I'm having one of days where I woke up tired and will go to bed tired in equal measure. Time for some thoughts about sleep, specifically those of Heraclitus, because why not?


Heraclitus of Ephesus (Ἡράκλειτος ὁ Ἐφέσιος, Hērákleitos ho Ephésios) was a pre-Socratic Hellenic philosopher who lived from about 535 to about 475 BC. He was a native of the city of Ephesus, which was then part of the Persian Empire. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom. Heraclitus was and is famous for his insistence on ever-present change as being the fundamental essence of the universe. This is most tellingly stated in his quote: 'No man ever steps in the same river twice'. Not much has been preserved of Heraclitus' teachings. His words are mere fragments in the works of others now. I would like to give you those who relate to his views on sleep and rest today.

"Though this Word is true evermore, yet men are as unable to understand it when they hear it for the first time as before they have heard it at all. For, though, all things come to pass in accordance with this Word, men seem as if they had no experience of them, when they make trial of words and deeds such as I set forth, dividing each thing according to its nature and showing how it truly is. But other men know not what they are doing when awake, even as they forget what they do in sleep." [Sextus Empiricus, Against the mathematicians, VII, 132]

"All the things we see when awake are death, even as all we see in slumber are sleep." [Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, III, 3, 21, 1]

"We ought not to act and speak as if we were asleep." [Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, IV, 46]

"Those who are asleep are fellow-workers..." [Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, VI, 42]

"And it is the same thing in us that is quick and dead, awake and asleep, young and old; the former are shifted and become the latter, and the latter in turn are shifted and become the former." [Pseudo-Plutarch, Consolation to Apollonius, 106 E.]

"The waking have one common world, but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own." [Plutarch, On superstition, 3, 166 C.]

"It is sickness that makes health pleasant and good; hunger, satiety; weariness, rest." [Stobaeus, Anthology, III, 1, 177]
Yesterday I posted about Sophia Pavlaki initiative to build an educational program around ancient Hellenic toys. This is but one example how Greeks and non-Greeks alike are trying to bridge between now and then. We're at the cusp of (or perhaps even in the middle of) a resurgence of ancient Hellenic stories themed entertainment content. And there is a good reason why.

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This summer will see writers from Colm Tóibin to Natalie Haynes put a fresh spin on ancient tragedies, while Hellenic myths continue to inspire every thing from young adult fiction and children’s literature--the Waterstones children’s book of the month for February is Maz Evans’ riotous Who Let The Gods Out?--to urban fantasies such as Jordanna Max Brodsky’s Olympus Bound series. Even television is set to get in on the act: Troy: Fall of a City, the BBC’s much-anticipated Trojan war drama, starts filming next month and will air in 2018.

Melissa Cox is editorial director at Hodder & Stoughton, whose Sceptre imprint recently published a short story collection, How Much the Heart Can Hold, in which seven writers including Donal Ryan, Bernadine Evaristo and Nikesh Shukla look at seven Hellenic definitions of love. She says:

"What we’re seeing is that the times we are living in have forced us to acknowledge that there is a darkness in humanity. The Greek tragedies, those stories of darkness and obsession and revenge, resonate because we’re living in dark times and these are dark stories. As an editor, if someone came to me with a book inspired by Greek mythology, I’d be very excited."

Derek Wax, executive producer of Troy: Fall of a City, agrees.

"David Farr [the show’s writer] and I went to the site of Troy and it really brought home how these great mythical events illuminate what’s going on at the moment. We were standing where eight or nine other cities have stood, near to Gallipoli, the epicentre of other conflicts, and close to where refugees were leaving on boats for Lesbos. It showed us that little has changed since Homer wrote of the devastation of war."

Just as there are many versions of Hellenic tragedies and myths, so there are many different ways for an author to recast the tale, in particular by allowing the story’s women to take centre stage. Thus Tóibin’s elegant House of Names takes the fall of the House of Agamemnon, which forms the basis of a number of Greek plays and stories, including Aeschylus’s Oresteia, Euripides’ Orestes and Sophocles’ Electra, and tells it from the point of view of Clytemnestra, grieving mother, adulterous wife, and murderer. Meanwhile Haynes’ The Children of Jocasta retells the story of Oedipus through the eyes of his wife (and mother) Jocasta and their youngest daughter, Ismene. She explains:

"I was drawn to Jocasta because she has so few lines in Sophocles’ play, which seems amazing when you consider that her actions drive the story. It’s fascinating that the play constantly highlights how clever and quick-witted Oedipus is and how that’s his fatal flaw, but no one ever mentions how smart Jocasta is as well – she is the one who figures out why they’re cursed. She gets there before he does and I thought she would be an interesting way into the tale."

