thighs were feminine and softer.

Awestruck by this, her relatives forced the child to the agora and held an assembly to take advice about this, calling together the omen readers and interpreters. Some were claiming that this meant there would be dissent between Aitolians and Lokrians, since the mother was Lokrian and the father was Aitolian. But others believed that it was necessary to take the child and mother to the frontier and have them burned.

While the people were deliberating, suddenly the dead Polykritos appeared in the assembly dressed in black near his child. Even though the citizens were thunderstruck by this apparition and many of them were rushing to flight, he asked the citizens to be brave and not to be rattled by the sight which appeared. Then a bit of the chaos and the uproar receded, and he said these things in a slight voice:
“My fellow citizens, although I am dead in my body, I live among you in goodwill and thanks. And now I am present imploring those people who have power of this land to your collective benefit. I advise you who are citizens not to be troubled or angry at the impossible miracle which has happened. And I ask all of you, vouching for the safety of each, is to give  me the child who was born from me so that no violence may come from those who make some different kind of plans and that there may be no beginning of malicious and hard affairs because of a conflict on my part.

It would not be possible for me to overlook the burning of my child thanks to the shock of these interpreters who are advising you. I do have some pity, because you are at a loss when you see this kind of unexpected sight as to how you might respond to it correctly for current events. If you assent to me without fear, you will be relieved of the present anxieties and of the evils to come. But if you fall prey to another opinion, then I have fear for you that you will come into some incurable sufferings because you did not trust me.

Therefore, because of the goodwill I experienced while I was alive and the unexpectedness of the current situation, I am predicting the suffering to you. I think it is right that you do not delay any longer but that, once you deliberate correctly and obey the things I have said, you should hand over the child to me with a blessing. It is not fitting for me to waste any more time because of the men who rule this land.”

After he said these things, he kept quiet for a bit as he awaited what kind of decision there would be once they deliberated about it. Some were thinking it was right to give him the child and consider the sight sacred and the influence of a deity; but most of them denied this, claiming that it was necessary to deliberate in a calmer atmosphere when they were not at so great a loss, because the affair was a big deal.

When he saw that they were not moving in his favor but were actually impeding the decision there, he spoke these things in turn: “Fellow Citizens. If something more terrible happens to you because of a lack of decision, do not blame me, but this fate which directs you to something worse—it sets you in opposition to me and compels me to transgress against my child.”

There was a great mist and a portent of strife as he reached for the child and and grabbed most of it up boldly before butchering and eating the child.

There was a great cry and stones were thrown at him and they tried to make him turn him back. But he was not frightened off by the stones and he destroyed all of the child’s body except for the head and immediately disappeared.

While they were upset by the events and had fallen into confusion because of failing to capture him and were planning to go to Delphi, the head of the child spoke where it was sitting on the ground and provided a prophecy of what would happen:

Numberless people who inhabit a much-sung land
Do not go to the precinct of Phoibos and his smokey temple.
For your hands stand unclean in the air because of blood.
The path laid before your feet is corrupted.
Learn from me the journey the oracle foretells.
On this very day after the passing of a year
Death is fated for all of you, but the souls
Of Lokrians and Aitolians will live mixed together by Athena’s plans.
There will be no break from evil, not even a short one.
For already there is murderous blood pouring over your heads.
Night now hides everything as a dark sky races over us.
Immediately dark night overshadows the whole land.
All the widoes at home are resting their limbs on the ground.
No woman will be ever feel grief, nor will the children
Now in the homes mourn, as they cling to dear fathers.
For this sort of wave will wash over the whole land.
Oh, Oh, I always groan for my country suffering terrible things,
And my most wretched mother, who weeps last while still alive.
All the gods will make the race nameless
Of Lokrians and Aitolians whatever kind of seed is left.
Because death left my dear head and did not make
All of my mixed up limbs disappear, but left me on the earth.
But come and show my head to the sun as it rises.
Do not cover it below the shadowed earth.
You—leave this land after this is done
And go to another land and the people of Athena
If you choose to avoid death by fate’s decree.

After the Aitolians heard this oracle, they sent away their wives, children and elderly wherever each was able. But many remained to await what would happen. In the next year it happened that there was a war between the Aitolians and the Acarnanians and there was a great destruction of both peoples.

[Phlegon of Tralles, On Marvels 2
Translation from here and here.]
In November 1977 Professor Manolis Andronikos and his team unearthed the first of two unlooted tombs containing never-before-witnessed riches including exquisite weapons and armour. In ‘Tomb II’ lay the cremated skeletal remains of what appeared to be a king and queen, while ‘Tomb III’ held the bones of a ‘prince’. The subterranean cluster also revealed a shrine and two further looted tombs decorated in breath-taking wall paintings. The find was considered the ‘archaeological discovery of the century.’

The burial artefacts were dated to the mid-to-late fourth century BC (350s to 310 BC), corroborated by inscriptions, pottery, metalworking and the ‘Macedonian’ vaulted tomb design. Remarkably, this spanned the reigns of Philip II (359-336 BC) and Alexander III, the ‘Great’ (336-323 BC). The unique ‘Vergina Sun’ or ‘Star’ emblem of the Argead royal clan was embossed on the lids of the two gold chests holding cremated skeletal remains.

