A joint team of German and Egyptian archaeologists working at the Watfa site in Egypt's Fayoum province discovered an ancient gym that dates back to the Hellenistic period. According to Ayman Ashmawi, the head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, the gymnasium has a large hall for meetings that was once decorated with statues, a dining hall and a courtyard. Next to the gym is a 200-meter track. Researchers also found out that gardens had surrounded the building to complete an ideal layout of a center of Hellenic learning.

The site dates to a time when Egypt was ruled by Greeks after being conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. Per Cornelia Römer, the leader of the team from the German Archaeological Institute, ancient Hellenic gyms such as the newly discovered gymnasium were typically private foundations by rich people who wanted their villages to become even more Hellenic in aspect.

​"The young men of the Greek-speaking upper class were trained in sports, learned to read and to write, and to enjoy philosophical discussions. All big cities of the Hellenistic world like Athens in Greece, Pergamon and Miletus in Asia Minor, and Pompei in Italy had such gymnasia. The gymnasia in the Egyptian countryside were built after their pattern; although much smaller, the gymnasion of Watfa clearly shows the impact of Hellenic life in Egypt, not only in Alexandria, but also in the countryside."

The experts estimate that when the village was first built all those years ago it housed a total of 1,200 inhabitants. Two-thirds are thought to have been Egyptian while the other third were Greek-speaking settlers. The gymnasium, roughly 50 miles from Cairo, sits inside the ancient village of Philoteris, according to a Facebook post from Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities. The post also indicates that the village, founded by King Ptolemy II in the third century BC, was named after his second sister Philotera.

This find is just the latest in a series of discoveries made by archaeologists in Egypt. Just last week another international team of researchers announced they'd discovered a "big void" inside Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza. The German team, surveying and excavating at the Watfa site since 2010, has been working alongside the Ain Shams University.
"Khaire Elani, what are some of the ways you've explored your faith? I'm not adverse to academia, but from what you have shared, I feel that there is something inward informing your everyday experience.  A personal gnosis?"

I put a lot of stock in the Hellenic ancient sources, scattered as they may be, because while these were the accounts of one man or one woman, they were copied repeatedly, used in religious settings by many, and traveled the whole of Hellas. These weren't documents stuffed away in some guy's drawer that happened to be preserved for 2000 years; these were copied, copied, and copied again, and one of these many copies has survived to the present day (generalizing, of course). Luck of the draw. As such, we can assume that some of the documents (say, for example, the Orphic hymns) were read and repeated by many, and that is what makes them valuable. Homeros was a best-seller of his time, and that is why we still have access to his writings. People must have identified with what they read, or they would not have read it and carried it on. These sources are our primary resource for information about the Theoi and how to worship Them, but sometimes we also learn about Them through our own experiences. This is called 'Unverified Personal Gnosis' (or UPG, for short).

Ideally the term is used to label one's own experience as a new and untested hypothesis, although further verification from other practitioners or ancient sources may lead to a certain degree of verifiability. Personally, I try to go from Unverified Personal Gnosis to Shared Personal Gnosis to Confirmed (Personal) Gnosis. This is why the Hellenistic community in general is open to the sharing of UPG--generalizing here--because others may have had the same experience (which lends credibility to the experience) or references to source material with which the UPG can be confirmed. There is a certain degree of science about it, when viewed like this, but it requires the receiver of the UPG to be open about his or her experiences and accept the fact that this hypothesis may be false, or at the very least unverifiable. If this is the case, using the UPG for your personal practice is fine, but doling it out as the Holy Word and Ultimate Truth will not get you far.

I have a love/hate relationship with Unverified Personal Gnosis. On the one hand, I believe, with every fiber of my being, in the knowledge I have been made privy to by the Gods. I believe in my experiences and they are sacred to me. They run anywhere from synchronicious events to detailed biographies and some of them I will never share with anyone, they were that special. Throughout my practice, I have allowed UGP to push me forward in my path. Much of what I know, have done, or now practice is directly related to a UPG event, this blog included.

Without my UPG experiences, I feel I might have doubted the existence of the Gods much more than I do. I know They exist, because They have influenced my life and that of those I love on many occasions. The experiences I have had have been extremely humbling and they have shaped me. I don't actively seek out this type of gnosis--my practice relies almost solely on academic sources, which is how I like it. My UPG experience are only part of my practice in so far that they have instilled in me a deep love and respect for the Gods that is unwavering and life-long.
Remember when I posted about the possible foods and entertainment at a Hellenic banquet? Guess what I stumbled upon today: Louis Chrysostomou, spoke to Greek newspaper Ta Nea about his ambitious project to introduce ancient Hellenic cuisine to London’s multinational population, at Life Goddess restaurant.

Chrysostomou has 17 years of experience as a chef in Greece and Britain. He is the head chef of the Greek Embassy in London, and owner of Lamda Delta Catering and Events.cWith the project "Secrets and Flavors from Ancient Greece," the Greek chef hopes to introduce the unique tastes not only to the thousands of Greeks living in the British capital, but also to the British and other nationals.