She picked the lesser-known Ismene over her flashier sister Antigone (herself the subject of a Sophocles play) for a specific reason:

"[I chose her] because she’s this lovely, overlooked sort of person who is left just as grief-stricken as Antigone, and who suffers the same losses she does – more – by the end of the play. She’s collateral damage. Giving her a voice gave her the chance to shine."

A similar motivation propels Emily Hauser’s 2016 debut novel For The Most Beautiful, which looks at the Trojan war through the two female slaves, Briseis and Chryseis, whose role as spoils of war kickstarts the action of The Iliad, causing Agamemnon and Achilles to fall out.

"Their role is so central to everything that happens and yet they’re also incredibly marginalised characters. I thought it would be really interesting to look at The Iliad from that perspective, because once you start seeing it through the eyes of women, and women who have been captured as slaves at that, it gives the whole story a different tenor and makes us consider what the true cost of war might be."

Her next novel For The Winner, due out in June, looks at the story of Jason and the Argonauts through Atalanta, the only woman on the journey, who would later famously lose a race after being distracted by golden apples as she ran.

"I’ve always found Atalanta’s story interesting because it seems so obviously told from a male perspective of a woman being easily distracted. I started thinking about why she would allow that to happen, and the book is an attempt to explain what her motivation might have been in that final race."

But is there an audience for these modern takes on ancient tales? Wax says there definitely is.

"We were very clear that we didn’t want this series to be a sword-and-sandals epic. This is a story about complex family dynamics, about identity, betrayal and belonging. There are huge emotional depths to these stories – many of which are later explored by the writers of the Greek tragedies who reinterpret them as their own – and we felt, why not do the same ourselves? It’s a completely different time, yet one that feels strangely similar. These myths may be 3,000 years old but the story they tell still grips."

Haynes agrees.

"I made a documentary for Radio 4 about the links between Greek tragedy and modern day soap operas. All those stories about generation against generation and brothers at war come directly from Greek tragedy and we’re still drawing on them today. I also recently gave a talk at a secondary school about Oedipus and when we got to the climax of the tale there were gasps. That’s not my gift as storyteller – that’s the calibre of the story being told. They resonate because they are so good."

The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes is published by Mantle on 4 May; The House of Names by Colm Tóibin is published by Viking on 18 May; For The Winner by Emily Hauser is published by Doubleday on 15 June.
Greek native Sophia Pavlaki resides in Belgium where she is the producer and executive producer of Greektoys, a project aimed at promoting the Greek culture to children via ancient Hellenic toys. The educational project known as The Greektoys children’s revolution® also involves creating the animated series “Greektoys,” writing articles and research related to ancient Hellenic toys, writing music and creating the 3D-virtual museum where models of ancient Hellenic toys are exhibited.


Archaeologists have uncovered all sorts of toys at sites in areas previously part og the ancient Hellenic territory. Many of the toys that ancient Hellenic children enjoyed were similar to toys of today. They played with rattles (platagi), tops (stromvos), hoops and pull toys as well as figurines in the shapes of animals (athyrma). The yo-yo, or something close to it, may have been created in ancient Hellas. It was made out of two terra cotta discs and was simply called a disc.

Like today, there were also toys meant just for girls and others meant just for boys. Boys often played with toy chariots and girls usually played with dolls. Some dolls from ancient Hellas even had moving arms and legs. Some dolls were made from ivory and glass but most were made from terra cotta. Interestingly enough, some were even made with human hair, others were made of rags, clay or wax. Some had holes in the top of their heads for a string that led up to a disk that could be held and moved to make the puppet dance.

Three toys from ancient Hellas are the main characters of the series. Valios is a little horse-toy made of clay, Lilly is a rattle and Filon is a baby’s milk bottle in a pig shape. Our little friends live adventures and travel in other countries where they meet toys of other civilizations.

Using the ancient relics has been a hit as children are able to lose themselves in a land of make-believe in the video series as well as with a free e-book available here. Pavlaki explained on the greektoys.org website that:

"We use the games because it is something familiar and instantly recognizable for children, used as a link from antiquity to the present day. It is a bridge to introduce children to the culture of antiquity. So we believe that starting with the games interest will wake them and will make it easier to reach all the other elements of cultural heritage."

For more information about Greektoys and to watch their videos see greektoys.org. Also check out the video below to see for yourself how children’s toys from antiquity are still serving an important educational purpose today.

I adore this initiative! I think it's a brilliant way to introduce kids to ancient Hellenic culture in a way that shows that more than 2000+ years later, very little has changed. It's brilliant.
Most of the ancient Hellenic islands have an origin story, recorded in ancient Hellenic writings. One of my favorites is that of Rhodes. Rhodes (Ρόδος, Ródos) is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of land area and also the island group's historical capital. It is located northeast of Crete, southeast of Athens and just off the Anatolian coast of Turkey. In ancient times, it was home to the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.


