Thursday, December 18, 2014

Classical classics

Lovely readers, are you fans of classical music? I quite enjoy many classical pieces although I am definitely not well versed. I have found though that the subject matter matters a great deal, so how about some classical pieces with Hellenic influences?

Carl Nielsen - Helios Overture

Carl Nielsen's Helios Overture, Opus 17, was first performed by the Royal Orchestra, conducted by Johan Svendsen, on 8 October 1903 in the large hall of the Odd Fellows Mansion in Copenhagen. In 1902, Nielsen signed a contract with the publisher Wilhelm Hansen, which allowed him to go to Athens, Greece, to join his wife Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen, who was one of the first sculptors allowed to make copies of the bas-reliefs and statues in the Acropolis Museum. Nielsen's stay in Athens gave him the inspiration of a work depicting the sun rising and setting over the Aegean Sea, an overture which he called Helios. He began work on it in March 1903, and finished it on April 23 the same year. The score is written for three flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, and strings.

The work begins as the sun ascends over the Aegean Sea, while strings, divided horns and woodwind sound a melody. This rises out of the darkness to a full orchestra, where fanfaring trumpets begin a striding theme, which returns later in the piece. From there woodwinds begin a graceful tune, from which brass sound. Strings begin to play, which draws the orchestra into a reprise of the striding theme and its fanfare. In the final measures, the music subsides as the sun sinks over the horizon of the sea. The average playing time is between ten and twelve minutes.

Gluck - Orpheus and Euridice

Orfeo ed Euridice is an opera composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck based on the myth of Orpheus, set to a libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi. The piece was first performed in Vienna on 5 October 1762. The two hour opera is split into three acts. In the first a grieving Orpheus--Orfeo--Amore appears, telling Orfeo that he may go to the Underworld and return with his wife on the condition that he not look at her until they are back on earth. In the second act, Orfeo visits the underworld and is reunited with Euridice, and in the third, they head out and he looses her again when he looks back to check if she is really there.

Karl Goldmark - Prometheus Unbound Overture

 Karl Goldmark, also known originally as Károly Goldmark and later sometimes as Carl Goldmark was a Hungarian composer who lived from May 18, 1830, to January 2, 1915. The Op. 36, the Prometheus Bound Overture, features Prometheus and is concerned with the torments of the Hellenic mythological figure Prometheus who defies the Gods and gives fire to humanity, for which he is subjected to eternal punishment and suffering at the hands of Zeus.

Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf - Symphonies after Ovid’s 'Metamorphoses' No. 1 to No. 6

Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf was an Austrian composer, violinist and silvologist who lived from 2 November 1739 to 24 October 1799. Among his 120-or-so symphonies are twelve programmatic ones based on Ovid's Metamorphoses, although only six have survived (and have also been recorded). They are entitled: 'The Four Ages of the World', 'The Fall of Phaeton', 'The Metamorphosis of Acteon Into a Stag', 'The Rescue of Andromeda by Perseus', 'The Transformation of the Lycian Peasants into Frogs', and a sixth untitled one.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Temple of Artemis in Vavrona flooded

To anyone who lives in Greece or who has kept an eye on the happenings there, it can't come as a surprise but Greece is experiencing a bout of very, very bad weather. Huge storms and floods are wreaking havoc and destruction. The most recent victim: the temple of Artemis in Vavrona.

This temple was sacred to the Goddess Artemis in her manifestation as protectress of mothers, mothers to be, and those seeking to become mothers. Supplicants dedicated offerings to the goddess such as clothing, mirrors and jewellery hoping to become pregnant and gain easy births or votive offerings of thanks. The site is also associated with Iphigeneia, daughter of Agamemnon, a priestess of Artemis. Legend recounts that Iphigenia introduced the worship of Artemis to Greece upon her return from Tauris with her brother Orestes. They carried with them a xoanon, a sacred image of Artemis, which they had stolen from the local Temple in Tauris.

