Wicker baskets filled with fruit that have survived from the 4th century BC and hundreds of ancient ceramic artefacts and bronze treasures have been discovered in the submerged ruins of the near-legendary city of Thonis-Heracleion off the coast of Egypt.

They have lain untouched since the city disappeared beneath the waves in the second century BC, then sank further in the eight century AD, following cataclysmic natural disasters, including an earthquake and tidal waves.

Thonis-Heracleion – the city’s Egyptian and Greek names – was for centuries Egypt’s largest port on the Mediterranean before Alexander the Great founded Alexandria in 331BC. But the vast site in Aboukir Bay near Alexandria was forgotten until its re-discovery by the French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio two decades ago, in one of the greatest archaeological finds of recent times. Colossal statues were among treasures from an opulent civilisation frozen in time. Some of the discoveries were shown in a major exhibition at the British Museum in 2016.

Goddio has been taken aback by the latest discoveries. He told the Guardian that the fruit baskets were “incredible”, having been untouched for more than 2,000 years. They were still filled with doum, the fruit of an African palm tree that was sacred for the ancient Egyptians, as well as grape-seeds.

“Nothing was disturbed. It was very striking to see baskets of fruits.”

One explanation for their survival may be that they were placed within an underground room, Goddio said, noting a possible funerary connotation. It is within an area where Goddio and his team of archaeologists have discovered a sizeable tumulus (a mound raised over graves) – about 60 metres long by 8 metres wide – and sumptuous Greek funerary offerings.

They date from the early fourth century BC when Greek merchants and mercenaries lived in Thonis-Heracleion. The city controlled the entrance to Egypt at the mouth of the Canopic branch of the Nile. The Greeks were allowed to settle there during the late Pharaonic period, constructing their own sanctuaries. Goddio said of the tumulus:

“It is a kind of island surrounded by channels. In those channels, we found an unbelievable amount of deposits made of bronze, including a lot of statuettes of Osiris [the ancient Egyptian fertility god]. On that island, something totally different. We found hundreds of deposits made of ceramic. One above the other. These are imported ceramic, red on black figures from Attic.”

The finds are all the more intriguing because there were vast quantities of miniature ceramics – high-quality Ancient Greek examples, including amphorae– under the tumulus. Bronze artefacts were around the tumulus, including mirrors and statuettes.

Goddio also found extensive evidence of burning, suggesting a “spectacular” ceremony that led to people being barred from entering this site again. It appears to have been sealed for hundreds of years as none of the artefacts found were from later than the early fourth century, even though the city lived on for several hundred years.

“There’s something very strange here. That site has been used maybe one time, never touched before, never touched after, for a reason that we cannot understand for the time being. It’s a big mystery.”

He hopes to find answers within some of the treasures, which include the well-preserved remains of a wooden sofa for banquets, a large Attic vase and a gold amulet of “exquisite quality”.

About 350 metres away, the archaeologists also found a unique Ptolemaic galley, 25 metres in length. While built in the classical tradition, with mortise-and-tenon joints, it also contains features of ancient Egyptian construction, with a flat-bottomed design that would have been perfect for navigation on the Nile and in the delta.

The European Institute for Underwater Archaeology, led by Goddio, works in close cooperation with Egypt’s ministry of tourism and antiquities and with the support of the Hilti Foundation. The finds will be studied and preserved before being put on display in museums.

The potential for further discoveries is tantalising. Even after conducting repeated excavations over the past two decades, Goddio estimates that only about 3% of the area has been explored so far.

In Somerset, England, a British pensioner who wishes to remain anonymous found a 2,300-year-old ancient Hellenic crown packed up in some crumpled up newspapers in an old cardboard box under his bed. According to Daily Mail, which interviewed the man, he had had many possessions left to him by his grandfather, who was a seasoned world traveler and collector.

“I inherited quite a lot of things from him and I just put this to one side for almost a decade and didn’t really think anything of it.”

He took the golden crown, along with some other items, to be appraised by a nearby auction house, Duke’s of Dorchester, about five years ago. It was there that the crown was discovered by one of the appraisers, Guy Schwinge; he described that unforgettable moment to the Daily Mail. 

“When the owner pulled the gold wreath from a tatty cardboard box filled with paper, my heart missed a beat. When I went to the cottage the last thing I expected to see was a piece of gold from antiquity.”

The handmade crown, made of pure gold, is approximately eight inches across and weighs about 100 grams (about 11 ounces, less than one pound). The rare find surprised both the owner as well as the appraiser.

“I knew my grandfather traveled extensively in the 1940s and 50s and he spent time in the northwest frontier area, where Alexander the Great was, so it’s possible he got it while he was there. But he never told me anything about this wreath.”

The mystery, therefore, will remain.

The crown is believed to be from antiquity in Northern Greece, dating as far back as the Hellenistic period, which took place from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. It has been reported that the crown is worth as much as £100,000 to £200,000.

It is not easy to trace the exact lineage of the crown since it has no paper trail or documents, but because it was found with traces of dirt, it is believed that it may have been buried at some point in time.

“It is notoriously difficult to date gold wreaths of this type. Stylistically it belongs to a rarefied group of wreaths datable to the Hellenistic period and the form may indicate that it was made in Northern Greece.”

Crowns such as the one discovered usually depicted branches of laurel, myrtle, oak and olive trees, all symbolic of the ideals and morals held in ancient Hellas such as wisdom, triumph, fertility, peace and virtue.

The crowns, which are extraordinarily fragile, were typically worn on special occasions or dedicated to the gods and placed as offerings at the graves of aristocratic people in ancient times.

It was July 31, 1801, when Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Constantinople, chipped away the first Parthenon sculptures in Athens so that he could take them to Britain. This would ultimately become the beginning of a two-century-old story of a cultural dispute between two friends and allies: Greece and the UK.

Lord Elgin’s real name was Thomas Bruce. He had the titles of the 7th Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine. He was born on July 20, 1766, in Scotland, to the formerly royal house of Bruce. He was the second son of Charles Bruce, 5th Earl of Elgin and his wife Martha Whyte, who were living in Fife, near Edinburgh.

Apart from being a prominent nobleman in Scotland, Bruce was also a keen military man. He entered the British Army as an ensign in the Scots Guards in 1785. Following years of successful advancing in the rankings of the Army, he was promoted to Colonel in the Army in 1802, to Major General in 1809, and to Lieutenant General in 1814; all these while he was also serving as a diplomat.ten

His diplomatic career began in 1791 when he was sent as a temporary envoy extraordinary to Austria. He also served in various diplomatic posts representing Britain in Brussels, Prussia, and of course, Constantinople. He arrived there on November 6, 1799, and his tenure as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire lasted between 1799 and 1803.

The Scottish diplomat, apart from being a successful military officer, was also a passionate art collector. Thus, in May 1800, a few months after he assumed the prestigious office of the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the Ottoman Empire, he sent embassy secretary William Hamilton to the occupied town of Athens.

In the early 19th century, the once-buzzing metropolis of the ancient world, was nothing more than a shadow of its former self, a small town in the southern part of the European provinces of the vast Ottoman Empire.

Forgotten by time and its own inhabitants, the city that once ruled the known world was nothing more than a place of ruins, with a few thousand people, mostly peasants, living under the shadows of the glorious past.

This was probably the reason why Elgin was so fascinated with Athens. Its universally priceless monuments were calling to him, as he wanted them to become his own personal property back in Britain, rather than leaving them to stay unappreciated in a small Ottoman town.

