Is This the Worst Greek God / Goddess? | Evil Greek Goddess

When looking for the evilest ancient Greek god or goddess, usually three come to mind: Pluton/Hades, Pan, and Hecate. But what if I told you that there is another divine being that shares more characteristics with the devil, than the previous three.

Learn Greek Online with Helinika

Why Pluton, Pan, and Hecate are not the Worst

Pluton was the brother of Zeus, Hera, and Poseidon. He was the most unfortunate one because he ended up being offered the underworld as his kingdom, when the rest resided in Mount Olympus. However, Pluton willingly agreed to take care of Hades, the ancient Greek kingdom of the dead, and all the chthonic deities that resided there.

Hades is often described as the ancient Greek version of hell since it is located under the ground. But Hades was both heaven and hell. And Pluton had both positive and negative traits. He had abducted his niece, Persephone, but Zeus and other Olympian gods had committed similar acts. He was feared because he was associated with death, but he was not considered evil.

Pan and Hecate were two chthonic deities; they also resided under the surface of the Earth. Hecate is associated with witchcraft and magic and got a bad reputation in late antiquity and Medieval times. But she wasn’t necessarily an evil goddess. She was actually the only Titan who was liked and respected by the Olympians and she was the only one who felt bad for Demeter and helped her find her daughter, Persephone.

Pan on the other hand is not only a chthonic deity but he also has some physical similarities to the devil. He is half-man, half-goat. He is a trickster but, in certain circumstances, he can instill fear to people. For example, when Greeks and Persians were fighting in the battle of Marathon, Pan exited a cave and started yelling and making horrifying sounds. He caused panic to the Persians – and now you know where the word pan-ic comes from. But he was never considered an evil god.

There is in fact another deity from ancient Greek mythology who is the most diabolical of them all.

Eris: The Evilest Greek Goddess

The devil is the personification of evil. In Greek, the term «διάβολος» derives from the Greek verb «διαβάλω» (to slander). It represents all negative feelings but primarily jealousy and power-seeking by creating division. Just like the serpent that offered the apple to Eve in the creation myth. The snake slandered God and instilled the idea of rebellion to the first humans. It created division.

By looking at ancient Greek myths and specifically at the Homeric hymns, we can easily detect a goddess who, not only created division motivated by jealousy, but also did this by offering… an apple. And the result was a violent war that we call the Trojan War.

“Strife whose wrath is relentless, she is the sister and companion of murderous Ares, she who is only a little thing at the first, but thereafter grows until she strides on the earth with her head striking heaven. She then hurled down bitterness equally between both sides as she walked through the onslaught making men’s pain heavier.”, Homer says about Eris.

“Potter is angry with potter, craftsman with craftsman, and beggar is jealous of beggar (…)”, writes Hesiod in Works and Days.

Eris (Έριδα) is the Greek goddess of strife and discord. Contrary to Pan, Hades, and Hecate, Eris had no temples in ancient Greece. It is safe to say that she was the least liked deity. She is also thought to have inspired countless evil characters in fairytales, including Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. She even inspired a parody religion in the 1950s called “Discordianism”.

According to some sources, she was the daughter of the Night and she also gave birth to many children – including Ponos (pain), Loimos (death by pestilence), and Fonos (Murder). She is supposedly behind every fight, divorce, and problems that result from jealousy. But she is mostly well-known for the “apple of discord myth”.

Once upon a time, the mortal king named Peleus and the sea nymph Thetis got married on the mountain range of Pelion. All gods and goddesses were invited to the reception to celebrate the union of a mortal with deity. All except one: Eris. It was deemed inappropriate to invite the goddess of discord in the celebration of a marital union.

But Eris found a way to bring chaos from a distance. The ancient Greek goddess approached the wedding party holding a golden apple. She had inscribed on the apple the phrase: “to the fairest of them all”. Once she saw a group of goddesses, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, chatting with each other, she tossed the apple towards them and left.

What ensued was a vanity-fueled dispute among the goddesses, who asked for the help of a beautiful mortal man, Paris. They asked Paris to give his honest opinion but, they then proceeded to offer him different prices in return. Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love and probably the objective winner of the prize, offered Paris the only thing he was missing: a partner to stand by his side. Aphrodite ensured him that he will marry the “most beautiful woman in the world” who was no other than Helen, queen of Sparta. She won and a new war soon began.

