The deme of Erkhia has many sacrifices, and Elaion has pretty much adopted them all. One of these sacrifices--or actually two of them--are on Poseideon 16. Both are to Zeus. The first to Zeus without epithet, the other to Zeus Horios: 'of the boundary stones'. Will you join us for this combined sacrifice on December 16 at 10 am, EST?

Zeus Horios is responsible for the preservation of boundary stones. In order to mark their territories (especially between public and private), the ancient Hellenes relied on boundary markers, called 'horoi'. A horos (χορός) was usually a stele of marble or limestone, no larger than a meter high, rectangular and roughly hewn except for the upper front face, which was dressed smooth for inscribed letters. It was usually inscribed, sometimes with just the word 'horos', or sometimes specifying the territory (e.g., 'horos of the sanctuary'), or even the name of a deity. Some horoi were inscribed in the first person; a famous horos stone found by the ancient Athenia agora reads 'I am the horos of the Agora'. Specificity and clarity were crucial; passersby needed to know what sort of land they were entering because a boundary marker's message was enforced with a legal enforceable meaning.

The Arkhian calendar describes the sacrifices as such:

"[...] on the sixteenth [of Poseideon], for Zeus, on the rock or rocky place at Erkhia, a sheep, no taking away. For Zeus Horios, at Erkhia, a piglet, no taking away."

'No taking away' in this case means to consume the sacrifice on the spot. No part of it can be carried away from the site. So the skins and bones, as well as some of the meat are to be burned and the rest of the meat eaten, not sold or stored. Some scientists and archaeologists have come to call this type of sacrifice 'Ou phora', after Scott Scullion's definition.

In Sullivan's definition of 'Olympian' and 'Khthonian', 'Khthonian' was extended to include not only sacrifices in which the victim was destroyed, but also all sacrifices from which the meat could not be carried away and had to be consumed on the spot. He connects ou phora sacrifices to Khthonian deities or heroes, but this theory has been widely debated because it simply does not seem to resonate with other knowledge we have of these divinities and Their cults.

Poseideon was ruled by Poseidon, Zeus and Dionysos. Poseideon is the first true winter month; the first harvest was over, seafaring had ceased and thus war had come to an end. The focus was on the home and preparation for true, deep winter: the weather turned and the crops needed protecting. Because of this, it was also a month of threat; if the crops failed, if the seas became too rough when a daring fisherman was out on it, or if a river went out of bounds and flooded a well populated area there would be death. Zeus Horios watches over the boundaries of the home and was thus vital in this divine protection.

In current times we might not have most of these fears, but we still want trespassers to stay off our property (burglars, anyone?), and we want our personal, emotional, boundaries to be observed as well by the people we meet. Zeus Horios still influences our lives. So will you join us in honouring Zeus and Zeus Horios come Friday 16 December at 10 am, EST? The community for the event can be found here and the ritual here.
We have lost much in the way of statues, writing and music when it comes to ancient Hellas. The statues, pots and other remanants that are squabbled over between countries pale in comparison to the marvels that remained in the ancient past and of which only stories and descriptions remain. Think of the statue of Zeus at Olympia and the Colossus of Rhodes. But there was another giant in ancient Hellas--one of the greatest. This as the statue of Athena Promachos.

The statue of Athena Promachos (Ἀθηνᾶ Πρόμαχος) was a colossal bronze statue of Athena sculpted by Pheidias, which stood between the Propylaea and the Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens. Ith is a different statue from the huge gold and ivory cult image of Athena Parthenos in the Parthenon that was made by Pheidias as well.

The statue was erected during the Classical period of Ancient Hellenic culture, approximately 456 BC. It commemmorated the victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC and was made with the spoils of that battle. According to the preserved inscription on the partial marble base that remains, the statue measured about 10 m (30 ft) in height and showed Athena standing with a spear alongside, her shield resting upright against her leg, and her right arm extended, bearing the winged figure Niké in that hand. The statue was so large it is said that the tip of the spear and her helmet crest were visible at sea, off Cape Sounion.

