Greek archaeologists have unearthed part of the ancient theater of Thouria near  Kalamata city in the Peloponnese, the Culture Ministry announced on Thursday.

Thouria (Θουρία) is a village and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Ancient Thouria was the most important city in western Messinia. The ruins of ancient Thouria are located on a hillside about 10 km to the northwest of Kalamata, to the north of the present town of Thouria. Since classical times until the Roman era ancient Thouria was once on the side of the Messinians and once on the Spartans. Coins of ancient Thouria however, bear the initials of the Spartans, presenting people from Thouria as Lacedaemons.

Acient Thouria had many sanctuaries, but it seems that Athena was specially honored and Her figure adorns the coins of the Roman era. A famous temple of the city was dedicated to the Goddess Atagartis of Syria considered a form of Aphrodite. Her worship took place in sanctuaries where there were tanks with fish, the symbol of the Goddess as she was originally depicted as one.

Thouria’s theater is oriented to the west, overlooking the vast plains of Messenia, known in ancient times as “Makaria” (Blessed, Blissful), and in the distance, to the southwest, the sea of the Messenian Gulf, which in ancient times was called “Thouriates”.

The first remains of the ancient city theater, which dates back to the 4th century BC, came to light during excavations in the summer of 2016. During excavations in the summer of 2017, archaeologists uncovered the perimeter of the theater’s orchestra and several rows of stone seats. The orchestra perimeter is 16.3 meters long and three parallel grooves around it suggest the stage was movable.
Excavation on the site started ten years ago and it has been identified by epigraphic finds that mention the name of the ancient city, and references made by ancient Greek geographers Pausanias and Strabo.

For more images of the very lovely finds, go here.
The heart shape in the emoticon is recognized across the globe as a symbol of romantic love and affection, but its historical origins are fully Hellenic--at least, we think.

There are three theories. The most common is that the shape came from the shape of an ivy leaf. It's a plant that can live hundreds of years, literally attached itself to things, and it stays green all year round. Brides and grooms in ancient Hellas wore crowns of ivy as a representation of fidelity. An ivy leaf without its stem resembles a heart for sure.

Perhaps the most unusual theory concerns silphium, a species of giant fennel that once grew on the North African coastline near the ancient Hellenic colony of Cyrene. Silphium’s seedpod bore a striking resemblance to the modern emoticon. It was used to flavor food  and as a medicine against sore throats and coughs. It was most famous as an early form of birth control, however. Ancient writers and poets hailed the plant for its contraceptive powers, and it became so popular that it was cultivated into extinction by the first century A.D. The ancient city of Cyrene, which grew rich from the silphium trade, even put the heart shape on its money, as pictured above.

The last theory is more straightforward. It may just have its roots in the writings of Galen and Aristotle, who described the human heart as having three chambers with a small dent in the middle. The heart shape may have been born when artists and scientists from the Middle Ages attempted to draw representations of ancient medical texts. Since the human heart has long been associated with emotion and pleasure, the shape was eventually co-opted as a symbol of romance and medieval courtly love.

One of those "the more you know" things, hm?
On the day of the Hene kai Nea, I post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog and in projects and organizations related to it. I will also announce Elaion's coming PAT rituals.

Changes to the blog:
  • I've been very busy writing my new novel (and I am almost done!). Apologies, my blog had to be put on the backburner a little bit,
PAT rituals for Maimakterion:
  • 16 Maimakterion - 5 November 2017 - Maimakteria - festival for Zeus Maimaktes ('Blustering') to be gentle come winter.
  • 20 Maimakterion - 9 November 2017 - The Pompaia - festival in honor of Zeus Meilikhios ('Kindly') and Hermes*

Anything else?
Are you looking for an online shop to buy incenses and other Hellenistic basics from? Try The Hellenic Handmaid on Etsy.

Would you like to support me? Buy me a coffee.

I've never been inside the world famous ancient theater of Epidaurus, so I can't judge, but you might have so I'm curious what you think: according to Constant Hak, assistant professor at the Eindhoven University of Technology, and co-author of new research that suggests that its famed acoustics are little more than myth.

Dating from the fourth century BC, and seating up to 14,000 spectators, the theatre has long been admired for its sound quality, with claims that audiences are able to hear a pin drop, or a match being struck, at any seat in the house. In a series of conference papers, which also involved experiments at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the theatre of Argos, Hak and colleagues describe how they tested the claims. They used 20 microphones, placed each one at twelve different locations around the theatre of Epidaurus, together with two loudspeakers, one at the centre of the “stage” – or orchestra – and one to the side. Both speakers played, with a slight delay between them, a sound that swept from low to high frequency, with the speakers in five different orientations. In total, they made approximately 2,400 recordings.

They then made a series of laboratory recordings of sounds, including a coin being dropped, paper tearing and a person whispering, and played them to participants, who adjusted the loudness of the sounds until they could hear them over background noise. The results were then fed into the team’s calculations to reveal how far from the orchestra the different sounds would be heard.

While the sound of a coin being dropped or paper being torn would be noticeable across the whole theatre, it could only recognisably be heard as a coin or paper halfway up the seating. For a match striking, the situation was worse, while a whisper would only be intelligible to those in the front seats.

Further work, based on the loudspeakers playing voices, revealed that only when actors spoke up loudly would their words be intelligible in the seats furthest from the orchestra.

Dr Bruno Fazenda of the Acoustics Research Centre at the University of Salford, who has carried out work on the acoustics of Stonehenge, welcomed the study, saying that it finally busted a myth – with the results tallying with his own experience of visiting Epidaurus.

"You can certainly hear things, but [the results] are right: if you want to have good speech intelligibility, good perception right up the last rows, then you need someone who can project the voice. Greek thespians would have been expert at doing just that – possibly aided by the use of masks."

Fazenda believes the reverence for the theatre’s acoustics come, at least in part, from a popular belief that our ancestors had knowledge that has since been lost in time.

"When we then come across these beautiful structures from the Greek and Roman eras, which were basically the very first clear acoustic design spaces, we kind of revert back to that idea that they had this wonderful knowledge and they were somehow in touch with something magical that allowed them to do it in that way."

Armand D’Angour, an associate professor of classics at the University of Oxford, said that, while the research reveals the state of the acoustics now, it does not necessarily shed light on the past.
London’s new concert hall must be built on sound principles

"The research is based on theatre that has changed over the centuries, so it looks terribly precise and mathematical but in the end, we cannot be at all confident that the way it sounds today exactly replicates the way it would have sounded then. Research has suggested that the Greeks might have used all manner of devices to amplify sound, including placing hollow vessels at strategic locations."

Damian Murphy, professor of sound and music computing at the University of York, said that, while the research was probably the most detailed yet into acoustics of such sites, it was hard for modern minds to understand quite what the experience would have been like for ancient theatregoers.