If you enjoyed watching this video feel free to like and subscribe. Starting next week, videos will be posted every Tuesday and Thursday. Videos on the Greek language on Tuesdays and videos on the Greek history and culture on Thursdays. The videos will be available on demand, so you can watch them anytime.

Learn Greek Online with Helinika

Greek Superstitions, Old Wives’ Tales, and Urban Legends | Greek Beliefs

Superstitions, old wives’ tales, and urban legends exist all around the world. Although the people who admit believing in some of them are often ridiculed, we all subconsciously follow some “unwritten rules” that do not necessarily have a rational background. According to Forbes and Psychology Today, superstitions and magical thinking are hardwired to our brain and are essential for our survival.

Here are some of the most common beliefs from (Modern) Greece that are not directly connected to the official Christian Orthodox traditions. The video includes Greek superstitions, old wives’ tales, and urban legends. You will learn more about the vaskania (evil eye) and stories such as the sacrifice to the bridge of Arta.

Learn Greek Online with Helinika

Greek Superstitions

Superstitions are called “δεισιδαιμονίες” in Greek. Here are some of the superstitions many Greek people still believe:

  1. Mati/Vaskania (Evil Eye)
  2. Touch Red
  3. Gifting Perfume
  4. Itchy Palms
  5. Knock on Wood
  6. Sneezing and Hiccups
  7. Owl on the Roof

Greek Old Wives’ Tales

Greek old wives’ tales usually revolve around health issues, pregnancy, and motherhood. Here are a few old wives’ tales from Greece:

  1. Getting a Cold from Being Cold
  2. Sleeping with Wet Hair
  3. Shape of the Baby Bum
  4. Using Garlic and Onions Topically
  5. Dreaming of the Groom

Greek Urban Legends

Greek urban legends differ, depending on whether they originate from villages, small town, or big cities. In general, urban legends in villages revolve around spirits and hauntings. In bigger cities, urban legends differ:

  1. The Dead Hitchhiker
  2. Haunted Locations
  3. The Stone Bridge of Arta
  4. Neraides
  5. White Vans
  6. Yello, Mormo, Lamia, and Other Boogy(wo)men
  7. Vampire Islands

You can watch the video and learn the details regarding these superstitions. If you are new here, feel free to explore the rest of Helinika’s pages.

Learn Greek Online with Helinika

Greek Input #1: Greek Easter Vocabulary | Comprehensive Input

Welcome to Helinika’s Greek language input series for understanding Greek in a natural way. The input method will improve your comprehension and expand your vocabulary. It is the way babies start learning how to speak. For this reason, we will be using slow Greek audio with images only.

Remember that this method is not enough for improving your grammar skills and syntax; it is recommended to find other resources at helinika.com and use them in combination with the input series.

Learn Greek Online with Helinika

Greek Easter Vocabulary | Λεξιλόγιο για το Ελληνικό Πάσχα

Το Πάσχα είναι μια θρησκευτική γιορτή. Η γιορτή της Ανάστασης. Το ελληνικό Πάσχα διαφέρει από το Καθολικό Πάσχα. Στην Ελλάδα ακολουθούμε την παράδοση της Ορθόδοξης Εκκλησίας. Επίσης το Πάσχα είναι μια κινητή γιορτή. Έχει διαφορετική ημερομηνία κάθε χρόνο.

 Το ελληνικό Πάσχα αρχίζει με την νηστεία. Νηστεία από το φαγητό, νηστεία και από την αμαρτία. Η νηστεία διαρκεί 40 ημέρες και 40 νύχτες. Το κρέας και τα ζωικά προϊόντα απαγορεύονται. Δεν συμμετέχουν όλοι στην νηστεία.

Η τελευταία εβδομάδα της νηστείας είναι η Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα. Η Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα είναι μια πένθιμη εβδομάδα. Τη Μεγάλη Παρασκευή τελείται η περιφορά του επιταφίου. Η περιφορά του επιταφίου είναι ένα θρησκευτικό έθιμο.

Το Μεγάλο Σάββατο, αργά το βράδυ, οι πιστοί προσέρχονται στην εκκλησία. Κρατούν λαμπάδες στα χέρια τους. Τα μεσάνυχτα, ανακοινώνεται η Ανάσταση του Ιησού. Οι πιστοί ανάβουν τις λαμπάδες τους με το Άγιο Φως.

«Χριστός Ανέστη», «Αληθώς Ανέστη».