The second unlooted structure, named ‘Tomb III’, contained the cremated bones of an adolescent, likely a male. The son of Alexander the Great, by his Bactrian wife Rhoxane, was executed around 310 BC when in his teens by a throne usurper and historians linked him to the tomb. But a divisive controversy has clouded these identifications ever since.

The excavator believed Tomb II held the remains of Philip II, the twenty-fourth monarch of the Argead royal line and the first king to unite ancient Macedon; he trebled the land mass under its control into the first ‘European Empire’. His military reforms and statecraft brought Greece to its knees, enabling his son, Alexander the Great, to conquer the Persian Empire. Philip was a cultured cunning diplomat whose polygamous court hosted seven wives.

In October 336 BC Philip II was stabbed to death at his daughter’s wedding; it was a world-shaking event that heralded in the reign of Alexander. Equally driven by his heroic lineage, Alexander conquered the Persian Empire in eleven years but died mysteriously in Babylon where after his body was taken to Egypt where it lay in state until the late-Roman era.

The political capital of Macedon was moved from Aegae to Pella a century before Philip and Alexander. After their deaths, in the 270s BC invading Gallic Celts ransacked the old Aegae cemetery. When the danger had passed, the still-unlooted royal tombs were buried under a great earthen mound to protect them from further looting by an unnamed monarch.

When Rome defeated Macedon at the battle of Pydna in 168 BC, both Aegae and Pella were partially destroyed. A landslide covered much of what remained at Aegae in the first century AD and as Rome’s influence expanded, the importance of the cities diminished. When Rome’s empire was finally overrun, the name of the fallen-stone city survived in oral legend only.

What was likely an earthquake caused the collapse of the top of the earthen tumulus and shattered doors in the tombs below, but the sturdy stone structure remained hidden under the occupied landscape for the next to thousand years.

Modern excavations started in occupied Greece in 1855 in what was still part of the Ottoman Empire. Nothing more than ransacked tombs and Byzantine-period ruins were found. However, the intriguing scale of the stone foundations suggested a substantial city once stood in the hills overlooking the Thermaic Gulf southwest of Thessalonica, the heartland of ancient Macedon.

Malarial marshlands hampered excavations and Greek refugees who had been resettled there from Turkish Anatolia after the Graeco-Turkish War, knew nothing of its history. They used the ancient fallen stones from the anonymous ruins to build their houses at the modern village of Vergina.

In 1968 English historian Nicholas Hammond proposed the ‘heretical’ idea that the ruins at Vergina sat on the site of ancient Aegae, the burial ground of the nation’s kings. Few credited his theory; the belief prevailed that this was either the lost city of Valla, or a summer palace of unknown royalty.
In 1976 Professor Andronikos and team finally excavated the ancient necropolis where graves had been overturned and tombstones smashed in antiquity. This correlated strongly with the ancient texts claiming Celts had plundered the cemetery at Aegae some fifty years after Alexander’s death; the burial ground of the nation’s kings had finally been found.

The ages of the deceased in Tomb II were determined from wear and tear on bones: the main chamber contained a middle-aged male and the antechamber a far younger female. This narrowed down the list of kings and queens either side of Alexander’s reign.

But an ‘unfortunate symmetry’ obscured the background to the double burial in Tomb II’, says London-based historian David Grant who collaborated with the scientists studying the skeletal remains. This led to a ‘battle of the bones’ among historians, causing a rift which divided the academic community ‘obsessed’ on proving their identities.

The Tomb II occupants could either be Alexander’s father Philip II and his final teenage wife Cleopatra, or Philip’s half-witted son Arrhidaeus who was executed twenty years later when of similar age and with an equally young bride. Questions of ritual or forced suicide raised their head, because kings and queens rarely died together.

Philip II was a national hero who befitted such a tomb and he had seven wives we know of. But Grant’s research points out the elephant in the room: none of the ancient sources mentions any women being buried with Philip at Aegae. ‘What superficially appears to be a two-phase construction of Tomb II, plus the different cremation conditions the female bones underwent, suggest she was buried later than the male in the still-empty or incomplete second chamber.’

On the other hand, Arrhidaeus and his young bride Adea-Eurydice were executed together by Alexander’s mother Olympias when she regained political control of the state capital. She also murdered Philip’s last wife, Cleopatra, along with her new-born child. This ‘double assassination’ of Arrhidaeus and Adea-Eurydice explains the ‘double burial’ given to them after Olympias was herself executed.

When Alexander the Great died in Babylon in 323 BC, his royal regalia including his cloak, sceptre and ceremonial weapons were passed to newly crowned ‘King Philip III Arrhidaeus’ and escorted with him and Adea-Eurydice back to Macedon. So, the artefacts in Tomb II could be the very weapons of Alexander, other commentators believed, explaining the grandeur with the half-wit.
Arguments revolved around wounds evident or invisible on the male bones, wall paintings, entrance frescos and even salt cellars found on the floor; but it was debatable whether the twenty years between these kings could be discerned by interrogating the tombs this way.

The question remained: who was buried in the adjacent simpler looted Tomb I? Because initial reports concluded the scattered remains were those of a male, woman and baby, these must be to Philp II, Cleopatra and her newly born daughter. The logic of this argument gained momentum in the academic community.

