Showing posts with label archaeology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label archaeology. Show all posts

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Ruins Of Theseus' Palace On The Akropolis

In some of my recent studies, I happened across a piece of mysterious information hidden in the pages of an old book from my temple's library, something that few people know about in the grand picture of ancient Greek history and archaeology. All throughout Mycenaean archaeology, we have uncovered all of the palace ruins of the main Trojan War Heroes, with Odysseus being the most recent and final one. 

But atop the Akropolis of Athens, the City that Theseus ruled, loved and defended so much that the Athenian motto became, "Nothing Without Theseus," it has been believed that the remains of Theseus' palace rest there. Sure enough, the modicum ruins of what was most certainly a late Bronze Age Megaron Palace still remain, the time period in which Theseus could have most certainly lived, and long, long before the Parthenon was ever even dreamed of. 

A Greek Megaron is not the grand kind of palace we would think of today that houses the monarchs of England. Rather, it is more of a Great Hall building, built in a rectangle that hosts an open porch, is surrounded by four columns, and in the center houses an open air hearth. There would have also been a throne or throne room for the King to sit. Throughout the life and history of the Athenian Akropolis, buildings rose and fell, and new ones were added, such as the Parthenon, so the only traces of this Megaron we have is basically the foundation. Nevertheless, we do know it existed, when it existed, and what it was used for; royalty. 

If you were a tourist in Athens around 400 BCE, and you had been so inclined to ask, the citizens would have probably told you all about the old Palace of Theseus that once stood on their citadel. To them, it would have been historical fact. You may have even been directed to the City's Sanctuary of Theseus just below the Akropolis, and the burial that they believed to be His. We know where this religious center stood as well. But the Palace of Theseus is an even greater mystery because there is so little of it remaining, due to the passage of time and the evolution of the citadel.

However, the Megaron that could have very well belonged to the legendary Hero still looks at us from the rocky history of the hill. We can walk upon the steps or floor that Theseus Himself may have, and all of the ancestors before us who walked in to consult or ask for His help. Today, there may no longer be a great throne at the end of the Great Hall, but upon those ruins, we can still look up to the heavens, on top of the sacred fortification, and pray to Theseus.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
I'll see you at the next Herm down the road,
Chris Aldridge.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Tomb of Cerberus Set To Be 2023 Gem

This year near the historic City of Naples, there came to the surface of an archaeological dig a fascinating tomb of ancient Greek proportions. Like many great finds in history, though, they were not looking for anything ancient, unless you count the outdated water system that the Municipality of Giugliano had to undertake when they stumbled across the spectacle. 

What's even more wonderful is that the tomb remained protected from vandals and grave robbers during its time hidden far underground, which means that all of its secrets, presumably, remain preserved, such as the beautiful artwork that still captures the human eyes, and several artifacts that were left on the wall shelves. 

Of course, there's nothing unusual about finding an ancient Greek tomb, but this one, perhaps as unique as the Tomb of Bellerophon in Asia Minor, possesses a notable depiction of Cerberus, the three headed dog of the Underworld, who keeps the dead in and the living out. He is the grandest guard that Haides has in the Kingdom of the Dead.

The artwork of the tomb as well displays Cerberus being flanked by Hermes and Herakles (Hermes being an Underworld Psychopomp and Herakles being the Hero who captured the ferocious hound during His 12 Labors). Two centaurs also stand facing opposite of one another on the back wall, all together a wonderful testament to the religious, spiritual and mythological diversity of the ancient world, and the lives of the people who lived, loved and died in that world every day.

The workers and archaeologists who brought it to light after 2,000 years were in a fanatic celebration, because not only do we now have an amazingly preserved ancient Greek tomb with wonderful artwork, but there might be an entire Necropolis (an ancient City Cemetery) surrounding it. It remains unknown, at this time, who occupies the tomb. But still, the amazing amount of history and information that could now be at our fingertips is invaluable.