After several hours of non stop torrential rain and within a few hours, the temple, dedicated to goddess Artemis, was turned into a lake as the muddy water covered the entire area. Mud and water covered the ancient temple’s marble columns, while indicative of the amount of water that fell during the last 24 hours in the Attica region is that, based on meteorological data, almost 1/7 of the entire year’s rainfall occurred in the last few days. Four stations of the National Observatory in Euboea (Zarakes, Setta, Steni and Styra) recorded more than 80mm of rain each, meaning that some 80 tons of water fell within an acre.

It should be noted that the extreme rainfall throughout the country and especially in northern Greece, and particularly in Thrace, has caused the flooding of Evros river. The residents of Ormenio village were in danger after a nearby Evros river levee broke and the village has been evacuated.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Why does Hera never punish Zeus for his infidelity?"

"Hi Elani, I have been wondering about something... I can't figure out the answer and maybe you can help. Why is it that Hera in the myths never punishes Zeus for his infidelity but always the humans he cheats with, or the children? Thank you in advance! I love your blog!"

Well, Hera did try to overthrow Her husband once, in the beginning of their reign. The reasons are never made entirely clear--nor for Her, nor for the others who joined her (most notably Poseidon and Athena). His adultry was most likely a factor, though, and at that time he also wasn't a very good leader to the Gods, nor a ruler over mankind. Especially Poseidon and Athena took offense to the latter tow. From Hómēros' 'Iliad':

"Help your brave son, therefore, if you [Thetis] are able. Go to Olympus, and if you have ever done him service in word or deed, implore the aid of Jove. Ofttimes in my father's house have I heard you glory in that you alone of the immortals saved the son of Saturn from ruin, when the others, with Juno, Neptune, and Pallas Minerva would have put him in bonds. It was you, goddess, who delivered him by calling to Olympus the hundred-handed monster whom gods call Briareus, but men Aegaeon, for he is stronger even than his father; when therefore he took his seat all-glorious beside the son of Saturn, the other gods were afraid, and did not bind him." [1. 397]

This specific example illustrates a point: Hera (women) cannot and should not punish or resent Zeus (men) for their infidelity. In fact, as long as a husband takes good care of his wife (both financially and sexually), he should be free to pursue any woman he is societally allowed to sleep with.

Because much of what has remained from ancient Hellas was written, created, or otherwise preserved by men, it's easy to get a lasting negative impression of women in the ancient Hellenic society. In fact, until a couple of decades ago, that was the prevalent notion in the scholarly community. So, let's look at the role of women in ancient Hellas before I can get back to the question at hand. Trigger warning: we have to get into the topic of sexual assault and rape for a moment here.

Marriage in ancient Hellas was a family affair. The father of the son--who was often in his thirties by the time he got married--opened negotiations with the family of a bride in her teens. The two families came to an agreement about dowry, a contract was signed by the father of the groom and the father of the bride in front of witnesses, and the groom met his new wife--often for the first time--before taking her to bed. Prostitution was common, and men tended to have concubines. Some even lived at the house. Demosthenes, a Hellenic writer from ancient Athens, was recorded as saying: 'we have courtesans for pleasure, concubines to provide for our daily needs, and our spouses to give us legitimate children and to be the faithful guardians of our homes'. In ancient Hellas, women were almost solely in charge of raising children. Their lives consisted of taking care of the hearth, her husband and her children. Any status a woman had, was tied in with her husband. Women were groomed to function in pairs. It was because of this that a widow was passed on to another male as soon as possible.

In ancient Hellenic society, free women lived separate from men. They rarely had interactions with men not from their oikos. Still, there are accounts of women being sexually assaulted, and monetary fines that were issued to the perpetrator. From this, we know that sexual assault and rape were criminal, and shameful acts. Ancient sources also tell us that men were only punishable for sexual assault or rape if they raped a woman--or possibly a man--above their own rank. No one was punished for raping a slave, for example, and the practice was common.

So then, what of Gods? It stands to reason that hierarchical rules also apply here, as myths are formed by the men who tell them. Who is higher in rank than a God? And, above all, who is higher in rank than Zeus? If Zeus desires a woman (or man), He is free to take her (or him) under ancient Hellenic law. It also stands to reason that a God lower in standing, say Apollon, would be punished severely for raping a Goddess above his standing. If Zeus had not claimed Hera, and He had laid claim to Her, I am sure He would have been unsuccessful, and perhaps would even have been punished.

