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.



"Is the agathos daimon a ouranic or chthonic being?"

I would say it's complicated? If I had to make a choice, I would say Ouranic, but like heroes, His worship has a link with, and a touch of, death. I wrote a detailed piece about Him long ago that might help?

~~~

"What power over mortals do heroes have? It is, of course, important to honor them because of the things they did in their lifetime, but what about now, when they're dead? How can they influence mortals?"

Heroes are complicated. Hero worship was very specific and it's a concept that translates with more difficulty than straight-up deity worship. In essence, heroes are the bridge between mortals and Gods. They were born  mortal (although often with a bloodline to the Gods) but through their deeds, they were rewarded with immortality themselves. They became Gods. Still, the lessons they teach us are all mortal lessons. Heroes were honoured more than worshipped, and we do that today as well. So heroes, like Gods, can be called on for counsel and aid, and like the Gods, you can establish kharis with them. But they don't judge us, not like the Gods anyway, because they were all just like us once.
 
~~~
 
"Tomorrow is Hekate's Deipnon. I've seen some posts about the calendar on your blog so... We should pray to Hekate tonight and not tomorrow's according to the Hellenic way, right? It's a bit confusing..."

I got this e-mail on the 17th, and yes, that was the evening of the Deipnon. For those of you confused by the placement of the Deipnon in relation to the moon, perhaps this post will help make the schedule clearer. I think it boils down to the fact that Hekate is a Khthonic deity and is thus worshipped at night, after dusk. Since the Hellenic day spreads from dusk on day one to dusk on day two, rituals for Kthonic deities need to be held in the night of day one, and ritual for the Ouranic deities during the daylight hours on the second day. 

~~~

"During my Hecate's Deipnon ritual, do I kneel when worshiping Hecate (she is, after all, a chthonic goddess, though I've heard she can be 'interpreted' in more than one way)?"

I tend to kneel for Hekate, yes. Her worship has gone through many stages of evolution, however, so a case can be made for either. She most certainly started out as an Ouranic deity, but with the introduction of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter--composed somewhere in the late seventh century BC or the sixth century BC--she becomes an Underworld Goddess, and She receives a Khthonius character. By the fifth century BC, as the Eleusian Mysteries are in full swing, Hekate's association with the crossroads emerges and by that time, she becomes an appropriation Goddess, associated with the cleansing of the home and whole-animal sacrifices. As this version of Her is associated mostly with the Deipnon, I tend to kneel, and I keep Her worship away from my main shrine, choosing a low altar instead to make the sacrifices.

~~~

"I would have a question, which is more to do with theology, than with worship and religious practice. Why do you think our gods are not perfect and can change, not just in character, but also in their domains, like Hecate?"

Hekate is an extreme example, of course, but many Theoi, indeed, change(d) throughout the years. I would not say this means They are not 'perfect' (what is perfect anyway?), simply that the Gods adapt with Their people. Life becomes more complicated, the wishes of worshippers change. Domains are divided between existing Gods and those added to the pantheon, imported from other places around the world. To quote Malcolm Reynolds: 'It's getting awfully crowded in my sky' ;-)
 
The Theoi adapt because we need Them to adapt. Look at modern worship: who do we pray to when we need a new job? Or when our computer breaks down? Who do we pray to we travel by airplane? Based on the domains we know the Theoi had in ancient times, we make assumptions and guesses, and eventually, domains shift and evolve to include our modern lifestyle: Zeus to guide us towards a new job, Hephaestos to help us with our computer issues, and Hermes to watch over our journey by plane, for example. And the Gods tend to be willing to adapt to the change out of Kharis with their worshippers.

The study of the largest ancient cemetery for infants found on Astypalea island in Greece continues, shedding light on the worship of the goddess of childbirth and the Earth mother. The Dodecanese Ephorate of Antiquities that is carrying out the study has found that almost all the infants buried there were newborns or, at most, a few months old. There are also a few toddlers that were up to two years of age.

The bodies of the babies were placed in ceramic containers, mainly amphorae or hydrias, whichwere buried in shallow pits with stones on top, which indicated that there was a tomb there. Burial of newborns and babies in such receptacles was a rather common way of burial in ancient times. What distinguishes the infants’ cemetery of Astypalea is the huge number of tombs and its use for almost an entire millennium. So far, a total of 3,000 vessels containing the skeletons of babies have been excavated, but many more are buried in the cemetery.

With few exceptions, the tombs did not contain favorite objects of the dead, which was common for newborns and infants since they were not considered “full” persons at that point, thus were not buried ceremoniously and traditionally as all adults were.

The number of tombs and the fact that the containers come from various parts of the Mediterranean indicate that it is possible that many of the infants did not belong to  Astypalea’s inhabitants.

The uniqueness of the ​​Kylindra area on the island lies in the fact that it is a burial ground exclusively for newborns and infants, most of whom died at birth. Such a large cemetery for infants is certainly not justified by the size of the island’s population. There was a city there, but it was not one of the most important in ancient Hellas.

The most realistic theory for the existence of a cemetery for infants on the island is that there could have been a sanctuary on Astypalea where women went to give birth. Indeed, inscriptions have been found on the island that mention not only Asclepius, but also Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth and midwifery. She helps women give birth and endure its great pains. She is also worshiped as a goddess who takes care of newborns.

The latter seems more likely to be associated with the presence of newborns and infants on the island. Such sanctuaries existed in other parts of the Hellenic world, but perhaps that of Astypalea was one of the most famous and had pan-Hellenic significance. Thus, women who were not from Astypalea would prefer to give birth there, much like, for example, patients from all over Greece would visit the Asclepieion of Epidaurus for cures of their diseases.

It is even possible that there were doctors specializing in obstetrics in the sanctuaries of Eileithyia, something that would be especially helpful to midwives at a time when childbirth was particularly dangerous and many newborns and mothers died in the process. Even under these conditions, many newborns would die in the sanctuary, and perhaps these were the ones who were buried in the cemetery of Astypalea.

Eileithyia had many sanctuaries in Crete. The most famous places of her worship were in Amnisos, Olounda, Diktynnaio and Inato, but the main seat of the Goddess was in ancient Lato.

I am fairly swamped right now. May I interest you in the words of Sophocles on Aphrodite and love? I'll give you something more tomorrow.



“Children, the Cyprian is certainly not only the Cyprian
But she is a being of many names.
She is Hades. She is immortal life.
She is mad insanity. She is desire undiluted.
She is lamentation. In her is everything
Earnest, peaceful, all that leads to violence
She seeps into the organs of everything
In which life resides. Who is ever sated by the goddess?
She enters into the fishes’ swimming race,
She is in the four-limbed tribe on the land
And guides her wing among the birds.
Among beasts, mortals, among the gods above.
Whom of the gods has she not thrown three times?
If it is right for me—if it is right to speak the truth,
She rules Zeus’ chest without a spear or iron
The Cyprian certainly cuts short
All the best plans of humans and gods.”
[fr. 941 [=Stobaeus 4, 20.6]]

Plans for a major renovation project to the western entrance of the Acropolis have met with strong opposition from archaeologists in Greece and across the world. In an open letter to the public, the signatories, including figures from the universities of Oxford, Durham and Brown, called for the -cancellation of a project they believe will lead to the “devaluation, concealment and degradation of the greatest archaeological and artistic treasure that has been bequeathed to modern Greece”.

The Acropolis has been subject to continual restoration and excavation projects since the emergence of the independent Greek state and the choice of Athens as its capital city

The Acropolis is a Unesco World Heritage Site and the most visited archaeological site in Greece, welcoming more than three million visitors in 2018, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority. The site has been subject to continual and regular restoration and excavation projects since the emergence of the independent Greek state and the choice of Athens as its capital city in the early 19th century. These have variously affected both access to, and the appearance of, the site.

