I don't speak Greek. It's on my bucket list but yeah, languages are hard to learn. I came across the following article yesterday and well, it made me happy so I'm sharing.

"Whenever Greece faces challenges with its public image, such as the unfair comments made against Greeks during last decade’s devastating financial crisis, its greatest ambassador is always there to remind people of the importance of Hellenism for the whole world.

The greatest ambassador for Greece is no other than the Greek language itself.

With over 3,400 years of documented history, the Greek language has heavily influenced all western languages. English is no exception, as to this day it still uses the roots of Greek words to coin new terms.

Greeks were one of the first people to describe complex medical, mathematical and philosophical concepts, gifting in this way a plethora of words that are still used in these fields today.

The Greek language didn’t stop, however, with the scientific and natural world. It conquered many other fields, including the arts, and lent words to many languages to help them describe concepts in literature, music, architecture, and the fine arts.

Whether you work in an orchestra or a supermarket, whether you study business or sing opera arias, whether you are a doctor or a university professor, you use Greek words every single day.

Surely you must have heard all these impressive facts about the Greek language before. You know that about 12% of all English words derive from Greek, the fact that the Greek alphabet was the first one to use vowels, and that the longest word to ever appear in literature was Greek.

Written by the ancient Greek playwright Aristofanis in a hilarious effort to describe the fictional dish full of different kinds of meat, the word is: “λοπαδο­τεμαχο­σελαχο­γαλεο­κρανιο­λειψανο­δριμ­υπο­τριμματο­σιλφιο­καραβο­μελιτο­κατακεχυ­μενο­κιχλ­επι­κοσσυφο­φαττο­περιστερ­αλεκτρυον­οπτο­κεφαλλιο­κιγκλο­πελειο­λαγῳο­σιραιο­βαφη­τραγανο­πτερύγων.”

The list of the Greek language’s gifts to the world is endless. And while it is true that this language invented and described for the first time many meaningful concepts in science, medicine, and art, its beauty does not stop there.

Greek is the perfect language by which to understand the human soul, to describe conflicting yet familiar feelings and different facets of human behavior. Many of these are even used in English as is, since there is no appropriate translation capturing their true meaning.

The word “Nostalgia,” for instance, describing the happy reminiscences we all have of another time, especially when we are far away or after the passage of many years. Ancient Greece was truly a cultural hotbed; it was the mother of the sciences, arts, democracy, and the Olympic Games.

While in modern times our country is not the world’s cultural center that it once was, the direct relation of modern to ancient Greek is the factor that still renders Greece one of the most important countries of the western world.

Everything starts and ends with the Greek language — the true ambassador of Greek culture. And despite the fact that it has only about 12 million speakers worldwide, the passion of the Greek diaspora to speak the language and teach it to younger generations is what helps the language to not only survive but grow."
I doubt this is news to you, but I don't think I have mentioned it even once on this blog. In Nashville, Tennessee you will find a full-scale replica of the Parthenon, which was built by Americans in 1897, in honour of the Ancient Greeks. Known as ‘Athens of the South,’ the re-creation features all the fine details and aspects of the original Parthenon, which was constructed in the Greek capital in 447 BC.

The replica was designed by Confederate veteran William Crawford Smith and built back in 1897 in a large public park just west of downtown Nashville. Today the Parthenon functions as an art museum and Alan LeQuire’s 1990 re-creation of the Athena Parthenos statue in the naos (the east room of the main hall) is the focus of the Parthenon just as it was in ancient Athens.

Since the building is complete and its decorations were painted in colors as close to the presumed original as possible, this replica of the original Parthenon in Athens serves as a monument to what is considered the pinnacle of classical architecture.

The plaster replicas of the Parthenon Marbles found in the Treasury Room are direct casts of the original sculptures which adorned the pediments of the Athenian Parthenon, dating back to 438 BC.

Major Eugene Castner Lewis was the director of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition and it was at his suggestion that a reproduction of the Parthenon should be built in Nashville to serve as the centerpiece of Tennessee’s Centennial Celebration.

Originally built of plaster, wood, and brick, the Parthenon was not intended to be permanent, but the cost of demolishing the structure combined with its popularity with residents and visitors alike resulted in it being left standing after the Exposition. In 1895 George Julian Zolnay was “employed to make models for the ornamentation” for the building. Within the next 20 years, the weather had caused deterioration of the landmark and it was then rebuilt on the same foundations, in concrete, in a project that started in 1920 and the exterior was completed in 1925 and the interior in 1931.

Some of the most spectacular events of Nashville took place at the Parthenon, including the Spring Pageants of 1913 and 1914 and the entire city of Nashville reveled in the opportunity to celebrate the ‘Athens of the South.’

As an art museum, the Parthenon’s permanent collection on the lower level is a group of 63 paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists, donated by James M. Cowan. Additional gallery spaces provide a venue for a variety of temporary shows and exhibits. The main level contains a replica, completed in 1990, of the Athena Parthenos statue that was in the original Parthenon in Athens.

The statue of Athena Parthenos is a reconstruction, to careful scholarly standards, of the long-lost original.

In the summertime, local theater productions use the building as a backdrop for classic Greek plays such as Euripides’ Medea and Sophocles’ Antigone, performing (usually for free) on the steps of the Parthenon. Other performances, such as Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses, have been done inside, at the foot of Athena’s statue.

The Parthenon received a full makeover in 2002 with a much-needed cleaning and restoration of the exterior. The exterior lighting was upgraded to allow the columns of the building to be illuminated with different colors than the facade, allowing a uniquely versatile display of effects for events. It has become one of the most loved monuments in Tennesee by both locals and visitors.
Lovely readers, are you fans of classical music? I quite enjoy many classical pieces although I am definitely not well versed. I have found though that the subject matter matters a great deal, so how about some classical pieces with Hellenic influences?

Carl Nielsen - Helios Overture

Carl Nielsen's Helios Overture, Opus 17, was first performed by the Royal Orchestra, conducted by Johan Svendsen, on 8 October 1903 in the large hall of the Odd Fellows Mansion in Copenhagen. In 1902, Nielsen signed a contract with the publisher Wilhelm Hansen, which allowed him to go to Athens, Greece, to join his wife Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen, who was one of the first sculptors allowed to make copies of the bas-reliefs and statues in the Acropolis Museum. Nielsen's stay in Athens gave him the inspiration of a work depicting the sun rising and setting over the Aegean Sea, an overture which he called Helios. He began work on it in March 1903, and finished it on April 23 the same year. The score is written for three flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, and strings.

The work begins as the sun ascends over the Aegean Sea, while strings, divided horns and woodwind sound a melody. This rises out of the darkness to a full orchestra, where fanfaring trumpets begin a striding theme, which returns later in the piece. From there woodwinds begin a graceful tune, from which brass sound. Strings begin to play, which draws the orchestra into a reprise of the striding theme and its fanfare. In the final measures, the music subsides as the sun sinks over the horizon of the sea. The average playing time is between ten and twelve minutes.

