A team of archaeologists led by Francesco D' Andria has discovered the altar of the temple of Athena in the town of Castro in the province of Lecce in the Apulia (Puglia) region of south-eastern Italy. The Castro altar is similar to those found in Metaponto, a Lucanian city which has been the subject of systematic excavation campaigns which revealed the famous Hellenic temples and their altars in front of them. However, the Messapic altars were simple pits dug in the earth where the libations were burned and offered, whereas the one at Castro is a built altar not unlike like those of the Hellenistic (eg. Altar of Pergamon) and Roman (eg. Ara Pacis) periods.

Credit: Quotidiano di Puglia

The structure consists of well worked square blocks at least 6 metres long and two and a half metres wide and has yielded an impressive series of finds linked to the ritual sacrifices made to the goddess: bones of sacrificed animals and other objects which bear witness to the daily life in the sanctuary.
The castle of the Adriatic town has been the focus of successive excavation campaigns since the year 2000, which, in addition to the Messapic fortifications dating back to the fourth century, have now also identified the Sanctuary of Athena (Minerva) from which the ancient city received its name, Castrum Minervae.

The temple was said to have been founded by Idomeneus, who formed the tribe of the Sallentini from a mixture of Cretans, Illyrians and Italian Locrians (Central Hellenic tribe). It is known that this is the same temple dedicated to Athena Iliaca, the Trojan Athena, which Virgil mentions in the 3rd Book of the Aeneid when he talks about the arrival of Aeneas and his ships on the coasts of Italy.

The altar dates back to the second half of the fourth century BC and is contemporaneous to the cult statue of the goddess, found in 2015, and another small bronze statue found a few years earlier, both of which depict Trojan Athena, who wears a Phrygian helmet, as further proof of the connections of Castrum Minervae with the Aeneas myth.

The collection of finds, preserved in the Museum inaugurated in 2016 and housed inside the Castle, is now enriched with other important elements found in this season's excavations, including a beautiful bronze mask, of Tarentine style, also from the fourth century BC, which is perhaps a female figure with some sort of knot in her hair. It was probably a votive offering made to the divinity, as were also two terracotta heads, probably belonging to two female divinities, which were found just yesterday.
Only two of the six metres long altar have been excavated because the most of it is located under the road surface and in an adjacent plot of land, where - D' Andria is sure - lies the temple itself, which, in Greek worship, stood behind the enclosure where sacrifices were made.

D' Andria now faces the challenge of raising funds for the expropriation or purchase of those 300 square metres of private property, so that another excavation campaign can be carried out to unearth the foundations, perimeter and other elements of the sanctuary.
On the day of the Hene kai Nea, I post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog and in projects and organizations related to it. I will also announce Elaion's coming PAT rituals.

Changes to the blog:
  • Okay, I have to squeal a bit: I've hit a million views, which is pretty cool!
Statistics:
PAT rituals for Poseideon:
Anything else?
Are you looking for an online shop to buy incenses and other Hellenistic basics from? Try The Hellenic Handmaid on Etsy.

Would you like to support me? Buy me a coffee.
A joint team of German and Egyptian archaeologists working at the Watfa site in Egypt's Fayoum province discovered an ancient gym that dates back to the Hellenistic period. According to Ayman Ashmawi, the head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, the gymnasium has a large hall for meetings that was once decorated with statues, a dining hall and a courtyard. Next to the gym is a 200-meter track. Researchers also found out that gardens had surrounded the building to complete an ideal layout of a center of Hellenic learning.


The site dates to a time when Egypt was ruled by Greeks after being conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. Per Cornelia Römer, the leader of the team from the German Archaeological Institute, ancient Hellenic gyms such as the newly discovered gymnasium were typically private foundations by rich people who wanted their villages to become even more Hellenic in aspect.

​"The young men of the Greek-speaking upper class were trained in sports, learned to read and to write, and to enjoy philosophical discussions. All big cities of the Hellenistic world like Athens in Greece, Pergamon and Miletus in Asia Minor, and Pompei in Italy had such gymnasia. The gymnasia in the Egyptian countryside were built after their pattern; although much smaller, the gymnasion of Watfa clearly shows the impact of Hellenic life in Egypt, not only in Alexandria, but also in the countryside."