Elgin hired a famous Neapolitan painter, Lusieri, and several other skillful draftsmen and modelers from abroad and tasked them with going to Athens for an important mission: To categorize the monuments of the city and see what they could take from it. Unfortunately for him, however, very limited facilities and permissions were granted to them by the Ottoman authorities.

In an interesting turn of events, though, just when international geopolitics led Constantinople into an alliance with Great Britain against France, Elgin seized the opportunity to personally benefit and acquire a huge collection of antiquities.

In 1801 Elgin managed to obtain a letter from Kaimakam Segut Abdullah, who was at that time replacing the Grand Vizier in Constantinople. The letter urged the local Ottoman authorities in Athens to allow Elgin’s people to perform excavations around the Acropolis, provided that they would not damage the monuments.

This was it: Elgin had gotten what he had lusted after so long.

From 1801 to 1804, Elgin’s crews worked tirelessly, removing the priceless treasures from the Acropolis of Athens. Of course, the instruction that they had to make sure that none of the monuments would become damaged was never followed by Elgin’s crew.

By causing considerable damage to sculptures and the monument itself, detaching and dividing a significant portion — about half — of the sculptures decorating the Parthenon, along with some architectural pieces, Elgin’s workers literally butchered one of the most important monuments on the earth. The removable antiquities were to be packed in boxes and transported by sea to England.

The first metopes from the Parthenon were removed exactly 220 years ago, on July 31st, 1801.

By mid-1802, a total of 12 huge boxes had been loaded onto Elgin’s ship, called the ”Mentor.” The collection consisted of portions of the frieze, metopes, and pedimental sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as of sculptured slabs from the Athenian temple of Nike Apteros, and various other antiquities from Attica and other districts of then-occupied Greece. The ship, however, sank off the shores of Avlemonas on the island of Kythera (known then as Cerigo), while the crew was heading toward the Western Mediterranean. It took three years for divers to recover all the crates containing the antiquities.

Elgin left the Ottoman Empire in 1803; however, Lusieri remained there, adding pieces to Elgin’s collections until 1812 — nine years after Elgin’s return to Britain. When he got back to his home country, notable personalities in Britain accused him of being a common thief and a vandal who, through improper means like bribery, robbed respected monuments of culture for his own benefit.

The Scottish lord attempted to vindicate himself, as he did not want his reputation to be ruined. In 1810, he issued a pamphlet titled ”Memorandum on the Subject of the Earl of Elgin’s Pursuits in Greece,” where he tried to justify his actions.

As the issue had become a heated topic among the British elite, a recommendation of a British parliamentary committee, which supported the conduct of Elgin in the face of public pressure, ordered the sculptures to be purchased by the British government. This happened in 1816 when London paid Elgin £35,000 (almost £3.5 million in today’s values or $5 million) and deposited them in the British Museum. It is noted that the total cost of Elgin’s operation had been calculated to be approximately £75,000 (£7.5 million in 2021 values), much more than what the British government paid to obtain them.

And, as we all know, the Parthenon sculptures are still exhibited in the British Museum to this day, in a windowless room far from the blazing sunshine of their original home in Athens. Greek governments of the past few decades have been making efforts to repatriate the priceless pieces of world civilization to Athens — but tragically, without any positive results as of yet.

 It's been a while since I last tackled a constellation. Sorry about that. I am happy to announce we have reached the 'O''s, which means there are just fourteen left after this one, and thirty-two behind us. There will, however, be a bonus at the end. The constellation Ophiuchus (Ὀφιοῦχος) has has had its stars interpreted in a number of ways throughout the years, and the Hellenic-era interpretations are mostly lost to us. Hyginus is our primary source on this constellation, and he was a Roman man. Lets hope he built upon existing opinion.



Ophiuchus has known many interpretation, but was almost solely called 'Serpent-holder'. In the night's sky, he is located above Scorpio, and holds in his hands a serpent which coils about his body. Hyginus, in his 'Astronomica' gives us five possible men this snake holder could represent: Karnabon, Herakles, Triopas, Phorbas, and Asklēpiós. I will let Hyginus speak for a moment:

"Many have called him Carnabon, king of the Getae, who lived in Thrace. He came into power at the time when it is thought grain was first given to mortals. For when Ceres was distributing her bounties to men, she bade Triptolemus, whose nurse she had been, go around to all the nations and distribute grain, so that they and their descendants might more easily rise above primitive ways of living. He went in a drgon car, and is said to have been the first to use one wheel, so as not to be delayed in his journey. When he came to the king of the Getae, whom we mentioned above, he was at first hospitably received. Later, not as a beneficent and innocent visitor, but as a most cruel foe, he was seized by treachery, and he who was ready to prolong the lives of others, almost lost his own life. For at the order of Carnabon one dragon was killed, so that Tiptolemus might not hope his dragon car could save him when he realized an ambush was being prepared. But Ceres is said to have come there, and restored the stolen chariot to the youth, substituting another dragon, and punishing the king with no slight punishment for his malevolent attempt. For Hegesianax says that Ceres, for men’s remembrance, pictures Carnabon among the stars, holding a dragon in his hands as if to kill it. He lived so painfully that he brought on himself a most welcome death.

Others point out that he is Hercules, killing in Lydia near the river Sagaris a snake which kept destroying many men and stripping the river banks of grain. In return for this deed, Omphale, the queen of that region, sent him back to Argos loaded with gifts, and because of his bravery he was placed by Jove among the constellations.

Some, too, have said that he is Triopas, king of the Thessalians, who, in trying to roof his own house, tore down the temple of Ceres, built by the men of old. When hunger was brought on him by Ceres for this deed, he could never afterward be satisfied by any amount of food. Last of all, toward the end of his life, when a snake was sent to plague him, he suffered many ills, and at last winning death, was put among the stars by the will of Ceres. And so the snake, coiling round him, still seems to inflict deserved and everlasting punishment.

Polyzelus the Rhodian, however, points out that this is Phorbas, who was of great assistance to the Rhodians. The citizens called their island, overrun by a great number of snakes, Ophiussa. In this multitude of beasts was a snake of immense size, which had killed many of them; and when the deserted land began finally to lack men, Phorbas, son of Triopas by Hiscilla, Myrmidon’s daughter, when carried there by a storm, killed all the beasts, as well as that huge snake. Since he was especially favored by Apollo, he was put among the constellations, shown killing the snake for the sake of praise and commemoration. And so the Rhodians, as often as they go with their fleet rather far from their shores, make offerings first for the coming of Phorbas, that such a happening of unexpected valor should befall the citizens as the opportunity for glory which brought Phorbas, unconscious of future praise, to the stars.

Many astronomers have imagined that he is Aesculapius, whom Jupiter [Zeus], for the sake of Apollo, put among the stars. For when Aesculapius was among men, he so fare excelled the rest in the art of medicine that it wasn’t enough for him to have healed men’s diseases unless he could also bring back the dead to life. He is said most recently, according to Eratosthenes to have restored to life Hippolytus who had been killed by the injustice of his stepmother and the ignorance of his father. Some have said that by his skill Glaucus, son of Minos, lived again. Because of this, as for a sin, Jove struck and burned his house with a thunderbolt, but because of his skill, and since Apollo was his father, put him among the constellations holding a snake.
Certain people have said that he holds the snake for the following reason. When he was commanded to restore Glaucus, and was confined in a secret prison, while meditating what he should do, staff in hand, a snake is said to have crept on to his staff. Distracted in mind, Aesculapius killed it, striking it again and again with his staff as it tried to flee. Later, it is said, another snake came there, bringing an herb in its mouth, and placed it on its head. When it had done this, both fled from the place. Where upon Aesculapius, using the same herb, brought Glaucus, too, back to life. And so the snake is put in the guardianship of Aesculapius and among the stars as well. Following his example, his descendants passed the knowledge on to others, so that doctors make use of snakes." [II.14]

The snake that is being wrangled by our mystery man is actually not part of the constellation Ophiuchus: it's a separate one named Serpens, which we will get to a little later on. Linked to Serpens, the constellation Ophiuchus wasn't known under that name in ancient Roman times, but took the title 'Serpentarius', which also means 'Snake-Holder', or 'Snake-Bearer'.

