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The History Behind the “Horn of Plenty”

The History Behind the “Horn of Plenty”
by Winnie Lam

It’s almost time for Thanksgiving, so get ready to gobble up your turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing! But let’s not forget about the cornucopia! We all know it as the huge horn in Thanksgiving photos with all sorts of vegetables and fruits spilling out of it. We associate the cornucopia with Thanksgiving, but where did this horn of plenty really come from?

The cornucopia’s history lies in Greek mythology. There are a lot of different stories it might have originated from, but the most common one tells the story of the lightning god, Zeus. As an infant, Zeus was in great danger from his father, Cronus. Zeus was taken to the island of Crete and cared for and nursed by a goat named Amalthea. One day, he accidentally broke off one of her horns, and in order to repay her, he used his powers to ensure that the horn would be a symbol of eternal nourishment, which is where we get the idea that the cornucopia represents abundance.

The horn of plenty has also made numerous appearances in ancient Greek art, depicted as a goat’s horn being held by different gods and goddesses. It has also made its way into modern art and our everyday lives, such as coat of arms designs. It even appears in the popular book series The Hunger Games as the center of the game field where all of the weapons and resources are stored.

In the context of Thanksgiving, the cornucopia represents abundance, fortune and nourishment. It can be made from all types of materials, such as bread, metal, ceramics and wicker, but it’s not just a decoration. It is a reminder of growth, plentitude and thankfulness for all the future years to come

Did the Ancient Greeks Engage in Human Sacrifice?

The remains uncovered at an altar to Zeus on Mount Lykaion may confirm legends about human sacrifice at the shrine

By Jason Daley


The ancient Greeks are associated with music, philosophy, logic and storytelling. So tales of human sacrifice in the works of ancient writers including Plato are often chalked up as myths. But the discovery of the remains of a male teenager at Mount Lykaion, the spot where some Greeks made animal sacrifices to Zeus, may lend credence to those tall tales.
Mizin Sidahmed at The Guardian reports that the 3,000-year-old remains were discovered in an ash altar on the mountain that is the earliest known site of worship for the god Zeus. The area of the altar has been under excavation since 2006, and finds indicate it was used by humans early as 5,000 years ago, even before the “birth” of Zeus in the Greek world. Archaeologists have discovered lots of animals bones, as well as pottery shards, metal objects and tripods in the area.
But until this summer, no hint of human remains were found at Lykaion. “Several ancient literary sources mention rumors that human sacrifice took place at the altar [of Zeus, located on the mountain’s southern peak] but up until a few weeks ago there has been no trace whatsoever of human bones discovered at the site,” David Gilman Romano, professor of Greek archaeology at the University of Arizona who has worked at the site tells Nicholas Paphitis at the AP. “Whether it’s a sacrifice or not, this is a sacrificial altar ... so it’s not a place where you would bury an individual. It’s not a cemetery.”
One of the more prominent stories about human sacrifice on the mountain comes from the early Greek geographer Pausanias in his Description of Greece. He tells the tale of Lycaon, the first King of Arcadia, who according to one version of the story sacrificed one of his sons and served him to the god Zeus at a dinner party. Zeus was enraged, and he turned Lycaon and his other sons into wolves. Supposedly this led to an annual tradition at the altar of Lykaion in which a boy would be slaughtered along with animals. The meat would be cooked all together, and whoever ate the human flesh would be turned into a wolf for nine years. If they did not eat human flesh in that time, they were allowed to return to their original form. If they did, they would remain a wolf forever.
The remains on Lykaion were found deep in the ash pit, Sidahmed reports. They were laid in an east-west direction with two lines of stones along the sides and other stone slabs on the pelvis. Part of the upper skull was missing.
Jan Bremmer, professor emeritus of religious studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands tells Sidahmed he is skeptical that the remains are from a human sacrifice. He said the idea of Greeks conducting human sacrifice is intriguing because it contradicts widely held notions about the ancient society. “On the one hand there’s this picture of Greece as the cradle of civilization, the birthplace of democracy, of philosophy, of rational thinking,” he says. “But on the other hand we have these cruel cruel myths.”

The researchers have not speculated publicly on why, if the body is not a sacrifice, it was buried in the ash pit. Future excavations at the site will show whether the skeleton is an anomaly or if the area around the altar contains other human remains.

