Many people--myself included--sometimes forget how extensive the ancient Hellenic empire was. It wasn't just what is now modern Greece. It extended all the way to, for example, the Ukraine. Today: Chersonesos.


Chersonesos (Χερσόνησος, Khersonesos) is an ancient Hellenic colony founded in the 6th century BC and is located on the shore of the Black Sea at the outskirts of Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula, where it is referred to as 'Khersones'. The name 'Chersonesos' in Greek means 'peninsula', and aptly describes the site on which the colony was established. It was sometimes combined with supplemental monikers to denote its location, as in Tauric Chersonesos (that is, in the land of the Taurian tribes) found in the work of the author Arrian. It should not be confused with the Tauric Chersonese itself as that name often applied to the whole of the southern Crimea.

In Ancient Hellas, colonies were sometimes founded by vanquished people, who left their homes to escape subjection at the hand of a foreign enemy; sometimes as a sequel to civil disorders, when the losers in internecine battles left to form a new city elsewhere; sometimes to get rid of surplus population, and thereby to avoid internal convulsions; and sometimes as a result of ostracism. But in most cases the motivation was to establish and facilitate relations of trade with foreign countries and further the wealth of the Hellenic metropolis--mother country.

The exact time of and circumstances surrounding the foundation of Chersonesos remain highly spculative. Information about the initial period of the history of the polis is isolated and fragmentary. The earliest reference dating to the mid 4th century BC is found in the Periplous by Pseudo-Skilakes in which Chersonesos is referred to as a trading city.

Chersonesos was founded by Dorians from Heraklea Pontica (present-day Eregli, Turkey) significantly later than the majority of Greek cities in the northern Black Sea region. The territory was previously inhabited by the Taurians, a tribe less readily competent to establish close ties with the Greeks than other aboriginal inhabitants of Crimea. These factors influenced both the subsequent history of Chersonesos and its governmental structure.

Chersonesos remained a relatively small city until approximately the middle of the 4th century BC. It can be surmised that Greek maritime transit trade constituted a significant part of the city's earliest economy. Chersonesos, as the northern Black Sea city in closest proximity to the Pontis, lay in an extremely auspicious location on naval trade routes. All ships traveling from the southern Black Sea coast or from Greece to the northern Black Sea region crossed the Pontis Euxine (Black Sea) and stopped at Chersonesos en route to their destinations. But the advantages of this location did not become apparent until the early 4th century BC at which time the ancient Hellenes began to use the direct route from Sinope across the Black Sea to Chersonesos. According to numismatic evidence, the role of Chersonesos as a leading transit point for maritime trade continued into later periods.

The situation in the city begins to change in the 4th century B.C. The development of the Heraklean Peninsula begins with the appearance of the first large military-industrial settlement in the second quarter of the century at so-called Lighthouse Point, ten kilometers from Chersonesos. In contemporary scholarship this area is named Strabo's Old Chersonesos. It is probable that in the second half of the 4th century BC Chersonesos encompassed the rest of the Heraklean Peninsula, the territory which becomes the agricultural basis of the polis until the end of its existence. It may be that because this was a condition specific to many Dorian polises the development of the Heraklean Peninsula resulted in the expulsion and/or perhaps enforced submission of a part of the local Taurian population.

Around the beginning of the 4th century BC began the expansion of Chersonesos into the fertile plains of northwestern Crimea, a consequence of which was the subordination of Kerkinitis and the economic development of a wide agricultural territory in the second half of the century. Many fortresses and unfortified settlements were built, while land was divided into plots. The precise progression of events connected with the territorial expansion of Chersonesos is not clear, although the process of expansion may have occurred militarily, especially if this phenomenon collided with the interests of the Scythians and perhaps even Olbia, with whom Kerkinitis was closely tied.

The transformation of Chersonesos into a formidable state entity with extensive land holdings and a well-developed agricultural infrastructure based on the production of grapes and grain raised it to the level of a leading Black Sea polis. The height of economic and cultural development in Chersonesos occurs in the second half of the 4th-3rd century BC and is well-documented in the archaeological results of the ancient city.

During much of the classical period Chersonesus was a democracy ruled by a group of elected archons and a council called the Demiurgi. As time passed the government grew more oligarchic, with power concentrated in the hands of the archons. A form of oath sworn by all the citizens since the 3rd century BC has survived to the present day:

"I swear by Zeus, Gaia, Helios, the Virgin (Parthenos), the Olympian gods and goddesses, and the heroes who protect the city and territory and fortified places of the Chersonesitans: I will co-operate to defend the safety and freedom of the city and the citizens, and I will not betray Chersonesos or Kerkinitis or Kalos Limen or any other fortified town or other places which the Chersonesitans inhabit or have inhabited, to anyone either Greek or barbarian, but I will protect them for the people of Chersonesos. I will not abolish the democracy, nor will I support or conceal anyone who plans to betray or abolish the democracy, but I will report them to the damiourgoi in the city. I will be the enemy of anyone who plots against or betrays or foments revolt in Chersonesos or Kerkinitis or Kalos Limen or the fortified places and territory of the Chersonesitans. I will give the best and fairest practical assistance and advice to the city and the citizens. I will preserve the (?) safety {sastēr} of the people, and I will not reveal any secrets to anyone, Greek or barbarian, which could cause harm to the city. I will not give or receive any gift for the sake of harming the city and the citizens, nor will I plot any evil deed against any of the citizens, unless they are in revolt; nor will I support or conceal anyone who plots such things, but I will report them and vote against them according to the laws. I will not join any conspiracy against the state of Chersonesos nor against any of the citizens unless they have been declared to be enemies of the people. If I have joined any conspiracy or if I have been bound by any oath or curse, if I put an end to it may it turn out well for myself and my kin, but if I abide by it, may the opposite occur. If I detect any conspiracy that already exists, or is being formed, I will report it to the damiourgoi. I will not give away corn to be removed from the plain, nor will I take it anywhere else away from the plain, except to Chersonesos. By Zeus and Gaia and Helios and the Virgin and the Olympian gods, if I abide by this oath, may it turn out well for myself and my family and my associates, but if I do not abide by it, may it turn out badly for myself and my family and my associates; may neither the land nor the sea bear fruit for me; may my women fail to bear any children . . . "

Already in the 3rd century BC a general shake-up took place in the military-political situation of the northern Black Sea region. From the very beginning Chersonesos co-existed with various belligerent tribes and peoples, among them the Taurians and Scythians, against whom the city had to defend itself countless times, both defensively and offensively during its territorial expansion.

In the first third of the century the majority of settlements in the chora of Chersonesos succumbed to the invasions. This situation may possibly be connected to the growing abilities of the Scythians, or what is more probable, the Sarmatian incursion into the Don-Dnipro region. Archaeological evidence points to the fact that Chersonesos entered the 2nd century B.C. in a weakened state, and consequently was subject to the power of stronger political and economic shocks.

After the appearance of the Scythian state with its capital in Neapolis in the 3rd century BC, the Scythians increased their pressure on Chersonesos. Scythian fortified settlements were built dangerously close to the city of Chersonesos. The city's lack of a military force capable of withstanding the Scythians resulted in its search for allies. In 179 BC Chersonesos concluded a treaty with Pontic king Pharnakes I, who pledged his assistance in any struggles against the Scythians. In the late 2nd century BC renewed Scythian pressure on Chersonesos forced the city to apply to King Mithradates VI Eupator, the grandson of Pharnakes I, for aid. This petition established the beginning of a new stage in the political history of the northern Black Sea region. Mithradates' intervention saved Chersonesos from the Scythian danger, although the city lost its political independence in the process and, together with Bosporos, joined the Pontic State of Mithridates .

After Rome subdued the kingdom of Mithradates VI Eupator, Chersonesos found itself subordinate to Bosporos and remained so until Julius Caesar granted the city its independence in 46-45 B.C. After Caesar's death the Bosporan king Asandros attempted to subordinate Chersonesos once again, but the city successfully retained its independence. Around 25-24 BC Augustus normalized relations between the Chersonesan civil community and the Bosporan dynasts. Under the initiative of the Roman administration, Bosporos and Chersonesos created a defensive union which existed until war broke out between Rome and Bosporos. Chersonesos joined the side of Rome during the war, after which Chersonesos was granted certain privileges. Throughout this period Chersonesos maintained a Roman garrison an thrived.