The experts estimate that when the village was first built all those years ago it housed a total of 1,200 inhabitants. Two-thirds are thought to have been Egyptian while the other third were Greek-speaking settlers. The gymnasium, roughly 50 miles from Cairo, sits inside the ancient village of Philoteris, according to a Facebook post from Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities. The post also indicates that the village, founded by King Ptolemy II in the third century BC, was named after his second sister Philotera.

This find is just the latest in a series of discoveries made by archaeologists in Egypt. Just last week another international team of researchers announced they'd discovered a "big void" inside Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza. The German team, surveying and excavating at the Watfa site since 2010, has been working alongside the Ain Shams University.
"Khaire Elani, what are some of the ways you've explored your faith? I'm not adverse to academia, but from what you have shared, I feel that there is something inward informing your everyday experience.  A personal gnosis?"

I put a lot of stock in the Hellenic ancient sources, scattered as they may be, because while these were the accounts of one man or one woman, they were copied repeatedly, used in religious settings by many, and traveled the whole of Hellas. These weren't documents stuffed away in some guy's drawer that happened to be preserved for 2000 years; these were copied, copied, and copied again, and one of these many copies has survived to the present day (generalizing, of course). Luck of the draw. As such, we can assume that some of the documents (say, for example, the Orphic hymns) were read and repeated by many, and that is what makes them valuable. Homeros was a best-seller of his time, and that is why we still have access to his writings. People must have identified with what they read, or they would not have read it and carried it on. These sources are our primary resource for information about the Theoi and how to worship Them, but sometimes we also learn about Them through our own experiences. This is called 'Unverified Personal Gnosis' (or UPG, for short).

Ideally the term is used to label one's own experience as a new and untested hypothesis, although further verification from other practitioners or ancient sources may lead to a certain degree of verifiability. Personally, I try to go from Unverified Personal Gnosis to Shared Personal Gnosis to Confirmed (Personal) Gnosis. This is why the Hellenistic community in general is open to the sharing of UPG--generalizing here--because others may have had the same experience (which lends credibility to the experience) or references to source material with which the UPG can be confirmed. There is a certain degree of science about it, when viewed like this, but it requires the receiver of the UPG to be open about his or her experiences and accept the fact that this hypothesis may be false, or at the very least unverifiable. If this is the case, using the UPG for your personal practice is fine, but doling it out as the Holy Word and Ultimate Truth will not get you far.

I have a love/hate relationship with Unverified Personal Gnosis. On the one hand, I believe, with every fiber of my being, in the knowledge I have been made privy to by the Gods. I believe in my experiences and they are sacred to me. They run anywhere from synchronicious events to detailed biographies and some of them I will never share with anyone, they were that special. Throughout my practice, I have allowed UGP to push me forward in my path. Much of what I know, have done, or now practice is directly related to a UPG event, this blog included.

Without my UPG experiences, I feel I might have doubted the existence of the Gods much more than I do. I know They exist, because They have influenced my life and that of those I love on many occasions. The experiences I have had have been extremely humbling and they have shaped me. I don't actively seek out this type of gnosis--my practice relies almost solely on academic sources, which is how I like it. My UPG experience are only part of my practice in so far that they have instilled in me a deep love and respect for the Gods that is unwavering and life-long.
Remember when I posted about the possible foods and entertainment at a Hellenic banquet? Guess what I stumbled upon today: Louis Chrysostomou, spoke to Greek newspaper Ta Nea about his ambitious project to introduce ancient Hellenic cuisine to London’s multinational population, at Life Goddess restaurant.


Chrysostomou has 17 years of experience as a chef in Greece and Britain. He is the head chef of the Greek Embassy in London, and owner of Lamda Delta Catering and Events.cWith the project "Secrets and Flavors from Ancient Greece," the Greek chef hopes to introduce the unique tastes not only to the thousands of Greeks living in the British capital, but also to the British and other nationals.