Looking at mortals, nymphs and 'lesser' Immortals, nearly all Gods outrank them, so the ancient Hellens would have seen no problem in a sexual act between a God and these women. An exception to the rules and regulations applied to mortal adulterous men, would most likely have been made for the Gods as well. Their Divinity would allow Them to 'overrule' the mortal marriage without bringing shame to the husband, although there seems to be a threat stemming from a demi-God son (as can be seen in the myth of Perseus).

So, short answer after all of that: Hera doesn't punish Her husband for sleeping around (something He allegedly did far less after Her revolt) because it is not Her place, just as it was not the place of women in ancient Hellenic society to punish their husbands. Ancient Hellenic society, however, says nothing about women not punishing or resenting the women her husband engaged. Hera may not have been allowed or capable of punishing Her husband, but She could definitely take it out on His conquests and the children that came from those unions. That said, make sure to distinguish between Hellenic and Roman myth! The Roman Goddess Juno was far more vengeful than Hera was ever made out to be.

We might not agree with these views in modern times but I encourage placing the myths into their proper framework, a frame where the myths meet the society they were written down in, and are explained that way. These were the views of the people who wrote down the myths and they should be understood in those views. Who knows how the relationship between Zeus and Hera is these days and if they have or haven't had a bit of a sit down about this? I most certainly don't. Looking at ancient Hellenic myth, though, this is my explanation. I hope it makes things a bit clearer for you as well.

Monday, December 15, 2014

"Atlantis" recap (2.05): The Day of the Dead

The last time we saw our heroes, Pasiphaê, Medea and her army had driven them--Jason, Hercules, Pythagoras and Ariadne as well as travelling companions Orpheus, his wife Eurydice, and Diagoras. Dion, Ariadne's trusty bodyguard, unfortunately perished--into a cave system housing a necropolis, a city of the dead. Ariadne shot Pasiphaê and Medea took Jason over the edge of a very steep cliff with her is a reactional magic outburst. Bring on the undead!

Pasiphaê is still alive. She's on the floor, crumpled up, and when she wakes up she realizes she has an arrow pretty much all the way through her body. Like any good movie person, she yanks the thing out and immediately partakes in strenuous action by dragging herself over the ground to a sarcophagus of some sort. More strenuous activity: Pasiphaê casts a curse with what may very well be her dying breath. As she falls back down to the ground, a rotting hand punches out of the brittle stone sarcophagus. Uh-oh.

Hercules and Pythagoras are staring down into the abyss. They throw torches down to see if they can spot Jason (and Medea). there is no sign of them. They report back to Ariadne who refuses to believe Jason (and Medea) could be dead. Eurydice agrees with her. Quickly, they pack up and leave Dion behind as they start looking for a way down.

Below in the chasm, there are two people very lucky to still have hair. In the glow of the torches Hercules and Pythagoras threw down, Jason and Medea lie sprawled out on the ground, not moving a muscle.

In the tunnels, Orpheus' bat ears pick up on a sound no one else can hear. Ariadne hopefully says it might be Jason. Hercules wisely guesses it's probably something else--something a lot less friendly. After a while, the others hear it as well.

Meanwhile, Dion's body slowly comes to life. It's him the group heard and when Diagoras goes in for the hug (*cough* cannon fodder *cough*, he gets bitten quite terribly in the arm. Dion is not looking very healthy and Ariadne--very rightfully--freaks the fuck out. She's also the wisest of the lot, though, because she orders Hercules to kill him--errr... again. Obviously Hercules skipped Zombie Slaying 101 because he stabs him, which does absolutely nothing. I don't blame him, there is literally not a single zombie in ancient Hellenic lore so how could he possibly know that zombies only die and stay dead when you lop of their heads? Hercules stabs him again then tries to punch him out when a horde of undead befalls them. They run.

Jason, meanwhile, wakes up. His shoulder hurts but for someone who just fell off of a very high cliff, he's pretty well off. He gets up without much difficulty and grabs his sword. Medea is still out cold. He pokes at her with his sword and she wakes up. He has the opportunity to kill her but refuses to take it. Instead he walks off silently.

