“I’ve never participated in a more difficult excavation,” exclaimed Dr Efi Sapouna-Sakellaraki over the telephone, referring to this year’s research at Zominthos on the island of Crete. “It isn’t just the work, which is complex and very extensive, but also the limitations due to the pandemic, its contagiousness and variants.” Under these tough conditions, the team began working on July 15, and has been taking the same route each day – traveling 7 kilometers from Anogia to an impressive altitude of nearly 1,200 meters. 

The scale of the project is visibly much smaller than previous years. Sapouna-Sakellaraki has been working at the site since 1982, when her late husband, Yannis Sakellarakis, discovered a large, two-story Minoan building there.

The director of the excavations told Kathimerini that they have “only six workers now, while other years we had 60, and just one archaeologist – Dimitris Kokkinakos – instead of seven. Nevertheless, we have all the necessary specialists (architect, conservator, photographer, designer) on the excavation site. I didn’t take anyone who hadn’t been vaccinated yet; I didn’t want to take that risk. The conditions are already difficult due to the heatwaves and Covid-19.” They are currently wrapping up their work on the site for this year. 

This unique Minoan palace, situated on a mountain, uninterruptedly served as a strategic location over multiple centuries. It is close to Ideon Andron and Knossos, in a location which appears to have enjoyed a large income. The palace, which is the oldest building from the Protopalatial Period (1900-1700 BCE), is large, as is the building which was built over it during the Neopalatial Period (1700-1600 BCE). The latter, according to the excavations, extends across the entire hill. 

Last year, a shrine was discovered outside the main building. Numerous objects of interest were found at its altar. The shrine, however, was built atop an even older structure, in which little figurines were found, among them a female which was named the “Lady of Zominthos.” In 2020, the main focus of interest was a burnt wooden object that was surrounded by 90 gold flakes. The excavator says that,

“...while we often pay attention to individual objects, we cannot forget that ancient civilizations also had the know-how to construct large buildings, drainage systems, sewers etc. We archaeologists often put emphasis on individual finds that can be transported and displayed, but everything else is equally important because it paints a complete picture, and sheds light on the truth.” 

This year’s excavation extended outside the main building, where the palatial altar was discovered last year. As Sapouna-Sakellaraki describes it, beyond the building, which resembles a fortress with its 2.5-3-meter-tall walls, an entire city was built on top of older foundations. This year’s main find is a paved area totaling 78 square meters in the easternmost part of the site, outside of the palace.

“The interior was excavated last year, we found ramps leading to the central northern entrance where we had uncovered a sanctuary hiding 200 vases. The paved courtyard we found this year confirms the building’s grandeur. We had already found a sloping corridor, like the one at Knossos which played a role in rituals, so we know the courtyard here must’ve also been important for that purpose.” 

The director of the dig stands on a layer of broken shells, about 50 centimeters wide, that separates the courtyard from the Protopalatial ruins.

“This is an excellent drainage system, and also a display of the engineering knowledge at the time. Many sections for pipes were also found within the walls for the purpose of water drainage. The objects found that can be transported include ritual basins, various clay objects, small and large pots used for heating water, and a small gold nail, whose origin we still have not identified – was it lost or stolen by the Romans? Everything indicated that it was a palace smaller in size to those at Knossos and Phaistos, but equal in luxury. It is obvious that the builders had sophisticated engineering knowledge, evidenced by the metallurgy workshops found last year. I recall Yannis Sakellarakis finding a crystal-processing workshop, a ceramics workshop, and a perfumery workshop. The inhabitants of the palace at Zominthos – descendants of the Knossos dynasty – were self-sufficient and active in multiple professions. They amassed wealth from the natural resources of Psiloritis (Mount Ida), gathering wool from the sheep, herbs, aromatic plants to sell at the market etc.” 

Zominthos (excavated by the Archaeological Society) was a large religious, political and economic center that assumed the role of Ideon Andron, the birthplace of Zeus and thus a site of worship, throughout the winter months when it wasinaccessible due to the weather.

It was an impressive site with ample water resources and vegetation, a labyrinthine palace – the work of an ingenious architect – with subterranean and frescoed halls, skylights, large corridors, private rooms, staircases, indoor atriums, altars and workshops. The excavation of the palace is certainly inexhaustible and Zominthos clearly still has many mysteries to reveal.

Exorcisms have a long and varied history, and the best known version of it is the 'Major Exorcism' as performed by a Catholic priest. This rite is recorded in the Rituale Romanum which seems to date from around 1600 AD. How old the ritual itself is, I am not sure, but the concept of possession is most certainly ancient. The idea of the Major Exorcism is to establish that a demon has taken possession of a person--which should be measurable by certain signs like speaking in tongues and convulsing--and then to drive out the possessor by reciting ritual texts and presenting the creature with holy iconography. I was asked if there was something like an exorcism in Hellenismos.

The question makes a few assumptions that need to be addressed before answering your question:
  1. Did the ancient Hellenes believe in possession?
  2. Did they believe it was a bad thing?
  3. Did the ancient Hellenes believe creatures which classically possess humans and/or animals existed?
  4. Did they believe these creatures would, indeed, possess humans and/or animals?
  5. Was it possible to cast out these creatures through religious (or even secular) rites?
The short answer to the first question is yes, they did. Certain Gods--especially wilder Gods like Dionysos and Pan were said to influence their followers in such a way that they became unaware of their surroundings and actions. The Maenads--followers of Dionysos, often female--in mythology at least are often portrayed as tearing people apart in their fit of madness and to see things while doing so. Most often, this is the way they are tricked into committing these acts. Almost always, they are inspired to do so by Dionysos Himself. The longer answer is a debate on if this constitutes possession as laid out by the Roman Catholic church. In the Rituale Romanum, the signs of possession are described as follows:

"[The] ability to speak with some facility in a strange tongue or to understand it when spoken by another; the faculty of divulging future and hidden events; display of powers which are beyond the subject's age and natural condition; and various other indications which, when taken together as a whole, build up the evidence."

As you can see, it leave a lot of room for interpretation. While the actions of the Maenads might fit part of the bill, it is more interesting to look at oracles as subjects of possession, as they tended to speak in tongues or riddles, divulge hidden events, and would often show physical signs of not being in control of their bodies. The oracle at Delphi is a classic example, and indeed, the ancient Hellenes believed the oracle possessed--not by an evil entity, but by a God; in this case, Apollon (for the majority of history anyway).

As such, I don't believe possession in these forms was considered a bad thing; it was the way the Theoi spoke to or through their followers, and in general, it was a much sought-out and desired skill of both mystery cults and divination.

Classical creatures who possess people according to the church are mostly demons, malevolent beings sent by the Devil or acting on their own accord. In general, their only goal is to bring pain and suffering to humanity. The word 'demon' comes from the ancient Greek root 'δαίμων'--'daímōn'. Hesiod gives us our first glimpse into daímōns as he writes about the five Ages of Man in 'Works and Days'. He gives us the following references:

"First of all the deathless gods who dwell on Olympus made a golden race of mortal men who lived in the time of Kronos when he was reigning in heaven. [...] But after earth had covered this generation -- they are called pure spirits dwelling on the earth, and are kindly, delivering from harm, and guardians of mortal men; for they roam everywhere over the earth, clothed in mist and keep watch on judgments and cruel deeds, givers of wealth; for this royal right also they received.