The burial was far enough underground that no one was able to interfere with it, the people buried inside being forever at peace while Europe erupted in continuous chaos above their chambers. Their bodies were far removed from the upper world that would eventually hate them for their religious devotion, but today, perhaps it is fitting that widespread religious freedom and the restoration of ancient Hellas has made their return to the living world more likely and welcoming.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
I'll see you at the next Herm down the road,
Chris Aldridge.

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Monday, May 15, 2023

The Riace Bronzes: A Hellenist On The Unsolved Mystery

Most people have probably already seen these two statues, but know them by sight only, because there are no other details, not even that modern archaeologists can tell. No one knows who the statues depict or how they even ended up where they were found. 

For those who may not know, The Riace Bronzes refers to two magnificent bronze statues, believed to have been made in Attika or Argolis in the 5th Century BCE, and somehow ended up at the bottom of Italian waters in a place called Calabria. The pieces are not only notable because of their mystery, but because of their amazing precision and detail to the, apparently, human makeup. 

When the Greek Reporter released a recent article on the topic, it grabbed my interest because I love historical mysteries, not to mention that I am a devoted Hellenic Polytheist.

The first question would be, if the statues were made in Attika or Argolis, how or why did they submerge off the coast of Italy? Let us consider that the 5th Century BCE was the era in which the Parthenon was built. So there were magnificently well known artists in that area during that period, who could have been commissioned by people outside the region to make statues or buildings for them. 

We must remember that the most famous artist of the Parthenon was formerly the artist of the statue of Zeus at Olympia, which was one of the Wonders of the Ancient World. He had been called on, or hired, by Pericles for the Athenian Akropolis.

Even today, the best way for an artist to make a living is to find patrons. Without people who admire and are willing to buy your work, you travel the road of the starving artist. It's very well possible that these statues could have been made in Attika to be shipped to people or cities in other parts of the Greek world, and either fell overboard or went down with a sinking ship. 

They were obviously foundered while on the way to their location. People don't normally order expensive bronze statues only to throw them in the ocean. So although they were found near Calabria, we can't confirm that's where they were headed. Nevertheless, somewhere in the Western Greek World around that region is a safe bet.

Ancient Greeks began settling in this Italian area as far back as the 8th Century, which means the patrons, or whoever ordered the statues, were likely of Greek descent or at least had an admiration for Greek culture.

But who are the individuals depicted? I would theorize Greek Heroes. While Greeks settled in this area much later than the Heroic Age, Heroes of Greece were believed to have traveled to the area long before. Odysseus, and very notably Diomedes who commanded at least 80 ships in the Trojan War. 

After the war, He exiled Himself into Italy for fear of his life and even founded cities there, one of which is called Arpi, which is only around 3 hours away from Calabria's region itself. Who's to say that at least one of the statues didn't depict Diomedes and wasn't going to Arpi? Two perfectly depicted human images traveling together, I'd say there's a good chances we are looking at Heroes. Which ones, though, sadly remains unknown. But let's look upon the genius of the ancient Greek mind and marvel at what we do know about them.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
I'll see you at the next Herm down the road,
Chris Aldridge.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Poseidon's Lost Temple PULLED From The Earth!

Even before Hellenism was my official religion, Poseidon was a God of tremendous interest to me. Perhaps partially because He was one of the first Greek Gods I encountered when my high school English class studied The Odyssey, but I have also always loved the water of the world. Growing up in a coastal state where horses run wild on the beaches (North Carolina), tends to put one into contact with the Earth Shaker. In fact, one of my favorite books in my temple's library is Poseidon and The Sea: Myth, Cult and Daily Life, which I have recently been inspired to read once more considering today's wonderful news.

It seems that my beloved history book will now have to be amended a bit, because in Elis, Greece, on the far west of the Peloponnese, archaeologists have verified the writings in Strabo (who was another geographer like Pausanias), by unearthing the lost Temple of Poseidon Samikon. The ruins of this latest discovery of the Hellenic identity have been found to date all the way back to the Archaic Era (700-480BCE). What's more interesting is that Strabo described this particular temple and sanctuary as being a Cult Center for the Delphic League, whose job was to see to the protection of Apollo's Temple at Delphi, a topic I have covered on my blog before when discussing the Sacred Wars.

