Aeschylus (Aiskhulos, Αἰσχύλος) is of the three Hellenic tragedians whose plays can still be read or performed. He was alive from around 525/524 BC to 456/455 BC, and according to Aristotle, he expanded the number of characters in plays to allow for conflict amongst them, whereas previously characters had interacted only with the chorus. Aeschylus' most famous works are undoubtedly the Seven against Thebes, the Supplicants and the Orestia. Also usually attributed to him is 'Prometheus Bound'.
Prometheus Bound (Promētheus Desmōtēs, Προμηθεὺς Δεσμώτης) is an Ancient Greek tragedy. The tragedy is based on the myth of Prometheus, a Titan who defies the Gods and gives fire to mankind, acts for which he is subjected to perpetual punishment. Much of the play is performed by the chorus, who are, in this play, the representation of the Oceanids. In Hellenic mythology, the Oceanids (Ὠκεανίδες) are sea nymphs who are the three thousand daughters of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys. Each is the patroness of a particular spring, river, sea, lake, pond, pasture, flower or cloud.

Somewhere a little past the middle, Prometheus still firmly chained to the rock Zeus condemned him to, the chorus speaks to Prometheus through a plea to Zeus. It's this plea to Zeus I'd like to share with you today.


"May Zeus, who apportions everything,
never set his power in conflict with my will,
nor may I be slow to approach the gods,
with holy sacrifices of oxen slain,
by the side of the ceaseless stream
of Oceanus, my father;
and may I not offend in speech;
but may this rule abide in my heart
and never fade away.
Sweet it is to pass all the length of life
amid confident hopes,
feeding the heart in glad festivities." [529-544]
Hippokrátēs of Kos (Ἱπποκράτης) is seen by many as the founding father of medicine, and in his lifetime, he set about to advancing the systematic study of clinical medicine, summing up the medical knowledge of previous schools, and prescribing practices for physicians through the Hippocratic Corpus and other works (although he Corpus itself was most likely not written by him, but assembled in and slightly after his time). Hippokrátēs separated the discipline of medicine from religion, believing and arguing that disease was not a punishment inflicted by the Theoi but rather the product of environmental factors, diet, and living habits.

Hippokrátes is also credited with penning the Hippocratic Oath, the most widely known of Hellenic medical texts. In its original form, it requires a new physician to swear, by a number of healing Gods, to uphold specific ethical standards. Of historic and traditional value, the oath is considered a rite of passage for practitioners of medicine in many countries, although nowadays various modernized versions are often used; the message delivered is still the same, 'Do no Harm'.

I'd like to share Ioannis Stratakis' reading of the ancient Hellenic version of it with you today because it sounds bloody amazing!


A small addendum to yesterday's post on homosexuality in ancient Hellas today. In it I mention that the topic goed through the news cycle, often with a lot of misinformation. I didn't have room to include a little pet-peeve of mine in that post: namely that Solon had made laws against homosexuality.

Solon (Σόλων) was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet, who lived from 638 BC to 558 BC. He spent most of his adult life trying to legislate against political, economic, and moral decline in archaic Athens. His ideologies are often credited with having laid the foundations for Athenian democracy. As a statesman, Solon put principles before expediency. In a time when Athens was struggling under the burden of civil war, his reforms strove to bridge the gap between the rich an the poor. Solon's reforms created a system where the power was in the hands of the people, if they were willing to work hard for it. For those without political aspirations, Solon's reforms provided judicial safety and a sense of power. His efforts brought into being many laws on a large variety of topics.