This latest renovation is intended to improve access and traffic management of visitors and, according to a statement from the ministry of culture, “remove erroneous interventions of the past”. However, for the opposition, the plans are “contrary to the internationally recognised and established principles concerning the preservation, conservation and safeguarding of antiquities” and “mark an extremely dangerous path”.

The plans were unanimously approved by the Central Archaeological Council on 3 February, after a proposal made by the architectural restorer Manolis Korres, the president of the Acropolis Monuments Conservation Committee (ESMA). Following this approval, the ministry announced that a comprehensive scientific study will be carried out in the autumn.

The focus of the plan is on the -restoration of the ascent to the Acropolis, including a large marble staircase constructed in the first century AD, the return of an ancient southern access to the terrace and the removal of what ESMA deem to be incorrect -restoration work.

The plans show the government again at loggerheads with the archaeological community following a recent dispute regarding the legal status of Greece’s five largest archaeological museums. The signatories fear that these interventions “will change dramatically the form of the Acropolis Monument”, and will cause serious functional and conservational problems.

A major concern is what constitutes the “correct appearance” of the site. According to the critics, the planned work places a modern framework of renovation which has no basis in history. Most notably, they question why the specific form of the western access to the Acropolis in the fifth century AD has been chosen as the “correct form” of this part of the site, while for the plateau, it is the form of the fifth century BC.

The works apparently also bypass “international and national legal frameworks and standards”. In particular they state the Central Archaeological Council “examines and decides only on completed studies and not mere proposals”. This follows criticism of restoration work already done in 2020, whereby the old pathways to the Acropolis were paved with reinforced concrete and a new, larger lift access was added to upgrade access and accommodate people with disabilities.

Heavy rains in December 2020 led to flooding on the site, which the signatories state was a “predictable consequence” of the new paving. These interventions were also criticised for their negative aesthetic impact and the damage caused to the ancient architecture and the rock itself, as well as not “fulfil[ling] the stated justification” to improve disabled access. Ultimately, they say, the focus of the works was “to accommodate even larger crowds of summer tourists”.

Open-air archaeological sites were finally reopened in Greece on 21 March, following the ongoing national lockdown that began in November 2020, allowing the public and the wider archaeological community to see the impact of the works so far.

The Greek government is desperately trying to push forward with its typical summer season-—despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic—that is a vital part of the national economy.

The ministry of culture could not be reached for comment; but, in a statement released on 15 March, ESMA rejected the claims of the letter, stating that the new paving is “easily reversible” and that the interventions to the Propylaea gateway will return it to its “original ancient form” of the first century AD, based on “exhaustive archaeological-architectural documentation”. They also state that the “oldest traces will not be covered but will remain visible and accessible”.

However, speaking with The Art Newspaper, Tasos Tanoulas, an architect and member of the technical staff of committee for the restoration of the Acropolis Monument since 1977, refuted these comments, in particular the reversibility of these works.

On the 21th of Mounukhion, the sacrificial calendar of Erkhia dictates a sacrifice to the Tritopatores (Τριτοπατορες). We'll host a PAT ritual for the event on May 3rd, at 10 a.m. EDT.



Suidas describes the Tritopatores as follows:

"Tritopatores : Demon in the Atthis says that the Tritopatores are winds (anemoi), Philochoros [Greek poet C4th B.C.] that the Tritopatores were born first of all. For the men of that time, he says, understood as their parents the earth (gê) and the sun (hêlios), whom then they called Apollon. Phanodemos [C4th B.C.] in [book] 6 maintains that only [the] Athenians both sacrifice to them and pray to them, when they are about to marry, for the conception of children. In the Physikos of Orpheus the Tritopatores are named Amalkeides and Protokles and Protokleon, being doorkeepers and guardians of the winds (anemoi). But the author of Explanation claims that they are [the offspring] of Ouranos (Heaven) and (Earth), and that their names are Kottos, Briareos and Gyges."

Which version(s) of the Tritopateres were worshipped at Erkhia is unclear. The latter in Suidas are often seen as the Hekatonkheires: Kottos (Κοττος, 'Grudge', 'Rancour'), Gyês (Γυης, 'Of the Land'), Briareôs (Βριαρεως, 'Strong', 'Stout'), Obriareôs (Οβριαρεως, 'Strong', 'Stout'), and Aigaiôn (Αιγαιων, 'Goatish', or 'Stormy'). As the Anemoi, the Tritopateres are: Amalkeidês (Αμαλκειδης, 'Bound to That Place'), Prôtoklês (Πρωτοκλης, 'First Locked Away), and Prôtokleôn (Πρωτοκλεων, 'First Confined').
Which version(s) of the Tritopateres were worshipped at Erkhia is unclear, but we find favour with the theory that they are connected to the wind-Gods. According to the Greater Demarkhia, the sacrifice to the Tritopatores was a ram, along with a 'libation not of wine'. In modern times, a libation of milk, honey, and/or water will most certainly do.

The ritual for the Tritopatores may seem rather strange (at least different) but it is based on elaborate and specific instructions from the inscription from the Selinus tablet and we think it is in the spirit of ancient sacrifice. The arrangement and sequence is crucial. Robert will conduct the sacrifice for the foul Tritopatores as that had to be done by a specific priestly group and as the senior member of Elaion, and with the facilities to conduct this sacred rite, he should be the one to do this. We have marked in the ritual which parts of the rite you should perform and which you should not.

You can find the ritual for the PAT ritual for the sacrifice to Tritopatores here and join the community page here. We hope you will join us!

A 2100-year-old grave of a woman laid on a bed was discovered under the foundations of a demolished modern residence in Mavropigi, in the municipality of Eordaias, Kozani, in western Macedonia, during the proposed expansion of a lignite mine by the local Public Power Corporation (PPC). It constitutes a find unique to the wider Greek area, said the head of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Kozani, Areti Chondrogianni-Metoki, who is also responsible for the excavation. "Bed legs or parts thereof have been found, bronze ones, and they are the only ones that have survived the test of time, but they are scattered. Until now, not a single bed had been found in situ," Mrs. Chondrogianni-Metoki points out. 

From the location where the bronze parts of the bed were found and based on the designs made at the museum, Mrs.Chondrogianni and her colleagues tried to reconstruct the way these pieces were bound together and proceeded to produce a miniature. 

"In our estimation the proposed reconstruction is very close to the original, despite the fact that we are missing the wooden elements, which was based on the preliminary study of the excavation data, bibliographical data and the preserved parts, as well as X-ray and CT scans of the legs."

This particular burial dates back to the Hellenistic period, to the late Hellenistic period, to the 1st century BC, perhaps even to the end of the 2nd century BC. "At this time it was common to place the dead on beds in the region, particularly in Pella and Pieria. But because they were wooden they have decayed and their existence is usually inferred only from the positions of the nails, which are the only remaining items as the wood disintegrates. There are also stone beds, as well as brick beds in Macedonian tombs", explains the archaeologist, describing the find as "important and unique", which also offers many insights into the forms of ancient beds in the area. 

"This bed belongs to the Hellenistic type. All the evidence points to a local workshop", notes Mrs. Chondrogianni. However, nowhere in the wider area of Mavropigi and the prefecture of Kozani in general, no evidence of similar beds have been found, although hundreds of graves have been excavated. One possible explanation is that while there seems to have been a local workshop for beds, no other beds have been found, because of grave robbing and the ability to recycle the material. 

"Many copper and iron parts because they are recyclable materials were taken by later generations and melted down."

The rare find confirms that there were valuable objects, meaning wealth and prosperity had grown in the ancient settlement in the region of Mavropigi, perhaps even a royal family, as was the case throughout Western Macedonia at that time, with ancient Aiani being a typical example, where the names of kings of the ancient city are attested.

The deceased woman, of high, as it seems, economic and social class, middle-aged, may have belonged to such a royal family - suggested by the golden laurel leaves found on her head, which may have been sewn into a wreath of another material -, but she may also have held some religious authority. Both scenarios are being considered. 