The Sun passes through the constellation between November 30 and December 17, which is why some astrologers consider Ophiuchus to be the thirteenth sign of the zodiac. It is, however, not included in most astrological zodiacs, and the saying confuses sign with constellation. The constellation is visible at latitudes between +80° and −80°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of July.

Archaeologists have unearthed a cache of sixth-century coins in Phanagoria, an ancient Greek city located in what is today southwestern Russia. 80 copper staters—a type of Greek coin—were found in an amphora buried for centuries in the ashes of a calamitous fire, Artnet reported.

Researchers think they were stashed in the vessel prior to an attack, likely from the Huns or the Turks, that resulted in large sections of the city being torched. The discovery was announced by the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute of Archaeology. Archaeologist Vladimir Kuznetsov, who heads the institute’s now three-year-long Phanagoria dig, said in a statement:

“Treasures [like this] are not often found. As a rule, they are evidence of catastrophic events in people’s lives, as a result of which the one who hid money or valuable items was unable to return and use their savings. The very context of his find speaks of the extraordinary circumstances under which [the objects were] hidden, of the sudden attack of enemies. In a hurry, a resident of Phanagoria hid a bundle with 80 coins in the throat of an old broken amphora that had turned up under his arm and covered the hole with earth.”

The scientist and his team determined that the copper coins were likely minted in the late third or early fourth century, in the Bosporan Kingdom, but continued to circulate as cheaper alternatives to gold currency through to the sixth century.

They were pulled from a layer of debris where the remains of fire-damaged wooden floors, dishes, and a broken baptismal font have also been uncovered. The latter object suggests an early Christian basilica was destroyed in the conflagration.

In 2019, at the same site, Kuznetsov found an example of a gold coin made during the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian I, also lost in the debris of a sixth century fire.

With this month’s discovery, the researchers were able to conclude that there were actually two separate fires.

The first likely came about during a region-wide revolt against the Hunnic leader Gord in 528 or 534. The reason for the second, which scientists date to the second half of the century, is a mystery.

“The gold coin of Justinian I found two years ago in Phanagoria serves as proof that the new treasure is associated with the second, late fire of the sixth century. But who exactly—the [Huns] or the Turks—destroyed the capital of the Phanagorian diocese, remains unknown. The new treasure from Phanagoria is an invaluable evidence of historical events and the economy of the early Middle Ages.”

According to Hellenic mythology, the Olympic Games were founded by Herakles. It happened after he captured the Cretan Bull, the very same bull that got Pasiphaê, wife of Minos, pregnant with the Minotaur. There is an extended break between the completion of this labour and the start of the next, during which the Olympics came to be.

After capturing the bull, Herakles took some time to unwind, feast, and thank the Gods for all he had achieved so far. Chief amongst his accomplishments in his time off time period is the founding of the Olympic Games, which even Pausanias attributed to Herakles in the mythological retelling of the practice. He writes in his 'Description of Greece':

"Heracles of Ida, therefore, has the reputation of being the first to have held, on the occasion I mentioned, the games, and to have called them Olympic. So he established the custom of holding them every fifth year, because he and his brothers were five in number." [5.7.9]

Corroborating accounts come from, for example, Diodorus Siculus who writes:

"After the performance of this Labour Heracles established the Olympic Games, having selected for so great a festival the most beautiful of places, which was the plain lying along the banks of the Alpheius river, where he dedicated these Games to Zeus the Father. And he stipulated that he prize in them should be only a crown, since he himself had conferred benefits upon the race of men without receiving any monetary reward.

All the contests were won by himself without opposition by anyone else, since no one was bold enough to contend with him because of his exceeding prowess. And yet the contests are very different one from another, since it is hard for a boxer or one who enters for the “Pankration” to defeat a man who runs the “stadion,” and equally difficult for the man who wins first place in the light contests to wear down those who excel in the heavy. Consequently it was fitting that of all Games the Olympic should be the one most honoured, since they were instituted by a noble man." [4.14.1 - 4.14.2]

That said, of course there are a great many non-mythological accounts of how the Olympics came to be. My favorite, perhaps, is from Diodorus Siculus again, who writes a beautiful line between myth and his reality, speaking of the five Daktyloi, daimones who were appointed by Rhea to guard the infant God Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida in Krete and eventually established the Olympic Games in the age of Kronos. One of them was called Hēraklēs as well:

"Also the greater number of the gods who, because of their benefactions to all men alike, have been accorded immortal honours, had their origin, so their myths relate, in their land; and of the tradition regarding these gods we shall now give a summary account, following the most reputable writers who have recorded the affairs of Crete.

The first of these gods of whom tradition has left a record made their home in Crete about Mt. Idê and were called Idaean Dactyli. These, according to one tradition, were one hundred in number, but others say that there were only ten to receive this name, corresponding in number to the fingers (dactyli) of the hands.

But some historians, and Ephorus is one of them, record that the Idaean Dactyli were in fact born on the Mt. Idê which is in Phrygia and passed over to Europe together with Mygdon; and since they were wizards, they practised charms and initiatory rites and mysteries, and in the course of a sojourn in Samothrace they amazed the natives of that island not a little by their skill in such matters. And it was at this time, we are further told, that Orpheus, who was endowed with an exceptional gift of poesy and song, also became a pupil of theirs, and he was subsequently the first to introduce initiatory rites and mysteries to the Greeks.

However this may be, the Idaean Dactyli of Crete, so tradition tells us, discovered both the use of fire and what the metals copper and iron are, as well as the means of working them, this being done in the territory of the city of Aptera at Berecynthus, as it is called; and since they were looked upon as the originators of great blessings for the race of men, they were accorded immortal honours. And writers tell us that one of them was named Heracles, and excelling as he did in fame, he established the Olympic Games, and that the men of a later period thought, because the name was the same, that it was the son of Alcmenê who had founded the institution of the Olympic Games." [5.64.2 - 5.64.6]

No one knows who actually founded the first Olympics, so I'll take the mythical explanation of a hero named Herakles, who founded the Games to honor the Gods and receive blessings upon himself so he would be able to complete the coming labors.

A spectacular ancient mosaic floor that was part of a building from the Hellenistic period is among the important finds from excavations carried out recently at Fabrika Hill in Kato Paphos, Cyprus. Known to archaeologists as the “Acropolis of Paphos,” the Hill holds treasures that have been the focus of archaeologists from France’s University of Avignon for the past twelve years.

The finds unearthed at the site were presented to the Paphos Municipal Council recently by Claire Balandier, a professor of archaeology and ancient Greek history and head of the Archaeological Mission of the University of Avignon.

Balandier, who has served as chief of the archaeological expedition conducting excavations on site for more than a decade, told the authorities the Fabrika Hill area was considered the Acropolis of Paphos and still holds extremely important monuments from the ancient history of the area.

Phedonas Phedonos, the mayor of Paphos, thanked Professor Balandier in a statement for the important excavation work carried out in the last twelve years in this area by the French Archaeological Mission.