In the Tomb II woman’s antechamber lay a weapon of great mystery: a gold-plated Scythian bow-and-arrow quiver like those carried by Scythian horseback archers. Grave digs in Russia and Ukraine have proven the existence of female warriors. Professor Andronikos mused that the Tomb II woman therefore had ‘Amazonian leanings.’

Others were more sceptical. ‘Weapons were for men what jewels were for women,’ reads a plaque in the subterranean Vergina Museum. So many commentators believed that the antechamber weapons belonged to the man next door, as their upright position against the dividing door might indicate.
Alexander’s father campaigned against Scythians at the River Danube, but Philip lost all the booty on his return when he was almost killed in a Thracian attack and limped ever after. The Tomb II woman was therefore a Scythian bride or captured concubine, postulated some commentators.

Grant is unconvinced: ‘the Scythians were not renowned as metalsmiths; the exquisite jewellery we find in their graves is of local Greek workmanship, likely from the Bosporus Kingdom. But there was also a thriving metalworking industry in Macedon, where weapons and armour were fashioned for Philip II. The possible domestic manufacture of what could have included ornate goods for Scythian warlords means the ‘Amazon’ of Vergina could have been born rather closer to home.’

By 2009, the ‘battle of the bones’ reached a stalemate when academics arguing the tomb identities ran out of debating ammunition. The American Journal of Archaeology even called for a moratorium on ‘Vergina papers’ until new evidence came to light.

Forward momentum recommenced in 2010 when an anthropological team led by Professor Theo Antikas and funded by a modest grant from the Aristotle University of Thessalonica, commenced a six-month task of cataloguing the Tomb II bones; their ground-breaking study would last five years.

The Antikas team found new incontrovertible age evidence on previously unanalysed bones, as well as undocumented trauma, which further narrowed down the list of candidates. The woman’s pubic symphysis aged her at 32 +/- 2 years at death, ruling out Philip’s teenage wife Cleopatra and discounting Arrhidaeus and his wife completely.

Dispelling the case of ‘archaeological gender bias’ was an overlooked shinbone wound providing proof that the armour and weapons belonged to the women, because the unevenly sized gilded-bronze greaves were fashioned to fit her shortened deformed leg. She was, indeed, being honoured as a warrior at death.

The Antikas team comprised both anthropologists and material scientists. Their additional microscopic finds, including textile stains, composite material fragments and melted metals on the cremated skeletons, hinted at ancient burial rituals, a death mask and the profound belief in the afterlife.

The rare white mineral huntite and Tyrian Purple in the composite material were bound with egg white in layers and created the vivid image of an unknown mystic Orphic funeral rite involving a face mask. Melted gold on the upper vertebrae begged the question of whether the male was initially wearing a crown as flames licked the funeral pyre, as the incomplete crown found inside the tomb showed signs of intense heat.

There may even be fragments of a fireproofing asbestos shroud worn by the cremated king, just as the Roman naturalist Pliny claimed was the practice of ancient Greek kings to help separate the bones from the rest of the pyre debris.

A final ‘identity-shattering’ discovery was made by the Antikas team. ‘Forgotten’ and unanalysed skeletal remains from Tomb I were found in storage below the Vergina laboratory; they were probably consigned to thirty-five-years of obscurity in the aftermath of the ‘great’ Thessalonica earthquake of 20 June 1978 when the preservation of unlooted Tombs II and III was the focus of attention. These additional bones from Tomb I contained the remains of at least seven individuals, not just two adults and a baby.

The team’s finds were published in an academic journal 2015. Although hampered by underfunding and a lack of support from those fearing unwanted results, they continued to push for ‘next-generation’ forensics: DNA testing, radiocarbon dating, and stable isotope analysis on the Tomb II and Tomb III bones.

Permission was denied in 2016, Grant reveals. Instead, the scientists were allowed to test the scattered bones found in looted ‘Tomb I’, but with no formal funding provided. Although these bones lay exposed in soil for over 2,000 years, dating and DNA results were successfully extracted, disproving yet more of the identity theories. Moreover, controversial leg bones, which supposedly evidenced the terrible a knee wound Philip may have suffered in Thrace, appeared to be ‘intruders’ from a completely different tomb. The results have yet to be published and Grant says they will amaze everyone.

What has become clear is that the great earthen tumulus at ancient Aegae was bitten into by looters on more than one occasion, and when exposed, Tomb I became a dumping ground for the dead.
Now Grant’s new book is revealing all, the pressure will certainly be on the Greek Ministry of Culture to take a new progressive stance on permitting the outstanding forensics on the ‘royal’ bones from the unlooted tombs. With the possible identities greatly narrowed down by the Antikas-team study, new DNA, radio carbon dating and stable isotope analysis of the ‘king’, ‘queen’ and ‘prince’ may solve the puzzle once and for all.

Unearthing the Family of Alexander the Great, the Remarkable Discovery of the Royal Tombs of Macedon launches on 30th October 2019 and is available from Amazon and other major online book retailers.
On the day of the Hene kai Nea (or sometimes, like this month, on 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 Maimakterion:
  • 10 Maimakterion - 7 November - Pompaia - festival in honor of Zeus Meilikhios ('Kindly') and Hermes
  • 16 Maimakterion - 13 November - 20 Maimakteria - festival for Zeus Maimaktes ('Blustering') to be gentle come winter.

