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. 

On Mounuchion 6, the Athenian festival of the Delphinia (Δελφίνια) starts in honor of Apollon and Artemis. To celebrate this festival, Elaion is hosting a PAT ritual at 10 am EDT on April 18. Will you be joining us?


The Delphinia is a festival to ask for the protection of all ships and sailors, to ask for guidance for young boys and girls transitioning into adulthood and--as a festival of purification--the Delphinia can be interpreted to be open to all who are going through a time of transition and/or struggle.

What is known about this festival is that virgin girls walked to the Delphinion (Δελφίνιον) atop the Acropolis in procession, carrying olive branches bound with wool (known as 'iketiria') and baked cakes known as Popana, made of soft cheese and flower. There is overwhelming evidence that the festival was held on the sixth of the month of Mounukhion, most notably from Plutarch, but the seventh of same month is also considered a possible date, quite possibly because the festivities could have taken place in the daylight hours of the sixth day, which is the same day as the start of the seventh of the month, as dusk rained in a new day.

Plutarch connects the sixth of the month Mounukhion to Apollon and Theseus--most importantly to Theseus' quest for the Minotaur--in his 'Life of Theseus'. Theseus vows to look over those the lots choose to be offered to the Minotaur in the maze on Krete. Roughly in the month of Mounukhion, the seafaring season started. It's therefor not odd that lots would have been cast about this time, for the youths--and everyone else with business across the sea--would set sail as soon as the weather allowed. The rising of the Pleiades, located in the constellation of Taurus, around late April, the beginning of May, was a signal for the boldest of sea-goers that the treacherous sea was at least moderately accessible. Still, it would be at least several months before the favoured seafaring season started, so anyone braving the sea, could probably use some protection. Somewhere shortly after the Delphinia would have been Theseus' first opportunity to sail to Krete, but it would place his return almost five months later; quite some time for a three day journey (one way) in favourable conditions.

During the Delphinia, young maidens presented Apollon Delphinion, and perhaps Artemis Delphinia, with the iketiria Theseus had presented them with as well, in the hopes of receiving for the Athenians the same guidance and protection at sea as the Kretan colonists, as well as Theseus and the youths, had gotten.

A connection can also be made with Theseus visiting the shrine of Apollon Delphinios as an opportunity for purification before his great quest, as the young supplicants who prepared for their personal collective journeys into adulthood would desire purification of their own, and Apollon in many of his epithets is a purifier. Also, in a little less than a month, the Thargelia took place in Delos, an event where the births of Artemis, and especially Apollon were celebrated. The rites at the Delphinia might have been part of the purification processes for those who were to go to Delos (with thanks to Daphne Lykeia for this interpretation).

As a festival of purification, the Delphinia can be interpreted to be open to all who are going through a time of transition and/or struggle. A divine purification of miasma might allow you to focus better on these issues, and receive guidance from the Theoi more easily--like Theseus, who purified himself  at the Delphinion and prayed for the guidance of Aphrodite directly thereafter. Aphrodite made Ariadne fall for him, saving his life and those of the young men and women in the process.

One can celebrate this day by offering both Apollon and Artemis hymns, libations, and Popana cakes, and presenting Artemis with an iketiria, an olive branch wrapped with white wool, if you are a young female looking for aid. An iketiria was primarily used in rites of supplication.

The popana (or popanon) should be a flat cake with a single 'knob' in the center. We don't have a surviving recipe, but Cato's recipes for 'libum' seems to hold many of the same ingredients. It goes as follows:

"'Make libum by this method. Break up two pounds of cheese well in a mortar. When they will have been well broken up, put in a pound of wheat flour or, if you wish it to be more delicate, half a pound of fine flour and mix it well together with the cheese. Add one egg ...and mix together well. Then make into bread, places leaves beneath, and cook slowly on a hot hearth under an earthen pot."

That's a lot of Popana. Make this if you're with a large group, else the recipe would look something like this for something the size of a good loaf of bread or its equivalent in smaller portions:

- 14 ounces good ricotta or any fresh cheese, preferably unpasteurized (ricotta should always be drained overnight in a colander)
- 4 ounces (approx) flour, preferably farro
- 1 large egg
- a pinch of salt
- several bay leaves, preferably fresh
- olive oil, for the pan

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

You can either make large cakes or small ones. If you're making large ones, line a baking pan or sheet with bay leaves and brush them lightly with olive oil. If you don't have enough leaves to cover the surface, distribute the leaves as best you can. If you are going to make smaller cakes, brush one leaf with oil for each cake you are going to make.

Knead all the ingredients (except the bay leaves) until well blended. Add flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Shape the dough into a single, or several smaller cakes. Place either the large cake on top of the bay leaves, or put each little one on top of one. Then put it in a baking pan and into the oven.

Bake for about 30 minutes for a large cake, or (much) less long for smaller cakes. Just watch them until they are firm and light golden brown. Don't forget to enjoy it yourself!

The ritual for the event can be found here and you can join the community here.

 Greece's Epirus region hosts five of the country's most important ancient theatres. Some are famous, but others little-known. Now, a European-backed project will restore these architectural treasures from antiquity and weave them into a brand new tourist trail. The circuit includes the sites of Dodona, Gitana, Amvrakia, Kassope and the Roman theatre of Nikopolis. From its inception, this project has been backed and co-financed by the European Union.


Dodona

One of the most famous archaeological sites in Greece, as it was the home of the ancient oracle of Zeus.

Ambracia
It is the smallest ancient Greek theatre unearthed to date. The West Necropolis has also survived. Both are visible from the street.

Nikopolis
Octavian was so overjoyed at defeating Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s combined fleet in the Battle of Actium that he constructed an entire city in his own honor to celebrate his victory. “Nikopolis” means “Victory City.”

Cassope
Its construction was based on the Hippodamian Plan grid system, and faithfully adhered to Aristotles’ suggestions on how to create the ideal city.

Gitana
Two names are inscribed on each one of the seats found in the lower tier of the ancient theatre; According to one theory, the first name belonged to the slave owner and the second to the slave he had set free.

Though key to the project, the team's ambition goes beyond just renovating these ancient landmarks for people to observe.

"We are used to archaeological sites being extensive ruins that must be discovered. Yet, theatres are constructions that have, an inherent sociability. An ancient theatre can be used to teach theatre; it can be used for educational purposes," explains architect and engineer Georgios Smyris. "People can meet and interact. The goal is not only to see but to use. This is the great challenge faced."