Considering all of the extensive history now coming to the surface in this lost region of the ancient Greek world, I cannot wait to see all of the amazing artifacts and knowledge we will have the pleasure of as the excavations continue into the coming years. I equally hope that Ethnic Hellenes in Greece will perhaps find their way to the location for worship and sacrifice to the God once again, and also help protect and liberate the temple. 

In the Goodness of Poseidon,
Mighty Earth Shaker and God of the Sea,
Chris Aldridge.

Greek Reporter Article Found Here

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Aphrodite's Stronghold Against Christianity

As the 4th Century CE rolled on, the rising Christian State, led by the power of Rome, was stopping at nothing to persecute the Polytheists out of existence. The old religion(s) under the Christian Emperor Theodosius I, had been outlawed, and in 393 CE, he finally banned even the Olympic Games of Greece. Of course, the persecution didn't begin with Theodosius and it wouldn't end with him either. But it would have appeared that the "massive state pressure" concerning the Christian State that Walter Burkert talks about in his book Greek Religion, was finally taking hold in its mission to force everyone into the new religion.

However, according to recent archaeological finds, it appears as if the worship of the Greek Gods, namely Aphrodite, set up a stronghold in Thessaloniki through the 4th Century, a region in the far north of the Greek mainland. By 306 CE, Christianity had already found its way into Thessaloniki, but there were apparently Greeks who refused it until the end. During the excavation of the metro, workers came across thousands of artifacts from the time period, most notably statues of Aphrodite, giving testament to the enduring worship of Her during this highly hostile, anti-Pagan time. Devotion to Her was as strong as the love and sexual desire itself over which She rules and gives to humanity. She was, without a doubt, one of the most hated Goddesses among the Christians, because She represented sexuality and freedom of the body. Christianity knew it could not gain control over the masses without shackling the basic human makeup. Aphrodite was a dire threat to the very core of their objective. 

These finds are not only significant because of their history, but because it seems to show that, despite what the modern Church says, not everyone willingly accepted Christianity. Some people, probably most of the population, resisted it. There would have been absolutely no other reason for Christians to make laws forcing people to give it up. So today, we should also draw an inspired spirit as we look at the remains of undying devotion to the Gods, and carry it on into tomorrow and the days and years to come as we move to restore the traditional identities of humanity. No matter how hard, hopeless or hostile things get, let us never give up our beliefs, our love, our devotion.

To read more details about this recent story, check out the website of my friend and fellow Hellenist, Baring The Aegis.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Cyclops & His Walls

If an ancient Greek had been taking a stroll through the countryside and stumbled upon the ruins of massive walls or fortifications, he or she might have thought of them to be Cyclopean Walls or structures. After the times in which Homer describes in his poetry, such as those of Mycenae and Troy, dating back to 1260 BCE, around 400 to 500 years before Homer himself, Greeks who looked upon these mysterious ruins and rubble thought that they had been built by the Cyclopes, a race of humanoid giants with only one eye in the center of their heads, the name Cyclops meaning "Round Eye." Being that the buildings were so incredibly strong and grand, it was thought that humans could not have achieved such architectural stamina. Therefore, they were thought to have been built by the Cyclopes.

The Cyclopes did not just constitute the infamous Polyphemus, who was the Cyclops responsible for obstructing Odysseus on His journey home. There were many others like this giant, some of whom were employed by Zeus in the Titanomachy to help Him overcome Kronos and the Titan forces against Olympos. The Cyclopes were even said to have forged Zeus' thunderbolt, Poseidon's trident, and the helmet of Haides. These giants were also generally known as excellent engineers in the arts of architecture and metals. The creatures had an incredibly brilliant side to them.

Of course, today, we know that humans can and did build those structures and monuments like the great walls and fortifications of times long ago. Although, assistance from beings a little stronger may have helped, I'm sure. I also think that the idea of a Cyclopean structure might have referred to natural land formations as well, such as the rocky hill of the Acropolis. This was built by Nature, not men, and in that respect, we know it to be a building feat beyond the capabilities of humans. It wouldn't be wrong to say that the hands of something far greater and stronger than us, built the mighty fortification upon which Athena and Her people placed the Parthenon and the heart of Her City itself. 