Athena Promachos stood overlooking Athens for approximately 1000 years, until shortly after 465 CE, when the sculpture was transported to Constantinople (capital of the Eastern Roman Empire) as a trophy in the 'Oval Forum', which became the last bastion and safe haven for many surviving Hellenic bronze sculptures under the protection of the Eastern Empire's Imperial court. The Athena Promachos was destroyed in 1203 by a superstitious mob who thought she was beckoning the crusaders who had besieged the city.

A few Attic coins minted during Roman times (first and second centuries CE) show the statue of Athena Promachos. They show that she wore a belted garment and carried the figure of Niké in her outstretched right hand. A spear leans against one shoulder and her shield rests on the ground. On some of the coins her crested helmet is rendered as Attic in type, sometimes Corinthian.

A few models thought to represent the type survive. They are, for example, the Athena Elgin, a small bronze statuette in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who bears an owl in her outstretched hand, and the Athena Medici torso in the Musée du Louvre, of which there are a number of replicas.

Can you imagine if a statue of this type still existed? It would have been impressive then as it was the first thing many people saw upon enetering one of Athens' entry gates but even today a statue like this would draw the eye and awe of anyone who saw it.
I have many favourite Hellenic myths and many--if not all--of its many heroes and heroines inspire me. The stories of their many heroic deeds are reminders to do better, be braver, fight harder and aspire to achieve more. And some-inspire us to be kinder.

I am longing for kindness these days. The world is so harsh--people are so harsh. I long for xenia in an age of mistrust and hate. So today I wish to share with you an Hellenic myth far too few people know: the myth of Baukis and Philemon. It was written by Ovid and thus stands on the cusp between Hellenic and Roman, but the spirit of the ancient Hellenis views sparks brightly in it. Read it and be inspired yourself. This is the myth:

On a certain hill in Phrygia stands a linden tree and an oak, enclosed by a low wall. Not far from the spot is a marsh, formerly good habitable land, but now indented with pools, the resort of fen-birds and cormorants. Once on a time Zeus, in human shape, visited this country, and with him his son Hermes, without his wings. They presented themselves, as weary travellers, at many a door, seeking rest and shelter, but found all closed, for it was late, and the inhospitable inhabitants would not rouse themselves to open for their reception.

At last a humble mansion received them, a small thatched cottage, where Baukis, a pious old dame, and her husband Philemon, united when young, had grown old together. Not ashamed of their poverty, they made it endurable by moderate desires and kind dispositions. One need not look there for master or for servant; they two were the whole household, master and servant alike.

When the two heavenly guests crossed the humble threshold, and bowed their heads to pass under the low door, the old man placed a seat, on which Baukis, bustling and attentive, spread a cloth, and begged them to sit down. Then she raked out the coals from the ashes, and kindled up a fire, fed it with leaves and dry bark, and with her scanty breath blew it into a flame. She brought out of a corner split sticks and dry branches, broke them up, and placed them under the small kettle. Her husband collected some pot-herbs in the garden, and she shred them from the stalks, and prepared them for the pot. He reached down with a forked stick a flitch of bacon hanging in the chimney, cut a small piece, and put it in the pot to boil with the herbs, setting away the rest for another time. A beechen bowl was filled with warm water, that their guests might wash. While all was doing, they beguiled the time with conversation.

On the bench designed for the guests was laid a cushion stuffed with sea-weed; and a cloth, only produced on great occasions, but ancient and coarse enough, was spread over that. The old lady, with her apron on, with trembling hand set the table. One leg was shorter than the rest, but a piece of slate put under restored the level. When fixed, she rubbed the table down with some sweet-smelling herbs. Upon it she set some of chaste Athena's olives, some cornel berries preserved in vinegar, and added radishes and cheese, with eggs lightly cooked in the ashes. All were served in earthen dishes, and an earthenware pitcher, with wooden cups, stood beside them. When all was ready, the stew, smoking hot, was set on the table. Some wine, not of the oldest, was added; and for dessert, apples and wild honey; and over and above all, friendly faces, and simple but hearty welcome.