Pythagoras is obviously well-read because he guesses what's going on: the dead have been brought back to life; necromancy. Orpheus says that the king who was buried here had his entire army slaughtered so he had guards in Hades. I'm not touching that bit of wobbly ancient Hellenic thinking with a ten foot pole, if you don't mind. Anyway, the group rightfully concludes Ariadne did not kill Pasiphaê (instantly). They also concluded that the undead seek to eat their flesh. Diagoras--in the infinite wisdom of many minor TV-characters before him--says his would 'is nothing' and refuses treatment.

Jason is making his way through the tunnels with a sword and a torch, calling out loud enough to draw the undead. He freaks out but manages to fight it off. Back where they landed, Medea screams. Jason realizes these things have also found her and despite his anger he goes back to save the girl--who is being swarmed down on by a dozen or so undead. The same is true for the other group.  Hercules keeps stabbing the bastards and it doesn't work at all--until he pierces the heart(?!). I... I am just going to go with this. These are undead zombie creatures raised from their graves by magic which can be killed by stabbing them in the heart. By the Gods...

Our heroes don't have time to ponder this idiocy either: one of the zombies grabs Pythagoras.

Now he knows what to aim for, Hercules fights the zombie off of his friend fairly easily and Ariadne can kill them too now she knows that all she has to do is hit the heart. When Dion goes after her, though, she has trouble sending an arrow into his chest. This show (or actress Aiysha Hart) needs an anatomy lesson, though, because when she finally does stab him with an arrow, it's in his gut and he keels over--again. There is no time to mourn the death-that-should-not-be: the king obviously took a lot of men with him in death.

In the tunnels, Medea shows great knowledge when she, too, says that this must be the undead. She is shocked Jason came back for her and he tells her he nearly didn't. Jason eventually asks the question we have all been trying to get answered for weeks now: who is Pasiphaê to Medea? She says she is 'my blood'. Oooookay, Jason, no falling for this woman. I mean it. They don't have time to get into bloodlines: the undead are too numerous and they are coming closer. Together they go on the hunt for Pasiphaê--the only one who could have made the dead come back to life.

The other group finds the tombs--there are hundreds of them. Surprise, surprise, Diagoras' wound has become infected at an alarmingly quick rate (*rolls eyes*). They need to hide so they can tend to the wound. Eventually they settle on making use of one of the tombs; the previous inhabitants have no need for it now anyway.

Medea questions why Jason fights so hard for Ariadne and he says he swore an oath to his queen. she knows there is more to it than that. He says there can't be. Medea knows about his feelings for her. Jason doesn't engage her in the subject. Instead, he asks her why she is loyal to Pasiphaê. It seems that Medea's powers have always made her an outcast. Pasiphaê accepted her, loved her, and in return Medea gave her her loyalty. Jason doubts Pasiphaê can even show kindness. Medea says that there is more to Pasiphaê than that. Jason tries to convince Medea that Pasiphaê's motives are flawed, but he's not getting through quite yet.

In the tombs, the wound is tended to and Ariadne and Eurydice bond about love at first sight. When Eurydice and Orpheus cuddle up, Ariadne watches and I am damn sure she is imagining her and Jason when they are old and grey.

The sounds of the dead make Hercules and Ariadne uncomfortable. Hercules is staring out, waiting, wondering when the monsters will find them. Ariadne can't stop thinking about Jason who is out there amongst the dead. Hercules sees that as a personal failure. Ariadne blames herself. At the same time, though, they know Jason is strong and skilled. If anyone can survive this it's him. Meanwhile, Diagoras' wound is getting worse.

The ever burning torches carry Jason and Medea down the hallways where they come upon slaughtered warriors. There are wounds to the heart and they are very relieved to have found a way to kill them. Besides, dead zombies means the others came this way. A new group of undead stumble upon them and Jason kills a few before he gets topped over. He struggles to fight one of the monsters off until Medea picks up a sword and kills it. A life for a life. Jason has broken his leg, though. Medea immediately kneels down and heals it, telling Jason to 'trust her'. He does. Medea says he is still wrong about Pasiphaê. Jason counters that Pasiphaê raised the dead--sacrificing Medea as well--and that she doesn't care about Medea. Medea refuses to hear it--she has no one else who cares, she needs Pasiphaê to care.