The announcement also noted that she even ranked the quarries that existed there as the “third most important, after the quarries of Petra in Jordan, and Sicily.”

During her presentation, Professor Balandier also pointed out that excavation work was especially difficult this past year due to the coronavirus, because no students were allowed into the area to help. “This year we are doing studies and cleaning,” she noted, “while at the same time the program is being prepared for next year.”

One of the more spectacular discoveries made in the dig is a room with a mosaic floor that had been part of a building from the Hellenistic period.

In another incredible twist, the archaeologists found that the building where the mosaics were found had been supplied with water from a clay pipe that is amazingly still preserved, in what Balandier called “very good condition.”

It is believed that the water came from the area of Tala. Unfortunately, the building appears to have been partially destroyed by later Roman-era construction projects, which even included the construction of a water pipeline and reservoirs.

Paphos Mayor Phedonos expressed his great gratitude to Professor Balandier, who, according to a report in the Cyprus Mail, has been coming to Paphos for 31 years and is fluent in Greek. He also thanked all the other foreign archaeological expeditions that have been conducting excavations in the city recently.

The University of Krakow, led by Professor Evdoxia-Papoutsi-Wladyka, who is of Greek descent, is currently conducting an excavation in Paphos’ ancient market.

A team from Australia’s University of Sydney, under the direction of Dr. Craig Barker, is another major player in the archeological operations ongoing in the Paphos area, with its discovery of an 8,000-seat theater there which was declared to be the largest Hellenistic theater ever found.

 I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.



"You recently answered a question about mythology and if it's real or not. You didn't answer if you think monsters are real as well. Do you? How about demi-gods? Are they currently amongst us?"

I feel about monsters the same way I do about all other aspects of mythology: they are real. They are the skeletons of dinosaurs and early mammals. They are the divine challengers of our Gods and heroes, They are the stories of the ancient Hellenes. There is no differnece between them. They are all facets of the same thing. I believe that if the ancient Hellenes had not found a field of mammoth bones, the Titanomachy and then the Gigantomachy would never have (retroactively) taken place in mythology, lending power to the Theoi. I believe  that the rise and fall of sea levels are caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of the Earth as much as I believe Kharybdis causes it. Facets.
 
As for demigods... define demigods. Do I think there is a camp in the woods somewhere with the offspring of Gods (even if they are traditionally considered virginal) like in Percy Jackson? No. But then again, what do I know? For Like I said before, I am sure there was someone like Herakles (or many men like Herakles!) who performed amazing feats of strength and endurance. I think those people exist today. On the one hand I think they are mortals, born from mortal parents, who grew up to do amazing, divinely inspired things. On the other hand, I believe they are the offspring of a God and a mortal. Even in ancient Hellas, these views were held. There was almost always a mortal father as well--and in case of twins, sometimes one was divine and the other wasn't. I am absolutely sure the Gods inspire mrtals to do great things, even today. The ancient Hellenes would have included the lives of these people in mythology and would probably have made them offspring of the Gods. In that regard, I believe in demigods with every fiber of my being.

Point is, science is quantifiable. Whether divinely influenced or not, gravity will always pull down the falling apple at the same speed if the apple always weighs the same and water will always boil at 100 degrees celcius in our atmosphere. On Mars, things would be completely different, obviously. I believe in these simple facts. I also believe the Protogenoi and Uranides make up the fabric of our world and are thus directly responsible for these facts being true. For me, they are one and the same and they are equally true whether you look at it from the side of science or religion.

 
***

"In Hellenic Polytheism, what rituals are made when someone has recently died?"

The ancient Hellenes believed that the moment a person died, their psyche--spirit--left the body in a puff or like a breath of wind. Proper burial was incredibly important to the ancient Hellenes, and to not give a loved one a fully ritualized funeral was unthinkable. It was, however, used as punishment of dead enemies, but only rarely. Funerary rites were performed solely to get the deceased into the afterlife, and everyone who passed away was prepared for burial according to time-honoured rituals.

They believed the Underworld was a neutral place. One did not desire to go there in the least, but it was part of life, and as far as the afterlife went, it was dull and sunless but nothing like the hell of Christianity. The worst part about it is being without the touch of loved ones, and forgetting who you were.

A burial or cremation had four parts: preparing the body, the prothesis (Προθησις, 'display of the body'), the ekphorá (ἐκφορά 'funeral procession'), and the interment of the body or cremated remains of the deceased. Preparation of the body was always done by women, and was usually done by a woman over sixty, or a close relative who was related no further away from the deceased than the degree of second cousin. These were also the only people in the ekphorá. The deceased was stripped, washed, anointed with oil, and then dressed in his or her finest clothes. They also received jewelry and other fineries. A coin could be presented to the dead, and laid under or below the tongue, or even on the eyes, as payment to Kharon.

During the actual funeral, a related mourner first dedicated a lock of hair, then provided the deceased with offerings of honey, milk, water, wine, perfumes, and oils mixed in varying amounts. Any libation was a khoe; a libation given in its entirety to the deceased. None was had by the mourners. A prayer to the Theoi--most likely Hermes Khthonios--then followed these libations. It was also possible to make a haimacouria before the wine was poured. In a haimacouria, a black ram or black bull is slain and the blood is offered to the deceased. This blood sacrifice, however, was probably used only when they were sacrificing in honour of a number of men, or for someone incredibly important. Then came the enagismata, which were offerings to the dead that included milk, honey, water, wine, celery, pelanon--a mixture of meal, honey, and oil--and kollyba--the first fruits of the crops and dried fresh fruits.

Unlike the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Hellenes placed very few objects in the grave, but monumental earth mounds, rectangular built tombs, and elaborate marble stelai and statues were often erected to mark the grave and to ensure that the deceased would not be forgotten. Grave gifts were allowed in many places, but could not cost more than a set amount all together. These elaborate burial places served as a place for the family members to visit the grave with offerings that included small cakes and libations. The goal  was to never be forgotten; if the dead was remembered always, and fed with libations and other offerings, their spirit would stay 'alive' forever. That said, especially in Athens, names on grave markers were restricted to women who died in childbirth and men who died in battle.

The epitaphios logos, or funerary oration, was deemed an indispensable component of the funeral ritual, especially in ancient Athens, where it came into practice around 470 BC for the honoured (war) dead. A large part of Hellenic rituals of the dead speak of honouring the dead by name, so their names will never be forgotten, their honour never lost. This practice starts with the epitaphios logos, in which the deceased is remembered for their greatest of deeds. Because Plato was eternally weary of the abilities of others to conduct the oration in the way it was intended, he made a guide for it, describing the four steps. It started with the preamble, which describes why this oration is held and how the audience should behave during it and after it. This part tends to include an apology from the speaker that he or she will never do true justice to the achievements of the dead. Following that, there is a long talk of the origin and ancestors of the deceased, followed by an account of the bravery and other good attributes of the dead. this part tended to include they devotion to the Athenian Polity. Finally, there was an epilogue, which constitutes a consolation and an encouragement for the families of the dead. The epilogue employs a traditional dismissal of the mourners.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, but many modern, western, funeral rites bear striking resemblance to the customs of the ancient Hellenes.


***

"I would really love to hear whatever you have to say on the subject of Elysium."

The ancient Hellens believed the Underworld was a neutral place. One did not desire to go there in the least but it was part of life, and as far as the afterlife went, it was dull and sunless but nothing like the hell of Christianity. The worst part about it is being without the touch of loved ones, and forgetting who you were.