[...] then they who dwell on Olympus made a second generation which was of silver and less noble by far. It was like the golden race neither in body nor in spirit. [...] But when earth had covered this generation also -- they are called blessed spirits of the underworld by men, and, though they are of second order, yet honour attends them also." [ll. 109-120]

Hesiod's Ages speak of only one race who became daímōns; those of the Golden Age, yet those of the Silver and Heroic Age also received many honors after their passing, and they were held in high regard. Hesiod makes clear distinction between the Theoi and daímōns: the Theoi are Gods, daímōns are members of the Gold Age who gained immortality. This differentiation is much less pronounced in the writings of Hómēros, where God and daímōn are used virtually interchangeably.

This difference led to a misinterpretation of the nature of the race of the Silver Age: they became dangerous daímōns in the eyes of later writers (like Plato), and eventually the demons of Christianity. Yet, neither Hómēros or Hesiod ever intended them to be so: all daímōns were pure and Deathless; they acted as a policing force for humanity. Especially through Neo-Platonics comes the placement of daímōns between the Theoi and mankind. They are less powerful than the Theoi, with lesser domains; more concerned with the daily happenings of life than the Theoi are, but they, too, are immortal, and deserve honors. Daímōns fulfill an important role in mythology and life: all aspects of life can be overseen by Deathless beings, without taking away from--or needlessly adding to--the portfolio of the Gods.

A daímōn could also be a personal guardian spirit or the personification of a person's conscious--or even their muse--this idea seems to be a Neo-Platonic evolution of Hesiod's classical daímōns, popularized by Socrates (and his followers), who described his personal daímōn in his trial. From Plato's 'Apology':
"You have often heard me speak of an oracle or sign which comes to me, and is the divinity which Meletus ridicules in the indictment. This sign I have had ever since I was a child. The sign is a voice which comes to me and always forbids me to do something which I am going to do, but never commands me to do anything, and this is what stands in the way of my being a politician."

Daímōns had been separated from their Hesiodic cousins by then, but they were still considered positive forces. The later corruption of the term came from the Christians. The ancient Hellenes did not know demons in the way we know them now; the earliest mention I know of is from the Papyri Graecae Magicae, which also includes an exorcism rite. Note that this document can be dated anywhere from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD, and that it was Graeco-Roman/Egyptian in origin. It was a rather obscure document even in its time, but for this search, it might suffice. Note that it is in essence a Christian rite, though, and adresses the Christian God and pantheon.

Now, I would like to focus a moment on 'evil' entities the ancient Hellenes did believe in: ghosts. Ghosts were the people who could not find the entrance to the Underworld or who didn't have the money to pay Kharon for their passage. Those who were not properly buried were also doomed to wander the Earth for a hundred years. Interestingly enough, Hellenic heroes were also considered ghosts and were honored in the same type of rites as other types of ghosts.

The ancient Hellens held festivals in honor of ghosts, and the Theoi that presided over them, so they would be sated and appeased and would not haunt them. Most of these festivals included a holókaustos--a sacrificial offering given in its entirety to the Gods--and were solemn affairs, conducted at night and without an offering of wine.

This fear of spirits and other supernatural entities was named 'deisidaimonia' (δεισιδαιμονία). The ceremonies of riddance were known to the Hellenes as apopompai (ἀποποπμαί), 'sendings away'. There isn't a single word in the English language that conveys the practice. Closest would be, indeed, 'exorcism'.

It is important to note here that these 'exorcisms' weren't performed on people, but on the ghosts themselves and in short, they consisted of rites to ask the Gods (especially Hekate) to keep these unfortunate souls away from their homes and families, because the ghosts could bring misery down upon them. Possession was not part of the fear. Many rites in the ancient Hellenic religion--including monthly ones like the Deipnon--were apotropaic. Many of these rites were also linked to miasma.

Within Hellenic practice, miasma describes the lingering aura of uncleanliness in regards to a person or space through which contact is made with the Gods. Next to piety, being ritually clean is one of the most important things to adhere to within Hellenismos. Severe miasma needs to be cleansed by the Gods, and these rites were apotropaic in nature.

The answer to the question at hand is thus that it depends on the time period and your definition. Strictly speaking, the ancient Hellenes in general did not believe in possession, but did have specific rites to ward off the evil and miasmic. Later on, especially in cult worship, some forms of demon possession became a known issue, but by and large, demon possession did not occur until the Roman empire and the rise of Christianity. Perhaps it was a different understanding of the same thing, but the concept would have been foreign to the ancient Hellenes. By extension, exorcisms were too.

Greece’s Central Archaeological Council (KAS) has approved the restoration of the workshop of iconic ancient sculptor Pheidias in Ancient Olympia. Pheidias, who lived from approximately 480 to 430 BC, who was also a painter and architect, is the creator of the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The brilliant polymath also designed the statues of Athena Parthenos inside the Parthenon on the Acropolis, and the Athena Promachos, a colossal bronze at the Propylaea. The restoration of the workshop of Pheidias, which later was transformed into the Early Christian Basilica of Olympia, was approved by the KAS as part of the program to highlight the Roman phase of the archaeological site of Ancient Olympia.

Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni said in a press release that visitors will spend more time at Olympia after the restoration because of this highlighting of the Roman phase of the history of the site.

“The highlighting of the buildings of the Roman period – in addition to the protection of the monuments themselves – will give an extremely interesting picture of the archeological site of Olympia. This will significantly increase the stay time of visitors. Today, most visitors limit their tour to the area of ​​the sanctuary with the classical antiquities. With the completion of the program of highlighting the Roman phase of the Sanctuary of Ancient Olympia, the image of the archaeological site is expected to change radically, offering the visitor a more complete experience of the site and the different time periods, as reflected and presumed in the monuments of Olympia.”

The location of the building that housed Pheidias’ workshop in Olympia has been identified by researchers, who also presume its continuous use from the classical to the Byzantine era. Its history and elements discovered by German excavators certify the presence of the great sculptor there. The study, organized and funded by the German Archaeological Institute, aims at the complete protection of the monument and the wider area.

The restoration proposal is to present the Byzantine building inside the building based on the elements it has from each phase as well as the architectural qualities that express individual elements of each phase.

The Central Archaeological Council, approving the study for the restoration of the early Christian phase, requested that the Classical phase of the building be highlighted to a greater extent, both internally and externally, in order to document all the surviving authentic material of the classical times.

The monument has been fully documented: All the stones from the south pillar, as well as the floor stones and other parts of the monument are kept in the Museum. In total, 160 architectural pieces were documented, while on-site measurements were made using modern and traditional methods.

Pheidias’ workshop is located in the very center of the archeological site of Olympia. The history of the monument begins in the classical era, in the third quarter of the fifth century  BC, when Pheidias, after his work on the Acropolis of Athens, came to Olympia to build the statue of Olympian Zeus.

The building was autonomous originally. The Statue of Olympian Zeus was a colossal, seated figure of the god Zeus, approximately 13 meters (42 feet) high. It was sculpted by Pheidias around 435 BC and placed inside the Temple of Zeus, in the Sanctuary of Olympia.

It was one of the most magnificent monuments ever to be constructed in antiquity and was among the Seven Wonders of the World, until its final loss and destruction in the fifth century AD. Over time, and during the Hellenistic era, smaller and larger buildings were gradually added in the immediate vicinity of the workshop, which finally ended up being part of a large building complex.

These buildings did not have the monumental character of the workshop. During the late Hellenistic period, between the 2nd century BC and 1st century AD, large-scale changes took place in the surrounding area of ​​the workshop building.

During the Roman era, great changes took place not only in the building, but also in the surrounding area. Only the original layout of the building with the foreground and the main hall remained unchanged.

During the Byzantine era, between 435 and 451 AD, the most important building to be erected during those times, the imposing Christian church, was built on the ruins of the workshop. The building type of the early Christian basilica was easily adapted to the rectangular shape of the existing building. The Basilica of Olympia is considered the oldest known early Christian church in the Ilia area.

