The Olympics are winding down. I'm sad about that. They were amazing games, though, and I am very proud of all Olympic athletes for their efforts! It won't be long for the Special Olympics to start, and I am so there for that as well! For today, a video with an ancient Olympic theme: Professor Hans Van Wees presents a lecture titled "Fighting over the Olympics: war and games in archaic and classical Greece," which tells you anything about it you have to know. Enjoy!


For years, any beast or bird that came in contact with the portal in the ancient Hellenic archaeological site of Hierapolis, or Pammukale, in modern-day Turkey reportedly dropped dead. During Ancient Hellenic and Roman times, people were also said to have been cut down if they dared to approach. In ancient Hellenic times, it was said they were killed by the deadly breath of Hades. Scientists have now discovered the cause of the phenomenon, and it's not Hades--not directly, at least.


"When one crosses over the Mesogis, between the Carians and the territory of Nysa, which latter is a country on the far side of the Maeander extending to Cibyratis and Cabalis, one comes to certain cities.

First, near the Mesogis, opposite Laodiceia, to Hierapolis, where are the hot springs and the Plutonium, both of which have something marvelous about them; for the water of the springs so easily congeals and changes into stone that people conduct streams of it through ditches and thus make stone fences consisting of single stones, while the Plutonium, below a small brow of the mountainous country that lies above it, is an opening of only moderate size, large enough to admit a man, but it reaches a considerable depth, and it is enclosed by a quadrilateral handrail, about half a plethrum in circumference, and this space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground.

Now to those who approach the handrail anywhere round the enclosure the air is harmless, since the outside is free from that vapor in calm weather, for the vapor then stays inside the enclosure, but any animal that passes inside meets instant death. At any rate, bulls that are led into it fall and are dragged out dead; and I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.

But the Galli, who are eunuchs, pass inside with such impunity that they even approach the opening, bend over it, and descend into it to a certain depth, though they hold their breath as much as they can (for I could see in their countenances an indication of a kind of suffocating attack, as it were),—whether this immunity belongs to all who are maimed in this way or only to those round the temple, or whether it is because of divine providence, as would be likely in the case of divine obsessions, or whether it is, the result of certain physical powers that are antidotes against the vapor.

The changing of water into stone is said also to be the case with the rivers in Laodiceia, although their water is potable. The water at Hierapolis is remarkably adapted also to the dyeing of wool, so that wool dyed with the roots342 rival those dyed with the coccus343 or with the marine purple.344 And the supply of water is so abundant that the city is full of natural baths.
[Strabo, Geography, 13.15]


According, to a Daily Sabah report, a team of German researchers from the University of Duisburg-Essen found what was actually “Hades’ breath”. They discovered that the grotto sits directly above the Babadag fault line from which carbon dioxide escapes the Earth’s crust and fills the cave, at levels that may have been lethal to humans in ancient times. A study published in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences reported:


​"In a grotto below the temple of Pluto, CO2 was found to be at deadly concentrations of up to 91 percent. Astonishingly, these vapors are still emitted in concentrations that nowadays kill insects, birds and mammals."

The Hierapolis site retains other powerful places as well. Mineral hot springs cascade down the hill near the ruins of the ancient city. The site has been used as a healing spa since the second century BC under the Greek Seleucid Empire.

Visitors can still admire the ancient city and the museum, while at the same time they can swim in its therapeutic hot springs.
I greatly enjoy watching the Olympics. I enjoy watching sport in general, but this is a competition which started in Greece, by the people who worshipped the same Gods as I do, people whose lives I'm trying to reconstruct. Watching the Olympics is religious for me. Did you know all of this about the Olympics?