Now while the repast proceeded, the old folks were astonished to see that the wine, as fast as it was poured out, renewed itself in the pitcher, of its own accord. Struck with terror, Baukis and Philemon recognized their heavenly guests, fell on their knees, and with clasped hands implored forgiveness for their poor entertainment. There was an old goose, which they kept as the guardian of their humble cottage; and they bethought them to make this a sacrifice in honour of their guests. But the goose, too nimble, with the aid of feet and wings, for the old folks, eluded their pursuit, and at last took shelter between the gods themselves. They forbade it to be slain; and spoke in these words:

'We are gods. This inhospitable village shall pay the penalty of its impiety; you alone shall go free from the chastisement. Quit your house, and come with us to the top of yonder hill.'

They hastened to obey, and, staff in hand, laboured up the steep ascent. They had reached to within an arrow's flight of the top, when, turning their eyes below, they beheld all the country sunk in a lake, only their own house left standing. While they gazed with wonder at the sight, and lamented the fate of their neighbours, that old house of theirs was changed into a temple. Columns took the place of the corner posts, the thatch grew yellow and appeared a gilded roof, the floors became marble, the doors were enriched with carving and ornaments of old. Then spoke Zeus in benignant accents:

'Excellent old man, and woman worthy of such a husband, speak, tell us your wishes; what favour have you to ask of us?'

Philemon took counsel with Baucis a few moments; then declared to the gods their united wish,

'We ask to be priests and guardians of this your temple; and since here we have passed our lives in love and concord, we wish that one and the same hour may take us both from life, that I may not live to see her grave, nor be laid in my own by her.'

Their prayer was granted. They were the keepers of the temple as long as they lived. When grown very old, as they stood one day before the steps of the sacred edifice, and were telling the story of the place, Baukis saw Philemon begin to put forth leaves, and old Philemon saw Baukis changing in like manner. And now a leafy crown had grown over their heads, while exchanging parting words, as long as they could speak.

'Farewell, dear spouse,' they said, together, and at the same moment the bark closed over their mouths. The Tyanean shepherd still shows the two trees, standing side by side, made out of the two good old people."
Fellow tech and history nerds, rejoice! I have spent a very pleasant hour yesterday on the ToposText app. What is this app, you ask? ToposText is a smartphone application that links mythical and historical locations to the ancient authors who wrote about them in Greek or Latin, using a huge library of ancient texts.

The idea belongs to Brady Kiesling, a former ancient historian and archaeologist from California who returned to scholarship after working for twenty years as a diplomat for the U.S. State Department in Israel, Morocco, Greece, and Armenia. The implementation was done by the IT company Pavla AE and was supported by the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation.

According to its creators, TT presents 5,000 places relevant to the ancient Greek world, from ancient cities and shrines, medieval castles and towers, modern museums and excavation sites. TT shows locations of antiquities primarily in Greece but also does include some major places from Spain to the Caucasus. The application links those places to the ancient authors who wrote about them in Greek or Latin.

Selecting a site from either the list or the map opens up a table of two-line snippets from ancient authors, headed where available by a modern description, whereas selecting from this index list, which can be filtered by date, genre, and relevance, connects one to the full text of 240-odd works in English translation, some with the original Ancient Greek as well. Thus, at a glance and from any location, you can select and read the passages in ancient literature that give a place to its historical and cultural meaning.

The app is available for iOS and Android smart phones and tablets and a new website will be available on Dec. 7. The ToposText website includes:

– A portable library of ancient texts with more than 530 sources on Greek history, mythology and geography in English
– A database with more than 5,350 ancient locations, modern museums and archaeological sites, which covers the entirety of the ancient Greek world
– An interactive map and index which links every location with the ancient source for which it has some reference
– An index of thousands of proper names
– Specific coordinates that allow the user to enlarge an area in the map enough to actually see the ancient ruins

For those in the area, an event to present the application to the public will be held on December 7, at the Historical Library of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation, at 7p.m. Speakers include Dr. Eleni Korka, director general of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage at the ministry of culture, Brady Kiesling, Dr. Elton Barker, co-founder of Pelagios Project at the Open University in the UK and Dr. Stavros Paspalas, deputy director of the Australian Archaeological Institute.

the app itself isn't very streamlined or sleek. When you first start it up, it might seem to be freezing because it doesn't show a 'loading' animation, for example. After about twenty seconds the app will open so just wait it out a little while. The map is what you are used to when using google Maps and can be manipulated to move or zoom into (image 1). Every dot is a location. Clicking on the location tag (not the 'info' button) it allows you to 'open' the location and see all that was written about it (image 2). You can tap one of the snippets for the full text (image 3). You can toggle between the English and Greek/Latin. Sadly, the text can't be copied directly off of the app. It does lists copyright information (the little 'C' at the right top) and the book/paragraph/line information so you can look up the text online and copy it there.