The Most Brutal Punishments Doled Out by the Gods

By Edira Putri

These horrible punishments in mythology will make you thankful to live in a modern world, where there is a legitimate legal system to determine the punishments people get for bad acts. However cruel or unfair you think your law system is, it’s really nothing compared to the most brutal punishments doled out by Greek and Roman gods. 
Some people believe that good deeds will bring us rewards and bad deeds will bring us punishment. Some call it karma, others call it cosmic retribution or even religious reckoning. However, no one punishes like the great Greek gods. Maybe it’s because their power is supreme and they can do just about anything, but these brutal punishments from the gods are cruel beyond common sense.
What follows are some of the worst punishments in mythology. If you believe that karma’s a b*tch, well, then these gods are even b*tchier. Vote up the punishments you really, really wouldn't want to endure.
Zeus, the king of the gods, was not a very faithful husband. In fact, many women who were ill-fated enough to be his mistress (by will or by force) got caught by Zeus’s wife, Hera. Being a powerful goddess herself, Hera didn’t hold back from destroying her husband's mistresses. That brings us to the story of the poor Libyan queen, Lamia. Upon finding out about Lamia’s affair with her husband, Hera transformed her into a gruesome creature with a craving to devour children, even her own.
Zeus resented Prometheus for giving fire to mankind and generally being willful and defiant. For his disobedience, Zeus chained Prometheus to a rock on the side of a mountain. But of course, that wasn't enough. Every night, an eagle would come and peck on his abdomen and munch on his liver. His liver would then regenerated during the day so that the eagle could have at it, again and again, every night. Eventually, he was freed by Chiron, a centaur who gave his life for Prometheus's, and Heracles, who killed that pesky eagle.
One day, Zeus was kind enough to invite Ixion to Olympus as a guest. However, when the mortal saw Hera, Zeus’s wife, he was attracted to her and made his move to seduce her. Zeus decided to test Ixion’s loyalty and made a cloud copy of his wife. Ixion fell for it and somehow impregnated the cloud-Hera, who later bore the monster Centaurus. Zeus blasted Ixion with his powerful lightning bolt and bound him to a burning wheel that would spin forever. Ixion was forced to repeat the words "Repay your benefactor frequently with gentle favors in return" for eternity.
Erisychthon was a king with a serious case of hubris. He desired a large banquet table, so naturally, he cut down trees from Demeter's grove, because goddesses definitely don't mind when you disrespect them, right? Wrong. In retaliation, she cursed him with never-ending hunger. He would yearn for anything digestible and eat it, but the hunger was insatiable. In frustration, Erysichthon ended up eating his own flesh until he died.
Tantalus was the mortal son of Zeus. The gods often welcomed him in Olympus because of his bloodline, but he didn't do much to thank them for it. In fact, he once stole nectar and ambrosia from them. Even worse, though, was his brilliant idea for a sacrifice: he killed his own son, Pelops, and served him to the gods. They were furious and brought the boy back to life.
The king was sent to the underworld, where he had to spend his afterlife standing in a pool of water with branches of a fruit tree hanging over his head. Whenever he tried to reach the branches for some fruits to eat, they would move just beyond his grasp. Likewise, the pool water would drain whenever he tried to bend down and drink. So he was left hungry and thirsty forever, tantalized by the fruit and water he would never be able to reach.
Sisyphus was a wicked king who found joy in killing his own people as well as travelers. However, no one really cared to intervene until Sisyphus caused a problem for Zeus, the king of the gods, when he reported that Zeus had abducted the nymph Aegina. Zeus sent him to the underworld, where he was received his hideous, everlasting punishment. The evil king was forced to push a massive boulder up a steep hill just to watch the boulder roll down again so he would have to roll it up back again, in vain, forever.
Actaeon was a hunter who accidentally stumbled upon the pool in which Artemis, one of the gods of Mount Olympus, was taking a bath. Just like us mere mortals, Artemis hated it when other people caught a peek of her while bathing. Unlike us, though, the goddess told Actaeon he would be transformed into a stag if he ever spoke again. Apparently, Actaeon didn't take Artemis seriously, because he called his dogs soon after and was immediately transformed. Not recognizing their master in his new figure, Actaeon’s hunting dogs chased and kill him, believing he was just another random deer.
Cassandra was a mortal who agreed to sleep with Apollo if he gave her the ability to see the future. He gave her the ability, but he did it before they had sex, so she reneged on her part of the bargain. Rather than taking her gift away, Apollo did something even crueler: he made it so no one would ever believe her visions, even though they were true. This left Cassandra to wallow in her own frustration.

9 Strange Similarities Between Greek And Indian Mythology

Abir Gupta -

Greek and Indian Mythology are two of the oldest mythologies known to man. Although both of these mythologies have no established connection with each other, yet they share some striking similarities.
Here are some interesting things that you will find common in both these mythologies.
 1. Zeus and Indra
The most important similarity that comes to anyone’s mind is the uncanny similarity between Zeus and Indra.
Not only both of them are King of Gods in their respective mythologies, but even their weapon is almost same.
The similarities do not end just with their position or weapon, even their abode is quite similar. While Zeus stays at Mount Olympus, Indra stays at Mount Meru.
Both of them also share some striking character traits.

2. Achilles and Karna
Just like Zeus and Indra, Karna and Achilles also share a lot of similarities. The most striking similarity is their armor. Both of them had a kind of an impenetrable armor which almost made them invincible. Both of them were one of the most skilled warriors in their respective epics.
Not only that, just like Achilles, Karna too was a demigod. And before the war, both of them were requested by their respective mothers not to participate in the war.
If we read epic carefully, then we can understand that it was the death of these two warriors that eventually led to the end of both the wars.
Apart from Karna, Achilles has also been compared with Bhisma, as both were born to a water goddess.

3. The Trojan War and Ramayana
Another very interesting similarity is between Ramayan and the Trojan War. Both of these great wars were fought for a woman.
The Ramayana took place after Ravana kidnapped Sita, while the Trojan war took place after Helen ran away with Paris.

4. The Holy Trinity
The presence of a kind of a holy trinity can be found in both of these mythologies. In Indian Mythology, in spite of all the other Gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwar are considered to the three most important Gods.
Same way, in the Greek mythology, you have Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon who respectively rule the heavens, the underworld, and the seas. They are considered as the three most important Gods according to the Greek mythology.

5. A God for everything
A very striking similarity between both these mythologies is that, you have a God for everything. Just like us they also have a God of wealth, wisdom and underground.
Not only that, just like us they also have a specific messenger of God and also the chief architect of Gods, just like our Vishwakarma.

6. Hades and Yama
Hades and Yama are two very similar characters. Both of them are the lords of the underground.
But interestingly, both of them are not evil. They just assign a person a place in Hell or Heaven, based on their virtues and vices.

7. Saptarishis and the seven sisters
Just like we have the concept of Sapthrishis, they have the concept of Seven sisters. According to our epics, the Saptharishis are the seven bright stars that can control even the Sun.
In Greek mythology, these seven sisters are known as the Pleiades. Just like the Saptarishis, they are also a cluster of stars.