"Any performing arts venue – it is not just about what they sound like, it is about the experience of going there."
Ethos is one of three modes of persuasion explained by Aristotle. It’s means “character” and serves as a measure of how credible one is when persuading an audience on the topic you are discussing--very important in rhetoric! According to Aristotle, there are three types of ethos: arête, phronesis, and eunoia.

I have spoken about arête before. It's the Greek word for "virtue," and in an ethical sense, it measn being the best version of yourself you can be. Aristotle believed that the ultimate goal in life for a human is happiness. In order to be fully happy in life, one would have to be virtuous. He describes the necessary steps to achieve this happiness in Nicomachean Ethics:

"[...] the man who is to be good must be well trained and habituated, and go on to spend his time in worthy occupations and neither willingly nor unwillingly do bad actions, and if this can be brought about if men live in accordance with a sort of reason and right order [...]" [Book x]

Phronesis is a Greek word for wisdom or intelligence. Aristotle didn't just mean to use it as an indication of IQ but also how well knowledge and skill are implemented in every day life. Someone with a low intelligence level can still be made wise by experience, for example. Aristotle believed that gaining phronesis required experience and there was no other wait to gain it.
Eunoia is Greek for “goodwill.” In rhetoric it is the relationship the reader cultivates with the audience to gain their trust. As a speaker, that trust is required to appear credible. Without it, you can't persuade an audience.

All three values--arête, phronesis, and eunoia--add up to create the meaning of ethos. According to Aristotle, ethos starts with good parenting, with teaching a child ethical behavior. Other teachers throughout life will add to this ethical framework. By learning skills we develop ourselves more, and also by exposing ourselves to many different experiences. By creating good habits and sticking with them until they become automatic, we develop each other even more. As a result, we will be happier, more productive people.
Five sculptures of gods and goddesses have been found in the sanctuary of Mēn Askaenos in the ancient city of Pisidia Antiokheia in Turkey.

Excavations close to the ancient city, located in the southern province of Isparta’s Yalvaç district, unearthed the five intact sculptures in one of the previously unearthed prestigious chambers.

Excavations head Professor Mehmet Özhanlı said the sculptures of the Goddesses Hekate, Kybele, Athena and the Gods Mēn and Apollon were found together in the excavation field. Özhanlı added that such an example had never before been found in any excavations in Anatolia.

"All the gods of Greek, Roman and Anatolian Pantiona were brought together to create a cult. The local Anatolian god Mēn is on an altar in the center of the other gods, in front of Kybele and Apollo. Next to Mēn is Athena. This is the first time in the history of archaeology that these gods have been found together in a prestigious chamber. That is why this year’s excavation works present very good data about ancient beliefs in the area."

For more images, please see here, at The Archaeological News Network.

Mēn, by the way, is a lunar God worshipped in the western interior parts of Anatolia. He is attested in various localised variants, such as Mēn Askaenos in Antioch in Pisidia, or Mēn Pharnakou at Ameria in Pontus. Strabo describes Him as a local God of the Phrygians.

Did you know Greece has things called "dragon houses" that are thousands of years old? I actually did not, until Ancient Origins wrote a post about it. You're going to have to head over to them for the full story (because they are awesome and write great content!), but I'll give you a little sample here.

"Likely dating to the Preclassical period of ancient Greece, the dragon houses of Euboea are among the mysteries of the past which have yet to be understood. Resembling the stepped pyramid of Djoser in Pre-Dynastic Egypt and the temple complexes of Pre-Columbian Teotihuacan, these megalithic houses are structures built without mortar. Small, thin, mostly flat stones make up the buildings, stacked atop one another, kept in place with the uses of jambs and lintels. Large megaliths are used in various places throughout the structures, usually toward the roofs, positioned in a fashion that is similar to what is seen at Stonehenge.

While little is understood of these dragon houses, the number of the structures is far more than expected. Around twenty-three of these houses exist on the island of Euboea—most between Mounts Ochi and Styra—each building made of megaliths. In fact, scholars are constantly boggled by the sheer size and weight of the single megalith resting on two equally large post stones, together forming a doorway. How this megalith could have been lifted and placed atop the posts is as much a mystery as the reason behind the building of these structures.

Some theories have arisen that the structures might have been shrines to Hera, Zeus, or Herakles. Theories regarding the rituals that might have taken place within, however, are few. Another popular belief is that these megalithic buildings were either stations at which guards were positioned during the Hellenistic period, or they were warehouses in which supplies may have been stored."

Read more here.

Almost two meters of the ancient city of Phaselis have submerged in 2,000 years, indicated by studies carried out by geologists and geomorphologists in the area, said Akdeniz University Archeology Department Professor Murat Arslan. The submerging is a natural phenomenon.

Phaselis, situated in the southern province of Antalya’s Kemer district, was important for trade in ancient times as it had three ports. It is possible to see the wealth of the ancient city in the agoras, trade centers, bath houses and temples, expressed by ancient era writers throughout the Classic and Hellenistic periods and Roman history. Each year, thousands of locals and foreign tourists visit the ancient city surrounded by sea and nature.

The excavations in the ancient city are carried out under the guidance of the Antalya Museum and the scientific consultancy of Arslan. Phaselis was a city situated in the basin of Lycia (West Mediterranean) and Pamphylia (Antalya and surroundings), Arslan told state-run Anadolu Agency.

"Because it was closely bordered by both, it was able to stay mostly independent throughout history. It protected its autonomy. Without becoming dominated by other countries and by protecting its independent structure, it was able to use the wealth it earned from trade for its citizens."

The importance of the Phaselis tradesmen were well-known in ancient times in famous cities from Athens to Rome and Alexandria to Rhodes.

"The Phaselis tradesmen had stood out so much with their trade that it was reflected in Demosthenes’ speeches, who was one of the most important orators of ancient times."

Arslan also said the circulation of trade in Phaselis was reflected in the entire Mediterranean basin by the coins issued from the Classic and Hellenistic periods. The ancient city of Phaselis has continued to submerge for 2,000 years, adding that this situation was seen in the ancient cities in the Mediterranean basin.

"The African continent puts pressure on the Asian plate. In some areas, it’s three-centimeters per year and in other areas, nine centimeters. Plate movements in the Mediterranean basin cause that area to collapse in some areas. We see the basin along the shores of the Mediterranean has slowly submerged, starting from the ancient city of Knidos, the province of Muğla’s Datça district until the province of Antalya’s Gazipaşa district. As a result of the studies carried out by geologists and geomorphologists, we have identified that almost two meters of Phaselis have submerged over 2,000 years. As a result of pressure, plate movements cause faults to crack from place to place, create earthquakes and therefore tsunamis occur."

Furthermore, he said some of the tombs, necropolis and port areas in the ancient cities of Kekova and Andriake in Antalya’s Demre district have been submerged under water for the same reason.