Anything else?
Are you looking for an online shop to buy incenses and other Hellenistic basics from? Try The Hellenic Handmaid on Etsy.

Would you like to support me? Buy me a coffee.
Excavations at the ancient city of Tenea in the Peloponnese, which was built by Trojan prisoners of war, have unearthed significant new finds, the Greek Culture Ministry announced on Tuesday. The discoveries include enormous baths dating from Roman times.

The lost city of Tenea, which is mentioned in many Greek myths as well as historical texts,  was uncovered in October of 2018. One of the sources mentioning the existence of the city of Tenea is the ancient legend of Oedipus, the mythical king of Thebes who unwittingly killed his father and married his mother.

This year, archaeologists led by Eleni Korka uncovered a complex of bathing facilities, about 500 square meters (5,382 square feet) in total, dating from between the end of the third century BC to the mid-1st century BC. There are three bath areas which once had heated water, two of them ending in arches and well-preserved clay floors; some of the floors miraculously still have paint on them.

An ancient well which reaches a depth of 15 meters (49 feet) was found to the north of the baths. Next to the well is what seems to be an area where offerings, including figurines and miniature vessels had been deposited. The existence of these objects in this one area points to a religious use of the site.

Other objects recently uncovered by the archaeologists include vessels for the storage of aromatic oils as well as parts of statues dating from Hellenistic times.

According to myth, the city of Tenea was founded by the Trojans sometime around 1100 BC and its buildings were constructed by prisoners of war. They chose this spot because it was on the road between Corinth and the ancient settlement of Mycenae. Oedipus himself was said to have been raised here after being sent away from his parents as a baby.

Tenea was for many years one of the largest and most prosperous cities in the ancient region of Corinthia in the northern Peloponnese. Until 2018, however, no one had been able to work out exactly where it was located – or why it had declined and seemingly disappeared off the map.
Religion has the reputation of being un-scientific. By its definition, religion--the believe in something one can't prove--seems the polar opposite of science. So what of Hellenismos? Is that incomaptible with science like most major world religions? No. What I love about Hellenic mythology and philosophy is that it works with science--and the ancient philosophers agreed.

I have explained before how I differentiate between mythology and philosophy, where I feel myth was inspired by the Theoi Themselves, while philosophy was created by humans who saw society and drew conclusions from it. These conclusions often included a religious aspect because society was religious (even though the ancient Hellenes didn't have a word for 'religion'), but at its core, they deal not with religious matters. They deal with the influence of religion on humanity and society.

An example: the ancient Hellenic philosophers and mythographers were pretty much in agreement, however, that the Gods, indeed, created the universe--or are the universe itself. The most famous account of how everything came to be comes from Hesiod. His 'Theogogy' is a complete recounting of the story, starting with Khaos:

"Verily at the first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundations of all  the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros, fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them. From Chaos came forth Erebus and black Night; but of Night were born Aether and Day, whom she conceived and bare from union in love with Erebus. And Earth first bare starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, and to be an ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods. And she brought forth long Hills, graceful haunts of the goddess-Nymphs who dwell amongst the glens of the hills. She bare also the fruitless deep with his raging swell, Pontus, without sweet union of love. But afterwards she lay with Heaven and bare deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys. After them was born Cronos the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire." [ll. 116-138]

He goes on to list a great many deities, cutting out a rough shape of the cosmos while doing so. There are many variations of this family tree, and in the ancient writings, there are also creation stories that range beyond this basic framework. Many of them match very well with science, though.

I believe in the theory of the Big Bang, where the universe was in an extremely hot and dense state and began expanding rapidly. After the initial expansion, the universe cooled sufficiently to allow energy to be converted into various subatomic particles, including protons, neutrons, and electrons. Giant clouds of these primordial elements later coalesced through gravity to form stars and galaxies, and the heavier elements were synthesized either within stars or during supernovae (courtesy of Wikipedia, because of ease). I see no issue in overlaying this theory with Hesiod's cosmology, however. The Big Bang theory does sound like first there was Khaos, and from that, matter came into being to eventually form the Earth as it is now. So as far as the creation of the universe and the Gods goes, I will go with Hesiod and his explanation, although a variation of his work is also fine by me.

As for how we came to be, I believe in evolution. I don't think we were put on the Earth ready-made by the Gods. That said, the proposal that one type of animal could descend from an animal of another type goes back to some of the first pre-Socratic Hellenic philosophers, such as Anaximander and Empedocles, so it's not an odd frame of mind to have for a Hellenist; even the ancient Hellenes flirted with the idea that at least animal species evolved from one another. I love the myth of Prometheus, but no, that is not how I think we came to be, although I won't rule out that the Gods had a hand in our formation through evolution.