8. Icarus and Sampati
The story of Icarus and Daedalus is probably one of the most told stories. Interestingly, this story has a parallel in the Indian Mythology as well. Just like them, we have the story of Jatayu and Sampati.
One day when they were flying high in the sky, Jatayu went too close to the sun, so Sampati, in order to save Jatayu, went after him. Although he did save Jatayu but in the process, his own wings got burnt because of the heat of the sun and he fell straight to the ground just like Icarus.

9. Hermes and Narada
Both of them act as messengers and both of them are sons of two most powerful Gods in their own respective mythologies. They share a lot of similar characteristics traits as well.
At times, both of them are shrewd and cunning. Both of them are often known to trick and mislead people with their words.
These similarities prove that human beings all over the world are basically the same.

This is why ancient statues always have small penises

Alison Lynch for Metro.co.uk

Don’t try and pretend the thought has never crossed your mind.
As much as we want people to think we’re soaking up the culture as we wander around museums gazing at Renaissance sculptures, it’s just as likely we’re wondering to ourselves, ‘why does David have such a small d*ck?’
It’s noticeable that all those ancient statues have one teeny tiny thing in common. What is equally obvious is that they’re not even a little bothered by it – in fact, they seem only too happy to immortalise their diminutive members in clay.
Fortunately, art historian Ellen Oredsson has finally answered the question that’s been bugging us all: why do all the men in ancient status have small penises?
Spoiler: it’s not because it was a little chilly under those loincloths.
In her blog, How To Talk About Art History, she explains: ‘Firstly, they’re flaccid. If you compare their size to most flaccid male penises, they are actually not significantly smaller than real-life penises tend to be.’
But – and here’s the, erm, biggie – she also went on to explain that small penises were more prized in Ancient Greece. ‘Cultural values about male beauty were completely different back then,’ Oredsson writes.
‘Today, big penises are seen as valuable and manly, but back then, most evidence points to the fact that small penises were considered better than big ones.’
She goes on: ‘One of the reasons historians have suggested that small penises were more culturally valued is that large penises were associated with very specific characteristics: foolishness, lust and ugliness.
‘Meanwhile, the ideal Greek man was rational, intellectual and authoritative. He may still have had a lot of sex, but this was unrelated to his penis size, and his small penis allowed him to remain coolly logical.’
Oredsson concluded: ‘Classical Greek sculpture has been hugely influential for all sculptural representations of the male body in European art, so it’s no wonder that small-penised statues have been the norm throughout most of Western art history.
‘It also shows that our obsession with penis size has always been there, it’s just changed slightly.’
So, if you have a smaller than average penis, don’t feel too disheartened. You were just born about 2,500 years too late.

10 Little-known Natural Home Remedies from Ancient Greece

By Kerry Kolasa-Sikiaridi -

The ancient Greeks thought that getting sick with disease was a form of punishment by the gods for something they did or didn’t do. In fact, this mindset remained true until the Classical Greek physician Hippocrates shifted ancient Greek medicine views from spirituality to scientific logic.
Ancient Greek home remedies are still used today to treat illnesses and medical conditions in modern times. Let’s look at 10 of the most time-tried and proven natural home remedies the ancient Greeks have gifted us that you can try for yourself!
1. Olive Trees to Treat Acne
Greeks claim that he first oil trees grew in Greece when the goddess Athena planted a seed into the ground which immediately sprouted up into a beautiful olive tree.
Ancient Greek women found many natural remedies from the olives such as using the oil to help protect against sun damage to their skin and crushing the leaves of the olive trees to make a facial paste as a mask for the skin. The mask helped cure acne and other skin irritations.
2. Tomatoes For Prostate Cancer Prevention
Maybe not so ancient, but as far back as around the 15th century, Greeks believed that eating a tomato a day would lessen the chances of men developing prostate cancer. Definitely a tip worth noting.
3. Beetroot for Anemia
Since beetroot has a high quantity of iron, ancient Greeks used it to treat anemia and other related blood conditions. They would regularly eat beetroot and drink fresh beetroot juice to help increase red blood cell levels.
4. Mint for Migraine Relief
The ancient Greeks not only used mint as an aromatherapy because of its fresh relaxing aroma, but they also used mint to help relieve migraines and also for relief of stomach aches.
5. Alcohol, Honey and Cinnamon Treatments for Cold and Flu
The ancient Greeks consumed an alcohol drink called tsipouro. They would add some cinnamon and honey to ease the symptoms of cold and flu. This is still practiced today in some households.
6. Fenugreek for Respiratory Ailments and Diabetes
The ancient Greeks first used the herb known as fenugreek as a part of their cattle-feed to help stimulate the digestion of their cattle and horses.
The wise and innovative Hippocrates saw other uses for this herbs and encouraged using fenugreek for the treatment of respiratory issues such as coughs and tuberculosis.
It is also reported that fenugreek was also used to treat rare cases of diabetes in ancient times.
7. Fennel for Weight Loss and Joint Pain
The ancient Greeks saw fennel as a natural expectorant that was used to help combat annoying coughs.
It was also taken in the form of an herbal tea where it helped aid in weight loss aid, cramp relief and a treatment for muscle and joint pain.
8. Cumin for Colic
Cumin was one of the most popular and advantageous spices to cook with in ancient Greece.
Chewing cumin seeds was used to help counteract the formation of flatulence after eating bean dishes and the seeds were regarded as one of most effective digestive aids in ancient times.
9. Flaxseed to Lower Cholesterol
Used as commonly in ancient times as modern days, flaxseed helps aid in digestion andlowering cholesterol levels and were a favorite prescribed healer of ancient Greek physicians.
10. Horseradish for Respiratory Infections

Used in ancient times to help prevent illness, during the cold winter months, ancient Greeks would eat horseradish to help get rid of excess phlegm in the lungs and respiratory system such as sinuses.

