Most recent update:6/1/2004; 5:08:55 AM

 Wednesday, May 19, 2004

... just a quick test of the title feature ...
6:00:24 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


ante diem xiv kalendas junias

  • 175 A.D. -- Commodus departs for Germany
  • 307 A.D. -- martyrdom of Cyriaca and companions at Nicomedia

5:44:39 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

NUNTII: Olympic Archaeology Finds

One of the things I've grumbled about semi-regularly during the whole Olympics construction thing is that we really have been ill-informed about what archaeologists have been finding. A little sidebar piece in Time only increases my grumbling:

The clincher was a small anchor cut from stone. Digging at the site of the Olympic equestrian center, about 30 km southeast of Athens, archaeologist Michalis Sklavos already knew he was onto something — his team had unearthed a cluster of small clay bowls from around the 4th century B.C. followed by several washbasins which the ancients used, he said, "to cleanse their body before purifying their soul." That indicated the presence of a temple, but it was the stone anchor that revealed what kind of temple it was. It was "clearly an offering to a high priestess by a sailor," which meant his team had discovered a temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love — one of only three known examples in the world. At these sanctuaries, usually located near ports, priestesses are believed to have administered to visitors' spiritual — and, ahem, physical — needs, free of charge. "These were not brothels," says Sklavos. "It was part of the priestesses' sacred role, their duty to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, to give pleasure to those who walked into her home."

History is never far from the surface in Greece, and the extensive excavations resulting from Olympics projects have been a boon to archaeologists, who under Greek law were required to inspect every site before the bulldozers moved in. Dimitri Skilardi, who led the excavations at the main Olympic complex, estimates it would have taken up to 30 years to match the finds he and his colleagues have uncovered since the Games projects began. [more]

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AUDIO: Father Foster

Back on track with Father Foster  ... this week, Father Foster and Veronica go 'rambling on the Palatine Hill'. Not a lot of Latin in this one (comparatively speaking) but a nice overlisten of the history of the hill ...

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CHATTER: Greek Religion Redux

We've read about this group before, but they're getting a pile of press coverage all of a sudden, especially in the southeast Asian press, for some reason:

On a sweet Athenian spring evening with the sacred rock of the Acropolis bathed in the white light of a full moon, a chorus of voices join in prayer, chanting: “Hail Zeus!”

The voices are not those of actors in an ancient tragedy or an Olympic ceremony, but a group of modern-day Athenians solemnly worshipping the Olympian Gods.

Long before the Olympic Games became a rich commercial bonanza, they were among the most important religious festivals of the ancient Greeks, held in honour of the heavenly 12 of Mount Olympus. Now, as the Games return to their birthplace in August, a small group of Greeks are pressing for official acknowledgment of their pre-Christian roots.

They have applied for formal religious recognition and sought court injunctions against the commercial exploitation of their religious symbols by organisers of Athens 2004. The trouble is, no-one is taking them seriously. In some cases they even face prosecution for participating in an illegal cult.

While classical Greece is revered as the seat of Western civilisation, its gods, heroes and monsters are more commonly associated these days with the muscle-bound characters in American-made cartoons. Gathered on the balcony of a 21st-century Athens penthouse, adults stand with their eyes screwed shut, hands aloft and coloured ribbons in their hair as the moon is eclipsed.

A plastic God Apollon looks down nobly from his black teak altar. On his right, Athena is wearing a warlike helmet, while an image of a bare-breasted Aphrodite recalls her status as the Goddess of love.

Turquoise ribbon: The worshippers finish their full moon ceremony by linking arms to form a circle.

Vasileos, a chemical engineer who preferred not to give his surname, is convinced that he and his fellow worshippers are the real Greeks and that Orthodox Christians are impostors. “Who were these early Christians? They were the great unwashed, they had no athletics, no culture and they only had one book – the bible.”

Georgios, a distinguished lawyer with a turquoise ribbon in his hair to signify the circle of life, cannot see where the credibility problem lies. “The ancient Greeks invented logic, science, medicine and philosophy and built the Parthenon. Are you telling me they didn’t know what they were doing when it came to religion?” he asked.

Panayiotis Marinis, a doctor and spiritual leader of the group, was born into a family of polytheists in the tiny village of Kithra on the island of Kefalonia. He said the tradition was still strong in many smaller communities. “My family were believers, a lot of people in our village were,” he said.

He pointed to the huge crowds who have followed the Olympic torch since it was lit in a ceremony borrowed straight from the traditions of their religion. Marinis estimated there were as many as 100,000 followers of the 12 gods spread around Greece but they were no closer to getting state recognition.

They have been waiting for two years for an answer to a petition for an official place of worship to the Greek ministry of education and religious affairs.

Unwanted visitor: In the meantime they are keen to correct some popular assumptions about them. Marinis said they did not believe that Zeus actually lived on Mount Olympus in northern Greece, though it is considered a holy site on a par with Mount Sinai.

Many in the group are unimpressed by Orthodox Christianity which they regard as an unwanted visitor to Greek shores. “Christianity was the first form of globalisation,” said Doretta, a writer. “To us a god is not a boss, he is a friend, and you can fall out with friends — look at Odysseus and Poseidon,” she added in reference to a famous spat between the Greek warrior and the God of the sea.
[more from the Daily Times]

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AUDIO: Classicist Reviews Troy

Robert Rabel, who teaches Classics at the University of Kentucky (Lexington), was on NPR's Talk of the Nation yesterday talking about the Iliad and the movie. Some interesting comments along the way on the similarities and differences; the folks who call in ask some good questions too. Worth a listen ... [even if the program's host comes across as, well, a bit of a goof]

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NUNTII: Indian Elections

Sonia Ghandi's refusal to become prime ministrix of India yesterday, after winning a hard-fought election, has at least one interesting Classical precedent which is being mentioned in the Indian press:

Abdication, Italian style. Thrice did the citizens of Rome invite Julius Caesar to wear the crown, and thrice he refused. Aeons later, in Delhi’s sizzling summer, Sonia Maino Gandhi has turned down the request of the majority of members elected to the 14th Lok Sabha to accept the Prime Minister’s mantle.

If Caesar declined kingship to become the republican leader, Sonia’s refusal is perhaps the product of a lot more complex web of issues. At one level, it may be the realpolitik of an exceptionally high order. But it is also the imprimatur of a deep ethical conscience.

“I listened to my inner voice,” she said at the Congress parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday, “and it was against accepting the post”. The words had the resonance of revelation. They took wing and flew to the roof of the Central Hall of Parliament, adorned by the portraits of great leaders, and made many of them look small, even if it was for a moment.

Picking up on the Caesar angle is perhaps a bit cynical ... I first heard this 'inner voice' thing, though, yesterday in a radio interview. It sounds very much like Socrates' daimon, which 'spoke up' to warn him when he was about to do something dangerous and/or unethical.

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AWOTV: On TV Today

7.00 p.m. |HINT|   Mystical Monuments of Ancient Greece
A look at the Parthenon, Acropolis, and the Agora. Pericles, herald
of the Golden Age, commissioned tremendous monuments dedicated to
Athena, protectress of the city. Was their real purpose to promote a
new brand of politics called democracy, or to serve as a platform for
a brutally intense cult? We also visit the city's marketplace.

HINT = History International

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Click for Athens, Greece Forecast

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