All in all, I think Hellenismos and science go together very well. Most (if not all) scientific breakthroughs either work with Hellenic mythology or don't detract from it. Hellenic scientific research and philosophy often forms the base of our modern understanding of the world around us. The ancient Hellenes made great contributions to the field of 'science'. So yes, Hellenismos is 100% compatible with science and evolution, and that is something I find very appealing.
I've always been a little intrigued with the two-time creation of humanity in Hellenic mythology. While Christianity's end of humanity by way of deluge is much more well-known, and everyone knows about Noah and his ark, humanity in Hellenic mythology also ended and was revived. Story time:

After the Titanomachy--the war in which the Olympic Gods took control from the elder generation of Gods, the Titans--ended, Zeus claimed His throne as rightful King to the Deathless Ones. Humanity did not yet exist. While most Titans were locked away in Tartarus by Zeus, the Titans Prometheus and Epimetheus--who were brothers--had been either neutral or on the side of Zeus during the Titan War and were therefor given a task. Prometheus was given the task of creating man and Epimetheus was ordered to give good qualities to all creatures of earth. So did Prometheus and Epimetheus. Prometheus shaped man out of clay and Athena breathed life into him. Epimetheus spread swiftness, cunning, fur and wings but ran out of gifts when he came to man. Prometheus remedied the situation by allowing men to walk upright and gave them fire.

It soon became apparent that Prometheus loved man more than the Olympians. When Zeus decreed that man must give sacrifice to the Deathless Ones, Prometheus stood ready to aid humanity. He butchered an animal and divided it into piles; the bones and fat formed one of them, the good meat wrapped in the hide of the animal, the other. Zeus vowed that he would abide by the choice of sacrifice He made now, and picked the tasty looking pile of bones. Zeus was angered but could not take back his vow: from that point on, the Gods would get the fat and the bones from a sacrificed animal. The humans were entitled to the meat and the hide. What He could take back was the gift of fire, and this He did.

Mankind suffered greatly without fire and Prometheus traveled either to the sun or Olympus to reclaim fire for his beloved mankind. This, of course, angered Zeus even further and so He devised a plan. First, He imprisoned Prometheus. He ordered Hermes to tie Prometheus to a mountain and had a giant eagle come every day to eat his liver. As an immortal, Prometheus' liver grew back over night so his torment was endless. Before Prometheus had been taken prisoner, however, he had told his brother Epimetheus never to accept a gift from Zeus, as Zeus' wrath would undoubtedly also extend to the mortal race He had created.

And Zeus, indeed, was not done with His punishment. After imprisoning Prometheus, Zeus assembled the Theoi. He told Hēphaistos to fashion a woman out of water and clay. Hēphaistos did and brought the statue before Zeus. Zeus then asked Aphrodite to bless the woman with a beauteous face and feminine whiles. He asked Athena to dress her modestly and give her the ability to weave and craft, Demeter taught her to tend the garden. From Apollon, she received the ability to make music and sing. All Gods gave her treacherous gifts, including Hera, who made her curious, and Hermes, who made her cunning and quick of the tongue. Then, Zeus named her Pandôra (Πανδωρα), All-Giving, and breathed life into her. He then bade Hermes to deliver her to Epimetheus, along with a vase (pithos) Pandôra was never allowed to open.

Epimetheus had been warned by Prometheus never to open or accept a gift from Zeus, but he laid eyes on Pandôra's beauty and fell in love too deeply to reject her. He took her into his home amongst men and wedded her right away. Pandôra loved Epimetheus, because he was a good man and good husband. She worked tirelessly to please him and helped him keep the home. Yet, she found herself drawn to the pithos she was told never to open. Her eyes would wander to it constantly and Hera's gift eventually prevented her from holding to her promise.

On a day when Epimetheus was away from the home, Pandôra decided to risk a sneak peak at the contents she had fantasized about so often. She pulled the lid off of the pithos and out flew dark spirits of disease, death and the destruction of humanity. Pandôra hastened to seal the jar but managed to trap only Hope (Elpis)--by Zeus' decree or by mere accident.

Mankind was now plagued with illness, with failing crops, with all that makes life hard. But they had Hope and soon, Pyrrha (Fire) was born to Epimetheus and Pandôra. Prometheus had a son, Deukalion, with Pronoia, an Okeanid nymph of Mount Parnassos in Phokis. They lived in the time of the Bronze Race of Man, a corrupt age in which the Gods were rarely worshipped. Zeus was angered by their hubris and decided to end this race of man. He sent a great deluge, killing everyone but Deukalion and Pyrrha, who were warned of the flood by Prometheus. They did not build a boat, but clung to a chest, eventually sailing to the mountain peaks of Parnassos. 

Once Zeus caused the water to recede, Deukalion and Pyrrha travelled to the oracle of Delphi and begged to learn how they could bring back mankind. They were told that they needed to cast the bones of their mother over their shoulders, and they understood that they needed to pick up stoned and toss them, because Gaia, the earth, is everyone's mother. Where the pebbles landed, humans rose from the earth. Deukalion created the men and Pyrrha the women, and from their efforts, humankind once more arose to populate the earth.