Archaeological Museum’s new garden dedicated to mythology


An ancient Greek myth warned that if someone tried to pick a water lily, the nymph protecting the lake would seduce them with her song and drag them down into the water forever. That is why the ancient Greeks plugged their ears with wax when they gathered water lilies to eat, according to the director of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Maria Lagogianni.
The museum has its own lake with water lilies now – albeit a small artificial one – as well as a new garden with around 700 plants in the atrium, that will be unveiled on Friday after a renovation to mark the museum’s 150th anniversary.
The garden is the work of landscape architect Antonis Skordilis, with the support of Japan Tobacco International.
The NAM atrium garden was first planted after World War II and Skordilis and the Ecoscapes company refreshed the design and plants along the same lines. All the original trees have been preserved, while shrubs, herbs and other decorative plants endemic to Greece have been added around them.
The soil was also refreshed with a special kind that is very absorbent and isn’t negatively affected by being walked on, which will allow visitors to approach the plants rather than having to stick to the path.
“The main idea was to use plants that are associated with Greek mythology and ancient Greece,” says Skordilis.
To this end, the landscape architect has divided the park into sections, each of which has its own theme. Six plants in each of these mini-gardens will be replaced every three to four months to acquaint visitors with their mythological significance. The yew, for example, is dedicated to the Furies, who shot offending humans with arrows dipped in the poison of this toxic plant.
New plants will be highlighted with signposts explaining their role in Greece’s age-old myths.
“We will also associate the plants with the museum’s exhibits and events so as to create the sense of a comprehensive cultural experience,” says Lagogianni.

A brief history of sex and sexuality in Ancient Greece

The sexual habits of people in Ancient Greece – from prostitution to pillow talk – are explored in a new book written by Paul Chrystal. Exploring the many layers of sex and sexuality in various Greek societies – from the Minoan civilisation through to Sparta and Hellenistic Greece – In Bed with the Ancient Greeks examines homosexuality, pederasty, mythological sex and sex in Greek philosophy and religion
Here, writing for History Extra, Chrystal briefly explores the history of sex in Ancient Greece…
Please note this article contains sexually explicit content
In the beginning was sex. To the ancient Greek mythologisers, sexuality, love and sex were inextricably connected with the creation of the earth, the heavens and the underworld. Greek myth was a theogony of incest, murder, polygamy and intermarriage in which eroticism and fertility were elemental; they were there right from the start, demonstrating woman’s essential reproductive role in securing the cosmos, extending the human race and ensuring the fecundity of nature.
Simultaneously, Zeus, the top god, wasted no time in asserting his dominance over the other gods (both male and female). His cavalier attitude towards female sexuality, as manifested in serial rape and seduction (Zeus raped Leda, daughter of the Aetolian king Thestius, in the guise of a swan; raped Danae, a princess of Argos, disguised as the rain, and raped Ganymede, a male mortal) set a precedent for centuries of mortal male domination and female subservience. The depiction of Hera [wife of Zeus and queen of the ancient Greek gods] as a distracting, duplicitous and deceptive woman opened the door for centuries of male insecurity about women, and misogyny.
The Minoans
Our earliest evidence for ancient Greek sexuality comes with the Minoans (approximately 3650 to 1400 BC). Women at this time were only partly dressed – the main items of clothing were short-sleeved robes that had layered, flounced skirts; these were open to the navel, leaving the breasts exposed. Women also wore a strapless fitted bodice, the first fitted garments known in history.
Women were typically depicted as having a tiny waist, full breasts, long hair and full hips: to our eyes and ears this is sexually charged and provocative, but to a Minoan probably not so. On the contrary, the voluptuous figure may have been a means by which women, and their artists, expressed their gender and status rather than male artists simply idealising female sexuality for their own delectation, satisfying a prurient male voyeurism. Women in Minoan Crete, it seems, were able to celebrate their femininity.
The body shape described above re-emerged during the mid-late 1800s, when women laced themselves into tight corsets to make their waists small and wore hoops under their skirts to exaggerate the proportions of their lower body.

Pederasty in Greece probably originated with the Cretans. Cretan pederasty was an early form of paedophilia that involved the ritual kidnapping (harpagmos) of a boy from an elite background by an aristocratic adult male, with the consent of the boy's father. This adult male was known as philetor, befriender; the boy was kleinos, glorious. The man took the boy out into the wilderness, where they spent two months hunting and feasting with friends learning life skills, respect and responsibility. It is generally assumed that the philetor would begin having sex with the boy soon after taking him out into the wilds.
If the boy was pleased with how this went he changed his status from kleinos toparastates, or comrade, signifying that he had metaphorically fought in battle alongside his philetor; he then went back to society and lived with him.
The philetor would shower the boy with expensive gifts, including an army uniform, an ox to be sacrificed to Zeus, and a drinking goblet – a symbol of spiritual accomplishment. At the same time, according to the geographer Strabo, the boy then had to choose between continuing with or putting an end to the relationship with his abductor, and whether to denounce the man if he had misbehaved in any way.

Satyrs and satyriasis
Satyrs, depicted in Greek mythology as beast-like men with a horse’s tail, donkey’s ears, upturned pug nose, receding hairline and erect penis, have a reputation for being inveterate masturbators with a penchant for rape, sodomy and necrophilia. A satyr was a true party animal with an insatiable passion for dancing, women and wine. Satyrs were experts on the aulos, a phallic-shaped double reed instrument; some vase paintings show satyrs ejaculating while playing, and one even shows a bee deftly avoiding the discharge in mid-flight. Another vase illustrates a hirsute satyr masturbating while shoving a dildo of sorts into his anus.
Apart from inspiring some wonderful depictions on ceramics, satyrs have left us the word satyriasis, which means hypersexuality – classified today in the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD) as satyriasis in men and as nymphomania in women (in 1951 it was still listed as a “sexual deviation”). The wordsatyriasis appears frequently in the works of medical authors of the Roman empire who describe a condition no doubt prevalent for centuries previously. For example, Soranus contends that the “itching” felt in the genitals that makes women “touch themselves” increases their sexual urge and causes “mental derangement” and an immodest desire for a man. Greek physician Galen called it “uterine fury”, furor uterinus.