"Our goal is to present to the British public the Greek cuisine in its entirety, starting from Ancient Greece and its nutritional secrets. This is a vision that finally becomes reality. It is the product of an exhaustive study of prescriptions and sources of nutrition in ancient Greece, starting with the texts of Archestratos and Athineos."

Chrysostomou admits that there is no way of knowing how these dishes tasted thousands of years ago, but the ingredients are known:

"The truth is that we can not know how the food that ancient Greeks ate tasted. However, we use exactly the same ingredients that they chose to make up their meals."

These dishes include the famous “black broth” that the ancient Spartans ate, “mypotos” (a kind of spinach pie) and “melicraton” (a sweet with nuts, honey, and pollen) and are some of the dishes that will be served during theme gastronomic nights that aspire to be a transformation of the ancient Greek symposiums.

After the “Ancient Greek dinners”, other themes will be presented, such as the Pythagorean diet (vegetarian oriented), the Hippocratic diet (prevention and treatment of diseases through food) and evenings dedicated to the local cuisines of Greece (Macedonia, Thrace, Peloponnese etc).

I know the ingredients for the ancient Spartan melas zomos (μέλας ζωμός), or black soup / black broth: it was a staple soup made of boiled pigs' legs, blood, salt and vinegar. It is thought that the vinegar was used as an emulsifier to keep the blood from clotting during the cooking process. The armies of Sparta mainly ate this. It was not a delicacy, but used for sustenance and strength. I'd be very interested in trying this and the other dishes!
As part of a new 5-year program, a team from the French School at Athens under the direction of Florence Gaignerot-Driessen carried out excavations this summer on the Anavlochos massif (Vrachasi, Lasithi, Crete). Two areas on the western part of the summit, located by the team during the 2015-2016 survey of the massif, have yielded a large amount of votive material.

In the first one, 350 figurines, figures, and plaques have been recovered, representing female figures mostly dating to the Archaic and Classical periods. The second deposit, located 200 m to the east, contained zoomorphic figures and figurines associated with Late Minoan IIIC pottery. In the cemetery area, located at the foot of the massif, several groups of graves have been recognized.

The excavation of one of them yielded circular burial enclosures with platforms, from on top of which large Late Geometric vases have been recovered. Finally, on the so-called 'Kako Plaï' slope, which overlooks the cemetery, a bench building containing Protogeometric to Archaic votive material has been excavated.

It is located above trenches opened by Pierre Demargne in 1929, where Geometric to Classical votive material was found and which were reidentified during the 2015-2016 survey.

For more information see the Anavlochos Project website:
For more images, go here.
Pliny the Younger was born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo. He lived from 61 to 113 AD. Pliny was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate him.

Pliny the Younger wrote hundreds of letters, of which 247 survive and are of great historical value. I wanted to share one of those today, even though it's a Roman piece of writing. Based on what we know of ancient Hellenic food habits, what follows could very well be accurate for Hellenic times as well, which is why I enjoy finding (or rediscovering) passages like this.

This letter is directed at a man called Septimius Clarus, who was supposed to show up for dinner but didn't. What follows is a summation of everything that was served during and organized for the banquette.

“Who do you think you are?! You agree to come do dinner…but you don’t come? The judgment is passed: You must pay my cost to a penny, and this is not moderate. All was set out: a lettuce for each, three snails, two eggs, wine with honey chilled with snow—for you should include this too among the highest expense since it dissolves on the plate—and there were olives, beets, pickles, onions and countless other things no less neat.

You would have heard a comedy or a reader or a singer of all of them, given my generosity. But you went where I don’t know, preferring oysters, a sow’s belly, sea-urchins, and Spanish dancers. You will suffer for this, somehow, believe me.

You did something bad to one of us, certainly to me, but perhaps to yourself too. How much we played, laughed, and studied! You might eat better food at many homes, but nowhere will you eat so enjoyably, simply, and freely. In sum: try me: and if later you don’t excuse yourself from another’s meal, you can always lie to me again. Goodbye!”
By 2050, according to a study presented on 8 November at an event organized by MEP Ricardo Serrão Santos (S&D) and the IUCN European Regional Office in Brussels, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish and 99% of seabirds will ingest plastic as well as 52% of sea turtles. In Europe specifically, 100,000 tons of waste are discharged into the seas. The majority of plastic waste is disposable and consists of: 2.5 billion food packages, 580 billion cigarette butts, 16 billion plastic cups, 36.4 billion drinking straws and 46 billion plastic bottles! But there are lessons to take from Ancient Hellas.


Jacques Yves Cousteau’s son, Pierre Yves, has presented important facts about the state of the oceans today: 70% of the plastic remains at the bottom of the ocean, 15% floats, while the remaining 15% is in the water column between the surface and the bottom. The Guardian, has revealed that 80% of drinking water in Europe contains microplastics.

“During my last visit to Santorini, I visited the archaeological site in Akrotiri. I was impressed by the way the Ancient Greeks stored in their jars the olive oil and the wine. I think we can take lessons from this. The problem we are facing today is something that has been the main concern of all the great civilisations in the past: the production, storage and shipping of goods. During the last century, the way we chose to do it was not sustainable.”