Even though the excavations have provided important data, they brought about large-scale alterations of the early Christian phase. As can be seen from the observation of old drawings and photographs, many elements of the church were sacrificed to facilitate the research. However, the documentation of the Byzantine elements by the older researchers and excavators, as early as 1877, allows for the correct restoration of the monument.

Will you be joining us at 10 AM EDT on 28 August (so today, sorry!) to celebrate the female heroes that we have so plentifully in our religion?

The ancient Erkhians honoured the Heroines twice a year, once on the 19th of Metageitnion, and once on the 14th of Pyanepsion. Certain heroines--like Basile--were worshipped separately from the group as well, most likely because they were local heroines instead of universally accepted heroines like Atalanta, who hunted the Calydonian boar, slew Centaurs, and defeated Peleus in wrestling, or Kallisto, who was an Arcadian princess and hunting companion of the Goddess Artemis. The Heroines received a white sheep in sacrifice, of which the meat was partly sacrificed and partly eaten by those who came out to sacrifice. The skin of the animal went towards the priestess.

Heroes and heroines have a special place in Hellenismos, as they had in ancient Hellas. These were humans--most with at least a part divine heritage--who were considered so brave, so skillful, so extraordinary in their lifetime that they became revered. Some were priests or priestesses of a temple, some excelled in battle, others were skilled healers or good rulers. Once they passed to the realm of Hades, their names were remembered at least once a year on a special occasion, because the ancient Hellenes believed that if the name and deeds of a person were remembered, they would live forever and potentially look out for those they had looked out for before.

Archaeological evidence suggests that hero worship was closer to Khthonic sacrifices in execution than Ouranic ones the further back in time you go; especially in the archaic period, it seems that hero worship consisted of destructive sacrifices--sometimes in the form of a holókaustos where the entire animal was burned, sometimes in a sacrifice where only a part (most often 'a ninth' of the animal) was burned and the rest remained on the altar for the heroes to eat from until gone. The sacrifices were generally burned in an offering pit known as a bothros. The food offered to heroes consisted of meat, blood, and 'food eaten by men' like grains, fruits and other every-day dishes. These were usually offered to the heroes on a table--known as a trapeza--and the heroes were sometimes offered chairs or a bench to sit on. As time went on, the living began to eat part of the meal laid out for the heroes, joining them in celebration.

You can find the ritual here and join our community page here. We have added some of the other main Hellenic Goddesses to the ritual as well. Feel free to add more of our Goddesses and heroines to your own ritual, especially if you feel close to Them! This ritual will be a celebration of the feminine power in our religion! 

Perseus is one of ancient Hellas' greatest heroes, and it is not odd that he was immortalized in the night's sky. He is--of course--linked to the many constellations dedicated to the rescue of Androméda, but there is far more tot he hero Perseus.


Perseus was born to Danae, who was locked in a bronze chamber by her father Akrisios, where she was impregnated by Zeus in the form of a golden shower. Akrisios put both mother and child in a chest and set them adrift on the sea, but they washed safely ashore on the island of Seriphos. From Hyginus' 'Fabulae':

"Danaë was the daughter of Acrisius and Aganippe. A prophecy about her said that the child she bore would kill Acrisius, and Acrisius, fearing this, shut her in a stone-walled prison. But Jove, changing into a shower of gold, lay with Danaë, and from this embrace Perseus was born. Because of her sin her father shut her up in a chest with Perseus and cast it into the sea. By Jove’s will it was borne to the island of Seriphus, and when the fisherman Dictys found it and broke it open, he discovered the mother and child. He took them to King Polydectes, who married Danaë and brought up Perseus in the temple of Minerva. When Acrisius discovered they were staying at Polydectes’ court, he started out to get them, but at his arrival Polydectes interceded for them, and Perseus swore an oath to his grandfather that he would never kill him. When Acrisius was detained there by a storm, Polydectes died, and at his funeral games the wind blew a discus from Perseus’ hand at Acrisius’ head which killed him. Thus what he did not do of his own will was accomplished by the gods. When Polydectes was buried, Perseus set out for Argos and took possession of his grandfather’s kingdom." [63]

The story of Perseus is somewhat chaotic; his myths have been told and retold many times--even in ancient times--and what happens to Perseus next is most certainly up for debate. To quote the 'Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology':

"According to a later or Italian tradition, the chest was carried to the coast of Italy, where king Pilumnus married Danaë, and founded Ardea (Virg. Aen. vii. 410; Serv. ad Aen. vii. 372); or Danaë is said to have come to Italy with two sons, Argus and Argeus, whom she had by Phineus, and took up her abode on the spot where Rome was afterwards built (Serv. ad Aen. viii. 345). But, according to the common story, Polydectes, king of Seriphos, made Danae his slave, and courted her favour, but in vain. Another account again states that Polydectes married Danae, and caused Perseus to be brought up in the temple of Athena. When Acrisius learnt this, he went to Polydectes, who, however, interfered on behalf of the boy, and the latter promised not to kill his grandfather. Acrisius. however, was detained in Seriphos by storms, and during that time Polydectes died. During the funeral gaines the wind carried a disk thrown by Perseus against the head of Acrisius, and killed him, whereupon Perseus proceeded to Argos and took possessions of the kingdom of his grandfather (Hygin. Fab. 63)."

No matter the version of the tale, Perseus' greatest heroic deed is what follows: the hunt for Médousa. In the most common versions of the story, Polydektes did not yet marry Danae, but wished to. A now grown up Perseus did not trust Polydektes and tried to keep him away from his mother, so Polydektes had to come up with a plan. He said he would marry Hippodameia--tamer of horses--and asked Perseus for a horse to give as a wedding present. Perseus didn't have one to give, so he told Polydektes to name any other favour, and that he would not refuse. Polydektes then instructed him to cut off and bring back the head of a Gorgon, and Perseus was trapped. From Apollodorus' 'Bibliotheca' we learn the following:

"So with Hermes and Athene as his guides Perseus sought out the Phorkides (daughters of Phorkys), who were named Enyo, Pephredo, and Deino. The three of them possessed only one eye and one tooth among them, which they took turns using. Perseus appropriated these and when they demanded them back, he said he would return them after they had directed him to the Nymphai. These Nymphai had in their possession winged sandals and the kibisis, which they say was a knapsack. (Pindaros and Hesiodos in the Shield of Herakles, describe Perseus as follows : `The head of a terrible monster, Gorgo, covered all his back, and a kibisis held it.’ It is called a kibisis because clothing and food are placed in it.). They also had the helmet of Haides. When the Phorkides had led Perseus to the Nymphai, he returned them their tooth and eye. Approaching the Nymphai he received what he had come for, and he flung on the kibisis, tied the sandals on his ankles, and placed the helmet on his head. With the helmet on he could see whomever he cared to look at, but was invisible to others.