Gluck - Orpheus and Euridice

Orfeo ed Euridice is an opera composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck based on the myth of Orpheus, set to a libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi. The piece was first performed in Vienna on 5 October 1762. The two hour opera is split into three acts. In the first a grieving Orpheus--Orfeo--Amore appears, telling Orfeo that he may go to the Underworld and return with his wife on the condition that he not look at her until they are back on earth. In the second act, Orfeo visits the underworld and is reunited with Euridice, and in the third, they head out and he looses her again when he looks back to check if she is really there.

Karl Goldmark - Prometheus Unbound Overture

 Karl Goldmark, also known originally as Károly Goldmark and later sometimes as Carl Goldmark was a Hungarian composer who lived from May 18, 1830, to January 2, 1915. The Op. 36, the Prometheus Bound Overture, features Prometheus and is concerned with the torments of the Hellenic mythological figure Prometheus who defies the Gods and gives fire to humanity, for which he is subjected to eternal punishment and suffering at the hands of Zeus.

Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf - Symphonies after Ovid’s 'Metamorphoses' No. 6

Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf was an Austrian composer, violinist and silvologist who lived from 2 November 1739 to 24 October 1799. Among his 120-or-so symphonies are twelve programmatic ones based on Ovid's Metamorphoses, although only six have survived (and have also been recorded). They are entitled: 'The Four Ages of the World', 'The Fall of Phaeton', 'The Metamorphosis of Acteon Into a Stag', 'The Rescue of Andromeda by Perseus', 'The Transformation of the Lycian Peasants into Frogs', and a sixth untitled one.
Ancient Greeks had a great love and respect for their dogs, cherishing them as companions, protectors, and hunters, as evidenced by several dog tombstones discovered over the centuries. The most well-known story about the relationship between ancient Greeks and their pet canines comes from Homer and his “Odyssey.” Written as early as c.800 BC, it is a story of the unending loyalty of dogs to man.

Argos (“The Slow One”) is the loyal friend of King Odysseus. His master finally returns home after being away on his adventure for 20 years, and is not recognized by the hostile suitors who are vying to win the hand of Odysseus’s wife, Penelope. But Argos recognizes his master and rises up from where he has been faithfully waiting, wagging his tail in greeting.

Odysseus, however, is in disguise and he is afraid that if he acknowledges the greeting, he will give away his true identity in front of the suitors; so he ignores his old friend, and Argos tragically lays back down and dies.

He claimed that dogs are true philosophers because they “distinguish the face of a friend and of an enemy only by the criterion of knowing and not knowing” and concluded that dogs want to learn things because by learning they determine what they like and what they do not based upon knowledge of the truth.

Socrates said that the dog has learned who is a friend and who is not and, based on that knowledge, responds appropriately; while human beings are often deceived as to who their true friends are.

The Philosopher Diogenes of Sinope, who lived from 412 – 323 BC called himself “The dog.” Explaining why he chose the name of an animal for himself, he replied: “Because I fawn upon those who give me anything, and bark at those who give me nothing, and bite the rogues.”

Ancient Greeks built the Parthenon, became philosophers, wrote the world’s greatest tragedies and comedies, and overall laid the foundations of Western Civilization — yet apparently they had a hard time choosing names for their beloved dogs.

Nowadays, we usually just pick a name we like, which reminds us of something or has some pleasant meaning for us. At that time, however, there was a far more complex way to choose a name for your dog.

According to Xenophon, the dog names preferred by the ancient Greeks were short, consisting of one, or at most two, syllables. They also paid special attention to the meaning of the name of the dog and no name was ever bestowed at random or on a whim.

The reason for this was that a dog’s name also affected the owner’s psychology. So ancient Greeks chose names which expressed courage, power, speed, appearance or other material or spiritual values. The name Xenophon himself chose for his own dog was “Impetus” (Ορμή).

Atalanti, on the other hand, the famous hunter of Greek mythology, named her dog ‘Avra’ (meaning aura or breeze). Other notable dog names of antiquity that we know of are Impetuous  (Ορμητικός), Follower (Μεθέπων), The One Who Awakens You (Εγέρτης), Crow (Κόραξ), The Shining One (Λάμπρος), Good Shooter (Εύβολος), and, of course, Odysseus’ faithful dog Argos.

The list of dog names from antiquity was supplemented by Polydeuces, who also mentioned names such as White (Λευκός), Ink (Μελανός), Flower (Άνθος), Storm (Θύελλα), Hunter (Κυνηγός), Digger (Σκαφτιάς) and Guard (Φύλαξ).

After their loyal friend and companion departed from this world, ancient Greeks were not afraid to express their grief for their loss, openly crying and mourning. Greeks would bury their pets along the roadside in marked graves, and the entire ceremony for this was undertaken in a very solemn manner.

“This is the tomb of the dog, Stephanos, who perished, Whom Rhodope shed tears for and buried like a human. I am the dog Stephanos, and Rhodope set up a tomb for me” read one gravestone.

“Helena, foster child, soul without comparison and deserving of praise.” The particular epitaph shows that some ancient Greeks, lust like today, saw their dogs as their foster children.

In the next case, a hunter mourned the female hound who had helped him hunt in the three Greek mountains mentioned on the tombstone: “Surely, even as you lie dead in this tomb, I deem the wild beasts yet fear your white bones, huntress Lycas; and your valor great Pelion knows, and splendid Ossa and the lonely peaks of Cithaeron.”

Another tombstone of a beloved family dog from Ancient Greece reads “You who pass on this path, if you happen to see this monument, laugh not, I pray, though it is a dog’s grave. Tears fell for me, and the dust was heaped above me by a master’s hand.”
On the day of the Hene kai Nea (or sometimes the day after, like this month), 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 Elaphebolion:
  • Elaphebolion 6 - March 1 - Elaphebolia - festival in honor of Artemis
  • Elaphebolion 8 - March 3 - Asklepieia - festival in honor of Asklēpiós
  • Elaphebolion 10-17 - March 5 - 12 - Greater (City) Dionysia in honor of Dionysos
  • Elaphebolion 16 - March 11 - Sacrifice to Semele and Dionysos at Erkhia
  • Elaphebolion 17 - March 12 - Pandia - festival in honor of Zeus, following the Greater Dionysia
  • Elaphebolion 14 - March 20 - Galaxia - festival in honor of the Mother of the Gods (Rhea), Kronos, Zeus and Hera

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.
Archaeologists from the Oriental Institute have discovered a lost ancient kingdom dating to 1400 BC to 600 BC, which may have defeated Phrygia, the kingdom ruled by King Midas, in battle.

University of Chicago scholars and students were surveying a site with Turkish and British colleagues last summer in southern Turkey called Turkmen-Karahoyuk, when a local farmer told them he'd seen a big stone with strange inscriptions while dredging a nearby irrigation canal the previous winter. Asst. Prof. James Osborne of the OI, one of the foremost centers of research on the ancient world, said:

"We rushed straight there, and we could see it still sticking out of the water, so we jumped right down into the canal—up to our waists wading around. Right away it was clear it was ancient, and we recognized the script it was written in: Luwian, the language used in the Bronze and Iron ages in the area."

Translated by OI scholars, the pronouncement boasted of defeating Phrygia, the kingdom ruled by King Midas, legendary ancient ruler said to have a golden touch.

