The 'history' of Ionian shipwrecks emerges after three cases of antiquity smuggling in one month were investigated by the Ioannina Police and two Germans living for 30 years in the coastal town of Perdika in Thesprotia were arrested, as well as a scuba diver in Igoumenitsa and a business man in Parga. Hundreds of antiquities were found in their possession and confiscated.

From Prehistoric times, the Ionian had been a 'sea bridge' between East and West. It was only a relatively safe passage since there was the threat of the open sea and ships sailed without losing sight of the coast. Pari Kalamara, head of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities (EUA) to the Athens and Macedonian News Agency states:

“It may not have been a particularly dangerous sea for navigation, but the frequency of travelling presupposes the existence of a great number of nautical incidents over the centuries.”

She also points out that important naval battles took place there that influenced the course of the Mediterranean peoples, such as: the naval battles of Actium in 31 BC, of Lepanto in 1571, of which no trace remains in the sea, as well as the battle of Navarino in 1827, evidence of which can still be seen in the bay.

The Ionian is a sea that compared with the Aegean remains relatively unexplored, says Mrs Kalamara. Μasses of antiquities such as amphorae, tablets and other vessels from the Hellenistic period up to the Late Byzantine era are buried in the depths and at times get entangled in the nets of fishermen who hand them over to the proper services.

At the same time, confiscated antiquities, mainly amphorae used for trade from many parts of the Ionian, a large number of which are in the storerooms of the region’s Antiquities’ Ephorate, give a picture of significant shipping activity in the area over the centuries, which constitutes a field of marine research of great archaeological interest.

Most of the research, some of it conducted even before the official founding of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, was in connection with regions where important naval battles had taken place. Surface surveys, carried out on occasions by the EUA in specific places, yielded significant evidence and uncovered shipwrecks.

In 2002, shipwrecks from Roman times were located in Kephalonia and Ithaca, as well as a Prehistoric one of the Early Helladic period in Giagana. Likewise in the region of Methoni, two important shipwrecks of Roman times should be mentioned; one with a cargo of columns and the other with sarcophagi.

During surface surveys in the Northern Ionian, between Corfu and Paxoi, for controlling the transit of the natural gas pipeline 'Poseidon', three shipwrecks of the 4th, 7th and 18th centuries AD were located at a depth of more than 1,000 metres.

Moreover, systematic surveys were conducted on a 16th century shipwreck at the Dimitris or Sinialo reef in Zakynthos as well as at the Xi peninsular in Kephalonia, where six marble statues were found and pulled up, three marble column bases and two marble capitals which were probably part of the cargo of a Roman ship transporting works of art.

Equally important, adds the head of the EUA, are the surveys of the coastal sunken prehistoric settlements at Methoni and Platygiali in Astakos, where a port has now been constructed, as well as the Medieval harbour of Glarentza in Kyllini. Special mention is also made by Mrs Kalamara of

“...more modern but equally tragic events, such as the shipwrecks and airplane crashes mainly of the Second World War, which are also protected by Greek archaeological law, because they are monuments associated with Europe’s recent history and they too must be absolutely respected and protected.”

A rapid tourist development of the Ionian, already since the 1950s, has also offered antiquity smugglers scope for action. Many cases have been recorded by the port and police authorities and the Ephorate always tries to assist, says the head of the EUA and adds:

“Unfortunately, over recent years, these events tend to build up, since nowadays technology for surveying the seabed can be obtained more easily and access to greater depths by deep sea diving is simpler. In no way however should one generalize and consider everyone a potential illicit trader in antiquities. We cannot under any circumstances become complacent and should be constantly on the alert, so as to respond directly and assist the authorities who patrol the seas and who at this time are shouldering great burdens in the Eastern Mediterranean in general.”

As Mrs Kalamara points out, in a region such as the Ionian with its intense tourist and business activities, large hotel units, marinas, ports and aquaculture, the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities responds to the demands for the protection of antiquities and of underwater cultural heritage which in turn can become a major attraction for a particular type of tourism in the future.
In a country whose archaeological wealth is one of its main sources of income, at a time when archaeologists make an impressive entrance into the lives of local communities whose support they are counting on to continue their important work, an excavation is now confronted with the danger of being left incomplete. Not for lack of money, but because it seems that a private citizen can obstruct access to the excavation site.

