In The Netherlands, we have just come off of our two day 'festival' of World War II remembrance day and liberation day. These are held annually on May 4 and 5, respectively, to honour the victims of WWII and subsequent wars and to celebrate the freedom we currently have here. It reminded me of a story I once heard about the workers of the Louvre, France, that I would like to share with you today.

In 1939/1940, knowing that France was falling into the hands of the Germans, the workers of the Louvre took action. All 400,000 works were evacuated and sent to the south of France. In secret they transported the priceless paintings and statues to wealthy families in Vichy where they would remain for five years, only returning at the end of the war. The quick action of the workers without a doubt saved the masterpieces from becoming part of the over 5 million works that were looted by the Nazis during the war. There were pictures made during the project and some were preserved and released.

The Nike-Winged Victory is evacuated from the Louvre in a truck that usually
carries stage scenery, unidentified photographer, 1939.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace on the move towards transport.

In the autumn of 1939, the The Aphrodite of Milos was packed for removal
from the Louvre in anticipation of the outbreak of war. During World War II,
the statue was sheltered safely in the Château de Valençay, along with the
Winged Victory of Samothrace and Michelangelo's 'Slaves'.
 Priceless paintings packed tightly together for transport.
Empty frames...
...and empty hallways.

The transport vans.

Return of the works at the Louvre Museum after WWII (1945). 

This is Rose Valland, one of the heroes of Nazi-Occupied France. An employee of
 the Louvre, she kept records of the art stolen by Nazi officers- what was taken,
from where, and by who. She was instrumental in the postwar return of countless stolen
pieces, and one of the most decorated women in French history.
Without the work of the men and women that worked tirelessly to save these artifacts, we would be without them today. That is a frightening and shocking thought, isn't it? World War II was devestating on people, art, the economy, the landscape, cities and the history of mankind and it is incredibly important that we remember this. That we remember that war is not something to be cheered on or desired, that war is a remedy of last resort and desperation. Tha war costs us everything, including our humanity. But there are upsides, small little lights in very dark times: heroes, victories, acts of kindness and selfishness that make a difference. These people made a difference and we have the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their tireless and dangerous labour to this day.
Two Hellenic cities which in their time were leading states in the Mediterranean world, Selinus in Sicily and Cyrene in Libya, set up inscriptions of the kind called sacred laws, but regulating worship on a larger scale than elsewhere - Selinus in the mid fifth century B.C., Cyrene in the late fourth. In different ways, the content and the format of both inscriptions are so unusual that they have baffled understanding. Today, I want to talk to you a bit about both, with the help of Noel Robertson.

The sacred laws of Selinus
Selinus (or Selinous), located on the south-west coast of Sicily, was founded in the mid-7th century BCE by Hellenic colonists from Megara Hyblaea on the eastern side of the island. Selinus was the most western Hellenic colony on Sicily, and it became an important polis or city-state in the Classical period. The site covered an unusually large and well-planned urban and sacred area, the latter once having at least ten separate temples from the 6th to 5th century BCE.

According to Thucydides, in 628 BCE Greek colonists from Megara Hyblaea on the eastern side of Sicily chose the site around the Manuzza hill, as it benefitted from a natural port and was surrounded by fertile plains ideal for agriculture, especially wheat and olive production. The town was named after the river Selinos on whose mouth it is situated. The name comes from the Hellenic word for wild celery (sélinon) which grew (and still grows) abundantly in the area.
The sacred laws of Selinus were written on a large lead tablet about two feet wide and eight inches high. It sets out rules for sacrifice and other ritual in two columns of writin that are upside down to each other. No one knows why. A bronze bar is laid vertically between the comumns so as to clamp the tablet with just three nails to some wooden fixture. At any given time, the column that is right side up is on the right.

The two columns are of unequal length and substance. column A fills up half the tablet, from top to bottom. After a preliminary offering and a heading, sacrifices are prescribed to Zeus Eumenes and the eumenides, to Zeus Milichios at a place strangely named, to Tritopatores both foul and pure, and again to Zeus Melichios at another place strangely named. For all but Zeus Eumenes and the Eumenides, the mode of sacrifice and other ritual actions are described in great detail. The heading gives the deadline for performing the whole series of sacrifices.

The preliminary offering is only partially legible; there are traces of an earlier and lengthier version that was eased.

Column B is only half as long as column A and was even shorter at first. It appears to have been lengthened as an afterthought. All the ritual of column B is addressed to a power called 'elasteros'. the person performing the rite is described as 'autorektas'. The ritual, including sacrifice, is meant to purify the person from the power.

Column A is dedicated to bloodshed, as all Theoi and powers named are avenging ones. Column B is linkd to the ritual purification of bloodshed and the lifting of guilt--of lifting the curse of the Eumenides of someone who has committed homicide.