Osborne, an archaeologist who specializes in examining the expression of political authority in Iron Age cities, said it appears the city at its height covered about 300 acres, which would make it one of the largest ancient cities of Bronze and Iron Age Turkey. They don't yet know what the kingdom was called, but Osborne said its discovery is revolutionary news in the field.

"We had no idea about this kingdom. In a flash, we had profound new information on the Bronze Age Middle East."

Working under the Konya Regional Archaeological Survey Project, Osborne and UChicago students were mapping the site as part of the Turkmen-Karahoyuk Intensive Survey Project, located in an area littered with other famous ancient cities. Just by walking around the site's surface, they collected bits of broken pottery from three thousand years of habitation at the site—a rich and promising find—until the farmer's chance visit pointed them to the stone block known as a stele.

Osborne immediately identified a special hieroglyphic marking that symbolized the message came from a king. The farmer helped pull the massively heavy stone stele out of the irrigation canal with a tractor. From there it went to the local Turkish museum, where it was cleaned, photographed and readied for translation.

The hieroglyphs were written in Luwian, one of the oldest branches of the Indo-European languages. A unique language written in hieroglyphic signs native to the Turkish area, Luwian is read alternating between right to left and left to right.

While Osborne isn't an expert in reading the Luwian language, luckily he works down the hall from two of the foremost experts in the world on Luwian: OI colleagues Petra Goedegebuure and Theo P.J. van den Hout—editors of the Chicago Hittite Dictionary.

Their translation revealed that the stele king was called Hartapu, and Turkmen-Karahoyuk was probably his capital city. The stone tells the tale of King Hartapu's conquest of the nearby kingdom of Muska, better known as Phrygia—home to King Midas. "The storm gods delivered the [opposing] kings to his majesty," the stone read.

The OI's linguistic analysis suggested the stele was composed in the late-eighth-century B.C., which lines up with the time that Midas ruled.

It answers a long-standing mystery, though; not quite 10 miles to the south is a volcano with a well-known inscription in hieroglyphics. It refers to a King Hartapu, but no one knew who he was—or what kingdom he ruled.

Following a longstanding tradition of OI research in the area, Osborne is already planning the next site visit, hoping to complete the survey this summer.

"Inside this mound are going to be palaces, monuments, houses. This stele was a marvelous, incredibly lucky find—but it's just the beginning."

Osborne worked with colleagues Michele Massa with the British Institute at Ankara, Fatma Sahin with Cukurova University, and Christoph Bacchuber with Oxford University of the Konya Regional Archaeological Survey Project to explore and survey the site.
Okay, so this is not Hellenic, this is Roman. But the Vesuvius eruption that obliterated Pompeii has always fascianted me. Maybe it's because it happened on my birth date, just a couple of centuries before. Maybe it's just mind blowing that an entire city can disappear in the span of hours. I found this video about the event yesterday and I just had to share. How incredibly terrifying!

"Before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 24 August 79 CE, Pompeii was a thriving Roman port city and commercial hub near modern-day Naples, and home to an estimated 15,000 people. Closer to the mountain’s base and on the other side, the nearby town of Herculaneum, estimated population 5,000, was smaller, wealthier and a popular resort for elite Romans. After the eruption, both remained buried, their memories lost to time, until they were excavated and identified in the 18th century. In the years since, the continuing excavation of their eerily preserved buildings, artifacts and human remains have given archeologists and researchers an invaluable window into ancient Roman life.

The only firsthand account of the eruption comes from the author and lawyer Pliny the Younger. In his correspondence with the historian Tacitus, Pliny describes helplessly watching from nearby Misenum as the tragedy unfolds:

Some wishing to die, from the very fear of dying; some lifting their hands to the gods; but the greater part convinced that there were now no gods at all, and that the final endless night of which we have heard had come upon the world.

This animation, produced in 2009 for an exhibition at the Melbourne Museum, brings his harrowing words to stark and vivid life. Transporting viewers back to the morning of the eruption, the video recreates sights and sounds from that fateful day through to the following night, at which point both Pompeii and Herculaneum already lay buried deep in volcanic ash and debris."

Video by Zero One Studio
“There is a season when people have the greatest need
For winds and there is a season for water from the sky,
The pouring offspring of clouds.
But if someone should ever find success through toil,
Then honey-sweet hymns form the foundation
For future tales and offer certain promise for great accomplishments.

The praise for Olympic victors is not limited
By envy. My tongue is ready to shepherd
These words. A man similarly prospers through wise thoughts
thanks to divine assistance.
Know this now, son of Arkhestratos,
Hagêsidamos: thanks to your boxing
I will sing a sweet-songed adornment
For your crown of golden olive,
Without neglecting the race of Western Lokrians.

Join us in the revel there—Muses, I pledge
That you will visit no country who rejects a guest
a people who are ignorant of noble things,
But you will find wise spearmen there.
For not even the fire-red fox nor the roaring lions
Could change the nature of their kind.”
[Pindar, Olympian 11: For Hagêsidamos, Winner of Boy’s Boxing, 476BCE]
A magnificent Greek mosaic discovered in Hatay, Turkey continues to amaze archaeologists and historians who are attempting to ascertain the exact meaning of its images and inscriptions.

The floor mosaic, which was found in Hatay province, located on the Turkish-Syrian border, is divided into three parts, with two images complete and in nearly perfect condition. The third section is mostly destroyed, but its meaning has nevertheless been deciphered by archaeologists and historians.

The mosaic, which is likely from the 3rd century BC, is believed to have served as an elaborate centerpiece of a floor located in the dining room of a wealthy man’s home.

The first from the left, and the image which by far is the most discussed among experts, shows a skeleton lying down and enjoying a pitcher of wine and a loaf of bread alongside him. Above him, the Ancient Greek text reads: “Be cheerful, enjoy your life” (“ΕΥΦΡΟΣΥΝΟΣ”).

In the middle scene, there is a sundial and a clothed man running toward it with a barefoot servant behind him. The sundial shows a time between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. The inscription on one side reads that the man is late for supper and on the other side there is a mention of the time (“ΠΕΧΕΔΙΠΝΟΣ-ΑΚΑΙΡΟΣ”).

All that remains of the third mosaic scene is the head and arms of a servant carrying a flame. According to experts, this represents the heating of water for the master’s bath before supper. The bath and supper were two of the most important parts of daily life during Greek and Roman times.

However, some other historians and archaeologists express a different opinion on the meaning of the depiction of the skeleton.

If the sequence of the three pictures is read from right to left, the man who rushes to eat and drink (meaning he places great importance on food and wine) is likely rushing to an earlier death — hence the image in the third picture is a skeleton.

The Hatay region is known for its numerous discoveries of Greek and Roman-era mosaics.

According to archaeologists, this particular mosaic most likely dates back to the third century BC, and is an artifact from the ancient Greek and Roman city Antioch, established in the end of the fourth century BC.

Antioch was founded by Seleucus I Nicator, one of the generals under Alexander the Great. The city’s geographic location was important in the spice trade as well. It also served as a stop along the famed Silk Road and the Royal Road.