Arslan also said there was an earthquake in the Mediterranean region in the year 17 B.C., and after this, the Roman Emperor named Tiberius provided lots of aid to the cities situated in area.
He added that the area of Lycia and Pamphylia was subject to a big earthquake in the year 160 A.C. as well.

"We know that the well-known rich man of those times, named Opramoas from Rhodiapolis, supplied a large amount of aid to many of those demolished cities after the earthquake. The same goes for the ancient city of Phaselis. We learn from the inscriptions that after the earthquake Opramoas gave 12,500 drahmi to be spent in repairing the demolished areas and for the needs of the nation."

Phaselis, situated in the southern province of Antalya’s Kemer district, was important for trade in ancient times as it had three ports. It is possible to see the wealth of the ancient city in the agoras, trade centers, bath houses and temples, expressed by ancient era writers throughout the Classic and Hellenistic periods and Roman history.

The town was set up by the Rhodians in 700 BC. Because of its location on an isthmus separating two harbours, it became the most important harbour city of eastern Lycia and an important centre of commerce between Greece, Asia, Egypt, and Phoenicia, although it did not belong to the Lycian League.

The city was captured by Persians after they conquered Asia Minor, and was later captured by Alexander the Great. After the death of Alexander, the city remained in Egyptian hands from 209 BC to 197 BC, under the dynasty of Ptolemaios, and with the conclusion of the Apamea treaty, was handed over to the Kingdom of Rhodes, together with the other cities of Lycia.

From 190 BC to 160 BC it remained under Rhodeian hegemony, but after 160 BC it was absorbed into the Lycian confederacy under Roman rule. Phaselis, like Olympos, was under constant threat from pirates in the 1st century BC, and the city was even taken over by the pirate Zekenites for a period until his defeat by the Romans. In 42 BC Brutus had the city linked to Rome. In the 3rd century AD, the harbor fell under the threat of pirates once again, so it began to lose importance, suffering further losses at the hands of Arab ships, until totally impoverished in the 11th century.
The History of the Peloponnesian War is a historical account of the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC), which was fought between the Peloponnesian League (led by Sparta) and the Delian League (led by Athens). It was written by Thucydides, an Athenian historian who also happened to serve as an Athenian general during the war. His account of the conflict is widely considered to be a classic and regarded as one of the earliest scholarly works of history. The History is divided into eight books. Today, I would like to quote from book five.

"When you speak of the favour of the gods, we may as fairly
hope for that as yourselves; neither our pretensions nor our conduct
being in any way contrary to what men believe of the gods, or practise
among themselves.

Of the gods we believe, and of men we know, that by a necessary
law of their nature they rule wherever they can. And
it is not as if we were the first to make this law, or to act upon
it when made: we found it existing before us, and shall leave it to
exist for ever after us; all we do is to make use of it, knowing that
you and everybody else, having the same power as we have, would do
the same as we do.

Thus, as far as the gods are concerned, we have no fear
and no reason to fear that we shall be at a disadvantage."

This speaks to the nature of the Gods and their relation to human kind. The conclusion is, of course, that the stronger should rule over the weaker--a principle common to Gods and men. Thucydides spoke these words to indicate that the Gods are just as likely to favor your enemy as you. Just something to think about, hm?
The ancient city of Ephesus; an ancient Hellenic city on the coast of Ionia, located in the western province of İzmir, is set to once again have a harbor on the Aegean coast, according to an ambitious new project.

In the ancient era Ephesus; which is today one of Turkey’s top tourist attractions, was connected to a harbor on the Aegean Sea with a broad canal, but the port and the canal have silted up by the Cayster River in the years since. The area around Ephesus has turned into near-swampland and currently the city is six kilometers from the sea.

An “Antique Canal Project” would refill the canal and eventually link the ancient harbor to the sea once again. A 6,130-meter section of the canal has been covered with alluvium over the centuries.
The project would also deepen and enlarge the canal, adding that the tender for the project will be held on Oct. 19 this year, with construction starting in February or March 2018.

Ephesus was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, three kilometers southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province. It was built in the 10th century BC on the site of the former Arzawan capital by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists.

During the Classical Greek era it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC.
The 30th of Pyanepsion is the date for the Khalkeia. It's the only festival to be held on a Deipnon and we will be celebrating it on 20 October, 10 am EDT.

The Khalkiea was the festival of bronze workers, a religious festival devoted to the God Hēphaistos and the Goddess Athena Ergane (Εργανη, Worker). In ancient Hellas, this was the day priestesses of Athena started work on a special peplos to be presented to Her during the Panathenaia. This festival involved a procession of workers with baskets of grain for offerings as well as meat sacrifices. Originally, it seems to have been a festival for Athena solely but over the centuries the focus shifted to Hēphaistos instead.

Elaion is holding a PAT ritual for the Khalkeia on 20 October, EDT. You can find the ritual here and join the community here. Also, make sure to celebrate the day by doing something crafty!
Alexander the Great’s ‘lost city’ was a magical place where people drank wine and naked philosophers imparted wisdom, ancient accounts claim. Now, nearly 2,000 years after the great warrior’s death, archaeologists believe the city may have finally been discovered in Iraq.

Experts first noticed ancient remains in the Iraqi settlement, known as Qalatga Darband, after looking at declassified American spy footage from the 1960s. The images were made public in 1996 but, due to political instability, archaeologists were unable to explore the site properly for years. Now, using more recent drone footage and on-site work, researchers have established there was a city during the first and second centuries BC, which had strong Greek and Roman influences. They believe Alexander the Great founded it in 331 BC, and later settled in the city with 3,000 veterans of his campaigns.

Undefeated in battle, Alexander had carved out a vast empire stretching from Macedonia, Greece in Europe, to Persia, Egypt and even parts of northern India by the time of his death aged 32. Researchers believe Qalatga Darband – which roughly translates from Kurdish as ‘castle of the mountain pass’ – is on the route Alexander of Macedon took to attack Darius III of Persia in 331 BC. The city may have served as an important meeting point between East and West. It is 6 miles (10km) south-east of Rania in Sulaimaniya province in Iraqi Kurdistan.

An archaeological dig was not possible when Saddam Hussein controlled Iraq, but more recently improved security has allowed the British Museum to explore the site as a way of training Iraqis to rescue areas damaged by Islamic State. As well as on-site work, the Museum has also been able to capture its own drone footage of the area. Lead archaeologist John MacGinnis told The Times:

"We got coverage of all the site using the drone in the spring — analyzing crop marks hasn’t been done at all in Mesopotamian archaeology. It’s early days, but we think it would have been a bustling city on a road from Iraq to Iran. You can imagine people supplying wine to soldiers passing through. Where there are walls underground the wheat and barley don’t grow so well, so there are color differences in the crop growth."