From the study conducted by Mrs. Chondrogianni-Metoki, it appears that this bed was of lavish construction. "It was the most luxurious and expensive thing a person of the time could have had, which refers us to a person of high economic and social status." The settlement to which the burial belongs is located in ancient Eordia which was one of the four kingdoms of Upper Macedonia, today's Western Macedonia. The capital of this kingdom has not been found. The two fulgrae of the bed are decorated with a mermaid, - the head of the Gorgon - and the upper part of the fulgrae also bore an aquatic bird holding a snake in its mouth. The snake - associated with Apollon, who according to mythology killed the snake at Delphi and saved the world.

The deceased woman carried in her mouth a gold plate - probably a mouthpiece and ten double gold laurel leaves and they were sewn onto  leather or cloth material - perhaps a veil - or a wreath on her head. On her right hand were found golden threads, as if she had something embroidered on her hand. "All of these appear to have been sewn somewhere, perhaps on the clothing the deceased was wearing or on some cloth with which she was covered," Mrs. Chondrogianni-Metoki notes. The woman also had a bone needle and a stone bead and was crowned with four clay myrrh pots, a clay amphora, a glass myrrh pot.

The laurel leaves again refer to Apollon because it is the sacred plant, his emblem, while in Mavropigi a ruined sanctuary of Apollon and a votive column have been found, which confirms its existence. "The archaeologist Maria Akamatis, who studied some fulgra from Pella where there were laurel leaves, departs from the connection of the depicted figure with the god Apollon, based on its other characteristics, and associates it with descent from a royal lineage", says the head of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Kozani, adding that:

"...with the evidence we have so far, we have not concluded whether it is a woman of a royal family or a person with religious authority. There is evidence of both. She was certainly an eminent woman who had power and the luxury of the bed alone leaves no doubt." 

Regarding the possibility that the woman had religious authority, Mrs. Chondrogianni-Metoki notes that 

"...it was common in ancient Greece to assign luxurious beds to the sanctuaries. The ancient Greeks used more simple, humble beds, mainly wooden ones. This 'smells' of luxury. Luxury refers either to royalty or to a sanctuary and because there is evidence of a sanctuary at Mavropigi, neither scenario can be ruled out. The bones of the woman have been transferred to the laboratories of the Archaeological Museum of Aiani and through the anthropological study the sex, age and even the cause of death will be determined. The aim of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Kozani is to make a real reconstruction of the bed, to be exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Aiani for "the whole world to see."

In 2020, the remains of another farmhouse were excavated in a parcel of land on the outskirts of the modern community of Mavropigi, which dates back to the Hellenistic period (3rd-1st century BC). It is a makeshift structure, including a basement section. A similar structure was found at another location in Mavropigi in 2018. It appears that in the area, at Mavropigi, and further north (at Perdika), there was a custom of constructing makeshift, utilitarian buildings, of the hut type, with a basement or semi-basement area. In the same place there is a pit with finds from the late Bronze Age (1600 BC - 1100 BC), i.e. the Mycenaean period, which shows the use of the site in this period as well.

In another location, findings of the Hellenistic period and the early Iron Age (1100 BC-700 BC) were found. Settlement remains and a cemetery of these two periods were excavated. The cemetery contained 40 graves dating from 1100 BC to the Hellenistic period, "i.e. it has a long period of use, with a gap during classical times", Mrs. Chondrogianni-Metoki adds. The dead were covered with clay vessels, jewellery and weapons. Women wore bronze jewellery, and in one case a gold-plated ring. The men carried their weapons. The tombs are pit tombs, except for one cist and two stone tombs, and many of the pit tombs were marked with a stone.

Mrs. Chondrogianni-Metoki presented these finds in the framework of the 33rd Scientific Meeting on the Archaeological Project in Macedonia and Thrace (AEMTH).

Today, on May 1st, Elaion will host a PAT ritual for the Olympieia, in honor of Olympian Zeus. Will you join us at the usual 10 a.m. EDT?


 

Most worship of Olympian Zeus took place around or during the Olympic games in Olympia. In 550 BC, however, the tyrant Peisistratos (Πεισίστρατος) decided to build a temple to Olympian Zeus in Athens. The temple, which became known as the Naos tou Olympiou Dios (Ναὸς τοῦ Ὀλυμπίου Διός), was demolished by his sons, Hippias (Ἱππίας) and Hipparchos (Ἵππαρχος), after Peisistratos' death, but replaced by the foundations of a grander structure. Hippias was expelled in 510 BC, and the project abandoned for three hundred years. The project--which was epic in scale--was seen as hubristic and bad form. Aristotle wrote about it in his Politics:

"Another art of the tyrant is to sow quarrels among the citizens; friends should be embroiled with friends, the people with the notables, and the rich with one another. Also he should impoverish his subjects; he thus provides against the maintenance of a guard by the citizen and the people, having to keep hard at work, are prevented from conspiring. The Pyramids of Egypt afford an example of this policy; also the offerings of the family of Cypselus, and the building of the temple of Olympian Zeus by the Peisistratidae, and the great Polycratean monuments at Samos; all these works were alikeintended to occupy the people and keep them poor." (Part XI)

The temple project was revived from 174 BC to 164 BC, when King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who presented himself as the earthly embodiment of Zeus, changed the design and put builders to work. The project halted again after his death. What followed was a period of disarray with looting, some minor attempts at restoration, and lots of neglect, until the project was finally completed in the second century AD, by Roman emperor Hadrian.

In 267, the temple was badly damaged during the Herulian sack of the city, and very few--if any--attempt was made to restore it. By 425, the worship of the Hellenic and Roman Gods was banned by Christian emperor Theodosius II, and the temple was slowly dismantled for building materials.

Even in its half finished state, Peisistratus and those who came after him, held a festival at the structure: the Olympieia, celebrated on the 19th of Mounikhion. For how long the festival was celebrated is unclear, but it died out somewhere during the reign of Hellas--most likely after the death of the Peisistratidae--before being brought back in the second century BC, as the temple was completed. The festival was a military one and featured a procession and contests by the Athenian cavalry. Also attested are large scale sacrifices of bulls to Olympian Zeus.

You will find the ritual for the event here and you can join the community page here.

It's time for another constellation in the series. I am happy to announce we have reached the 'D's! This post makes number twenty-three in the series, with twenty-six more to go. Nearly half way there. Today's constellation is connected to several myths I have spoken about before, but also to a new account, one that is said to be an actual event that took place in ancient Hellas.



The first dolphin myth Delphinus is linked to is to Poseidon's courtship of Amphitrite, Queen of the sea., and mother to all dolphins. I have written about her before, and the myth goes as follows:

"Poseidon saw Her [Amphitrite] dancing with Her Nereids at Naxos (Νάξος), one of the larger islands of Greece. He fell for Her instantly and tried to take Her. She rebuffed His advances and fled to Atlas, the farthest end of the sea. Poseidon, sick with love, sent His dolphin after Her to persuade Her to talk to Him, at least. He eventually found Her and spoke on behalf of His master. His words were so sweet and rang so true, that Amphitrite decided to give Poseidon a chance. It was because of the dolphin, Poseidon eventually got to marry Amphitrite, and He was so grateful, He placed the dolphin in the sky as the constellation Delphinus."

The second dolphin the constellation is connected to is Apollon Delphinios. I have written about this myth before as well, when I discussed the Delphinia festival. In the Homeric Hymn to Apollon, Apollon shows the Kretan colonists the way to Delphi, while riding on a dolphin or metamorphosing Himself into a dolphin.

