Brauron

Athena’s Children Boarding School for Girls

In Brauron the shape of the sanctuary is roughly the same as that of the Acropolis, however it is facing south. At this point we should mention that Pausanias does not make the distinction between Tauropolos Artemis (Loutsa) and Brauronia Artemis (Brauron), even though the shrines are 7 kilometers from each other. The ritual of the sacrifice of Iphigenia was held at the first temple, while Iphigenia withdrew to the second temple, where she remained as a priestess until her death; namely the two temples completed each others logic.
According to the myth, Agamemnon caused the wrath of Artemis and the fleet could not sail from Aulis; so he had to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia. As soon as the seer Calchas was ready to sacrifice the girl, Artemis took pity on her and replaced her with a deer. So the goddess took Iphigenia and made her a priestess in the temple of Tauris (Crimea).

The procession of the major Brauronia started at the Shrine of the Acropolis and ended in Brauron, covering a distance of 35 kilometers. This course was slow (2km/h), because basically it was a woman holiday and many of the women were possibly pregnant. Consequently it would take at least two days to cover the distance, with a possible stop in Pallini; it is the location of Pallinida Athena, where the worship of the goddess began (Gerakas). On the second day arriving in the temple at dusk, they used to camp outside the site of the temple. It is very unlikely that they covered this distance by ascending mount Hymettus.
This site is essentially a boarding house, the dimensions of which were proportionate to those of a child, for little girls of 5-10 years old, whose parents had dedicated them to the goddess before or during childbirth. These girls, “bear cubs” as they were called (what a sweet name indeed; after all even to this day little children still sleep with their teddy bears), stayed in the sanctuary, in nine rooms of eleven people, with the dimensions of roughly 5X5, therefore 25 square meters, which is a large room of the modern average residence. So therefore the Sanctuary had the capacity to house 99 girls.

image XIII

So the sanctuary covered a surface of 4.000 square meters, which means that there was a ratio of 40-50 square meters per child, while today in the best case scenario this ratio is 16,5 square meters per child. These rooms had a south-eastern orientation and, for reasons of protection, faced a courtyard. So the harmful northern wind was blocked by a wall, so that the site could be accessed from the east and west. The use of double protection from the north wind for this place, together with the blind wall of the rooms, is a very clever architectural solution. So the children were protected by the building and stayed there until their first menstruation, where they logically learned about the female natural troubles. There were similar shrines throughout Attica with the same rituals as that of Brauron. Today of course there is no similar building in the world.
There are plenty of statuettes of girls exhibited in the museum of Brauron, like the one holding a rabbit, through which anyone can perceive the tender education and the supervision which must have been provided by the Athenian state.
Suffice it to see their smiling faces with the Attic smile, dressed in double layered warm clothes, in the measurements of a child, where the posture of good nutrition can be seen. When there is such attendance in the shrine, like that of Brauron, from Athenian mothers visiting their children, the artist has no other choice but to precisely depict the reality of the operation of the shrine, something that is evident in his statuettes.
Before we proceed in our research, we should consider through the worship the issue of gender equality in relation to Christianity. In Christianity, the Virgin Mary comes in third, after the Father and the Son and as the God-Mother is projected with “virginity” being her basic virtue. So there is a patriarchy and the worship seems to be male dominated. In the Olympian Pantheon the roles seem to be divided; six male and six female roles. Even the chthonic gods are divided based on the Sextet which, according to the Pythagoreans, indicates “Harmony“. Furthermore Hera, the protector of family, was not in an advantageous position in relation to Aphrodite, the goddess of Love, who was not inferior to the virgin Pallas Athena or the virgin Artemis. Furthermore, Hera was not inferior to Zeus and acted independently like all gods. Zeus simply tried to maintain some balance in various ways while he often had to face conspiracies.

The climate conditions of Greece, its geographical relief map, but also its position in the marine area of the Mediterranean Sea, do not favor the development of gods like, for example, those of Egypt or the Arabic Peninsula, where the climate conditions are inhospitable and there are vast expanses, deserts, large populations or vast states.