The ancient Hellenes believed the dead have three places to go in the Underworld: Tartaros, where those who are punished for all eternity remained, the Asphodel meadows, where everyone who had lived a good life wandered about endlessly, and the Elysian Fields, where the children of Gods, the blessed dead and those who had lead extraordinarily honorable, brave or otherwise well-respected lives resided.

The Elysian Fields were typically divided into two sections: the Island of the Blessed and the Lethean Fields of Hades. The Elysian Fields, or 'White Island' is the final resting place for the souls of heroes. It was an island paradise located in the far western streams of the river Okeanos and ruled over by either Kronos or Rhadamanthys, a Judge of the Dead. The second Elysium, the Lethean Fields of Hades, is a netherworld realm. It's located in the depths of Haides beyond the river Lethe. Its fields were promised to initiates of the Mysteries who had lived a virtuous life. When the concept of reincarnation emerged and spread in ancient Hellas the two Elysian realms were sometimes tiered--a soul which had thrice won passage to the Lethean Fields, would, with the fourth, be transferred permanently to the Islands of the Blessed to reside with the heroes.

It's important to note that over the course of time, Elysium evolved. Hómēros didn't mention anything like it and refers only to the Meadows for all those noble souls who have died. Hesiod mentions a special realm for heroes. Pindar, by the 5th century BC, seperates the two in his Odes. By Roman times, writers such as Virgil combine the two Elysia. Many views of the same place survive and many more most likely existed. Such is the nature of something only discoverable after death.


***

"Do you have any info, holidays, special activities, etc. on Hera?"

There are a few festivals of Hera that were celebrated in ancient Athens and Erchia, a demos near Athens. There were most likely others but much of that information has been lost. This is the list I have, in sequence of the festival year:

Metageitnion 20Sacrifice to Hera ‘Telkhinia’ at Erchia
Boedromion 3Plataia – festival of reconciliation, sacred to Hera Daidala
Gamelion 27 – Theogamia/Gameliacelebrating the sacred marriage of Zeus Teleios and Hera Telei
Gamelion 27Sacrifice to Kourotrophos, Hera, Zeus Teleius, and Poseidon at Erchia


Note that Hera would also have been honoured during any festival to Zeus and in many rites concerning Her children.

Busy day, sorry, so have a hymn to Poseidon, hidden away in Aristophanes's The Knights. It's sung by two of the characters and is quite lovely, so I thought I'd share.


Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord, protector and lover of horses!
Lover of the brazen clang and thud of the horses’ hooves, lover of the horses’ neighing. Lover, too, of the swift war ships with their blue emblems of rams at the prow!
Oh, God, whose heart gladdens at the sight of the rich booty those ships carry! A heart that also gladdens at the sight of young men in contest, particularly when they climb proudly upon their chariots chasing their Fate -victory or defeat, no matter!
Come, God of the horse, come now and join our dance!
Poseidon, God of the golden trident, come join us!
God, chief of the dolphins!
God whose name is praised at Sounion!
God, son of Kronos, Geraestus!
God, most loved by the folk of Phormion to whom you granted a naval victory!
God most loved by all the citizens of Athens at this hour of their naval need!

I'm sharing this opinion piece by Alexis Georgoulis for you to make up your own mind. In Greece, an archaeological site of incalculable value is today at great risk of being irretrievably damaged. In 2013, the construction of the Venizelos metro station in Thessaloniki led to the discovery of impressive remains dating back to the Late Roman and Early Byzantine period (4th-9th century AD), a time when Thessaloniki was considered a multicultural city at the crossroads of East and West.

These archaeological findings are of immense historical and cultural importance because nowhere in the world has archaeology found a city’s central urban area belonging to this period which is so well preserved and boasts such a sprawling surface (the site covers over 1,500 m²).

The monumental ensemble includes parts of the Roman marble paved avenue Decumanus Maximus, its intersection with the main road of the city (the cardo maximus), workshops, shops and residencies, and portions of a square surrounded by colonnades. Some experts are even referring to the complex as the "Byzantine Pompeii" because it is found in excellent condition, and, as in the case of Pompeii, it gives a clear idea of how everyday life looked like back then.

But the way the Greek government has decided to handle the spectacular discovery has sparked a fierce debate, both at national and international level, and deserves the attention – and perhaps the intervention – of the European institutions.

In March 2020, despite the significance of this monumental complex and against the majority opinion of the archaeological community, the government decided to dismantle the ancient findings into bits and pieces and temporarily move them to a storage unit outside the city, with the intention of placing them back after the station’s construction. The main argument behind this decision was the need to finish the station’s construction in time and avoid any repercussions by the European Investment Bank, which finances the works of Thessaloniki’s metro.

In doing so, the government ignored a scientifically and technically solid solution for a win-win construction plan to build the station in time while keeping the antiquities in situ. This alternative scenario, which is both realistic and respectful, was proposed by a group of experts: to excavate and build the station under the archaeological layers.

According to archaeologists, the procedure of removing the findings destroys underlying archaeological strata and exposes them to external risks.

Moreover, the project of moving the delicate pieces is remarkably time-consuming: in case of removal, a new archaeological excavation must take place because under the level of the current complex lie another three meters of archaeological layers, estimated to be 700 years old.

The Greek government should learn the lessons from previous unsuccessful attempts. A similar plan was implemented when extremely important findings were discovered near the square of Hagia Sophia, also in Thessaloniki. The archaeological site was dismantled and stored outside the city. Unfortunately, after construction work was concluded, the effort to put the findings back in their original place proved to be impossible because they could no longer fit in the space from which they had been extracted.

We must make sure the remains found in the Venizelos station do not suffer the same fate.

Public opinion is overwhelming opposed to the removal: according to a recent survey, two out of three residents in Northern Greece don't support the extraction .

Neither does international law approve the strategy: all the international conventions on cultural heritage – namely the Charter for the Protection and Management of the Archaeological Heritage (Lausanne, 1990), UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention (revised on 10th of June 2019), the Nara Document on Authenticity (1994) and the Venice Charter (1964) – underline the need to preserve monuments of cultural importance in the location where they are originally discovered.

This is an essential precondition, regarding integrity and authenticity, for any monument to be considered for the World Heritage Monument list of UNESCO.

A possible awarding of the new archaeological site as a World Heritage Monument would be most beneficial for Thessaloniki, helping to promote the city as a tourist destination and bringing economic gains. It would be a pity to lose this potential title and all its advantages.

For all the above reasons, cultural institutions, such as Europa Nostra and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), academics, civil society and legislators are being mobilised in order to stop the removal process and prevent a destructive scenario from happening.

Time is running out: Greece's highest administrative court, the Council of State, has already green-lighted the extraction, rejecting all three appeals by a thin margin of 13 out of 25 votes.

This problem concerns the whole Europe – and only Europe can act now.

My colleagues of the European Parliament and I have already addressed a question to the European Commission, asking if the executive intends to intervene and defend the preservation in situ of the Thessaloniki antiquities before the damage becomes irreparable. Going forward, the European Union must establish guidelines for similar cases to guarantee the substructure works doesn't entail the erosion of our ancient history.

We must seize this unique opportunity to build a modern metro line that benefits the city's development and connectivity while preserving and highlighting our common European cultural heritage.

 I greatly enjoy watching the Olympics. I enjoy watching sport in general, but this is a competition which started in Greece, by the people who worshipped the same Gods as I do, people whose lives I'm trying to reconstruct. Watching the Olympics is religious for me. Did you know all of this about the Olympics?