The group is asleep but a bit of noise wakes Pythagoras up. Just in time because Diagoras has turned and is going after Eurydice. He rushes to pull the monster off and Ariadne comes to help. She gets tossed aside like a ragdoll. With quick instructions, Pythagoras helps Orpheus kill Diagoras for good and Pythagoras draws the logical conclusion: if you get bitten, you get sick, die, and turn. Hercules is not amused by this even darker turn of events. Everyone has a great big scare when they spot a wound on Ariadne's arm. Thankfully it's just a cut from the fall.

Orpheus and Eurydice take a moment to process the loss of their friend. Meanwhile, Hercules spots the horde--they have returned to the tombs.

Self-preservation is finally kicking in in Medea. Once they find the others, Queen Ariadne will have her killed on the spot. Jason swore an oath to her so... what will he doe then? Jason promises he won't let any harm come to Medea. She asks why he would. He says she saved his life and she warns him that doesn't change anything--she won't betray Pasiphaê. He says she already did by saving his life. She makes a few lame excuses but it's clear she is inherently good and getting confused.

Meanwhile, Orpheus realizes something is wrong with Eurydice: she has a fever. There is a wound on her arm: Diagoras bit her. Orpheus refuses to believe it but he knows she is doomed. Pythagoras has noticed Eurydice is not doing too hotly either but Hercules waves it off when he mentions it.

Jason and Medea have a problem: in order to get to Jason's friends, they have to go through the horde. Jason extinguishes the torches and pulls Medea along. It seems he's going to sneak past the zombies in the very--very--narrow passageways. Medea is not exactly convinced by the plan but the first of the zombies pass them without spotting them. It seems hiding until they walk by is actually a sound strategy.

Once more, Pythagoras tries to convince Hercules something is wrong with Eurydice. One more, Hercules waves it off. Orpheus refuses to leave Eurydice's side, however, and Pythagoras comes straight out and asks what is wrong. Orpheus says to just leave them alone. Pythagoras finally realizes the truth.  He says he is so sorry and leaves them be. All Orpheus wants is for them to die together. Pythagoras delivers the bad news to Hercules and Ariadne. They know there is only one thing to do: kill her before she turns. Hercules refuses but Ariadne volunteers for the gruesome task. She demands a dagger, saying that as queen, she can't shy away from what needs to be done.

She approaches the pair carefully and Orpheus knows what she has come to do. She says she's sorry, that there is no other way. Orpheus says that she is her entire world, that he can't live without her. Ariadne tells him that Eurydice wouldn't want him to die too, and that is what will happen when she turns. Orpheus knows this. He slowly peels his wife away from his chest where she has been resting. If anyone is to end his wife's life, he says, it will be him. As Ariadne, Hercules and Pythagoras look on, Orpheus lays his wife down on the ground, vows he will come for her in Hades, and requests the dagger. Ariadne gives it to him and then withdraws. Orpheus kills her and then lays at her side. I am not ashamed to say that when Ariadne cries, I cry a little too.

Jason and Medea are getting closer to the tombs. They spot the only one with a light in them and Jason assumes it's his friends. In the tomb, Ariadne hopes that one day someone will love her as much as Orpheus loves Eurydice. Hercules says someone already does, then awkwardly covers for his slip of the tongue by saying she must be beating men off with a stick, pretty girl like her. For a moment, everyone tenses, then Ariadne shrugs it off and goes to comfort Orpheus. Before she can reach him, however, they all scramble for weapons because Jason is making a Gods awful ruckus climbing up. Ariadne falls into his arms.

When Medea appears, the happy reunion is shattered. Hercules threatens to cut her head off, Ariadne jumps back with something between fear and hate on her features, Pythagoras is just confused and Jason says Medea is with him and under his protection. Ariadne is shocked Jason promised anything like that. The entire group wants her dead but Medea says she knows how to vanquish the dead. It saves her life. Medea says they must return to the site where the curse was cast. No one is happy about the arrangement.