On its western flank, the city was protected by a large fortification which ran from the river to the mountain. It is situated on a large open site around 60 hectares (148 acres) large on a natural terrace.
The 1960s Corona spy satellite footage showed a large square building, potentially believed to be a fort, according to a British Museum blog. Farmers in the area had also found remains of big buildings and a large fortified wall. There were a number of limestone blocks, believed to be wine or oil presses. Meanwhile, excavation of a mound at the southern end of the site revealed a monument which could have been a temple for worship. Fieldwork started in the autumn of 2016 and is expected to last until 2020.

From the excavation work, they discovered an abundance of terracotta roof tiles and Greek and Roman statues, suggesting the city’s early residents were Alexander’s subjects. Among the statues they found was a female figure believed to be Persephone and the other is believed to be Adonis, a symbol of fertility. They also discovered a coin of Orodes II, who was king of the Parthian from 57 BC to 37 BC.

The project, which was part of the government-funded Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Program, has been possible due to improved security in the country. It is part of a £30 million ($40 million) government plan to help Iraq rebuild historical sites destroyed by Islamic State.
This fund is designed to counter the destruction of heritage in cultural zones from Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The program involves bringing groups of Iraqi archaeologists to London for eight weeks of training at the British Museum. They are then sent to excavations in the field for six additional weeks where they learn how to do drone surveys and 3D scanning. The team now want to find linguistic evidence to confirm their findings.
So, someone sent me a link to something being advertised as "Socrates's triple filter test." It's a story about how Socrates stops a man who wants to gossip by giving him an ethical lesson. The person who linked me wanted to know what the ancient source for the story was. Let's start with the obvious question: what's the story? Well, here it is:

One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance who ran up to him excitedly and said, "Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?"

Wait a moment," Socrates replied. "Before you tell me I'd like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test."

"Triple filter?"

"That's right," Socrates continued. "Before you talk to me about my student let's take a moment to filter what you're going to say. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man said, "actually I just heard about it and..."

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?"

"No, on the contrary..."

"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about him, even though you're not certain it's true?"

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued. "You may still pass the test though, because there is a third filter - the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?"

"No, not really..."

"Well," concluded Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful,! why tell it to me at all?"

The man was defeated and ashamed.

In some versions of the story, the man actually wants to talk about Socrates's wife because she is cheating on him.

Well, just by the wording, I can tell you that you won't be finding an ancient source for this story. Taking the wording out of it, it's still very suspect. Yes, Socrates liked to lecture others on ethics, and yes, he was quite fond of the truth, but "usefulness" and "goodness" in this fashion are not his style, so to say. I'm sorry, reader. It's good ethical advice, but is a modern story, and not anything recorded by Plato or any other ancient author as an authentic story of Socrates’ life. I checked.
Gosh, these are so cute! 2,000-year-old ancient toys from the Hellenistic Period have been discovered inside tombs belonging to children in the ancient seaport city of Parion located in northwestern Turkey's Çanakkale province.

Researchers have discovered toys and other articles during excavations at the ancient site, Professor Hasan Kasaoğlu from Atatürk University, who is the excavation leader at Parion, told the Anadolu Agency. He noted that the toys were presented as "gifts for the dead children" and provide significant information about the sociocultural structure of the period.

For instance, Kasaoğlu highlighted that female figurines were found in tombs belonging to girls, while male figures were found in tombs belonging to boys.

"2,000 years ago girls played with 'Barbie-like' dolls, the same way they do now. [A]lthough objects have changed shapes and features, humans have always had the same mentality."

Besides the human figurines, animal and mythological figurines were also found in the tombs, believed to be buried with the aim to accompany the children on their journey to the afterlife, the professor added. Earlier this month, researchers discovered a baby bottle around the same necropolis.

Archaeologists have been carrying out excavations at the ancient site since 2005. Sarcophagi and graves, as well as ancient artifacts were found in the area. Parion, also called Parium, was an ancient Greek city founded in 709 B.C. It had two major harbors during the Roman era, and served as the main "customs station" for Istanbul-bound goods from the Aegean.

To learn more about ancient Hellenic toys, see this post: Toys are of all ages.
During my research wanderings through books and across the internet, I often come across thing--often little things--that catch my eye. Yesterday I stumbled upon an epithet of Zeus I was unfamiliar with: Asbamaios (Aσβαμαιοσ).

This epithet of Zeus refers to Zeus as the protector of the sanctity of oaths. It was derived from a spring, Asbamaeon near Tyana, in Cappadocia, Turkey, the water of which was said to be beneficial and pleasant to honest persons, but pestilential to those who were guilty of perjury. When perjured persons drank of the water, it produced a disease of the eyes, dropsy, and lameness, so that the guilty persons were unable to walk away from the well, and were obliged to own their crime.

Tyana was a place of great consequence, both in a commercial and a military viewpoint. The plain around it was extensive and fertile. Tyana is celebrated in history as the native place of the famous impostor Apollonius, of whom we have a detailed biography by Philostratus. The temple of Zeus Asbamaios stood on the borders of a lake in a marshy plain. The water of the lake itself was cold, but the connected hot spring was sacred to Zeus.

It was formerly believed that Kara Hissar marked the site of Tyana becse many ruins litter the city and its inhabitants still maintain that their town once was the capital of Cappadocia. But with the description above, Kara Hissar is too far north to be identified with Tyana. It's believed that the true site of Tyana is between a place now called Kiz Hissar, south-west of Nigdeh, and Erekli. The ruins of Tyana are considerable, but the most conspicuous is an aqueduct of granite, extending seven or eight miles to the foot of the mountains. There are also massy foundations of several large buildings, shafts, pillars, and one handsome column still standing. Two miles south of these ruins, the hot spring also still bubbles forth in a cold swamp or lake.
Have you heard of the 'Greece is...' magazine? It was inaugurated in the summer of 2015, with its first issue dedicated to Santorini, one of the world’s most beloved and coveted travel destinations. The second issue, 'Greece Is Athens - Summer Edition', is a treasure trove of information on Athens from past to present, distributed exclusively at the Acropolis Museum. The third was about the Peloponnese and the fourth issue, 'Greece Is Democracy', was on the occasion of the 3D Athens Democracy Forum, celebrates and relates to the birth, reality and influence of Athenian democracy, through a compilation of original articles by esteemed Greek and international academics, authors and journalists. If you have not read them yet, you might want to invest the time!

After those came more magazines, on the Greek city Thessaloniki, the Greek city of Athens, the Greek island Mykonos and the last was on The Olympics. Then on Athens again, on wine, on the peninsula and regional unit of Greece named Halkidiki and on democracy. Then on the Greek city Thessaloniki again, Athens again, the new subject of health and what do you know, wine again! Then it was back to parts of the country, namely Santorini again, Kos-Nisyros, and Mykonos again.

Three more are out now, about Rhodes, Athens, and democracy again. Enjoy!