This is the case in the systematic excavation of the Minoan cemetery in Petras, Siteia (Eastern Crete), being conducted since 2004 by Metaxia Tsipopoulou, honorary Head of the Ministry of Culture and Sports. Earlier on, specifically since 1985, Ms Tsipopoulou had excavated the town and the Minoan palace, which since 2006 are archaeological sites open to the public. In 2012, a 5 year excavation programme was approved by the Ministry of Culture and in 2017 the permit was renewed for another five years (2017-2021).

As we are informed by the excavation’s head: “The extensive Minoan cemetery so far consists of 17 large funerary buildings (approximately 80-100 m2) dating from 2800 to 1750 BC. It is to date the largest burial assemblage of that era in Crete and the only one being systematically excavated in its entirety in the 21st century using modern methods of excavation, documentation and treatment of the material.

“The Petras cemetery, then used by the elite of the palatial settlement, had not been plundered and has yielded important finds both in quality and quantity, many of which are made of precious imported materials (gold, silver, bronze, ivory, semiprecious stones) and their study essentially changes our knowledge of the Minoan period in Eastern Crete and beyond. Moreover, the uniquely important skeletal material is being excavated and documented by expert palaeoanthropologists from the University of Thessaloniki.”

It should be noted that Petras is being studied by a 30-member international and interdisciplinary team of scientists from 9 countries and several monographs and numerous articles on it have already been published ( for bibliography, see and, while material has been granted to young scientists for post graduate papers and three doctoral theses.
This year’s excavation period is in danger of being lost.

As we are informed by Ms Tsipopoulou, the Ministry of Culture and Sports has approved the expropriation of 2.47 acres of land on which the cemetery is located (former Tsakalakis property) which is also part of the boundaries of the archaeological site. The Head of the Petras Excavation explains: 

"The land is on a plateau high on the Kefala hill. The only access to it is via a dirt road about 4m wide which starts from the bypass round the main Siteia to Palaiokastro road (see attached aerial photograph) crossing the adjacent property of Mr Joseph Plakiotakis. Both the road and the property are inside the defined and demarcated archaeological site. This road has been shut with a gate by the above individual and father of the New Democracy MP of Lasithi, who, until 2016, allowed us access by giving us the key to the padlock for the 5-6 weeks duration of the excavation. According to the topographic plan made by the Department of Land registration and Expropriation of the Ministry of Culture and the contracts of the Tsakalakis property, this dirt road is RURAL.

The Ephorate of Antiquities of Lasithi granted Mr. J. Plakiotakis a document stating that ‘This year’s excavation period, which runs from 1-7 until 6-8-16, completes the five-year systematic excavation programme at the Kefala site in Petras’ and that ‘Our Ephorate has no ownership rights to the passage that is within your property.’ In 2017, Mr. Plakiotakis allowed us access because of this document, but only after a great struggle and pressure from many sides. He did not however let the workers take the tools and materials used for stabilizing the walls.

I have secured both the renewal of the permit for a systematic excavation from the Central Archaeological Council and also, sufficient financial aid from the US based Institute of Aegean Prehistory which funds the majority of Prehistoric excavations in Greece and supports the excavation at Petras from 1987 to the present. It is important for excavations of this unique cemetery to continue this year since all necessary preparations have been made , the personnel- 40 people from 6 different countries – has booked tickets and a deposit has been made on the rooms where we will be staying for 6 weeks, from July 1 to August10 ?.

I should point out that the cemetery area is without walls and the danger of illegal excavations very real, while the Ephorate of Lasithi itself has no access to the monument it is obliged to protect. We use agricultural vehicles in the excavation, to transport personnel, tools, instruments and finds, a truck and loader to remove debris and transport soil samples for flotation (7,500 large bags), as well as a concrete mixer for the preparation of mortar for stabilizing works. During the previous week Mr. J. Plakiotakis operated a bulldozer on his property directly in the area being excavated and in the demarcated archaeological site. Till Friday afternoon, the Ephorate had not pressed charges as required by archaeological law."