Orpheus covers his dead wife while Jason makes his condolences. Orpheus says it wont be the end. Jason is spared from answering when Hercules ties Medea's hands behind her back. He tries to stop them but Medea says it's alright, if this is what it takes for Jason's friends to feel safe then so be it. Before they leave, Ariadne pulls Jason aside. She says she was dying when she thought he was dead. She says he shouldn't accept that she is queen and that therefor they can't be together--both of them shouldn't. She was scared, but seeing Orpheus and Eurydice made her realize that she is and always has been deeply in love with Jason. She breaks down and asks him to say something. He doesn't, instead he takes her into his arms and kisses her deeply.

The group makes their way through the tunnels, fighting the undead at every turn. Jason's main focus is keeping a defenceless Medea alive. Once they reach the spot where Pasiphaê must have ended up, Medea tells them to look for the ancient symbols Pasiphaê carved into something to complete her curse. they must destroy them. Pythagoras asks how she knows these symbols even exist. Medea valiantly stops herself from rolling her eyes as she says that that is how magic works.

Jason and Hercules walk along the narrow strip Jason previously fell down from and Hercules nearly takes a tumble down the cliff face himself. Jason manages to pull him up just in time. When they round the bend, it's all zombies, all the time: hundreds of them. In the one ray of light that miraculously shines down into this cavern the guys spot the tomb. There is no other solution than fight their way through. Hercules finds the symbols on the sarcophagus cover and shatters it. All the soldier zombies crumple into bone piles. A ways off, Medea notes that Ariadne really loves Jason. Ariadne refuses to share her feelings, just watches anxiously for Jason's return. Jason and Hercules make it back in one piece and Jason cuts Medea loose. Ariadne loosely remarks that they are all in Medea's debt and Medea promptly repays their trust with treachery. She steals Jason's dagger and wraps herself around Ariadne, dagger to her throat.

Jason asks what Medea thinks she is doing and with obvious pain in her voice, Medea says she is only doing what she intended to do all along. She plunges the dagger into Ariadne's side and shoves her into Jason's arms. Instead of running, though, she watches with shocked horror and fear on her features. Jason stares up at her with so much anger that if looks could kill, Medea would drop dead on the spot.

Next time on Atlantis: Ariadne is not doing well. The Oracle tries to save her life while Jason goes after Medea. Saturday on BBC One, recap on Monday.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

On whitewashing and religion

The Mediterranean race of which the Greeks and ancient Greeks are a part is one of the sub-races into which the Caucasian race was categorized by most anthropologists in the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. It is characterized by medium to tall stature, long or moderate skull, a narrow and often slightly aquiline nose, prevalence of dark hair and eyes, and a rosy pink to dark brown skin tone; olive complexion being especially common.

And yet, whenever we see 'ancient Greeks' in movies or series, they tend to be... well... more along the lines of 'rosy pink' than 'dark brown'. Actually, usually the bad guys tend to have slightly darker skin (sometimes rightfully so because of race, other times not so much). There is a name for this, whitewashing, and it happens with every single ethnic group--from Native American to Asian, to African--when portrayed on-screen. Recently Rebecca Pahle over at Pajiba addressed the issue of whitewashing as a reaction to a string of very white actors chosen in roles which should have been filled by People of Color (POC's).

"It fits in with the worldview of the average moviegoer that whitewashing wouldn’t be a new phenomenon—Mickey Rooney playing the Japanese Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is atrocious, but it also makes sense in a weird way, because that movie was made over 50 years ago, and (we tell ourselves) olden times were racist as fuck. We’re in the 21st century now. We’ve evolved.
Except, as this year has been an exercise in displaying, we really haven’t, as least not as much as some people might like to think. And so, in this enlightened age, whitewashing continues to be a thing. Exodus whitewashed African characters Moses and Rameses by casting white actors Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton. (With some uncomfortable eau de brownface on Edgerton. “But it’s sunny out, and he’s tan!” No. Cut that shit out.) Pan whitewashed Tiger Lily by making the character white and casting actress Rooney Mara. Star Trek Into Darkness whitewashed Khan. The Last Airbender whitewashed the good guys and let the bad guys be. The Lone Ranger. 21. The Prince of Persia. It just. Keeps. Happening.
There’s this weird disconnect, where the people responsible for these movies don’t seem to get that casting a white actor as a character of color, in a world where non-white actors, characters, people in general are constantly shoved aside, is a thing you Should Not Do."