It's Pindar who recounts the founding myth of the island. He explains how the island was a gift to Helios after the Gods divided the world between Them and there was nothing left for Him. Zeus raised the island from the depths of the ocean and Helios lay with the nymph Rhodos who came into existence with it. From their union came three children, and the cities that were established on Rhodes were named for their three sons. From Pindar's odes:

"Now the ancient story of men saith that when Zeus and the other gods made division of the earth among them, not yet was island Rhodes apparent in the open sea, but in the briny depths lay hid. And for that Helios was otherwhere, none drew a lot for him; so they left him portionless of land, that holy god. And when he spake thereof Zeus would cast lots afresh; but he suffered him not, for that he said that beneath the hoary sea he saw a certain land waxing from its root in earth, that should bring forth food for many men, and rejoice in flocks. And straightway he bade her of the golden fillet, Lachesis ['disposer of lots', one of the Moirai], to stretch her hands on high, nor violate the gods' great oath, but with the son of Kronos promise him that the isle sent up to the light of heaven should be thenceforth a title of himself alone.

And in the end of the matter his speech had fulfilment; there sprang up from the watery main an island, and the father who begetteth the keen rays of day hath the dominion thereof, even the lord of fire-breathing steeds. There sometime having lain with Rhodos he begat seven sons, who had of him minds wiser than any among the men of old; and one begat Kameiros, and Ialysos his eldest, and Lindos: and they held each apart their shares of cities, making threefold division of their father's land, and these men call their dwelling-places. There is a sweet amends for his piteous ill-hap ordained for Tlepolemos leader of the Tirynthians at the beginning, as for a god, even the leading thither of sheep for a savoury burnt-offering, and the award of honour in games." [Pythian Odes VII]

I enjoy this story because it's nothing but fair and filled with respect. Zeus realized Helios--one of the most important Titans in regards to life on earth--had been denied His fair share and so He granted Him one of the grandest islands of the ancient Hellenic world and through the island's guardian nymph strong children. It's soothing and beautiful. Blessed be Rhodes!
Every once in a while, I take it upon myself to introduce Gods and Goddesses my readers might not be familiar with. Today, this is the Goddess Hebe.

Hebe (Ἡβη) is the Goddess of youth and the cupbearer of the Gods who serves ambrosia at the heavenly feasts. She is also the patron Goddess of the young bride and an attendant of Aphrodite. This is unsurprising when you know Her father is Zeus and Her mother is Hera. Her husband is the hero Hēraklēs.

       Khaos ------------ Gaea
           |         |
Ouranos --- |
                 Kronos --- Rhea
                      |
                      Zeus --- Hera
                      |
                    Hebe

For a relatively minor Goddess, Hebe has quite a bit of mythology to Her name. Her parentage is mentioned by Hesiod, Apollodorus, Kallimachos, Pausanias and Hyginus. According to the ancient writers, Hebe's day was taken up by to major jobs: be a cupbearer to the Gods and be a handmaiden to her mother Hera. She also tended to Her brother Ares when He returned from war. A few choice selections of Homeros, in 'The Iliad', on these tasks:

"Now the gods at the side of Zeus were sitting in council over the golden floor, and among them the goddess Hebe (Youth) poured them nectar as wine, while they in the golden drinking-cups drank to each other, gazing down on the city of the Trojans." [4. 1]

"Hera, high goddess, daughter of Kronos the mighty, went away to harness the gold-bridled horses. Then Hebe in speed set about the chariot the curved wheels eight-spoked and brazen, with an axle or iron both ways. Golden is the wheel's felly imperishable, and outside it is joined, a wonder to look upon, the brazen running-rim, and the silver naves revolve on either side of the chariot, whereas the car itself is lashed fast with plaiting of gold and silver, with double chariot rails that circle about it, and the pole of the chariot is of silver, to whose extremity Hebe made fast the golden and splendid yoke, and fastened the harness, golden and splendid, and underneath the yoke Hera, furious for hate and battle, led the swift-running horses." [5. 720]

"Hebe washed him [Ares returning from battle] clean and put delicate clothing upon him." [5. 905]

To the ancient Hellenes, youth was of great importance as it was linked to aesthetic beauty--an ideal held very high throughout Hellas. It was said (in part because She poured it) that the nectar of the Gods was what kept Them forever youthful and thus immortal. Hebe was the epitome of subservience and thus was a role model for maidens and an ideal to men. This side of her also aided in Her coming to fulfil another role in ancient Hellenic society: that of a Goddess of pardons and extended forgiveness. Freed prisoners sacrificed to Her in order to restore some of their youthful innocence. In fact, at Hebe's sanctuary at Phlius, prisoners would hang their chains on the branches of the trees in the grove dedicated to her as a form of supplication. This is mentioned by Pausanias in his 'Description of Greece':
 
