Sunday, April 19, 2015

Results on research into the mystery of incuse coins (sort of)

Remember when I told you about the mystery of incuse coins? It goes as follows: how did the ancient Hellenes mint coins which shows the same image on the front and back, but with the image on the back sunk into the metal so that it appears as a negative or incuse version of the front? Researchers at Macquarie University's Australian Centre for Ancient Numismatic Studies (ACANS) have joined forces with scientists from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), on a joint research program to solve a twenty-five century-old mystery behind the technology, and there are results to report.

The Metapontum Coinage Project jointly undertaken by the Australian Centre
for Ancient Numismatic Studies and ANSTO [Credit: Chris Stacey]

The Numismatic Centre provided scientists at ANSTO with 34 Ancient Greek coins, consisting of 30 incuse coins from four different cities (Metapontum, Kroton, Taras and Caulonia) and four non-incuse coins dated from the 6th to the 4th century BC for investigation. In addition four other non-incuse silver coins were studied that are dated from medieval times and are originated from different regions of the non-Greek world.

The selected coins were studied by using three different neutron analysis techniques. All the coins were studied by crystallographic texture analysis using the Kowari instrument; twelve coins were imaged with neutron tomography using the Dingo instrument, and two coins compared by neutron powder diffraction using the Echidna instrument, thus reports the Archaeology News Network.

The wide range of coins studied enabled a qualitative comparison of the incuse coins against similar incuse silver coins of the same period from different cities, silver non-incuse coins of the same period and silver non-incuse coins of later periods. The incuse coins or non-incuse coins (e.g. a medieval silver penny) can reveal similarities or differences in texture pattern suggesting similarities or differences in the mechanical processes used to produce them.

The KOWARI data demonstrated that all incuse coins of the same kind were very similar in their texture characteristics and depicted a distinct pattern (symmetry and parameters of distribution) that is characteristic of a forging process. Temperature is an important parameter of any metal deformation processes because it can cause the grain atomic lattices to realign themselves differently.

A graphical representation of the orientation distribution of the crystallites is known as a pole figure and it can be measured in the texture experiment. When metals are worked by forging or hammering, these actions cause the atomic lattices of the metal grains to realign themselves, producing a characteristic pattern of grain orientations that we call texture, which can be experimentally studied. The physical conditions of the coinage process, temperature, amount of plastic deformation and heat treatment can be forensically reconstructed since the texture patterns are preserved in the metal.

The pole figure for a silver Greek coin from the 4th century BC showed a texture pattern with weaker features that is characteristic of deformation caused by high temperature. Coins from Naxos, which were minted at the same time, demonstrated a very different texture that indicated far less forging but rather casting or metalworking at a temperature close to the melting point of silver.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Question Collections post 15

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

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


Friday, April 17, 2015

Archaeology.org: 'The Minoans of Crete'

The Minoan civilization was an Aegean Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Krete and flourished from approximately 2000 to 1450 BC. Although not Hellenic per se, the Minoans had a great influence on Hellenic society, as well as it's mythology.

As the article says: Krete has long been known as the subject of myth and legend. Fearing the wrath of her husband Kronos, who had devoured his other children, the Goddess Rhea secretly gave birth to Her son Zeus in the Dikteon Cave in the mountains of central Krete. It was back to Krete, too, that Zeus, in the form of a white bull, took the Phoenician woman Europa, where she became queen of the island and mother to King Minos. And for the Athenians of the Golden Age, their great hero and king, Theseus, also had a Kretan past, for it was on the island that he slew the Minotaur and escaped the prison of King Minos’ labyrinth.

Archaeology.org has a very interesting piece up on the discovery and subsequent research done on Minoan society and one of its major towns: 'Gournia'. The article focusses on how Harriet Boyd and her colleague Blanche Wheeler were brought to Gournia by a local farmer who was aware of a multitude of 'old things' to be found at the site.

Over several hours on May 19, 1901, Boyd collected a few potsherds and located the tops of several ancient walls, enough to convince her it was worth sending a team of workmen to the site the next morning. When she arrived at Gournia on the afternoon of the 20th, Boyd was astonished to see the men holding a bronze spear and sickle and numerous fragments of stone and pottery vessels, and clearing the threshold of a house and a well-paved road complete with a clay gutter. The following day Boyd returned with 51 workmen, and within three days, additional houses and roads had been uncovered, as well as more vases and bronze tools, making her certain that she had found what she was seeking—a Bronze Age settlement of what she called 'the best period of Cretan civilization'.