"I am the son of Zeus; Apollo is my name: but you I brought here over the wide gulf of the sea, meaning you no hurt; nay, here you shall keep my rich temple that is greatly honoured among men, and you shall know the plans of the deathless gods, and by their will you shall be honoured continually for all time. [...] Take out your goods and the gear of the straight ship, and make an altar upon the beach of the sea: light fire upon it and make an offering of white meal. Next, stand side by side around the altar and pray: and in as much as at the first on the hazy sea I sprang upon the swift ship in the form of a dolphin, pray to me as Apollo Delphinius; also the altar itself shall be called Delphinius and overlooking for ever." (474)

In the other myth, it was again Apollon who placed the dolphin among the constellations, this time for saving the life of Arion of Methymna, a poet and musician born on the island of Lesbos, whose skill with the lyre made him famous in the 7th century BC. He was also the first to invent the dithyrambic measure, to give it its name, and to recite in it at Corinth. During the journey home from a tour, there was a mutiny. Arion was allowed to sing one last song, and drew dolphins to the ship. One of them took Arion home. Herodotos described the story:

"He had lived for many years at the court of Periander, when a longing came upon him to sail across to Italy and Sicily. Having made rich profits in those parts, he wanted to recross the seas to Corinth. He therefore hired a vessel, the crew of which were Corinthians, thinking that there was no people in whom he could more safely confide; and, going on board, he set sail from Tarentum. The sailors, however, when they reached the open sea, formed a plot to throw him overboard and seize upon his riches. Discovering their design, he fell on his knees, beseeching them to spare his life, and making them welcome to his money. But they refused; and required him either to kill himself outright, if he wished for a grave on the dry land, or without loss of time to leap overboard into the sea. In this strait Arion begged them, since such was their pleasure, to allow him to mount upon the quarter-deck, dressed in his full costume, and there to play and sing, and promising that, as soon as his song was ended, he would destroy himself. Delighted at the prospect of hearing the very best harper in the world, they consented, and withdrew from the stern to the middle of the vessel: while Arion dressed himself in the full costume of his calling, took his harp, and standing on the quarter-deck, chanted the Orthian. His strain ended, he flung himself, fully attired as he was, headlong into the sea. The Corinthians then sailed on to Corinth.

As for Arion, a dolphin, they say, took him upon his back and carried him to Taenarum, where he went ashore, and thence proceeded to Corinth in his musician's dress, and told all that had happened to him. Periander, however, disbelieved the story, and put Arion in ward, to prevent his leaving Corinth, while he watched anxiously for the return of the mariners. On their arrival he summoned them before him and asked them if they could give him any tiding of Arion. They returned for answer that he was alive and in good health in Italy, and that they had left him at Tarentum, where he was doing well. Thereupon Arion appeared before them, just as he was when he jumped from the vessel: the men, astonished and detected in falsehood, could no longer deny their guilt. Such is the account which the Corinthians and Lesbians give; and there is to this day at Taenarum, an offering of Arion's at the shrine, which is a small figure in bronze, representing a man seated upon a dolphin."

Herodotos' version does not include the addition that Apollon placed the dolphin in the sky for saving one of the best musicians alive at the time, but Roman author Gaius Julius Hyginus (64 BC - 17 AD) does, in his Atronomica. He also describes the creation of the dolphins:

"Aglaosthenes, who wrote the Naxica, says that there were certain Tyrrhenian shipmasters, who were to take Father Liber [Roman God, associated with Dionysos], when a child, to Naxos with his companions and give him over to the nymphs, his nurses. Both our writers and many Greek ones, in books on the genealogy of the gods, have said that he was reared by them. But, to return to the subject at hand, the shipmates, tempted by love of gain, were going to turn the ship off course, when Liber, suspecting their plan, bade his companions chant a melody. The Tyrrhenians were so charmed by the unaccustomed sounds that they were seized by desire even in their dancing, and unwittingly cast themselves into the sea, and were there made dolphins. Since Liber desired to recall thought of them to men’s memory, he put the image of one of them among the constellations."
 
Delphinus is visible at latitudes between +90° and −70°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of September.

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.


"How would ancestral rituals be conducted, would Hermes Chthonios be invoked before and after an ancestral ritual and when could I hold sacrifices to my ancestors?"
 
Ancestral rituals? To honour the deceased like on Agathós Daímōn? 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.
 
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.
 
This is also how we can honour the deceased today. Especially on Agathós Daímōn, we can pour them libations of unmixed wine and small cakes. We can remember how they changed our lives and helped shape us. We can remember their deeds. This way, they will never be forgotten. Hermes Khthonios was invoked during funerary rites because he brought the souls of the deceased down to Haides, but when remembering tour loved ones, He needs not be invoked.


"I've seen your meditations posts and they are so beautiful. I know you said you would like to have an oracle and I agree. But my question is: what do you think about dreams and the Theoi sending messages through them?"

I completely believe and trust in UPG (unverified personal gnosis), amongst which dreams and meditations. I truly believe the Gods send them and that they should be listened to. That said, I have the same issue with UPG as I have with modern oracles: we haven't been trained to listen and interpret these messages. Ancient oracles lived and breathed the voices of the Gods, that was their purpose. As much as we like to think we understand everything the Gods try to tell us, often only time will tell if we got it right--and more often than not, the message was far more subtle than we thought it was. So while I think dreams and oracles have a lot of value, I also think we need to be very careful in interpreting their messages.


"If you make a vow to the Theoi or promise them a certain votice offering, but you - for some reason- are not able to follow through on that promise, would making an appeasment sacrifice (different from the original promised offering) to make things right?"

That... depends. It depends on why you couldn't give the promised offering and why you promised that specific offering in the first place if it is--appearently-difficult to acquire and give. If there are circumstances outside of your control that totally and completely prevent you from performing the sacrifice (It's a unique item no longer in your possession, you'd have to break the law to perform the sacrifice at the spot you promised, etc.) then a placating sacrifice with an equal votive offering would be alright, I suppose, but I would warn against making grand promises in the future. In essence, if you use your 'get out of jail free'-card, it's gone the next time you'd need it.

In the last three years, as part of the Imathia Ephorate of Antiquities’ research for the maintenance study of the large building complex of Aegae located near the wall’s northwest gate and the queens’ burial cluster, new extremely interesting findings have come to light clarifying its picture and helping to identify its function. 


Head of the Imathia Ephorate Angeliki Kottaridi says:

“The inscriptions on the tiles allow us to associate the building we are excavating with the worship of members of the royal family. This is a building of the 4th century BC with major modifications in the era of Philip V, the late 3rd-early 2nd century BC. These floors come from this phase, as do the plasters, the roof and the figurines; elements that point us to a sanctuary.”

A rare find was also found during the works; a poem, which is probably a student exercise, on a vase. “Very interesting and very special”, notes Ms. Kottaridi, who will present the “New Finds in the City of Aegae” at the 33rd Archaeological Conference on excavations in Macedonia and Thrace (April 22-24 2021), taking place online.

Like the palace and the temples, the complex is built of precious tufa stone that reached Aegae from the quarries of Vermion, covering a distance of 10-20 km. It is made up of a sequence of square and rectangular spaces, some of which are over 100 sq.m., organized in a regular manner round a large courtyard (the south and part of its east and west sides have been uncovered). To the east stands a temple-shaped space with a very deep antechamber and two Doric columns, facing the courtyard.

The building acquires its basic form before the end of the 4th century BC, but in the times of Philip V (221-179 BC) extensive renovation works are carried out. In this phase there are floors with marble inlay , such as those of the palace, the walls are covered with multicoloured plaster, purple being dominant, with touches of ochre and green and are joined with architectural formations in relief foreshadowing the decorations of the houses of Pompeii. 

Like the palace, sanctuaries and walls, the complex was destroyed in the mid 2nd century BC after Macedonia’s final occupation by Metellus’ army. Immediately after the destruction, however, part of its west wing and some spaces next to the east one were rebuilt, while in the years of Augustus (31 BC-14 AD), a large peristyle/colonnade of 1,000 sq.m. was added to its southeast along with an auxiliary building with a patio; building activity particularly remarkable for Aegae which was now in a period of decline.