The Epirus region joined forces with the Diazoma association to launch this project called "The Cultural Route of the Αncient Τheaters of Epirus". It boasts 5 archaeological sites, 344 km of trails to travel, 2,500 years of history. The project has a total budget of 24 million EUR of which 80% comes from the EU.

The aim of this trail is to attract Greek and foreign visitors who are interested in archaeology, history and the arts. To support this vision, a business cluster has been created with the participation of hotels, restaurants, tourist agencies and local producers.

"The cultural route will succeed when the visitors taste and feel the current culture, the daily culture of the region they're visiting," says Nikos Karabelas from the project's monitoring committee. "The tourists should have the chance to taste our excellent olive oil, sample some herbs that grow throughout Epirus and get some honey. In short, to experience Epirus' warm, authentic hospitality".

The region of Epirus is bursting with stories to tell. Τhe Ottoman castle of Ioannina and the silversmithing museum are some other gems on offer. Tourists delving into the world of antiquity at the renovated amphitheatres will also have plenty to experience on Epirus' modern side. Epirus Development Agency Historian Georgia Kitsaki asserts:

"The cultural path follows the trend at European and international level. The visitor wants to come and experience a holistic product. The visitor wants to get a complete, unique experience. The impressive ancient theatres of Epirus are only the beginning. It is a journey back in time that finally leads you to Epirus' charming and multi-faceted present".

When pandemic restrictions permit it, the Region intends to launch an advertising campaign to attract tourists from European countries and beyond.

The Herakleidai (Ἡρακλεῖδαι) are the descendants of Herakles. After the death of Herakles, his sons were pursued by Eurystheus. They claimed protection in Athens. The Athenians refused to surrender them and in the war that ensued Eurystheus' sons were killed. Eurystheus himself, who had fled in a chariot, was pursued and had his head cut off by Hyllos, son of Heracles. After the death of Eurystheus, the Herakleidai attacked the Peloponnesos and captured all the cities. When a plague ravaged the country the oracle of Delphi declared that this happened because the Herakleidai had returned before the proper time. So they retired and, after some unfortunate attempts to return, they made themselves masters of the Peloponnesus three generations later. In Erkhia, a yearly sacrifice was made to the sons (and hopefully the daughters) of Herakles and we will do the same on 16 April at the usual 10 am EDT.


The Herakleidai claimed power in the Peloponnesos because they were descended, through Herakles, from Perseus, the founder of Mycenae. The current ruler op the Peloponnesos, Tisamenus, was a Pelopid, a descendant of Pelops. They also claimed that Tyndareus, ruler of Sparta, had been expelled by Hippokoon and argued that Herakles, having killed Hippokoon and his sons, had given the land in trust to Tyndareus. As such, they were the true rulers of both.

Hyllos, son of Herakles, sought to effect the return to power of the Herakleidai, so he went to Delphi and inquired how to go about this. The oracle declared that 'they should await the third crop before returning'. Hyllos supposed that the third crop signified a three year wait. He did, then returned with his army to Peloponnesos. He failed and was killed by Ekhemos. 

Aristomakhos, son of Kleodaeos, son of Hyllos, had been also killed in battle. His son Temenos blamed the oracle for the death of his father. He said that they had obeyed the oracle but the Oracle answered that they were themselves to blame, for they did not understand the prophecies, seeing that by 'the third crop' it was meant, not a crop of the earth, but a crop of a generation. 

So Temenos waited. He readied the army and built ships at Naupaktos. While the army was there, a soothsayer appeared. Karnos recited oracles but the Herakleidai took him for a magician sent by the Peloponnesians to be the ruin of the army. So Hippotes (son of Phylas, son of Antiochos, son of Herakles) threw a javelin at him and killed him. But Karnos was, indeed, a seer of Apollon and the one who established the cult of Apollo Karneos among the Dorians. Appollon destroyed the naval force and made the army suffer from famine. Eventually it had to disband.

After these two failed attempts, Temenos went back to the Oracle of Delphi to ask how he could stop the misfortune that had befallen them. The Oracle advised him to banish the Hippotes for ten years and to take for his guide 'the Three-Eyed One'. So the Herakleidai banished Hippotes and started searching for the Three-Eyed One.

One day they met Oxylos who was sitting on a one-eyed horse. So, guessing he was the man described by the Oracle, they made him their guide. Oxylos had fled from Aetolia to Elis on account of the accidental murder of Thermios (or Alcidokos, depending on the account). So, with Oxylos as a guide, the Herakleidai invaded the Peloponnesos again and finally defeated them. They slew Tisamenos, the last of the Pelopides to rule the Peloponnesos, and claimed it in its entirety. 

The return of the Herakleidai took place three generations after the end of the Trojan War and the death of Nestor after his return home. When the Herakleidai conquered the Peloponnesos, they cast lots for the cities. Argos was allotted to Temenos. The twin sons of Aristodemos, Prokles and Eurysthenes, got Lacedaemon and Sparta. Messenia was allotted to Kresphontes, who drove the descendants of Nestor from Messenia. Oxylos, for his help, became king of Elis after the victory of the Herakleidai.

What follows is a (probably incomplete) list of those who were called 'Herakleidai' at the time described.

The first generation:
Alcaeos, son of Herakles and Omphale. Father of Belos.
Antiochos, son of Herakles and Meda. Father of Phylas.
Hyllos, son of Herakles and Deianira or Melite. Father of Iole of Kleodaeos and Evaekhme.
Ktesippos, son of Herakles and Astydamia or Deianira. Father of Thrasyanor.
Phaestos, son of Herakles and an unknown mother. Father of Rhopalos.

The second generation:
Belos, son of Alcaeos.
Kleodaeos, son of Hyllos. Father of Aristomachos and Lanassa.
Phylas, son of Antiochos. Father of Hippotes and Thero.
Rhopalos, son of Phaestos. Father of Hippolytos.
Thrasyanor, son of Ktessipos. Father of Agamedidas and Antimachos.

The third generation:
Agamedidas, son of Thrasyanor. Father of Thersander.
Anaxandra, daughter of Thersander. Mother by Eurysthenes of King Agis of Sparta.
Antimakhos, son of Thrasyanor. Father of Deiphontes.
Aristomachos, son of Kleodaeus. Father of Temenos, Kresphontes and Aristodemos.
Eurysthenes, son of Aristodemos. Father of King Agis.
Hippotes, son of Phylas. Father of Aletes.
Hippolytos, son of Rhopalos. Father of Lacestades.
Lathria, daughter of Thersander. Mother by Prokles of King Sous of Sparta.
Prokles, son of Aristodemos. Father by Lathria of Sous and Eurypon.