The Greek Culture Ministry announced that archaeologists revisiting one of the most famous shipwrecks of ancient times off southern Greece  near Antikythera island have discovered fragments of bronze statues and a section of the wooden hull. According to the ministry statement, divers raised a complete arm and a section of pleated clothing from statues, and compacted metal objects that have yet to be cleaned and separated. A video titled “2017 Return to Antikythera Expedition” looks at the delicate and often hazardous work marine archaeologists do in recovering ancient gems from the depth of the seas.

The 1st-century B.C. wreck of a large freighter discovered more than a century ago  between Crete and the Peloponnese has already yielded an ancient astronomical computer — known as the Antikythera Mechanism — as well as statues and thousands of other artifacts. The latest expedition, led by the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, Lund University, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, was conducted between September 4 to 20, and as per previous trips to the wreck, the team did not leave disappointed.

According to Guardian, the project team, from the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and Lund University in Sweden, discovered the buried arm with a bespoke underwater metal detector which has revealed the presence of other large metal objects nearby under the seabed. “There should be at least seven statues,” Alexandros Sotiriou, a Greek technical diver on the team told the Guardian. The operation is overseen by Ageliki Simosi, director of the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, which is responsible for all underwater archaeology in Greece. Brendan Foley, co-director of the excavations team at Lund University, said:

“What we’re finding is these sculptures are in among and under the boulders. We think it means a minimum of seven, and potentially nine, bronze sculptures still waiting for us down there.”

The boulders that overlie the metal objects weigh several tonnes and may have tumbled onto the wreck during a massive earthquake that shook Antikythera and surrounding islands in the 4th century AD.

The bronze arm, probably from a statue of a male, is the highlight of the team’s 2017 excavation season. Among other objects the divers recovered are a patterned slab of red marble the size of a tea tray, a silver tankard, sections of joined wood from the ship’s frame, and a human bone. Last year, the team found the skull, teeth, ribs and other bones of an individual who perished on the wreck. They have since extracted DNA from the skull and from it learned the individual’s sex and where they came from. Until those results are published, the person is known as Pamphilos after divers found the name, meaning “friend of all”, carved on a buried cup that had been decorated with an erotic scene. 

With excellent weather conditions above them, the divers managed to recover, in addition to the “orphaned” right arm, pottery shards, nails, lead sheathing fragments, and an odd metal disc, among other artifacts. Prior to this latest expedition, the Return to Antikythera project team managed to recover glassware, luxury ceramics, anchors, counterweights, tools, and even an ancient skeleton; which is currently being analyzed for DNA.
The Apatouria was a paternity festival. The first day was celebrated with a communal feast within the brotherhood, the second day sacrifice were made to Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria, and the third day young boys admitted to their father's brotherhood. We don't have these kinships anymore and we won't be celebrating all days of the festival because of it. What we do want to do is sacrifice to Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria in gratitude of the kinship we have found in Hellenismos and Elaion. Will you join us on 7 October at the usual 10 AM EDT?

The Apaturia (Ἀπατούρια) was an ancient Hellenic festival held annually by all the Ionian towns, except Ephesus and Colophon. In Athens, the Apatouria was the central element in the ritual calendar of the phratries, the kinship organizations crucial for determining Athenian citizenship. The three-day festival occurred in the autumn in the month Pyanepsion and was celebrated at the separate phratry shrines throughout Attica.

On the first day of the festival, called Dorpia or Dorpeia (Δορπεία), banquets were held towards evening at the meeting-place of the phratries or in the private houses of members.

On the second, Anarrhysis (from ἀναρρύειν, 'to draw back the victim's head'), a sacrifice of oxen was offered at the public cost to Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria.

On the third day, Kureōtis (κουρεῶτις), children born since the last festival were presented by their fathers or guardians to the assembled phratores, and, after an oath had been taken as to their legitimacy and the sacrifice of a goat or a sheep, their names were inscribed in the register. The name κουρεῶτις is derived either from κοῦρος, 'young man', i.e., the day of the young, or less probably from κείρω, 'to shear', because on this occasion young people cut their hair and offered it to the gods. The children who entered puberty also made offerings of wine to Herakles. On this day also it was the custom for boys still at school to declaim pieces of poetry, and to receive prizes.

Ancient scholarship links the Apatouria to the myth of the ritual combat between the Athenian Melanthos (the 'dark one') and the Boiotian Xanthos (the 'fair one') for the kingship of Attica, which Melanthos won through a trick (apate). Although some modern scholars have therefore seen a connection to the ephebes and to rites of passage involving social inversion, the rituals of the festival have no apparent connection to the narrative of the myth, and most modern scholars now link the Apatouria to the control, maintenance, and affirmation of kinship and of membership in society at every level.

Will you join us for this event? The ritual can be found here, the community page here.
It can't have escaped your notice that a terrorist opened fire on the visitors of a music festival in Las Vegas. Around sixty people lost their lives, 500+ people were injured when a man fired a customized semi-automatic or a fully automatic riffle into a partying crowd from a vantage point in a hotel. I said in yesterday's post I would talk about it today, but I don't think I'm ready.

I am ready to talk, for sure, but not ready to speak with temperance.

The Vegas shooting is--at least for me--another in a pile-up of terrible events. It's been weeks upon weeks of natural disasters and human hate and I am at the end of what I can deal with and remain hopeful. Yes, I was going to talk about the shooting in Vegas, because it's terrible and it's physically painful for me to see the images and watch the videos. I was going to talk about Vegas, but Vegas is only a symptom of a pandemic of hate and division.

If I talk about Vegas, I will have to talk about taking a knee and the absolutely infuriating and discriminating responses it's summoned in people. I will have to talk about Trump's golfing time while Puerto Rico runs out of food, clean water, and shelter. I will have to talk about the months, even years, it will take to build Mexico City back up, or Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, and the Virgin Islands. I will have to talk about Catalonia and the breakdown of democracy. I will have to talk about the German elections and the hate vote. I will have to talk about how black lives matter and everyone deserves to breath. I will have to talk about so much darkness, and I can't.

Not yet.

Not today.

So I will show you the heroes of these disasters instead. I'll pay tribute to the people who lived and saved others. Those who are not selfish, hateful, or vengeful. Those who remember every life is precious and theirs no more than that of another.

And if you don't think this has a place on my blog, then please, don't visit anymore. Our religion is one of ethics, of arête and being the best version of yourself you can be. The best version of all of us is the version who loves, who cherishes, who keeps safe.

Thank you, every day heroes. May the Gods bless you for all time.


The archaeological News Network, through Greece Is, put up an article about the restoration of the Parthenon in Athens I wanted to share with you today. I'm still reeling over what happened in Vegas and I'll put something up about that tomorrow. Today I need to process. May the Gods bless everyone involved.