The city of Antioch flourished for so long because of its great military strength as well, eventually rivaling Alexandria as the chief city of the Near East. The city served as the capital of the Seleucid Empire until 63 BC, when the Romans took control of the area.
The British government ruled out any discussion of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece as part of its deal with European Union in the post-Brexit era on Tuesday. A Downing Street spokeswoman said the sculptures would not be discussed during next month’s trade talks.

She stated ”The EU are still finalizing their mandate – this is currently in draft.

”The UK’s position on the Parthenon sculptures remains unchanged – they are the legal responsibility of the British Museum. That is not up for discussion as part of our trade negotiations.”

A demand for the return of ”unlawfully removed cultural objects” has been included in the EU’s negotiating mandate for trade talks with the UK.

A draft of a document from top EU diplomats leaked earlier on Tuesday shows a clause noting that "The Parties, consistently with the Union rules, address issues related to the return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origins."

The 32a clause of the draft EU document which was revealed on Tuesday

The European Union’s demand for the return of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin did not specify any specific items.

However, an EU official said a request for the clause was made by Greece and is supported by Italy, according to reports from Reuters news agency.

Citing a diplomatic source, the Athens Macedonia News Agency (AMNA) reported that the clause has “nothing to do” with the Greek-British dispute over the Parthenon Sculptures.

“The purpose of this article is to ensure that stolen cultural property located on British soil is automatically returned,” the source said.
Why am I even writing this post? Okay, so, the following meme has been making the rounds again:

I love the faux history angle, but this is not a thing. None of this is. Okay, back to basics.

Sappho (Σαπφώ) was a Hellenic lyric poet, born on the island of Lesbos (Λέσβος) around 620 BC, although the exact date is unknown. She wrote beautiful and highly romantic poetry that comes and goes straight to the heart, and left behind a great volume of poems of which only one complete poem survives until today, along with substantial portions of six others. We know almost nothing about her and much of her work has been lost. It's by no means certain that Sappho was gay, or even bisexual.

As for broccoli, well, that is a topic I never thought I'd cover on my blog! The ancient Hellenes did know broccoli. Kind of.

The Greek words that we looked up as likely references to broccoli were krambē and rhaphanos, but they reffer to a large varity of cole. Descriptions of different types of krambē were reported by Euthydemus of Athens (probably II century BC), who listed in his Peri lachanōn [On vegetables] a smooth-leaved type which grows everywhere, a celery-like type which owes its name to the curliness of the leaves, and a maritime type. The locations where these grew are also mentioned, being on islands (Eretria, Kymi, Rhodes) or on the Anatolian coast (Knidos and Ephesus). There are actually plenty of literary references to broccoli, but none are by Saphho.

The abundance of references to coles in ancient Hellenic literature, including in fragments of comedies and poems, testify to familiarity with this crop. The coles appear as possibly ceremonial plants, used in oaths and exclamations, perhaps due to their healing properties. More likely, the word krambē was used to avoid swearing in the name of a God. Alternatively the invocation of krambē is interpreted as a parody in which very insignificant things like coles are represented as objects of worship ("By the krambē!").

Greek literature indicates that coles were a simple food, which was evidently very common and usually prepared boiled. Great emphasis was given to its medicinal properties. Among these, the alleged antidotal effect against drunkenness was popular knowledge, while physicians compiled systematic handbooks to record properties and preparations against all sorts of diseases.

So, that's more about broccoli in ancient Hellas than you ever wanted or needed to know--but now you know!
Many Hellenists and ancient Hellas enthusiasts are unfamiliar with the fact that in ancient Hellas, female physicians were quite commonplace (although their numbers were small), and that they were by and large accepted and honored as skilled workers. As the image of the role of women in ancient Hellas is--very much unnecessarily so--equated solely with submissiveness and housewifery, I would like to paint a portrait of women as physicians in ancient Hellas, and give you a few examples of them.

The practice of having women doctors dates back to roughly the fifth century B.C. Very little information remains about the female physicians of ancient Hellas, which--in and of itself--can be interpreted as a favorable sign of their accepted existence; apparently, their role was commonplace enough not to keep track of and refer to often. An exception is Plato, who mentions the female physicians in passing:

"And if, I said, the male and female sex appear to differ in their fitness for any art or pursuit, we should say that such pursuit or art ought to be assigned to one or the other of them; but if the difference consists only in women bearing and men begetting children, this does not amount to a proof that a woman differs from a man in respect of the sort of education she should receive; and we shall therefore continue to maintain that our guardians and their wives ought to have the same pursuits.
[...] One woman has a gift of healing, another not; one is a musician, and another has no music in her nature? [...] And one woman has a turn for gymnastic and military exercises, and another is unwarlike and hates gymnastics? [...] And one woman is a philosopher, and another is an enemy of philosophy; one has spirit, and another is without spirit? [...] Then one woman will have the temper of a guardian, and another not. Was not the selection of the male guardians determined by differences of this sort? [...] Men and women alike possess the qualities which make a guardian; they differ only in their comparative strength or weakness." [445]

Plato, here in his Republic, does not only include female physicians (and athletes, warriors and philosopher), but uses them to prove his point that men and women are both suited for al professions, but have natural dispositions to professions, which rely not on gender but skills and character traits.

Plato's view was a modern one, though, as ancient Hellenic female physicians had quite a rough ride at first. It seems that women were allowed to learn gynecology, obstetrics, healing, and midwifery in the time of Hippocrates, and could study these arts at Hippocrates' school in Asia Minor. After Hippocrates died, however, Athenian lawmakers found women doctors doing abortions; something tolerated in ancient times, but most certainly not encouraged. As a result, they either restricted or banned women from medicine. They imposed the death penalty for violators.

As female physicians left the medical field, the death toll amongst ancient Hellenic women began to rise; with social modesty rules keeping sick women from speaking to a male physician, it became impossible to seek help. Then, in the fourth century B.C., an Athenian woman named Agnodice (Ἀγνοδίκη) disguised herself as a man. She went to the great University at Alexandria, studied medicine, and entered the medical field. She kept her disguise, and set up a medical practice for women.

Needless to say, Agnodice became a popular physician amongst the ancient Athenian women, and her male colleagues became jealous of her success. They charged her with corrupting women patients, and Agnodice was forced to reveal herself as a woman. As practicing medicine (or certain types of medicine) were still punishable by death, Agnodice found herself in a world of trouble. Thankfully, she was acquitted when her many patients arrived at her trial to praise her successes as a physician and chastised their husbands for trying to execute Agnodice. After it concluded, Athenian law changed the law to allow women to be treated by female physicians in Athens.

There is very little evidence to support Agnodice's existence, although she could have most certainly existed. It is possible that Agnodice's story is a way to mythologize the new ruling for women to return to medicine.

Although female physicians were active in gynecology and obstetrics in ancient Hellas, it was rare that women physicians practiced in other areas of medicine. Childbirth and obstetrics in antiquity were viewed as acceptable areas of medical practice for women who were able to gain medical training as physicians, in large part because of the ancient tradition of midwifery and its association with women trained by other women.