An artist's impression of Altis, the sanctuary in Olympia
  1. The Olympic Games were held every four years, like they are now, from 776 B.C. to A.D. 394. They were, however, part of a cycle of sports events, known as the Panhellenic Games. The Olympic Games were dedicated to Zeus, were held in Olympia, Elis, and were held every four years. The Pythian Games were dedicated to Apollon, were held in Delphi and were held every four years, starting three years after the Olympic Games. The Nemean Games were dedicated to Zeus also, were held in Nemea, Corinthia, and were held every two years. Lastly, the Isthmian Games were dedicated to Poseidon, were held in Corinth, and were also held every two years.
  2. The most important events at the Olympic Games weren't the sport events; they were the sacrifices, offerings and other dedicatory practices which were continually performed during the five day event. There were also artistic happenings; writers, sculptures and painters showed what they could do in their given trade. Palmistry was practiced, wine flowed freely and there were a lot of prostitutes, who made more money in these five days than in the whole of a year without the sporting event. The Olympics were a festival unlike any other and every four years Hellas went nuts for it.
  3. The opening ceremony was as spectacular as it is today, but in an entirely different manner; athletes filed into the arena and were presented to the audience. Then, they were presented to a towering statue of Zeus, who carried a thunderbolt and a heft scowl. They swore on a bloody slice of boar's meat that they would obey the rules of the competition and not cheat to gain victory.
  4. The torch relay I take great joy in, was not practiced in Ancient Greece. In fact, it was introduced in 1936 by Hitler in response to an idea by Carl Diem to further the reign of the Nazi's and, in their eyes, glorify the Aryan super race, the Spartans. 
  5. Not everyone was allowed to participate in the games; non-Hellenics and women were unable to compete. There were exceptions made for non-Hellenics, like Roman Emperor Nero, when the situation called for it, but women were never allowed to compete. Married women weren't even allowed to enter the arena. There was, however, a secondary series of sporting events held in honor of Hera where women competed.
  6. The Olympic sport events back then were: chariot racing, wrestling, boxing, pankration, foot races, and the pentathlon which consisted of wrestling, stadion, long jump, javelin throw, and discus throw. Pankration was a fighting sport in which everything went. It was a kind of mixed martial-arts event in which broken bones were the norm, choke holds were encouraged and the only thing that you really couldn't do was gauge someone's eyes out. Everything else went. You won when the other guy went K.O.
  7. Except the chariot races, all Olympic sports were performed naked. This included the Pankration, so you can imagine where most of the pain was inflicted. The woman weren't completely naked, but participated with one breast exposed, in honor of the Amazonian women who were said to be so incredible at sports and warfare alike. 
  8. Over 40.000 people came to watch the Games. Olympia was in the middle of nowhere. If you came from Athens, it meant a 340 kilometer (210 mile) long walk just to get to Altis. Because of the festival and the presence of the Gods, all these people traveled the distance anyway.
  9. The end of the Olympic Games is guestimated to 394 A.D. after a decree to cease all pagan festivals by Christian emperor Theodosius I.
  10. Winners of the Olympic Games got rather minor rewards; Olympic winners received a garland of olives, Pythian winners received a laurel wreath, Nemean winners received a wild celery garland and the Isthmian winner received a pine garland. There was no runner-up; you won or you lost. All athletes were bathed in fame and glory until they lost, but the winner was brought home to his polis a king. He would never have to work again, was covered in riches and women, and his name and family name would be forever remembered and honored.
New archaeological finds unearthed from the excavations for the Thessaloniki Metro include a headless statue of Aphrodite and floor mosaics from the 4th century AD.


The Aphrodite statue was found on the site of Hagia Sophia station, near a fountain complex discovered only a few weeks ago. Chairman of Attiko Metro SA, Yiannis Mylopoulos, posted the picture of the headless statue on Facebook. As he pointed out, this is the latest find among the 300,000 antiquities that came to light during the archaeological excavations in Thessaloniki.
Earlier, well-preserved mosaic floors from the 4th century were brought to light. The mosaics, which are of great aesthetic value, were also found at the southern entrance of the Hagia Sophia station, according to Voria.gr website.