The sacred laws of Cyrene
Cyrene was an ancient Hellenic city on the North African coast near present-day Shahhat, a town located in north-eastern Libya. As a result of the rise in population that took place in the Hellenic world during the 8th and 7th century BC, expeditions to the North African region took place from Thera (which is now known as Santorini). The traditional date for this event is 630 BCE. During the expedition, the native Lybians welcomed the newcomers and showed them an inland site marked by the presence of an abundant spring to found a new city. The name of the city is rooted in the myths about Apollon’s love affair with Kyrene, daughter of a Thesalian King named Hypseus and a water nymph.

The sacred laws of Cyrene were written down on a tall marble block. It originally stood in the great sanctuary of apollon in the northwest sector of the city. The content is divided by short horizontal lines into roughly twenty sections (depending on restoration).

Column A has a heading in larger letters: Apollon ordered the people of Cyrene to perform ritual a certain way. The first rule calls for a red haired sacrifice to Apollon outside of the city gates. The next few rules are on obtaining wood for any purpose and what washing or other care is needed after impure occasions like sexual intercourse and childbirth.Then there is a rather unclear section that mentiones Tritopateres and Battus, founder of Cyrene. the next rule is on how to scrape and scrub an altar when a wrong victim has been sacrificed.

The next item is a lingle line that describes a tithing obligatgion to Apollon for particular people. The obligation is to purify Apollon's sanctuary and oneself and one's property and also, as a much greater burden, to sacrifice animals valued at a literal tithe.

The second face, column B, begins with three rules for young women, requiring them to attend at stated times the shrine of Artemis. There follows a rule about impurity caused by miscarriage then three sections of text we do not know the proper meaning of. They might be on purifying supplicnt or, like at Selinius, about ifting the burden of guilt.

A .pdf of the sacred laws of Cyrene can be found here.

These writings give us insight into rites connected with the carker side of life, the polluted side of life. The side of life that needed supplication and divine intervention. By studying these texts, we recieve insight into the ancient Hellenic way of thinking and this helps us shape our own thought patterns,
A news roundup today as I am incredibly pressed for time. this whole home renovation business is a full time job, as it turns out, but things are coming along nicely.

Ancient theatre of Larissa opens to public
One of the largest ancient theatres, the ancient theatre of Larissa dated back to the 3rd century BC, opens its doors to the public. According to Larissa Antiquities Ephorate decision, the ancient theatre has opened for visitors every day from 10.00-13.00 as of April 1 with free entrance. Visitors have access to the area of the orchestra and the stage, but the seats and the other areas of the theatre will not be accessible, since restoration works are still in progress. The ancient theatre of Larissa is one of the best preserved and larger theatres of the ancient world that could host about 12.000 spectators.

‘Gods and Mortals at Olympus’ exhibition at Onassis Cultural Centre in NY
New Yorkers currently have the chance to visit the Onassis Cultural Center NY where a major loan exhibition of objects from the archaeological site of Dion is hosted. The exhibition presents archaeological artifacts never before shown in USA, including stunning mosaics recently excavated from the foothills of Mount Olympus and unveiled for the very first time. The exhibition is curated by Dimitris Pandermalis, President of the Acropolis Museum and director of excavations at Dion on Mount Olympus. This unique exhibition runs from March 24 through June 18.

Visitors to the Onassis Cultural Center NY will have the opportunity, among other things, to:
- explore the sights and sounds of the landscape on Mount Olympos
- learn about the lives of the people who have dwelled on its slopes
- experience the responses of artists Maria Zervos and Kostas Ioannidis to this place steeped in history and myth - discuss the exhibition and the questions it raises for today with philosopher Simon Critchley.

Fishermen find ancient amphorae in waters near Limnos
The fishing boat 'Panagia M' recently found 21 ancient amphorae while fishing in waters northwest of Mourtzouflos cape on the Greek island of Limnos. The finds were of various sizes, ranging in height from 15 to 80 cm. The fishing boat’s captain handed the amphorae over to the Myrina harbour authority, where the fishing boat is registered. Along with one more amphora found by the captain of another fishing boat, 'P.G. Psarros', in the seas west of Limnos, the finds were handed over to the island’s cultural ministry services.
I am very happy to share with you Labrys' ritual for the Mounikhia. The Labrys Religious Community aims to preserve, promote and practice the Hellenic polytheistic religious tradition through public rituals, lectures, publications, theatrical and musical events, and other forms of action. Their vision is to restore the Hellenic religious tradition and by extension the Hellenic Kosmotheasis and lifestyle to its rightful place, as a respected, acknowledged and fully functional spiritual path.

The Mounikhia (Μουνιχιας), the festival after which the month was named, is celebrated on the sixteenth of Mounichion. On this day of the full moon, Artemis Mounikhia (Αρτεμις Μουνυχια) was honored at the hill of Munikhia, for granting the Hellenes victory in the Battle of Salamis (Ναυμαχία τῆς Σαλαμῖνος). Please click on the image below to get taken to the video. Enjoy!
As you all know, I recently moved! I'm still settling in, obviously, but one of the major benefits of moving is having friends come over to look at all your hard work and the home you're building for yourself. So, while I settle: somke words by Plutarch in his 'On Brotherly Love' on which he speaks of friendship--especially those friendships that should be fostered and how they should be approached. Enjoy!