Architects, archaeologists, engineers, conservators, draughtsmen, marble masons and workers – the staff of the Acropolis Restoration Service (YSMA) – are the people we may see around us on every visit to the Acropolis, on scaffolding, on cranes, running the organized work areas. On a daily basis, they deal with the structural problems of these ancient monuments, dismantling ailing parts that need “healing,” conserving architectural members, completing them where necessary with new Pentelic marble, and repositioning them.

Nonetheless, the lowering of every pedimental block or metope panel is for them a unique experience; of course, it’s even more amazing for those visitors who happen to be on the rock at the time of these delicate procedures. The crew’s preparation for the lowering of the central orthostate block of the Parthenon’s west pediment began at 7 am.

There was tension in the air and it seemed everyone’s adrenaline was pumping, but there was collaboration, and synchronization, too. First, iron fasteners holding the marble were cut, then modern cement had to be removed, wedges and lifting bands were put in place and, by one o’clock in the afternoon, the 7.5-ton orthostate had been lowered safely back to earth. The actual procedure of lowering it 10m took only ten minutes, but it had required months of preparation and meticulous coordination among the crew members.

The repair of the orthostate and other architectural members of the west pediment, damaged by the corrosion and the expansion of iron reinforcements installed by a previous restorer, Nikolaos Balanos, in the 1920s and ‘30s, as well as of five other stones from the pediment’s triangular central area (“tympanum”), is part of a new program of works recently begun on the Acropolis. It’s being funded under the European support package ESPA 2014-2020. The reconditioning of these 2,500-year-old architectural members will take two years and the work will be done on the spot.

Also planned are restoration works on the north wall of the Parthenon’s Cella, while activities such as the fluting of columns in the Pronaos (east porch) and the rehabilitation and repositioning of marble roof beams over the monument’s western colonnade will also continue. The budget for completing these latest interventions comes to €5 million.

The fundamental studies required for the new works were approved last year by Greece’s Central Archaeological Council, after the loss of the Acropolis Monuments Conservation Committee’s (ESMA) longtime president, Prof. Charalambos Bouras, who, before his death, had drafted the necessary documents for the planned interventions on the Parthenon’s west pediment.
What do visitors see today on the Acropolis? Vasiliki Eleftheriou, director of YSMA:

"There are currently two work sites, one for the Parthenon and one for the walls of the Acropolis. For the Parthenon, we have three projects running, focusing on the west pediment, the north wall of the Parthenon’s Cella and the carving of flutes on a column of the Pronaos The project involving the walls, also approved and included in the formal program of works, has begun in the area north of the Propylaia (you can see it while walking through the Plaka district) and will continue north of the Erechtheion. The set-up of a site can take two or three months, as we follow all the necessary preparatory procedures, including things like tendering bids for the procurement of materials."

Tenders are also required for the removal of the old crane now standing in the middle of the Parthenon, to make way for the newer one, visible now on the temple’s west side. The whole procedure can take 3-4 months.

“When will we see the Parthenon without scaffolding…?” was a question that often concerned the late Bouras, and it’s also one that continues to engage ESMA’s current president, professor emeritus of architecture Manolis Korres. Eleftheriou takes the opportunity to emphasize the works that have already been finished and the significant changes that have been made.

"Today, we’re seeing the Propylaia without the scaffolding it had. With the work completed there, we have handed back the monument and the whole double gateway is now clear of scaffolding. The Parthenon requires additional work, in part because one job often leads necessarily to another. I’d like to believe we will eventually see it without scaffolding, but this will involve a combination of factors: staff, time and procedures. There are a few areas of the Parthenon that will remain at risk until the works on it are completed in 2020. We have some loose ends to tie up. The walls of the Parthenon’s Cella will take us a few years, but the dangerous parts have already been removed. Repositioning of architectural members also takes time."

The lintel over the entrance in the Parthenon’s west wall still requires treatment, as it was previously restored by Balanos using concrete reinforced with low-grade iron. After the removal of these modern materials, the two original internal beams whose parts are preserved must be restored and supplemented with new marble.

"It will be our next rescue operation. Everything is done in order of priority."

Scientists aren’t just interested in restoring these monuments; they’re also concerned about what caused the damage in the first place. Seismic activity is being studied and monitored, but the greatest disasters appear to have been due to human actions. In the 1970s, the scientific community was greatly concerned with the effects of atmospheric pollution, but researchers have also been examining climatic changes and their consequences for a long time, and both issues remain relevant. Regarding the effects of high temperatures, Eleftheriou states that:

"We have yet to come to a consensus on monitoring methods, since the research is ongoing. YSMA is also collaborating with various programs at polytechnic schools, so we are still very much in the middle of things."
On October 5th, we will host a PAT ritual for a sacrifice originally performed at Erkhia. This is a sacrifice to the Heroines. Will you be joining us at 10 AM EDT?

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

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

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

You can find the ritual here, and join our community page here. We have added some of the main Hellenic Goddesses to the ritual as well. Feel free to add more of our Goddesses and heroines to your own ritual, especially if you feel close to Them! This ritual will be a celebration of the feminine power in our religion!
On Friday July 21st, two tourists were killed and nearly 500 others were injured during an earthquake that struck the Greek island of Kos, birthplace of Hippocrates, founding father of modern medicine. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake as being of magnitude 6.7, with Greek and Turkish estimates a fraction lower. A tremor measuring a preliminary 4.4 magnitude struck at 8:09 p.m. (1709 GMT) on Saturday, and sixteen minutes later, a second 4.6-magnitude tremor struck. According to estimations by the Ephorate of Antiquities, the island’s archaeological monuments will require 49.2 million euros to restore.

Damages caused by the earthquake last July on the island of Kos amount to a total of 95 million euros, as estimated by the services of the Kos Municipality. The assessment concerns damages to public buildings, the island’s infrastructure and its archaeological sites, as announced by Mayor of Kos George Kyritsis, who has already informed Prime minister Alexis Tsipras, ministers and party heads of the opposition.

The redesigning and rebuilding of the port facilities (41 million euros) will follow, as shall the restoration of school buildings (2.2 million euros) and the water supply infrastructure (1.1 million euros). Smaller amounts are required for repairing damages to the County Hall, road networks, Public Power Cooperation, prisons, military base facilities et al.

The aim of the municipality is to activate the European Union Solidarity Fund to restore the damages, announced Mr Kyritsis. Among other things, the Mayor pointed out that:

"[A]fter recording and estimating the cost of the damages, both Greece and Kos can legitimately apply for the activation of the European Union Solidarity Fund. Alternatively, resources from the European Regional Development Fund can be used to rebuild port infrastructure and repair damages in the public space and the island’s infrastructure, but also repair damages to small and medium-sized businesses.”
We're coming upon a few women-only festivals, which always brings up the question: "Why did the ancient Hellenes have women-only festivals?" and then: "Why didn't they have men-only festivals?" Well, I have an idea.