According to many news outlets (and subsequently many blogs and other interest sites) Solon was said to have made laws against homosexuality that stated the folllowing: any man practising homosexuality was

- banned from becoming a member of the council of nine
- banned from standing for elections as a priest
- banned from being a citizen’s advocate
- not allowed to exercise power in or outside the city of Athens
- not permitted to be sent an emissary of war
- banned from expressing his opinions
- banned from entering public temples
- banned from being wreathed in races
- not allowed to enter the agora

The only place where these bans are mentioned  is in Aeschines' 'The Speeches of Aeschines, Speech I, Against Timarchus'. Against Timarchus (Κατὰ Τιμάρχου) was a speech to the Assembly by Aeschines in which he accused a man named Timarchus of being unfit to involve himself in public life. The speech provides evidence of a number of actions which, according to Aeschines, would cause a citizen to lose the right of addressing the Assembly. Aeschines accuses Timarchus of two of these forbidden acts: prostituting himself, and wasting his inheritance. Aeschines, a Hellenic statesman, provides no evidence that any of Timarchus' lovers ever paid him, nor does he have a single witness who will testify that Timarchus had any sexual relationship with the men in question at all. Despite this, he won the case and Timarchus was punished by disenfranchisement. The quote is as follows:

"And I beg you, fellow citizens, to remember this also, that here the lawgiver [Solon] is not yet addressing the person of the boy himself, but those who are near him, father, brother, guardian, teachers, and in general those who have control of him. But as soon as the young man has been registered in the list of citizens, and knows the laws of the state, and is now able to distinguish between right and wrong, the lawgiver no longer addresses another, Timarchus, but now the man himself. And what does he say?

"If any Athenian," he says, "shall have prostituted his person, he shall not be permitted to become one of the nine archons," because, no doubt, that official wears the wreath ; "nor to discharge the office of priest," as being not even clean of body ; " nor shall he act as an advocate for the state," he says, "nor shall he ever hold any office whatsoever, at home or abroad, whether filled by lot or by election ; nor shall he be a herald or an ambassador " — nor shall he prosecute men who have served as ambassadors, nor shall he be a hired slanderer — "nor ever address senate or assembly," not even though he be the most eloquent orator in Athens.

And if any one act contrary to these prohibitions, the lawgiver has provided for criminal process on the charge of prostitution, and has prescribed the heaviest penalties therefor. (To the Clerk.) Read to the jury this law also, that you may know, gentlemen, in the face of what established laws of yours, so good and so moral, Timarchus has had the effrontery to speak before the people — a man whose character is so notorious." [17-20]

Aeschines recites Solon's laws about male prostitution, not homosexuality. That Timarchus is accused of prostituting himself to men is of secondary importance when it comes to the actual laws. So, please, always research your sources, my friends. Especially when it comes to a subject as complicated as this one, things are only very rarely cut and dry.
Every few months, about three quarters of a year, the press seems to cycle back to a single subject when it comes to ancient Hellas: homosexuality. Most glorify (or condemn) the ancient Hellenes for their support of it. Some--in my opinion, better informed--messages nuance the statement some by saying that, despite the artistic examples of it,there were laws against it as well. The problem is in the terminology.

Homosexuality is defined as: 'of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex', or 'of, relating to, or involving sexual activity between persons of the same sex'.

The first definition is subjective; we can't objectively know if there was genuine attraction. There certainly was appreciation for the naked form in ancient Hellas, but did that translate to attraction? The ancient Hellens were very proud of their bodies. Both men and women worked hard to retain or attain beauty. The men were warriors and athletes, women could be athletes as well. Both had the highest beauty ideals one could ever look to live up to: the Theoi themselves. There were very strict social rules about what was considered proper and improper when it came to nudity--very strict rules that dictated when nudity was permitted and where. The social rules concerning displays of the body depended on the intent of the nudity: either natural or erotic. Erotic nudity had no function in public, and was heavily frowned upon. Natural nakedness went accepted.

The second definition: we know from literary works as well as art at least men engaged in sexual activity with each other. Even if these pottery cases represent a minute percentage of the thousands of ancient Hellenic items found, there is no denying sex between men and men (and potentially women and oher women) happened. So yes, by this definition there was homosexuality. Now, here is the crux: for me personally, homosexuality is about more than the physical act of sex with someone of the same gender. What defines homosexuality for me is having a meaningful relationship with them in line with a heterosexual relationship. And that, in ancient Hellas, was very much frowned upon.