There are many more examples of female doctors in ancient Hellas. The temples of Hygeia and Panacea had female healers, and their work was highly praised. Other famous examples include Metrodora, a Hellenic female physician and author of the oldest medical text known to have been written by a woman, On the Diseases and Cures of Women, Antiochis of Tlos, who was rich and influential enough to have a statue made in her honor--alluding to the possibility that she treated men as well, and that her practice went beyond the typical 'female fields'--and a Hellenic medical lecturer called Philista who was said to be so brilliant and beautiful she had to teach from behind a curtain.

This list and exposition are not complete by far, but do give an impression of the existence, history, and status of female physicians in ancient Hellas. Perhaps it will clear up some of the misconceptions surrounding women in ancient Hellas.
Control anger (Θυμου κρατει) is a Delphic Maxim that seems so simple: don't get mad. But it's not about that. Controlling anger is about knowing when you can show your anger and when you can not. It means stepping back from your emotions to understand the words and actions of the other person. There is a time and place for anger, but more often, anger has no place at the current time.

Think of anger as a wildfire: once it burns, it burns everything in its path. You can try to extinguish it, but without specialized tools, stepping out of the way is better for your health. But some fires are lit and carefully controlled. The fire still burns hot, but can be guided. Their purpose is to promote life. It is this control this maxim teaches.

Anger can be a very constructive emotion. Just look at Ares: Ares is a warrior, a Theos driven by the fires of passion. He is unconquerable on the battlefield and if you're favored by Him, you will be unbeatable yourself. Yet, even Ares can halt Himself enough to accept input of the other Theoi. He has the skills to guide His anger and passion into a form which benefits Him and the Theoi.

This maxim reminds us that emotions are powerful influencers in our lives. It is easy to be ruled by them, but an angry heart is a closed heart. Anger closes you off from the outside world, and the Theoi. An angry practitioner will never be able to see the influence of the Theoi on their life, and this is why the Oracle of Delphi urges to control your anger. An angry practitioner can not serve the Theoi, yet, one who feels no passion can not serve the Theoi, either. It's the balance, this maxim urges you to find.

Anger is a hard emotion to fight. It comes from pride, insecurity, desperation and frustration. All are sources which are hard to control. I think the key lies in the acceptance of yourself and the world around you. If you accept what comes on your path with piety, optimism and temperance, you have the ability to master your anger. I've been at this for a long time but there are still times when my boundaries get crossed so dramatically and suddenly, the only thing which prevents me from exploding is leaving the situation. I haven't mastered this maxim yet, but I try.
A native of Greece’s (modern) capital, Tsalkanis has spent the past 13 years recreating the long-gone chapters of Athens’ history with 3-D modeling software, reports Sarah Rose Sharp for Hyperallergic. The product, an aptly-named website called Ancient Athens 3D, is an immersive experience unto itself, featuring the city’s monuments and landmarks through seven periods that date as far back as 1200 B.C., during the Mycenaean era, up through the early modern period, during the 19th century A.D.

In crafting the site, which first launched in 2008, Tsalkanis let waves of architecture guide the delineations of his seven featured eras, whose start and end dates overlap with—but don’t perfectly match—those in textbooks, according to the Greek City Times. Selecting one of the periods from the site’s menu takes the user to a page with a brief history lesson and links to individual monuments, rendered with each era’s architectural additions.

The website takes a bit of an open-source approach, adding tweaks or updates every time new data on Athens’ ancient archaeology surfaces, all in service of maintaining as much accuracy as possible. That’s impressive, considering the artist does all of this as a side hustle: The project began as, and remains, a “personal creation, without any official backing whatsoever,” Tsalkanis tells Hyperallergic. “I had no previous experience on 3-D and I started experimenting in my spare time.”

Writing on the website, Tsalkanis is upfront about the limitations of his approach. Perfect reconstructions, he says, are “impossible” given how much of the city’s ancient architecture has been lost to time. But in broad strokes, the city’s biggest changes are made clear. The acropolis—the city’s ancient citadel—has its roots in the Mycenaean era, when the first Greek tribes arrived to settle the region, and has housed a regular rotation of monuments and palaces ever since. As the civilization grew, builders forged a wall around Athens, adding temples to honor the gods, including the Parthenon, the remains of which still stand in the city today.

Conflict, too, shaped the city, according to the website. Each time Athens changed hands in the wake of battle, conquest or foreign occupation, its architecture was retooled—or simply destroyed. A series of clicks is all it takes to trace how the city’s built presence waxes and wanes through the Greco-Persian War, the ages of Roman and Ottoman occupation, and more, all in stunning detail. As Tsalkanis explains to Hyperallergic, the site contains more than a history lesson: It also offers a glimpse into what daily life might have been like many millennia ago.

"3-D is an amazing tool to visualize the past and to simulate what the people who lived 2,500 years ago might have experienced while walking around Athens. [It] gives us the opportunity to experiment in every way possible without harming the actual monuments."

Since its debut, Ancient Athens 3D has been freely available as an educational tool. The site maintains a presence on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Tsalkanis may even turn the site into an app someday, giving history buffs the chance to take the ancient city with them wherever they might go.
In the middle of the Lesser Mysteries is another festival, one that seems very minor, but which was very widespread in ancient Hellas. From Athens, to Erkhia, to Agria, the night of the twenty-third of the month of Anthesterion was reserved for the Diasia, an ancient festival--even back then--dedicated to Zeus Meilichios. The Diasia was a hugely important festival, because it was a festival full of rites of placation and purification. In the daylight hours of February 17th, 10 AM EST, Elaion will host a PAT ritual for the Diasia, and we encourage everyone to take part.

The Diasia is a complicated and very old festival. It has a mixture of Ouranic and Khthonic elements because it's related to purification; its intended purpose was to remove miasma and to bring prosperity. Ouranic influences are in the raised altar that was improvised, and in the fact that it was held during the daylight hours. Khthonic influences can be found in the fact that the sacrifice was given in a holókaustos and khoe, and that the actual festival took place outside of the city walls so as to carry miasma out of it (this is a practice more commonly seen during Hekate's Deipnon where a sacrifice was taken out of the house so the household would be purified).

Like with Hekate's Deipnon, the members of the household would touch a sacrificial animal during the Diasia before it was sacrificed, believing the miasma they carried would be transferred into it and then burned away. Old practices for Hekate's Deipnon included the same to be done with a dog. It was a grim festival, not a joyous one and it could have been quite scary for kids. As such, the festival was wrapped up with a communal meal that was usually lavish and kids were sometimes presented with a new toy. The day was ended on a happy not, because the family was now purified and Zeus Meilichios would watch over it and the crops. You can read more about the Diasia here and I highly encourage that you do so. The Diasia is special and because of its Khthonic character it was seen as somewhat dangerous if you messed it up. Understanding this festival is essential to any who participate in it.

The ritual for the Diasia can be found here. Please note that libations to Zeus Meilichios are khernips (water) libations and that all sacrifices are to be wholly burnt; they are given as a holókaustos. You are not to share in any liquid or foodstuff that you sacrifice to Zeus Meilichios. The Diasia calls for a sacrifice of an animal, or a cake version of it (namely a sheep or pig). Here is a recipe for ancient Hellenic honey cakes which you can use to make these (grain free version here). Please join the community page here to share your experience with others.
In honor of Valentines day, let's do a little poem about not understanding love at all. Because let's be honest, love is not something that's easy to understand--or even, that can be understood. It's good, though. If Valentine's is a thing you do with your partner, here is your head's up that it's tomorrow. Prepare for some time spent together.