Ploughing festivals, especially connected to the Eleusinian Mysteries, were tied to fertility. They celebrated the bond between mother and daughter, and the one thing for which all women were respected and honored: the ability to produce children--and sons especially. For the women, these rites gave them a rare opportunity to assert their independence and escape from the restrictions of their household.

That said, many women-only festivals had special rites for the men as well. There was a male and female encampment at the Thesmophoria, for example, and the division was clearly set; no men were allowed in the female encampment, and no women in the male encampment. Sex was not allowed. What the women did is fairly well preserved, but what the men did is less clear. What we do know is that Eleusinian festivals honored many other deities which were also tied to the harvest and the success of the nation in some way, especially in Athens from where most of the surviving material originated. There, Athena Skiras, Poseidon Pater, and Dionysos also had a huge role to play.

Poseidon and Athena were important Gods in ancient Hellas, and in Athens in particular. Poseidon controlled the seas and tides, caused earthquakes, and gave men the horse; Athena protected the city, resided in its citadel, stimulated its economy and had gifted mankind with the swing plow used in the harvesting of the gifts of Demeter. They looked after Hellas, and Athens especially. Without Their influence, the following year would never be successful, so as the year ended, they were placated--a requirement as Poseidon and Athena most notably did not get along. Dionysos, as Athens' unofficial patron and God of wine was naturally included--perhaps even to help get Poseidon and Athena to get along, but that is pure speculation on my part.

Many Eleusinian festivals had a special rite reserved for Poseidon and/or Dionysos, especially, and during the Haloa, for example, these rites were reserved for men only. We don't have evidence for this at the Thesmophoria, for example, but there is a good chance the men performed a rite like this.

Women-only festivals were the Stenia, the Thesmophoria, the Skiraphoria, the Haloa, the Theogamia, the Adonia, the Tauropolia, and the Brauronia. Male-only festivals were the Theseia, the Dipolieia, the Olympieia, and the Demokratia.

As you can read, we don't know much about men-only festivals, but we do know they existed. So why don't we know much about men-only festivals but quite a bit about women-only festivals? I'll wager another guess. The ancient Hellenic writers whose work has survived were almost exclusively male and their audience was mostly male as well. They both knew what happened at these festival celebrations and they respected them enough not to write about what happened. Women-only festivals, however, well, those must have been a constant source of wonder and curiosity. Of course they wrote about them, both in speculation and with whatever detail they'd managed to gather.
The Thesmophoria was another harvest festival tied to the Eleusinian Mysteries and the mythology surrounding Demeter and Persephone. This is another female only festival. Will you join us for it from 2-4 October, all at 10 am EDT?

Two days after the Stenia, the three day festival of Thesmophoria took place. There was a male and female encampment at the Thesmophorian and the division was clearly set; no men were allowed in the female encampment, and no women in the male encampment. Sex was not allowed. From what I have been able to gather, the three days in the female encampment followed a strict regime.

On the first day, called Anodos ('ascent') and Kathodos ('descent'), the women sacrificed the rotting piglets to Demeter and Persephone. The remains were mixed with seeds and would be ploughed into the earth after the festival to assure a good harvest. The piglets were fertility symbols, but also related to the myth of Demeter, Persephone and Hades, because it is said that, when Hades opened a chasm to swallow up Persephone, a swineherd called Eubouleus was grazing his pigs and they were swallowed up in the chasm as well. The women ate on this day, but only food which would not upset Demeter. Pomegranate fruits were off the menu.

The second day was called Nēsteia ('feast of lamentation'). On this day, the women did not eat. They recreated the time before Demeter taught humankind to cultivate the fields. It was a dark time, a time of hunger and pain. At the same time, this day was also used to remember the time when Demeter sought her daughter and neglected her duties as a harvest Goddess. This had also been a time of great hunger.

The third day, Kalligeneia ('she who is of beautiful birth'), was a happy one. The women prayed to Demeter and Persephone for fertility for themselves, their loved ones and the earth. They celebrated the magic of new life, fertility and the kindness of the Gods.

Needless to say, this festival was huge. All free women, except for maidens, were allowed to participate. While we can never be entirely sure why this is, I dare to wager an educated guess. The Stenia and Thesmophoria were festivals in honour of Demeter Thesmophoros, the law-giver. She was seen as the foundation of law and society: agriculture allowed settlements to thrive, allowed societies to be built, and humanity to evolve into what it was now. In short, Demeter was at the root of modern life. A huge part of that modern life was the institution of marriage, which was far more important then as it was now.

Demeter is, perhaps, ancient Hellas' most famous mother, and marriage allowed for the continuation of the family line. Children born out of wedlock were frowned upon, and as such, maidens were excluded from a festival intended to raise fertility in the ground and the women who took part in it. As women married young, maidens were often teens, and they would represent Persephone more than Demeter--and since the Stenia and Thesmophoria commemorated Demeter's separation from her daughter, the inclusion of maidens was most likely discouraged because of that fact.

The Stenia and especially the Thesmophoria were festivals intended for mothers, for those who sought to bear children. They acknowledge the powerful position of women in a patriarchal society. It was because of that that women could say no to their husbands when it came to sex, and why they all left their marital homes. Many women rarely left their homes, and never overnight. To do so for not one but two nights was huge. These were powerful festivals for women because they celebrated their fertility: the one thing they were always respected and honoured for by the men in their lives.

We don't know what happened for the men on these days (sorry), so this is another female only festival. You can find the ritual here and the Facebook page here.
The colossal Temple of Olympian Zeus or 'Olympeion' in central Athens, one of the signature monuments of the Greek capital, is to undergo a complete structural repair and restoration. The go-ahead for the plans was given by Greece's Central Archaeological Council in a recent session.

The head of the Athens Antiquities Ephorate Eleni Banou told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency on Tuesday:

"The monument has several structural restoration problems. There had been no progress on the issue until now because it had to be inducted into some sort of National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) programme. [The restoration had to be attempted] because as I said to the CAC, if we don't we will be answerable to history."

There is currently extensive structural damage to the colossal monument, she pointed out, especially to the columns, which make it urgent to mount a "rescue operation" to stop the causes for its continued wear and to reinforce its structural stability. The proposed plans envisage the repair of damaged architectural elements and work to maintain the marble surfaces.

The last recorded major damage to the monument was in 1944, during the Greek civil war, where the marks of the bullets were still visible on the columns, Banou said. Prior to that, the bulk of the damage was done in the Byzantine era when most of its 104 pillars were ground down to make first-class lime or looted for use as building materials.

Currently, only 16 pillars of the massive temple still survive and were re-erected in their present form in 1835, while the last work to structurally support the monument was done in the late 1960s.

Construction of the Olympeion began in the 6th century BC during the rule of the Athenian tyrants, who envisaged building the greatest temple in the ancient world, but it was not completed until 638 years after later, by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD. During Roman times it was renowned as the largest temple in Greece.
On September 30th, we'll host a PAT ritual for the Stenia. The Stenia is connected to the Eleusinian Mysteries, Demeter, and Persephone.