Rebecca Pahle goes on to list a few of the most commonly used excuses by actors, directors and producers  about why whitewashing is actually not a problem at all. Some of the gems include:

“Believe me, I would have LOVED to cast Asians in the lead roles, but the truth is, we didn’t have access to any bankable Asian-American actors that we wanted… If I had known how upset the Asian-American community would be about this, I would have picked a different story to film.”
--Dana Brunetti, producer, 21

“Persians were very light skinned… The Turks kind of changed everything. But back in the 6th century, a lot of them were blond and blue-eyed.”
--Jerry Bruckheimer, producer, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

"Egypt was - as it is now - a confluence of cultures, as a result of being a crossroads geographically between Africa, the Middle East and Europe. We cast major actors from different ethnicities to reflect this diversity of culture, from Iranians to Spaniards to Arabs. There are many different theories about the ethnicity of the Egyptian people, and we had a lot of discussions about how to best represent the culture.”
--Ridley Scott, Exodus

“It would absolutely be a wonderful day of celebration if, within a few decades, we have another Moses and he’s a North African or Middle Eastern actor — what a wonderful thing…I think that people, rather than pointing fingers, should ask themselves, are they being supportive of North African and Middle Eastern filmmakers and actors? … The change will come from independent filmmaking, but audiences have to be there. Because once that happens, financiers of bigger and bigger budget films will say, ‘We can actually do business here.’"
--Christian Bale, Exodus

Look, I'm white. I'm about as white as they come--my skin is pretty much translucent. I have it easy in this world when it comes to race. I don't have to deal with discrimination based on the colour of my skin. Unlike a lot of people in this world, I don't have to worry about getting shot at by authority figures simply for breathing. I don't have to deal with not getting a job based on my skin colour. There is a good chance I will end up earning more then even black men. And yes sometimes when I watch a movie about our Gods or the culture that worshipped Them, I can forget that there is a culture being whitewashed here. In fact, I get to do that every Saturday. For POC's, it is not that easy and it is important that we keep demanding not just content featuring our Gods and ancient Hellenes, but that we demand for an accurate portrayal. Not just for our religion, but for the members of it who deserve to see themselves represented on the screen when talking about their ancestors.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ancient Greece Exhibition Opens in Canada

Canadians! You are in luck! One of the most significant exhibitions that has ever travelled outside of Greece has been scheduled to open on December 12. Pointe-à-Callière Museum in Montreal will be the first stop in its tour around North America.

The exhibition, entitled 'The Greeks: Agamemnon to Alexander the Great' presents 6,000 years of ancient Greek history through 543 ancient artefacts and art pieces drawn from 21 Greek archeological museums. This is the first time most of the artefacts have been allowed to leave Greece. But thanks to a desire to attract tourists from North America, the Greek government has collaborated with four museums to organize an exhibition that uses a prime sample of the country’s ancient treasures to tell how philosophy, geometry, architecture, theatre, poetry and sculpture originated in Greece.

Videos are an integral part of the exhibition, used to personalize the ancient Greeks whose artifacts are on display and place them in a historical context. Some videos show how tools were used to make an artifact; one clever animation uses the familiar black silhouette figures from Greek pottery of the seventh to fifth centuries BCE to describe the mechanics of democracy. They include the discs that Athenians used to cast a secret ballot and a water clock that limited political speeches to the time it took to drain a jug. Both items are in the exhibition nearby.

Two artefacts in particular  symbolize Hellas' proudest achievement: the invention of democracy. The first is the 'crouching man' on an amulet in a display at the entrance. The graphic image, which dates to 6000 BCE, depicts a man submitting himself to the Gods. A marble relief from 460 BCE depicts an athlete crowning himself – as a free citizen with the democratic rights of self-rule. Other objects include artefacts from Philip II of Macedon’s tomb, including a gold diadem worn as a crown and pieces of the gold dress armour he was buried in, along with a delicate gold wreath of myrtle leaves from an adjoining tomb of Queen Meda, his sixth wife.