Statue of Silenus, a satyr and minor god of drunkenness, dated from 540-530 BC. National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Greece. (Photo by Prisma/UIG/Getty Images)

Achilles and Briseis
Epic [the Iliad] gives us one of our earliest surviving expressions of heterosexual love; it comes from a rather surprising source – from battle-hardened, Homeric war hero, alpha male Achilles.
Achilles uncharacteristically wears his heart on his sleeve when he reveals how much he loves Briseis in Book 9 of the Iliad, referring to her as if she were his wife. The beautiful and intelligent Briseis first encountered Achilles when he ruthlessly slaughtered her father, mother, three brothers and husband during a Greek assault on Troy, before taking her as war booty. Achilles wiped out Briseis’ family so that she was utterly bereft and had only him to focus on.
To Achilles it was simply the right and decent thing to do to love your woman – an attitude, of course, that may have been at odds with some of the male audience members of Homer’s epic over the years.

To the ancient Greeks masturbation was a normal and healthy substitute for other sexual pleasures – a handy ‘safety valve’ against destructive sexual frustration. This may explain why there are so few references to it in the literature: it was common practice and did not merit much attention. Nevertheless, it may well have been deemed, publicly at least, to be the preserve of slaves, lunatics and other people considered to be lower down the social pecking order. Elite opinion would have regarded it, literally, as a waste of time and semen, since it was one of the prime cultural responsibilities of the Greek male to further the family line and extend the oikos, the household.
One term for masturbation in ancient Greece was anaphlao, a verb that comic playwright Aristophanes disparagingly used to describe the Spartans, who were “wankers”, in his comedy Lysistrata. The decidedly odd Greek philosopher Diogenes the Cynic routinely masturbated in public and defended his actions by saying “If only it were as easy to banish hunger by rubbing my belly”. Interestingly, Diogenes attracted censure not just for masturbating in public but also for eating in the agora – indicating perhaps that masturbating in a public place was regarded as no more serious a crime than eating in a public place.
Other ancient civilisations celebrated masturbation too. For example, a clay figurine of the 4th millennium BC from Malta shows a woman masturbating. In ancient Sumer [the first ancient urban civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia, modern-day southern Iraq] masturbation – either solitary or with a partner – was thought to enhance potency. In ancient Egypt male masturbation when performed by a god was considered a creative or magical act: Atum was said to have created the universe by masturbating, and the ebb and flow of the Nile was attributed to the frequency of his ejaculations. Egyptian Pharaohs were required to masturbate ceremonially into the Nile.

Effeminacy and cross-dressing
Effeminacy in men was considered beyond the pale – para phusin or “outside nature”. It implied passivity and receptiveness, epithumein paschein – both weaknesses contrary to the proper sexual conduct of the Greek male who ought to be virile, dominant, penetrating and thrusting.
Cross-dressing had some surprising advocates. The heroic alpha-male Hercules, according to the Roman poet Ovid, indulged in a bout of cross-dressing with Omphale [queen of Lydia to whom Hercules was enslaved] Hercules put on Omphale’s clothes and Omphale dressed up in typically Herculean lion skin and wealded his club, which was symbolic of manhood and power. Surprisingly, perhaps, “lion-hearted” Achilles too was not averse to a spot of dressing up in women’s clothes, if it saved him from the call-up for the Trojan war.
Pseudo-Apollodorus, in the Bibliotheca [a compendium of Greek myths and heroic legends], tells us that to help her son dodge the draft Thetis [Achilles’ mother] concealed him at the court of Lycomedes, king of Skyros. Disguised as a girl Achilles lived among Lycomedes' daughters under the pseudonym Pyrrha, the red-haired girl. Achilles raped one of the daughters, Deidamia, and with her fathered a son, Neoptolemus.
Odysseus was told by the prophet Calchas that the Greeks would not capture Troy without Achilles' support, so he went to Skyros masquerading as a peddler selling women's clothes and jewellery with a shield and spear secreted in his wares. Achilles instantly took up the spear; Odysseus saw through his disguise as Pyrrha and persuaded him to join the Greek forces.

Another famous alpha male, Julius Caesar, was also involved in cross-dressing: apparently, aged 20, he lived the life of a girl in the court of King Nicomedes IV and was later referred to behind his back as the 'queen of Bithynia', and “every woman's man and every man's woman”. Suetonius described his long-fringed sleeves and loose belt as a bit odd, prompting statesman and dictator Sulla to warn everyone to “beware of the boy with the loose belt”.

Archaeologists Uncover Massive Naval Bases of the Ancient Athenians

Researchers have excavated ship sheds in the city of Piraeus that held triremes from the pivotal Battle of Salamis