During three seasons ending in 1904, Boyd and her team, which averaged more than a hundred workmen along with a number of local girls whose job was to wash the finds, excavated the remains of an ancient town that had lain buried and unknown for nearly 3,500 years. Of all the sites in the prehistoric Aegean, Gournia gives the best idea of what a Minoan town looked like, which Harriet Boyd understood after just three years of working there. She wrote in her site publication:

“The chief archaeological value of Gournia is that it has given us a remarkably clear picture of the everyday circumstances, occupations, and ideals of the Aegean folk at the height of their true prosperity.”

The entire article is a very interesting read about the history of excavations and discoveries on the island. If you are interested in the Minoan culture, please head over to Archaeology.org for a very interesting read.

Image: The well-preserved remains of the ancient Minoan town of Gournia in eastern Krete still stand after more than 3,500 years. Copyright: Chronis Papanikolopoulos.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

More musings on animal sacrifice

Ever since Christos Pandion Panopoulos posted his piece on blood sacrifice in ancient Hellenic life, and bringing the practice back in modern times, it's been on my mind. I've been thinking about it at least once a day, trying to figure out my position.

By now I am quite certain that society is not ready for the practice to be brought back. Very few people are willing or able to see past the obvious thoughts of animal abuse, and view the practice in the spirit of holistic living. In the spirit of being one with nature, raising cattle specifically with the purpose of sacrificing, and then doing so in a well-trained and humane manner, with respect to the animal, the humans involved in the rite, and the Gods to whom the animal is sacrificed.

There is animal sacrifice in the modern world, but it's either tied to the Islam (which is problematic in this time of fear and phobia against the religion), or fringe religions like Voudon and... well... us. And those are problematic in their own right as they have a large amount of 'boogie boogie' according to the Regular Joe's of this world. But not even Christianity is safe when it comes to animal sacrifice. I read this news article a few days ago, about the St. Paul’s Church in Patra, the Peloponnese, and their Easter sacrifice of a lamb. In it, it reads:

"St. Paul’s Church in Patra, the Peloponnese, has its own Easter time-honored traditions. For starters, there is the ceremony of throwing red eggs to the faithful and offering a live lamb to a parish family after a draw. This year, the lamb in question stood in the parish courtyard throughout the church service. Miserable and evidently distraught the lamb was uneasy throughout the service, possibly understanding the fate that would befall it.
 
A group of animal rights activists decided that the time had come to put an end to the barbaric custom that has been observed for decades. Taking legal action against the church, they called for police intervention citing animal abuse. They were opposed to the church’s callous display of the suffering animal at the courtyard as a 'show' for the children who attended the Holy Saturday service and wondered what sort of principles the church was instilling in these young people by offering such an attraction."

Of course, the circumstances are different, but the basic premise remains the same: killing animals for a religious purpose is both shameful and outdated. So what does that say about any need we may have to bring the practice back? Should we give up on it because society is not ready or should we kick until society has been made ready? Is this the battle we should be fighting right now? Is this what our focus should be on?

Personally, I think we are not ready to revive the practice of animal sacrifice. We are small, scattered, and divided on many things. We have no set or standardized practice--and we even differ on the opinion if we need one. I think we have quite a lot of other things to sort out before we can form a united front that can declare--unambiguously--why we need to perform animal sacrifices to fully practice our religion, and set up rules, guidelines, and classes to make these a reality in a legal, responsible manner.

I think we can and should bring back the practice, but not now. Not yet. Perhaps in ten years or so, maybe twenty. Once we are secure, once we are more recognised, once we are done chipping away at ourselves from the inside out. Perhaps then we will be able to bring back something so very important to the ancient Hellenes and the Gods we love so much.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jobs available at the Herod Atticus Theater and the Epidaurus theater, and more antiquities smuggled

Would you like a job at the Herod Atticus Theatre and the Epidaurus theatre?