Perseus took flight and made his way to the Okeanos, where he found the Gorgones sleeping. Their names were Stheno, Euryale, and the third was Medousa, the only mortal one : thus it was her head that Perseus was sent to bring back. The Gorgones’ heads were entwined with the horny scales of serpents, and they had big tusks like hogs, bronze hands, and wings of gold on which they flew. All who looked at them were turned to stone. Perseus, therefore, with Athena guiding his hand, kept his eyes on the reflection in a bronze shield as he stood over the sleeping Gorgones, and when he saw the image of Medousa, he beheaded her. (As soon as her head was severed there leaped from her body the winged horse Pegasos and Khrysaor, the father of Geryon. The father of these two was Poseidon.) Perseus then placed the head in the kibisis and headed back again, as the Gorgones pursued him through the air. But the helmet kept him hidden, and made it impossible for them to identify him.” [2. 36 - 42]

With Médousa's head secured, Perseus headed back to Polydektes, but was stopped while on route by the vision of a woman, chained to a rock, about to be devoured by a sea monster. It had been a dark day for Cepheus, king of Aethiopia, when he had heard his wife Cassiopeia boast that her daughter Androméda was more beautiful than the Nereids. Shocked, he had tried to silence his wife, but it was too late. The father of the Nereids, the sea God Nereus, had heard Cassiopeia's prideful boast and had brought his grievance to Poseidon. Poseidon had ruled in favour of Nereus and sent Cetus, a huge sea monster, to ravage the coasts of Aethiopia. Nereus would only be appeased when Cepheus sacrificed his daughter to Cetus. Cepheus had refused, but when the terror continued, Androméda had offered herself up to be sacrificed. Fast forward to Andromeda, chained to the rocks, about to die. Perseus pulled Médousa's head out of his bag and petrified Cetus with it before undoing Androméda's bindings. He fell for the beautiful princess instantly, and desired to take her as his wife. In most versions of the myth, he is allowed, but Hyginus in his 'Fabulae' has a different story to tell:

"When he wanted to marry her, Cepheus, her father, along with Agenor, her betrothed, planned to kill him. Perseus, discovering the plot, showed them the head of the Gorgon, and all were changed from human form into stone. Perseus with Andromeda returned to his country." [64]

Perseus eventually married Androméda and took her off to his native island of Serifos. They had many children; sons Perses, Alcaeus, Heleus, Mestor, Sthenelus, and Electryon, as well as daughters, Autochthe and Gorgophone. According to Hyginus in his 'Astronomica', Perseus was committed to the stars for the following reasons:

"He is said to have come to the stars because of his nobility and the unusual nature of his conception."

The constellation Perseus is visible at latitudes between +90° and −35° and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of December.

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 would like to celebrate some non- Athenian festivals which have not got strictly defined dates, for instance the at once sombre and merry Spartan Hyacinthia honouring Apollo and Hyacinthus (particularly his death and rebirth as the hyacinth flower and as an epithet of Apollo). The only thing that is known about it's date is that it had been celebrated in early Summer. If I celebrate it around the 7 th day of the month in which the Summer Solstice occurs, after the solstice, of course, would you say it would be acceptable? Especially as that would be around a time dear to the god and in early Summer."

There is historical evidence of this festival in Amykles. It was called the Hyakínthia (Ὑακίνθια), and lasted three days somewhere in early summer. Hyakinthos' death was mourned the first day: Hyakinthos received sacrifices, a solemn banquet was organised and it was possibly a day to remember all of those who had passed. We know for sure there were horse races, and most likely other sporting events. The second day was apparently reserved for a celebration of Hyakinthos' rebirth, although it's unclear if the ancient Hellenes celebrated that Hyakinthos was brought back to life himself, or that he was brought back in the form of a flower. From Apollon's epithet 'Apollon Hayakinthios', we could conclude that Hyakinthos was reborn as (a part of) Apollon. Numerous goats were offered to Hyakinthos, and the day was concluded with a huge feast in which anyone could participate. This day was in praise of Apollon, for His love and Hyakinthos' rebirth. We know less about the third day, indicating it might have contained elements of a mystery cult. It might also simply have been a sober day in which not much happened. All we know is that Hyakinthos received a chitōn (χιτών)--possibly on the third day--not unlike Athena got for the Panathenaic games. Xenophon reports that the Spartans interrupted their campaigns in order to participate in the feast, making the Hyakínthia a major Spartan holiday.

There are quite a lot of festivals we do not have clear dates for. This festival is definitely one of them. Finding a date to celebrate any of these is always going to be a guess. Sometimes it's an educated guess, but mostly it's just a guess. The Hyakínthia began on the longest day of the Spartan month Hecatombeus. What month this was is not certain. Arguing from Xenophon we get May; assuming that the Spartan Hecatombeus is the Attic Hecatombaion, we get July; or again it may be the Attic Scirophorion, June. So, I think the day of the Summer Solstice would be good time, as that is the longest day of the year, or the first seventh of the month that comes after it as that is a day sacred to Apollon.


"I read your excellent post about coming of age ceremonies (and deeply enjoyed it, of course), but would you have any specific suggestions on how to adapt these, especially the ones concerning boys, please, to modern worship?"

Sacrificing a lock of hair during a sacrifice around 6 - 10 years of age is most likely a practice that can be carried over into modern times. Then, at 16, the 'ephebeia' could still be celebrated, except with slightly modiied pledge. The original reads:

"I will not bring shame upon these sacred weapons nor will I abandon my comrade-in-arms wherever I stand in the ranks. I will defend both the holy and profane things. I will not hand on the fatherland smaller than I received it, but larger and better, so far as it lies in my power with the assistance of all the other citizens. I will obey the officials who govern wisely and the laws, both those which are already established and those which are wisely established in the future. If anyone attempts to destroy them, I will not allow it, so far as it lies in my power with the assistance of all the other citizens. I will hold in honor the ancestral sanctuaries. The following gods are witnesses: Aglauros, Hestia, Enyo, Enyalios, Ares and Athena Areia, Zeus, Thallo, Auxo, Hegemone, Heracles, the territory of the fatherland, the wheat, barley, vines, olive trees, and fig trees."

This could be adapted to something important to the boy and the family. It would be great if the Theoi are mentioned, but if the son does not believe... well... then They might have to be left out. What matters are the traits of loyalty, strength of character, honesty, accountability, respect and serviceability. What matters is that a boy realizes what it means to be a good man in a modern world, and who better t help him write a vow like this than his father or other male rolemodel?


"Due to circumstnces I missed my Noumenia rites and my Agathos Daimon rites. Extremely bothersome it is but please tell me, should I do them when I finally have the ability to do so?"

In general, I would say that these monthly events tied to set points in time cannot and should not be 'caught up on' once circumstances allow. They will be right there next month.

"are there any rules in hellenismos when it comes to donating parts of your body (or the whole body) after death?"

Human dissections were carried out by the Hellenic physicians Herophilus of Chalcedon and Erasistratus of Chios in the early part of the third century BC, although not much before and after. After the widespread introduction of Christianity, it became impossible to dissect human bodies anywhere in the Hellenistic world, but currently, human dissection is once more widely accepted and could just be part of modern Hellenic living. That said, there would need to be a funeral of sorts and proper funerary rites for your body before that or your soul would not be carried to the Underworld.

Greece is working with UNESCO and the European Union to help protect the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul amid concerns for the safety of its artifacts following the country’s takeover by the Taliban, Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said on Monday, during a meeting with a former Afghan counterpart.

“No one, right now, can guarantee the safety either of the thousands of objects at the Kabul museum or of the treasures of Bactria that were brought to light by Greek archaeologist Victor Sarigiannidis,” Afghanistan’s ex-culture minister, Omar Sultan, said after meeting with Mendoni in Athens on Monday evening.

Greece donated some 750,000 euros towards the restoration of the museum in 2003 and contributed to the conservation and exhibition of its valuable artifacts, which include thousands of findings from Bactria, an ancient country stretching across parts of what are now Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Last week, UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, issued a statement calling for the protection from “damage and looting, of Afghanistan’s “rich and diverse” cultural heritage, stressing that it is “an integral part of Afghan history and identity, as well as of importance for humanity as a whole.” 