In the period spanning from the first centuries AD to the advent of Christianity the worldview of the population of Chersonesos developed in two related, but at the same time alternate, directions. In the first, the cults of Hellenistic deities were still popular. All the deities retained their traditional functions, attributes, and symbols. As in the past, the main cult was that of the city's patroness, Parthenos (Maiden). In addition, the cults of many Olympic Gods received special attention. Historical factors, such as the strengthening of ties with the Roman Empire, influenced the selection of deity worship according to Roman taste, and Roman emperors occasionally chose to cultivate the most popular Hellenistic deities, such as Aphrodite, Apollo, and Asklepios, according to the needs of their policy.

Chersonesos became a Byzantine possession during the Early Middle Ages and withstood a siege by the Göktürks in 581. Byzantine rule was slight: there was a small imperial garrison more for the town's protection than for its control. It was useful to Byzantium in two ways: as an observation point to watch the barbarian tribes, and its isolation made it a popular place of exile for those who angered the Roman and later Byzantine governments. After the Fourth Crusade (1202–04), Chersonesus became dependent on the Byzantine Empire of Trebizond, and then fell under Genoese control in the early 13th century. In 1299, the town was sacked by the Mongol armies of Nogai Khan's Golden Horde.

Chersonesus' ancient ruins are presently located in one of Sevastopol's suburbs. They were excavated by the Russian government, starting from 1827. The buildings mix influences of Greek, Roman and Byzantine culture. The defensive wall was approximately 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi) long, 3.5 to 4 metres wide and 8 to 10 metres high with towers at a height of 10 to 12 metres. The walls enclosed an area of about 30 hectares (74 acres). Buildings include a Roman amphitheatre and a Greek temple.
The surrounding land under the control of the city, the chora, consists of several square kilometres of ancient but now barren farmland, with remains of wine presses and defensive towers. According to archaeologists, the evidence suggests that the locals were paid to do the farm work instead of being enslaved.

The excavated tombstones hint at burial practices that were different from the Greek ones. Each stone marks the tomb of an individual, instead of the whole family and the decorations include only objects like sashes and weapons, instead of burial statues. Over half of the tombs archaeologists have found have bones of children. Burned remnants suggest that the city was plundered and destroyed. The site is now part of the National Preserve of Tauric Chersonesos. In 2013, Chersonesus was listed as a World Heritage Site.
One of those days, people... one of those days... I'm going to have to leave you with a bit of ancient text, and I want to broaden the horizon a little today by giving you one of the spells/prayers from the Papyri Graecae Magicae, also known as the 'Greek Magical Papyri'. They are a body of papyri from Graeco-Roman Egypt, which each contain a number of magical spells, formulae, hymns and rituals. The materials in the papyri date from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD. The manuscripts came to light through the antiquities trade, from the 18th century onwards. One of the best known of these texts is the so-called Mithras Liturgy.

Today I would like to quote the logos--the invocatory utterance--of the document. It would have been spoken upon entering the magical rites and it's uzzeling and deliciously un-Hellenic. Enjoy!


Logos

"O Primal Origin of my origination; Thou Primal Substance of my substance; First Breath of breath, the breath that is in me; First Fire, God-given for the Blending of the blendings in me, [First Fire] of fire in me; First Water of [my] water. the water in me; Primal Earth-essence of the earthy essence in me; Thou Perfect Body of me - N. N. son of N. N., son of N.N. (fem.) - fashioned by Honoured Arm and Incorruptible Right Hand, in World that's lightless, yet radiant with Light, [in World] that's soulless, yet filled full of Soul!
 
If, verity, it may seem good to you, translate me, now held by my lower nature, unto the Generation that is free from Death; in order that, beyond the insistent Need that presses on me, I may have Vision of the Deathless Source, by virtue of the Deathless Spirit, by virtue of the Deathless Water, by virtue of the [Deathless] Solid, and [by virtue of] the [Deathless] Air; in order that 1 may become re-born in Mind; in order that 1 may become initiate, and that the Holy Breath may breathe in me; in order that 1 may admire the Holy Fire; that 1 may see the Deep of the [New] Dawn, the Water that doth cause [the Soul] to thrill; and that the, Life-bestowing Æther which surrounds [all things] may give me, Hearing.
 
For 1 am to behold to-day with Deathless Eyes - I, mortal, born of mortal womb, but [now] made better by the Might of Mighty Power, yea, by the Incorruptible Right Hand - [I am to see to-day] by virtue of the Deathless Spirit the DeathlessÆon, the master of the Diadeins of Fire - I with pure purities [now] Purified, the human soul-power of me subsisting for a little while in purity; which [power] I shall again receive transmitted unto me beyond the insistent Bitterness that presses on me, Necessity whose debts can never go unpaid - I, N. N., son of N. N. (fem.) - according to the Ordinance of God that naught can ever change.
 
For that it is beyond my reach that, born beneath the sway of Death, I should [unaided] soar into the Height, together with the golden sparklings of the Brilliancy that knows no Death. Stay still, O nature doomed to Perish, [nature] of men subject to Death! And straightway let me pass beyond the Need implacable that presses on me; for that I am His Son; I breathe; I am!"
The awesome people over at Ancient Origins recently posted a very iteresting article entitled: 'The Tunnel of Eupalinos: One of the Greatest Engineering Achievements of the Classical World'. It's about a subject I previously knew nothing about and perhaps the same holds true for you: an ancient tunnel that acted as an aquaduct to supply water for a prosperous and growing town.


The Tunnel of Eupalinos (or Eupalinos Tunnel) is located on the Greek island of Samos, and has been considered as one of the most important engineering achievements of the Classical world. It has been claimed that the construction of the Eupalinos Tunnel represents the first time in the history of mankind that a project on such a scale had been undertaken. Moreover, the planning and mathematical calculations that went into this project may be said to be on par with those employed by modern day engineers.

The Tunnel of Eupalinos was a project conceived during the 6th century BC. During this time, the ancient town of Samos, now known as Pythagorio / Pythagoreio / Pythagorion, was experiencing a period of prosperity. Along with this growing wealth, the town also saw an increase in the size of its population. Unfortunately, water sources in the town were not enough to satisfy the needs of its people. To maintain the prosperity of his town, the tyrant Polykrates had to find a solution to this problem, and employed the engineer Eupalinos of Megara to build an aqueduct.

Little is known about Eupalinos today. It is said that he was the son of a man by the name of Naustraphos, and came from a place known as Megara, which is situated between Corinth and Athens. The aqueduct was not the first project that Eupalinos had worked on under Polykrates. It has been recorded that, prior to this, Eupalinos was also commissioned to build the cyclopean wall that surrounded the town of Samos, as well as the mole in its harbor.
Eupalinos’ later project was an aqueduct, which was to connect the town of Samos to the north of Mount Kastro. It was from this mountain that the town would get its supply of water. From a spring on this mountain, water was conducted into a covered basin / reservoir, which is today under the old chapel of a deserted village by the name of Agiades. This aqueduct was completely subterranean, and it has been recorded that the water, from its source, travelled to the town of Samos over a total distance of over 2.5 km (1.5 mi). 1036 m (3398 ft.) of this distance involved a bored tunnel, which is perhaps the highlight of this monumental project.

Eupalinos could have used a much easier method to construct his aqueduct. This is known as ‘cut and cover’, and would allow the water to flow in a channel along the contours of Mount Kastro. For reasons that are unknown today, Eupalinos decided against this course of action, and instead decided to build a tunnel through the mountain.

This feat was accomplished by having the tunnel dug simultaneously from both ends. Using only picks, hammers and chisels, Eupalinos’ workers, many of whom are said to have been prisoners from Lesbos, dug their way through solid limestone. Clay / terracotta pipes were also put into place to facilitate the flow of the water. It has been estimated the whole system took about a decade to build. It has been speculated, that, when completed, Eupalinos’ creation supplied the town of Samos with 400 cubic meters of water per day.
The Tunnel of Eupalinos is said to have served its original purpose until the 7th century AD, when it fell into disuse during the Byzantine period. Following this abandonment, the tunnel was turned into a refuge by the local people, who hid in there when they were attacked by pirates. The tunnel’s defensive role may be seen in the fortressing walls that were built inside this ancient structure just after its southern entrance portal.