By Jason Daley

If he toured Mounichia harbor today, Xerxes the Great, ruler of the Persian Empire, might scoff at the pleasure yachts and fisherman that can primarily be found on the waters just south of Athens, Greece. But 2,500 years ago, when the protected harbor in Piraeus, a port city on the outskirts of Athens, was a full on naval base bristling with armed sailors and mean-looking triremes? That might have made him think twice about trying to invade Greece.
Archaeologists are learning just how formidable Athens’ naval war machine really was after excavating parts of two of the three militarized harbors built in Piraeus. “We have identified, for the first time, the 5th century BC naval bases of Piraeus—the ship-sheds, the slipways and the harbor fortifications,” Bjørn Lovén, director of the Zea Harbor Project, which led the excavations, tells Philippe Bohstrom at Haaretz.
Lovén says the naval fortifications at one time housed about 400 fast and maneuverable ships called triremes. These vessels were tended to by 80,000 sailors and soldiers.
Lovén and his team most recently excavated the remains of six ship sheds, David DeMar writes at NewHistorian.com. The sheds stored triremes to protect them from marine woodworms and to keep the hot Mediterranean sun from shrinking their timbers and causing leaks. The sheds were huge—spread between the three ports of Piraeus (Mounichia, Zea and Kantharos), they covered 110,000 square meters or more than 1 million square feet, according to a video by Lovén. To put that number in comparison, that’s the size of approximately 17 football fields.
Carbon-14 dating of pottery and wooden foundations placed the ship-sheds between 520 and 480 BC. Those dates are significant because it likely means they housed triremes that took part in the Battle of Salamis in 480, a key event in Greek history.
In 490, the Athenians thwarted an invasion by Persian ruler Darius I at Marathon. But they knew the Persians would return. That’s why politician and general Themistocles convinced Athens to ramp up its navy, building 200 new triremes and housing them in almost impregnable naval bases in Piraeus.
The harbors could be closed off by large gates with fortified towers on either side, Bohstrom writes. Other fortifications along the coast could also attack approaching ships, making an advance on the naval bases by sea almost suicidal.
“It would have been an almost impregnable harbor,” another researcher on the project, Møller Nielsen tells Bohstrom.
Themistocles chose the right strategy. When the Persians attacked 10 years later under Xerxes I, the 400 Greek ships defeated 1,000 Persian vessels at the Battle of Salamis, a turning point of Greek history.
“It is difficult to predict what would have happened if the Greek fleet had lost at Salamis, but it is clear that a Persian victory would have had immense consequences for subsequent cultural and social developments in Europe,” Lovén says in a press release. “The victory at Salamis rightly echoes through history and awakens awe and inspiration around the world today.”
He also tells Discovery News that the battle influenced Athenian democracy. “All social classes rowed and fought aboard the triremes. I strongly believe this pivotal battle created an immensely strong bond among most of the citizens,” he says, “and in this way the Athenian navy was to develop into the backbone of the world's first democracy.”
The naval bases did eventually fall, however. Around 404 BC, Sparta and other Greek states defeated Athens at the end of the Peloponnesian War and tore down its naval fortifications in Piraeus.

2,000-Year-Old Cooling System for Chariot Horses Unearthed at Ancient Carthage Site

In the Classical world, chariot races were the equivalent of today’s highest-profile sports and had the highest-paid athletes in history. But how did the chariot horses of North Africa cope with the searing heat? Archaeologists have now found the answer after unearthing an advanced system that cooled the horses and kept the popular races running at the Roman Circus of Carthage in Tunisia 2,000 years ago.
The circuses in Carthage, Rome and elsewhere around the empire were built specifically for the chariot races, which were fast, violent and wildly popular. Haaretz, which has a report on the horse-cooling features recently discovered, says one charioteer won 36 million sesterces (silver coins) —the equivalent of about $15 billion in today’s money.
Carthage’s circus was 470 meters (1542 feet) long and 30 meters (98.4 feet) wide. This was smaller than the Circus Maximus in Rome, which was wider and 80 meters longer. And while the Circus Maximus could seat 150,000 to 200,000 people, scholars believe the Carthage circus held far fewer spectators at around 45,000. Still, the Carthage circus was the largest sporting venue of the empire except for those in Rome itself.
There was ancient poetry about the chariot races (read one such poemhere), mosaics, and of course the circuses around the empire that attest to the sport’s popularity.
Chariot drivers wore uniforms of distinct color and teams represented different groups in society, social or political, Haaretz says. According to accounts of the time, supporters applauded wildly when their favorite team took the field. Certain charioteers were so adulated that their portraits were hung in homes.
There were riots, including one at Pompeii that Roman historian Tacitus told about, when Pompeians fought with fanatics from nearby Nucreia.
Part of the reason the archaeologists determined that the ancient Carthaginians cooled the horses came with the discovery of water-resistant mortar at the circus.
“This kind of mortar is called hydraulic mortar. It's a type of waterproof lime mortar mixed with crushed and pulverized ceramics that the Romans used in hydraulic engineering,” Frerich Schön of Tübingen University told Ha’aretz. He is a water technology specialist who discovered the hydraulic mortar at the spina, or the median.
Water basins were built along the track and spina at Carthage and elsewhere. Sparsores—the people who sprinkled the horses—dipped clay vessels into the water and sprinkled it on the chariots as they passed, according to Ralf Bockmann of the German Archaeological Institute, co-director of the excavations with Hamden Ben Romdhane of the Institut National du Patrimonie de Tunisie.
The men say this was without doubt a dangerous job.
“The sparsores would usually be on foot, directly on the spina, presumably at the level of the arena, to cool down the chariot wheels driving by at high speed. How exactly the cooling was organized is not clear. But for sure, it must have been a dangerous business,” Dr. Bockmann told Haaretz.
Chariot racing was popular not just in Rome but also in Greece and the Byzantine Empire. It was less violent than the gladiatorial contests, but still, many horses and men suffered grave injuries and death in the races.
The charioteers were slaves or freedmen. They drove light chariots, which made the sport all the more dangerous. Races were run for seven laps, and up to a dozen chariots ran in them.
“Many drivers were thrown from a broken or overturned chariot,” says an article on PBS. “They could then be trampled and killed by the charging horses, or get caught in the reins and dragged to their deaths.”

Aristocrats sneered at the chariot races, thinking them childish and unremarkable. But the public was in thrall to them.

Is This the Legendary Throne of Agamemnon?