"Our goal is to present to the British public the Greek cuisine in its entirety, starting from Ancient Greece and its nutritional secrets. This is a vision that finally becomes reality. It is the product of an exhaustive study of prescriptions and sources of nutrition in ancient Greece, starting with the texts of Archestratos and Athineos."

Chrysostomou admits that there is no way of knowing how these dishes tasted thousands of years ago, but the ingredients are known:

"The truth is that we can not know how the food that ancient Greeks ate tasted. However, we use exactly the same ingredients that they chose to make up their meals."

These dishes include the famous “black broth” that the ancient Spartans ate, “mypotos” (a kind of spinach pie) and “melicraton” (a sweet with nuts, honey, and pollen) and are some of the dishes that will be served during theme gastronomic nights that aspire to be a transformation of the ancient Greek symposiums.

After the “Ancient Greek dinners”, other themes will be presented, such as the Pythagorean diet (vegetarian oriented), the Hippocratic diet (prevention and treatment of diseases through food) and evenings dedicated to the local cuisines of Greece (Macedonia, Thrace, Peloponnese etc).

I know the ingredients for the ancient Spartan melas zomos (μέλας ζωμός), or black soup / black broth: it was a staple soup made of boiled pigs' legs, blood, salt and vinegar. It is thought that the vinegar was used as an emulsifier to keep the blood from clotting during the cooking process. The armies of Sparta mainly ate this. It was not a delicacy, but used for sustenance and strength. I'd be very interested in trying this and the other dishes!
As part of a new 5-year program, a team from the French School at Athens under the direction of Florence Gaignerot-Driessen carried out excavations this summer on the Anavlochos massif (Vrachasi, Lasithi, Crete). Two areas on the western part of the summit, located by the team during the 2015-2016 survey of the massif, have yielded a large amount of votive material.


In the first one, 350 figurines, figures, and plaques have been recovered, representing female figures mostly dating to the Archaic and Classical periods. The second deposit, located 200 m to the east, contained zoomorphic figures and figurines associated with Late Minoan IIIC pottery. In the cemetery area, located at the foot of the massif, several groups of graves have been recognized.

The excavation of one of them yielded circular burial enclosures with platforms, from on top of which large Late Geometric vases have been recovered. Finally, on the so-called 'Kako Plaï' slope, which overlooks the cemetery, a bench building containing Protogeometric to Archaic votive material has been excavated.

It is located above trenches opened by Pierre Demargne in 1929, where Geometric to Classical votive material was found and which were reidentified during the 2015-2016 survey.

For more information see the Anavlochos Project website:
For more images, go here.
Pliny the Younger was born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo. He lived from 61 to 113 AD. Pliny was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate him.

Pliny the Younger wrote hundreds of letters, of which 247 survive and are of great historical value. I wanted to share one of those today, even though it's a Roman piece of writing. Based on what we know of ancient Hellenic food habits, what follows could very well be accurate for Hellenic times as well, which is why I enjoy finding (or rediscovering) passages like this.

This letter is directed at a man called Septimius Clarus, who was supposed to show up for dinner but didn't. What follows is a summation of everything that was served during and organized for the banquette.

“Who do you think you are?! You agree to come do dinner…but you don’t come? The judgment is passed: You must pay my cost to a penny, and this is not moderate. All was set out: a lettuce for each, three snails, two eggs, wine with honey chilled with snow—for you should include this too among the highest expense since it dissolves on the plate—and there were olives, beets, pickles, onions and countless other things no less neat.

You would have heard a comedy or a reader or a singer of all of them, given my generosity. But you went where I don’t know, preferring oysters, a sow’s belly, sea-urchins, and Spanish dancers. You will suffer for this, somehow, believe me.

You did something bad to one of us, certainly to me, but perhaps to yourself too. How much we played, laughed, and studied! You might eat better food at many homes, but nowhere will you eat so enjoyably, simply, and freely. In sum: try me: and if later you don’t excuse yourself from another’s meal, you can always lie to me again. Goodbye!”