An artist's impression of Altis, the sanctuary in Olympia
  1. The Olympic Games were held every four years, like they are now, from 776 B.C. to A.D. 394. They were, however, part of a cycle of sports events, known as the Panhellenic Games. The Olympic Games were dedicated to Zeus, were held in Olympia, Elis, and were held every four years. The Pythian Games were dedicated to Apollon, were held in Delphi and were held every four years, starting three years after the Olympic Games. The Nemean Games were dedicated to Zeus also, were held in Nemea, Corinthia, and were held every two years. Lastly, the Isthmian Games were dedicated to Poseidon, were held in Corinth, and were also held every two years.
  2. The most important events at the Olympic Games weren't the sport events; they were the sacrifices, offerings and other dedicatory practices which were continually performed during the five day event. There were also artistic happenings; writers, sculptures and painters showed what they could do in their given trade. Palmistry was practiced, wine flowed freely and there were a lot of prostitutes, who made more money in these five days than in the whole of a year without the sporting event. The Olympics were a festival unlike any other and every four years Hellas went nuts for it.
  3. The opening ceremony was as spectacular as it is today, but in an entirely different manner; athletes filed into the arena and were presented to the audience. Then, they were presented to a towering statue of Zeus, who carried a thunderbolt and a heft scowl. They swore on a bloody slice of boar's meat that they would obey the rules of the competition and not cheat to gain victory.
  4. The torch relay I take great joy in, was not practiced in Ancient Greece. In fact, it was introduced in 1936 by Hitler in response to an idea by Carl Diem to further the reign of the Nazi's and, in their eyes, glorify the Aryan super race, the Spartans. 
  5. Not everyone was allowed to participate in the games; non-Hellenics and women were unable to compete. There were exceptions made for non-Hellenics, like Roman Emperor Nero, when the situation called for it, but women were never allowed to compete. Married women weren't even allowed to enter the arena. There was, however, a secondary series of sporting events held in honor of Hera where women competed.
  6. The Olympic sport events back then were: chariot racing, wrestling, boxing, pankration, foot races, and the pentathlon which consisted of wrestling, stadion, long jump, javelin throw, and discus throw. Pankration was a fighting sport in which everything went. It was a kind of mixed martial-arts event in which broken bones were the norm, choke holds were encouraged and the only thing that you really couldn't do was gauge someone's eyes out. Everything else went. You won when the other guy went K.O.
  7. Except the chariot races, all Olympic sports were performed naked. This included the Pankration, so you can imagine where most of the pain was inflicted. The woman weren't completely naked, but participated with one breast exposed, in honor of the Amazonian women who were said to be so incredible at sports and warfare alike. 
  8. Over 40.000 people came to watch the Games. Olympia was in the middle of nowhere. If you came from Athens, it meant a 340 kilometer (210 mile) long walk just to get to Altis. Because of the festival and the presence of the Gods, all these people traveled the distance anyway.
  9. The end of the Olympic Games is guestimated to 394 A.D. after a decree to cease all pagan festivals by Christian emperor Theodosius I.
  10. Winners of the Olympic Games got rather minor rewards; Olympic winners received a garland of olives, Pythian winners received a laurel wreath, Nemean winners received a wild celery garland and the Isthmian winner received a pine garland. There was no runner-up; you won or you lost. All athletes were bathed in fame and glory until they lost, but the winner was brought home to his polis a king. He would never have to work again, was covered in riches and women, and his name and family name would be forever remembered and honored.

It's Olympics time again! And as conflicted as I am about this version (hello, covid, hello, discrimination, hello host of issues!), they do hold a special place in my heart. One thing is certain: the ancient Hellenes would have trouble recognizing the Olympics in its current carnation, not in the least because they practiced very different sports. Especially towards the end of the Games, there was great variety in sporting events, although not as much as the modern Olympics give us. Today, I want to discuss these various sports.



Harmatodromia (ἁρματοδρομία) - Harmatodromia, or chariot racing, was one of the most popular ancient Hellenic sports. In the ancient Olympic Games, as well as the other Panhellenic Games, there were both four-horse (tethrippon, τέθριππον) and two-horse (synoris, συνωρὶς) chariot races. Distances varied according to the event. The chariot racing event was first added to the Olympics in 680 BC with the games expanding from a one-day to a two-day event. We don't know when they were added to the other Panhellenic games, but probably around the same time or a little later.

Hómēros in his Iliad describes a chariot race in vivid detail:

"As one, they raised their whips, shook the reins, and urged their teams on. Swiftly the horses galloped over the plain, leaving the ships behind. A whirlwind cloud of dust rose to their chests, and their manes streamed in the wind. Now the chariots ran freely over the solid ground, now they leapt in the air, while the hearts of the charioteers beat fast as they strove for victory, and they shouted to their horses, flying along in the storm of dust. 
It was not till the galloping horses were heading back towards the grey sea that each team showed its mettle, and the charioteers forced the pace. Eumelus’ swift-footed mares shot to the front, chased by Diomedes’ stallions, hot on their heels, as if they might  mount  Eumelus’ chariot, and their heads were at his back as they flew, blowing hot breath on his neck and shoulders. Diomedes would have passed him now, or at least drawn level, if Phoebus Apollo in resentment had not struck the gleaming whip from his hand. Diomedes saw the mares run on, while his own horses slowed without the effect of the whip, and tears of anger filled his eyes. But Athene saw that Apollo had interfered, and speeding after, returned the whip and inspired the team. Then in her anger she chased down Eumelus, and shattered the yoke of his chariot, so the mares swerved from side to side and the broken pole struck the ground, while Eumelus himself was hurled to the earth beside the wheel. The skin was stripped from his elbows, nose and cheeks, his forehead bruised, while his eyes filled with tears and he was robbed of speech. 
Meanwhile Diomedes passed the wreck and drove his powerful horses on, far in the lead. Athene had strengthened his team and given him the glory. And red-haired Menelaus, the son of Atreus, ran second. But Antilochus called to his father’s team: ‘On now, show me how you can run. You’ll not catch Diomedes’ pair, for Athene grants them strength and him the glory. But chase down Menelaus’ team, don’t let them beat you, or Aethe the mare will put you to shame. Why so slow, my beauties? I’ll tell you this, if we win a lesser prize, there’ll be no sweet fodder at Nestor’s hands, he’ll slit your throats with his keen blade. So on, as fast as you can, and I’ll contrive to pass them where the course narrows: that’s my chance.’
With this the horses, responding to his threat, speeded up for a while, and soon the steadfast Antilochus saw a narrow place in the sunken road ahead, where a stream swollen by winter rain had eroded the track and hollowed out the course. Menelaus drove on assuming no one could overtake, but Antilochus veered alongside, almost off the track. Then Menelaus called to him, in alarm: ‘Rein in Antilochus, that’s recklessness! The track’s wider further on. Pass there if you can, mind my chariot, don’t wreck us both!’
He shouted loud enough, but Antilochus, pretending not to hear, plied his whip and drove the more wildly. They ran side by side a discus length, as far as a young athlete testing his strength can hurl it from the shoulder, then Menelaus held back, and his pair gave way, fearing the teams might collide and overturn the light chariots, hurling their masters in the dust, for all their eagerness to win. Red-haired Menelaus stormed at Antilochus: ‘You’re a pest Antilochus, we Achaeans credited you with more sense. All the same, you’ll not win a prize, when I force you to answer on oath to this.’ 
With that he addressed his team: ‘Don’t flag, and don’t lose heart. Their legs will weaken sooner than yours, they’re carrying more years.’ And his pair, responding to his call, increased their speed and closed on the pair in front.
[...] Diomedes soon arrived, whipping the high-stepping horses hard, as they sped towards the goal. Showers of dust clung to him, and the wheel rims hardly left a trace on the powdery ground, as the swift-footed pair flew onwards pulling the chariot, decorated with gold and tin. He drew to a halt in the centre of the ring, sweat pouring to the ground from his horses’ chests and necks. He himself leapt to the ground from his gleaming chariot, and leant the long whip against the shaft. Nor did his squire Sthenelus lose a moment in claiming the prize, but eagerly his joyful friends led away the women and carried off the eared tripod, while he un-harnessed the horses." [Bk XXIII:362]

Pále (πάλη) - This event was similar to the modern wrestling sport--with three successful throws necessary to win a match. It was the most popular organized sport in Ancient Hellas and was the first competition to be added to the Olympic Games that was not a footrace. It was added in 700 BC. An athlete needed to throw his opponent on the ground, landing on a hip, shoulder, or back for a fair fall. Biting and genital holds were illegal.