According to the latest developments in the case, Ms Tsipopoulou was informed that a warrant will be issued to the Ephorate of Antiquities of Lasithi for the opening of a new road allowing trucks and loaders to pass through and to access the excavated plateau. The western side of the hill, however, apart from being extremely steep, belongs to owners we are not sure have accepted a road being opened through their properties. Indeed it is very likely that, when this road is opened, antiquities will be found which must be directly excavated. The only solution for the excavation to continue and be completed is to give the Ephorate a key to the gate that blocks the rural road, so that the research can continue smoothly and the Ephorate is able to protect the site by having direct access to it whenever necessary.
Elaion is proud to announce that on the sixth and seventh of Thargelion (so 22 May and 23 May), we will be hosting another PAT ritual, this time for the Thargelia. The Thargelia (Θαργήλια) was, as said, held over the course of two days. It was an agricultural festival as well as a kathartic one. The purpose was to purify the city in order to please the Theoi and ensure a successful harvest come harvesting time. It also celebrates the birth of the divine twins Apollon and Artemis.

The first day, a sheep was sacrificed to Demeter Khloe on the Acropolis, and perhaps a swine to the Fates, but most telling about that first day was the following that took place:

In ancient times, two poor, ugly men (or a man and one woman) were chosen each year to be Pharmakoi.  They were fed for a while at public expense and were then paraded around Athens as scapegoats for the people, one wearing a string of black figs to represent the men, the other white figs to represent the women. At the end of the procession, they were driven out of the city by flogging and beaten them with branches and squills (sea onions), and killed. The bodies were burned and the ashes thrown into the sea or land, to fertilize.

This sacrifice became symbolic as time wore on, first with banishment, then with play acting where they were beaten with branches of figs and pelted with squills instead of beaten with branches and stoned to death. What matters was that they were driven out and with them, so was the pollution of ever man and woman in the city.

The first day focused on purification and appeasement but the second day was a lot less gruesome: a great pot of vegetables was prepared as an offering of the first fruits to Apollon. A panspermia was ritually sown into the earth. The Thargelia also featured choral contests among pairs of phratriai, and was recognized by phratriai as a day of festival and sacrifice. An eiresione (olive branch of supplication) with fillets of white wool and first fruits attached was carried in procession along with a winnowing basket full of fruit.

Sources tell us clearly that Apollon was linked to the festival as well as the sun, Helios, and the seasons, the Horai. With Apollon's birth, so came the light that grew the vegetation, that ripened the corn and barley. And in line with Apollon is Helios who journeys across the sky every day and the Horai who precede over the lengthening and shortening of the days, giving Apollon and Helios more or less time with us to ripen our crops.

At its core this festival is a festival of Apollon, but myth tells us Artemis helped bring Him into the world and thus She is honored as well. And we bring Demeter offerings because She taught us how to grow crops and once Persephone leaves for the Underworld again, She will kill them all. Add to that the Horai and Helios and you have a very involved and intricate festival that was absolutely essential to ensure a good harvest. And so we shall celebrate it as well and honor to all these Theoi in appeasement.

You can find the rituals for the events here, for both days, and the community page here.
On the fourth of Thargelion, in the deme of Erkhia, located approximately twenty kilometers (twelve miles) east of Athens, a series of sacrifices were held. Most likely, these were in relation to the Thargelia which was soon to follow. Preporatory rites, of a sort. Elaion will hold a PAT ritual to follow in their footsteps on 20 May at the usual 10 am EDT. Will you be joining us?

The Thargelia was one of the major festivals of Athens, and most of ancient Hellas. It celebrates the birthday of Apollon and Artemis and was held over the course of two days, one with the focus on Artemis--the first, as she was born first--and Apollon on the second day, held on the sixth and seventh day of the month of Thargelion, respectively. The thargelia was both an agricultural and a purifying festival: it was a festival intended to lift miasma from the city of Athens (and anywhere else it was celebrated) in order to ensure a good harvest. It was of vital importance and it could be that the people of Erkhia hosted these sacrifices in order to feel entitled to have Erkhia's harvest fall under the results of the katharthic rites of Athens once they would be held a few days later.