Even today, there are people who use the term Cyclopean, myself included, as a label for natural greatness in Earth's structure, especially those which are Archaic and prehistoric. So, the bigger question is, who or what are the Cyclopes? Perhaps they are earlier forces of creation in the world and Universe, before the coming of the Olympians. After all, they were said to be children of the very first original Gods - Ouranos and Gaia (Heaven and Earth), of whom nothing came before. Could there have also been physical Cyclopes? Certainly. Robert Wadlow, the Giant of Illinois, was the tallest man in the world of his time at 8ft, and Andre the Giant stood 7ft. People in ancient times would have certainly called them giants. We still do today. Compared to the rest of us, they are huge. So would it be hard to imagine there being ancient people of abnormal height, some of whom may have been born with one eye or lost one eye? It's entirely possible.

But I think the Cyclopes, in part, were among the first forging powers of our Universe and of our planet, who now either rest peacefully in the embrace of Gaia, or who stand at the assistance of the Gods if and when needed.  

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Credit for Photograph
* A Cyclop Statue At The Geological Museum, June 11th, 2008, taken by Deror avi.
Link to picture.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Heinrich Schliemann Converted To Hellenism On His Death Bed

Heinrich Schliemann was the 19th century archaeologist who proved to humanity that the world of Homer existed when he unearthed the ruins of Troy and Mycenae. Being born and raised in Germany, he was no doubt heavily steeped in Christianity, but he also developed a great love for the ancient stories of Greece, especially Homer's Iliad. Becoming obsessed with it, he declared that one day he would set out and prove to everyone that the Age of Heroes and the legendary citadel were real. 

Archaeologists and historians of his time laughed at him, being sure that Troy was barely even a myth. But around 1871, on a deserted plain in northwest Turkey, following the details in Homer's writings, Schliemann and his workers began digging and eventually brought to the surface the ruins of Troy and its many levels throughout its ancient life. Although some of his statements and conclusions about the site were inaccurate, such as the mistaken dating of the Treasure of Priam, the site itself was irrefutable proof that there was a Bronze Age city on this spot, and that it perished in war. Other scholars didn't even believe anything existed there at all before Schliemann. So his career was far more successful than the willful ignorance that would have remained with archaeology had he not pursued his visions.

Heinrich loved travel and exploration, and he learned several languages throughout his life, including Greek. It seems that the more and more he pursued his dream of finding the world of Homer, the more he fell in love with ancient Greek religion itself. He married his final wife, Sophia, in 1869. She was a Greek Christian, but Schliemann wasn't too enthralled with the idea of raising his children in her religion. He didn't even give his children Christian or modern names. Rather, he gave them the ancient Homeric names of Andromache and Agamemnon. It took a lot of consideration for him to allow his wife to finally baptize the children, and even at the ceremony, Schliemann placed a copy of the Iliad upon them and recited lines from the text.

1890 would be the last year of Schliemann's life. He developed a growth in his ear, which he underwent surgery for back home in Germany. Although the doctors initially declared that they had removed the infection and growth, it's obvious that they either didn't get it all, or it returned following Schliemann's reluctance to stay in bed. He instead continued his work, which he pursued until he could no longer stand. As he lay dying, as with many people, the thoughts of religion and prayer came to mind, but he was fighting to decide whether he should pray to the Christian god, or to Zeus. In a final letter to his son, however, he wrote "I pray" that Father Zeus and Pallas Athene will give you many days of happiness throughout your life. The official cause of death was cholesteatoma. Schliemann was buried in Athens, Greece in a magnificent ancient Greek style tomb. His body still rests there today in the First Cemetery. 

Schliemann's final religion was never officially listed as Hellenism or Hellenic Polytheism, but it's obvious to me that he made his choice as to who he would pray in his final days.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Work Cited:
Durant, Will, The Life of Greece, Simon and Schuster INC, New York, 1939. Print. (pp. 25-26).