For anyone researching ancient sites and/or ancient texts, the app is a treaasure trove. The search funtion works well and it's much more focussed to search for information with the app than, say, Google--which does have access to all the same libraries but has access to many more sources, muddling the results. I'm definitely going to be using this app in the future!
It all starts with the youth. What we teach our children and any children in our environment will resonate for generations. I firmly believe this. And as I look around at a hardening world where misinformation and hate are spread either deliberately or without concious thought I worry not just about the youth of today and tomorrow but of all adults now who were once kids and were taught to hate entire groups of people, to look out for themselves only, who were taught that the media never lies and that Facebook is a media outlet.

In Plato's Republic we find just about the most influential early account of education. His interest in soul, dialogue and in continuing education continue to provide rich insights to anyone in a teaching position--be it familial, professional or simply occassional. Education for Plato was one of the great things of life.

He held the view that without education, the individual would make no progress any more than a patient who believed in curing himself by his own loving remedy without giving up his luxurious mode of living. Therefore, Plato stated that education touches the evil at the grass root and changes the whole outlook on life.

The object of education is to turn the soul towards light. Plato states that the main function of education is not to put knowledge into the soul, but to bring out the latent talents in the soul by directing it towards the right objects. This explanation of Plato on education highlights his object of education and guides the readers in proper direction to unfold the ramifications of his theory of education. So let me share some of Republic as inspiration and remember: we shape the future by educating those who will live in it.

"Education, I said, and nurture: If our citizens are well educated, and grow into sensible men, they will easily see their way through all these, as well as other matters which I omit; such, for example, as marriage, the possession of women and the procreation of children, which will all follow the general principle that friends have all things in common, as the proverb says.
Also, I said, the State, if once started well, moves with accumulating force like a wheel. For good nurture and education implant good constitutions, and these good constitutions taking root in a good education improve more and more, and this improvement affects the breed in man as in other animals.
Then, as I was saying, our youth should be trained from the first in a stricter system, for if amusements become lawless, and the youths themselves become lawless, they can never grow up into well-conducted and virtuous citizens.
And when they have made a good beginning in play, and by the help of music have gained the habit of good order, then this habit of order, in a manner how unlike the lawless play of the others! will accompany them in all their actions and be a principle of growth to them, and if there be any fallen places a principle in the State will raise them up again.
It would seem, Adeimantus, that the direction in which education starts a man, will determine his future life. Does not like always attract like?"
The Διονύσια κατ᾽ ἀγρούς, or μικρά, the rural or lesser Dionysia, a vintage festival, was celebrated in the various demes of Attica in the month of Poseideon. It was celebrated with a large procession in which men carried a phallus and cakes. Revelers and singers were also a part of the procession. A representation of the God was included to represent His coming. The festival also included stage comedies and the playing of lighthearted games. Generally, it was a joyful festival, shared by all, even the serfs. Will you join us for it on December 10th at 10 am EST?

The Dionysia was originally a rural festival in Eleutherae, Attica, probably celebrating the cultivation of vines. It was probably a very ancient festival, perhaps not originally associated with Dionysus. This 'rural Dionysia' was held during the winter, in the month of Poseideon. The central event was the pompe (πομπή), the procession, in which phalloi (φαλλοί) were carried by phallophoroi (φαλλοφόροι). Also participating in the pompe were kanephoroi (κανηφόροι – young girls carrying baskets), obeliaphoroi (ὀβελιαφόροι – who carried long loaves of bread), skaphephoroi (σκαφηφόροι – who carried other offerings), hydriaphoroi (ὑδριαφόροι – who carried jars of water), and askophoroi (ἀσκοφόροι – who carried jars of wine).