The Greek Festival is seeking cashiers and theatre ushers for summer season performances at the Irodion and Epidaurus theatres. Ticket booth cashiers need a high school diploma as well as experience in using computers (Windows XP, MS Office, Internet). They also need to have a good knowledge of English, whereas a second language would be desirable. Candidates need to be good communicators.

Ushers and ticket checkers at the site of the performance need to have college or university degrees. Previous experience will also be taken into account.Positions are available at Athens or Epidaurus theatres. To apply, fill in an application from the Greek Festival’s site.

CLICK HERE for cashier job in Athens | CLICK HERE for cashier job at Epidaurus | CLICK HERE for ticket entrance/usher job in Athens | CLICK HERE for ticket entrance/usher job at Epidaurus


Coastal guards arrested a man for antiquities smuggling
A small fortune lay hidden inside an unaccompanied parcel that travelled from Piraeus to the isle of Rhodes. The coastal guard’s suspicions were raised. They carefully observed the parcel and arrested the foreigner, aged 32, who went to pick it up.

Archaeologists are currently studying the contents of the package and are trying to date the artefacts as well as determine their origins. From the images released, the contents seem to be ancient Hellenic coins.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Beginner's guide to Hellenismos: Ritual and sacrifice in Hellenismos

Today's topic for the 'Beginner's guide to Hellenismos' is sacrifice, the 'offering of food, objects or the lives of animals to a higher purpose, in particular divine beings, as an act of propitiation or worship'. It is one of the--if not the--cornerstones of the modern Hellenistic faith, and was most definitely the cornerstone of the ancient Hellenic faith.

A sacrifice to the Gods is a way of bonding, of kharis. It's a way of showing our devotion to the Gods and bringing Them, actively, into our homes and lives. It's a way of acknowledging Their greatness and recognizing our loyalty to Them. Practically, this means that whatever the sacrifice, it should be given with this kharis in mind. It should be given with love, dedication and with respect to the bond between immortal and mortal.

Kharis is an important word. It means everything from beauty to joy, delight, kindness, good will, grace, favour, benefit, boon, charm, attraction, appeal, elegance, gracefulness, pleasure, cheerfulness, wit, gratitude, thankfulness and gratification. It's the name of a Goddess as well; the Goddess of Grace and Beauty. When we give sacrifice, we give it freely, joyfully, with pleasure, out of respect and love for the Gods. We ask what we feel we need in prayer and never expect to be granted this request. Petitions aren't bribery. We give to the Gods and should They feel inclined to grand us our request, we thank Them by offering to Them again, to which the Gods might respond, to which we will sacrifice, and so on. This circular practice of voluntary giving is kharis.

Closely linked to sacrifice are the rituals they were conducted at, so we will discuss those as well. Ritual has a purpose: it is 'a stereotyped sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and designed to influence preternatural entities or forces on behalf of the actors' goals and interests'. In short, it is a way to take oneself out of the every day world and into the sacred. There are five steps to proper, Hellenistic, ritual: procession, purification, hymns and prayers, sacrifice/offerings, prayers of supplication and thanks, usually followed by a feast and/or theatre and sporting events.

Sacrifice was and is the highlight of Hellenic ritual. In ancient Hellas, communal sacrifices almost always included animal sacrifice. Worshippers processed to the ritual site, consciously leaving the mundane behind. The scent of incense would have filled the air, and hymns would have been sung. The ritual that took place took the celebrants out of the regular world and the animals they brought with them stepped out with them. They cleansed themselves with lustral water (named khernips) and sprinkled the area and altar with it. The mood would have been tense: a death was about to occur and they were about to receive a huge boost of kharis from it. Hymns would have continued, building the tension. Water was dripped on the head of the animal, trying to get it to say 'yes' to being sacrificed and purifying it in the process.

All participants threw barley groats onto the animal, the ground and the altar to sow good fortune. The barley came from a single basket and by the time everyone had had a handful to throw, the ritual knife would have been displayed at the bottom of the basket. Meanwhile, libations would have been made in or around the fire. As Hellenics, we have two general types of libations at our disposal; a sponde (Σπονδή) or a khoe (χοαί). Both are poured sacrifices, libations, but the practice differs, as does the goal. A sponde is a libation given, partly, to the Deity or Deities offered to, and partly drunken by those given the libation. A general sponde is a measure of wine, oil, honey, milk or even water.