The fourth generation:
Aristodemos, son of Aristomachos. Father of Eurysthenes and Prokles.
Aletes, son of Hippotes.
Deiphontes, son of Antimakhos. Father of Antimenes, Xanthippos, Argeos, and Orsobia.
Kresphontes, son of Aristomachos. Father of Aepytos.
Lakestades, son of Hippolytos.
Temenos, son of Aristomachos. Father of Agelaos, Eurypylos, Kallias and Hyrnetho (or Kisos, Kerynes, Phalkes, Agraeos, Isthmios and Hyrnetho).
Thersander, son of Agamedidas. Father of Lathria and Anaxandra.

The fifth generation:
Agelaus, son of Temenos.
Agraeus, son of Temenos.
Aepytos, son of Kresphontes.
Eurypylus, son of Temenos.
Hyrnetho, daughter of Temenos.
Isthmios. Son of Temenos.
Kallias, son of Temenos.
Kerynes, son of Temenos.
Kisos, son of Temenos. Father of Phlias and Medon.
Phalkes, son of Temenos.

The ritual for the event can be found here and you can join the community page here.

A portal created by the CNR for the study of "linear B", the ancient writing system in use in Greece at the end of the Bronze Age (14th-13th centuries BC), is now available to the world. It is a writing system, like cuneiform and hieroglyphic, based on the use of logographic (words) and syllabic (sounds) signs. The texts are mainly of an economic nature and constitute one of the main sources for studying the so-called 'Mycenaean civilisation'.

Thanks to the CNR's LIBER-Linear B Electronic Resources, a special search engine now makes it easy to query a constantly updated database. Currently, LiBER contains texts from Knossos, Mycenae, Tiryns and Midea, but new inscriptions from other sites will soon be made available.

On the site recently opened to the public it is now possible to research and analyse texts written in the oldest Greek dialect known to date: a heritage made available not only to scholars and experts, but also to students, enthusiasts and lovers of the subject.

The database contains transcriptions of the Linear B texts and their images, enriched with information on the scribes, the places where the documents were found, their chronologies and their places of preservation. The ultimate goal is to create a complete electronic edition of all Mycenaean texts known to date, in order to make available to everyone an incredible heritage that can still reveal much about this ancient civilisation.

The functions integrated in the system allow even very complex textual searches to be carried out and the results to be presented in the form of indexes or lists of documents, while also allowing the visualisation of the sites of discovery thanks to a powerful Web-GIS. It is therefore possible to virtually enter inside the buildings to fully appreciate the complex administrative organisation of their offices. 

At the same time, thanks to a sophisticated geo-localisation system, LiBER allows users to explore in presence the archaeological sites from which the texts originate, enriching them virtually with the information contained in the database.

The LIBER-Linear B Electronic Resources project was developed by Francesco Di Filippo (Institute of Studies on the Mediterranean, CNR-ISMed) and Maurizio Del Freo (Istituto di Scienze del Patrimonio Culturale, ISPC).

On the day of the Hene kai Nea, I post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog and in projects and organizations related to it. I will also announce Elaion's coming PAT rituals.


Statistics:
PAT rituals for Mounukhion:
  • Mounukhion 4 - April 16 - Sacrifice to the Herakleidai at Erkhia
  • Mounukhion 6 - April 18 - Delphinia - in honor of Artemis, and perhaps Apollon and Theseus
  • Mounukhion16n - April 27n - Mounikhia - festival in honor of Artemis as the moon Goddess and Mistress of the animals
  • Mounukhion 19 - May 1 - Olympieia - festival in honor of Olympian Zeus
  • Mounukhion 20 - May 2 - Sacrifice to Leukaspis at Erkhia
  • Mounukhion 21 - May 3 - Sacrifice to Tritopatores at Erkhia

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

Would you like to support me? Buy me a coffee.

Like Andromeda and her family, crater belongs to a group of constellations linked together by a single myth. The first part of this series, on the constellation Corvus, introduced the basics of the myth:


"Corvus represents a raven or crow in service to Apollon, who was sent out on an errant for the Theos. He was asked to bring water to Him, but instead, he paused in his quest, most commonly assumed is that he stopped for a meal of figs. When the raven returned without water, Apollon questioned him. Instead of giving a straight answer, the raven lied, and said he had been kept from the water by a snake. In some accounts, he actually had a snake in his talons as he said this. Apollon, however, saw that the raven was lying, and flung the raven, the krater with which the raven was supposed to collect water, as well as the snake into the sky, where they remain to this day. To punish the bird further, Apollon made sure the krater would forever be just out of reach of the bird."


The Hellenic spelling of the word 'crater' is with a 'k'--'krater' (κρατήρ). All 'kraters' are mixing bowls. The name comes from the word 'kerannmi': 'to mix'. The krater is named after the shape of the handles. There are four types, the 'volute', the 'calyx', the 'column', and the 'bell' krater. The handles of the volute are in the form of a spiral with flanged sides rising from loops on the shoulder to above to the rim. A calyx krater differs from the basic krater shape, but not in its purpose. It has a deep body, with the lower part convex, and the upper part slightly concave. It rests on a heavy stand and has handles which are set at the top of the lower part, which curve upward. It's the only basic krater shape where the handles don't reach, or top, the rim.  The column krater has a round body, a offset neck with a thick lip and a heavy stand. Each handle consists of a pair of cylindrical stems ending in a horizontal block joined to the rim. In short, the handles look like the tops of the columns holding up ancient Hellenic temples. Bell kraters, obviously, have a bell shaped body. They have loop handles placed high on the body, which curve slightly upward. The krater rests on a heavy stand. Which type of krater was used in the myth is unclear.

I promised last week to go deeper into the myth. The original version of it is as follows, in the words of Roman author Gaius Julius Hyginus (64 BC - 17 AD) (Astronomica 2, 2.40):

"This is the sign on which the Crow sits and over which the Bowl is placed. The following reason has been handed down: When Apollo was sacrificing, the crow, who was under his guardianship, was sent to a spring to get some pure water. Seeing several trees with their figs not yet ripe, he perched on one of them waiting for them to ripen. After some days when the figs had ripened and the crow had eaten some, Apollo, who was waiting, saw him come flying in haste with the bowl full of water. For this fault of tardiness Apollo, who had had to use other water because of the crow’s delay, punished him in this way. As long as the figs are ripening, the crow cannot drink, because on those days he has a sore throat, so when the god wished to illustrate the thirst of the crow, he put the bowl among the constellations, and placed the water-snake underneath to delay the thirsty crow. For the crow seems to peck at the end of its tail to be allowed to go over to the bowl."