Eventually, however, the location of Eupalinos’ Tunnel was lost. Nevertheless, this structure had been mentioned in Herodotus’ Histories, which prompted many to look for it. It was only in 1853 that a French archaeologist by the name of Victor Guerin discovered the first 400 m (1312 ft.) of the aqueduct from the spring at Agiades. Over the next century, more discoveries were made, and eventually, in 1992, the Tunnel of Eupalinos became a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the ‘Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos’.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have pinpointed the elusive factor that makes the ancient amphitheatre an acoustic marvel, the Archaeological News Network reports. It's not the slope, or the wind--it's the seats. The rows of limestone seats at Epidaurus form an efficient acoustics filter that hushes low-frequency background noises like the murmur of a crowd and reflects the high-frequency noises of the performers on stage off the seats and back toward the seated audience member, carrying an actor's voice all the way to the back rows of the theatre.


 
The research, done by acoustician and ultrasonics expert Nico Declercq, an assistant professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Georgia Tech Lorraine in France, and Cindy Dekeyser, an engineer who is fascinated by the history of ancient Greece, appeared in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

While many experts speculated on the possible causes for Epidaurus' acoustics, few guessed that the seats themselves were the secret of its acoustics success. There were theories that the site's wind--which blows primarily from the stage to the audience--was the cause, while others credited masks that may have acted as primitive loudspeakers or the rhythm of Greek speech. Other more technical theories took into account the slope of the seat rows.

When Declercq set out to solve the acoustic mystery, he too had the wrong idea about how Epidaurus carries performance sounds so well. He suspected that the corrugated, or ridged, material of the theater's limestone structure was acting as a filter for sound waves at certain frequencies, but he didn't anticipate how well it was controlling background noise.

"When I first tackled this problem, I thought that the effect of the splendid acoustics was due to surface waves climbing the theatre with almost no damping. While the voices of the performers were being carried, I didn't anticipate that the low frequencies of speech were also filtered out to some extent."

But as Declercq's team experimented with ultrasonic waves and numerical simulations of the theatre's acoustics, they discovered that frequencies up to 500 Hz were held back while frequencies above 500 Hz were allowed to ring out. The corrugated surface of the seats was creating an effect similar to the ridged acoustics padding on walls or insulation in a parking garage.

So, how did the audience hear the lower frequencies of an actor's voice if they were being suppressed with other background low frequencies? There's a simple answer, said Declercq. The human brain is capable of reconstructing the missing frequencies through a phenomenon called virtual pitch. Virtual pitch helps us appreciate the incomplete sound coming from small loudspeakers (in a laptop or a telephone), even though the low (bass) frequencies aren't generated by a small speaker.

The ancient Hellenes misunderstanding the role the limestone seats played in Epidaurus' acoustics likely kept them from being able to duplicate the effect. Later theatres included different bench and seat materials, including wood, which may have played a large role in the gradual abandonment of Epidaurus' design over the years by the Hellenes and Romans, Declercq said.
In ancient Hellas, violent internal conflict between border neighbours and war with foreign invaders was a way of life, and the ancient Hellenes were considered premier warriors. Sparta, specifically, had an army of the most feared warriors in the ancient world. What were they doing to produce such fierce soldiers? Craig Zimmer shares some of the lessons that might have been taught at Spartan school in this TEDed talk.


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.


"Okay so I've practiced for a while, but I never feature any gods in my spells. I do say daily prayers to the Theoi, however, like before I sleep and when I wake (like how some people say grace over dinner), and I was wondering if that was alright."

Whatever suits you is alright to do. If you're asking if it's a recon approach then no, it's not. It seems you practice some sort of Neo-Paganism that includes spellcasting and the Theoi. Which is perfectly fine, especially when not combined! The daily prayers are definitely recon inspired, though, You're not giving me a lot to work with but from what I can figure out from these few words, you have got your own thing solidly down and that's brilliant!

~~~

"So I'm planning on taking a day and cleaning the family headstones. And I want to make offerings to the dead. Most of the dead I've never met so I can't give them their favorite food from life. What items would you recommend. And do you know of any short prayers/hymns/etc that I could use while cleaning to let the dead know they are not forgotten?"

First off, let me say that I love that you're going back to your family's headstones to clean them. that act alone matches very well with Hellenismos. The ancient Hellenes believed that as long as a person was remembered, they weren't truly dead. As the believe was that most people end up at the Meadows to wander forever, to be able to return to the surface when libated and spoken to was like a literal lifeline and families gathered at least once a year to honour the dead at the cemeteries. Most of their practices have been recorded in classical literature like for example here, in the Odysseia by Homeros:

“Perimedes and Eurylochus restrained the sacrificial victims while I drew my sharp sword from its sheath, and with it dug a pit two foot square, then poured a libation all around to the dead, first of milk and honey, then of sweet wine, thirdly of water, sprinkled with white barley meal. Then I prayed devoutly to the powerless ghosts of the departed, swearing that when I reached Ithaca I would sacrifice a barren heifer in my palace, the best of the herd, and would heap the altar with rich spoils, and offer a ram, apart, to Teiresias, the finest jet-black ram in the flock. When, with prayers and vows, I had invoked the hosts of the dead, I led the sheep to the pit and cut their throats, so the dark blood flowed.” [Bk XI:1-50]

So we know how it works: blood sacrifice in a pit, followed by libations of milk and honey, then sweet red wine, then water, followed by a sprinkling of barley meal. Prayers to the dead—most likely invoking them by name and the manner in which the person knows them—followed by a promise to do something for them if they appear to drink from the sacrifice and gain life for a few moments.  Then more animal sacrifices. It’s described, by the way, in the Odysseia that the ghosts only drink of the blood in the sacrifice—the life’s blood that makes them solid and restores their memories of life for a while.

I assume you aren’t raising the dead and simply want to honour them, so I am quite sure libations of milk and honey, followed by libations of wine and water and then a sprinkling of barley flour will do. Speak of your relationship to them and while you are cleaning, talk about things you remember about them or what you have been told about them. Make sure they feel remembered and included, that is what matters most. And to those whom you have not met, tell them about how their children’s lives were, or their grandchildren’s lives or how yours is. Tell them you have your family’s tell-tale nose, or that dry sense of humour. Tell them that you always wanted to be a baker or doctor or fireman like they were. Anything to form a bond and remind them of the good things about life and family. If you run out of things to say, list your favourite foods, tell them how a perfect summer day feels and the rain on your skin. Remind them of life and pay your respects. Make it a joyful occasion for both!

~~~

"Is it possible to be a soft polytheist and believe in the greek gods? I know this wouldn't be recon. I'm just wondering your opinion on this."