A sponde, no matter to whom, is poured in a specific manner. After the procession, cleansing, hymns and prayers, the Spondophoroi (Σπονδοφοροί), the vessel which holds the sponde, is held up in the right hand, and presented to the Gods. It is dedicated to the Deity or Deities who will receive it. Then, the Spondophoroi is transfered to the left hand and a sponde is poured to Hestia first, then to whomever the sponde was intended for.

A khoe is a type of libation which is reserved for Khthonic Theoi and other Underworld beings, like spirits or ghosts, as well as earth deities. It consists of a measure of honey, milk and dark-red wine. The major difference with the sponde is that in a khoe, the entire content is poured out; the practitioner drinks nothing of it, like with a holókaustos. A khou is poured from a khoi, a large vessel which is tipped over or slowly emptied while (most often) remaining in contact with the ground.

After the libation, the person who would kill the animal would have taken the knife and cut a lock of the animal's hair. Swiftly, the lock would be tossed into the fire as a warning of the impending sacrifice. The tension would have reached its height at this time and with a swift motion, the animal's throat would have been cut. All of its blood was collected and later dripped onto the fire or--in case of a smaller animal--dripped onto the fire directly. Women would scream, possibly to cover up the dying sounds of the animal, and then the tension would have most likely been broken and the ominous mood turned festive: while the entire animal belonged to the Gods, They saw fit to give much of it to Their followers for rare meat consumption. Then, Hestia receives the last sponde.

After the sacrifice, the meat was boiled or roasted and divided amongst the people celebrating. There were other dishes as well, which were eaten in a communal meal. Afterwards, depending on the festival, there would have been sporting events, or myths were recited. There could have been plays performed or any type of other entertainment until the festival was over. And the Theoi would have been invited to enjoy all of these activities as well.

Modern worship is organized somewhat the same way as ancient sacrifice was: we start with a procession (no matter how short) towards the altar, where we purify ourselves and the space around us with khernips. We also sow barley groats. This is not only a form of purification, it was the start of the process of kharis where the strewing of barley groats on and around the altar of the Theoi is like a spiritual sowing to reap the benefits of later (asked for through prayer later on in the rite). As such, the barley that we use is whole form, just like it is for actual sowing of the crop.

During the procession, songs are sung, and once purification is performed, a hymn is sung or proclaimed. Hymns are sung to please, to bring forth. It is a way to celebrate the deity in question, but also to make Him or Her more inclined to grant the following request. Hymns were accompanied with music and dancing; they were true celebrations in that regard. They are performed to proclaim existing kharis and built upon it by showing respect and knowledge of the lives of the Gods.

Prayers are next on the agenda. Prayers are attempts by men and women to communicate with Gods by means of the voice. A prayer is carefully formulated to convey a message as persuasively as possible to the God, and was thus often spoken. The idea is not to please, but to request. They make use of the established and just now strengthened kharis to petition the Gods for aid. Where the hymn is an offering to go along with material sacrifice, the prayer is not an offering at all. To soften the request, prayers are often accompanied by the sacrifice--the main event of the rite.

Modern worship rarely includes animal sacrifice, although meat sacrifices are more common. There were sacrifices in ancient Hellas that did not include the death of an animal, especially in later years. Some were just libations, other included the offering of (dried) fruits, called a 'pankarpia'. Another staple for a variety of festivals was the panspermia (a mixture of seeds and lentils). According to legend, as mentioned by Plutarch, this was the votive offering Theseus and his crew made to Apollo when they returned to Hellas on this day, for it was all that was left of their provisions.

First Fruit offerings were especially sacred. First Fruits were any fruit, vegetable, fish or hunted animal that was the first of the season. Just like the Theoi are granted the first portion of the sacrificed animal, the First Fruit sacrifice extended the same privilege with any other type of sacrificial type as well.

Especially for poorer families, it was acceptable to sacrifice a cake in the shape of an animal instead of animals themselves. When you read the ancient and scholarly texts having to do with ancient Hellas, you will often come upon references to 'honey cakes' or 'cakes' in general. We might be tempted to interpret these to mean modern day cakes, but the ancient Hellenes would have most likely used flat cracker-type 'cakes', made from barley meal and honey.