“As I was walking from the Peiraios beset
By troubles and despair, philosophy came over me.
And all the painters now seem to me to be ignorant
About love, and, to put it simply, so is everyone else
Who fashions images of him as a god.
For he is neither female nor male, and again,
He is not a god or mortal; nor is he foolish
Or wise, but he is drawn together from everywhere
And carries many shapes in one form.
For he has a man’s boldness with a woman’s restraint;
he has the senselessness of madness.
But the reason of a thinker; he has a beast’s ferocity,
The toil of the unbreakable, and the avarice of a god.
Indeed, by Athena and the gods, I do not understand
What love is, but still it is the type of thing
I have said only without this name.”

Alexis (fr.386k from his Phaedrus; found at Athenaeus 13.13)[translation]
For the fifth year, Elaion will be hosting the celebration of the Lesser Eleusinian Greater Mysteries. As a basic viewpoint, Elaion believes that the Mysteries need not be pursued; they are not a spiritual ‘formula’ that experimentation will eventually rediscover. That said, we also acknowledge that it's a festival many have been drawn to--both then and now--and we want to give our members a chance to celebrate it in a way that is as Recon as possible once you accept that we know far too little about it to ever accurately be so. Since the proceedings of the Eleusinian Mysteries were kept secret in fear of  the punishment of death, we will never be able to restore these rites. But we do know a few basics and we have formulated our celebration accordingly. Please read through all information as well as the rituals before deciding to join. The Mysteries take place form 14 - 20 February.

The Eleusinian Mysteries (Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια) had festivals throughout the year, which were tied to agriculture through Demeter's refusal to perform her duties as an agricultural Goddess while her daughter Persephone is with Hades, and to the afterlife and Underworld through Persephone's return to the surface of the earth after Her mandatory stay with Hades has ended. Initiation ceremonies were held every year at Eleusis. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, the mysteries at Eleusis were assumed to be of great importance to a large portion of the ancient Hellenes. The cult itself likely had origins dating back to the Mycenean period of around 1600 to 1100 BC, and it is believed that the cult of Demeter Herself was established in 1500 BC.

The Eleusinian Mysteries consist mostly of two festivals, but the worship of Demeter and Persephone consist of a cycle of seven festivals: the Greater Mysteries (13-23 Boedromion), the Proerosia (6 Pyanepsion), the Stenia (9 Pyanepsion), the Thesmophoria (11-13 Pyanepsion), the Haloa (26 Poseideon), the Lesser Mysteries (20-26 Anthesterion), and the Skiraphoria (12 Skirophorion). These are placed in sequence of the Athenian year.

Mythologically, the foundations of the Eleusinian Mysteries can be found in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. Within the hymn, Demeter travels the globe in her grief over losing Her daughter. She eventually settles at the home of Keleus. Demeter plans to make one of his sons immortal in return for his hospitality but She is interrupted. Instead, she tells Keleus to build Her a temple and altar so she can teach human beings the knowledge they need to have a good life.

The Mysteries were obviously celebrated to honor Demeter--Demeter Eleusinia, specifically. Through the honoring of Demeter, the ancient Hellenes prayed for a good harvest, and through the worship of Persephone--Kore--those who were initiated in the Mysteries assured they would be looked upon favorably in the Afterlife.

The Lesser Mysteries were not always a part of the mysteries; around the middle of the fifth century BC, Eleusinian officials decreed that the Lesser Mysteries could serve as a necessary prerequisite to the Greater Mysteries. From that point on, they took place at a shrine located near the Ilissos river, from 20 to 26 Anthesterion, while they had most likely taken place at a special building at Eleusis, the Telesterion, before that. The river is located between Athens and Eleusis, and served as a meeting point when Athenian and Eleusinian worshippers came together. The location is also important for another reason: it was said to be the place where the first Lesser Mysteries were held; the place where Hēraklēs underwent purification before his initiation, so he could travel to the Underworld and not forget who he was, and through that, make sure he could get back to the surface world.

Hēraklēs, son of Zeus and the mortal Alcmene (Ἀλκμήνη)--who was a bane in Hera's life, simply for being born--was stricken mad by the Queen of the Gods and killed his five sons by his wife Megara (Μεγάρα), oldest daughter of Kreōn (Κρέων) of Thebes. When he was released from his madness by a hellebore potion--provided by Antikyreus--and realized what he had done, he cried out in anguish, and went on a long journey to cleanse himself of the miasma caused by these killings.

First, he visited the oracle at Delphi, who, unbeknownst to him, was whispered to by Hera. The Oracle told Hēraklēs to serve the king of Tiryns (Τίρυνς), Eurystheus (Εὐρυσθεύς), for ten years and do everything Eurystheus told him to do. Eurystheus gladly provided Hēraklēs with these labors--ten of them, one for each year--and eventually ended up adding two more, resulting in the Twelve Labors of Hēraklēs. Hēraklēs was told to: slay the Nemean Lion, slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra, capture the Golden Hind of Artemis, capture the Erymanthian Boar, clean the Augean stables in a single day, slay the Stymphalian Birds, capture the Cretan Bull, steal the Mares of Diomedes, obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon, steal the apples of the Hesperides, and to capture and bring back Kerberos.

This twelfth labor caused a problem for Hēraklēs, because he had to enter the Underworld to capture Kerbaros, and come back up, something that the Underworld was not intended for. Yesterday I explained how the river Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, runs through the Underworld, and all who come to the afterworld are eventually forced to drink from it in order to forget their old lives. Those who were initiated in the Eleusinian Mysteries, however, could drink from the fountain (or well) of Mnemosyne (memory) and were allowed to remember. Hēraklēs had to go through the mysteries, but initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries excluded those who were guilty of murder, and of course Hēraklēs was quite guilty of that. He was tainted not only with the miasma of killing his family, but also for killing the kentaur Nessus (Νέσσος), the kentaur who carried Hēraklēs' third wife Deïaneira (Δῃάνειρα) over the river Evinos (Εύηνος), and was killed by Hēraklēs for attempting to abduct and rape her.

Hēraklēs traveled to Eleusis in search for a way into the mysteries. Eventually, the officials of the mysteries decided that, in order for Hēraklēs to take part, he would have to be cleansed of the blood of his crimes first. As such, he was put through a rite, most likely at the shrine at the Ilissos river. Hēraklēs was cleansed, and eventually, he was initiated into the mysteries. He traveled to the Underworld--aided by a lot of Theoi--and eventually, he returned successful in his quest. For the ancient regular mortal, returning from the Underworld was not the goal. They did, however, want to be initiated. In order to qualify for initiation, participants would sacrifice a piglet to Demeter and Persephone.