All three of the greatest Hellenic philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, regarded homosexual conduct intrinsically immoral. Plato went so far as to deny that homosexual behavior occured in nature and thus considered the practice of men (very few of the ancient philosophers every considered or wrte about women) as especially unnatural. He actively criticised any man who looked at the male form not just as something aesthetically pleasing but sexually arousing. These believes were founded upon the following three theses:

- the commitment of a man and a woman to each other in the sexual union of marriage is intrinsically good and reasonable, and is incompatible with sexual relations outside of marriage
- homosexual acts are radically and peculiarly non-martial, and for that reason intrinsically unreasonable and unnatural.
- homosexual acts have a special similarity to solitary masturbation, and both types of radically non-martial act are manifestly unworthy of the human being and immoral

Hellenic society revolved around the household, and the household was founded upon the husband and wife. The ancient Hellenes knew of no other household foundation as this combination alone produced children. As many children died of illness, accidents and war and the continuation of the family line was one of the--if not the--most important desire and responsibility of every citizen. This was also why adultery was frowned upon so greatly: birth control was available in ancient Hellas, but rarely applied. To bring an illegitimate child into the household was a terrible offense, and one for which the male was blamed. that said, a man could only commit legally punishable adultery if he had sex with a married woman, and even then she had to be a citizen for the full punishment to be enacted upon them--often death. Husbands were free to find pleasure with any woman who was not married. As such, prostitution (with women, male prostitution was actually punishable by death) was common and men tended to have concubines. Some even lived at the house. Plato, Socrates and Aristotle were against this practice, too.

Now, the ancient Hellenes seemed to have viewed all social interactions (so male-male, female-female and even male-female interactions) not only through a gender filter but also through a power filter. Male citizens had more power than slaves, for example, and female citizens had more power than male slaves, even though women were bound by other social structures than any man was. Older men had more power than younger men and the same held true for women. Married people even had more power than unmarried people. Gender was, if you will, merely a factor in the equation of who had more power during the exchange.

The one with more power was the active party and he (or she) was to be obeyed. When it came to the law, this partner was punished less severely for a crime both partook of (like adultery)--the complete opposite of how we'd view it today. The passive party was usually younger, a slave or a woman. This power equation also dictated sexual relations. The ancient Hellenes viewed male-female relationships not solely as defined by gender that but as a relationship of active vs passive and applied that theorum to male-male (and most likely female-female) relationships as well. One partner was always the clear submissive and became, through that, the 'female' while the other always assumed the active role and through that became the 'male'. They equated any relationship that applied these roles and rejected (heavily!) any that did not. And they did not consider these relationships true relationships in a marriage sense because, as I said above, a household could not be formed around it as the union could not provide children--which was the main function of a marriage.

So if that was the case, what's with all the artwork of men giving each other gifts and having sexual intercourse? They portray a very specific type of relationship known as pederasty. Pederasty was a socially acknowledged but illegal erotic relationship between an adult male and a younger male usually in his teens, which was practiced mostly in the Archaic and Classical ages of Hellenic history. Due to the age difference and the societal function the practice served, this type of relationship was accepted and not considered homosexual. The younger partner was always the passive party and performed to role of 'woman' in the exchange, thus making it a heterosexual relationship between two men (as contradictory as that may sound).

In ancient Hellas, what mattered was the role you played in bed. The males, especially when older or higher up in the hierarchy, were supposed to be the dominant ones, the active ones, while the women, the young and those lower in the hierarchy, the passive ones. Because of the age difference and the difference in social standing, the young male assuming a passive role was permitted in pederasty, but a grown man assuming that role was a social and sexual taboo. A wife who took charge in the bedroom would have been frowned upon as well. Especially within the marriage, sex served to make babies, nothing more. Prostitutes and concubines were still supposed to assume a passive, female, role, even if they were male. Prostitutes were lower in power than citizen women, though, and they performed the lowliest and most frowned upon of sexual acts--like fellatio--that even wives were not allowed (or required) to perform. For a husband to force his wife to perform these acts would have been considered extremely shameful upon the husband.