Brauron is located slightly below the 38th parallel and directly opposite Ephesus, where the famous temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world torched by Herostratus, was located. Alexander was willing to fund the completion of the new temple, as long as his name was inscribed on the building. The answer he received however, was that it is not fitting for a god to present gifts to other gods.
The temple of Ephesus turns towards the cradle of the Ionians, Tetrapolis which was founded by their primal ancestor Xanthus. The temple of Artemis in Brauron (image XIII) then turns to the east, towards the temple of Ephesus. And that is the typical example of the connection of sacred sites. Namely the direction of the temples was not arbitrary, because architecture is a science where everything is justified; even the aesthetic side. The Sanctuary of Iphigenia as it is natural faces the temple of Artemis. Furthermore, behind the Sanctuary of Iphigenia was her tomb. So the Sanctuary of Iphigenia as a chthonic goddess has a western orientation and that of Artemis as a celestial goddess, an eastern one. (The temples of the Ancients project their opening while the Christian temples project the Shrine.)
Artemis is basically a nature goddess, that is why the sanctuary was built near the river Erasinus, which always flooded after the rain and is an important wetland rich in vegetation. The floor of the temple of Artemis is in its natural state, with the rocks entering the site. This archaeological site is among those destroyed by the Persians. Moreover the idol of Artemis brought by Orestes from Tauris was taken by Xerxes to Susa. 180 years later it was found by Seleucus and sent to Laodicea of Syria, where it still existed during the days of Pausanias, in the 2nd century A.D.
Brauron was also one of the twelve prehistoric towns which united during the years of Cecrops with the City of Athens. Cecrops was one of the mythical kings of Attica, which was named Cecropia after him, while initially it was called Acte.

Delos

East Gate of the Gods

Delos is located in the middle of an island complex whose colonists are basically Ionian, who at least since 700 B.C. organized common celebrations in Delos.
When it became famous as a religious center, it was claimed by many cities like Naxos and Paros, but it was the Athenians who took it under their protection circa in 540 B.C. removing all of the graves from the island.
In 426 B.C. it was forbidden to the Delians to die on the island.

images XIV-XV-XVI

In the 6th century B.C., with the final conquest of Eleusis, what was a religious theory started to be materialized with the removal of the graves from the island to the nearby island Rineia (image XIV); namely the creation of Life (Delos) in the east and Death (Necromanteion) in the west. Moreover during the Delian celebrations, the executions in Athens were postponed, as in the case of Socrates.
Births on the island were also forbidden; so the Delians lost their citizenship with the consent of the Spartans, who replied to the Delians, when they asked for their help, that Delos was not their homeland, since they could not die or be born there. Namely the island had to remain pure like Apollo (Sun).

If there was no reason for the alignment of the three sacred sites (Delos, Delphi and Necromanteion), they would logically have to be placed in different positions within Greece. Namely Delos does not correspond with a god of Rebirth like Apollo, who should have been born in a cave and in an area with rich vegetation, like the Minoan Zeus. Delos is a barren, water-less island, without any natural ports.

In fact the only cave in mount Kynthos (112,6 meters) is linked to a sanctuary of Heracles of the 3rd century B.C. (image XV). If it was not about a religious issue, the Delians would have been able to live on their island and practice religion like the residents of Eleusis. Finally there would be some kind of reaction from the other tribes, so there also must have existed a decision by the priesthood of Delphi, for the Athenians to undertake such an expensive project, but also of great strategical importance.
In 1100 B.C. when the Priesthood of Apollo took over the shrine of the chthonic gods in Delphi, the myth about the birth of the god naturally did not exist, which was to be desperately sought after by the clergy on the axis Necromateion – Delphi. However at a certain point in time the myth of the birth of Apollo was completed and Delos appeared as the birthplace of the god. On the other hand, the Odyssey and the Homeric hymn to Apollo, mention in circa 700 B.C. Delos as an Ionian center, where the Naxians had placed an Apollo of huge size. Therefore during this period there was great pressure by the clergy for the completion of the cult in accordance with the myth.
So in 540 B.C., the clergy of Delphi authorized Peisistartus to begin purging the island, removing the graves which were moved to the nearby island of Rineia. However what followed was the fall of tyranny and the Persian Wars, where the Persians respected Apollo and his island. In 478 B.C. Delos became a religious center under the supervision of Athens. So in 426 B.C. the second and more complete purging of the island from the graves took place and the religious Orphic template of worship was completed.
So then when we recall the chapters on Delphi and the Necromanteion and link them to the events of Delos, we will observe a uniform religious logic, according to the Orphic standard, where, despite the political disputes of the city-states, the religious program of Delphi continues to exist and to be structured with the Clergy serving as the connective tissue.