The Stenia is celebrated on 9 Pyanepsion. It was a festival dedicated solely to Demeter and Persephone and was held three days before the Thesmophoria. Not much information about this festival has survived, but because bits and pieces have survived of the Thesmophoria and the preceding Skiraphoria, we can put parts of the festival back together.

A little background first: On 12 Skirophorion, the Skiraphoria was celebrated. The Skiraphoria was one of the few days when the women of ancient Athens would gather in public to honor Demeter and bless the harvest. They refused to sleep with the men on this day and took part in a very odd tradition: casting piglets down into a chasm where they were left to rot until the Stenia.

During the Stenia, women came together and begun the extensive purification rituals needed to partake in the Thesmophoria. How, exactly, the women purified themselves is unknown but it is known that the women engaged in Aiskhrologia, insulting each other and using foul language. To understand this practice, it's important to know the mythology behind it. Nearly all festivals where Demeter is included, recount the myth of Kore/Persephone who was abducted by Hades. While Demeter grieved and vowed to get her daughter out, Persephone was seduced to eat of the pomegranate fruit. This decision allowed Hades to keep Persephone in the Underworld for a part of the year, while she was allowed to rejoin her mother for the rest of it. While Demeter grieved, there was only one who could make her laugh: the strange old woman Iambe. From the Homeric Hymn 2: To Demeter:

"But Demeter bringer of seasons and giver of perfect gifts, would not sit upon the bright couch, but stayed silent with lovely eyes cast down until careful Iambe placed a jointed seat for her and threw over it a silvery fleece. Then she sat down and held her veil in her hands before her face. A long time she sat upon the stool without speaking because of her sorrow, and greeted no one by word or by sign, but rested, never smiling, and tasting neither food nor drink, because she pined with longing for her deep-bosomed daughter, until careful Iambe - who pleased her moods in aftertime also - moved the holy lady with many a quip and jest to smile and laugh and cheer her heart." [188]

I believe that a large part of the Stenia was to make the other women laugh by shouting witty insults, making crude jokes or any other way they could think of that was out of character and liberal. It's a laughing day. Yet, there was also a serious note to it. At the Stenia, some women, called 'Bailers', hiked to the chasm where the piglets had been thrown into months ago. Then, in a gruesome display of devotion, the women hauled out the rotting corpses of the piglets and carried them to the Thesmophorion, a site probably on the hillside of the Pnyx, in preparation for the Thesmophoria.

The Stenia is a female only festival, sorry guys! We can't really provide you with laughter and jokes, so here is my suggestion: get all your friends together and have a girl's night. Find Magic Mike on Netflix and break out the wine and popcorn. The ritual will focus on the religious part. You can find the ritual here and chat amongst yourselves here.
The Theseia was an ancient festival held in Athens in the honor of Theseus--as there were many others this month. The focus of this one is actually on his bones and lasting memory; it's a memorial rite. Will you join us in honoring Theseus? In remembering his deeds and the lessons he taught us? Join us on the 29th of September at the usual 10 am EDT.

Theseus (Θησεύς) was fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, whom had both slept with his mother Aethra, and was thus destined to become a hero. All heroes were given at least one divine parent--usually one connected to their later deeds. The same held true for kings. When he heard about the Minotaur of Krete, and the nine-yearly sacrifices to it--a punishment by King Minos of Krete for the death of his son Androgeus, at the hands of Athenian assassins--Theseus offered to be one of the youths who sailed for Krete. Once there, Ariadne, daughter of the king, fell for him and offered him a ball of yarn so he would be able to find his way out off the labyrinth that housed the Minotaur the youths would be sacrificed to. With Ariadne's aid, Theseus defeated the Minotaur, and brought the sacrificial children home.

The Theseia (Θησεῖα) was not instituted till BC. 469, when Athenian statesman and strategos Cimon brought the (alledged) remains of Theseus from Scyros to Athens. After the Persian wars, around 476/5 BC, Athenian Archon Phaedo was prompted by a Pythian priestess at Delphi to return the bones of Theseus to their city. Cimon, upon hearing the oracle, sailed to Skyros to retrieve them. Plutarch, in 'Theseus' tells the story of discovery, collection and retrieval as follows:

"...when Cimon took the island (as is related in his life), and had a great ambition to find out the place where Theseus was buried, he, by chance, spied an eagle upon a rising ground pecking with her beak and tearing up the earth with her talons, when on the sudden it came into his mind, as it were by some divine inspiration, to dig there, and search for the bones of Theseus. There were found in that place a coffin of a man of more than ordinary size, and a brazen spear-head, and a sword lying by it, all which he took aboard his galley and brought with him to Athens."

The Athenians were delighted with the return and the bones that either were or were not Theseus' were laid to rest where they became an intrical part of Athenian life:

"Upon which the Athenians, greatly delighted, went out to meet and receive the relics with splendid processions and sacrifices, as if it were Theseus himself returning alive to the city. He lies interred in the middle of the city, near the present gymnasium. His tomb is a sanctuary and refuge for slaves, and all those of mean condition that fly from the persecution of men in power, in memory that Theseus while he lived was an assister and protector of the distressed, and never refused the petitions of the afflicted that fled to him."

The festival of the Theseia was held on the eighth of every month, but the eighth of Pyanepsion was especially important because the ancient Athenians considered this the day that Theseus returned from Krete:

"The chief and most solemn sacrifice which they celebrate to him is kept on the eighth day of Pyanepsion, on which he returned with the Athenian young men from Crete. Besides which they sacrifice to him on the eighth day of every month, either because he returned from Troezen the eighth day of Hecatombaeon, as Diodorus the geographer writes, or else thinking that number to be proper to him, because he was reputed to be born of Neptune, because they sacrifice to Neptune on the eighth day of every month. The number eight being the first cube of an even number, and the double of the first square, seemed to be an emblem of the steadfast and immovable power of this god, who from thence has the names of Asphalius and Gaeiochus, that is, the establisher and stayer of the earth."

The festival was celebrated with donations of bread and meat, which were given to the poor people so they could 'fancy themselves equal to the wealthiest citizens'. This happened on the evening portion of the eigth of the month (the ancient Hellenes started the new day at sundown). I suspect the offerings that went along with the shared banquet had a slightly Khthonic character. Heroes and heroines have a special place in Hellenismos, as they had in ancient Hellas. These were humans--most with at least a part divine heritage--who were considered so brave, so skillful, so extraordinary in their lifetime that they became revered. Hero worship was very specific and it's a concept that translates with more difficulty than straight-up deity worship.

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

Contests were also part of the festival, during the daylight hours, but we don't know much about these contests; we don't know what sort of contests they were, for example. All we know is that they were 'gymnastic contests'.

We hope you will join us for the event! If you feel like doing so, the ritual can be found here and you can join the community here.