So, to conclude this very long and complicated post: yes, men had sex with men. In that way homosexuality existed. But there were strict social and even legal rules against it and it was only barely condoned--and only under very specific circumstances. It was not an accepted practice at all. Sadly, I suppose, but not surprisingly: even today homosexuality is only barely accepted socially, let alone legally.
Many impressive finds came to light in 2016 on Kythnos, at the site 'Vryokastro', where the ancient capital of the island is located. The investigations focused on two public buildings (sanctuaries) of Classical-Hellenistic times at the Middle Plateau of the Upper City. One of them was a cult of Asklepios.


The excavations in the ancient city of Kythnos were conducted last summer by the Department of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology of the University of Thessaly, with the collaboration of the Ephorate of Cyclades. A team of speleologists of the Hellenic Speleological & Exploration Club worked voluntarily in the investigation of the cistern.

They were headed by Professor Alexandros Mazarakis Ainian. Under his guidance, Building 1 was identified as an asklepieion, a temple of Askepios and the focal point of healing for the site. The cult use of Building 1 (measuring 17.4 × 11.5 meters) was confirmed by the presence of a shrine on the east, as well as by the movable finds discovered. Among other artefacts, archaeologists found fragments of clay figurines and a small marble head of Asklepios, within the northern portico, pictured above.

The investigation of the interior of the adjacent cistern brought to light many broken small marble sculptures of children of Hellenistic-Roman times, and an inscribed small column, an offering from a woman named Kallisto to Asklepios (1st-2nd AD). Elsewhere on the site, a fragment of a marble statue, which was attributed to the sculptor Damophon, from Messene.

The cult of Asklepios on Kythnos was already known from a votive relief of the second half of the 4th c. BC coming from the island, which is kept in the National Archaeological Musum and depicts the reception of Asklepios by a local hero.

Human presence in the area is dated from the Geometric or Early Archaic times. Building 1 must have been built during the Late Classical times (4th c. BC), but it was mainly used in the Hellenistic period.

"The presence of many Roman lamps from upper layers reveals that the building continued to be in use during these times. An inscribed base of a honorary stele of the Demos of Kythnians, dating back to the second half of the 2nd c. BC or the beginning of the 1st c. BC, was found in second use in the southern portico."

The use of Building 2 remains unknown, despite of the various interesting finds. As archaeologists report, in the interior of the building, where the investigations have not been completed yet.

“[...] pottery was found, mainly of Classical and Hellenistic times, trade amphorae (many with stamped handles), lead objects, clay female figurines, bronze pins and nails etc.”

The sanctuaries were built on the edge of the ridge, connected to the harbor by a staircase carved in the rock. In fact, it seems that the visibility of these buildings from the sea played an important role in the architectural design of the sanctuaries. Hellenistic inscriptions were previously found near the sanctuaries: 'Samothrakion Theon', meaning 'of the Gods of Samothrace'.

“The association of the inscription with the southernmost chamber of Building 1 is just an assumption, while the association of the cult of Aphrodite with Building 2 [as previously believed]doesn’t seem convincing any more. We hope that the continuation of the excavations will clarify these questions."

Please see here for many more images of the site and the remnants of the sanctuaries.
I have a new addiction: MUJO. MUJO, and it's (for now, hopefully!) Apple-only cousin OLYM are puzzle games in line with other 'collect three'-games but infinitely more interesting and complicated. Oh, and did I mention the Hellenic gods and heroes are your allies in the battle against ancient Hellenic monsters like the cyclops or gorgon?


the basic set-up of the game is fairly simple: connect three or more squares of the same kind to reap the benefits of them. Pressing down on the combination will combine them into a more valuabel tile, to be combined with two or more others to be either reaped or combined again. The red swaures with the swords bring down the health of the enemy, the rest of the tiles raise the enemy's health back up to its original level but also act as experience points for your three allies--who consist of gods and heroes reaped from collecting the orange chests (which can be combined into silver and gold chests for rarer and more powerful allies before reaping).

All your allies have different skills and advantages as well as a special power, which is wuate in tune with lore. Dionysos will randomly explode piecs on the boar, Demeter will shuffle the stones as if she were arranging the earth, Hermes raises the value of every square, etc.

