'Ellada' or 'Hellas', the name of a woman who was probably of Athenian origin, lived, died and was buried in Thessaloniki. Time went by and when Langadas street was being opened in 1929, the sargophagus of Attic origin, which had 'housed her remains' for 1,600 years, was found. Inside her impressive marble sarcophagus depicting Amazons in battle, a gold signet ring was found with the carved bust of Athena on its bezel and the name of its owner engraved round it in the 'dedicatory' dative case (ΕΛΛΑΔΙ).

The massive, heavy sarcophagus was moved to the old Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki and then, 33 years later in 1962, to today’s Archaeological Museum. The handful of grave goods were also quickly gathered and recorded, only to be locked away in its storerooms. Some 300 marble sarcophagi recovered during the various excavations of the ancient cemeteries of Thessaloniki were likewise shut away in the museum's storerooms.

The only exception was a couch-shaped sarcophagus discovered unplundered in 1837 near the Kalamaria Gate wherein were found the bones of a couple, a wooden box with gold jewellery and a magic text inscribed on gold sheet and which had been "acquired" by the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna.

Another 90 years went by until the storerooms were opened again for the Ministry of Culture’s programme for the digitalization of archaeological material and which provided an opportunity for the finds to be restudied.

The findings were presented at the 31st conference on the Archaeological Work carried out over the past year in Macedonia and Thrace (31st AWMT) by P. Adam-Veleni and A.Touloumtzidou in their monograph, Gold grave goods in sarcophagi of Thessaloniki: Historical and Social Contexts. According to the researchers of the sarcophagus and its contents

"…the name Hellas is encountered five times in Athens, while only twice in Macedonia. Combined with the Attic origin of the sarcophagus and the similarities of its representation with copper engravings from Athens could perhaps suggest that Hellas originated from Athens."

For the most part, the owners of the sarcophagi (both inscribed or plain) were high ranking Roman citizens of the time (1st to 3rd centuries AD). Grave goods included gold rings, pendants depicting Tyche/Fortuna at the helm with the horn of Amalthea, a pendant shaped like an oil lamp, and jewellery with the figure of the god Asklepios.

Of particular interest is a double gold danake with the head of Alexander the Great on one side and a nude Alexander seated on a rock and Bucephalus on the other. The inscription ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ is on its perimeter.There is also a gold ring with a sardonyx stone depicting the embossed hands of a man and woman joined in a hand shake, and inscribed ΟΜΟΝΟΙΑ.

"In general, the right hand handshake in the Roman world symbolizes mutual faith in the closing of an agreement or contract. Rings with similar depictions often accompanied by the inscription ΟΜΟΝΟΙΑ, were however wedding rings given by the future husband to his wife to be worn on the middle figure of the left hand, since the vein starting from that finger was believed to end up in the heart."

At the same time,

"...the small number of gold coins in the unplundered sarcophagi do not suggest the poverty of their owners but very likely is related to the bequeathal of property to the relatives, leaving the deceased the luxury of strictly personal objects such as signet rings. In the difficult economic conditions prevailing in Macedonia during the 3rd century AD, under the shadow of raids by the barbarians, Charon’s obol is replaced less often by gold coins and more frequently by the danakes. The latter, especially those that depict Alexander the Great, clearly reflect the myth sought after by the ruling class when recollecting its glorious past."
On the eighth day of Elaphebolion, the Asklepieia (Ἀσκληπίεια) was held in honor of Asklēpiós, who was honored monthly on the eighth. The Asklepieia is linked to the Epidausia, celebrated six months later, as both were special days where those in the medical profession--as well as those seeking medical counsel--made sacrifices to Asklēpiós. Will you join us on the 26th of March, at 10 am EDT?

In 242 BC, during the Mercenary War, the sanctuary at Epidaurus was granted immunity from war, and the Asklepieia Megala was established as a festival of athletic and musical competitions, held every four years, for a nine day period. Theater performances were also a huge part of the festival, and the famous theater of Epidaurus still stands today, one of the seven wonders of ancient Hellas.

The first of the festival days was spent preparing for the actual festival. The second day, religious exercises were undertaken. All temples and shrines were richly decorated and sacrifices were made to Apollon, Asklēpiós, Artemis, and Leto. Perhaps and the children of Asklēpiós--Hygieia (health, cleanliness, and sanitation), Iaso (recuperation from illness), Aceso (the healing process), Aglaea (beauty, splendor, glory, magnificence, and adornment), and Panakea (universal remedy)--also received sacrifice. Apollon received the first offering along with Asklēpiós: a cock, the fowl associated with Asklēpiós. They also received barley meal, wheat, and wine. Asklēpiós was then gifted a bull, a second bull was sacrificed to His male associates, and a cow to His female associates.