Sacrifice and ritual are important. Even more important is regular sacrifice and ritual. It maintains and builds the kharis that keeps safe and blessed not only us as worshippers but our loved ones as well. Learning how to conduct ritual properly and to ingrain these practices into your life are the most important lessons any Hellenist will ever learn, and mostly you will have to learn them on your own. We can base our practices off of the ways of the ancients, but household worship is intimate, personal, and routine. That routine you will find yourself, and it will change through the years. What matters most is that it follows the basic steps of ritual, and that it's conducted with the beauty and greatness of the Gods in mind.

Monday, April 13, 2015

"Atlantis" recap (2.07): A Fate Worse Than Death

It's back, it's back, it's finally back! BBC's Atlantis is back! Although I am a little sad about it (we're counting down to cancellation now), I am also very happy to have my favourite 'moderately inspired by Hellenic mythology'-heroes are back. Since it's been a while since Atlantis was on, let me give you the basics: this season, Ariadne has found herself made queen after her father's sudden (and yet-unexplained) passing. Pasiphaê has been waging war against Atlantis to claim the throne for herself, but so far to no avail. Medea--Pasiphae's ally and fellow sorceress--stabs Ariadne and leaves her for dead, but Jason battles the Grey Sisters and comes out victories: Ariadne lives and Jason is free to take his revenge on his mother Pasiphaê and Medea, his (half?) sister. Oh--and a bunch of Jason's friends know that if Jason finds out that Pasiphaê is his mother, the world is pretty much going up in flames, but it's getting unlikelier by the episode that that secret's going to keep for long. Tricky little things, prophecies... Speaking of prophecies... somewhere in a cave with ocean view, Medusa is still waiting for her promised rescue. Ariadne, meanwhile, has asked Jason to marry her and he accepted.


The second Pasiphaê hears of the upcoming wedding, she hardens her heart and decides Jason needs to die. After all, if he takes the throne, 'Atlantis will be lost to her forever'. she's not the only one against the wedding; Ariadne's general Delmos (Emmett J Scanlan) is also not happy about the prospect. Since Jason is supposedly not of royal blood, everyone and their mother is going to make a fuss if he marries the queen. Ariadne enjoys lala-land far too much to let that disturb her, though. She is going to ask the Gods.

The oracle agrees to see Ariadne and Jason for a blood offering (*sigh* I really wish these shows would stop throwing human blood around in sacrifice) to the Gods. The ceremony itself is quite beautiful. Jason is led to the steps of the palace by guards, and Ariadne by her own. The Oracle cuts their palms (another thing I really wish people in series would stop doing) and takes their blood to the sacred groves of Dodona. They will have their answer by morning.

History lesson: Dodona (Δωδώνᾱ (Doric) or Δωδώνη (Ionic and Attic)) was located in Epirus in northwestern Hellas. It was an oracle devoted to a Mother Goddess identified at other sites with Rhea or Gaia, but here called Dione, who was joined and partly supplanted in historical times by Zeus. The shrine of Dodona was regarded as the oldest Hellenic oracle, possibly dating to the second millennium BCE according to Herodotus. Situated in a remote region away from the main Hellenic poleis, it was considered second only to the oracle of Delphi in prestige. Priestesses and priests in the sacred grove interpreted the rustling of the oak (or beech) leaves to determine the correct actions to be taken. According to a new interpretation, the oracular sound originated from bronze objects hanging from oak branches and sounded with the wind blowing, similar to a wind chime. The more you know, huh? Let's see how accurate Atlantis' portrayal is.


Jason, Hercules and Pythagoras nervously drink wine as they wait for dawn while the Oracle makes it to Dodona in record time. She pours the collected blood on an altar, burns leaves and lets the remnants of the leaves fall onto the blood as she prays, hoping for a sign. The wind picks up and obviously a sign is given. The Oracle and her guards return home. Meanwhile, in Atlantis it's a bad day to be a guard because assassins are crawling through the streets, taking out guards and infiltrating what I assume to be the palace.

the Oracle returns to the temple and is very, very happy: the omens were good! The Gods bless the union! That would be about the time when a bunch of assassins pounce on her. Jason finds the remnants of a scuffle and fight and rushes out to rescue the unconscious Oracle from the ninjas. Too bad he gets punched in the face and goes out like a light. The Oracle is gone.