There is, however, another myth linked tot he constellation, also given to us by Hyginus:

"About the Bowl Phylarchus writes this tale: In the Cheronnese near Troy where many have said the tomb of Protesilaus is located, there is a city, Elaeusa by name. When a certain Demophon was ruling there, a sudden plague fell on the land with a strange death-rate among the citizens. Demophon, greatly disturbed by this, sent to the oracle of Apollo seeking a remedy, and was told that every year one girl of noble rank should be sacrificed to their household gods. Demophon, passing over his own daughters, would choose by lot one of the daughters of the nobles, and kept doing this until his scheme offended a certain man of highest rank. He said he wouldn’t allow his daughter to be entered in the drawing unless the daughters of the king were included. The king, angered by this, killed the noble’s daughter without drawing of lots. This deed Mastusius, father of the girl, for a time out of patriotism pretended he did not resent, for the girl might have perished if the lots had been taken. Little by little, time led the king to forget. When the girl’s father had shown himself to be on most friendly terms with the king, he said he was going to make a solemn sacrifice and invited the king and his daughters to join the celebration. The king, suspecting nothing, sent his daughters ahead; since he was busy with a state affair, he would come later. When this happened as Mastusius wished, he killed the king’s daughters, and mixing their blood with wine in a bowl, bade it be given as a drink to the king on his arrival. The king asked for his daughters, and when he learned what had happened, he ordered Mastusius and the bowl to be thrown into the sea. The where he was thrown, to memorialize him is called Mastusian; the harbour still is called the Bowl. Astronomers of old pictured it in the stars, so that men might remember that no one can profit from an evil deed with impunity, nor can hostilities often be forgotten."

The third interpretation of the constellation comes from a link to the constellation Centaurus. It centers around Phôlos, a civilized kéntauros who aided Hēraklēs when the smell of the wine from Phôlos' own wineskin drove them into a frenzy. Phôlos had only meant to be a good host, but ended up giving Hēraklēs one of the biggest fights of his life. Phôlos died in the struggle, as he accidentally dropped a poisoned arrow into his foot. The Theoi took mercy on Phôlos and took the cup he had meant to serve Hēraklēs his wine in, and placed it into the sky as a reminder of Phôlos' good character and generosity.

There are some smaller, more local, myths connected to the constellation, but these are the most well know. Whatever its origin, the constellation Crater is visible at latitudes between +65° and −90°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of April.

Today I would like to share two questions (and my answers) which are related to each other in spirit. They both refer to the influence the Theoi have on the world, even though the spheres of influence differ.

 

 
"Yesterday I watched the film 'Agora' for the third time, I'm asking myself- what happened that the gods allowed for things so unbelievable to happen? For their sacred statues to be broken to pieces, their temples profaned, their followers persecuted and the wisdom that the Hellenists built up over more than nine hundred years treated in the way they were ... Why did they let those things happen, or did they? It's probably hubris to think that, but I'm just a little confused. Please, tell me what you think?"
 
You ask a question to which I can only give a complicated and speculative answer. I think that answer is two-part: our Gods are not all-powerful, and Their sphere of influence ends where humanity wants it to end. By-and-large, religion is in the heart of its followers. I believe that is how the Gods were created--out of the stories of man, which shaped the Gods, who made stories of Their own--and I also believe that is how They had to let these atrocities happen.
 
Humans at their very core are weak. They are scared. They tend to like the path of least resistance. Hellenism (and similar for the Romans) offered a world with Gods whom you have to work to please, and when you pass, you pass into a land of eternal shadow. It was a bleak outlook and a lot of work for, well, very little guaranteed pay-off. And then came Christianity, which was... simple. It offered a great reward at the end of the line, and a smooth ride through life without much effort. Show up at mass, don't fuck up too badly throughout life (or ask forgiveness) and voila! Set up for all eternity. Long story short: people turned away from the ancient Gods and flocked under the banner of the new one.
 
That leads me to the first part: our Gods are not all-powerful. There are things even They can't stop. Zeus had to let his son Sarpedon die, many Gods let loved ones and beloved heroes die, in fact. Most had to do so because the mortal in question refused to listen to Their advice. I have no doubt that the Gods would have liked to interfere in the destruction of Their temples, in the prosecution of Their dwindling worshippers--but humanity as a whole had made its choice, and that choice was to move on, to abandon Them and go with the new God(s) in town. And so They let them. The Gods can't make anyone believe in Them.
 
What happened to the ancient temples--to the ancient religion--we let happen. For whatever reason, we let it happen and in our religion, it is us who need to come to the Gods. When we stopped coming, They did not--could not--force us to come back, and so They let us go. But they are not the type to hold grudges. They may have been disappointed, may have been angry, but they are immortal. We are coming back to Them now and They accept us with kharis. We do not have to make up for our religious ancestor's choices. We just have to worship the Theoi as best we can, and They will provide the same things they promised the ancient Hellenes: a good life if you are willing to work for it.
 
 
"I was a Hellenist for awhile but felt called to research and follow other paths since then. Now I'm feeling like the Theoi are calling me back to Their worship. Do you have any advice about what I should do to make amends for leaving off Their worship and be welcomed back into Their good graces? What about the miasma of not worshiping Them for so long? What specific steps do you think I should take?"
 
Thank you for coming to me with your question. I am happy to hear you feel called back to the Theoi.
 
This morning, I answered a question by another reader. It had to do with how the Gods could have allowed their temples to be destroyed and their worship to dwindle. I want to tell you what I told him: that what happened to the ancient temples--to the ancient religion--we let happen. For whatever reason, we let it happen and in our religion, it is us who need to come to the Gods. When we stopped coming, They did not--could not--force us to come back, and so They let us go. But they are not the type to hold grudges. They may have been disappointed, may have been angry, but they are immortal. We are coming back to Them now and They accept us with kharis. We do not have to make up for our religious ancestor's choices. We just have to worship the Theoi as best we can, and They will provide the same things they promised the ancient Hellenes: a good life if you are willing to work for it.
 