Yes, this is entirely possible. Many people have conflated Gods through the ages--most notably the Hellenic and Roman pantheons. There are ancient examples as well. Most Hellenists tend to stick to a hard polytheistic view but it's not needed to have if you want to honour the Theoi.

~~~

"Is it okay to not view the myths surrounding the gods as fact? For instance, when I read the creation of the universe or of humankind, I don't believe it as fact. Same with a lot of the myths, honestly. I view them as stories to understand the gods.""

Needless to say, at least to those who frequent my blog, I am very invested in mythology, and most--if not all--of my ethical, social, and religious framework comes from the accounts of ancient writers like Hómēros, Hesiod, and all the playwrights.

I believe in a form of literal interpretation of mythology. I believe that we are called to view the myths of the Theoi as a literal interpretation of the nature of the Divine, as well as history as a whole. What happened in the myths, literally happened.

Religion has the reputation of being un-scientific. By its definition, religion--the believe in something one can’t prove--seems the polar opposite of science. What I love about Hellenic mythology and philosophy is that it works with science

I have a multiperspectivalistic view of religion. Multispectivalism, in short, is an approach to knowledge that suggests that it is made up of multiple perspectives, none of which can grasp reality as it is. As such, the more perspectives one takes into account--biological, scientifical, psychological, theological--the better the overall picture one might have of reality. Multispectivalism in relation to religion thus implies that all reality can never be summed up under any one religion, concept, or perspective but is, in essence, a combination of all.

It means seeing the divine in everything. Lightning is just as much a scientific phenomenon as Zeus' mighty weapon cast down upon the earth. The little girl who guided Odysseus to the palace of Alcinous was just as much a little girl as the personification of Athena. The two overlap and co-exist. And as such, Hēraklēs' madness was brought on by Hera, and--at an even more basic level--Hēraklēs existed. He may have existed in multiple men, but there was once a man so powerful that he could only be the child of Zeus, and the many extraordinary things he did could only be attributed to a man aided by the Theoi.

Needless to say, this is my vision, my view, on Hellenismos, and it might not fit yours at all while we both honor the Theoi in a Recon manner. The thing that made me smile about your wording is that you say 'I view them as stories to understand the gods'. So do I. I believe the Gods are real so as an inevitable result I believe the stories of their deeds are real, too. At least within a multiperspectivalistic view.
So, the UK vote is in: everyone under 40 pretty much wanted to stay and everyone white above fourty pretty much wanted out. So this post is for you, generations that will have to deal with this mess. My sympathies are with you today. The true worth and value of a country is in its legacy.

Businessman Vasily Klyukin has been working on a conceptual architecture project for skyscrapers. At least, he was in 2014 as this is old news; I have no idea if the project has continued since then but that is not the point of this post. The whole project began after Klyukin bought a small building in Monaco which he then wished to replace with a tall tower that would become a landmark for the Principate.

In order to convince Prince Albert II, he began drawing original skyscrapers and towers with the aim of creating the most impressive and beautiful architectural landmark befitting the prestigious city-state. After working day and night for months and with the help of his friends, Klyukin (who has no formal training in architecture) came up with numerous highly ambitious designs for iconic buildings and towers, ranging from residential buildings to opera houses and hotels – all a manifestation of his firm belief that 'every serious building, in addition to a concept, should have its own story or legend.'

Klyukin’s designs are to say the very least, diverse; as they are mostly conceptual designs that are not planned to be built in the near future, they are also rather daring and experimental. His concepts include skyscrapers inspired by Ancient Hellenic statues, namely the Aphrodite of Milos and the Nike of Samothrace: considered two of the most celebrated sculptures in the world, for Vasily Klyukin they embody the essence of Beauty and Victory, two concepts that fit quite naturally with the ambitious spirit of designing such architectural legends.







Perhaps one day, these--or buildings like these--will truly be created and a touch of the Gods will return to our city's skylines. The point is: greatness remains, in both thought and practice.
The ancient Hellenic writers were dedicated historians, but they often neglected to mention the achievements of ancient Hellenic women. Now it so happens that I am a woman and I quite like having a few female heroes to look up to, so I want to introduce you to them. Today: the poet and warrior Telesilla of Argos.

Telesilla of Argos was a lyric poet of the 5th century BCE, listed by Antipater of Thesalonike (c. 15 BCE), the author of over a hundred epigrams in the 'Greek Anthology', as one of the great Nine Female Lyric Poets of Greece (along with Praxilla, Moiro, Anyte, Sappho, Erinna, Corinna, Nossis, and Myrtis). She was responsible for the metrical innovation of lyric poetry known as the Telesillean Metre. She is also said to be the masermind behind the defense of Argos when Cleomenes, king of Sparta, invaded the land of the Argives in 510 BC. He defeated and killed all the hoplites of Argos in the Battle of Sepeia and massacred the survivors, leaving Argos seemingly defenseless. Telesilla, however, organized all the slaves and women to the defense of the city and won (although it was mostly because the Spartans realized that fighting women and slaves would be very shameful and left).

First we must address her value as a very renowned poet. When Telesilla was younger, she was often sickly. She visited an oracle for help in restoring her health and heard that she should devote herself to the Muses. So Telesilla dedicated herself to the study of poetry and music. Her health did improve and she rose to great fame as a lyric poet. Of the considerable body of work she produced, only two lines remain extant as quoted by the ancient grammarian Hephaistion of Alexandria in his Handbook on Meter (c. 96 CE). References to her, however, appear in the works of Pausanius (c. 110-180 CE), Plutarch (45-120 CE), Athenaeus (c. 3rd century CE), and the work Bibliotheca ascribed to Apollodorus of Alexandria (2nd century CE), among others. She was an extremely influential artist who is always cited with respect by other ancient authors, no matter the subject. Antipater writes in the 'Greek Anthology':

"These are the divine-voiced women that Helicon
fed with song, Helicon and Macedonian Pieria's
rock: Praxilla; Moero; Anyte, the female Homer;
Sappho, glory of the Lesbian women with lovely
tresses; Erinna; renowned Telesilla; and thou,
Corinna, who didst sing the martial shield of Athena;
Nossis, the tender-voiced, and dulcet-toned Myrtis —
all craftswomen of eternal pages. Great Heaven
gave birth to nine Muses, and Earth to these ten,
the deathless delight of men." [9.26]

Now, the tale of how she organized the salvation of Argos. Some background first. The Spartan king Cleomenes I consulted the Oracle of Apollo on what would happen if he marched on Argos, and he would be victorious if he tried. So Cleomenes I took to the field and met Argives at Sepeia. He tricked his way to victory, killed most of the warriors and murdered those who fled by more trickery and cruelty, even going so far as to set fire to a sacred grove where they had sought refuge. After the massacre, Cleomenes I  marched on the city. Telesilla heard of what had happened to the men of the army and mobilized the women, youth, and elders of Argos for defense. Plutarch writes in his 'Moralia':

"Of all the deeds performed by women for the community none is more famous than the struggle against Cleomenes for Argos (494 B.C.), which the women carried out at the instigation of Telesilla the poet. She, as they say, was the daughter of a famous house, but sickly in body, and so she sent to the god to ask about health; and when an oracle was given her to cultivate the Muses, she followed the god's advice, and by devoting herself to poetry and music she was quickly relieved of her trouble, and was greatly admired by the women for her poetic art.

But when Cleomenes (I), king of the Spartans, having slain many Argives (but not by any means seven thousand seven hundred and seventy seven [cf. Herodotus, VII.148] as some fabulous narrative have it), proceeded against the city, an impulsive daring, divinely inspired, came to the younger women to try, for their country's sake, to hold off the enemy. Under the lead of Telesilla, they took up arms, and, taking their stand by the battlements, manned the walls all round, so that the enemy were amazed. The result was that they repulsed Cleomenes with great loss, and the other king, Demaratus, who managed to get inside, as Socrates [FHG IV, p. 497] says, and gained possession of the Pamphyliacum, they drove out. In this way the city was saved. The women who fell in the battle they buried close by the Argive Road, and to the survivors they granted the privilege of erecting a statue of Ares as a memorial of their surpassing valor. Some say that the battle took place on the seventh day of the month which is now known as the Fourth Month [tetartou], but anciently was called Hermaeus among the Argives; others say that it was on the first day of that month, on the anniversary of which they celebrate even to this day the 'Festival of Impudence', at which they clothe the women in men's shirts and cloaks, and the men in women's robes and veils.

To repair the scarcity of men they did not unite the women with slaves, as Herodotus (VI. 77-83) records, but with the best of their neighboring subjects, whom they made Argive citizens. It was reputed that the women showed disrespect and an intentional indifference to those husbands in their married relations from a feeling that they were underlings. Wherefore the Argives enacted a law, the one which says that married women having a beard must occupy the same bed with their husbands." [245c-f]