Archaeologists believe the multicolored mosaics belong to either a large public building complex or urban villas of the 4th century AD. The mosaics are in good condition and they are typical geometric decorations, believed to have adorned the floor of the west portico gallery. From the saved floor, a medal with a woman’s figure stands out. She is in a seated position but her face is destroyed; the face of a small child can be seen too, the Voria.gr report says.

Apart from the floors, wall ruins and part of a bath that was in the complex have been saved. From the excavations that are still in progress, it turns out there was also a tank that supplied the bath with water. Glass fragments at the site likely belong to bottles with aromatic oils used by the bathers.
It is estimated that the complex was built in the 4th century and was used until the 5th century. Then it was wrecked and the marble-lined square was built on top.

The Attiko Metro chairman told Voria.gr the finds do not change the timetable of the project. “The findings will be evaluated by a special committee of the Ministry of Culture, in which we also participate to find the best way to exhibit them,” he said. Mylopoulos reiterated that for the Attiko Metro administration, the antiquities are not treated like obstacles that hinder the project but as part of this great work.
One of Hellenismos' most important festivals is the Anthesteria. It is held in honour of Dionysos Limnaios; of wine, and the dead. Elaion will hold a PAT ritual for the festival on 27 February, 28 February and 1 March at 10 am EST. Will you join us?


The Anthesteria was held annually for three days, the eleventh to thirteenth of the month of Anthesterion. It is an ancestral festival, the oldest of the festivals for Dionysos in Athens, a time of reflection and trust in the new growing season to come, a time to celebrate with the spirits of the departed the indefatigable resurgence of life. The festival centered around the celebration of the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage, whose pithoi were now ceremoniously opened, and the beginning of spring. The three days of the feast were called Pithoigia (after πίθοι 'storage jars'), Khoes (χοαί 'libations') and Khytroi (χύτροι 'pots').

On the first day, the pithoi were brought to the city of Athens and opened in the temple of Dionysos. Everyone from age three and up wore garlands of new flowers, and many were present when the pithoi of new wine were opened, and a libations was offered to Dionysos before drinking of it. It was a truly celebratory day.

On the second day, all temples were closed, except the temple of Dionysos. Social order broke down on this day--as slaves were permitted to celebrate alongside everyone else--and there was a drinking contest in the afternoon where three liters of wine were drunk in complete silence, from khoes. Whomever finished first, won. At the end of the day, the garlands that had been worn were wound around their khoes which they then took to the priestess in charge of the sanctuary at the Limnaios (the marsh) to be dedicated. The wife of the Archōn Basileus--the Archon in charge of religious and artistic festivals--the Basilinna might have taken part in a sacred marriage with Dionysos, either with her husband acting as a conduit for Dionysos, or one of His priests. Geriai, priestesses or followers of Dionysos, might have assisted in this ritual, or would have held their own cult rituals on this day. Young women swung in trees and decorated them to commemorate the death of Erigone, as chronicled below.

On day three, everyone joined in a procession to the temple of Dionysos. It was a somber day consisting of the preparation of a mixture of a panspermia, grains and beans boiled together (a good recipe can be found here), along with honey which was offered to Hermes Khthonios on behalf of the spirits of the dead, especially those who died in Deukalion’s flood. The slaves, as well as the dead, were then told to go home, as 'the Anthesteria had ended'.

The origins of the Anthesteria are based in myth. After the battle of Troy, King Agamemnon returns home to his wife Klytaemnestra (Κλυταιμνήστρα). When Agamemnon returns, playwright Aeschylus in his Oresteia, writes Klytaemnestra as not having been faithful to her husband. She has taken as her new lover and husband Aegisthos (Αἴγισθος), cousin of Agamemnon, and when Agamemnon and his young slave come home, Klytaemnestra kills them both. Orestes (Ὀρέστης), son of Agamemnon and Klytaemnestra ends up killing Aegisthos, as well as his mother for her crime, under orders of Apollon. Yet, the matricide is a terrible offense in the eyes of the Theoi, and the Erinyes--Khthonic deities of vengeance--are sent to kill Orestes. They chased him relentlessly and upon reaching Delphi he is told by Apollon that he should go to Athens to seek Athena's aid.