There are more flood myths in Hellenic mythology--Philemon and Baucis, for example--but none as all-consuming as this one, sent by Zeus. This severe example acts as a warning to mankind: the ultimate display of destructive power by the Gods should mankind disobey Them. In this case, human kind was unethical, did not give to the Gods, and overstepped their bounds. Autochthonous births (αὐτός χθών, 'earth-born') are also well-known in Hellenic mythology. Many ancient Hellenic kings traced their line back to Gaia in this way. These two themes give us an ethical standard to live up to, explain our place in the universe, and connect us to the divine in a beautiful and enlightening way. These are the major reasons why I enjoy this myth so much.
Today, I would like to present musical fragment from the first stasimon of Orestes by Euripides. It was found in 1892, among a number of papyri from Hermopolis, Egypt, in the collection of Archduke Rainer Ferdinand of Austria. It was published by papyrologist Karl Wessely. The fragment was somewhat mutilated when found, but contained a passage of the famous play with musical notation, allowing modern composers and artists to perform the passage in a way that is at least close to the way Euripides intended it.

Whether this fragment represents the original music Euripides composed in 408 BC is an open question, as we have no 5th century BC musical inscriptions to compare it to (the papyrus is dated to the 3rd century BC). Nevertheless, Plutarch credit Euripides and Agathon with many of the rythm and modes used in this fragment, and Aristophanes described Euripides' work as musically complex.

The rhythm of the song is Dochmius and the mode Lydian in chromatic genus. To those unfamiliar with musical terms--like me--I'll attempt to clarify this. The time it takes to pronounce a syllable in ancient Greek and Latin poetry and verse is called a 'mora'. The time it takes to pronounce a long mora is roughly the time it takes to pronounce two short ones. The shortest musical metrical unit is called a 'foot'; a Dochmius is a foot of five syllables, first and fourth being short and the second, third, and fifth long.

In Hellenic music theory, there was a Lydian scale which described a set of pitches. The technical Lydian scale--originating in Lydia in Anatolia--was equivalent to C D E F G A B C, and C Chalf sharp Ehalf sharp F Fhalf sharp Ahalf sharp Bhalf sharp C, respectively where "half sharp" signifies raising the pitch by approximately a quarter tone. Personally, I have no clue what that means but as I am not well versed in music theory, I can't offer a better explanation in that.

Moving on to something I do know about; the arrangement of the fragmentary text differs from the traditional editions. The setting in the Orestes is the story of Orestes himself, who slays his mother after he slays his father and is hunted down by the Erinyes until he happens upon the temple of Apollon (who told him to kill his mother), who then tells him to let Athena and the people of Athens decide his fate, which they do, in favor of Orestes. this whole epic is laid out in many plays by many authors. The Orestes focusses on Orestes' guilt for murderig his mother--an event not part of the play--and his sister Elektra's continued struggle to keep Orestes sane and alive as the leading political faction of Argos wants to put Orestes to death.

The fragment is set at the moment Orestes wakes up after his first bout of madness inspired by the vengeful Erinyes. He is still tormented by them, and realizes suddenly that his act will lead to his death, and the death of his sister Elektra as she refuses to leave his side. The ancient text begins with materos haima (mother's blood) and katolophyromai appears after brotois (mortals). One translated version goes as follows, as sung by the chorus:

"What deadly struggle is here at hand, hurrying thee on o'er thy path of woe, a victim on whom some fiend is heaping tribulation, by bringing on thy house thy mother's bloodshed which drives thee raving mad? I weep for thee, for thee I weep. Great prosperity abideth not amongst mankind; but some power divine, shaking it to and fro like the sail of a swift galley, plunges it deep in the waves of grievous affliction, boisterous and deadly as the waves of the sea."

In the fragment, the text is as follows:

"κατολοφύρομαι κατολοφύρομαι ματέρος αἷμα σᾶς, ὅ σ’ ἀναβακχεύει, ὁ μέγας ὄλβος οὐ μόνιμος ἐν βροτοῖς, ἀνὰ δὲ λαῖφος ὥς τις ἀκάτου θοᾶς τινάξας δαίμων κατέκλυσεν δεινῶν πόνων ὡς πόντου
λάβροις ὀλεθρίοισιν ἐν κύμασιν."

"I cry, I cry, your mother's blood that drives you mad, great happiness in mortals never lasting, but like a sail of a swift ship, which a god shook up and plunged it with terrible troubles into the greedy and deadly waves of sea."

This version of the fragment is performed by the modern Greek band Daemonia Nymphe (Δαιμονια Νυμφη), live in Graz Austria Helmut-List-Halle on 20 Mar h, 2008. The music was arranged by Spyros Giasafakis and Evi Stergiou. The session musicians were Maria Stergiou, Eleni Efthymiou, Vaggelis Paschalides, and Thodoris Chytiris, and the ancient Hellenic instruments were reproduced by Nikolaos Brass.

I love listening to this. It gives me chills every time. If this was the style of the whole of the play, it must have been a sight to behold. Not only is it visually gripping and the story intense, but the music adds a whole new layer to it, where you can almost feel Orestes' madness. I hope you can appreciate it as well.
For those of you who, like me, are not blessed with the ability to write poetry beyond the level of an eight-grader, or for those who simply wish to draw they eyes of the Theoi by reciting poetry--or actually singing the hymns if your mastery of the Greek language allows it--which is familiar to Them, hymns form a wonderful addition to your practice. The oldest, and most well know, of the hymns are undoubtedly the Homeric ones, with the Orphic ones a close second, but there are many more out there.