The reference to 'women who have beards' above is thought to refer to the women who fought for the city as though they were men and then refused to return to their former status as subservients. as such, laws had to be enacted to restore the community to the traditionalsituation that existed before the battle and the rise of the women in defense of Argos.

Historians have questioned the validity of the story of Telesilla and the Spartans for centuries, most notably because Herodotus, in Book VI of his Histories, writes about Cleomenes’ assault on Argos and the massacre of the Argives, and even references the oracle, but does not mention Telesilla. The credibility of women and slaves manning walls to attack invaders is also often called into question, even though there are historic accounts of women and slaves in other cities doing the same. After all, many ancient Hellenic cities lended themselves very well for this type of assault from above.

What happened to Telesilla after the battle with the Spartans is unknown, but she was remembered for her heroic achievement for centuries. Clement of Alexandria (c.150-215 CE) preserved an earlier poem regarding her heroism which contains the lines:

"They say that the women of Argos, under the leadership of the poetess Telesilla, by their simple appearance put to flight the Spartans, strong at war, and made themselves fearless in the face of death."

Her reputation for courage was such that, almost 700 years after the event, she continued to be remembered and honored for it as well as her poetry. In the city of Argos, a stele of her was errected in the temple of Aphrodite. Pausanias writes in his 'Periegesis Hellados':
"...and in front of the seated statue of the goddess is a stele engraved with an image of Telesilla the writer of poems. These lie as though thrown down beside her feet, and she herself is looking at a helmet which she holds in her hand and is about to put on her head." [II. 20 8]
I have a recipe up on my blog for honey cakes, which consist of barley flour, water, clear honey and olive oil. I have also mentioned I have a rather serious grain intollerance. Needless to say, the two don't match. So, for a while now, I have been using an adapted recipe and I can't believe I haven't shared it with you guys yet! Yesterday I got an ask on Tumblr that prompted this realization:

"Hi Elani! I was curious....I am a Hellenist and for the Noumenia celebrations, I really wanted to make honey cakes to sacrifice to the Gods (using the recipe posted on your blog). My issue is that I have a gluten intolerance that is agitated by eating glutinous grains like barley. Would it be appropriate to switch the barley out for a grain I'm capable of eating? I know it wouldn't be as "authentic" but if I were to partake in sacrifices, I'd have to eat it. What do you think?"

I can't eat grains of any kind and I did want to partake in the sacrifice--I find that part of the sacrifice more important than using ingredients the ancient Hellenes would have had access to--so I made my own recipe long ago. It is based off of the recipe for honey cakes but uses coconut and tapioca flour instead and it doesn't use olive oil although you can add a drop once it's done. I have found that adding it to the recipe keeps them from firming up enough not to break once taken off of the tray. Without it, they stay nice and firm and a little gooey on the inside. Delicious! The recipe below makes one hand-sized cake or, like I ususally do, four smaller cookies, the size of an Oreo.

Ingredients:
- 10 grams of coconut flour
- 5 grams of tapioca flour
- 5 grams of honey
- luke warm water

Let me run through these real quick. Cocunut flour is one of the few non-grain flours that sucks up moisture and becomes a paste. It's a thickener and you need that. Tapioca flour is what makes the cake crispy on the outside but gooey on the inside. You can use 15 grams of coconut flour but it won't come out as nice, in my opinion. you can use more honey if you want but it'll mess with the consistency a bit. Also: coconut flour is very sweet already and you really don't need more than 5 grams for the taste. I'll show you what it needs to look like below, but you add water until the consistency of the dough is crumbly but sticky. Just add a liiiiitle bit at a time. Make sure the water is a little warm to help the honey dissolve later on.

Once you are done with the dough, you need to form it into the shape you want. The dough will want to fall apart just a little but you can use a knife to press it down and scrape it off of the counter to add to a baking tray. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and slide the plate into the center. Turn them after 5 to 7 minutes, when the edges start to brown. You might have to scrape them off and turn them carefully! Then bake them until the new top edges have browned again, probably another 5 to 7 minutes.Voila! Honey cakes!

 
Coconut flour, tapioca flour and luke warm water mixed to a crumbly consistency

 
With added honey--you really don't need more than this for consistency or flavour

 
Oreo sized cookies or one big one

 
Bake until the edges turn golden, then turn with a knife to bake until the edges are golden again

 
Done! Crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside and deliciously sweet!

I woke up to another rainy day today. I say 'another' because it's been pretty much raining non-stop here for the last two weeks or so with a record 15 consecutive hours of rain yesterday. As such, I also woke up dreaming of Greece's pearly white sandy beaches and its plentyful sun. Care to take a small vacation with me, everyone? I'll be dreaming of these places today.

Daily Telegraph presented the best 17 beaches in its special ‘Travel Destinations’ section:

1. Myrtos, Kefalonia


One of Greece’s best known beaches – thanks, in part, to its starring role in the film adaptation of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (it’s where the Italian soldiers make merry and the location of the mine explosion). It’s particularly photogenic viewed from the headland to the north. Other recommendations on the island include the rust-red sands of family-friendly Xi Beach, on the south coast, which offers watersports and a couple of smart tavernas, and wild Petani Beach, on the west coast, which rivals Myrtos for its spectacular location

2. Shipwreck Beach, Zakynthos
Probably the most photographed beach in Greece, Navagio Bay, as it is also known, is a picture-postcard arc of white sand and pebbles accessible only by boat, where you’ll see the hulk of a cigarette smugglers’ ship that beached there 30 years ago.

3. Váï, Crete
Also know as Finikodassos (Palm Forest), this gently curving golden sand beach is backed by Europe’s largest natural palm grove – some 500 densely clustered trees in an oasis fed by a stream – which have stood here for more than 3,000 years. It might even look familiar – this is where the “taste of paradise” Bounty bar advert was filmed in the early 1970s.

4. Halikoúnas, Corfu
 
Essentially a duney sandspit dividing the open sea from brackish Korissíon lagoon, Halikoúnas is one of the wildest, most unspoilt beaches on Corfu, stretching 3km southeast to the little Venetian-dredged canal joining the lagoon to the Ionian.

5. Sarakiniko, Milos
 
Another of the country’s most photogenic beaches, Sarakiniko is backed with volcanic rocks whipped into otherworldly shapes by the sea breeze. Milos lies in the Cyclades island group and can be reached by plane or ferry from Athens.

6. Egremni, Lefkada
 
The west coast of Lefkada – an Ionian island that lures thousands of sailors and watersports fans each year – is dotted with beautiful beaches. Egremni, a couple of miles south of Athani, is arguably the finest. Long, sandy, and backed by sheer white cliffs, it is never crowded, largely thanks to the 355 steps that visitors must negotiate to reach it (and the absence of a WC). The shingle beach of Porto Katsiki, a little further south, is equally dramatic but there’s just 100 steps to contend with. Pefkoulia (sandy) and Kathisma (shingle), on the northwest coast, are excellent options for families.

7. Psilí Ámmos, Patmos
 
Meaning “fine sand”, it is just that – some 200m of it, with a selection of tamarisks for shade. “It’s only accessible by taxi-boat from Skála or an hour’s round-trip hike on a good, signposted trail from an impromptu car/scooter park at the Diakóftis isthmus,” adds Marc Dubin. “Although the sand shelves gently, it’s a reliably windy place with gentle surf. The southern third of the cove has traditionally been naturist. At the north end is a single taverna (late May-Sept), offering goat meat from herds on the surrounding hills

8. Hovolo, Skopelos
 
While the beaches on Skopelos are largely shingle or pebble, they are picturesque, backed by rocky green hills, and quiet. The closest to the capital is Glysteri, on the road north out of town and reached via a scented valley dotted with olive trees, but the best are found on the west coast. Limnonari, on the coastal road north from Agnontas, hemmed in by rocky headland, is as close to a truly sandy beach as you’ll find. Kastani, a key Mamma Mia! filming location, is equally pretty – but is the only place on the entire island that gets overcrowded. For real solitude, rent a motorboat from Panormos, and head north – you’ll find beautiful spots all the way up the coast (such as Hovolo, Ftelia and Neraki) that are inaccessible to cars and subsequently occupied only by other couples who have rented motorboats, and the occasional determined German naturist.

9. St Paul’s Bay, Rhodes
 
Another of Greece’s best known beaches is this spot on Rhodes, in the shadow of Lindos and it acropolis. Expect it to be busy in high season.

10. Elafonísi, Crete
 
“You’ll have seen it on posters or brochures long before you arrive, so will have no trouble recognising it,” writes Marc Dubin, our Greece expert. “A low islet tethered to the most southwesterly point of the Cretan mainland by a slightly pink-tinted sandspit, the two cradling a shallow lagoon with tropical-turquoise water.
” Don’t expect to have it to yourself, however. “Everybody and anybody goes – it’s one of the most promoted days out in western Crete,” he adds. “Stay the night in the nearby eponymous hamlet to derive more relaxation from the place.
”