"If the possessions of friends are common, then by all means the friends of friends should be common"; and one should urge this advice upon brothers with special emphasis. For associations and intimacies which are maintained separately and apart lead brothers away from each other and turn them toward others, since an immediate consequence of affection for others is to take pleasure in others, to emulate others, and to follow the lead of others.
For friendships shape character and there is no more important indication of a difference in character than the selection of different friends. For this reason neither eating and drinking together nor playing and spending the day together can so firmly cement concord between brothers as the sharing of friendships and enmities, taking pleasure in the company of the same persons, and loathing and avoiding the same. For friendships held in common do not tolerate either slanders or conflicts, but if any occasion for wrath or blame arises, it is dissipated by the mediation of friends, who take it upon themselves and disperse it, if they are but intimate with both parties and incline in their goodwill to both alike.
For as tin joins together broken bronze and solders it by being applied to both ends, since it is of a material sympathetic to both, so should the friend, well-suited as he is to both and being theirs in common, join still closer their mutual goodwill; but those who are uneven and will not blend, like false notes of a scale in music, create discord, not harmony.116 One may, then, be in doubt as to whether Hesiod117 was right or not in saying, 'Nor should one make a friend a brother's peer'.
The Daily Beast recently posted an interesting article about The Metropolitan Museum of Art's new exposition entitled 'Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World' which brings together more than 265 exquisite objects that were created through the patronage of the royal courts of the Hellenistic kingdoms, with an emphasis on the ancient city of Pergamon. The emphasis of the article, however? 'How Alexander the Great changed the art world forever'.

When Alexander conquered Persia, six thousand tons of gold were taken from the treasuries of Persepolis and Susa alone. Those fabulous riches combined with Greek skill meant a dawning of a new era in terms of cultural supremacy. While his empire was split into a number of kingdoms (the Ptolemaic perhaps being the most famous due to its library and Cleopatra), the art and architecture originating in Hellenic city-states exploded.
The exhibition notes that the wealth also changed Hellenic culture. Tossed out were the strictures and disapproval from city-states like Athens and Sparta against ostentations displays of private wealth. The result was a period of art that changed cultures across the ancient world. That influence is perhaps most palpable in ancient Rome, where the craze for copies of famous Hellenic works are often all we have left of Hellenic art.

The core of the exhibition—one-third of the statues on view—is comprised of works from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, many of which have never been to the U.S. before. The Pergamon was excavated in the late 19th century by German archaeologists who brought many of its treasures back to Germany. The Pergamon Museum is now undergoing a renovation, presenting a ripe opportunity for the Met.

One of those pieces here for the first time, which could perhaps be considered one of the exhibition’s centerpieces is the Athena from the Pergamon Altar. Weighing more than three tons, it was shipped in three pieces, Picón said. Even with its magnitude, the most stupefying thing about the towering work is that it is just one-third the size of the original carved by Phidias that stood in the Parthenon.
The Athena is surrounded by other monumental works, including the captivating Fragmentary colossal head of a youth from the 2nd century BC. There is also the impressive marble head and arm of Zeus from Aigeira from circa 150 BC on loan from the National Archaeology Museum of Greece.

Against another wall can be found the earliest known text of Homer’s The Odyssey from 285-250 BC, preserved because the papyrus it was on was reused for a mummy and buried in hot sand.

Each room in the exhibition has one signature piece. In one it is the Athena, in another the model replica of the Altar of Pergamon. In the final chamber, which focuses on Hellenistic art in the Roman period, stands the Borghese Krater. Standing nearly two meters high, the vase was made in Athens in the 1st century BC, shipped to Rome and discovered in the 16th century in a Roman garden. Purchased by Napoleon from the Borghese family in 1808, it has only left the Louvre twice.

The exhibition will run from April 18 to July 17, 2016, at The Met.
Yesterday, I officially moved into the new house I will share with my girlfriend. This move was preceded by two grueling weeks of non-stop renovations. Every day from eight am to eleven pm, or midnigt, or one am and then back to the old place on my bike to do it again the next morning. I am not sure if I have ever felt exhaustion this profound, but also a feeling of accomplishment this profound. It's our new home! And our blood, sweat and tears are in it! These images were from one am last night when we finally tidied everything. As you can see, we are far from settled, but it is am amazing start.

As I'll be making build-in blosets, (book)shelves, windowsills and a built in corner bench myself from wood that has yet to be delivered, most of our stuff upstairs is still on the ground in piles.
Thiat is my current view, for example.
As soon as everything has been put away and built, I'll write and perform a rite to Hestia and the household Gods, which I will share with you all, of course, to invite Them into this house. But until then, I am sure They know They are already very, very welcome! For now, it's time to rest.