Την Κυριακή του Πάσχα, φίλοι και συγγενείς συγκεντρώνονται στο σπίτι. Στο μπαλκόνι, στη βεράντα, ή στην αυλή. Την Κυριακή του Πάσχα οι Έλληνες σουβλίζουν αρνί και τσουγκρίζουν αβγά. Τα αβγά είναι βαμμένα κόκκινα.

Feel free to listen to this audio as many times as you want. See you on Wednesday with another video.

Learn Greek Online with Helinika

What Was the Byzantine Fire (Liquid Fire)? | Byzantium (Eastern Roman Empire)

One of the most mysterious and fascinating aspects of Greece’s Byzantine history, is the so-called “Greek Fire” or “Liquid Fire” (Ύγρόν Πυρ). Western Romans called it “ignis graecus” and it was no other than the powerful weapon that saved Constantinople multiple times from Arab and Rus invaders. The weapon was the most well-hidden secret of the Byzantine Empire.

Learn Greek Online with Helinika

What Was the “Greek Fire”?

As the name suggests, “Greek Fire” was an incendiary weapon – a highly flammable liquid consisting of secret ingredients. It was used to start fires and destroy the enemies’ vessels and equipment and for inflicting serious injuries; either by throwing it from above or by spraying it with a device that resembled a flamethrower. The latter was called “cheirosiphon” and, as the name suggests, could be held as a gun. It is also estimated that “Liquid Fire” was used in ceramic grenades as well.

What makes this weapon exceptional is that it was used in naval battles, since the liquid was reportedly water resistant. The ships that carried it were usually the “dromon” type. Other empires also used weapons that produced fire, but the Greek patent was considered the most powerful in Medieval times. It was especially feared by European Crusaders. At the same time, the weapon had its own shortcomings; it was hard pointing it to a specific target, especially when it was windy.

“Ignis graecus”, as it was called by the westerns, was mostly used for defense purposes. Due to its destructive powers, people feared it similarly to how people fear nuclear weapons today. Emperor Romanos II had insisted that the weapon should never fall “at the wrong hands”. It should be protected similarly to how Byzantine princesses and the imperial regalia are protected.

When Was “Greek Fire” Invented?

It is estimated that “Liquid Fire” was created around 672 AD by a Christian Greek architect and chemist named Kallinikos. Kallinikos had sought refuge in Constantinople, after escaping Syria some years earlier. Assyrians were reportedly using incendiary arrows since the 9th century BC but it is not clear whether he got the inspiration for the “Liquid Fire” from them.

Ancient Greeks were also reportedly using flammable substances to attack their enemies. Thucydides mentions that a long tube on wheels, which blew flames, was used in the siege of Delium in 424 BC. Other civilizations had also come up with their own flamethrowers.

Kallinikos, however, came up with a substance that was allegedly more powerful and destructive than anything they had seen before. It is worth mentioning though that the British chemist and historian JR Partington has a different theory for the invention of “Greek Fire”. According to him, several Byzantine chemists who had inherited the discoveries of the Alexandrian Chemical School, contributed to the weapon’s creation.

“Greek Fire’s” Secret Formula | Byzantine Secrets

The formula behind “Liquid Fire” was a guarded military secret. The secrecy surrounding the weapon hasn’t help historians discover its ingredients. Any formula you might have heard is based on speculations.

One theory says that the main ingredient was saltpeter. Other theories suggest that the fire resulted by the combination of water and quicklime. Modern historians suspect sulfur, alcohol, resins, naphtha, coal from a willow tree, animal fat, and other ingredients.

Do you know any other theories? You can leave a comment down below. If you are new here, feel free to subscribe and check the rest of my videos. In the description you will find many helpful links. See you again on Monday!

Learn Greek Online with Helinika

Greek Easter Traditions | How Greeks Celebrate Orthodox Easter (Pascha, Πάσχα)

Easter or Pascha is one of the most well-known religious celebrations and cultural holidays in the Christian world. It commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and it symbolizes the victory of life against death, light against darkness, good against evil. Easter can refer to a period of time, including a 40-day period of fasting, the Holy Week, and Easter Sunday. But the term usually refers solely to Easter Sunday.

Do Greeks Celebrate Easter? | Greek Orthodox Easter

The most prevalent religion in Greece is Orthodox Christianity. That makes Easter a very important religious celebration. Many people choose to spend this time in the countryside with their family members, partaking in most, if not all, religious and cultural traditions. Here is how Greeks celebrate Orthodox Easter (Πάσχα).