11. Grias to Pidima, Andros
 
If a trip to the beach is all about escapism, Andros might just be for you. It’s rugged, mountainous and uncrowded – but has some stunning beaches. Among the most striking is Grias to Pidima, dominated by a large sea stack.

12. Voidokilia, near Costa Navarino, Messinia
 
This horseshoe-shaped beach is a short drive from the brand spanking new resorts of the Costa Navarino – but steeped in history. Above it are the ruins of thirteenth-century Frankish castle, while it is believed by many to be the “sandy Pylos” referenced in Homer’s Odyssey.

13. Kamári, Santorini
If you like your beaches golden, Santorini might not be for you. Almost all feature dark-grey volcanic sand. “Kamári is the most manicured and amenitied,” says Marc Dubin. “There are other top-drawer strands at southeast-facing Perívolos, which has beach bars pitched at a younger crowd and is found immediately south of busier and narrower Períssa. “Also notable are Baxédes, the only real beach near Oía, and scenic Kókkini Ámmos cove near the ancient Minoan site at Akrotíri, with reddish-purple sand but very crowded.

14. Pori, Koufonissi
“The sandy beaches that rim Ano Koufonissi’s south coast give onto cerulean blue sea of a hue that seems confined to artists’ palettes, seemingly impossible in reality,” writes Jane Foster. “Hidden away between the larger Cycladic islands of Naxos and Amorgos, Koufonissia (plural) is made up of two tiny islets, Ano Koufonissi (Upper Koufonissi) and Kato Koufonissi (Lower Koufonissi), which are separated by a 200-metre sea channel. While Kato Koufonissi remains uninhabited, Ano Koufonissi, with its whitewashed Cycladic cottages, has a buzzing little community of 366. Locals live mainly from fishing – it is claimed that there are more boats than residents – there are no real roads and hardly any cars, so everyone either walks or cycles.” For lesser-visited Greece, Jane Foster also recommends Stoupa, on the Mani peninsular.

15. Orkos, Kea
 
One of the nearest islands to Athens, Kea “draws on a civilised clientele of Athenian weekenders and second home owners in retreat from the city”, according to Adam Ruck. Its beaches are all quiet. “Rather than build new roads to remote beaches, the Keans have restored ancient mule tracks and waymarked them for hikers,” explains Adam. Pictured above is one such example, Orkos, although he also suggests taking the path from Kato Meria to the site of ancient Karthea – “90 minutes down, two sweaty hours back up. Fragments of column on a promontory between two empty beaches are all that remain standing of this powerful city state, a sacred site to rival Delos and Aegina.”

16. Karavostási
North-westerly Epirus is still unknown to many tourists. It shouldn’t be – not least because Karavostasi Beach, 15 miles north west of the little town of Parga, is a slice of Hellenic heaven, its half-mile of golden powder caught between two forested headlands.

17. Lalária, Skiathos
 
Little Skiathos is blessed with beaches – but you need to be in an adventurous mood to lie on Lalaria. Fixed to the north coast of the island, with a rock arch, it cannot be reached by road. You need a boat, or a pair of hiking boots.

Edited: as I posted this, the sun came through....
Since the year 2000 more than 23.000 people have died trying to reach Europe’s shores. Three business partners from Germany decided to found the non-profit NGO Sea-Watch e.V. in an effort to bring down those numbers. Since November 2015 Sea-Watch is working between Lesbos and the Turkish mainland to prevent further deaths in this part of the Mediterranean Sea, recording the highest number of drowned refugees in 2015. Pandora's Kharis members and any passing kind stranger can help them achieve this goal this month, because Sea-Watch has become Pandora's Kharis' cause for Skirophoria 2016.



The ship MS Sea-Watch was bought and refitted with a crew of volunteers, working day and night to make the vessel suitable for Search and Rescue (SAR) operations. Due to scarce financial resources Sea-Watch had to improvise in terms of technical solutions. The success of the project was based mostly on hard work and the collaborative effort of a highly professional and motivated team. This was and remains Sea-Watch’s biggest asset. At the end of the launch season of the project, Sea-Watch can look back on a summer where it has been able to save the lives of more than 2.000 people found in distress at sea throughout seven missions.

In the winter months Sea-Watch started its mission between Lesbos, Greece, and the Turkish mainland, again facing a situation totally thrown out of joint. They are currently analyzing the difficult operational conditions to develop standard procedures for their missions. Additionally, theyare trying to establish an efficient network consisting of the many different initiatives, volunteers and official authorities.

You can help Sea-Watch become an even more valuable asset on the Aegean sea. The deadline to donate is July 8, 2016. You can do so by using the PayPal option to the side of the Pandora's Kharis website or by donating directly to baring.the.aegis@gmail.com. Thank you in advance!
The Archaeological News Network reports that the new underwater investigations at what has come to be known as the 'Antikythera shipwreck' in Greece have uncovered no more pieces of the most famous item on the ship's cargo--2,000-year-old astronomical instrument called the 'Antikythera mechanism'. It did, however, uncover dozens of other artifacts of equal interest.


Greece's culture ministry said Wednesday that the May 22-June 11 survey by Greek and U.S. archaeologists off Antikythera island located about 60 metal, stone, pottery and glass objects. These included a bronze spear, which would have been part of a statue, four fragments of marble statues, and a gold ring.

The Antikythera wreck is a shipwreck from the 2nd quarter of the 1st century BC. It was discovered by sponge divers off Point Glyphadia on the Hellenic island of Antikythera in 1900. The wreck manifested numerous statues, coins and other artefacts dating back to the 4th century BC, as well as the severely corroded remnants of a device that is called the world's oldest known analog computer, the Antikythera mechanism.

The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient analog computer designed to predict astronomical positions and eclipses. The computer's construction has been attributed to the Hellenes and was dated to the early 1st century BC. Technological artefacts approaching its complexity and workmanship did not appear again until the 14th century, when mechanical astronomical clocks began to be built in Western Europe.

The mechanism was housed in a wooden box and is made up of bronze gears (that we know of). The mechanism's remains were found as eighty-two separate fragments of which only seven contain any gears or significant inscriptions. Today, the fragments of the Antikythera mechanism are kept at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

There is no news currently about any further dives to uncover more items, wether part of the mechanism or not.

(Sorry, Blogger decided not to post this yesterday :( )
Alan Hovhaness (March 8, 1911 – June 21, 2000) was an American composer of Armenian and Scottish descent. He was one of the most prolific 20th-century composers, with his official catalog comprising 67 numbered symphonies (surviving manuscripts indicate over 70) and 434 opus numbers. The true tally is well over 500 surviving works since many opus numbers comprise two or more distinct works. Some of his works were recommended to me by a dear friend to listen to in a Hellenic context. I haven't gotten around to listening to them all so I am posting them here as much as a reminder to myself as to give you an opportunity to judge for yourself.

One thing I found in researching Hovaness is a quote I very much relate to, perhaps not in a Hellenic context but certainly as general view on modern society--and mind you, he said this in 1971(!):

"We are in a very dangerous period. We are in danger of destroying ourselves, and I have a great fear about this ... The older generation is ruling ruthlessly. I feel that this is a terrible threat to our civilization. It's the greed of huge companies and huge organizations which control life in a kind of a brutal way ... It's gotten worse and worse, somehow, because physical science has given us more and more terrible deadly weapons, and the human spirit has been destroyed in so many cases, so what's the use of having the most powerful country in the world if we have killed the soul. It's of no use."

I find this type of clarity about the world around him stimulating as I find myself searching for that as well. Awareness of the world around you is very important to me and it gives me great motivation to listen to his work.

Hovhaness was a modern composer and he did not write about the ancient Hellenic Gods specifically. but from what I heard, I can most certainly see the connections clearly. Lady of Light refers to Hera, for example, and The Garden of Adonis speaks for itself. At any rate, judge for yourself and enjoy! Oh, and disregard the random angel thrown into the video.

Alan Hovhaness - Lady Of Light
 
Alan Hovhaness - The Garden of Adonis
 
Alan Hovhaness - Meditation on Orpheus
Two days after the Skiraphoria, on June 19, Elaion is organizing another PAT ritual. This time, the ritual is for the Dipolieia. The Dipolieia appears to have been a sacrifice on the altar of Zeuis Polieus on the Acropolis and not a public festival involving a procession or rites conducted in homes. It was for the administration of Athens. The Dipolieia, because of its association with the Bouphónia, has caused a great amount of ambiguity between scholars. Will you join us in celebrating a mix?


The Dipolieia (Διπολεῖα) has much contradictory evidence and differences of opinion on it's function and importance. It seems to have been primarily for Zeus. The Dipolieia appears not to be a festival involving the Polis as a whole but--like the Bouphónia that was held during it--purification was of great importance. I have written about the Bouphónia before; the post can be found here. In short, the odd ritual of the Bouphónia comes down to this:

"Every year on the fourteenth day of Skirophorion, from the time of Erechtheus (1397 - 1347 BC) to--at least--the second century AD, an odd ritual was reenacted. It was called the 'Bouphónia'  (βουφόνια), and was part of another festival; the 'Dipolieia', a feast in honor of Zeus Polieus (Zeus of the City).
 