"On the Phliasian citadel [at Phlios in Argolis] is a grove of cypress trees and a sanctuary which from ancient times has been held to be peculiarly holy. The earliest Phliasians named the goddess to whom the sanctuary belongs Ganymeda; but later authorites call her Hebe, whom Homer mentions in the duel between Menelaos (Menelaus) and Alexandros (Alexander), saying that she was the cup-bearer of the gods; and again he says, in the descent of Odysseus to Haides, that she was the wife of Herakles. Olen [a legendary Greek poet], in his hymn to Hera, says that Hera was reared by the Horai (Horae, Seasons), and that her children were Ares and Hebe. Of the honours that the Phliasians pay to this goddess the greatest is the pardoning of suppliants. All those who seek sanctuary here receive full forgiveness, and prisoners, when set free, dedicate their fetters on the trees in the grove. The Phliasians also celebrate a yearly festival which they call Kissotomoi (Ivy-cutters). There is no image, either kept in secret of openly displayed, and the reason for this is set forth in a sacred legend of theirs though on the left as you go out is a temple of Hera with an image of Parian marble." [2. 13. 3]

Herakles, perhaps the greatest of all ancient Hellenic heroes, received Hebe as his wife once he ascended to Olympos as a God. Homeros mentions it, Hesiod does, it's even in the Homeic Hymns. The best explination of why Herakles was given Hebe especially as his wife is perhaps best given by Philostratos, though, in his 'Images':

"Before long you [Herakles] will live with them in the sky, drinking, and embracing the beautiful Hebe; for you are to marry the youngest of the gods and the one most revered by them, since it is through her that they also are young." [2. 20]
I'm just going to say it: every time news about the Parthenon Marbles comes up, I'm shocked we're still talking about it. That getting them back to Greece is still a topic of discussion. I hope to be proven wrong one day but I just cannot see Britain sending these valuable pieces to Greece, period. At least not without massive political pressure--and I am sure that with Brexit, the EU has better things to demand of Britain than the return of these antiques. But there is news again--of a sort.

The Parthenon in Athens, Greece.

It seems that the reunification of the Parthenon Marble with the monument itself is part of the issues that archaeologists from around the world will talk about in the Palazzo dei Congressi in Florence under the auspices of the Italian Ministry of Tourism. In the conference that started on Sunday and will last a total of three day, the Greek Minister of Culture Lydia Koniordou stated that 'in a changing and challenging world, it is important to inspire to our youth the interest for the importance of cultural'.

The issue has gone since 2016 into a diplomatic path rather than a legal one. Before the conference, Mrs. Koniordou sat on a round-table coordination meeting with the 25 international committees for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, where the new Italian committee also presented its new president, the archaeologist Louis Godart.

On another but somewhat related note: the Parthenon has been voted the most beautiful building in the world by the architects of Bussiness Insider. The first place ranking was explained as follows by Imani, the founding architect of Tara Imani Design:

"It's the quintessential beautiful architectural form. The Doric order, the use of entasis [a slight curve in columns] to make sure the columns didn't look spindly from a distance...the siting on a hilltop — it gave us our initial ABCs of architecture that we keep trying to use and improve upon today."

So say we all!
An olive grove in Bursa, Turkey has revealed what experts are hoping is just the beginning to a treasure trove of ancient Hellenic archaeology. Experts are predicting that the area could be a necropolis--a large and ancient cemetery with elaborate burial chambers.


Three more ancient burial chambers from the Late Antiquity period have been discovered in an olive grove in Turkey's western Bursa province. Officials from İznik Museum Directorate have reportedly covered the sarcophagi, while gendarmerie teams are on guard 24 hours a day to ensure the security of the ancient tombs until an expert team of archaeologists arrive from Ankara to start the excavation.

The sarcophagi were reportedly found in an olive grove belonging to Hatice Süren near the Hisardere district, 5 kilometers (3 miles) away from İznik's (Nicea) town center. They feature covers with unique reliefs of Eros covered in lotus flowers and figures with lion's heads. Burial chambers previously discovered in the region also had depictions of mythological figures, such as the Greek god of love Eros, as well as Herakles and Medusa. The sarcophagi reportedly weigh between 4 to 6 tons and are estimated to be between 1,800 to 2,000 years old.

In September, police teams searching the area for a stolen truck discovered a sarcophagus in the same olive grove. Treasure hunters had discovered the tomb and damaged its cover when they tried to unearth it, possibly in search of gold and other valuables they thought would be inside. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has been carrying out expropriation work after the discovery of ancient sarcophagi from the third century AD.

Another sarcophagus belonging to a queen was found near the area in 2015. It was also thought to be from the Late Antiquity period and weighed 7 tons. When it was discovered, officials found that treasure hunters had already found and raided it.

The area where the tombs were found has historically been referred to as the Bithynia region, which was a Roman province from the fourth century BC.