Tropaion is a web-log / electronic journal and Carnival for the ancient Greek Religion and history. The main goal of the web-log is to present original peer-reviewed and well referred posts on theoretical and practical aspects of the ancient Greek religion, to add to a broader circulation of Humanities and Classics in the Internet as well as to rise awareness for the Hellenic Polytheism today and to explore its relation with its ancient past.

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Today’s supplementary issue of kathimerini in honor of the Greek Orthodox Easter has a theme which discuss Sacrifice. Unfortunately the material is only in Greek but I will do a free translation of few important – in my view – parts from the six in number articles.

Kostes Giourgos starts the discussion by mentioning the crucifixion of Christ as the main deliverance message of the Christian religious dogma. The crucifixion is been portraited as the final and perfect sacrifice – an ‘unmarked’ blood sacrifice for the divine. It is a sacrifice, the last one, which re-establishes the connection of the human with the God-father by cleansing the mortals from all their sins. According to the New Testament, the base of the Christian dogma, sacrifices were temporary and by the Son’s sacrifice was enough for cleansing and salvation.

Research gave us the opportunity to run-backwards and find the initial reasons of that religious praxis. Initially, Mr. Giourgos continues, there was a simplistic explanation as ‘a gift to Gods’. Much later the concept of sacrifice was originated in the primordial hunting-collecting customs of offerings to mythological beings that offered the victuals. In the nomadic-shepherd era the offerings have been replaced with animal sacrifices or the first products by the flock. In the first agricultural community offerings included the first fruits to the spirits of earth. That action – a liturgical praxis of a sacrifice – generates the ‘life-giving’ Natures’ force and therefore bestows what received.

Σε κάθε περίπτωση, η θυσία ενεργοποιεί τη «ζωτική» δύναμη της φύσης για να δώσει πίσω αυτό που της δίνεται, δηλαδή δύναμη.

Later the principle of sacrifice was connected with socio-political dimensions: the community sacrifices the totemic animal which was considered to be the divine representation and ‘parent’ of the community and feasts communally with its body believing that this action will “grand them power from the spring”. This was the base of the Freudist’s concept “for the primordial father’s murder” as the religion’s initial established act.

In the historical era of the great civilizations sacrifice kept its early characteristics, however now was connected with powerful priesthoods and organize political structure. The retreat of the sacrificial custom, materialism, towards the spiritual offering was ignited in the early years of the first millennium a.d. with the Zoroastrian teaching and the religious practice. At the same period the Buddish doctrine teaches the sacrifice’s discard and offers the asceticism.

The Jewish religious praxis was based on the sacrifice as the neighbor Semitic religions. However an alteration occurred gradually by the early ninth century and ended with the distraction of the second Jerusalem’s temple.

View it in Greek here.

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Following the initial post on the meaning of Hero in the concept of the Hellenic religion, by Professor Gregory Nagy, the below post will discuss in brief the theological and archaeological meaning of Herakles. The commentary is based on the previous post on the concept of Hero, the “Herakles as Hero and the Story of Herakles in the Iliad” by Professor Nagy and the article “Herakles: from the prehistoric hunter to the Pan-Hellenic savior” by Demetrios Garouphalis and Stauroula Masouridis in Corpus periodical (2004: 28-41).

We can start by referencing Professor Nagy’s three basic characteristics of a Hero. The Hero “is extreme, in both good and bad ways;” as well as “un-seasonal;” and finally, “has a ritually antagonistic relationship with the god or goddess most like him/her.” Indeed, we can argue that all the three characteristics are part of Herakles’ self. He is ‘extreme’ and ‘wild’. He was the one Who slaying His wife, Megara, and His children. That was the reason of the start of His labors – Apollo’s suggestion for His miasma redemption.

Herakles is ‘extreme’ because is a divine persona of the prehistoric past. He is the hunter of beasts / monsters and then, after a cultural alteration the domesticator of wild animals. An example can be the capture of the wild Cretan Bull, which the later story argues that Herkales had to return it back to King Eurystheus. However as Garouphalis and Masouridis (2004) argues, there is another, an earlier version of the myth, in which our Hero slain the Bull. Slaying a powerful bull, a ‘wild animal’, and the tender of its body in the community is obviously a hunting custom. A custom existed in the very early communities of men.

When the community stopped to be seasonal – pre-Historic hunters’ economy uses hunting camps and base camps in combination of seasons of occupation – and stopped to hunt and gather resources, hunters became settled family men. Herakles a family man, a man living in the community without extremities has to be transformed into the primordial hunter. The labors present the purity of wildness and metaphysical magical power of the pre-historic hunter. And as the pre-historic hunters had to be initiated in the ‘magical art’ of hunting by externalize their menace, thus, Herakles had to start like that.