On top of the Acropolis, oxen are released from the temple of Zeus Polieus. Outside lie cakes on a table, and the oxen are herded past them. Nearby, two women with bowls of water in their hands and a man who is sharpening an axe and knife watch. One of the oxen in line reaches for one of the cakes and devours it. One of the nearby men shouts at the ox, and rushes to the man who is sharpening his weapons. He grabs the double-bladed axe and with one big swing, ends the life of the ox. The Ox-Slayer drops the axe and flees the scene. The slain animal is sacrificed properly to Zeus Polieus. And a hunt begins for the murderer of Zeus' sacred ox. He is found and brought to trial. The blame is passed from the Ox-Slayer, to the man with the weapons, to the women with the water and eventually the weapons themselves. They are found guilt and tossed off of a cliff. The ox is stuffed and put out on the field, in front of a plough. 

[...] It seems to me that there is an underlying theme to this myth, and its subsequent festival: that an animal which is slaughtered by a man alone, is killed, yet an animal which is slaughtered by a group becomes a sacrifice. Everyone is 'to blame' for the death of the ox, simply by being there, and in order to break the circle, an inanimate object--which, obviously, cannot defend itself, thus the cycle cannot possibly continue--is chosen to bear the blame, thus taking it off of everyone else. "

The Bouphónia is an ancient ritual, archaic even in classical times. the Dipolieia is old as well but was celebrated for a very long time in classical times. As such, we invite you all to join us on 19 June at the regular 10 AM EDT to honour Zeus in a mixture of the two festivals. The ritual can be found here and if you would like to discuss the PAT ritual with others, feel free to do so here.
It seems that, for archeologists, it is the month of claiming you have discovered things that belong to ancient Hellenes. First the discovery of Aristotle's tomb and now Agamemnon's throne! Christofilis Maggidis, who heads excavations at the site in southern Greece, said Tuesday that the chunk of worked limestone was found two years ago, in a streambed under the imposing Mycean citadel. He told a press conference in Athens that the royal throne was among sections of the hilltop palace that collapsed during an earthquake around 1200 BC.


Maggidis makes a bit of a leap in judgement: Mycenae flourished from the mid-14th to the 12th century BC. and was one of Greece's most significant late bronze age centers. The most famous of all, Agamemnon, led the Greek army that besieged and sacked Troy, according to Homer's epics. It is not clear to what extent the myths were inspired by memories of historic events. No other thrones have been found in mainland Greece's Mycenaean palaces. An older, smaller example was found in the Minoan palace of Knossos, on the island of Krete. As such, this throne--=if it is in fact a throne--could have seated Agamamnon himself.

Greek Culture Ministry officials have distanced themselves from the identification, citing a separate study that ruled the chunk to be part of a stone basin. But Maggidis said the find was unmistakably made for sitting on, and would have been no use for holding liquids as it is made of porous stone. The precise type of stone used has not been found anywhere else in the palace of Mycenae, although a similar material was used extensively in the citadel's massive defensive walls and in the magnificent beehive tombs where its rulers were buried.

Maggidis said other parts of the throne may lie beneath Mycenae, and hopes to secure a permit to fully excavate the streambed.

 
I am not sure I should specify this or not, but researchers have found no evidence at all that Agamamnon, as the king described in the Odysseia by Homeros, actually ever existed. There might be possible evidence of a 14th century BC king named 'Akagamunas' whom Agamemnon might have been modelled on, but that is as far as the evidence goes. So, needless to say at least, I am just a touch sceptical. I would, however, be interested in discovering if Maggidis was right about the stone being part fo a throne, however.
I know a lot of you would like me to do more video tutorials. Heck, I want to do more video tutorials! But here is the thing, finding subjects to vlog about is hard. And it is hard because I have a few rules in place. So please, read those rules and lend me your brainpower: what would you like me to vlog about?

So far, I have video tutorials up on the following:
- How to prepare khernips
- How to pour libations
- How to make a kathiskos
- Making Manna
- My Altar Space (requested)
- Ancient Hellenic Clothing
- Noumenia ritual

The rules:
- It can't be about a subject I have already covered
- I will not record my personal practices beyond what I have already done; that is beween me and the Theoi
- It needs to be on a subject that will be aided by the visual component; if I could explain it (better) in writing, it's not a viable topic

That's it. Not that many but to be certain, some that limit the scope. I have two videos I want to do in the near future:
- On how I read the oracles of birds (oiônoskopos)
- On the differences of performing rituals for ouranic Gods and khthonic Gods

Do you have ideas on tutorials? Leave me a comment, send me an e-mail, leave me an ask on Tumblr or send me a message on Facebook.
The islet of Gavdos (Γαύδος) located opposite Sfakia, Krete, is the southern-most border of Greece and Europe. According to Callimachus, this is the ancient isle of Ogygia where, as Homeros claims in The Odysseia, the nymph Kalypso lived. In fact, if you ask a local to show you the way, local legend will bring you to her cave and an adjoining abode that was alledgedly hers.

In Homeros' Odysseia Kalypso detained Odysseus on Ogygia for seven years and kept him from returning to his home of Ithaca, wanting to marry him. Athena complained about Kalypso's actions to Zeus, who sent the messenger Hermes to Ogygia to order Kalypso to release Odysseus. Hermes is Odysseus' great grandfather on his mother's side, through Autolycos. Kalypso finally, though reluctantly, instructed Odysseus to build a small raft, gave him food and wine, and let him depart the island. The Odysseia describes Ogygia as follows:

"...and he (Hermes) found her within. A great fire was burning in the hearth, and from afar over the isle there was a fragrance of cleft cedar and juniper as they burned. But she within was singing with a sweet voice as she went to and fro before the loom, weaving with a golden shuttle. Round about the cave grew a luxuriant wood, alder and poplar and sweet-smelling cypress, wherein birds long of wing were wont to nest, owls and falcons and sea-crows with chattering tongues, who ply their business on the sea. And right there about the hollow cave ran trailing a garden vine, in pride of its prime, richly laden with clusters. And fountains four in a row were flowing with bright water hard by one another, turned one this way, one that. And round about soft meadows of violets and parsley were blooming..."

Beyond mythological glamour, visitors can also see the tombs found in Lavraka Bay, in northwest of Gavdos, which are dated back to the Minoan age, even though edifices of the same period have not been found.

As frequent visitors of this blog are well aware, Baring the Aegis is as much a source of information on modern Hellenism as it is a reference on ancient Hellas. Secondary to those goals, Baring the Aegis is a lovesong to the places that made up ancient Hellas, Gavados included. So when I discovered a new video by Dimitris Koulelis on Vimeo that captures the beauty of Gavdos, I couldn't resist sharing it. It is, perhaps, interesting to note that the Roman empire was active on the island. During that time the flora of the island was overexploited and that started a process of erosion which has continued to this day. As such, in Kalypso's time--were there such a thing--the island would have been as lush as described by Homeros. Enjoy!


On June 12, 2016, a lone gunman walked into Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. He opened fire with a rifle and a handgun and shot and killed 50 people in an attack that just would not end. He left at least 53 or more wounded. The gunman was killed. The attack is the deadliest mass shooting in United States history, the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history, and the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001. There are no words for the loss, the pain, the fear and the sheer stupidity in this act. It is an act that hurts to the bone, to the very core of our being. Fifty dead for a senseless and percieved ideal of a world of extremist Islamic perfection. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims and the survivors, who will wear the scars forever.

In the wake of this incident, I have had an influx of people asking me how they can honour the people who were murdered. Come nighttime, go out, dig a small pit and offer libations of milk and honey. Wear your hair down if you are a woman. Tie it, if you can, if you are a man. Weep. Show your anguish. Say a prayer to the Gods (like the one below, which I use) for reprieve and guidance. But most of all, talk about this incident. Talk to anyone who will listen about the fallen, by name should those names ever be released. If not, talk about them as a group. Let this day, this event, never be forgotten. In ancient Hellas, people believed that as long as the names and deeds of the dead were spoken, their spirit would stay 'alive' forever. And maybe, just maybe, having conversations about them will help stop the cycle.

In that same spirit, while you are down on your knees to dig that pit, I want you to dig a little bit deeper and when you sacrifice, I want you to sacrifice just a little bit more. When you talk about the lives lost in Orlando, I want you to talk about more people. I want you to remember that the people in Orlando are not the only ones who have died of terrorist attacks in this decade, this year, this month, or even on that day. In january there were 97 attacks all over the globe leaving 1193 dead, in February there were 66 leaving 1034 dead, in March 107 leaving 636 dead, in April 149 leaving 1012 dead, in May 195 leaving 1343 dead and in June, so far, 80 leaving 1148 dead. Since Orlando, already three more incidents took place in Iraq, Nigeria and Lebanon, leaving five dead. All of these people deserve your libations as well, be they victims of bombings, of stonings, of decapitations or shootings.