“Its form, dimensions and elaborate construction, the rich materials and decorative elements, but also the obsession with the use of space, show that it is a public building”, notes the head of the Imathia Ephorate. “Monolithic altars, a marble support for a table, parts of a marble frieze with impressive plant ornaments and figurines of deities found in situ despite the savage looting, form the impression that it was a sanctuary complex; an impression that seems to have been confirmed in the most striking manner just when we started investigating the layer of tiles from its fallen roof that covered the area”.

Stamps with the Macedonian shield, the symbol used on their coins by the Macedonian kings of the Hellenistic period, and signs/panels with the name AMYNTOΥ printed on the tiles of its roof, revealed its close relationship with the royal family and more. 

As in the case of the tiles with the corresponding inscription ΠΕΛΛΗΣ, the name indicates the owner who in this particular sacred building, at least in a part of it, cannot be other than the father of Philip II, Amyntas III who was given hero status and is known from the sources that his cult also existed in neighbouring Pydna. 

Eurydice, wife of Amyntas, is depicted as the goddess Hera in the statue commissioned for the sanctuary of Eucleia in Aegae, and it is certainly no coincidence that in the times of the Antigonids a temple-shaped building was built round the statue of the queen-mother.

“The cult of Alexander and his generation in the years of the successors was a source for legitimizing their power and it is very likely that the large building complex unearthed at the ancestral royal seat and grave site of the Temenides was one of its centers, which yielded another extremely valuable and unexpected finding in 2020. In a modest clay cup found broken in the destruction layer of the 2nd century BC, someone, perhaps a student who confused the o with the ω and the ει with the ι while doing his exercises, carefully carved, as if on a papyrus, an epigram by an anonymous author, which has been handed down to us in its oldest and most authentic form: “the rose blooms for a while and when its time passes and you search for it, you will no longer find a flower, but only  thorns”.

Known from the Palatine Anthology, the epigram of Aegae urges the reader not to waste time that flies by relentlessly and gives us in the most direct and original way a picture of culture in the ancient Macedonian metropolis as it draws its final breath. 

“The first finding is tremendously important for a greater understanding of the city and of history, but the second is very moving.”


 The Mounikhia (Μουνιχιας), the festival after which the month was named, is celebrated on the sixteenth of Mounichion. On this day of the full moon, Artemis Mounikhia (Αρτεμις Μουνυχια) was honored at the hill of Munikhia, for granting the Hellenes victory in the Battle of Salamis (Ναυμαχία τῆς Σαλαμῖνος).

During the festival, young girls walked in procession to the temple on top of the hill carrying green boughs, while the rest of the celebrants followed, carrying special cakes called 'amphiphontes' ('shining all round’). These round white cakes were adorned with dadia (little torches)--lit candle--and were supposed to represent the full moon. A she-goat is also attested as a sacrifice.

During this festival, an amphiphon was sacrificed to Artemis. It was a cheese pie on which candles were lit. Most likely, the amphiphon was a type of popanon; this is a large, round, flat cake with one or more, upright, protruding, knobs made from flour and cheese. The flat version of the cake, the popanon kathemenon was offered to Artemis, amongst others, as well as one with twelve knobs. We've seen this before for the Delphinia.

If you want to learn more about the festival and its history, please read this blog post.

To honour Artemis on this day, Elaion is organizing a PAT ritual. Will you be celebrating the Mounikhia with us? There will be two times: just after your dusk on April 9th, or at our regular 10 a.m. EDT on April 10st. As always, we hope you will join us at your oikos to honour Artemis, our eternal protector. You can join the community page here and find the ritual here.

 Did you know Greece has things called "dragon houses" that are thousands of years old? I actually did not, until Ancient Origins wrote a post about it. You're going to have to head over to them for the full story (because they are awesome and write great content!), but I'll give you a little sample here.


"Likely dating to the Preclassical period of ancient Greece, the dragon houses of Euboea are among the mysteries of the past which have yet to be understood. Resembling the stepped pyramid of Djoser in Pre-Dynastic Egypt and the temple complexes of Pre-Columbian Teotihuacan, these megalithic houses are structures built without mortar. Small, thin, mostly flat stones make up the buildings, stacked atop one another, kept in place with the uses of jambs and lintels. Large megaliths are used in various places throughout the structures, usually toward the roofs, positioned in a fashion that is similar to what is seen at Stonehenge.

While little is understood of these dragon houses, the number of the structures is far more than expected. Around twenty-three of these houses exist on the island of Euboea—most between Mounts Ochi and Styra—each building made of megaliths. In fact, scholars are constantly boggled by the sheer size and weight of the single megalith resting on two equally large post stones, together forming a doorway. How this megalith could have been lifted and placed atop the posts is as much a mystery as the reason behind the building of these structures.

Some theories have arisen that the structures might have been shrines to Hera, Zeus, or Herakles. Theories regarding the rituals that might have taken place within, however, are few. Another popular belief is that these megalithic buildings were either stations at which guards were positioned during the Hellenistic period, or they were warehouses in which supplies may have been stored."

Read more here.

The recent injury of a man in a wheelchair during his tour on the Acropolis has rekindled the debate on the safety and quality of construction that was undertaken on the monument in 2020. The implementation of concrete pathways had caused outrage amongst local cultural heritage experts and unions when they were first presented to the public in October, after being approved by Greece’s Central Archaeological Council.

Archaeologists and architects had immediately opined, individually as well as collectively, that disabled accessibility was an excuse to fast-track the project while skipping the legal  procedures that should have been considered in a place of inestimable archaeological importance to the world.

In light of the recent developments, the Association of University Graduate Architects – PanHellenic Union of Architects (SADAS-PEA) in the department of Attica, is adamant that the new pathways do not even conform to safety specifications for wheelchair users. The group is also calling for the implementation of an international competition to take over the project, which was financed by the Onassis Foundation.

The recount of the disabled man’s accident on the Acropolis which triggered the safety discussion was shared on social media by his wheelchair assistant. Ironically, the accident took place on World Heritage Day. The two men were moving along a temporary wooden deck towards the Propylaea, when the wheelchair reached a step for which there was no warning sign.

The disabled man was hurt as he fell onto the wooden deck, while there was no medical staff on-site other than a team of Red Cross volunteers who rushed in to assist. After finally being transported to the hospital, he received eight stitches to his face and upper lip. Both the disabled visitor and his assistant have opted for anonymity; however the recounting of the incident is still live on Facebook.

Although the accident happened on a temporary wooden walkway, the wheelchair assistant maintains that the steep concrete pathways are equally dangerous for wheelchair users as the hidden step.

“How are you supposed to descend on the concrete pathway when the center of gravity of the wheelchair user is shifted to the front? So, as an assistant, you are obliged to push them by holding the chair on a wheelie, in order to restore the center of gravity towards the back — whoever has served as a wheelchair assistant should understand what I mean. Needless to describe how you are going push the wheelchair back up the pathway on the return, with a 75-kg individual sitting on it.”

In its announcement dated April 21, SADAS-PEA Attica notes that the alleged purpose of the improvement works — that of improving accessibility — is recanted in effect, since the pathways were constructed using steep angles that are unsuitable for wheelchair users.

As reactions spiraled following the publicity of the accident on social media, Greece’s Ministry of Culture contacted the National Confederation of Disabled People (NCDP) and invited them to an on-site study of the area. The study was performed on Thursday, in the presence of Minister Lina Mendoni, and a representative of the Onassis Foundation, among other involved stakeholders from the public works and antiquities departments.

According to the NCDP, the detailed technical study examined the functionality and accessibility of the area from the public parking lot up to the construction on the Acropolis; the mechanical equipment that replaced the old elevator; the temporary structures in place; and the area outside the old Archaeological Museum.

“A comprehensive technical conclusion and proposals for the improvement of the accessibility of the Acropolis to be included in the study for the completion of the ongoing interventions project, will be submitted institutionally and in writing, and will be made public.”