Ariadne is quite convinced that not even Pasiphaê would be stupid enough to kill a servant of the Gods, and Pythagoras logically deduces that it's more likely she will just keep her prisoner so she can't proclaim that the marriage is blessed. Hercules does his own deducing and comes to the conclusion that someone in the palace helped the assassins. It's true, but I don't think it's the general--unlike the boys.


Pasiphaê has, indeed, captured the Oracle and she goes to visit her in her cell. I love these two together on screen; they are both brilliant actresses and their characters have so much history. They throw insults at each other, take stabs at each other's virtue and emotional well-being, and the Oracle is getting through to Pasiphaê on one front: Pasiphaê loves her child. Angered by the conclusion to their verbal cat-fight, Pasiphaê wraps her hand around the Oracle's throat and backs her up against a pillar. She makes a bunch of threat and--finally remembering that a) she actually likes this woman and b) that she is a servant of the Gods--releases her. the Oracle watches her go with a mixture of fear and worry on her features.

Medea has made it to a fort under guard escort. She must go in alone, she tells Goran. Assumingly, it's a magic thing. Ariadne and Melas, The Oracle's assistant/priest of Poseidon, agree that there must be someone in the palace working for Pasiphaê.

Pasiphaê tries to torment the Oracle with food and harsh words. She's not buying it, but she is starting to get worried--Pasiphaê is threatening to kill her. She won't do it herself, so the Oracle tells her to bring whomever Pasiphaê has gotten to kill her into the cell so she can tell him about the terrible things that will happen to him if he kills an oracle of the Gods. Pasiphaê plays coy. She taunts the Oracle because she can't see her own future, and sneers at her over laughing at all the (bad) prophecies the Oracle has proclaimed about Pasiphaê. It's a brilliant and dark exchange that leaves the Oracle truly afraid for the first time since this started.


Medusa goes into the fort with an empty crate and returns with a filled one. Goran tries to sneak a peek but Medea magics him away just in time. Some things are best left unseen, she tells him and I am quite sure I know what is in that crate. Jemima Rooper, I have missed you more than words can describe! Please kick Hercules' ass for putting you through all of this crap. He deserves it.

Speaking of which: Hercules, Pythagoras and Jason are back in the woods with the Stymphalian birds and pondering the timing of events. Why wait to kidnap the Oracle until she got back to the city? Why not take her while in the woods? Pythagoras can't figure it out and it's bugging him.

The Medusa-express arrives at the palace and all the men are told to leave the building. It seems, by the way, that Medusa's powers don't work on Pasiphaê and Medea which is very handy because Medusa is dying for a talk, for companionship. She was abandoned in that cave and when she was promised salvation by Pasiphaê, she took the chance with two hands. It's Medusa who will kill the Oracle, and in return, Pasiphaê will 'end her suffering'. She looks broken, scared, and out of her mind with loneliness. My poor, poor Medusa... I hadn't forgotten about you, I promise! I've been ranting about you for over a year.


As the boys sneak closer to the temple, they come upon the encampment of soldiers. They decide to go around as they wonder why the heck everyone has left their comfy beds for twigs and ants. Pasiphaê, meanwhile, shows Medusa to the Oracle's cell. The Oracle knows something's up and slowly gets up, telling Pasiphaê the Gods will have their vengeance. She hears Medusa's snakes and slowly--slowly she turns. At that moment, Medusa realizes whom she is about to kill.

The boys wisely catch on that they are walking into a trap. They're not--well, the soldiers weren't put out as a lure for them--but it's still good they realize they are not exactly being restrained from rescuing the Oracle. It wouldn't matter anyway: the Oracle is too busted up to serve even as a garden ornament. Goodbye Juliet Stevenson! I will miss you!


Pythagoras is the one who draws the obvious conclusion: only Medusa could have done this. Hercules says she would never do that and rushes out to follow her while I mentally rip him a new one for being the idiot he is.

Jason is having a hard time with the Oracle's death. She was always there for him--and he vows to avenge her.