Phanodemus (Athenaeus 10.437c-d) describes what happens to Orestes next, as it is this practice that was reenacted again and again, during the second day of the Anthesteria:

“When Orestes arrived at Athens after killing his mother, Demophon [king of Athens] wanted to receive him, but was not willing to let him approach the sacred rites [to Dionysos] nor share the libations, since he had not yet been put on trial [and had not yet been cleansed of miasma]. So he ordered the sacred things to be locked up and a separate pitcher of wine to be set beside each person [instead of sharing a drinking vessel as usual], saying that a flat cake would be given as a prize to the one who drained his first. He also ordered them, when they had stopped drinking, not to put the wreathes with which they were crowned on the sacred objects, because they had been under the same roof with Orestes. Rather each one was to twine them around his own pitcher and take the wreathes to the priestess at the precinct in Limnai, and then to perform the rest of the sacrifices in the sanctuary.”

As mentioned, Orestes arrives at Athens during an existing festival to Dionysos. It is posed that this festival was the Aiora, a festival instituted to commemorate the death of Erigone, her father, and their dog Maera. The story goes that Ikários (Ἰκάριος) was such a fine winemaker that he could produce wine so strong, those who drank it appeared to be poisoned. His skill turned out to be his undoing; Íkaros was killed by those who drank his wine, thinking the wine maker was out to kill them. His daughter Erigone was taken to his body by the family hound, Maera, whereupon both she and the dog committed suicide by hanging. It may have been that Dionysos was so angry over the murder and the following suicides, He punished Athens by making all of the city's maidens (or only the daughters of those who had killed Ikários) commit suicide in the same way. The citizens of Athens turned to the oracle of Delphi to stop these suicides, and the oracle told them to burry the three with honors, and appease their spirits. The Athenians buried the bodies with full honors, and a festival was founded where young Athenian women swung in swings, and hung ribbons, cups, and dolls in trees.

The Anthesteria might sound like a confusing festival, and it was, in a way. The three days were almost completely separate events, but have a few things in common. It's a fertility festival, but birth is linked to death. All life is linked to death, after all, and both birth and death were miasmic events. After the rough winter, everything was dead: the soil, the remaining food stores, people... miasma tainted everything. So, as new life began from the ashes of the old, Dionysos was invoked and sacrificed to, to cleanse the old, to remove the miasma resting upon the earth and the people. It is not odd to find mythology connected to this festival which is so strongly linked to miasma, birth and death.

How does a modern Hellenist celebrate the Anthesteria? The first day should focus upon the fertility aspects of the festival: the coming abundance of flowers, wine, and fruit now the spring is almost upon us. Day two began at night, and was filled with... well... sex. People were intoxicated, enthusiastic about the upcoming spring and the end of winter, and they tended to find each other in the dark of night. I would suggest starting there for day two, if you have the option.

On this second day, I cover all other shrines I have in the house but the one on which I will honor Dionysos, to prevent them from becoming tainted with miasma. This is optional, of course. Do think about Orestes, and what he was forced to do--fail either his father by not punishing his killer, or fail his mother by killing her, and dooming himself, regardless--and think about hard decisions you have had to make, and ask forgiveness for them. If you are of legal age and have the opportunity to do so, empty a glass of wine, and feel it swirl in your stomach, as restless as the spirits of the mythic dead who will come up from the Underworld tomorrow. Swing on a swing, as high as you can, and revel in the feeling. Decorate trees with knick-knacks. If you made yourself a garland, take it outside, preferably somewhere wet, and beg that Dionysos accept it and cleanse you of the pollution you carry within you. Again, this night is perfect for making love, especially in honor of Dionysos.
Keep your shrines covered for the third day if you chose to do this, as miasma has not yet been lifted, and the dead roam the earth freely. Give honors to family members and others who were close to you, who have died. Speak with them and try to find closure. Make them a meal; a panspermia is best, but eggs, leeks and garlic also work well. There are different stories surrounding the eating of the panspermia yourself. Some say no one was to eat from it, but Walter Burkert in 'Greek Religion' notes:

"On the 13th Anthesterion, the day of the Pots, grains of all kinds are boiled together in a pot along with honey. This is the most primitive cereal dish of the early farmers, older than the discovery of flour-milling and bread-baking; in funeral customs it has survived down to the present day. But the idea of food for the dead, conjoined to an abridged version of an ancient source, has lead to the mistaken view that the living were actually prohibited from eating from the Pots. According to the full text, it is only the priests who are barred from eating this food, in accordance with the fact that all sanctuaries are closed on the Choes day. The meal of pottage is linked to the myth of the flood: once the water had subsided, the survivors threw everything they could find into a pot and cooked it as their first meal after the cataclysm, an occasion for summoning up new courage and yet in memory of the dead. One sacrifices to the chthonic Hermes for the sake of the dead and eats from the Pots in the certainty of life regained. The day of defilement is over, the masks and the dead lose their rights: 'Out you Keres, the Anthesteria are over' became a proverbial saying."

Yet, Harrison in 'Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion' has the following to say:
"The panspermia has not, I think, been rightly understood. In commenting on it before, misled by the gift-theory of sacrifice, I took it to be merely a 'supper for the souls.' No doubt as such it was in later days regarded when primitive magical rites had to be explained on Olympian principles. But it was, to begin with, much more. The ghosts had other work to do than to eat their supper and go. They took that 'supper', that panspermia, with them down to the world below and brought it back in the autumn a pankarpia. The dead are Chthonioi, 'earth people', Demetreioi, 'Demeter's people,' and they do Demeter's work, her work and that of Kore the Maiden, with her Kathodos and Anodos."

Where you stand, you must decide for yourself. Personally, I will not taste of the panspermia. Like with the Deipnon, however, setting outside the meal will lift the miasma from your person and the house, so afterwards, you can uncover your shrines again if you covered them in the first place.

The Anthesteria is a festival of deep, emotional, involvement, and it is best celebrated by emerging yourself as completely as you can. As with any rites to Dionysos, transformation within yourself is almost always a consequence. The Anthesteria is a heavy festival, but filled with joy, regardless, because you are working towards spring. Burdens will be lifted from you. Rejoice with us and you will get through these festivals just fine. You can find the rituals here and join the community here. Enjoy!

It can't have escaped your notice that we have more children to mourn. I won't go into the politics of it, or put up another rant about gun control (but dear Gods, do I want to!). There is a group of high schoolers doing a very good and loud job at that. I am also not going to put up prayers and wishes. The time for prayers and wishes has long past. Did you know that in the US, six times as many children have died from gunshots since 9/11 than we lost adults on that day? Let that sink in.

I am going to leave you with this powerful quote that shows that children were victims long before the US even existed as a nation, but only to illustrate that we have left many practices in the past and this should definitely be one of them.

“And there in Mycalessus was a great disturbance and every kind of ruin took root. [The Thracians] even attacked a school for children which was the largest in the region, when the children had just entered, and they cut down all of them. No greater suffering affected the whole state than this; it was terrible and unexpected more than any other.” [Thucydides 7.29-30]

My book came out yesterday (yay!) and I am tied up with everything around that event. As such, I'll leave you with a video today that I think you might find interesting. It's a video taken at "A Futuristic Look Through Ancient Lenses: A Symposium on Ancient Greece." It includes over 30 lectures and discussions over various topics of the ancient Greek culture. It's about how the ancient Hellenic language shaped today, and how illiteracy influenced the ancient Hellenic world. More from me tomorrow!