The barren island of Delos on its long side has an orientation from north to south. It is 5 km long and 1,3 km wide. Its highest point is Kynthos (112 m.) which was also the sacred mountain of the Delians in earlier times (image XV).
We already mentioned about Delos that Zeus, for the sake of the mother of Apollo, Leto, who found sanctuary there, fixed it forever on four pillars, and renamed it from Ortygia to Delos. The main sacred site of the god is found on the western side of the island, because it is from the west that its connection with Delphi and the Necromanteion can be achieved. Athens organized the “Delia” there every four years, during the month Mounichion (April-May), when the zodiac of Taurus appeared in the sky (image 5), which was associated with the constellation of Auriga, which was associated with the mythological Erichthonius or Erechtheus, the son of Polias Athena and Hephaestus. But also Taurus (Bull) symbolized Theseus who captured the bull of Marathon and sacrificed it in the temple of Apollo in Athens.

It was the time when Leto started having childbirth pains, which lasted for nine days and nine nights. All of the goddesses came to her aid, except for Hera and Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, who was prevented from doing so by the jealous Hera. Finally Iris convinced her by giving her some gift and thus Leto gave birth near the sacred lake (image XVI). Alongside Apollo she also brought Artemis into the world. In the end these two gods started having the advantage in the Greek Pantheon. They are a combination of Nature (Artemis) and its Rebirth (Apollo). That is why this festival was held during the time when even this barren land is changed by nature with wild flowers and low vegetation. For this reason Leto gives birth to her children near a circular lake, which is fueled by the gully Inopus, which springs from mount Kynthos, which became the mountain of Zeus, and after it flows fro 1.200 meters and fills the sacred lake, it spills to the bay of Scardana nearby.

She hugged the palm tree (Leto)
and supported the knees
on the tender meadow and the earth
bellow smiled
and as He (Apollo) came into the light, all
as one the goddesses cheered.

In all of the archaeological sites we visited the scenes exceed the human imagination. The Ancients had the ability to transform even barren wastelands like Delos, into an unsurpassed theatrical show.
The character of Delos, pretty much like that of Dion, is cosmopolitan, because alongside the sanctuaries of the Greeks, foreign religions started entering the island, by Egyptians, Phoenicians, Arabs, Jews, and even Samaritans. After all the Greeks as a commercial people could combine worship with trade without any problems. So, pretty much like in the case of Dion, as early as 166 B.C., districts of diverse racial origin started to form, without an urban design, contrary to Dion, due to the sudden commercial upgrade of the island, which in circa 90 B.C. had 30.000 inhabitants.

According then to everything we mentioned, Delos was the commercial, but also the religious gate of Greece. Further along the same axis (image XVIII), in Rhodes, there was the famous temple of the Sun, where Apollo started his route from on a quadriga. The gate of the gods was on this side, since the souls ascended after the death of the body, following the upwards path of the Sun, in correlation with the gate of mortals we mentioned in the Necromanteion, where the souls descend to be reincarnated, following the downward path of the Sun. So Delos was a “component” of an entire religious and commercial logic; it was through this gate that the export and import of new gods was carried out headed for the philosophical Athens, where the new ideas were being processed. The Church Fathers, like Basil of Caesarea (330-379 A.D.) will study in these schools to enrich their knowledge which will be used in the new worship of Christ.