  • Homeric Hymns - a collection of thirty-three Hellenic hexameter poems in epic style well known from Hómēros' Iliad and Odysseia. They range in length from three to five-hundred lines, and were composed in various time periods, by a variety of--now largely anonymous--authors. Hómēros might have actually written some of them, Pamphos might have penned the 'Hymn to Demeter', and Cynaethus of Chios might have penned the 'Hymn to Apollon'. Most of the poems were written between 800 and 300 BC, a few of the shorter poems are clearly from the Hellenistic (third or second century BC) period, and the Hymn to Ares was probably added to the whole in Roman times. Who actually combined the thirty-three is unclear. The first and second hymns ('To Dionysos', and 'To Demeter') were lost for a long time, until a chance discovery in Moscow in 1777 unearthed a fifteenth century manuscript with the two poems largely intact. The 'Hymn to Apollon' was noted down on the walls of Artemis' temple at Delos, and was most likely a large part of the festivals held there for Apollon. For all Homeric Hymns, go here.
  • Orphic Hymns - a collection of eighty-seven short religious poems composed in either the late Hellenistic or early Roman (first or second century AD) era. They are based on the beliefs of Orphism, a mystery cult or religious philosophy which claimed descent from the teachings of the mythical hero Orpheus. The Mysteries were mostly connected to Demeter, Persephone, life after death and reincarnation. From the Orphic Hymns also comes a list of which incenses to offer to which deity. For all Orphic Hymns, go here.
  • Hymns of Kallimachos (Καλλίμαχος) - a lesser known collection of poems, written by Kallimachos of Kyrēnē (Κυρήνη, Cyrene), who was a Hellenic poet and scholar of the Library of Alexandria. He rose to greatness around the third century BC and was the author of a large number of works. Unfortunately, only six hymns and sixty-three epigrams have survived to this day. Kallimachos despised the 'outdated' poetry type of Hómēros and wrote many testimonials against it. His hymns are, therefor, different to the eye than the Homeric and Orphic ones. For the complete hymns, go here.
  • Delphic Hymns - two musical compositions from ancient Hellas, dating back to 128 BC. They were recovered from the walls of the treasury of Apollon at Delphi, and were most likely performed in His worship at the Pythian festival. The first of the hymns was written and composed by Athenios, son of Athenios, the second by Limenios, son of Thoinos. For the first hymn, go here, for the second, go here.
  • Hymns of Proklos - Proclus (Πρόκλος) was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last major Classical philosophers. He was alive from 8 February 412 AD to 17 April 485 AD), and while a very late addition to this list, he wrote five beatiful hymns about the Roman Gods, which can be interpreted for the Hellenic ones as well. The surviving works consist of two hymns to Venus (Aphrodite), one to the Sun (Helios), one to the Muses, and one to Minerva (Athena). The surviving hymns can be found here, in both Greek and English.
  • Hymns of Mesomedes - Mesomedes of Krete (Μεσομήδης ὁ Κρής) was a Roman-era Hellenic lyric poet and composer of the early second century AD.  He was a freedman and court musician to the emperor Hadrian (reigned 117-138 CE), and created  three hymns and fifteen poems which have survived to this day. The hymns to Nemesis, the muse Calliope, and the Sun can be read here and listened to here. I am partial to this translation of the 'Hymn to Nemesis'.
  • Hymn to Aphrodite - This most wonderful hymn was written by Sappho (Σαπφώ) as she was struggling with love. It's unique in that it shows both petitioner and Aphrodite Herself. I am partial to this translation.
In a district of Grevena on Saturday, October 12, Security Police officers of the region, in collaboration with police from the Team of Crime Prevention and Suppression arrested a 77-year-old man, for being in illegal possession of items of particular archaeological and scientific value. A criminal case was filed against him for violating legislation on antiquities and cultural heritage in general.

Specifically, after properly assessing the evidence, the man’s home was searched, where various artefacts were found of the Hellenistic and Roman era, of particular archaeological and scientific value, that fall under the provisions of antiquities legislation and cultural heritage as a whole, whose possession he could not justify.

The following were found and confiscated:  part of a marble ear in relief with a non through hole, part of a marble relief depicting a bearded man, four pyramid-shaped loom weights, part of a vase with a handle,  two lids with strip handles, the section of an inscribed marbled column and three vases with glazing.

The investigation continues to discover how and where the confiscated items were acquired, while these will be handed over to the Grevena Archaeological Service.

A preliminary examination of the case is being conducted by the Grevena Security Department and the man under arrest has been brought before the Grevena Prosecutor with his criminal file.
The 29th of Pyanepsion is the date for the Khalkeia. It's the only festival to be held on a Deipnon and we will be celebrating it on 28 October, 10 am EDT.

The Khalkiea was the festival of bronze workers, a religious festival devoted to the God Hēphaistos and the Goddess Athena Ergane (Εργανη, Worker). In ancient Hellas, this was the day priestesses of Athena started work on a special peplos to be presented to Her during the Panathenaia. This festival involved a procession of workers with baskets of grain for offerings as well as meat sacrifices. Originally, it seems to have been a festival for Athena solely but over the centuries the focus shifted to Hēphaistos instead.

Elaion is holding a PAT ritual for the Khalkeia on 28 October, EDT. You can find the ritual here and join the community here. Also, make sure to celebrate the day by doing something crafty!
A number of ancient papyri from Oxyrhynchus, part of the Egypt Exploration Society’s collection, have been identified as part of the lot allegedly offered for sale by Professor Dirk Obbink to the American chain Hobby Lobby. The Society has issued a statement on the matter.