Thus in the later version of His life – during the classical era – Hercules became un-seasonal, but it was not like that before. Professor Nagy points out that “Herakles is unseasonal is seen in his name and life story [we must add here ‘later’ story]. The ancient Greek word for natural time, natural life, natural life-cycle, was hôra. Other definitions: 'season, seasonality; time; timeliness'. (The English word hour is derived from Greek hôra.)” He continues by explaining that, “[t]he goddess of hôra (plural hôrai) was Hêra (the two forms hôra and Hêra are related to each other). She was the goddess of seasons, in charge of making everything happen on time, happen in season, happen in a timely way, etc. Herakles = Hêraklês 'he who has the kleos of Hêra'.” But Who was Herakles – what was His name – before He was re-born as “kleos of Hera”?

In the Mycenaean and Minoan religion and pantheon except of the Great Goddess known as ποτνίας θηρῶν we witness the Young God or the Infant God. He was in the Minoan religion, the companion of the Great Goddess – the concept of the divine great mature female, the everlasting, and the youthful immature male, the deceased and reborn, can be meet in Aphrodite and Adonis, in Demeter and Iaseon (S. Aleksiou, The Minoan Civilization, 19??, 80, 83). The Young God is the πότνιος θηρῶν – potnios theron – the ‘lord of the beasts’ according Nilsson (1968, 357, fig. 168, see here for full referent work) in both the Mycenaean and Minoan religious culture. We can see the connection in between the iconography of Herakles’ labor of the Nemean Lion and the Minoan seals of potnios theron. For instance the depiction of Herakles’ strife with the Nemean Lion in the amphorae in Philadelphia Museum (see top left picture) and the figures of the potnios theron on the seals (see near right picture) at the National Archaeological Museums from Kudonia of Crete. In the first case Herakles hold the Lion from the neck. At the same concept the potnios theron holds the ‘beasts’ from their necks.

Therefore we can agree with Nilsson when in his eminent work The Mycenaean Origin of the Greek Mythology stated that “Mycenaean art corresponds so well to the exploits of Heracles that this coincidence strongly corroborates their Mycenaean origin.” (1932: 218) And as a result we must accept the connection and / or relation of the ‘later’ Herakles with the ‘earlier’ potnios theron as well as Their bond with the primordial hunter and his metaphysical – magical powers against the beasts in favour of the community. Thus, in each cultural period, the myth of Herakles altered. He started as a hunter / collector – a seasonal super-human being, protector of the community, the “averter of evil” (λεξκακος) – and then the un-seasonal hero who defies the divine rule and elevates the human self-power (ήρως θεός).

Finally, the third characteristic stated by Professor Nagy can explain the attitude of the later heroes who basically illustrated the wish of the classical and later man to develop his / her self-strength. Herakles was the excellent example of self-strength. He did all of his labors by Him-self. His relationship with Hera, however, is not a relationship of antagonism and / or hate as is broadly accepted. Hera and Herakles are acting together throughout the Hellenic mythological and religious structure. If Hera can be the Minoan-Mycenaean Mother-Goddess then She must have a young male companion. Zeus was not Her companion in religious and / or social principles but Herakles was the one caries Her name as the ancient Greek male receives the name of his mother. As Garouphalis and Masouridis points out, Herakles’ life “is an ierogamia [in between Him and Hera], a relationship which was reversed at the historical era with Zeus’ dominant role in a concept of gradual contrast in between the matriarchic Goddess and the patriarchic God” (2004: 41).

Heracles has a limited relation with the meaning of hero in the Homeric notion, as Walter Burkert stated (1979). He is not a localized hero because does not have a tomb, because as Nilsson articulates “the myth told that he vanquished Death.” (1932: 193)

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In.gr the eminent Greek News Forum designated a small endeavor to present in ancient Greek language the latest Greek news (we must also underline the existence of the most successful Acropolis World News). The programming and the actual leadership of the program is held by Mr. Nikos Vasilakos.

The mission statement states as follows:

Προσπάθεια ἀποδόσεως τῶν νεοελληνικῶν πραγμάτων ἀρχαιοελληνικῷ τῷ τρόπῳ τὲ καὶ τῇ φωνῇ.
οἱ ἀναγινώσκοντες σοφώτεροι γένοιντο...

You can also find available the numbering system, the months, and how you count in ancient Greek and more…

Enjoy reading in ancient Greek!

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