Pankration (παγκράτιον) - This rough contact sport was a combination of boxing and wrestling. Biting and gouging an opponent's eyes, nose, or mouth with fingernails was not allowed, but everything else was allowed. Deaths happened. Unlike at the boxing competitions, the fighters did not wrap their hands, so it was a bare knuckle fight.Like the other combat sports, a fighter could surrender or fight until knock out. Pankration was not a free-for-all, though; fighters were in excellent form, and there were a large variety of fighting stances and techniques. In fact, many of these are still known, or have been reconstructed and especially in modern Greece, pankration is a sport you can take part in today.

Pentathlon (πένταθλον) - A pentathlon incruded a combination of five separate disciplines: discus, javelin, jump, running, and wrestling. The event was first held at the 18th Ancient Olympiad, around 708 BC. The discus throw was similar to the modern event, with the implement made from stone, iron, bronze, or lead. The javelin event was also similar to the modern event, although the javelin was made of wood and had a thong for attaching the thrower's fingers. Unlike in the modern jumping events, the participants held onto lead or stone jump weights (called halteres (ἁλτῆρες)) which were thrown backwards during the jump to propel them forward and increase the length of their jump. Halteres were made of stone or metal, and weighed between 12 and 35 kg (26 and 77 lb).

The running event was called the 'stadion' (στάδιον), and was a a 200-yard (about 180-metre) sprint. From the years 776 to 724 BC, the stadion was the only event that took place at the Olympic Games and the victor gave his name to the entire four-year Olympiad. This allows scholars to know the names of nearly every ancient Olympic stadion winner. For a description of the wrestling matches, see 'Pále' above.

Pygmachia (Πυγμαχία, 'fist fighting') - Pygmachia, or boxing, was a brutal sport, and had few rules. There were no rounds, and if an opponent was down, he was fair game. Also, the fighters were chosen by lot, and there were no weight categories: if luck was not at your side, you could end up facing a much heavier opponent. Winners were declared by K.O. of the other fighter, or if the other fighter surrendered. Instead of gloves, ancient boxers wrapped leather thongs called 'himantes' around their hands and wrists which left their fingers free. These were thongs of ox hide approximately 3 to 3.7 meters long that were wrapped around the hands and knuckles for protection and extra punch. Somewhere prior to 400 BC, 'oxys' were introduced to boxing. They consisted of several thick leather bands encircling the hand, wrist, and forearm. A sweatband wrapped around the arm was also added. Around 400 BC 'sphairai' were introduced, which were essentially himantes, but they contained a padded interior and the exterior of the thong was more rigid and hard. The Boxer of Quirinal (depicted left) dated to about 300–200 BC shows these straps.

We actually have a very good description about how these boxing matches would have gone: Hómēros in his Iliad describes the boxing match between Epeius and Euryalus:

"Godlike Euryalus alone stood up to fight him, the son of King Mecisteus, Talaus’ son, who at the funeral games for Oedipus, in Thebes, defeated every Cadmeian opponent. Diomedes, the spearman, eager to see him win, helped Euryalus to prepare, and gave him encouragement. He buckled on his belt, and bound the ox-hide thongs carefully on his hands. When the two contestants were ready, they stepped to the centre of the arena, and raising their mighty arms, set to. Each landed heavy blows with their fists, and they ground their teeth, as the sweat poured over their limbs. Euryalus sought an opening, but noble Epeius swung and struck his jaw, and he went straight down, his legs collapsing under him. Like a fish that leaps in the weed-strewn shallows, under a ripple stirred by the North Wind, then falls back into the dark wave, so Euryalus leapt when he was struck, but the big-hearted Epeius, lifted him and set him on his feet, and all his friends crowded round, and supported him from the ring his feet trailing, his head lolling, as he spat out clots of blood. He was still confused when they sat him down in his corner, and had to fetch the cup, his [second] prize, themselves." [Bk XXIII:651]

Riding - Riding--like the chariot races--were for the wealthy. The winners were not the riders themselves, but the owners of the horse. As such, there were actually women who won equestrian events. In the Olympic riding events, held over 6 laps around the track (about 4.5 miles), the jockeys rode bareback. There were separate races for adult horses and foals.


Running - The Olympic Games originally contained one event: the stadion (or "stade") race, a short sprint the length of the stadium. Runners had to pass five stakes that divided the lanes: one stake at the start, another at the finish, and three stakes in between.

The Diaulos (Δίαυλος), or two-stade race, was introduced in 724 BC, during the 14th Olympic games. The race was a single lap of the stadium, approximately 400 metres (1,300 ft), a turn around a post (either an individual one, or a single one) and then the return journey.

A third foot race, the Dolichos (Δόλιχος), was introduced in 720 BC. The length of the race was somewhere between 18–24 laps, or about three miles (5 km). At Olymia, the race started and ended at the stadium, but then wound its way throughout the grounds, passing by important shrines and statues, including the Nike statue by the temple of Zeus. This race was closest to our modern marathon.

The last running event added to the Olympic program was the Hoplitodromos (Ὁπλιτόδρομος), or 'Hoplite race', introduced in 520 BC and traditionally run as the last race of the Olympic Games. The runners would run either a single or double diaulos (see above) in full or partial armour, carrying a shield and additionally equipped either with greaves or a helmet. The armor was a huge hindrance for the otherwise bare runners, as an armor avaraged out between 50 and 60 lb (27 kg). Although many events on the Games were throwbacks to war, the hoplitodromos emulated the speed and stamina needed for warfare. As depicted to the side, runners sometimes dropped their shields because of the weight, and runners would have to jump over it to keep from falling.

From Hómēros, we again have a description:

"Swift Ajax the Lesser, and Odysseus, the cunning, stepped forward, with the fastest of the young men, Antilochus, Nestor’s son. They took their places at the start, and Achilles pointed out the turning post. Off they ran, and  Ajax, son of Oïleus, hit the front, with noble Odysseus at his heels, as close as a woman weaving holds the shuttle to her chest, as she draws it along skilfully passing its spool through the warp. He trod in Ajax’s footsteps before the dust had settled, and his breath beat on Ajax’s neck as they ran swiftly on. The Greeks shouted for Odysseus as he strained for victory, urging him on to the utmost. As they were nearing the finish, Odysseus prayed urgently in his heart to bright-eyed Athene: ‘Goddess, hear me, help me if you will and quicken my legs.’ He prayed and Athene heard, making his limbs seem lighter, and just as they reached the line, Pallas Athene made Ajax slip on a patch of offal from the sacrifice of bellowing bulls that fleet-footed Achilles had made in honour of Patroclus. He fell and his mouth and nostrils were filled with offal, while Odysseus came in first, and claimed the silver bowl, leaving the ox for noble Ajax. He stood there, spitting out the offal, grasping the ox’s horn, and complained to the Argives: ‘There, did you see how the goddess made me slip, she who’s always at Odysseus side, helping him!'" [Bk XXIII:740]

 I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.