 One of the central figures in the "Iliad," Homer's epic war poem, Agamemnon is also known for his bloody end in a bathtub.
Credit: Mycenaean Foundation
A stone fragment that might belong to the lost throne of the kingdom of Mycenae has been found by a Greek archaeologist, if his claims are right.
Made of a type of stone that has not been found anywhere else in Mycenae, the 110-pound slab is dubbed the throne of Agamemnon after the legendary king of Mycenae and leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War.
A Greek archaeologist says he has found a stone fragment that might belong to the lost throne of the kingdom of Mycenae. Made of a type of stone that has not been found anywhere else in the ancient city, the slab is dubbed the "throne of Agamemnon" after the legendary king of Mycenae and leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War. The polished stone block was found in 2014 directly below Mycenae's royal palace. Shortly after the stone fragment was brought to light in 2014, the finding was questioned and dismissed as a basin. But new research claims the limestone slab is a fragment of the royal seat of Mycenae, as shown in this virtual reconstruction.

According to Greek archaeologist Christofilis Maggidis, the throne stood in the royal palace, where four columns surrounded a central hearth, as shown in this virtual reconstruction
One of Greece's most important late bronze age centers, Mycenae still boasts impressive remains, such as walls made of giant boulders and a 3,500-year-old sculpture of stone lions above the main gateway. Known as the Lion Gate, this is the only surviving monumental piece of Mycenaean sculpture and the largest sculpture in the prehistoric Aegean.
The massive beehive tomb dubbed by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann the Treasury of Atreus or Tomb of Agamemnon, is the most impressive of the nine tholos at Mycenae. Built about 1350 to 1250 B.C., with carefully dressed masonry and megalithic elements, the burial most likely has no relationship with either Atreus or Agamemnon. Although it was found robbed, it was never buried and remained always visible.
To the south of the Lion Gate stands a 16th-century B.C. royal cemetery that was later labeled Grave Circle A. The site was first excavated in 1876 by the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, the discoverer of the ruins of Troy. It contained intact royal shaft graves filled with objects of gold, silver, bronze and terracotta.
In the royal cemetery, Schliemann claimed to have found the tomb of Agamemnon, complete with his funerary gold mask. The authenticity of the funeral mask has long been questioned. In any case, it can't be attributed to Agamemnon: modern archaeological research dated it to about 1550–1500 BC, about 300 years earlier than the traditional date for the legendary king.
One of the central figures in the "Iliad," Homer's epic poem about the war, Agamemnon is also known for his bloody end in a bathtub, hacked to death by his wife and her lover as he returned from his victorious expedition against Troy.
A team led by Greek archaeologist Christofilis Maggidis found the fragment two years ago in the now-dry riverbed of the Chavos River, within the city's Lower Town.
Maggidis, associate professor at Dickinson College and president of the Mycenaean Foundation, said the polished stone block was found directly below Mycenae's royal palace. The hilltop building had partially fell down during a catastrophic earthquake in about 1200 BC.
"The throne fragment had fallen, rolled and was subsequently buried by the river fill when the southeastern part of palace collapsed in the ravine," Maggidis said.
Shortly after the stone fragment was brought to light in 2014, the finding was questioned.
Vassilios Petrakos, the Secretary General of Archaeological Society at Athens, appointed a committee to examine the piece. At the end, the stone fragment was dismissed as a basin. The committee's conclusion was accepted by the Ministry of Culture and the case appeared settled.
But Maggidis, who has been leading excavations at the site of ancient Mycenae in southern Greece since 2007, announced recently that further studies indicate conclusively that the find is "a fragment of the stone seat of the monumental royal throne of the palace at Mycenae."
"The assessment of the Petrakos committee about a 'basin' is unreliable and fallacious, as it was based on unfounded assumptions and erroneous observations," Maggidis told Discovery News.
He noted that the fragment is made of porous stone and would have been useless to hold liquids had it been a basin.
"The importance of an archaeological find is assessed by the international academic community on the basis of its scientific publication and in due time, not by committees or organizations," he added.
Maggidis, who will detail his findings in a scientific publication in 2017, said the block shows a stunning resemblance to another, older and smaller throne found in the Minoan palace of Knossos.
"It is similar in terms of shape, size and proportions," Maggidis said.
He noted that all the other alternative interpretations of a basin, altar, offering table or mortar are eliminated when considering the high quality of fine carving and polishing and the morphology of the block, which is carved in such a way as to support being sat upon.
"For example, the shallow central depression, which is only 3cm (1.18 inch) deep, and the way in which it slightly deepens towards the rear side, identical to the Knossos throne, are indisputable traits of a seat," Maggidis said.
"This is one of the most important and emblematic finds of the Mycenaean age," he added.
One of Greece's most important late bronze age centers, Mycenae achieved an almost legendary status thanks to its rulers, who, according to Greek myth, were involved in incestuous relationships, parricides and dynastic fights.
The town still boast impressive remains of its past -- walls made of giant boulders, a 3,500-year-old sculpture of stone lions in a heraldic pose above the main gateway and nine beehive-style tombs known as tholos, where its rulers were buried.

Maggidis said he believed that other parts of the throne may lie beneath the stream bed and hopes to gain a permit to fully excavate the site.

Ancient Sanctuary of Greek God Pan Unearthed in Northern Israel; Discovery Sheds Light on Other Major Finds in Area

Lea Speyer

Israeli archaeologists believe they may have uncovered an ancient sanctuary of the Greek god Pan in the north of the country, which would shed light on other important finds in the area, Live Sciencereported this week.
During excavations carried out by the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, the team discovered a monumental Roman gate in the ancient city of Hippos, which is believed to have led into a sanctuary dedicated to the worship of Pan, the god of flocks and shepherds who, in Greek mythology, is depicted as half man and half goat.
The height of the original gateway is estimated to have been about 20 feet, and part of a much taller structure located just outside the ancient city limits. According to a statement by the Zinman Institute, archaeologists dated the building to the time of the Roman emperor, Hadrian, who reigned from 117 CE to 138 CE.
The discovery of the sanctuary will now help shed light on other archaeological finds from the area, especially a bronze mask depicting Pan that was discovered last year and baffled researchers — since it was the only object of its kind found anywhere in the world.
According to Michael Eisenberg, head of the archeological team, the find is a major in its contribution to understanding the history of the ancient city.
“Now that the whole gate has been exposed, we not only have better information for dating the mask, but also a clue to its function,” he said in a statement. “Are we looking at a gate that led to the sanctuary of the god Pan or one of the rustic gods?”
“The mask, and now the gate in which it was embedded, are continuing to fire our imaginations. The worship of Pan sometimes included ceremonies involving drinking, sacrifices and ecstatic rituals, including nudity and sex,” Eisenberg said. “The worship usually took place outside the city walls, in caves and other natural settings.”