The UN’s representative for the environment in Brussels, Ulf Björnholm, proposed the following:

“We need regulations, economic incentives and voluntary action. It is also necessary to promote the circular economy. We should reduce the production of both disposable and non-recycled plastics, for example in cosmetics and cars"

On 6-7 December, the UN is organizing a world conference entitled "Towards a pollution-free planet," while an information campaign has already been launched, inviting governments, companies and civil society to take part in the initiative and take local action.

This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart and outside of contributing to Pandora's Kharis, this is where most of my giving goes to. The ancient Hellenes didn't care about the environment like we care about the environment, but they didn't have to. They hadn't polluted the earth like we have. I'm shoehorning this issue into my blog because this is something I care greatly about and changing perception and behavior matters. We are not killing the planet, we are killing ourselves and millions of animals by living in a society that is build on profit, not sustainability, and there are definitely lessons to take from ancient Hellas in that regard.
Two days ago, we brought home a tiny chap who's already bought us a lot of joy. He's a half Persian, half Norwegian Forest Cat mix who's been severely neglected by his previous owners, so he's very thin and his fur is badly maintained. He is very bright, though, and very, very sweet. Having him in the home has been an absolute joy and he's very much settled in already. So, this post is for Hugo (or Oscar, if my girl has her way).

As you are probably all well aware, the ancient Egyptians were big fans of cats, and one of their main Goddesses, Bastet, Goddess of protection and motherhood, carried the head of one. Alexandria had a temple to Bastet, for example, so the ancient Hellenes would have come in contact with Her. Most likely not everyone, but at least a few of the ancient Hellenes would have equated Bastet with Artemis--especially in Late Antiquity. Bast was a lioness Goddess of the sun throughout most of Ancient Egyptian history, but later she was changed into the cat Goddess Bastet. She also was changed to a Goddess of the moon by Hellenes occupying Ancient Egypt toward the end of its civilization. In Hellenic mythology, Bast also is known as Ailuros. Hyginus, for example, in his 2nd century AD 'Astronomica' writes:

"Egyptian priests and some poets say that once when many gods had assembled in Egypt, suddenly Typhon, an exceedingly fierce monster and deadly enemy of the gods, came to that place. Terrified by him, they changed their shapes into other forms: Mercurius [Hermes] became an ibis [the god Thoth], Apollo [Apollon], the bird that is called Thracian [the god Horus], Diana [Artemis], a cat [the goddess Bastet]. For this reason they say the Egyptians do not permit these creatures to be injured, because they are called representations of gods." [2.28]

You can read more about this bit of mythology here.

Returning to ancient Hellas--and not so much the Roman era--the question of the cat as a pet in ancient Hellas is rather vexing. Modern Athens is home to countless feral cats, however, the status of the cat in ancient Hellas is unclear, as images of cats are fairly rare. This is obviously a sign that even if there is a God or Goddess of cats in the ancient Hellenic pantheon cats are most likely a side-line.

Cats were probably kept by Hellenic households as liminal animals--animals who were free to come and go as they pleased, roaming houses and streets alike. This may account for the fact that few cat bones have been found in domestic situations. Historically, the main reason to keep cats is to get rid of mice, only in ancient Hellas the job of 'mouser' seems to have been handled by weasels and ferrets, many of which were also considered liminal pets. Yet some clear representations of cats do exist, primarily on funeral stele. These show caps on leashes, or being shown off as prized possessions, so we do know that some cats were updated to the status of 'pet'. The comic playwright Aristophanes liked to include cats in his productions and often used the phrase 'the cat did it' for comic effect, as cats were blamed for things breaking in the household.

So there isn't a God or Goddess of cats, but there is a Goddess associated with cats: Hekate. There is one single piece of mythology I have to base this on: the myth of Galinthias, the nurse of Alkmene, transformed by the angry Eileithyia, but received by Hekate as her animal. Again, I have only late sources, second century AD again, although this time recorded by Antoninus Liberalis in his 'Metamorphoses':

"At Thebes Proitos had a daughter Galinthias. This maiden was playmate and companion of Alkmene, daughter of Elektryon. As the birth throes for Herakles were pressing on Alkmene, the Moirai (Fates) and Eileithyia (Birth-Goddess), as a favour to Hera, kept Alkmene in continuous birth pangs. They remained seated, each keeping their arms crossed. Galinthias, fearing that the pains of her labour would drive Alkmene mad, ran to the Moirai and Eleithyia and announced that by desire of Zeus a boy had been born to Alkmene and that their prerogatives had been abolished.

At all this, consternation of course overcame the Moirai and they immediately let go their arms. Alkmene’s pangs ceased at once and Herakles was born. The Moirai were aggrieved at this and took away the womanly parts of Galinthias since, being but a mortal, she had deceived the gods. They turned her into a deceitful weasel (or polecat), making her live in crannies and gave her a grotesque way of mating. She is mounted through the ears and gives birth by bringing forth her young through the throat. Hekate felt sorry for this transformation of her appearance and appointed her a sacred servant of herself." [29]

Whatever the case, our cat is definitely part of our oikos, and I couldn't be happier to welcome him.