The ancient Erkhians would have held separate rituals for (almost) all of the listed deities, more often than not at different locations. It could therefore be that not all of these sacrifices are linked to the Thargelia. The sacrifices to Leto, Apollon and Zeus most likely were. Hermes, perhaps, but it is more likely that He, along with the Dioskuri was honoured due to the influence of Sparta, of whom all three were patrons. Perhaps the sacrifice to Zeus had a joined function as the father of all (Depending on the mythological account, of course).

We won't be distinguishing between the two 'branches' and have made a single rite to be performed on the 20th, at 10 am EDT. You can join the community here and find the ritual here. We hope you will join us!
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.

New things happening:
PAT rituals for Thargelion:
  • Thargelion 4 - May 20 - Sacrifice to Leto, Pythian Apollon, Zeus, Hermes & Dioskuri at Erkhia
  • Thargelion 6 - May 22 - Sacrifice to Demeter Khloe at Erkhia
  • Thargelion 6-7 - May 22-23 - Thargelia - birthday of Apollon and Artemis
  • Thargelion 16 - June 1 - Sacrifice to Zeus Epakrios at Erkhia
  • Thargelion 19 - June 4 - Bendideia - festival in honor of Thracian Goddess Bendis
  • Thargelion 19 - June 4Sacrifice to Menedeius at Erkhia
  • Thargelion 25n - June 9n - Kallunteria - spring cleaning of the Temple of Athena
  • Thargelion 27 - June 12 - Plynteria - festival of washing, where the statue of athena was removed from the city of Athens to be cleaned. Auspicious day.

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.

When I first started out, I dove in head first. For me, that works: I take everything I know I should be doing and do it to the best of my abilities and knowledge. Along the way, my practice got refined, and slowly, I start taking out some things that were not Recon enough and added others in their place. I don't like starting slow. That said, in a way, I have done that: I keep adding Gods to my daily prayers as I learn more about Their influence on my life and household worship in general, and I slowly reach out more and more to the community that is available to me on-line. That said, there are a few things that I wish someone had told me when I started out, and that I would like to tell you today.
  • Practicing Hellenismos as a lifestyle is easy. There are few new ideas to wrap your head around--the most important being arête, kharis, and xenia--and then you can basically live a Hellenistic life.
  • The ancient Hellenes used things in their household worship that were available to them. When you start out, you don't have to invest big money: take two bowls from your kitchen, one for pouring, one for pouring into. Buy wine if you can, use water for libations if you must. Burn what is in your spice rack for incense. Money should never be a reason to delay your active practice.
  • Focus on your household worship. This is the cornerstone of our faith. Routinely sacrifice to the Theoi, say a few words to Hermes as you leave the house, provide all your shrines with regular offerings. Practice the Hene kai Nea, Noumenia and Agathós Daímōn. Find a routine, and stick to it.
  • The festivals are great, but it took me a while to realize that most of us are not part of a large enough community to reconstruct the festivals. We can, however, celebrate household versions of it by pouring libations to the Theoi honored during them. Join the Elaion Pat rituals if you want to feel more connected to the community.
  • You don't have to be a scholar to practice Hellenismos: others in the community will be scholars for you, and most of them will be wiling to share. Frequent blogs, join groups, ask any question that comes into your head. Many of us, myself included, are willing to help you if you ask nicely.
  • Philosophy is an important part of Hellenismos, but if it doesn't appeal to you, leave it be for the time being. Get back to it when you are ready.
  • Mythology is an important part of Hellenismos, but if it doesn't appeal to you, leave it be for the time being. Get back to it when you are ready.
  • There is no 'wrong' or 'right' way to practice Hellenic Polytheism, only people who think there is.
  • There are, however, guidelines to practicing Traditional, or Reconstructive, Hellenismos. Anything with watchtowers, athames, or other Neo-Pagan influences is not part of Traditional Hellenismos. If you don't follow the basic ritual structure, your practice might not apply either. that said:
  • There is nothing wrong with a non-Traditional practice. Period. And let no one tell you otherwise.
  • 'Community' is not just religious. Get involved in your city. Do volunteer work. Pick up litter. Keep your city and the people in it in your prayers.
  • Never forget your immediate family in your prayers. The people who are actually part of your oikos should be on the top of your prayer list.
  • Pray for your friends and family. It's a big no-no in the Neo-Pagan world, but your friends and family are part of your extended oikos, and you can extend your kharis with the Gods to them.
  • No matter how passionately you feel about your viewpoints, be a good person. Practice arête in your religious community. Don't be a jerk.
The Bronze Age civilization of the Mycenaeans collapsed due to an extended drought in the western Peloponnese, according to a study conducted by researchers Martin Finne and Karin Holmgren of the Navarino Environmental Observatory in collaboration with archaeologist Shari Stocker. The researchers drew their conclusions after examining a stalactite from a cave on the uninhabited the islet of Schiza off the southwestern coast of the Peloponnese which yielded precise information on the weather conditions that prevailed in the region from around 1200 to 1180 BC.