The same goes for a personal return to the Theoi. They let you go because you chose to take your break, and now you have decided to return, They will welcome you. I am sure you have seen that scene in the movies or television series where the rebellious youth joins the family he rejected at the start welcome him back with open arms near the end? I always feel coming back to faith is like that--or at least it should be. Come back with an open heart, an open mind, and an open smile. Recite the hymns with all the emotion and love you can muster. Perform katharmos, apply khernips, but mostly cast fear and doubt from your heart. Those emotions disrupt your ability to worship and that is the worst miasma of all.
 
The Gods will welcome you back just like they accept modern worship after being abandoned centuries ago. They want our worship--need our worship--and if you truly wish for Them to be in your life, They will be. If it makes you feel better, make a special sacrifice to proclaim your wish to return to Their worship. I dare say They haven't left your life, so don't worry too much about that. Kharis does not fade, it just gets put on hold when no longer desired. Reclaim it, be worthy of it, and the Theoi will gladly accept your sacrifices.
 
Enjoy your time with the Theoi, respect Them, and respect their worship. They will welcome you back with open arms.

Greece has donated an exact replica of the Charioteer of Delphi, also known as Heniokhos, to the city of Doha in Qatar. The replica statue was unveiled at the central metro station of Doha international airport in Qatar during an official ceremony earlier this week in the presence of Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni.

Heniokhos is one of the best-known statues surviving from Ancient Greece, and considered one of the finest examples of ancient bronze sculptures. The life-size statue of a chariot driver was found in 1896, in the sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi and is on display at the Delphi Archaeological Museum. It was also in 1896 that the first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens.

According to Mendoni, Greece offered the Heniokhos replica to the people of Qatar as a symbolic gesture, aiming to strengthen relations between the two countries.

“Many centuries later, Heniokhos becomes an ambassador of the friendship between Greece and Qatar.”

While in Qatar, Mendoni also met with Khalid bin Ibrahim Al Sulaiti, general manager of The Cultural Village Foundation-Katara and discussed the potential of establishing a common strategy to promote Greek popular and modern art. The Katara is a multidimensional environment for culture and entertainment that hosts exhibitions, projections, concerts and theater performances. The cultural village also features an open amphitheater of 5,000 seats.

The Greek culture minister also visited the country’s new National Museum, the Olympic Games Museum which will open its doors in a few months, and the The Museum of Islamic Art.

In an attempt to protect and maintain the iconic monuments in the Greek Orthodox section of London’s historic West Norwood Cemetery, the many sculptural masterpieces there are set to undergo a massive restoration campaign.


The effort to maintain the Greek Orthodox section’s stunning monuments will begin with the massive mortuary chapel of the Ralli family, which was dedicated to St. Stephen and modeled after a Doric temple.

The restoration of the small Greek Orthodox section of the cemetery, home to the most listed funerary monuments in Britain, will be headed by the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery. The organization is dedicated to preserving the history of West Norwood, one of London’s “Magnificent Seven” Victorian cemeteries.

The historic cemetery was built in 1837 to accommodate the city’s rapidly expanding population, and its funerary monuments and sepulchers are widely considered to be the most splendid in all of London. The Greek Orthodox section of West Norwood is a remnant of the wave of Greek immigrants to London who arrived in the early 19th century. Although most Greek immigrants lived in central London in the Victorian period, Greek community leaders purchased the plot in West Norwood, located in South London, because of the cemetery’s renown.

The graves and monuments are so tightly packed in the the Greek Orthodox section, just as they are in the entirety of the cemetery, that there is no longer any room for more burials in this historic section of West Norwood.

The ornate, hauntingly beautiful Greek Orthodox section of the cemetery is a testament to the significance of the Greek immigrant community in Victorian London, many of whose members went on to establish successful businesses upon arriving in England. Many prominent figures are buried in this section, including Maria Zambaco, the breathtaking muse of the Pre-Raphaelites, who is interred there under her maiden name of Cassavetti.

The discovery of a ceremonial building, burial monuments, cultic vessels and manipulated tombs has bolstered confidence that ancient worship was taking place 2,500 years ago at Itanos, an archaeological site of extreme importance on the island of Crete with a well situated harbor and a key place for trade roads.


Professor Didier Viviers, who is the co-director of the excavations alongside Professor Athena Tsingarida states:

“The fact that we have erected cenotaphs (burial monuments) and a concentration of cultic and drinking vessels clearly indicates that the activity within this necropolis was not daily life, but ritual practice. It was a place where the community gathered to honor their ancestors." 

The archaic building consisted of a large reception hall, adjoining a storeroom, where members of the family clan could hold a funeral banquet. But most of the surface area was devoted to a large courtyard, in which offerings to the dead were made around a erected cenotaph built on an ancient tomb. A separate room, where, probably more intimate, rites were performed, was used for another equipment also related to an ancient tomb.

“At the time of the construction of this funerary complex, some of the ancient burials were manipulated. They were emptied of their contents which were replaced with a pot (chytra), containing olive leaves, which may have been used during the preparation of ritual meals addressed to the dead.”

The discoveries at the communal burial ground at Itanos have rekindled a longstanding academic brawl over the lack of burials on Crete during this period which had been interpreted as a sign of austerity and decline of the Cretan society.

The excavators exploring Itanos are not saying that the cemetery was necessarily used to inhumed or incinerated the inhabitants per se. But they are now confident: Cretan ritual festivities worship took place there to honor the ancestors while the lack of burials does not necessary signify a decline of the society but rather reflects a change of social practices attesting frequent visits and tributes to the dead.

“This exceptional discovery helps to understand the political and social use of the cemeteries in Crete during this very important period for the construction of the Cretan city-states.”

Itanos is situated at the eastern tip of Crete and was established in the 9th century BCE but quickly rose to prominence thanks to its trade with purple dye that was obtained from shellfish or mollusks. Purple-dye was highly sought after in ancient times and became a mark of wealth since the amount of fluid acquired from each shellfish was small and a time-consuming process to extract. It is therefore easy to understand how Itanos quickly could rise to wealth and fame from selling this luxurious dye. Its fair harbor also made it a great international port where merchants from the Aegean, Anatolia, Egypt and other parts of the Mediterranean traded various commodities such as wine, perfume and ceramic wares.

Its vast material prosperity is also attested by the fact that the city-state minted its own coins which often depicts mythical sea creatures, such as Glaukos, a bearded god with a trident who was the protector of fishermen as well as coins with the sea-god Triton.