On the eve of the third day, a statue of Asklēpiós was driven through the precinct, and followed by torch-bearers and priests, who sung hymns to Him. The priests sang and spoke the praise of the Theos. There were vigils throughout the night, and during the daylight hours of the third day, there were feasts. The succeeding days were given up to athletic contests in the stadium, races, wrestling contests, singing contests and theater performances.

The Asklepieia Megala was only held at Epidaurus; all other asklepieia--as well as at Epidausus the other three years--held only a small ceremony for the Theos. The festival did not include athletic games outside of the Asklepieia Megala, but there might have been a focus on singing, and there might have been large banquets, held after sacrifices were made to the Theos.

You can find the ritual here, and we really hope you will join us on the Elaion Facebook page for this one, too!
More than 400 archaeological excavations discovered along the route dug out for the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) have been completed, while another 7 large-scale projects are ongoing in the regions traversed by the pipeline, the company said on Tuesday, following the 31st annual Conference "Archaeological Excavations in Macedonia and Thrace" in Thessaloniki, held between 8 and 10 March 2018 at the Aristotle University.

To date, specialist teams have concluded ca. 300 small- and large-scale rescue excavations and more than 100 trial trench investigations within the project's Right of Way, with more than 650 experts in archaeological research (archaeologists, topographers, conservators, etc.), as well as archaeological laborers involved in the work.

The multiple findings that have been unearthed - both movable and immovable - include burial grounds or individual tombs with some of them containing grave goods, parts of settlements and architectural remains such as walls and churches, monuments, workshops and indications of human activity, for instance kilns and wells. In addition, many movable findings have also been located (pottery, jewellery, coins, etc.), dating from the prehistoric to the post-Byzantine period.

Lead scientists-representatives of 9 Northern Greek Ephorates (from the regional units of Evros, Rodopi, Xanthi, Serres, Kilkis, Thessaloniki, Kozani, Kastoria and Florina) discussed the initial findings of their excavation research, noting that archaeological excavations in Greece would have almost completely ceased, if it weren't for the funds from public or private works. TAP's Country Manager for Greece, Katerina Papalexandri, said:

"We are collaborating closely with the Ministry of Culture and Sports, as well as the local Ephorates of Antiquities, for the protection and promotion of the rich Greek cultural heritage. We are thankful for this collaboration that guarantees the implementation of archaeological best practice and the promotion of academic work and scientific knowledge."  

Archaeological works implemented in collaboration with TAP and its contractors are monitored by the ministry of culture and the 13 local Ephorates of Antiquities (one per each regional unit traversed by the pipeline), as provided for by the relevant memoranda of understanding.
On the sixth of the month of Elaphebolion, the people of Athens and Phocis (Φωκίδα), and perhaps other cities and city-states, held a modest festival for Artemis that gave lended name to the month: the Elaphebolia (Έλαφηβόλια). Will you join us on March 24th at the usual 10 am EDT in celebrating the rite?

It appears that the festival was a major festival in honor of Artemis Elaphêbolos (Αρτεμις Ελαφηβολος) down to the time of Plutarch. It was mainly observed at Hyampolis, to commemorate a Phocian victory over the Thessalians. Afterwards, it seems to have lost its grander, most likely in the face of the Greater Dionysia which was held only a few days later, starting on the tenth of the month, and the Asklepia, held on the eighth.

Artemis Elaphêbolos is the stag-killer, the shooter of deer, the huntress who relishes the chase. She's the slayer of prey, both animal and human, and in ancient Hellas, she guarded Hyampolis and the surrounding cities from the horrors of war.

The festival was most likely quite grand right after the war, but slowly became a festival which consisted almost entirely of a single offering. In the early days, the offering was always a stag, one per family, most likely. As the years went on, however, and the expansion of cities drove the stag far into the Athenian hills, only the city's elite was able to offer a stag to the Goddess. Everyone else made due with cakes in the shape of stags. It seems these stag cakes--called 'elaphos' (ἔλαφος)--were made out of the basic dough mixture with honey, and sesame seeds.

You can find the ritual here, and we really hope you will join us on the community page here.
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.