It adds that a commission will be founded in which the NCDP will act as a consulting partner to the Ministry of Culture on optimizing the accessibility of additional ancient monuments across Greece to the disabled.

While the safety concerns on the suitability of the new pathways for wheelchair users seem to move toward being addressed, the official response to criticism on the aesthetic result and the use of concrete on the site remains unconvincing for experts. The SADAS-PEA announcement says:

“The (expressed) view of the Ministry that the use of a less durable material would require frequent maintenance, which would burden the monument, and that the specific choice of material makes the paving reversible, is not substantiated by the project study. The examining of other solutions and the rejection of other types of more environmental-friendly materials is absent from the study.”

The response, which was issued following a separate study by the SADAS-PEA and with related information from different sources taken into consideration, brands the project study as “completely inadequate,” despite being approved by “the otherwise strict Central Archaeological Council.”

“The study’s title, referring to works for the disabled, is disorienting; in order for it to gain wider social acceptance, which, under this umbrella, paves the way for a white pass on interventions on the Rock of the Acropolis. A monument of such scale deserves a different approach. It requires interdisciplinary processes and an International Architectural Competition to select the best solution.”

The Greek National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) had already raised similar concerns for the works on the Acropolis in November, which extended far from basic safety concerns.

Alexander D. Tripodakis (NTUA-MCPUD Harvard GSD), President of the Greek Architectural Society and former Professor of Architecture and Urban design at the Technical University of Crete, is one of many experts who have publicly criticized the works on a well-documented basis.

“The internationally most projected image of the leading monument of the Western civilization by Ictinus, Callicrates and Phidias, is now undermined due to its tight encirclement by an alien structure.”

In a recent interview with Greek newspaper Avgi, the President of the Greek Archaeologists Union (SEA), Despina Koutsoumba, insists that “the goal (of these works) is to turn the Acropolis into a place of mass tourism at all costs for the monument.”

She warns that the present cement paving is only still half of what has been approved, and argues that the intention to restore the entire scale of the Propylaea to the form of 40 AD, with hundreds of square meters of new material, is in violation of any international charter for the restoration of monuments.

The interdisciplinary underwater research on the east coast of Salamis continued in September and October 2020, for the fifth year in a row, as part of a new three-year programme (2020-2022). It was a collaboration between the Institute of Marine Archaeological Research (IENAE) and the Ephorate Of Underwater Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture, under Head of the Euboea Ephorate of Antiquities Dr. Angeliki G. Simosi and Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology of the University of Ioannina and President of IENAE Giannos G. Lolos.

The research was limited to the northern side of the cove of Ambelaki Bay, where sunken architectural remains of the ancient city of Salamis have been investigated since 2016, with clear evidence of its extending along today’s coastline. The results of the 2020 research are thought to be particularly important since, despite the port, the course of the sea wall of the classical city was conclusively calibrated when a large stretch of it was uncovered.

With the excavation’s progress and roughly on an imaginary straight line to the north of the later pier, a significant stretch of the sea wall was completely uncovered on a N-S axis, as part of the whole (inner) fortification system of the ancient city whose perimeter can now be almost completely restored, based on older and newer data from land and underwater surveys in the area of Ambelaki-Pounta.

Through careful excavation it was possible to identify two construction phases of the wall, definitely within the limits of the Classical period. Based on the black painted Attic ceramics discovered in the foundation of the western (inner) front, the first phase of the wall can initially be dated to the early 4th c. BC, if not a little earlier.

A large amount of pottery resulted from the 2020 excavation, in fragmentary condition and from different eras, generally covering periods from the Classical to the Medieval and Modern times. In addition to a large number of fragments of undecorated and black painted vessels, the Classical and Hellenistic ceramics originating mainly from the 4th and 5th Layers include: the lower half of a red figure Attic krater vessel (from the foundation level of the D front of the wall on the most northern block), 3 stamped handles of commercial amphorae and a fragment of a jar’s thick rim, with part of an engraved (or printed) inscription: NAN. 

Of the other movable finds, the following deserve to be mentioned: a fragment of the rim and sides of a shallow marble basin (perirrhanterion), part of a marble architectural component (either a pedestal or altar), an ancient bronze coin (unidentified) and clay objects (the fragment of relief sculpture, a loom weight and stoppers).

For more images: here.

The Amphiareion of Oropos (Greek: Άμφιάρειο Ωρωπού), situated in the hills 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) southeast of the fortified port of Oropos in East Attica, is one of the lesser-known treasures of Greek antiquity. The site of a holy spring where tales of heroes blended into myth, it is said that the earth once opened up and swallowed a chariot owned by Amphiaraos in that very spot. It became a site of worship and the place where athletic games took place once every five years.


A sanctuary was dedicated in the late 5th century BC there to the hero Amphiaraos, where pilgrims went to seek oracular responses to their questions as well as healing from infirmities. The cult that grew out of the site was both public and private.

The sanctuary became very busy during the 4th century BC, judging from the intensive building at the site, which came to include the Temple of Amphiaraos (with an acrolithic cult statue); a theater; a stoa, or roofed colonnade; clepsydra, or water clock, used to measure time by the passage of water; and domestic structures. Its Temenos, or piece of land marked as part of the sanctuary, runs along 240 meters of a streambed.

Located just 37 kilometers northeast of Athens, near the modern town of Markopoulo Oropou, it is near the noted cable-stay Euripus bridge to Evia Island from the Greek mainland. The sanctuary of the Amphiareion of Oropos was located near the border of Attica and Boiotia, the respective spheres of control of Athens and Thebes; control over the site passed back and forth between the cities until Alexander the Great destroyed Thebes in 335 BC.

The area first came into prominence after the hero Amphiaraos, who was a descendant of the seer Melampos, initially refused to participate in the attack on Thebes — which is detailed in the “Seven Against Thebes” of Aeschylus — because he foresaw that it would be a disaster.

In some versions of the myth, the earth opens up and swallows the chariot belonging to Amphiaraos, transforming him into a chthonic hero, a figure of the underworld.

Amphiaraos’ foresight may have in itself contributed to the area becoming known as a place where the future could be foretold. Herodotus relates that the oracular response of this shrine was one of only two correct answers to the test put to them all by the Lydian king Croesus.

Amphiaraos was worshipped there, at the Temple dedicated to him, as well as at Rhamnous about 17.5 km southeast of the Amphiareion, and at Athens, Argos, Sparta, and other sites.

There was an upswing in the sanctuary’s reputation as a healing site during the plague that hit Athens in the late 5th century BC. There were many dedications from Greeks, influential Romans, and others over the centuries, many with inscriptions, at the Amphiareion of Oropos.

At the Amphiareion of Oropos, in addition to its presumed annual festival, Greater Amphiareia were celebrated in a festival of athletic games every fifth year. Two reliefs from the late 5th to the early 4th century BC seem to provide the earliest attestations of the festival games; there is even an inscribed catalogue of victors at the Greater Amphiareia that dates back to before 338 BC.

In 414 BCE, Aristophanes produced a comedy called Amphiaraos, of which fragments still survive as quotations.

“I think that Amphiaraos most of all dedicated himself to interpreting dreams: it is clear that, when he was considered a god, he set up an oracle of dreams ... And the first thing is to purify oneself, when someone comes to consult Amphiaraos, and the purification ritual is to sacrifice to the god, and people sacrifice to him and to all those whose names are on (the altar), and – when these things are finished – they sacrifice a ram and spread out its skin under themselves, lie down waiting for the revelation of a dream.”

An inscription from the site, however, states that each man may sacrifice what he desires.

The Temple of Amphiaraos, constructed in the 4th century BC, was of an unusual Doric hexastyle in its plan, having six columns across the front façade between small projecting walls. The antae were capped with half columns, giving the appearance of an octastyle façade. It measures 14 by 28 m (46 by 92 feet). Behind the columns was a pronaos, leading into a cella with two rows of five unfluted internal columns. Alongside the second pair of columns back from the pronaos there was a base for the acrolithic cult statue of Amphiaraos — of which one arm remains in situ.