Many Itanian coins carry the image of Athena, the main divinity of the city which had a sanctuary on the western Acropolis. All good things come to an end and Itanos started to decline from the mid-7th century CE due to earthquakes that partly but repeatedly destroyed the town that was eventually abandoned.

The site of Itanos has been under excavations by the École Belge d´Athenes (Belgian School in Athens) since 2011, apart from the necropolis the excavations have uncovered numerous buildings dating from the 7th century BCE and downwards. 

The recent discovers in Itanos have forced archaeologists to rethink their ideas of Cretan burial sites in the 6th and 5th centuries BCE but also how the society at that time reinforced its social structure. At the edge of the necropolis, on top of a hill, the excavators discovered a cultic site featuring ritual feasting, a building complex sporting altar, offering pits and cultic opulent and imported objets d'art.

The ceremonial hall that was discovered, a spacious building, 6 meters long and 4,50 meters width, and was partly erected in clay on a stone foundation and had a hearth in its center used for burnt offerings. Numerous archaeobotanical remains such as grains and grapes were discovered in the courtyard in the several burnt offering pits that were used during the ritual ceremonies. Cultic, drinking and storage vessels such as goblets and chalices, perfume vases and amphoras which were used during ritual ceremonies honoring the dead were also found inside the building.

Professor Athena Tsingarida comments:

“This ceramic material is mostly imported (especially from Attica but also from the Aegean and East Greece). This international profile of imports is relatively exceptional in Crete and probably serves the family clan's desire to demonstrate its social status.”

Since no bodies was discovered in these tombs (that was converted into cenotaphs for worship), cults were dedicated to all the ancestors of the clan rather than to a single member suggests prof Viviers.

“The nature of these rituals and ceremonies suggests that the lack of actual burials or cremations in the necropolis of Itanos in the 6th and 5th centuries BCE, also known in other Cretan necropolis, was not necessarily a sign of recession or decline in the Cretan society but rather the result of a voluntary change in social behavior towards death and the rituals that go with it.”

Itanos was a port city that still has much to teach us about the burial practices in Crete from the Geometric to the Roman period. Therefore, Itanos is an excellent site for understanding the evolution of Cretan societies during these periods, which were in constant contact with the Greek world and the Eastern Mediterranean. Professor Didier Vivier concludes:

“The excavations taking place on the site allow us to highlight the leading role played by the port of Itanos in the maritime exchanges but also in the understanding of the trade circuits inland (for instance, through the distribution networks of locally maid ceramic products)."

The Belgian archaeological mission plans to resume excavations in summer of 2021, to explore the early necropolis more widely and reconstruct its topographical organization and the funerary landscape.

UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden rejected the chance of the UK returning the contentious Parthenon Marbles to Greece, calling the idea “impossible.” During an interview with the Times, Dowden claimed that returning the precious sculptures to Greece would be like “pulling on a thread” that could lead to the return of hundreds of other artifacts in museums in the UK and around the world.

The Parthenon Marbles were taken from Athens by British nobleman Lord Elgin after he claimed to have made a deal with the Ottoman ruler of the country in the 19th century. Many historians have since found evidence that the deal made by Lord Elgin to take the marble sculptures to England had no legal standing and is therefore void.

Despite this evidence, the British Museum has consistently refused to return the priceless marbles, despite pleas and protests by not only Greeks, but also by many others, who view Athens as the marbles’ rightful home.

Dowden stressed that many museums around the world are filled with precious artifacts from other countries, and argued that returning the Parthenon Marbles to Greece could throw museums into a crisis:

“There is an exceptionally high bar for this because I just don’t see where it ends..You go down a rabbit hole and tie up our institutions…Would we insist on having the Bayeux Tapestry back?”

The UK Culture Secretary even suggested that if the British had not taken the sculptures, they would have been destroyed during the brutal Nazi Occupation of Greece during the Second World War.

“Would they have survived the Nazis rampaging through Athens during World War II… It is a slightly trite argument but there is a truth.”

In his interview, Dowden echoes similar sentiments made by UK PM Boris Johnson, who remained firm that the ancient Greek sculptures do not belong to Greece during a statement to a Greek newspaper in early March.






 


Speaking to Ta Nea, he said: “The British government has a firm and long-standing position on the sculptures: they were legally acquired by Lord Elgin, in accordance with the laws in force at the time.”




He added that he understands the strong feelings of the Greek people on this issue. However, he opines that “The rightful owners are the commissioners of the British Museum since they came into their possession.”




Greece responded to Johnson’s assertion that the Marbles were rightfully British, pointing to new historical evidence that Elgin had stolen the ancient masterpieces and therefore, they belong in Greece.




Greece responds with historical evidence regarding possession of the sculptures




In a statement, Greece’s Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni said that historical evidence “shows that there has was never a legitimate acquisition of the Parthenon Sculptures by Lord Elgin and, therefore, neither has the British Museum ever acquired the Sculptures in a legitimate manner.”




“The Ministry of Culture and Sports can provide the necessary documentary evidence that can inform the British people that the British Museum possesses the Sculptures illegally,” Mendoni said in her statement.




The British Parliament, even back in 1816, wanted to be sure that Lord Elgin had authority to remove the Parthenon Marbles, and insisted on the production of a document to prove it.




One third of them had very serious reservations about the legality — or morality — of the taking of the marbles out of Greece, and they insisted on such proof. And an apparently official Ottoman document called a firman was indeed produced — in Italian.






 


According to many experts, the document the British Museum refers to as a firman is not an actual firman at all.




Professor Dr. Zeynep Aygen, the author of the book “International Heritage and Historic Building Conservation: Saving the World’s Past,” has stated that “the letter in the Italian language is not a firman at all; there is no way that it can be accepted as a firman.”




She explained to Greek Reporter that “the Ottoman Court would not give a letter written in the Italian language… we do not know where the original of the letter is.”




Dr. Aygen maintains that “a firman is a royal document with a number of special signs. Therefore it is clear that the letter in the Italian language is not a firman approved by the Sultan and not a “buyruldu” by the Grand Vizier.




“In both cases the necessary format is missing from the aforementioned letter.”




Author: Anna Wichmann | Source: Greek Reporter [March 28, 2021]





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 Labels Archaeology, Europe, Greece, Heritage, Southern Europe, UK

 In 430 BC, an 11-year-old girl from Athens called “Myrtis” − a victim of the great plague of Athens — could not imagine that after 2500 years, she would take part in the global effort in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Myrtis, with her wisdom and her 2,500 years of experience, is being used to impart knowledge and to strengthen the global resolve in the fight against the scourge threatening the world today.