“On 25 June 2019 the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) posted a statement on its website that it was working with the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) to clarify whether any texts from the EES Oxyrhynchus collection had been sold or offered for sale to Hobby Lobby or its agents, and if so, when and by whom. This was in response to the online publication by Dr Brent Nongbri, following its release by Professor Michael Holmes of the MOTB, of a redacted copy of a contract of 17 January 2013 between Professor Dirk Obbink and Hobby Lobby Stores for the sale of six items to Hobby Lobby, including four New Testament fragments probably of EES provenance. This statement reports our findings to date.

“With the help of photographs provided by the MOTB, the EES has so far identified thirteen texts from its collection, twelve on papyrus and one on parchment, all with biblical or related content, which are currently held by the MOTB (see the attached list). These texts were taken without authorisation from the EES, and in most of the thirteen cases the catalogue card and photograph are also missing. Fortunately, the EES has back-up records which enable us to identify missing unpublished texts. For clarity, we note that the four texts specified in the handwritten list made public alongside the 2013 contract, which are probably the texts of that contract, remain in the EES collection, and two have been published as P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345 and 5346.

“The Board of Trustees of the MOTB has accepted the EES claim to ownership of the thirteen pieces identified to date, and is arranging to return them to the EES. The EES is grateful to the MOTB for its co-operation, and has agreed that the research on these texts by scholars under the auspices of the MOTB will receive appropriate recognition when the texts are published in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series.

“The MOTB has informed the EES that 11 of these pieces came into its care after being sold to Hobby Lobby Stores by Professor Obbink, most of them in two batches in 2010. In August 2016 the EES did not re-appoint Professor Obbink as a General Editor of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri primarily because of unsatisfactory discharge of his editorial duties, but also because of concerns, which he did not allay, about his alleged involvement in the marketing of ancient texts, especially the Sappho text. In June 2019 the EES banned him from any access to its collection pending his satisfactory clarification of the 2013 contract. Oxford University is now investigating, with EES help, the removal from University premises and alleged sale of EES texts.

“The EES is also pursuing identification and recovery of other texts, or parts of texts, which have or may have been illicitly removed from its collection. Systematic checking of the EES collection will be a long process because of its size. Meanwhile, our primary aim remains the authoritative publication for public benefit of the texts of all types in our collection.

“We cannot comment here on any broader legal issues arising from these findings, except to note that they are under consideration by all the institutions concerned.

EES papyri being returned by the MOTB (MOTB inventory number in square brackets)

Genesis 5:  P.Oxy. inv. 39 5B.119/C(4-7)b.  [PAP.000121]
Genesis 17:  P.Oxy. inv. 20 3B.30/F(5-7)b.   [PAP.000463]
Exodus 20-21:  P.Oxy. inv. 102/171(e).   [PAP.000446]
Exodus 30.18-19:  P.Oxy. inv. 105/149(a).   [PAP.000388]
Deuteronomy:  P.Oxy. inv. 93/Dec. 23/M.1.   [PAP.000427]
Psalms 9.23-26:   P.Oxy. inv. 8 1B.188/D(1-3)a.   [PAP.000122]
Sayings of Jesus:  P.Oxy. inv. 16 2B.48/C(a).   [PAP.000377]
Romans 3:  <related to P.Oxy. inv. 101/72(a)>.   [PAP.000467]
Romans 9-10:  P.Oxy. inv. 29 4B.46/G(4-6)a.   [PAP.000425 one part]
1 Corinthians 7-10:  P.Oxy. inv. 106/116(d) + 106/116(c).   [PAP.000120 three small fragments]
Quotation of Hebrews:  P.Oxy. inv. 105/188(c).   [PAP.000378]
Scriptural homily:  P.Oxy. inv. 3 1B.78/B(1-3)a.   [PAP.000395]
(parchment) Acts of Paul:  P.Oxy. inv. 8 1B.192/G(2)b.   [MS.000514]”.

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri are a group of manuscripts discovered during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by papyrologists Bernard Pyne Grenfell and Arthur Surridge Hunt at an ancient rubbish dump near Oxyrhynchus in Egypt (28°32′N 30°40′E, modern el-Bahnasa). The manuscripts date from the time of the Ptolemaic (3rd century BC) and Roman periods of Egyptian history (from 32 BC to the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 640 AD). 

Only an estimated 10% are literary in nature. Most of the papyri found seem to consist mainly of public and private documents: codes, edicts, registers, official correspondence, census-returns, tax-assessments, petitions, court-records, sales, leases, wills, bills, accounts, inventories, horoscopes, and private letters.

Although most of the papyri were written in Greek, some texts written in Egyptian (Egyptian hieroglyphics, Hieratic, Demotic, mostly Coptic), Latin and Arabic were also found. Texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac and Pahlavi have so far represented only a small percentage of the total. Since 1898 academics have puzzled together and transcribed over 5000 documents from what were originally hundreds of boxes of papyrus fragments the size of large cornflakes. This is thought to represent only 1 to 2 percent of what is estimated to be at least half a million papyri still remaining to be conserved, transcribed, deciphered and catalogued.