City of Light

ROUTE INFORMATION – T.B.D. : Spring 2019

Central Greece

Historic Landmarks

  • Dion
  • Delphi
  • Brauron
  • Delos

4/5 Culture Shock

Total Length 1050 km

7 Riding Days

Intermediate Skills Level

45% Offroad

Hotels and (1) Camping

National Forest of TBD

Middle May – Middle October

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Dion

Religious Center of Macedonia

Religious Center of Macedonia

Wandering over Pineios, the brother river of Acheloous, we beheld Larissa, a prehistoric town, the founder of which, according to some myth, was Larissus, the son of Pelasgus. Its first king was Aleuas, the ancestor of the Aleuadae. In the Persian Wars they followed Xerxes, but in the Peloponnesian Wars they sided with the Athenians.
Alexander had with him 1.500 Thessalian horsemen, whose reputation as battle worthy was well established and rivaled the Macedonian cavalry; their leader was Calas, son of Harpalus.
Pelasgus from Peloponnese conquered Thessaly, which was at the time called Haemonia, together with his brothers Achaeus and Phthius, driving away its savage inhabitants. Thus Achaia, Phthiotis and Pelasgiotis were formed. This entire region of Thessaly, was in prehistoric times a lake, around which the Centaurs lived.

After a short while, I would be flying over the land of the Achaeans, which was formerly called Phthia and was the land of Achilles. His father Peleus was king in the city of Phthia of Thessaly and was descended from the lineage of Zeus, while his mother was the goddess Thetis, daughter of Oceanus. Thetis, out of respect for Hera who had raised her, had denied the advances of Zeus. So the god was pressuring her to marry Peleus. Thetis, in her attempt to escape, consecutively transformed into fire, water, wind, a tree, a bird, a tiger, a lion, a snake and finally into a squid, but Peleus following the advise of the Centaur Chiron, managed to make her his wife.
Achilles, this young lad of the Achaeans, fell dead, struck by the arrow of Paris of Troy, with the help of the god Apollo who guided the arrow to his vulnerable spot, his heel. Alexander had offered sacrifices at the tomb of the hero and took with him the shield of Achilles, who was his ancestor from his mother’s side Olympiad, before he embarked on his great campaign.

We passed swiftly over mount Orthys and after a while we could see the town of Lamia, named after Lamos, the son of Heracles and Omphale. It was the land of the malians, in the Malian gulf, where Ceyx the son of Eosphorus a friend and relative of Heracles was king, who also helped the hero drive away the Dryopes, who resided in mount Oeta and mount Parnassus, pillaging the neighbouring areas.

On the left we could see the land of the Locres, where the battle of Thermopylae took place in 490 B.C., in a narrow passage between the mountain and the sea near Anthele, where the representatives of the 12 tribes of the Delphic Amphictyony convened in the spring (here).
The Dryopes, whose name derives from the word “Drys” (Δρύς=Oak in Greek), were, as it seems, the first inhabitants of the Greek Peninsula. Dryops, their hero, was the son of the river god Spercheus, brother of Achelous and Peneus, who directed his waters into the Malian gulf. Spercheus was also the father of the Nymphs of mount Orthys. The father of Achilles, dedicated his son’s hair to this river, so that his son would return safe from Troy. The mother of Dryops, was the daughter of Danaus, Polydora. The land of the Dryopes was taken over by the Dorians and the Heracleidae, and thus it was renamed to Doris, after their hero Dorus, the son of Hellen, brother of Aeolus and grandson of Deucalion and Pyrrha.
Shortly we would be arriving in Parnassus. We would stop at Delphi, as guests of Dionysus, and then head to Delos, following the instructions of the Olympian Zeus.