"Regarding the overhaul to the setup of the blog: I only have one item that I'm concerned about, and that's the fact that all posts appear to be undated now. I liked having dates, as it makes it easier to cite entries on this blog as sources for academic purposes. Can we have the dates back, please? :)"

So, I hadn't even noticed that! Thank you for pointing it out! It's back now, in the bottom beam, next to the share buttons, above the labels. I'm still tweaking things, by the way, on the new lay-out. Nothing major but still. If you notice something amiss or missing, let me know!


***

"I was curious if there was a specific reason that milk wasn't drunk by the Ancient Greeks?"

Mostly, the ancient Hellenes considered anything their non-Greek speaking neigbours did 'barbaric'--and their neighboors drank milk. Peasants drank milk--because hey, precious food--but most likely they used most of the milk they got from their sheep, cows, and goats to make cheese. It's an old custom to link milk to barbarism, by the way. It's already in Hómēros' 'Odysseia' in which the cyclops that tried to eat Odysseus and his crew drank milk:

"He curdled half the milk and set it aside in wicker strainers, but the other half he poured into bowls that he might drink it for his supper." [IX]

This observation follows after it's minutely detailed how the crew ate only cheese and sacrificed only cheese as well. Speaking of sacrifice: milk was also an oft-given gift to the dead. We, generally speaking, avoid eating things we associate with the dead to avoid miasma. So cheese is fine, yoghurt is fine, but milk is not.


***

"Can I be a Hellenic Polytheist if I worship just a few Olympian gods, and two of them aren't Zeus and Hera? I mean... I don't want to be disrespectful to any of the Theoi, is just that I don't feel a connection with the 12 (and Poseidon kind of scares me) but if worship all the Olympians is the 'right' thing to do, I will do it the best I could. Sorry if my doubts are dumb, i'm new in this."

There are no dumb questions, I promise. Okay, so, short answer: yes, technically, you can be an Hellenic Polytheist as long as you worship more than one Hellenic God. 'Recon' is out but 'Polytheist' would still work. This is technically. Personally, I feel anyone who wishes to call themselves an Hellenic Polytheist needs to understand that the Theoi come as a package deal, a family, a world ecompassing whole that cannot function if a piece is missing.

Roughly divided, all our Gods and heroes (who were often raised up to become Gods in their own right) fit into five generational categories. These are the:
  • Protogenoi
  • Uranides
  • Titanes
  • Olympic Gods
  • Heroes/deified mortals
The Protogenoi are the Gods from which the universe is made. They are Gods like Khaos, Gaia, Ouranos, and Nyx. In general, these Theoi are more abstract and less defined than, say, the Olympians. They are cruder, more powerful Gods who, together, form the tapistry of earth and life. We simply could not live without Them as They are the air we breath, the earth we walk on, the water we drink and the death that eventually lays us to rest. and yet, neither we, nor the ancient Hellenes revered them often. They are distant and hav very little to do with the individual's lifecycle.

The Uranides formed the world created by the Protogenoi into the world we know now. They are the children of the Protogenoi and They are in charge of  more specific domains. They give us the constellations, intellect, light, memory, navigation, and many other things without which we simply would not be able to live the life we live. Like the Protogenoi, these Gods make up the tapestry of the universe and did not recieve much direct worship in state festivals.

The Titanes are Gods with whom we are more familiar. They are Helios, Hekate, Lêtô, Selênê and many others. This is the first generation of Gods we are more familiar with by name than function--and also the first generation whose names don't always directly relate to the domains they are familiar with, although we know them through mythology. Lêtô, for example, is identified as the Goddess of motherhood and protectress of the young while we mostly know her as mother of Apollon and Artemis. These Gods often times--but not always--recieved individual worship and were sometimes included in state festivals. They feature in mythology and possess well-rounded personalities that we know (unlike, say, the Protogenoi).

We all know the Olympic Gods. They are the Gods we worship most. They are also the sole 'generation' of Gods who span two generations: they are the children of the Uranides (like the Titanes), and the children of the Olympians. Zeus and His brothers and sisters for example, were born from Rhea and Kronos (both Uranides), but Their children (Hēphaistos, Artemis, Apollon, etc.) are also counted amongst the Olympians. In general, if a Gods is said to reside on Mount Olympos, They are known as an Olympic God. Alternatively--or perhaps erroneously--the Olpmpic Gods are interpreted to be solely the Dodekatheon, the Twelve Olympians who ruled over humanity and the Gods from the top of the mountain. The most canonical version of the Dodekatheon is: Aphrodite, Apollon, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Hēphaistos, Hera, Hermes, Hestia, Poseidon, and Zeus. Theoi who were held in high regard in a certain city-state would have held the thrones, according to the people who lived in that city-state, and many different Gods have been counted amongst the Dodekatheon over the centuries. Needless to say, most (state) worship in ancient times focussed on the Olympians.

The heroes of Hellenismos recieve(d) quite a bit of worship. Many heroes were local ones, but we have all heard of Hēraklēs, of Perseus and Theseus, of Atalanta and Odysseus. These heroes represent the most powerful, most virtuoes of all humans and teach us the qualities the Theoi enjoy seeing in us. Many of these heroes were fathered (and sometimes mothered) by the divine and they are thus part of the divine line. In fact, the heroes can be counted amongst the Olympians.

While the main body of our worship focusses on the Olympians, the Olympians did not come to power in a vacuum. The Old Gods presided over the building blocks of the previous generation, like the Olypmians preside over the building blocks of all three. Looking over the list, it's easy to trace the domains of the Olympians back to their predecessors--or even the God or Goddess They hold sway over directly. While the Olympian generation of Gods rule our daily lives, They operate in the framework of the Titans, the Uranides and the Protogenoi. These intricate lines built a web that is of vital importance to see in order to understand not only Hellenic mythology but also the Gods themselves.
Hellenic Recons (and a portion of Hellenic Polytheists) are aware of these generations and they can trace familial lines of influence down through the generations of the Gods. They understand that all Gods play a vital role in the tapestry of the world and that they need to be revered alongside Their brothers, sisters, parents, and sometimes even Their children.

Seeing the Gods as separate from each other like we often do in modern Paganism would not even have occurred to the ancient Hellenes. They did not see themselves separate from their spouse, their children, their parents, their cousins, etc., so why would they think of the Gods that way?

That said, not every God needs to be worshipped daily. The cycle of festivals provided enough moments to honour all major Gods throughout the year, after all. every household focussed on those Gods that were inportant to their family, either through (percieved) geneology, experience, or practical matters like making a living. A soldier would pay regular homage to Ares and Athena, a blacksmith to Hephaistos, and so on. But even if they only paid homage to Asklepios during His festivals, they would go to His temple to pray in case someone fell ill. If a sea voyage was in the cards, the family would pay tribute to Poseidoneven if they never sacrificed to Him during household worship.

I don't know if the ancient Hellenes thought any Ouranic God was frightening. I doubt it. All of the Gods were revered with respect and proper etiuette so as not to upset Them. That's simply good form when drawing the attention of someone a lot more powerful than you onto yourself.

So, that's the long answer: yes, you can, but I can't think of a reason why you would want to if you truly wish to commit to the ancient Hellenic Gods.