Today is my birthday. I turned 28. I don't celebrate my birthday, I haven't since I moved out of my parents' house. The ancient Hellenes did not celebrate their birthdays either. Families celebrated the birth of a child, a coming-of-age feast, and feasts after death held on the anniversary of the day of birth (or death, depending on the scholar), but otherwise there were no annual birthday ceremonials. The birthdays of many of the Theoi were ritually acknowledged once a month, but the individual did not celebrate theirs. Herodotos notes this in his Histories, when he describes the birthday practices of the Persians.

"Of all the days in the year, the one which they celebrate most is their birthday. It is customary to have the board furnished on that day with an ampler supply than common. The richer Persians cause an ox, a horse, a camel, and an ass to be baked whole and so served up to them: the poorer classes use instead the smaller kinds of cattle. They eat little solid food but abundance of dessert, which is set on table a few dishes at a time; this it is which makes them say that "the Greeks, when they eat, leave off hungry, having nothing worth mention served up to them after the meats; whereas, if they had more put before them, they would not stop eating." They are very fond of wine, and drink it in large quantities. To vomit or obey natural calls in the presence of another is forbidden among them. Such are their customs in these matters." [133]

This, of course, changed with the Romans--especially the Emperors--but the ancient Hellenes found the birthdays of the Gods much more important.

 The story of Oedipus (Οἰδίπους, Oidípous) was written by playwright Sophocles. The playwright wrote three plays about him: Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. Together, these are called the Theban plays. Sophocles was not the only one to write about him, though: fragments of his story exist in the works of Hómēros, Hesiod, Pindar, Aeschylus and Euripides. Sophocles was simple one of the latest authors to write about him, and the version that was preserved best was his. He has Oedipus wander to Thebes after killing his father. Here, he finds the Sphinx at the gates to the city--a city that is starving and slowly emptying out, as the Sphinx will not allow anyone to pass without answering her riddle. Those who answer the riddle incorrectly, get killed or eaten (depending on the author).

The Sphinx is not mentioned by every author. Some, like Hómēros, only mention the oracle that Oedipus' father got, and Oedipus' murder of his father, and marriage to his mother. Hesiod mentions the Sphinx, but does not mention Oedipus. The Sphinx in Sophocles' Oedipus the King never speaks, and the words of the riddle are never conveyed. The sole mention of the riddle is as follows:

"See, for this crown the State conferred on me.
A gift, a thing I sought not, for this crown
The trusty Creon, my familiar friend,
Hath lain in wait to oust me and suborned
This mountebank, this juggling charlatan,
This tricksy beggar-priest, for gain alone
Keen-eyed, but in his proper art stone-blind.
Say, sirrah, hast thou ever proved thyself
A prophet? When the riddling Sphinx was here
Why hadst thou no deliverance for this folk?
And yet the riddle was not to be solved
By guess-work but required the prophet's art;
Wherein thou wast found lacking; neither birds
Nor sign from heaven helped thee, but I came,
The simple Oedipus; I stopped her mouth
By mother wit, untaught of auguries."

Apollodorus is one of the first to mention the very words of the riddle and has them as follows, including the tale of Oedipus' involvement:

"For Hera sent the Sphinx, whose mother was Echidna and her father Typhon; and she had the face of a woman, the breast and feet and tail of a lion, and the wings of a bird. And having learned a riddle from the Muses, she sat on Mount Phicium, and propounded it to the Thebans. And the riddle was this:— What is that which has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed? Now the Thebans were in possession of an oracle which declared that they should be rid of the Sphinx whenever they had read her riddle; so they often met and discussed the answer, and when they could not find it the Sphinx used to snatch away one of them and gobble him up. When many had perished, and last of all Creon's son Haemon, Creon made proclamation that to him who should read the riddle he would give both the kingdom and the wife of Laius. On hearing that, Oedipus found the solution, declaring that the riddle of the Sphinx referred to man; for as a babe he is four-footed, going on four limbs, as an adult he is two-footed, and as an old man he gets besides a third support in a staff. So the Sphinx threw herself from the citadel, and Oedipus both succeeded to the kingdom and unwittingly married his mother, and begat sons by her, Polynices and Eteocles, and daughters, Ismene and Antigone. But some say the children were borne to him by Eurygania, daughter of Hyperphas."

There are other versions of the riddle, but this is the one best known. Note that in older versions of the tale, Oedipus was not such a smart man at all. In fact, he was more of a warrior-hero like Hēraklēs. With the popularity of Odysseus, it was convenient to transform Oedipus into a cunning man, instead of a brawler. In the older art depicting the encounter between Oedipus and the Sphinx, he outright kills her. There is no riddle, and no suicide. She is a monster, who is vanquished by the hero, who collects his reward in the form of a wife.

Personally, I like the inclusion of the Riddle of the Sphinx. In general, I prefer the clever heroes over the brawling ones. I'm also a big fan of these types of riddles, although I'm terrible at solving them. 

Archaeologists discovered a statue of Hygieia, Goddess of cleanliness and hygiene, during their excavations in the ancient city of Aizanoi, located in the Çavdarhisar district of western Turkey's Kütahya province. 

Noting that the marble statue’s head is missing, which is the fate of much ancient statuary, Coşkun, an archaeologist at Dumlupınar University in central Turkey, said: 

“Unfortunately, it hasn’t survived to the present day, but in its current form, we can see that this statue is about the size of a human. During past digs in Aizanoi, finds related to Hygieia were also found,” he said. “This situation makes us think that there may have been some construction and buildings related to the health cult in Aizanoi during the Roman era.”

Aizanoi is also home to one of the best-preserved temples in Anatolia dedicated to Zeus, the thunderbolt-wielding king of the Olympians.

Seen as boasting a history rivaling Ephesus, another iconic ancient city in Turkey, Aizanoi was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2012, with excavation efforts ongoing now for almost a decade. Coşkun said that around 100 workers and 25 technical personnel are working on digs at the nearly 5,000-year-old site.

“We’re trying to reveal the columned galleries on the west and south wings of the agora (bazaar) and the shops right behind them.” 

Coşkun added that the statue of Hygieia – related to the modern word “hygiene” – was unearthed inside the columned gallery on the south wing of the agora.

Located 57 kilometers (35 miles) from the city center of Kütahya, the ancient site saw its golden age in the second and third centuries A.D. and became “the center of the episcopacy in the Byzantine era," according to the website of the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry.

Recent excavations around the Temple of Zeus indicate the existence of several levels of settlement in the city dating from as far back as 3000 B.C. In 133 B.C., it was captured by the Roman Empire. In 1824, European travelers rediscovered the ancient site.

Between 1970 and 2011, the German Archaeology Institute unearthed a theater and a stadium, as well as two public baths, a gymnasium, five bridges, a trading building, necropolises and the sacred cave of Metre Steune – a cultist site thought to be used prior to the first century B.C.

Since 2011, Turkish archaeologists have been carrying out the work at the ancient site. This year, the excavations were transferred to the Kütahya Museum Directorate.

On the 16th of Metageitnion, so on 10 am EDT on the 25th of August, we honor Kourotrophos (κουροτρόφος, child nurturer) and the two Goddesses who protect women and children, Hekate and Artemis with sacrifice. Elaion will be organizing another Practicing Apart Together ritual, which we would love to have you join.

The Kourotrophoi are (mostly) female deities who watched over growing children--Gaea, Artemis, Hekate, Eirênê, Aglauros and Pandrosos, especially. Offerings to them are known from the demos Erkhia, but duplicates similar offerings on the Acropolis of Athens. Especially at Erkhia, it varied per sacrifice which Kourotrophoi was/were sacrificed to. In this ritual, we honor Kourotrophos Herself, a deity whose main function was to watch over nursing children and their mothers. We also honor Artemis and Hekate.