After the pompe procession was completed, there were contests of dancing and singing, and choruses (led by a choregos) would perform dithyrambs. Some festivals may have included dramatic performances, possibly of the tragedies and comedies that had been produced at the City Dionysia the previous year. This was more common in the larger towns, such as Piraeus and Eleusis.

Because the various towns in Attica held their festivals on different days, it was possible for spectators to visit more than one festival per season. It was also an opportunity for Athenian citizens to travel outside the city if they did not have the opportunity to do so during the rest of the year. This also allowed travelling companies of actors to perform in more than one town during the period of the festival.

The community for the event can be found here and the ritual here.
News site The Atlantic recently ran a very interesting background article on, well, a lot of things of interest to me at least. It's titled 'Searching for Lost Knowledge in the Age of Intelligent Machines' and uses the Antikythera Mechanism as an example of how modern online databases may make it possible to find and combine information in a way that we never thought would be possible. Read the whole article, it is truly interesting. I'll copy unto here only a small portion that I would like to share as I think it presents an opportunity that is very important to us: the furthuring of the understanding of the ancient Hellenic culture and religion.

"Scholars have long wrestled with 'undiscovered public knowledge,' a problem that occurs when researchers arrive at conclusions independently from one another, creating fragments of understanding that are 'logically related but never retrieved, brought together, [or] interpreted,' as Don Swanson wrote in an influential 1986 essay introducing the concept. 'That is,' he wrote, 'not only do we seek what we do not understand, we often do not even know at what level an understanding might be achieved.' In other words, on top of everything we don’t know, there’s everything we don’t know that we already know.

Thirty years after he published his essay, we no longer have to rely on human contrivances alone. Now, with the ubiquity of the internet and the rise of machine learning, a new kind of solution is beginning to take shape. The infrastructure of the web, built to link one resource to the next, was the beginning. The next wave of information systems promises to more deeply establish links between people, ideas, and artifacts that have, so far, remained out of reach—by drawing connections between information and objects that have come unmoored from context and history.

Discovery in the online realm is powered by a mix of human curiosity and algorithmic inquiry, a dynamic that is reflected in the earliest language of the internet. The web was built to be explored not just by people, but by machines. As humans surf the web, they’re aided by algorithms doing the work beneath the surface, sequenced to monitor and rank an ever-swelling current of information for pluckable treasures.

The search engine as we know it now is undergoing a period of radical reinvention, in processing power and in structure, and is likely to be transformed even more dramatically in the years to come. If there is any hope of finding new information about the Antikythera Mechanism—or, for that matter, any additional devices like it—it is likely that machines, working alongside human researchers, will play a pivotal role.

People who are thinking deeply about the future of search tend to agree that this sort of machine inference will be possible, yet there’s still no straightforward path to such a system. For all the promise and sophistication of machine learning systems, inference computing is only in its infancy. Computers can carry out massive contextualization tasks like facial recognition, but there are still many limitations to even the most impressive systems. Nevertheless, once machines can help process and catalogue huge troves of text—a not-too-distant inevitability in machine learning, many computer scientists say—it seems likely that a flood of previously forgotten artifacts will emerge from the depths of various archives.

Artificially intelligent systems are already creating and distilling robust models of human knowledge, but they’ll still be constrained by the datasets that feed into them. So there will be some degree of luck involved if, for instance, a machine happens upon an ancient document that reveals the whereabouts of more machines like the Antikythera Mechanism, or determines who built the one found on the Mediterranean seafloor so many decades ago. At the same time, the evolution of information systems makes remarkable discoveries seem more possible now than ever before."

The article references the Antikythera Mechanism but the same holds true for information about ancient religious festivals, about which deities were worshipped where, about details of how rituals were performed and sacrifices given. Information about all of these things could be in a box in some museum's cellar. They could be in a paper written about something else entirely. They could be found one day, linked and interpreted to further our knowledge and modern technology and search engine technology will play a major role then. I'm eager for these times; eager to know more. Because one thing is for sure: there are large gaps in our knowledge now.