In ancient texts, the rituals of the Lesser Mysteries were often referred to as 'myesis', as opposed to the rites of the Greater, which were referred to as 'epopteia'. The word myesis means 'to teach', as well as 'to initiate', while epopteia has a similar meaning, but with an important difference; it means 'to witness', as well as 'to be initiated'. This difference equates the major difference between the two rites: in the Lesser Mysteries, candidates underwent a teaching course. They were educated on the gifts of Demeter, on the mythology surrounding Her and Her daughter, and on the mysteries. They went through a rite of purification--possibly in the river. Upon completion of the Lesser Mysteries, participants were deemed mystai ('initiates') worthy of witnessing the Greater Mysteries.

While what exactly happens on which day, is completely unknown due to the vow of silence--which was most likely placed upon the seekers the first day. What we do know from artwork is that a pig was sacrificed on a eschára, a low-lying altar to the khthonic deities--most likely Persephone. Also sacrificed by the seeker was a stack of flat cakes called 'pelanoi', although the actual sacrifice is not depicted. A priest gave a libation, and may also have burned poppies, a plant linked to both Demeter and Persephone, as Demeter might have used it to relief the burden of Her grief over losing Her daughter. Other options for offerings include pomegranates, the seeds of the pomegranate, cakes, or cheese.

The seeker was--assumable after this sacrifice--told of Demeter and Persephone, and he or she might have been seated on a chair, coated by a ram's fleece, while these stories were told to them. Again, we know this from artwork, but we do not know why they were seated as such, save that Demeter also sat on a chair with a ram's fleece on it as she grieves over Persephone's abduction. A ram appears to have been a favored sacrificial animal for Persephone, so it might be that the ram--minus its fleece--was sacrificed as well.

Next--and I use this term loosely, because we have no idea about the order of things--the seeker was blindfolded and led on a journey--either physically, or as a meditative exercise. As a journey into the Underworld is also a journey into the darkness, one can assume this was the main goal of the exercise; for the seeker to feel he or she was being led deeper into the mysteries of the Underworld, deeper into a sense of sacredness and trust in the Theoi and priests who overlooked the mysteries, and deeper into him or herself, possibly to face their own crimes and impure actions. Anyone who has ever walked to an initiation in a blindfold knows the power of the act. It brings a finality, a true sense of entering a new world, and a leaving behind of the old. It may be that especially the latter was the goal of this exercise; a continuation of the purification that started with sacrifices.

During the blindfold exercise, a winnowing fan, a 'liknon', which was used to separate wheat from the chaff was held over the head of the seeker. It's a common symbol of Dionysos, and withing the mysteries, it may have signified the separation of the soul from the body--a start of the preparation for the demise of the seeker at the end of life, and the control they would have not to drink from Lethe.

After this ritual, the seeker was purified, and 'brought before Demeter'. This was most likely a priestess representing the Theia for the rite. She was seated on the kiste--a basket which held the ritual items used in the Greater Mysteries--and on her lap (or somewhere close) would be a snake. The seeker had to reach out and touch the snake, to show they had no fear of death, nor dying. It appears this was the final step in completing the Lesser Mysteries, and becoming a mystes, but there may have been be a dozen more rites the seeker would have had to go through that were lost in time.

Because so much is lost of the mysteries, celebrating the Lesser Mysteries as a modern Hellenist is virtually impossible. We'll give it a try, though, while being fully aware that it's a mere shadow of it at best. For those who wish to join us, the Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries will be a seven day event, starting on February 25th and ending on March 3rd. Many of the days will be study days with meditations of smaller rituals in order to understand the mythology and reasoning behind the Mysteries. In this regard, the Lesser Mysteries differ from the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries.

To make things easier, we have laid out a time table:

  • February 14: Opening rite (daytime)
  • February 15: Study day: Demeter (daytime)
  • February 16: Purification rite (daytime)
  • February 17: Study day: the Underworld (nighttime)
  • February 18: Study Day: Iakkhos (daytime)
  • February 19: Initiatory rite (nighttime)
  • February 20: Closing rite (daytime)

  • We truly hope you will join us for this event. You can share your experience with the community here and the rituals can be found here. Note, these are ALL rituals, seven of them in total, one for every day. It is highly encouraged you read through them before the Mysteries start.

    We are very excited about the opportunity of offering this experience to you and we hope you will find a glimmer of what the ancient Hellenes might have experienced during the some of the most anticipated days of the year.
    It's nearly Valentine's day, so why not share some lovely poetry from ancient times? And, of course, my throughts then go to Sappho. 

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

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

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

    “That man seems like the gods
    To me—the one who sits facing
    You and nearby listens as you
    sweetly speak—

    and he hears your lovely laugh—this then
    makes the heart in my breast stutter,
    when I glance even briefly, it is no longer possible
    for me to speak—

    but my tongue sticks in silence
    and immediately a slender flame runs under my skin.
    I cannot see with my eyes, I hear
    A rush in my ears—

    A cold sweat breaks over me, a tremble
    Takes hold of me. Then paler than grass,
    I think that I have died
    Just a little.”

    Fragment 31
    [Translation form here]
    The Museum Bums team will make a cheeky visit to the Museum of Classical Archaeology – which was last year declared the winner of the biggest bottom collection thanks to its statues, even beating the British Museum. Heritage workers Mark Small and Jack Shoulder will host the interactive evening, exploring Greek love and statuesque bottoms as part of LGBT+ History Month.

    "We are huge fans of the Museum of Classical Archaeology. In our big museum bum count they had the most bums on display in a museum in the UK and so far they haven’t been topped, so we decided to find a fun event to do with the team there. We are taking the idea of Greek love, ancient Greek sexual practices and what they got up to between the sheets as our starting point. And we will be doing some fundraising and awareness raising for the Terrence Higgins Trust."

    The Museum of Classical Archaeology in Cambridge, which is filled with casts of Greek and Roman statues, is running a series of events for the month. Curator Dr Susanne Turner said:

    "We are delighted to be teaming up with the chaps from Museum Bums. They are curating an event for us on men loving men and women loving women in the ancient world but with an awful lot of bottoms thrown in. And I will be doing a lightning talk on theories about why many Greek statues had big thighs and what they may signify."

    Tickets for the Greek Love event at the museum are available on Eventbrite.
    I post this once a year or so especially for solo practitioners and/or Elaion member who take part in our Practicing Apart Together rituals. Many practitioners like to pronounce the names of the Gods in Greek but aren't sure how. The sound library of greek-gods.info has you covered!

    The library has sound files of the names of Titans, Olympians, many of the other Gods, mythological creatures and heroes, in both Greek and English. I especially love listening to both files for one name, and spotting the differences. Let's just say that there are plenty.
    Thirty lead tablets engraved with curses have been discovered at the bottom of a 2,500 year old well in ancient Athens. Discovered in the area of Kerameikos, ancient Athens’ main burial ground, the small tablets invoked the Gods of the underworld in order to cause harm to others. They were called katadesmoi and I have written about them before here.

    These curses were ritual texts, usually scratched on small lead objects. “The person that ordered a curse is never mentioned by name, only the recipient,” observes Dr. Jutta Stroszeck, director of the Kerameikos excavation on behalf of the German Archaeological Institute in Athens.

    Before the discovery of the 30 specimens in the well, dozens of curses from the classical period (480-323 B.C.E.) had been found mainly in tombs of dead people who had died in an untimely manner and were therefore thought suitable to carry the spell to the underworld. One had also been found in another well. But there was good reason for the transition of ill-will from graves to wells in ancient Athens.