The ancient girls’ remains were discovered in 1994–95 in a mass grave during the construction works to build the metro station in the Kerameikos neighborhood of Athens. Her face, which was painstakingly recreated by a team under Professor Manolis Papagrigorakis, appears prominently in an animated video calling on us all to listen to the experts, fully respect the new sanitation and distancing rules, and take special care of our loved ones so that we can have them by our side tomorrow.

In the video, which was a created after a joint initiative of Papagrigorakis and the United Nations, the 11-year-old Greek girl who lived so long ago quotes the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, and agrees with him that the whole of humanity, united together, will again win the fight against today’s common enemy.

The little girl, who used to play in the foothills of the Athens Acropolis, no doubt gazing at the Parthenon just as we do today, began her second journey around the world in 2010 in the Acropolis Museum.

Her collaboration with the United Nations also began during that same year. The UN named Myrtis a “Friend of the Millennium Development Goals” along with other international personalities such as the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, the President of Ireland Mary Robinson, and the activist Bianca Jagger.

In this capacity, Myrtis sent a widely-translated message to the leaders of the world, asking them to save the lives of millions of children who are dying of diseases such as the one that killed her. Diseases that nowadays can be prevented and even cured. The Athens girl continues her impressive journey around the world today. She has become an exhibition, a postage stamp, an image on a coin, and a painting.

Her story, which is taught in schools in Greece and abroad, has now been told to thousands of students across the world. She has even served as the theme of scientific conferences. The tiny ancient Greek girl has inspired thousands of people, carrying her timeless message warning us about the ravages of war, poverty and child mortality. In this way, an ancient Greek has become the very symbol of not only science but the universal values which have accompanied humans from ancient times up to the present day.

Rare photographs of the excavations at the Greek island of Delos from the 19th Century have come to light in a book by French archaeologists. The book “Delos 1873-1913” sheds light on the challenges facing the scientists and other skilled and unskilled workers who unearthed ancient monuments and artifacts in one of most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece.

Delos (Δήλος) was one of the most sacred places of ancient Greece, and one of the most robust trade centers as well. Its claim as the birthplace of Apollo gave Delos a strong religious identity that lasted all the way until Byzantine times.

Over the centuries, Delos was truly a cosmopolitan center with a diverse population that included people from all around the Mediterranean, but in 88 BCE the Romans razed the island during their war with Mithridates (and ally of the Athenians who controlled the island), a calamity Delos never recovered from.

Until the First World War, on the instigation of T. Homolle and then M. Holleaux, the emphasis was on the clearing of large areas in the Sanctuary zone and on the northern slopes of Cynthus, although the rest of the island was not neglected.

Several years apart (1894 and 1907), two archaeological maps of the island were drawn up, while a study of its physical geography was successfully completed by the geologist L. Cayeux (EAD IV). From 1903 onwards, the excavations enjoyed annual financial support from Joseph Florimont, Duke of Loubat (1831-1927), a rich American philanthropist and foreign corresponding member of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres.

This major contribution to work in the field was complemented in 1920 by the creation of a Greek epigraphy fund to support the Institute, from which the income was used for the publication of the Choix d’inscriptions de Délos by F. Durrbach (1921) and the Corpus des inscriptions de Délos.

From the 1920s onwards, the efforts of the School’s members focused on the study of monuments, batches of equipment and inscriptions discovered in the previous decades, and exploratory research concentrated more on buildings than groups of monuments.





Image source and more images: here.

I'm tackling a little constellation today,  Corvus, the Latin word for 'raven' or 'crow'. It comes from the Hellenic 'korax'. It's one of three constellations linked to a myth I will only partly reveal today, as it makes much more sense to place it with the constellation Crater, which will be the next one I tackle.



The raven and/or crow is connected to Apollon. For a variety of reasons, Hermes is often associated with these birds as well, but there is no ancient evidence for this. Apollon, on the other hand, has a long history with the birds. It seems odd that a deity associated with light is also associated with an animal with an image as negative as the raven. Ravens are often associated with battlegrounds, cemeteries, and death, with the rotting of carcasses, and funerals. In Hellenic myth, they are also associated with vision beyond that which is present. With oracular visions, and with spotting that which can not, or should not, be spotted.

One myth associated with the constellation Corvus is that of Apollo and Koronis (Κορωνίς). Koronis was Apollon's lover, and was pregnant with His son, when she fell for another man, a mortal man, Ischys (Ἰσχύς). A raven--then white--had been assigned by Apollon to watch over His lover, and when the raven returned to tell Apollon of Coronis' betrayal, Apollon was furious the raven had not pecked out the eyes of the mortal whom his lover fell in love with. In a fit of rage, Apollon turned its feathers black. Apollodorus wrote about this event (3:10:3), and the events that followed:

"Besides them Leucippus begat Arsinoe: with her Apollo had intercourse, and she bore Aesculapius. But some affirm that Aesculapius was not a son of Arsinoe, daughter of Leucippus, but that he was a son of Coronis, daughter of Phlegyas in Thessaly. And they say that Apollo loved her and at once consorted with her, but that she, against her father's judgment, preferred and cohabited with Ischys, brother of Caeneus. Apollo cursed the raven that brought the tidings and made him black instead of white, as he had been before; but he killed Coronis. As she was burning, he snatched the babe from the pyre and brought it to Chiron, the centaur, by whom he was brought up and taught the arts of healing and hunting."

In another myth, Corvus represents a raven or crow in service to Apollon, who was sent out on an errant for the Theos. He was asked to bring water to Him, but instead, he paused in his quest, most commonly assumed is that he stopped for a meal of figs. When the raven returned without water, Apollon questioned him. Instead of giving a straight answer, the raven lied, and said he had been kept from the water by a snake. In some accounts, he actually had a snake in his talons as he said this. Apollon, however, saw that the raven was lying, and flung the raven, the krater with which the raven was supposed to collect water, as well as the snake into the sky, where they remain to this day. To punish the bird further, Apollon made sure the krater would forever be just out of reach of the bird.

This Apollon-oriented constellation is visible at latitudes between +60° and −90°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of May.

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.



"Quick question, what is the greek name of the process in which barley groats are scattered around the temple/shrine area in order to not only acknowledge this area as sacred space, but also to purify? Would ground barley groats be used, crushed or whole form?"