Hippos is located within the Sussita National Park and excavations of the ancient city have been taking place since 2000. Overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the city was destroyed in 749 CE by an earthquake.

Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon; the world's original journalists?

Arguably, ancient Greek historians were the world’s first journalists. In style, method, and approach, ancient Greek history reads much more like journalism than history.
Journalism, broadly, is thought to be a profession of the modern day and age. Journalism is thought to have begun with brief leaflets distributed among British, French, and Spanish colonial cities in the Americas around four hundred years ago.
But re-reading the works of historians such as Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, it is easy to appreciate the fact that the journalistic epoch began thousands of years ago. Ancient Greek historians, who wrote about events that they had experienced and lived through, were not only the world’s first historians, they were the world’s first journalists. If journalism is describing the world you lived in and events you were a part of, then ancient Greek histories definitely fit that description.
Journalism, as a professional tradition, therefore has its origins around two thousand five hundred years ago.
So who then, is the founder of journalism if this is the case? The founder of journalism is Herodotus (484-c. 425 BCE), the world’s first and most unreliable historian. So what did the first work of journalism ever concern?

The world’s first work of journalism was a work of wartime journalism. Herodotus’s “The Histories” (published in 440 BCE) focused on the wars between the Greek city states and the Persian Empire from 480 to 449 BCE. A man focused on “never letting the truth get in the way of a good story” (as Mark Twain might say), Herodotus told an exaggerated form of history. His work talked of an army of five hundred thousand Persians invading Greece (a logical and logistical impossibility at the time), of centaurs, and of gold eating ants. Herodotus probably loved to drink wine and eat unusual mushrooms. And his work reflected that. “The Histories” is a work that was epic, exaggerated, and often ridiculous. But it none the less described events that had actually taken place, using the firsthand accounts of Greek soldiers who had fought the Persians. Although realistically more akin to Gonzo Journalism than Traditional Journalism, “The Histories” remains the first true work of journalism within world history, as well as the first true work of history in world history.
As the ancient Greek city states grew more powerful militarily and culturally, they also became less united. The Greek cities began to war among each other, which led to entirely new forms of histories. The most notable of these was “The Peloponnesian Wars” by the Athenian historian and journalist Thucydides (460-400 BCE), which centered upon a series of wars between the Greek cities of Athens and Sparta from 431 to 404 BCE. At the center of “The Peloponnesian Wars” was a tale of moral collapse similar to the tales of moral collapse told in more contemporary works of journalism such as George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” (1938) and Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” (1966). “The Peloponnesian Wars” centered on how the Athenians, once held up by the other Greek cities as a model of moralism and virtue, became corrupted and vicious as they attained power over the other Greek cities. Eventually, fed up with the Athenians, the Spartans and multiple other Greek cities united against Athens and brought Karmic retribution upon the city and its people. Athens was sacked and subjugated to the will of the Spartans and the other Greek states.

Thucydides, as an Athenian, was extremely close to the action and told first-hand of events that he witnessed during the Peloponnesian Wars. He was therefore a journalist in multiple senses of the word.
Both Thucydides and Herodotus were journalists in that they used sources and referred to events that happened within their lifetimes. However, no Greek historian/journalist was as close to the action as Xenophon. A native born Athenian who worked as a mercenary within the Persian Empire, Xenophon (c. 430-354 BCE) wrote about events that he personally was involved in and events that he witnessed with his own eyes. His major work, “Anabasis” (or “The Ten Thousand”), told of how Xenophon and ten thousand other Greek mercenaries found themselves stranded in the heartland of the Persian Empire after their Persian paymaster, the noble lord Cyrus the Younger, was killed in battle. The work focuses on how the Greeks marched thousands of kilometers, battling enemy kings and warlike tribes along the way. It was a heavily personal piece of work, and frequently featured Xenophon’s personal opinions e.g. his admiration of Spartans and other warrior societies, vivid and subjective descriptions of ancient Middle Eastern cultures, and his philosophical perspectives. The work concludes with the Greek soldiers reaching the Greek coastal cities of the Black Sea, ready to sail safely by boat back to Greece. An epic tale, “Anabasis” was Planet Earth’s original first person account of a soldier at war. It is also thought of as a major work of ancient philosophy, as it describes the philosophies of the ancient Greeks in practical action i.e. how philosophical thinking was applied when at war.
Early Greek histories were strongly influential and had a significant impact on later Greek histories as well as histories from the Roman era, which were themselves written as first person accounts and extremely subjective. Writers such as Polybius (2nd century BCE), Julius Caesar (1st century BCE), Cassius Dio (2nd-3rd centuries CE), and Amminaus Marcellinus (4th century CE) all wrote works of history that were heavily subjective, and strongly resemble journalism in terms of their approach and style. These tales of soldiers at war, of past empires and conflicts that shook the ancient world, have influenced the imagination of the cultural West for thousands of years. These were the first works of history, and they have been invaluable to the Western cultural record and the Western cultural memory. But they were also something else. They were the first works of journalism.

They were humanity’s first attempts at describing and depicting the world we see, the world we experience, and the world we witness. And for that we all owe Herodotus and co an enormous debt.