And so, as we have all had to do far too often lately with terrible crimes of war and ethics being committed every single day by both sides of all crisis affairs, I pray. I pray for those alive and those who are dead. I pray for those still clinging to life. I pray to stop those willing the cycle on. This is my prayer, may it echo in yours.

"May Hermes Psychopompos carry the souls of the dead safely cross the river Styx.
May Hades accept them favourably, and may the judges judge them fairly.
May Asklēpiós tend to the wounds of the injured.
May Ares instil in them the passion of life, and the strength of a thousand warriors.
May Hypnos sooth their weary minds, and cloud them in sleep.
May Dionysos calm their terror.
May They offer the same to emergency personnel and passers-by who were witnesses.
May Dikē who weeps at the injustice done upon all touched by this tragedy, clutch the strong thigh of Zeus the All-wise, and beg of Him the severest of punishments.
May All-Mighty Zeus send winged Nemesis to administer swift judgement.
May Her judgement take from the guilty parties an equal or greater price than their victims have had to pay.
May Hēlios the All-seeing whisper truth to law enforcement, and guide the investigation swiftly towards those who conceived of this terrible crime.
May wise Athena led Her aid to them.
May Zeus the All-mighty bless those who ran not from the area, but towards it, in an attempt to offer aid to those wounded or dead.
May He look favourably upon those who ran away as well, as the will to live is at the core of every mortal's life.
To all Theoi: a last plea. To protect those whom the media will persecute, but are innocent of the crime.
To protect the innocent scapegoat from the actions of a species in the grips of fear and revenge."

People of Orlando, USA, of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, Nigeria, Afganistan, to those anywhere near violence and terror, my prayers are with you, and I believe the Gods are as well--all of Them.
The owner of Styx and Pomegranates recently contacted me to see if I would be interested in writing a guest blog about my personal experiences coming into Hellenismos and to give voice to the Hellenistic community towards Classics students, who are the predominant readers of the blog. After a bit of consideration--I don't normally do this sort of thing--I agreed. The post went up recently and if you'd be interested in reading it, I'd be much obliged. I'll quote a bit of my story and you can click through to the full post below it.


"When I was a child I fell in love with Gods. I fell in love with the stories of their wondrous births, great adventures and sometimes their tragic deaths. I cared for the heroes, too, but in a different way. I was never one to look up to heroes as I realized even as a child that most of them only completed their heroic acts with a little divine help. I loved Hindu mythology because it had elephant Gods and many of them had more than two arms, which I found incredibly convenient and wanted myself. I loved Celtic mythology because they were elves in my eyes and elves could do no wrong. I loved Egyptian mythology for its Gods that were so foreign to me with their hawk heads and bull horns. I loved Norse mythology because it had strong warrior women and I was not a strong warrior girl at all. I was a happy but slightly sickly one and to run around in a suit of armor with a giant sword appealed to me. Plus, Norse mythology was very funny. But above all, above all other culture’s myths, I loved that of the ancient Greeks."

Philippe Bohstrom recently wrote a very interesting article featured on Haaretz about the appearently huge naval base found in Piraeus, the harbor city of Athens. The discoveries are part of the partially sunken port that played a pivotal role in the famous Battle of Salamis, against the Persian Empire, the naval conflict that saved Greece and the young democracy of Athens in 480 BCE.


After the Battle of Marathon ten years earlier, in 490 BCE, the Athenian statesman Themistocles outlined a military defensive program against the Persian invaders that was based entirely on sea power. As Plato put it:

"Themistocles robbed his fellow-citizens of spear and shield, and degraded the people of Athens to the rowing-pad and the oar."

Construction work in Piraeus had already begun in 493 BCE (also on Themistocles advice). Now, recent underwater excavations conducted by ZHP Project, which combines land and underwater archaeology of the ancient Zea and Mounichia harbors in Piraeus, have uncovered naval bases and huge fortifications that testify to the might of the Athenian Navy that once ruled the waves. Bjørn Lovén, director of the Zea Harbor Project, told Haaretz:

"We have identified, for the first time, the 5th century BC naval bases of Piraeus – the ship-sheds, the slipways and the harbor fortifications."
 
The discoveries place the naval bases of Piraeus at the historical and archaeological level of importance as the Acropolis and Parthenon, or the Athenian Agora, Lovén adds. Yet the monumental finds were the result of serendipity.

In 2010, an old fisherman guided the archaeologists to the naval bases dating to the time of the battle of Salamis. He knew of them: As a child, he used to sit and fish on an ancient column rising from the sea on the northern side of Mounichia in the Piraeus, on what was once part of the old harbor.

After the fisherman had guided the divers through a murky labyrinth of mooring chains, anchors and modern debris, where underwater visibility could be as little as 20 centimeters, the excavators stumbled upon their greatest find: The remains of an ancient monumental wall resting on the seabed, with large foundation blocks in three colonnades.

Soon six ship-sheds were discovered and excavated – ancient shelters constructed as roofed ramps that once housed the ancient warship, the triremes (named after its three levels of oar-banks). Triremes were at least one of the classes of ships that had partaken in the battle of Salamis in 480 BCE, in which the outnumbered Athenian alliance, led by Themistocles, defeated the Persians under Xerxes in a brilliant naval maneuver.

With an additional nine found in Zea Harbor, the underwater excavations have unearthed the remains of 15 ships-sheds. Based on pottery and carbon-14 dating from a worked piece of wood found inside the foundations of a colonnade, the team dated the ship-sheds to around 520-480 BCE, or shortly thereafter. Lovén:

"These ship-sheds were built in the years of the young Athenian democracy. It is an enticing thought that some of the Athenian triremes that fought against the Persians at Salamis in 480 BC were most probably housed in these ship-sheds. Keep in mind that all social classes rowed and fought aboard triremes in the Battle of Salamis. I strongly believe that this very important battle in the Salamis Strait, just west of Piraeus – a turning point in world history – created an immensely strong bond among most of the citizens. That is how the Athenian navy was to develop into the backbone of the world’s first democracy during the 5th century BC. What we’ve been excavating, in essence, are the material remains of that extraordinary historical development."

The naval victory in the Battle of Salamis liberated the Greeks from the Persian yoke. With the Persian ships gone from the Aegean, the nature of the allied Greek states headed by Athens, called the Delian League, gradually changed from defensive to expansive. Athens was freed to deploy large fleets throughout the Mediterranean, which it used to carve out the great Greek empire. Note that a few states in the area were forced to join the league against their will.

To preserve its empire and secure its wealth, which stemmed from maritime trade and levying tax from subject states, Athens also maintained a large war fleet. At its peak, Piraeus hosted about 400 triremes requiring crews of 80,000 sailors and soldiers.

At the height of Athens' power, 150 island and coastal cities were within her domain.  Athenian triremes patrolled the Black Sea in the North, the Israelite coast in the east, and the Nile delta of Egypt in the south. Now the Zea Harbour Project excavation has uncovered part of this juggernaut of a war machine.

New evidence found after the Zea Harbor Project include extensive underwater walls and along the Zea coastline, and a previously unknown phase of building. Mads Møller Nielsen, one of the researchers involved in the project, who studied the harbors fortifications noted:

"It became clear that the harbor was a so-called Limen Kleistos, a ‘closed harbor’, like most naval harbors of the time. This means that the harbor was fortified on the sea-side with massive fortified moles, and had a large central entry gate through which all ships had to pass to get inside."

Ancient Hellenic sources tell how the harbor could be sealed with the help of a chain hauled between two large square towers on each side of the harbor entrance. Not only would enemy ships have had to vanquish both towers at the entrance: they'd have to do so under constant barrage from fortifications along the coast. It would have been an almost impregnable harbor. and indeed, Piraeus was never taken by an enemy from the sea-side, because of its excellent system of coastal and harbor fortifications.

The port at Piraeus may have been impregnable, but Athens was not.  By 431 BCE its dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean brought it into conflict with Hellas' major land power, Sparta, and its allies. It was a long and bitter war but finally, Athens lay defeated in 404/3 BCE and the Spartans tore down the Piraeus naval bases and fortifications, leaving the home of the mighty Athenian fleet in ruins.

The Zea Harbour Project operates under the auspices of the Danish Institute at Athens and is directed by Dr. Bjørn Lovén. The project is supervised mainly by the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, and have conducted some investigations on land under the Ephorate of Antiquities of West Attica, Piraeus and Islands. The Carlsberg Foundation has been the project’s principal sponsor since 2004.

Please visit the original article for some amazing images of the under water excavations!