Mythological Park

From Mythology to History

From Mythology to History

Roaming around at Delphi we observed this strange world of the Greeks, where one tribe dedicated votive offerings (oblation) for its victory against the other, without any problem; an offering of the Arcadians for the victory and plunder of Lacedaemon with Epaminondas in 369 B.C.; an oblation of the Lacedaemonians for their victory at Aegospotamoi in 404 B.C. and the destruction of the Athenian fleet; a bronze horse of the inhabitants of Argos for their successful invasion of Lacedaemon in 414 B.C.; opposite the Athenian Treasury for the battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., the treasury of Syracuse for their victory over the Athenians in 413 B.C.
One can go mad roaming the votive offerings of Delphi, because through them, each tribe saw its victory, but also its failure. Joy and sorrow at the same time. So I wandered if there is another people in modern day, or if there will ever be one in the future, which will accept its failures next to its successes, raising statues in both cases. The point is that this way one becomes wise through experience, so no tribe destroyed the oblations of the other tribes.

Delphi

Administrative and Religious Center of Greece

Administrative and Religious Center of Greece

We would now continue our journey to Delos. We passed again from mount Helicon and entered Boeotia. The primeval and antediluvian land, where the Ectenes of Ogygia (Boeotia). Ogyges was a native king, the son of Poseidon and Alistra; the deluge which covered Boeotia happened during his reign. On the left, in a distance of a few kilometers from our route, I was amazed to see towns like Mideia (Livadeia), with the terrible oracle of Trophonios which was consulted even by Croesus, with the fountains of Oblivion and Remembrance, just like the Necromanteion. The oracle also cured psychological illnesses by using sudden psychological breakdowns. The Minyan Orchomenus with its eponymous hero, who had three daughters, Leucippe, Arsippe and Alcithoe, who were punished by Dionysus because they neglected to partake in his celebration. Leuctra (Battle of Leuctra) where the Thebeans defeated the undefeated Spartan army. Further to the back Chaeronea, where Philip II with his son Alexander defeated the allied Greek forces in 338 B.C.; the men of the Sacred Band of Thebes fell in this battle. Thebes of Cadmus, a town built since the bronze age, the scene of countless myths and tragedies of Aeschylus (“seven Against Thebes”), of Sophocles (“Oedipus the King”) and Euripides (“The Phoenician Women”), which out of hatred for the Athenians allied with the Persians and was defeated in the Battle of Plataea in 479 B.C.. Later it was destroyed by Alexander in 336 B.C., slaughtering 6.000 of its inhabitants.
Many memories are on this part of the route, some to be happy and some to be sad about. But there, on our right lies the city of Megara with the many colonies, Megara Hyblaea in 730 B.C. and Selinunte in Sicily in 628 B.C. Astacos in 722 B.C. Selymbria in 716 B.C. Chalcedon in 684 B.C. Byzantium in 660 B.C. and Heraclea of Bosphorus in 550 B.C.. The Megarians were forced to migrate because their territory was diminishing by the Athenians, who took Salamis and Eleusis from them, and the Corinthians who grabbed the area of Geraneia, cutting down their state by one third. A land in the narrows between Attica and Peloponnese, which became the theater of conflict between Sparta and Athens, between the Dorian and Ionian tribes, during the Peloponnesian Wars (431-404 B.C.)
But there, we entered Attica, near the town of Eleutherae, where from the worship of Dionysus comes to Athens. From the smell of the sacrifices we understood that we were nearing Eleusis.