New things happening:
PAT rituals for Elaphebolion:
  • Elaphebolion 6 - March 18 - Elaphebolia - festival in honor of Artemis
  • Elaphebolion 8 - March 20 - Asklepieia - festival in honor of Asklēpiós
  • Elaphebolion 9 - March 21 - Galaxia - festival in honor of the Mother of the Gods (Rhea), Kronos, Zeus and Hera
  • Elaphebolion 10-17 - March 28 / April 4 - Greater (City) Dionysia in honor of Dionysos
  • Elaphebolion 16 - April 3 - Sacrifice to Semele and Dionysos at Erkhia
  • Elaphebolion 17 - April 4 - Pandia - festival in honor of Zeus, following the Greater Dionysia

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 am neck deep in writerly things (two books in twenty days, why did I think this was a good idea?), so I'm treating you to writerly things as well! If you've ever tried to write a narrative, you know that putting a good story arc together takes some doing. The ancient Hellenic play writes often relied on a construct called the deus ex machine.

The deus ex machina; 'God from a machine' (pronounced as 'Day-oos eks MAH-kee-nah') is a calque from the Hellenic ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός (apò mēkhanês theós), which has roughly the same meaning. The term has evolved into a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object. Depending on how it is done, it can be intended to move the story forward when the writer has stuffed up and sees no other way out, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending, or as a comedic device.

The term was coined in Hellenic tragedy, where a machine was (and still is) used to bring actors playing Gods onto the stage. The machine could be either a crane (mechane) used to lower actors from above or a riser that brought actors up through a trapdoor. The idea was introduced by Aeschylus and was used often to resolve the conflict and conclude the drama. Although the device is associated most with Hellenic tragedy, it also appeared in comedies.

Aristotle (Ἀριστοτέλης) was an ancient Hellenic philosopher and scientist who lived from 384 BC to 322 BC. At seventeen or eighteen years of age, he joined Plato's Academy in Athens and remained there until the age of thirty-seven. His combined works form the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy. Philosophy, to Aristotle, was not limited to ethics. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, linguistics, politics and government. All those together, he believed, formed what could be perceived with the senses and thus made up the world.

Aristotle wasn't a fan of the deus ex machine, so while I work toward the end of my second book in twenty days, you get to enjoy Aristotle's opinion on this tried and true theater trope. Enjoy!

“Clearly, the resolution of the plots should come from the plot itself and not, as in the Medea, from some divine contrivance or as in the Iliad during the rush to the ships (Il. 2.155). The divine device should instead be used for events that are outside the drama either for those that come before what people could know or those that come later which require prophecy and revelation—since we allow that the gods may see everything. There should be nothing illogical in the events, unless it comes from outside the tragedy itself as in Sophocles’ Oedipus.” [Aristotle, Poetics 1454a] 

“Narratives ought to prefer likely events, even if impossible, to improbable possible ones. Stories should not be made from illogical parts: in the best case, they should contain nothing illogical, unless it comes from outside the plot itself as when Oedipus is not aware how Laios died, instead of in the play itself, as when they report the events at Delphi in the Elektra or when the silent man comes from Tegea to Mysia in the Mysians. To say that otherwise the plot would be wrecked is ridiculous—it isn’t right to set up these sorts of events from the beginning. If a poet does this, and there is a more logical option available, it is strange. Even those illogical events in the Odyssey when Odysseus is put ashore [asleep by the Phaeacians] would have been manifestly intolerable if a lesser poet had created it. In the poem now, Homer softens and erases the strangeness with his other good traits.” [Aristotle, Poetics 1460a26]
High-powered X-rays have helped researchers reveal a text by ancient Greek doctor Galen hidden under 6th century writing.

An international multidisciplinary team in California has made an exciting discovery, unveiling a translation of an ancient Greek medical text that until now had been covered with religious writing.
Uncovered at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists used high-powered X-rays to analyze the text from St Catherine’s Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula. On the surface were 10th-century psalms, which were found to be covering writings by ancient Greek doctor Galen that had been translated a few hundred years after his death into the ancient Syriac language.

Galen, who lived from 129 to around 216 CE, studied medicine by dissecting apes and made some important discoveries, among them that arteries do not carry air, but blood. His work remained influential into the Middle Ages.

The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) used to make the discovery, is a common particle accelerator. It works by accelerating electrons to nearly the speed of light and keeps them traveling around a many-sided polygon. Magnets change the electrons’ directions, producing a beam of high-energy X-rays, which successfully revealed the ink that had been scraped off on the parchment.The team at SLAC stated:

“The process we’re using is x-ray fluorescence imaging. We’re going to hit the sample with x-ray energies and it’s going to make the elements that are in the sample fluoresce. One thing people use this sort of technique for is spotting forgeries because by picking up the elements that make up the ink, which you can do from the spectral lines that you’ve got, you can identify if this is modern or ancient."

Researchers now have plans to scan the 26 pages to produce high-resolution files that will be uploaded and made available online.