The baths at the Amphiareion were famous in antiquity. The locations of a stadion and a hippodrome, which may be part of the complex, are unfortunately unknown at the present time.

The remains of the altar divided into sections with inscriptions to a number of gods and heroes still survive at the Amphiareion of Oropos. According to Pausanias, the altar was dedicated to five groups of gods — and rivers:

- Heracles, Zeus and Apollo the Healer (Παιών)
- Heroes and heroes’ wives
- Hestia, Hermes, Amphiaraos, and of the children of Amphiaraos, Amphilochos
- Aphrodite, Panacea (“all-cure”), Iaso, Hygeia, and Athena the Healer (Παιωνία)
- Nymphs and Pan; as well as the rivers Achelous and Cephisus

Wrapping around the altar on the west side is a stepped structure that may have served as an early theatral area before the construction of the theater. Immediately to the east is the sacred spring, where Pausanias says worshipers threw coins when they were healed of a disease.

To the northeast of the temple was a line of dedications of statuary, of which the bases  have largely survived; the avenue stretched for around 70 meters (230 feet) along the road into the sanctuary. Among the more notable dedications, all from the Roman era, are the following:

- 42 BC inscription honoring Marcus Junius Brutus as a Tyrannicide
- 86–81 BC inscription for the Roman dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla
- post-27 BC inscription for Marcus Agrippa
- 1st century BC inscription for Appius Claudius Pulcher
- An inscription for Gnaius Calpurnius Piso

There are also the remains of another small temple at the southwest extremity of this area.

The theatre at the Amphiareion has been dated back to the 2nd century BC by the inscriptions found there. Its seating area was likely composed of wooden seats on stone supports. however, five remarkable marble prohedria (seats of honor at the front of the seating area) were discovered placed around the orchestra, which had a radius of 12.4 meters (41 feet).

Two parodoi (side entryways) led off from the orchestra between the seating area of the cavea and the stage building. The Doric order proscaenium of the stage structure (approximately 12 meters, or 40 feet, wide) is well preserved and is important for the study of theater design. The theater would have held approximately three hundred spectators.

Dating to the mid-4th century BCE, the stoa, or long, narrow building with a colonnaded facade, measured 11 by 110 meters with 39 exterior Doric columns and 17 internal Ionic columns.There were stone benches set into the back walls of the structure, perhaps where the suppliants of the god slept and awaited their dreams. The sexes may have been segregated as may have been the case for the bath to the northeast of the stoa, which is traditionally called the women’s bath.

On the southeast side of the streambed opposite the sacred spring there are extensive remains of domestic structures as well as an unusually well-preserved clepsydra, which incredibly still has its bronze stopper. This artifact is especially important in the study of ancient methods of timekeeping in that it is an example of an inflow water clock.

Since an inflow clock measures time by the filling of a known volume from a constant rate of inflow, it is much more accurate than an outflow water clock in measuring the gradations between full and empty.

The clepsydra was composed of a central, square reservoir with a steep stairway on the south side to allow access to the bronze plug at the bottom of the reservoir.

Incredibly, the bronze stopper still survives today, leading the visitor to marvel at the seemingly unending historical treasures Greece offers in every corner of the country — even in out-of-the-way places which still need much further excavation and research.

Some constellations have barely any mythology connected to them, or are so entrenched in a major epic that writing about them is very straight forward. Others, not so much. Cygnus is one of them. This particular swan can be any of six mortal or immortal men.



One can not mention a swan in connection to Hellenic mythology and not think of the love affair between Zeus and Leda, the affair that led to the birth of some very influential people in Hellenic mythology. Leda (Λήδα) was the daughter of the Aetolian king Thestius (Θέστιος), and wife of the king Tyndareus (Τυνδάρεως), of Sparta. Zeus looked upon the beautiful Leda and fell for her instantly. In the guise of a swan, He came to her, seeking refuge in her arms from an eagle. Leda sheltered Him, and lay with Him--either after He transformed into a man, or while He was still a swan. That night, she also slept with her husband. She became pregnant and gave birth to two eggs, one housing Helene (Ἑλένη) and Klytaemnestra (Κλυταιμνήστρα), and the other Kastor and Polideukes (Κάστωρ καὶ Πολυδεύκης). Its also said that Zeus laid with Nemesis and She gave birth to an egg that housed either Helene alone, or her sister as well. A shepherd found the egg and took it to Leda, who hatched it, and adopted the child or children. In the first case, the swan is Zeus, in the latter, the swan was placed in the sky to celebrate the birth of Helene.

The second male the constellation is identified with is Orpheus. After being forced to leave Euridice in the Underworld, he travels the world with his lyre. He renounces both women, and many of the Theoi, pained as he is by the loss of his beloved wife. One day, he either sacrifices to Apollon--one of the few, or even the only Theoi he still offers to--at a shrine to Dionysos, and is discovered by the female revelers. Alternatively, the revelers stumble upon him as he plays, and they can't appreciate his divine music, or a group of women falls upon him for denouncing women. Whatever the case, Orpheus is ripped apart. His lyre is placed into the sky, and he is placed in the sky near the lyre by Zeus in the form of a swan. Plato explains this odd choice in his 'Republic', when he speaks of reincarnation:

"He said it was a strange, pitiful, and ridiculous spectacle, as the choice was determined for the most part by the habits of their former lives. He saw the soul that had been Orpheus’, he said, selecting the life of a swan, because from hatred of the tribe of women, owing to his death at their hands, it was unwilling to be conceived and born of a woman." (X, 620a)

I'm going to conflate the last four. All of them were named 'Kyknos' (Κύκνος). The first was a bloodthirsty son of Ares, who slaughtered all his guests when they came to his door. Hēraklēs killed him, either in self-defense, or in honorable battle. In one version of the story, Ares transforms His son into a swan before Hēraklēs can deliver his deathly blow, preferring this solution over his son's death. The second Kyknos was the son of Poseidon, and King of Kolonai. As the son of Poseidon, he was impervious to both spear and sword attacks, as such, he was suffocated by Achilles during the battle for Troy. After his death, this Kyknos, too, was turned into a swan.

The third Kyknos was a human King of Ligûria, and friend--or lover--of Phaëthon, son of Hēlios. When Phaëthon was killed by Zeus after scorching the earth, Kyknos was inconsolable. He spent the rest of his life mourning Phaëthon. To relief his suffering, Zeus transformed him in a swan, and was later put into the sky by Apollon. The last of the Kyknos' associated with this myth was a son of Apollon. This Kyknos was a handsome but arrogant man. Many young boys fell for his looks, but his personality drove them off again. One of the young men, Phylios, loved Kyknos unconditionally, but Kyknos felt the need to test Phylios' resolve, trying to scare him off. The first task was to kill a lion that was threatening the neighborhood without use of any weapons. The second task was to catch two man-eating vultures of enormous size that were posing an equal threat to the neighborhood, again without use of any devices. Finally, Phylios had to bring a bull to the altar of Zeus with his own bare hands. With divine help, Phylios managed to complete all three tasks, but Hēraklēs cured the boy of his love for Kyknos. Kyknos, enraged and humiliated, took his own life by drowning. His mother did the same. Out of love for the both of them, Apollon turned them both into swans. In the words of Roman poet Ovid, in his Metamorphoses:

"Whilst here, within the dismal gloom, alone, 
The melancholy monarch made his moan, 
His voice was lessen'd, as he try'd to speak, 
And issu'd through a long-extended neck; 
His hair transforms to down, his fingers meet 
In skinny films, and shape his oary feet; 
From both his sides the wings and feathers break; 
And from his mouth proceeds a blunted beak: 
All Cycnus now into a Swan was turn'd, 
Who, still remembering how his kinsman burn'd, 
To solitary pools and lakes retires, 
And loves the waters as oppos'd to fires."
(II 374-382)

The next time you look to the heavens and see constellation Cygnus, you'll have quite the stories to tell. The constellation is visible at latitudes between +90° and −40°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of September.