Acropolis of Athens

Route in Spacetime

Route in Spacetime

Seeing the Parthenon I remembered that Alexander had sent 300 armors there after Granicus with the inscription “Alexander of Philip and the Greeks, minus the Lacedaemonians, from Asia inhabited by barbarians”. The issue however still troubles me, who was his father Philip or Zeus? Leaving the Acropolis we pass by the Theater of Dionysus, The Auditorium of Pericles, the Olympion (Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens) where the tomb of Deucalion was located, exiting from the gate of Aegeas, over the river Ilissos rich in water which had its springs in mount Hymettus. On its banks the shrine of the Muses was erected, the fountain Callirhoe, the shrine of Demeter where the minor Mysteries of Eleusis were held. There, the platanus of Socrates. At this place they worshiped Pan, Achelous, Heracles and the wind Boreas, who from this place abducted Orithyia, one of the daughters of Erechteus and took her to Thrace, where he resides.
Athens, what a city, which 9.000 years ago fought off the invading Atlanteans, as Plato would say, who was now in Hades since 347 B.C. A strange city with thousands of philosophers and many schools. All of them are there in the Agora; the Sophists, Cynics, Megarian philosophers, Pythagoreans and the Physiologists. It is very difficult to mention them all, with their many differences, seeking the Truth.
What are we” and “where do we go” was their unsolved problem, which only they thought of, while the “barbarians” led a life without much thought. Thus Zeus was laughing at their problems. He kept murmuring, “look at what man is capable of thinking” and kept saying again and again “this is not good, because I foresee that in some distant future, they might abolish me, like I did to my father Cronus, and he to his father Uranus“. Because he remembered the conspiracy of his wife Hera. I often heard him say “these Greeks are restless, even after the deluge they remain the same“.
What problems do the gods face, I was thinking. But there, we were riding over mount Hymettus, on the right of its peak of 1.025 meters, where there was the statue of Zeus Hymettus and the altar of Rain Zeus, together with his son Foreseeing Apollo, he who predicted the rain so much needed by the Basin of Attica. On the left, in a distance of 6 kilometers we could see the temple of Braubronia Artemis.

Brauron

Athena’s Children Boarding School for Girls

Athena’s Children Boarding School for Girls

In the morning we start our journey for Delos. As soon as we are in open sea, on our right we see the island of Keos (Kea), named after the mythological hero Keos, where the Carians, Pelasgians and Leleges had first settled. The Carians are an antediluvian people of Attica of pelasgian descent, Car was the son of Phoroneus who decided in favor of Hera in her dispute with Poseidon over the Peloponnese. The Pelasgians are an antediluvian people of Arcadia; their primogenitor was Pelasgus, the father of Lycaon who succeeded his father while his mother was the Oceanide Meliboea. The Leleges were an antediluvian people of Laconia, with Lelex being their first king succeeded by his son Myles.

Kea in historic times was inhabited by Ionians who are a prehistoric people of Attica and Northern Peloponnese. Ion was the son of Xuthus and the daughter of Erechteus Creusa and descended from the line of Deucalion. The brother of Xuthus was Dorus. So they are populations emerging after the deluge.

After a while we was passing by a barren island (Gyaros), which as Hermes used to tell us, someday after many years, would be turned into a prison for political prisoners. We soon remembered that this did not exist in Athens, because they exiled politicians by “ostracism”, or forces them to die like Socrates. After Gyaros, on the left, we noticed the island of Andros or Andreus, son of Eurymachus, one of the suitors of Penelope who was killed by Odysseus, when he returned to the island disguised as a beggar. Others say that Andreus was the son of Anius, who himself was also a son of Apollo and ruled over Delos during the time of the Trojan War. The mother of Anius was Rhoeo (Pomegranate), who descended from Dionysus, through her father Staphylus. The Carians, whom we mentioned earlier were the first inhabitants of the island, followed by the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Creatans, Pelasgians and the Ionians. In 480 B.C. it sided with the Persians, while in the Peloponnesian War it allied with Sparta.

Before we reached Delos, we found ourselves between two islands, Syros on the right, which was initially inhabited by the Phoenicians and later the Ionians and was part of the first Athenian League. While on the left was Ophiusa (Tinos), with the many snakes and the famous temple of Poseidon and his wife Amphitrete, who is the queen of the sea, a daughter of Doris, one of the daughters of Oceanus and Nereus, who had the ability of transformation. The Nereids (sea waves) come from him (Nereus). Ophiusa was also an ally of Athens.
As we were reaching Delos, we noticed on the left behind the island of Apollo, the island Mykonos, named after the son of Anius. Its last inhabitants were the Ionians, led there by Hippocles, the son of Neleus and father of Phorbius.

Delos

East Gate of the Gods (Life)