I am actually not sure about the ancient Greek term. What is the words for 'strewing', or even 'sowing'? Do any of my readers know the correct term in ancient Greek? That is what they were doing, by the way by strewing barley groats. It was a part of purification (katharmos), but more importantly, it was the start of the process of kharis, where the strewing of barley groats on and around the altar of the Theoi was like a spiritual sowing to reap the benefits of later (asked for through prayer later on in the rite). As such, the barley that was used was whole form, just like it would be for actual sowing of the crop.


"I'm worried about the credibility of the scholarly books that were released during the 19th and early 20th century. I've tried to read a few, but the scholars seem to perceive Ancient Greek religion through the lens of their Judeo-Christian beliefs. What's your opinion on the older scholarly books?"

I think that it depends an awful lot on the book. To be honest, beyond Grote's 'History of Greece', I don't have any books from that period. Most of the books I refer to regularly date from about 1970 to now. Even those sometimes have the 'Christian problem' you refer to, but the good scholars either acknowledge their bias or simply present facts.

Now, it's important to remember that every scholar writes with the knowledge they have available to them at the time of writing. And with that knowledge comes an understanding that is limited by the information available. We have made huge leaps in information and knowledge, in understanding, ancient Hellas and the ancient Hellenic religion over the last few decades. As such, I research ancient Hellas in the older books, and I find much valuable information, but I do check if there is no new(er) information available on the subject, as published in new scholarly work. In discussions, I tend to defer to the newest information available, if presented in a way that makes sense in the picture that has been painted by scholars along the years.

As for dealing with biases in scholarly work (there are more than Judeo-Christian ones, including sexist ones, cultural ones, and even sensationalism): read anything you can get your hands on, check sources against each other and if you have more than three who say the same thing, try to understand why it says this, try to built up the world frame and if you don't understand how this new information fits in, you research more, you talk to other people, until you figure it out. Don't accept information just because it's in a book. Always think for yourself.


"Do you have to be ethnically Greek to worship the Greek gods? Does this belief have any precedent in Ancient Greece? My ancestry is Germanic, so it was suggested to me that I look into Ásatrú. I have no problem with Ásatrú, but I don't believe that the religion is right for me. I desire a close and intimate relationship with the gods, and their gods feel distant to me."

No, I don't think you have to be ethnically Greek to worship the Hellenic Gods. It might give you a bit of an advantage when it comes to the language and finding people to practice with, but that is about it. The Theoi call on whom they call. I'm not ethnically Greek, and it does not hold me back from worshipping the Hellenic Gods at all.

You know, I have the same feeling about the Norse Gods, although my Ásatrú friends tell me that is complete BS ;-) We all have religions we feel at home in and neither skin colour, nor ethnicity, not gender, nor sexuality, nor anything else can change that.

The diet of the ancient Hellenes is fascinating for so many reasons. They had impressively varied eating habits by any measure, but they naturally contrasted in many ways to ours — with the most characteristic difference being that they ate much less than we do today.

In ancient Hellas, people would begin their day with a very lean breakfast, which included a little barley bread, dipped in lukewarm wine, and figs. Another common breakfast food was actually a drink, called “Kykeonas,” a libation made of boiled barley, flavored with mint or thyme, which was believed to have healing properties.

Hellenes of that time were very fond of fish, perhaps even more than we are today. For lunch, they would routinely dine on any fresh fish that was available, including sea bream, mullet, sardines and eels. There was always an assortment of legumes from which to choose, including lentils, beans, chickpeas, peas and broad beans, to eat with their fish. The eternal European staple of bread was always part of the midday meal, accompanied by cheese, olives, eggs, nuts and fruits.

Ancient Hellenes considered dinner to be the most important and enjoyable meal of the day. Although health specialists today recommend that we should eat particularly lightly in the evening, ancient Hellenes actually spent a lot of time together at the table at the end of the day, and ate fairly heavily at that meal. Dinner in ancient Greece was usually accompanied by desserts, the so-called “tragimata,” which could be composed of fresh or dried fruit, including figs, as well as nuts and grapes or honey-based sweets.

Regarding their meats, it was not often consumed in ancient Hellas. Usually only after public sacrifices, either on the day of, or sold in shops after. In their diet, the ancient Hellenes showed a particular preference for pork and veal, while they rarely ate goat or lamb. They also loved hunting, especially small birds such as thrush and quail, but they were not averse to taking deer as well, so venison was not unheard of at the ancient Hellenic table. Perhaps most surprisingly, the Hellenes also loved their snails; it is recorded that Cretans had eaten them since the time of Minos.

Fruits and vegetables were always present on the table, although not in the variety that we find today. Pears, pomegranates, apples, figs, berries, cherries and plums were always in high demand. Athenians were known to cultivate vegetables in their gardens, and they had a particular love for onions, garlic, lettuce, cucumbers, peas, artichokes, celery, dill and mint. Mushroom, fennel, asparagus, and even tender, edible nettles, were to be found in abundance in the fields.

As almost all of us still do, ancient Hellenes also loved their bread, and they would bake many different varieties of it, from flat breads to semolina bread, and even a coarse type of bread made from millet. They frequently dined on the types of fish which lived right along the rocky shores of the Aegean, but they also enjoyed fish from the open seas, such as tuna, a much-sought-after delicacy. They also enjoyed mackerel, bonito and anchovies, which were abundant during their season and were easy to catch with nets. “Garos,” a type of sauce made from a fried, salted fatty fish, was another basic element of the diet along the coast in ancient Hellas. High quality garos, made of tuna offal and blood, was actually quite expensive.

The kitchen shelves of an ancient Greek house were always stocked with an impressive variety of herbs and spices, including oregano, basil, mint, thyme, cardamom, coriander, capers and sesame, which they would add liberally to their dishes.

Most foods were particularly light, as they were baked in the oven and on a skewer, and the same was true for sweets, which were made from pastry, with dried or fresh fruit, and honey.

Every meal was accompanied by wine, of course, and olive oil was always on the table, especially for Athenians, as they considered it to be the goddess Athena’s gift to their city. They believed that the purpose of food was to satisfy the palate and not to actually fill the stomach. In that sense, and that sense only, one can even say that they were gourmands.

The only exception to this overall rule were the people of Sparta, who were by far the lightest eaters of all. True to form, even in their diet, they followed a laconic austerity, with their daily food consisting of a bowl of “black broth” and a piece of bread, while on special occasions and feasts, they would have boiled pork, accompanied by a little wine and some pita bread. But everywhere else in Hellas, there was a great variety of food at each and every meal, and people took an obvious delight in it.