Artemis is named Kourotrophos by Diodorus Siculus, a Hellenic historian, in book five of his library:

"And Artemis, we are told, discovered how to effect the healing of young children and the foods which are suitable to the nature of babes, this being the reason why she is also called Kourotrophos." [5.73.5] 

You can find the ritual here and join the community page here.

On 12 Metageitnion, two separate rites were held, one in Erkhia and one in Athens. The first was in honor of Demeter, the other in honor of Zeus Polieus, Athena Polias, and Apollon Lykeios. On 21 August, so today, at 10:00 AM EDT, we will combine both rites into a single PAT ritual.

Demeter, we all know, and she is not listed with a specific epithet. Zeus, Athena, and Apollon, however, are. Zeus Polieus and Athena Polias were protectors of the city. That is literally the translation of their epithet: 'of the city'. Apollon Lykeios means 'of the wolves'.

From the Erkhian ritual calendar, we know that the sacrifices to Apollon, Zeus, and Athena were not to be removed from the site and were thus to be eaten on the spot after part of the offering was sacrificed. In all cases, this offering was a white sheep, male for the male Gods, female for the female Gods. Demeter also got a female sheep, but her entry does not have a note to not remove the meat from the location, meaning the meat could potentially be taken away to be eaten later, or sold at shops founded especially for the purpose.

Will you be joining us in honoring these Gods on 21 August, at 10:00 AM EDT? The ritual can be found here, and you can join our community here.

The gallery in the British Museum housing the Parthenon Marbles still hasn't reopened after a COVID-19 lockdown was eased, reportedly because it was flooded with water from heavy rains on July 25.

A report by The Art Newspaper, which said the galleries have been subject to flooding, said the rains inundated the museum, with a museum spokesman confirming “there was some water ingress in one of the [Greek] galleries.”

The newspaper also published photos showing signs of flooding in the museum back in January, as well as a recent photo showing a fan placed in front of a display of Parthenon sculptures, possibly to help dry the area.

In 2018, there were other photos showing water dripping into the gallery housing the frieze and sculptures from the Parthenon stolen 200 years ago by a Scottish diplomat, Lord Elgin, during the Ottoman Occupation.

The museum said it legally acquired the stolen goods in a purchase from Elgin without noting that they weren't owned by the Turks but by the Greeks, and museum officials have said they will never be returned to Greece.

Culture Minister Lina Mendoni in 2018 demanded the sculptures be returned but was ignored as have all Greek government officials and proponents of having the marbles be back in their home land.

A message on the British Museum’s website informs visitors that rooms 12-18 (the Greek galleries) are currently closed “due to regular maintenance works,” in an apparent attempt to hide what really happened.

Museum officials had said that the Greek galleries remained closed in July as work and surveys for future restoration was being undertaken, but wouldn't clarify if, of how much damage was done, including to the invaluable marbles.

In 2009, Greece opened a new Acropolis Museum with a top floor of glass designed to house the stolen treasures, taking away a British argument that Greece had no suitable place to showcase them.

Since then, the British Museum has used other excuses to not return the stolen marbles, which the curator said weren't stolen but taken out of Greece in a “creative act,” suggesting the theft itself was art.

After Greece's former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA gave up a legal fight for their return and said the marbles didn't belong to Greece but to the world, the New Democracy government has tenderly pressed for their return.

But Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis didn't raise that question when the United Kingdom was leaving the European Union, perhaps the last chance to force the hand of the British Museum as he didn't veto the terms as would have been allowed. 

While other museums around the world are returning stolen goods, the British Museum won't, keeping valuable goods plundered during Colonial rule and arguing more people will see them in London than Athens.

The museum’s Trustees’ official argument is that “there’s a positive advantage and public benefit in having the sculptures divided between two great museums, each telling a complementary but different story,” noted Kathimerini.

Greece has argued they belong at their origin but the marbles are a big draw for the British Museum which doesn't want to lose them and British Prime Ministers have stood by arguments they don't belong to Greece anymore.

The British Museum also fears that returning the marbles would lead to demands for it to return other goods stolen from around the world and empty the museum as there are almost no British treasures that could be displayed.

The museum has offered to loan Greece its own marbles on the condition that the Greek government stipulate the Greek treasures don't belong to Greece but to the British alone now.

At one point, Mitsotakis asked for their loan and was willing to give as collateral for their return other Greek cultural icons and architectural wonders but hasn't taken up the legal fight for their return either.

“The current Greek government – like any Greek government – is not going to stop claiming the stolen sculptures which the British Museum, contrary to any moral principle, continues to hold illegally,” Mendoni stated during the birthday celebration for the Acropolis Museum last year.

A skeleton discovered this week in Pompeii, the Roman city which was completely destroyed after the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius in 79 AD, proves that Greek culture was thriving in ancient Rome. The discovery was made in the necropolis of Porta Sarno, an area not yet open to the public that is located in the east of Pompeii’s urban center.

A skull bearing tufts of white hair and part of an ear, as well as bones and fragments of fabric, were found in the tomb. It has been described as “one of the best-preserved skeletons ever found in the ancient city.” Hair and part of the ear can still be seen on the skull of Marcus Venerius Secundio, the most well-preserved burial discovered at Pompeii to date. Credit: Pompeii Archaeological Park

An inscription on the dead man’s tomb identifies him as Marcus Venerius Secundio; incredibly, it appears to indicate that he helped stage performances of Hellenic plays. It says the deceased “gave Greek and Latin ludi,” or performances. Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, said in a statement:

“It is the first clear evidence of performances at Pompeii in the Greek language. That performances in Greek were organized is evidence of the lively and open cultural climate which characterized ancient Pompeii.”

Wax tablet records kept by Pompeian banker Cecilius Giocondu note that Secundio was enslaved and served in the Temple of Venus. But he rose through the social ranks once he was freed, joining the Augustales priesthood, an imperial cult. Secundio died around the age of 60, buried in a large and impressive tomb befitting his improved social status.

Experts said it was the first confirmation that Greek, the language of culture in the Mediterranean, was used alongside Latin.

In 2019, Italian authorities unveiled to the public an ancient fresco depicting a famous Hellenic myth in Pompeii. The fresco is inside a ”domus,” or a home belonging to the upper class of society at the time. It is believed to have belonged to a rich tradesman who desired to decorate his house with artwork inspired by Hellenic and Roman myths as a gesture of demonstrating his education and wealth.

The fresco depicts the ancient Hellenic myth of Leda and the Swan. This is an erotic myth in which the god Zeus, in the form of a swan, seduces (or, according to other variations of the tale, rapes) Leda, the Aetolian princess who later became Queen of Sparta.

Pompeii, located in Campania, southern Italy, is an open-air museum where visitors can easily view the shockingly vivid remnants of the complete devastation of the city after the violent volcanic eruption. Nearby Mt. Vesuvius is still an active volcano, although it is currently dormant.

In case you're looking, an upcoming auction in Sydney of rare Greek coins and other medals and bank notes will allow you to add to your collection.

According to auction organiser, Noble Numismatics, a Greece, Othon, five drachma of 1833 in uncirculated condition and one of the finest known is estimated to fetch bids of over $5,000.

A very large selection of Greek silver and bronze coinage (lots 4093 – 4388) dating from 359BC, is also estimated to fetch $3,000. These include: Carian Islands, Rhodes silver tetradrachm from mid-late 220s BC, and a Kingdom of Syria, Antiochos VI Dionysos silver tetradrachm of 143/2 BC.

Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine gold coinage (lots 4695 – 4771) dating from 323BC is also on offer by Noble Numismatics and is apparently hot property. Those to be auctioned are:

Greek, Kingdom of Baktria, Diodotos II gold stater of 255-246BC (lot 4702; estimate $4,000).

Roman, Faustina Senior (wife of Antoninus Pius) gold aureus of 147AD (lot 4706; estimate $5,000), and

Byzantine, Justinian II gold solidus of 685-695AD (lot 4747; estimate $2,000).

Due to the pandemic lockdown restrictions, the auction will have online live bidding only from August 30 – September 2, 2021. Bidders will need to register prior to the auction.

Sorry guys, I haven't been sleeping well and droppign the bal on here. Poetry blogging it is to catch up. Today, I turn to one of my favourite poets agian: John Keats 31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821). He was an English Romantic poet and one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets, along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, despite his work having been in publication for only four years before his death. He very frequently used Greek mythology as a theme in his work, and used in this poem as well.

'To Sleep' summons images of Hypnos (Ὕπνος), the God of sleep. Dreams (Oneiroi - Ὄνειροι) are sons of Hypnos, sent by Zeus, and delivered by Hermes, but Hypnos is the one who lets us fall asleep. According to myth, Hypnos lives underneath one of the Greek islands, hidden away in a cave without doors. The entrance is overrun by poppies and other hypnogogic plants. The river Lethe--the river of forgetfulness--runs through the cave. Morpheus (Μορφεύς), the leader of the Oneiroi and God of dreams, stands guard to assure none wake Hypnos.

O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas'd eyes, embower'd from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close
In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,
Or wait the "Amen," ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities.
Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes,—
Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul.

Welcome to another constellation post; this one is one of my favourites. Who doesn't love a winged horse? The constellation is called 'Hippos' (the Horse) in Greek and has some badass mythology attached to it.

Pegasos was originally only one winged horse, born from the neck of Médousa when she was beheaded by the hero Perseus. Poseidon, Tamer of Horses, is his father. Hesiod describes in his 'Theogony' the curious circumstances of his birth:

"...Medusa who suffered a woeful fate: she was mortal, but the two [of her Gorgon sisters] were undying and grew not old. With her lay the Dark-haired One [Poseidon] in a soft meadow amid spring flowers. And when Perseus cut off her head, there sprang forth great Chrysaor and the horse Pegasus who is so called because he was born near the springs [pegae] of Ocean [Okeanos]; and that other, because he held a golden blade [aor] in his hands. Now Pegasus flew away and left the earth, the mother of flocks, and came to the deathless gods: and he dwells in the house of Zeus and brings to wise Zeus the thunder and lightning." [ll 270-294]

Pegasos was tamed by Bellerophon, a Korinthian hero, who rode him into battle against the fire-breathing Khimaira. Pindar, in his beautiful Olympian Odes describes this cooperation wonderfully:

"Bellerophon, who once suffered greatly when beside the spring he wanted to harness Pegasus, the son of the snake-entwined Gorgon; until the maiden Pallas brought to him a bridle with golden cheek-pieces. The dream suddenly became waking reality, and she spoke: “Are you sleeping, king, son of Aeolus? Come, take this charm for the horse; and, sacrificing a white bull, show it to your ancestor, Poseidon the Horse-Tamer.” The goddess of the dark aegis seemed to say such words to him as he slumbered in the darkness, and he leapt straight up to his feet. He seized the marvellous thing that lay beside him, and gladly went to the seer of the land,  and he told the son of Coeranus the whole story: how, at the seer's bidding, he had gone to sleep for the night on the altar of the goddess, and how the daughter herself of Zeus whose spear is the thunderbolt had given him the spirit-subduing gold. The seer told him to obey the dream with all speed; and, when he sacrificed a strong-footed bull to the widely powerful holder of the earth, straightaway to dedicate an altar to Athena, goddess of horses. The power of the gods accomplishes as a light achievement what is contrary to oaths and expectations. And so mighty Bellerophon eagerly stretched the gentle charmed bridle around its jaws and caught the winged horse. Mounted on its back and armored in bronze, at once he began to play with weapons. And with Pegasus, from the chilly bosom of the lonely air,7 he once attacked the Amazons, the female army of archers, [90] and he killed the fire-breathing Chimaera, and the Solymi. I shall pass over his death in silence; but Pegasus has found his shelter in the ancient stables of Zeus in Olympus." [13. 63]

As a constellation, it's arrival in the sky notes the arrival of the warmer weather of spring and seasonal rainstorms, which is also why it got the job and title of thunderbolt-bearer of Zeus. Hyginus in his 'Astronomica' speaks of the events that led up to Pegasos' immortalization in the sky:

"Others say that at the time Bellerophon came to visit Proetus, son of Abas and king of the Argives, Antia, the king’s wife, smitten with love for the guest, begged to visit him, promising him her husband’s kingdom. When she couldn’t obtain this request, out of fear that he would accuse her to the king, she anticipated him by telling Proetus that he had offered violence to her. Proetus, who had been fond of Bellerophon, was reluctant to inflict punishment himself, but knowing that he had the horse Pegasus, sent him to the father of Antia (some call her Sthenoboea), for him to defend his daughter’s chastity and send the youth against the Chimera, which at that time was laying waste with flames the country of the Lycians.

Bellerophon was victor, and escaped, but after the creation of the spring, as he was attempting to fly to heaven, and had almost reached it, he became terrified looking down at the earth, and fell off and was killed. But the horse is said to have flown up and to have been put among the constellations by Jove [Zeus]. Others have said that Bellerophon fled from Argos not because of Antia’s accusations, but so as not to hear any more proposals which were distasteful to him, or to be distressed by her entreaties." [II.18]

Although most would agree that it is Pegasos whom the constellation denotes, there is one other explanation, there because her mythology is usually tied to the constellation Equuleus: the little horse. Her name is Melanippe (Εὐίππη), daughter of the kéntauros Kheiron. She became pregnant and could not let her father know. As such, she begged the Gods to be transformed into a mare. Also from Hyginus's Astronomica:
"Euripides in his Melanippe, says that Melanippe, daughter of Chiron the Centaur, was once called Thetis. Brought up on Mount Helicon, a girl especially fond of hunting, she was wooed by Aeolus, son of Hellen, and grandson of Jove, and conceived a child be him. When her time drew near, she fled into the forest, so that her father, who supposed her a virgin, might not see that she had given birth to a grandchild. And so when her father was looking for her, she is said to have begged the power of the gods not to let her father see her in childbirth. After the child was born, by the will of the gods she was changed into a mare which was placed among the stars."

He also gives another reason for her change:

"Some say that she was a prophetess, and because she used to reveal the plans of the gods to men, she was changed into a mare. Callimachus says that because she ceased hunting and worshipping Diana [Artemis], Diana changed her into the shape we have mentioned. For the reason above, too, she is said to be out of sight of the Centaur, who some say is Chiron, and to show only half her body, since she didn’t want her sex to be known."

The constellation is visible at latitudes between +90° and −60°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of October.

Of the Indo-European tribes of European origin, the Greeks were foremost as regards both the period at which they developed an advanced culture and their importance in further evolution. The Greeks emerged in the course of the 2nd millennium BC through the superimposition of a branch of the Indo-Europeans on the population of the Mediterranean region during the great migrations of nations that started in the region of the lower Danube.