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.



"I've got a question, but I don't know if its appropriate... I know that when we pray, we should sing hymns to the gods beforehand. But I've got very little fantasy for these things, and it ends up being a sort of mess. Do you use hymns like the Homeric or do you make your own?"

Personally, I only use ancient hymns in my worship. Both because I am not exactly a creative light when it comes to writing poetry and because I prefer to worship the gods with the words They were worshipped with in ancient times.


"Do you know any hymns to the heroes, or should I create my own for rituals for them, or is there some other way of honouring their heroic deeds?"

There were many of hymns to the heroes in ancient times. Every city state had their own and they honoured a huge variety of heroes. Hero worship was very widespread. Unfortunately these hymns were passed on mostly by oral tradition and they have pretty much been lost to us. If you wish to honour heroes, making your own hymns is perhaps wisest, or you can use the descriptions of their deeds as recorded by the ancient mythographers.


"When sacrificing to nature spirits (nymphs for example), or when making offerings to Hestia before dinner, can I just recite an invocation and prayer to them, or do I have to do it in the standard ritual format?"

There are two types of sponde: one used as a toast--usually to Hestia and/or the Agathós Daímōn--and one as a general libation. A toast is traditionally poured on the floor, but may also be poured onto a dish to be taken out after the meal or be poured into a potted plant or measure of earth in a pot. Some people give the sponde before the meal, others after the meal, and some give both before and after the meal, as a way of thanks. You don't have to perform a full rite, just lift the cup with your right hand, say a hymn and a few words of thanks, and tip out a few drops after transferring your cup to the left hand.
 
 
"It causes me huge distress when I can't celebrate some festivals on the days they are held or in the time of day they should be carried out. This worried me because, as you wrote before, rituals to Olympic deities should be carried out in daylight. What do you think I should do in similar situations? Should I just hold the rituals the day after the festival? Please help."
 
Not being able to celebrate a festival on a given day is certainly frustrating and not recommended, but it is not the end of the world. Even in ancient times, these delays happened. Fortunately for them, they could proclaim that the next day would be the same as this one and do the ritual on schedule. We don't have that luxury, so we make do.

In general, it is always best to do the ritual on the day of the festival. If that is not an option, do it the day before (if you can plan for it) or the day after, preferably first thing. Don't hold night-time celebrations in daylight, and don't hold daytime celebrations at night-time. If you are too late to do the ritual, move it to the day after. Daytime and night-time were very important distinctions for the ancient Hellenes, and they held great significance.

It happens. It happens to me, too. In modern society, not much stock is put in proper timing of Hellenic festivals, I fear, and some things just can't be planned around. Thankfully, there are 'safeguards' of a sort built into the way we celebrate: hymns. With hymns, we call upon the Gods and Goddesses we will sacrifice to, and make Them aware of the rites taking place. Even though the ritual is thus not held on the required day, the Theoi will know we honour Them and kharis can be built.

Heavy rainfall in southern Greece has led to the discovery of a bronze bull figurine believed to have been a votive offering made to Zeus in Ancient Olympia as early as 3,000 years ago.

Greece’s Culture Ministry said Friday that the small, intact figurine was found after an archaeologist spotted one horn poking out of the ground following recent rainfall in the area.

The excellently preserved figurine was transported to a lab and initial examination indicates it dates from the Geometric period of ancient Greek art, roughly 1050 B.C. to 700 B.C. It is believed to have been a votive offering to Zeus made as part of a sacrifice, as the sediment cleaned from the statuette bore distinct burn marks, the Culture Ministry said.

Thousands of votive offerings are believed to have been made at the altar of Zeus. Many have been found in a thick layer of ash and are exhibited at the archaeological museum in Olympia.

Most of us take big and small risks in our lives every day. But COVID-19 has made us more aware of how we think about taking risks. Since the start of the pandemic, people have been forced to weigh their options about how much risk is worth taking for ordinary activities – should they, for example, go to the grocery store or even turn up for a long-scheduled doctor’s visit?


One of the earliest written works in Greek is “Works and Days,” a poem by a farmer named Hesiod in the eighth century B.C. In it, Hesiod addresses his lazy brother, Perses. The most famous section of “Works and Days” describes a cycle of generations. First, Hesiod says, Zeus created a golden generation who “lived like the gGods, having hearts free from sorrow, far from work and misery.”

Then came a silver generation, arrogant and proud. Third was a bronze generation, violent and self-destructive. Fourth was the age of heroes who went to their graves at Troy. Finally, Hesiod says, Zeus made an iron generation marked by a balance of pain and joy.

While the earliest generations lived life free of worries, according to Hesiod, life in the current iron generation is shaped by risk, which leads to pain and sorrow. Throughout the poem, Hesiod develops an idea of risk and its management that was common in ancient Greece: People can and should take steps to prepare for risk, but it is ultimately inescapable. As Hesiod says, 

“summer won’t last forever, build granaries,” but for people of the current generation, “there is neither a stop to toil and sorrow by day, nor to death by night.”

In other words, people face the consequences of risk – including suffering – because that is the will of Zeus.

If the outcome of risk was determined by the Gods, then one critical part of preparing to face uncertainty was to try to find out the will of Zeus. For this, the ancient Hellenes relied on oracles and omens. While the rich might pay to petition the oracle of Apollon at Delphi, most people turned to simpler techniques to seek guidance from the Gods, such as throwing dice made of animal knuckle bones.

A second technique involved inscribing a question on a lead tablet, to which the god would provide an answer such as “yes” or “no.” These tablets record a wide range of concerns from ordinary ancient Hellenes. In one, a man named Lysias asks the god whether he should invest in shipping. In another, a man named Epilytos asks whether he should continue in his current career and whether he ought to wed a woman who shows up, or wait. Nothing is known about either man except that they turned to the Gods when confronted with uncertainty.

Omens were also used to inform almost every decision, whether public or private. Men called “chresmologoi,” oracle collectors who interpreted the signs from the Gods, had enormous influence in Athens. When the Spartans invaded in 431 B.C., the historian Thucydides says, they were everywhere reciting oracular responses. When plague struck Athens, he notes that the Athenians called to mind just such a prophecy.

Chresmologoi played so much of a role in bolstering public confidence that the wealthy Athenian politician Alcibiades privately contracted them as spin doctors in order to persuade people to overlook the risks of an expedition to Sicily in 415 B.C.

For the ancient Hellenes, putting faith in the Gods alone did not fully protect them from risk. As Hesiod explained, risk mitigation required attending to both the Gods and human actions. Generals, for example, made sacrifices to Gods like Artemis or Ares in advance of battle, and the best commanders knew how to interpret every omen as a positive sign. At the same time, though, generals also paid attention to strategy and tactics in order to give their armies every advantage.

Neither was every omen heeded. Before the Athenian expedition to Sicily in 415 B.C., statues sacred to Hermes, the god of travel, were found with their faces scratched out. The Athenians interpreted this as a bad omen, which may have been what the perpetrators intended. The expedition sailed anyway, but it ended in a crushing defeat. Few of the people who left ever returned to Athens.

The evidence was clear to the Athenians: The desecration of the statues had put everyone in the expedition at risk. The only solution was to punish the wrongdoers. Fifteen years later, the orator Andocides had to defend himself in court against accusations that he had been involved.

This history explains that individuals might escape divine punishment, but ignoring omens and failing to take precautions were often communal rather than individual problems. Andocides was acquitted, but his trial shows that when someone’s actions put everyone at risk, it was a community’s responsibility to hold them accountable.

Oracles and knuckle bones are not in vogue today, but the ancient Hellenes show us the very real dangers of risky behavior, and why it is important that risk not be left to a simple toss of the dice.


*Joshua P. Nudell, is an Assistant Professor of Classics, Westminster College. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.