As for the enemies: that's where the fun (and frustration) is. In the beginning, they are eaasy to beat but they soon get huge amounts of health and the only way to destroy them is to combine more and more red sword tiles to get higher and higher numbers. And you can't just grind them down a few points at a time either--bosses especially regenerate health with every combination you make that's not a red sword tile. So you've knocked off 5000 health from a 13.000 hitpoint monster, bringing it down to 8000 health. you make a few combinations of light green, dark green ot yellow stones and it's health is well over 10.000 again. Your best shot? Combining red tiles until you get to 13.000. Easy? Definitely not! Doable? Absolutely!

There is a huge amount of strategy required for this game, which is why I feel the ancient Hellenic theme is perfect. Had the ancient philosophers had access to this game, they would have had all their students slave away at it, racking their brains on how to possibly get these tiles combined in these levels that do not reset.

If you are stuck on a level, you only have one choice (and while that's frustrating, it's aslo the best part, brain training speaking): grind. There are bombs in the game you can blow up. Achievements and daily logins get you lightningbolds that activate the special powers of your allies or allow you to remove a single square. Lightningbolds also open chests that will provide you with new allies or upgrads for them in the form of swords, shields and staffs. You can't start over on a level, or if you can, I haven't discovered how. you just have to puzzle until you get the required damage collected. It's a true test of skill, patience and determination.

MUJO can be downloaded here for both iPhone and Android and OLYM can be downloaded here for iPhone alone.
A little background piece today, as posted on the Archaeological News Network. Archaeologists from around the world converged on the University of Glasgow for the three-day BANEA 2017 conference (January 4-6) to discuss the international response to preserve and protect cultural heritage and historical sites in the Middle East and to present the newest research results.

With several key archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq currently under threat, or having already suffered from the effects of war, a central concern for archaeologists internationally is how to monitor vulnerable sites and to protect them from further damage and looting. Dr. Claudia Glatz, a senior lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Glasgow, who organised the international conference, has worked extensively on a project in the North East of Iraq. She co-directs the Sirwan Regional Project with Professor Jesse Casana, of Dartmouth College, USA, and works in collaboration with the local Kurdish Directorate of Antiquities based at Kalar.

The Sirwan Regional Project has identified over 600 likely archaeological sites to date using satellite imagery and investigated around 200 more intensively on the ground. The sites range in date from the earliest farming communities (Neolithic) to the modern period. Dr. Glatz and Professor Casana are currently excavating a Late Bronze Age (Kassite-period, c. 1450-1150 BC) monumental complex at the site of Khani Masi, located to the south of the modern town of Kalar. Dr. Glatz explains.

“The Kurdish region of Iraq was largely inaccessible to international archaeological research during the Saddam era, although our Iraqi colleagues had been conducting surveys and excavations in that period. There is evidence of looting on some of the sites we work on but it is minor compared to what is going on in Syria and other parts of Iraq. Some of those very important sites such as Dura-Europos and Hatra have seen systematic looting and destruction, which results in characteristic pock-marking of sites with one looting hole next to another. That is organised looting which goes far beyond a few villagers. Monitoring of looting such as that by my colleague, Casana, seems to show that such systematic digging is often related to the military moving into an area, so they are either turning a blind eye to it or they are actively involved.”

But there are also other pressures apart from war and conflict, which are facing the more stable areas of the Middle East, as Dr Glatz explains: “At the moment the biggest danger to archaeological heritage in the North East Iraq region that we are working in is economic development, construction work and the clearing of archaeological sites to create more agricultural land. These are the main issues at our sites for heritage protection.

“As archaeologists we are trying to safeguard as much as we can the historical, archaeological and cultural heritage of the region. There are a number of international projects monitoring looting and destruction using modern technologies such as satellite imagery. Other projects rely on social media analysis and local informants to understand what is being destroyed.”
 
Other projects monitor the international antiquities market. By contributing to the preservation of the region’s cultural heritage, archaeologists are helping to safeguard local communities’ post-war futures: their cultural identities and economic recovery, especially through the tourism that important historical sites and museums will be able to attract.