    The well where the curses were found was excavated in 2016 by a team under Stroszeck’s direction while investigating the water supply to a bathhouse about 60 meters beyond the Dipylon - the city-gate on the road to the Academy. It was a public bathhouse, not a private one, that operated from Classical to Hellenistic times,  the fifth to the first centuries B.C.E., and is thought to be the spa referred to by the comic playwright Aristophanes (Knights, 1307-1401). It was also mentioned in a speech by the 4th century B.C.E. Greek rhetorician Isaeus (against Kalydon, fragment 24).

    Despite more than a century of excavations in Kerameikos, the well had not been excavated before. Previous work in the area had been done by the architect Heinz Johannes and the archaeologist Kurt Gebauer, but was interrupted by World War II. None of the excavators survived the war: Johannes was sent to the Russian front and died there in 1945, and Gebauer died in an airplane crash over Vienna in 1942. Only recently were the excavations at the bathhouse resumed.

    Inside the well the archaeologists found a wealth of material, including drinking vessels (skyphoi), wine mixing vessels (krater), clay lamps, cooking pots, special broad-mouthed clay pots used to draw water (kadoi), wooden artifacts including a trinket box, a scraper used by potters, a wooden pulley, part of the drawing mechanism of the well) a number of bronze coins, as well as organic remains such as peach pits. And the curses.

    Apparently, there’s a reason the hexes were in the well. According to Cicero (De Legibus II 66), Demetrios of Phaleron, who ruled Athens in 317-307 B.C.E. enacted legislation to govern the management of tombs. He also created a new magistrate’s office to oversee adherence to the law: et huic procurationi certum magistratum praefecerat.

    “Black arts” were frowned on in Athens to begin with, and with the new law governing the cemetery, hexes couldn’t just be placed in tombs any more, as had been the habit (35 had been found in the graves of Kerameikos, in previous excavations).

    So, ill-wishers by the last years of the fourth century B.C.E. had to find other points of contact with the underworld gods, Stroszeck explains. It seems they came up with the stratagem of covertly tossing their curses into wells.

    The well is ten meters deep and at its bottom, the archaeologists found a built-in pedimented niche about a meter in height, made of limestone. It is true that the denizens of Athens would never see it, but it wasn’t for them. It was dedicated to the well’s water nymph.

    “Water, and in particular drinking water, was sacred. In Greek religion, it was protected by nymphs, who could become very mischievous when their water was treated badly.”

    To appease these emotionally precarious godlets, offerings such as miniature vessels containing liquids and other gifts were thrown into in the water.

    The 30 new tablets have been documented using reflectance transformation imaging, an digital technique that enables even the smallest inscriptions on lead to be read. The archaeologists hope to ultimately learn the name of the nymph, the nature of the curses and whether the targets of the hexes were any of the famous Athenians living in the city during the late fourth century B.C.E.

    The excavations conducted by the German Archaeological Institute in the Kerameikos since 1913 unearthed about 6,500 burials.

    The Kerameikos graves from the Classical period were ornate, marked with stelai, reliefs, sculpted animals, or marble vases. Grave markers in Hellenistic times were much simpler. In any case, this area was characterized by transition: from urban to rural land, and from the city of the living to the realm of the dead.

    Why would the ancient Athenians place their curses in graves anyway? Because of the superstition that the souls of certain types of dead remained active around the tombs for a while after death, making them suitable bearers of the curses to the netherworld, where hopefully the chthonic gods would do the curser’s bidding.

    Inscriptions found at ancient Kourion in Cyprus in the 1930s give precise instructions on how cursing was to be done. A tablet hexing a person very much alive had to be put in the tomb of the fresh corpse of a person who died prematurely – having failed to complete the “normal” life cycle, such as a child or an unmarried person; or a person who died by violence, like murder victims or war casualties, Stroszeck says. As their souls were believed to be “unquiet,” they could carry messages between the underworld and the mortal sphere.

    All 35 curse tablets from tombs of the Kerameikos cemetery were situated at the necropolis’ borders, including in the children’s necropolis and in a polyandrion, a communal grave for fallen soldiers.

    There seemed to have been four main types of reasons to curse someone: to win a lawsuit (by cursing the opponent’s tongue and hands, for example); for business purposes, for instance cursing metalsmiths, bankers, prostitutes and pimps; to win athletic contests; and – of course – because of love and hate.

    The norm was to hire a professional curse writer, who was believed to possess supernatural powers and would know the requisite procedures and spells. The completed curse tablet was folded up, pierced with an iron nail (defixio), and was sometimes nailed to the wooden coffin of the deceased conveyer.

    And then there were the curses that weren’t done in secret. One of Athens’ most infamous sons, the general Alcibiades, was cursed very much in public.

    Alcibiades had been a disciple of Socrates and was known for adopting the customs of whatever places he visited. For instance, in Sparta he was renowned for his cold baths and drinking black broth; in Thrace he was reportedly always drunk; and in Athens he became an orator who deliberately pronounced his r’s as l’s, since in this city, it was considered virtuous to lisp.

    However, the day after his election as the admiral of an Athenian expeditionary force to Sicily during the Peloponnesian War, it so happened that the citizens of Athens discovered that the stone genitalia of the city’s hermes (rectangular boundary stones featuring a phallus and a head) had been broken off. Rumor spread that Alcibiades and his drunken companions were responsible for the vile deed. When the news reached Alcibiades, he became so afraid that he fled to Sparta and turned traitor. This merited him to be publically cursed in Athens.

    Another person with the ill fortune to be publically cursed was Cassandros, one of Alexander the Great’s generals. The tablet cursing him was found inside a well near the Dipylon, the main gate of Athens and the principal point of entry of everyone in the city.

    Although the curse tablet was cleverly deposited so that Cassandros would be cursed when he made his first public appearance upon entering Athens, the spell seemed to have had little effect on him. He died a natural death, unlike many of his Macedonian peers, who were mostly either poisoned or killed in battle.

    One has to wonder why a civilization that developed philosophy, science and logic would stoop to black magic. The answer may be very concrete, and may date back to the mid fifth century B.C.E. at the time of the dedication of the Parthenon atop the acropolis, the acme of the ambitious building program on that hill at the initiative of the Athenian statesman Pericles.

    The construction of the Parthenon met with a fair amount of opposition. Some felt, not without reason, that it was not right to use the federal (union) treasury for municipal purposes in Athens.

    Pericles answered that as long as Athens was fulfilling its defense obligations, it owed no accounting to its allies over its use of the tribute money.

    But the criticism did not ebb, and Pericles was attacked both by satirists and in the general assembly. During a famous speech by Thucydides, son Melesias, against Pericles construction program at the Pnyx, the meeting place of the Athenian assembly, Thucydides managed to incite passions of the assembly against his political opponent –but in the middle of his speech his jaw suddenly dropped and he had to leave the platform. Probably he had been struck by stroke, but to the people it looked like Thucydides had been effectively cursed. This incident could explain the sudden increase of curse tablets in the Kerameikos during the 5th century B.C.E.

    Far more images here.