These researches are not the first to come to this conclusion. Back in 2013, a study of fossilized pollen particles taken from sediments at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee brought researchers to the same conclusionBy studying pollen samples taken at 40-year intervals, the scientists were able to monitor changes in the vegetation. Israel Finkelstein, an archaeologist at the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, who was one of the lead scientists in this earlier study notes:

"In a short period of time, the entire world of the Bronze Age crumbled. The Hittite Empire, Egypt of the pharaohs, the Mycenaean culture in Greece, the copper-producing kingdom located on the island of Cyprus, the great trade emporium of Ugarit on the Syrian coast, and the Canaanite city—states under Egyptian hegemony—all disappeared and only after a while were replaced by the territorial kingdoms of the Iron Age, including Israel and Judah."

Wars, pestilence, and sudden natural disasters have all been postulated as possible causes, but thanks to sophisticated pollen-sampling techniques and advances in radiocarbon dating, Finkelstein and his colleagues believe they know the primary culprit: drought, or rather a succession of severe droughts over a 150-year period from 1250 BCE to about 1100 BCE. These fairly precise dates come from core samples drilled into the sediments at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee. The drill cores extended 18 meters into the seabed and cut across a range of sediments deposited over the past 9,000 years. Dafna Langgut, a University of Tel Aviv palynologist (one who studies ancient pollens) states:

"We focused our study on the time interval between 3200 BCE and 500 BCE. Pollen grains are the 'fingerprints' of plants. They are extremely helpful in the reconstruction of ancient natural vegetation and past climate conditions."

The scientists noticed a sharp decline around 1250 BCE in oaks, pines, and carob trees—the traditional flora of the Mediterranean in the Late Bronze Age—and an increase in the types of  plants usually found in semiarid desert regions. There was also a big drop in the number of olive trees, an indication that horticulture was on the wane. All are signs, say the researchers, that the region was in the grip of regular and sustained droughts. The most crucial years of the collapse were probably between 1185 and 1130 BCE, says Finkelstein, but the entire process extended over a longer period of time. Finkelstein:

"I think that climate change can be seen as a sort of a 'prime mover' that initiated other processes. For example, groups of people in the northern regions were uprooted from their homes because of destruction of the agricultural output, and [they] started moving in search of food. They could have pushed other groups to move by land and sea. And this in turn caused destructions and disruption of the delicate trade system of the eastern Mediterranean."

The dates the researchers came up with via pollen analysis correspond nicely to the few remaining historical records of the period, which mention shortages of grain, disruption of trade routes, civil unrest, and pillaging of cities as people began to fight over diminishing resources. The Late Bronze Age was also a period when marauding bands known as the Sea Peoples raided coastal areas in the eastern Mediterranean.

The tumultuous period ended only when rains returned and uprooted groups began to settle down again.