The Greek Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the Consortium of North American Museums organized the exhibition, with the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa as its official representative. During an event for the exhibition presentation which took place at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki the institution representatives characterized their work as an ancient Greek civilization panorama.

The exhibition will remain at Pointe-à-Callière Museum from December 12, 2014 to April 26, 2015. The exhibition will then shift to the Canadian Museum of History for four months starting June 5. Then it’s off to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and the National Geographic Museum in Washington, where it will wrap up on Oct. 9, 2016. The Canadian Museum of History museum expects to attract 150,000 visitors. Pointe-à-Callière is projecting a similar number.

Friday, December 12, 2014

PAT ritual announcement: Poseidea 2014

Today's blog post is heavily sponsored by Elaion, and almost completely written by my wonderful friend and spiritual partner Robert Clark, core founder of Elaion. We have decided to hold a new PAT ritual in honor of the Poseidea on the 23th of December, 10 AM EST, and we would love to have you join us! Robert has put together this information on the festival I would like to present you with, as the Poseidea (alternative spelling: Poseidonia) is one of those festivals you don't hear a lot about these days.

Ancient months usually bear the name of the major festival. We are now in the ancient Athenian month of Poseideon. Poseidon as savior of ships, protector of those who voyage in ships, and God of the lapping waters both salt and fresh important for agriculture, is thanked for the many gifts that came from faraway places that were likely given at that time. The immense trade and distribution was nearly all through shipping, relatively little overland, whether it be perfume from Cyprus or pottery from Corinth. It is interesting today that Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nikolas) is the Patron Saint of seafarers in the Orthodox Church. Celebrating Poseidon's Festival seems to be lost in modern practice.  It likely entailed bonfires, feasting, cutting of trees (probably decorated), and very likely gift giving.  As God of begetting, that aspect was not forgotten.  The most complete account of the festival is Noel Robertson's article Poseidon's Festival at the Winter Solstice, The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 34, No. 1. (1984), pp. 1-16:

"The record shows that Poseidon was once worshipped in every part of greece as a god of deneral importance to the community."

"The festival falls near the winter solstice, and the ritual business marked by jollity and license, belongs to the general type of solstice festival known the world over.  At Poseidon’s festival, however, the sportive conduct has a definite purpose; this purpose arises from the fundamental agrarian background if Mediterranean society, and may bring us close to the origin of solstice festivals."

"It has scarcely been noticed that festivals of Poseidon, more than those of any other Greek deity, fall at just this time of year; yet the evidence is extensive."

"The festival Poseidea and some of the rites in question are often claimed for Poseidon the sea-god, but at this season sailing is furthest from one’s mind, and fishing on the shore is by no means an overriding concern.  Such details as we have point elsewhere, to Poseidon as the god of fresh water who fructifies Demeter’s fields."

One of Poseidon’s epithets is prosklystios, 'of the lapping water'. He is also invoked as Poseidon phytalmios which implies natural fertility and human procreation. There are also implications in the legends that imply bonfires at the winter solstice.

Noel Robertson concludes:

"…the celebrants feast to satiety, then turn to lascivious teasing. What is the ritual purpose of such conduct?  It obviously suits Poseidon’s mythical reputation as the most lustful of gods, who far surpasses Apollo and Zeus in the number of his liaisons and his offspring. Poseidon the seducer is the god of springs and rivers; his women typically succumb while bathing or drawing water; the type of the river god is a rampant bull. But the ritual likewise treats Poseidon as a procreant force; witness the epithets phytalmios, genesios, pater, etc. as interpreted above. The myths and the ritual reflect the same belief. The rushing waters are a proponent male power, just as the fields which they fertilize are a prolific female.  Both water and the fields, both Poseidon and Demeter, can be made to operate by sympathetic magic.  The rites of our winter festival rouse Poseidon and bring the rushing waters…"

It is interesting that that Theophrastus tells us that the silver fir was important in ship building, especially for masts. The ‘tannenbaum’ is a silver fir. It is also interesting to compare with the Roman Saturnalia which may very well have borrowed from the Poseidea.

I would like to once more invite you to join our PAT riatual--which we would love to do with you at 10 AM, but anywhere from dusk on the 22th of December to dusk on the 23th is perfectly alright.