Hercules searches for Medusa and finds her--eventually. She's gott her regular hair back; Pasiphaê kept her word. She explains to Hercules what she did and why she did it, that she couldn't stand another moment alone in that cave. She wanted to be with him again. She only found out it was the Oracle she was supposed to kill when she laid eyes on her. Hercules blames himself and she says there was nothing he could have done. I'll not repeat what I said to my screen. Hercules sends her away because somehow Jason and Pythagoras have turned into Neanderthals out for blood. Uhhh... guys? Remember who the real enemy is? Victim blaming does not look good on anyone, I promise you.

Back in the palace, Jason breaks the bad news to Ariadne, who nearly crumbles. Like Jason, the Oracle was very close to her and not only has she lost her, but without the Oracle, chances of their marriage not causing war are slim to none. Jason has to tell Ariadne about Medusa's involvement and I need to take a moment because even Ariadne decides to blame her. I will spare you another rant. Hercules is shocked and heartbroken, and hopefully consumed with shame and guilt.


Back at the oikos, Pythagoras is trying to get Hercules to eat and give up on Medusa; both to no avail. Medusa must be punished for what she did, he feels, and Hercules refuses to see Medusa as anything less than a victim, even though he doesn't realizes how big his share is in this killing--none of them do. Pythagoras says she must have changed, that Hercules is not to blame. I... never mind.

Jason, meanwhile, is on his own guilt trip (that Pythagoras tries to talk him out of, too): if he hadn't agreed to marry Ariadne, none of this would have happened. He goes out to stop the ripples from spreading any further and tries to get Ariadne to reconsider the marriage. Ariadne says that if they give up now, the Oracle gave up her life for nothing. They love each other with all their heart, but everyone feels responsible for everyone else's heart, too. Long story short: the marriage is on. Melas is not amused when Ariadne tells him to go ahead and prepare for the big day, but he's just a lowly servant. He agrees to do it.

Hercules is packing a bag with food and supplies. Pythagoras catches him but Hercules waves him off. He's on his way to the cabin he told Medusa to wait for him back in the temple.

In the palace, we find out the identity of the mole: it's Melas, who has been talking to Cilix (Lorcan Cranitch), whom I think I forgot to mention in the recap of last episode because he added absolutely nothing to the plot but mope about and tell Ariadne the noblemen would never accept their marriage. Since everyone was already saying that, adding him did not feel like a great addition. Now, though, it's very clear he's on the side of the queen-in-exile, and that Melas is working with him. Killing the Oracle? He didn't know about that part, by the way. Oh sweet summer child... It's now up to you to stop the wedding.


Back at the oikos, Hercules returns sans supplies and Pythagoras knows something is up. He doesnt have a chance to get to the bottom of it, though: a bunch of guars led by Cilix burst in. Jason is arrested and accused of murdering the Oracle. Pythagoras realizes what is going on: Pasiphaê only needed to take the Oracle if the Gods' verdict was positive, and in order to find that out, she needed to return to the city and tell someone--namely Melas. Melas then told Pasiphaê's men and got the Oracle kidnapped.

Jason is dragged into the palace and Delmos informs the queen hat Jason has been charged with murder by Melas. She falls out of bed, dresses, and rushes to the chamber where Melas is holding court. She demands to hear his reasoning and Melas tells her that the Oracle said the oracles did not look favourable on the union. Jason found out and murdered her to keep her silent so he could still marry Ariadne and become king. Needless to say, Jason says it's a lie, but it's his word against a witness of the attack and Poseidon's high priest. 

Ariadne tries to stop all of this from happening, but Melas goes on and on about how she dares to speak for the Gods while he is the priest. Now, I have a question: wasn't it stated specifically that Ariadne is a priestess of Poseidon? It might be an honorary title tied to her royal blood and the royal house, but still. Wouldn't she--technically--hold as much power as Melas when it comes to speaking for Poseidon and a little more even because she is queen...? Never mind, carry on.

Melas manages to talk Aridane into a corner and she has to concede to sentencing Jason to death--but she makes a few unveiled threats at Melas' address while she is at it.


Next time on Atlantis: Ariadne agrees to put Jason into the bull and Hercules returns to Medusa. Saturday on BBC One, recap on Monday.