From 1800 BC onward the first early Greeks reached their later areas of settlement between the Ionian and the Aegean seas. The fusion of these earliest Greek-speaking people with their predecessors produced the civilization known as Mycenaean. They penetrated to the sea into the Aegean region and via Crete (approximately 1400 BC) reached Rhodes and even Cyprus and the shores of Anatolia. From 1200 BC onward the Dorians followed from Epirus. They occupied principally parts of the Peloponnese (Sparta and Argolis) and also Crete. Their migration was followed by the Dark Ages—two centuries of chaotic movements of tribes in Greece—at the end of which (c. 900 BC) the distribution of the Greek mainland among the various tribes was on the whole completed.

From about 800 BC there was a further Greek expansion through the founding of colonies overseas. The coasts and islands of Anatolia were occupied from south to north by the Dorians, Ionians, and Aeolians, respectively. In addition, individual colonies were strung out around the shores of the Black Sea in the north and across the eastern Mediterranean to Naukratis on the Nile delta and in Cyrenaica and also in the western Mediterranean in Sicily, lower Italy, and Massalia (Marseille). Thus, the Hellenes, as they called themselves thereafter, came into contact on all sides with the old, advanced cultures of the Middle East and transmitted many features of these cultures to western Europe. This, along with the Greeks’ own achievements, laid the foundations of European civilization.

The position and nature of the country exercised a decisive influence in the evolution of Greek civilization. The proximity of the sea tempted the Greeks to range far and wide exploring it, but the fact of their living on islands or on peninsulas or in valleys separated by mountains on the mainland confined the formation of states to small areas not easily accessible from other parts. This fateful individualism in political development was also a reflection of the Hellenic temperament.

Though it prevented Greece from becoming a single unified nation that could rival the strength of the Middle Eastern monarchies, it led to the evolution of the city-state. This was not merely a complex social and economic structure and a centre for crafts and for trade with distant regions; above all it was a tightly knit, self-governing political and religious community whose citizens were prepared to make any sacrifice to maintain their freedom. Colonies, too, started from individual cities and took the form of independent city-states. Fusions of power occurred in the shape of leagues of cities, such as the Peloponnesian League, the Delian League, and the Boeotian League. The efficacy of these leagues depended chiefly upon the hegemony of a leading city (Sparta, Athens, or Thebes), but the desire for self-determination of the others could never be permanently suppressed, and the leagues broke up again and again.

The Hellenes, however, always felt themselves to be one people. They were conscious of a common character and a common language, and they practiced only one religion. Furthermore, the great athletic contests and artistic competitions had a continually renewed unifying effect. The Hellenes possessed a keen intellect, capable of abstraction, and at the same time a supple imagination. They developed, in the form of the belief in the unity of body and soul, a serene, sensuous conception of the world. Their gods were connected only loosely by a theogony that took shape gradually; in the Greek religion there was neither revelation nor dogma to oppose the spirit of inquiry.

The Hellenes benefited greatly from the knowledge and achievement of other countries as regards astronomy, chronology, and mathematics, but it was through their own native abilities that they made their greatest achievements, in becoming the founders of European philosophy and science. Their achievement in representative art and in architecture was no less fundamental. Their striving for an ideal, naturalistic rendering found its fulfillment in the representation of the human body in sculpture in the round. Another considerable achievement was the development of the pillared temple to a greater degree of harmony. In poetry the genius of the Hellenes created both form and content, which have remained a constant source of inspiration in European literature.

The strong political sense of the Greeks produced a variety of systems of government from which their theory of political science abstracted types of constitution that are still in use. On the whole, political development in Greece followed a pattern: first the rule of kings, found as early as the period of Mycenaean civilization; then a feudal period, the oligarchy of noble landowners; and, finally, varying degrees of democracy. Frequently there were periods when individuals seized power in the cities and ruled as tyrants. The tendency for ever-wider sections of the community to participate in the life of the state brought into being the free democratic citizens, but the institution of slavery, upon which Greek society and the Greek economy rested, was untouched by this.

In spite of continual internal disputes, the Greeks succeeded in warding off the threat of Asian despotism. The advance of the Persians into Europe failed (490 and 480–79 BC) because of the resistance of the Greeks and in particular of the Athenians. The 5th century BC saw the highest development of Greek civilization. The Classical period of Athens and its great accomplishments left a lasting impression, but the political cleavages, particularly the struggle between Athens and Sparta, increasingly reduced the political strength of the Greeks. Not until they were conquered by the Macedonians did the Greeks attain a new importance as the cultural leaven of the Hellenistic empires of Alexander the Great and his successors. A new system of colonization spread as far as the Indus city-communities fashioned after the Greek prototype, and Greek education and language came to be of consequence in the world at large.

Greece again asserted its independence through the formation of the Achaean League, which was finally defeated by the Romans in 146 bce. The spirit of Greek civilization subsequently exercised a great influence upon Rome. Greek culture became one of the principal components of Roman imperial culture and together with it spread throughout Europe. When Christian teaching appeared in the Middle East, the Greek world of ideas exercised a decisive influence upon its spiritual evolution. From the time of the partition of the Roman Empire, leadership in the Eastern Empire fell to the Greeks. Their language became the language of the state, and its usage spread to the Balkans. The Byzantine Empire, of which Greece was the core, protected Europe against potential invaders from Anatolia until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. (The main treatment of the Byzantine Empire from about 330 to about 1453 is given in the article Byzantine Empire.)

Now, for the Romans. The original Mediterranean population of Italy was completely altered by repeated superimpositions of peoples of Indo-European stock. The first Indo-European migrants, who belonged to the Italic tribes, moved across the eastern Alpine passes into the plain of the Po River about 1800 BC. Later they crossed the Apennines and eventually occupied the region of Latium, which included Rome. Before 1000 BC there followed related tribes, which later divided into various groups and gradually moved to central and southern Italy. In Tuscany they were repulsed by the Etruscans, who may have come originally from Anatolia. The next to arrive were Illyrians from the Balkans, who occupied Venetia and Apulia. At the beginning of the historical period, Greek colonists arrived in Italy, and after 400 BC the Celts, who settled in the plain of the Po.

The city of Rome, increasing gradually in power and influence, created through political rule and the spread of the Latin language something like a nation out of this abundance of nationalities. In this the Romans were favoured by their kinship with the other Italic tribes. The Roman and Italic elements in Italy, moreover, were reinforced in the beginning through the founding of colonies by Rome and by other towns in Latium. The Italic element in Roman towns decreased: a process—less racial than cultural—called the Romanization of the provinces. In the 3rd century BC, central and southern Italy were dotted with Roman colonies, and the system was to be extended to ever more distant regions up to imperial times. As its dominion spread throughout Italy and covered the entire Mediterranean basin, Rome received an influx of people of the most varied origins, including eventually vast numbers from Asia and Africa.

The building of an enormous empire was Rome’s greatest achievement. Held together by the military power of one city, in the 2nd century AD the Roman Empire extended throughout northern Africa and western Asia; in Europe it covered all the Mediterranean countries, Spain, Gaul, and southern Britain. This vast region, united under a single authority and a single political and social organization, enjoyed a long period of peaceful development. In Asia, on a narrow front, it bordered the Parthian empire, but elsewhere beyond its perimeter there were only barbarians. Rome brought to the conquered parts of Europe the civilization the Greeks had begun, to which it added its own important contributions in the form of state organization, military institutions, and law. Within the framework of the empire and under the protection of its chain of fortifications, extending uninterrupted the entire length of its frontiers (marked in Europe by the Rhine and the Danube), there began the assimilation of varying types of culture to the Hellenistic-Roman pattern. The army principally, but also Roman administration, the social order, and economic factors, encouraged Romanization. Except around the eastern Mediterranean, where Greek remained dominant, Latin became everywhere the language of commerce and eventually almost the universal language.

Primary source.