How is the Date of Greek Orthodox Easter Determined? | Greek Easter 2021

The Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday for 2021 is the 2nd of May (02.05.2021). That is almost a month after the Catholic Easter Sunday. Easter is a moveable feast, and it shifts dates on a yearly base.

Traditionally, the Christian Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon. But, since a different calendar is followed nowadays (the Gregorian Calendar), some extra days are added in the calculation; usually, 13 additional days. In general, Easter Sunday in Greece is celebrated between the 4th of April and the 8th of May.

How is Orthodox Easter Celebrated in Greece? | Greek Easter Traditions

The most important Greek Easter traditions include the “Sarakosti” (Σαρακοστή) – the 40-day fasting period-, the “Holy Week” – which is called “Great Week” in Greek (Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα)-, the “Anastasi” -the Resurrection Night-, and the feast of Easter Sunday (Κυριακή του Πάσχα).

The Sarakosti: the Great Lent or Great Fast period, which starts on Clean Monday (7th Monday before Easter Sunday) and lasts till the Anastasi (Resurrection Night). The people who partake in Sarakosti start by eliminating meat from their diets and eventually give up other animal products, alcohol, and oil. Participating in the liturgies is an important part of this 40-day period. Moreover, Orthodox Christians try to show strength against all temptations, such as lust, while battling with their negative emotions and dark side of their personalities. Just like Jesus Christ did for 40 days in the Judaean Desert.

The Holy Week: the last week of the Sarakosti is abundant of liturgies and religious traditions. Fasting intensifies and it is generally recommended to avoid playing music and laughing out loud. The week revolves around the Passion of Jesus and to his Crucifixion. The Great Thursday is dedicated to the Last Supper, the Great Friday to His Crucifixion, and the Great Saturday to His burial. On the Night of the Great Friday, the tradition of “Epitaphios” occurs. An embroidered icon of Jesus Christ before His burial is decorated with flowers and the chanters are chanting mournful hymns. What follows is the procession of the Epitaphios. The attendants follow the Epitaphios around the village/town/neighborhood, holding candles.

The Anastasi: on the night of Great Saturday, Christian Orthodox Greeks attend the Liturgy of the Resurrection of Christ (Vigilia Paschalis). Just before midnight, the priest calls the attendants to collect the light (Δεύτε Λάβετε Φως). Christian Orthodox believers then greet each other and embrace. The priest lights the candles of the attendants with the “Hagio Phos” (Holy Fire), which is brought to Greece and distributed to all churches from Jesus Christs’ tomb in Jerusalem. The fire symbolizes hope, and the exchange of fire symbolizes the Christian union. A non-religious but rather cultural tradition is to use fireworks to light up the sky. Also, many Greeks return home after the liturgy and eat the traditional “Magiritsa” (Easter Lamb Soup).

Easter Sunday: the Sunday after the Resurrection Night is the Easter Sunday. Greeks prefer spending this day outdoors. Barbequing with friends and family is quite typical on Easter Sunday (Kyriaki tou Pascha). Lamb, kokoretsi, and boiled eggs are always on the table. The eggshells are painted red. Activities such as egg hunting and meeting the “Easter Bunny” are not included in the Greek Easter traditions.   

Local Easter Traditions: every region in Greece has its own customs and traditions. In Corfu, there is the tradition of “Botides” that occurs on Great Saturday. Locals throw ceramic pitchers full of water from their balconies. In Chios island, there is the “rouketopolemos” that occurs on Resurrection Night in Vrontados town. The churches Agios Marcos and Erithiani fore rockets at each other. The church that hits the bell tower of the other church first, wins. In Kalamata, there is the controversial “Saitopolemos”. In Hydra island, the “Epitaphios” procession takes place in the sea. In Leonidio, they launch sky lanterns. In many parts of Greece, “Judas” is thrown in a public bonfire.

Greek Orthodox Easter Greetings | Easter Wishes in Greek

  • Καλό Πάσχα (Kalo Pascha) – can be translated as “Nice/Good Easter”; general greeting.
  • Καλή Ανάσταση (Kali Anastasi) – can be translated as “Nice/Good Resurrection”; used before the Resurrection.
  • Χριστός Ανέστη (Christos Anesti) – can be translated as “Christ was Resurrected”; used right after the Resurrection has been announced by the priest.
  • Αληθώς Ανέστη/ Αληθώς ο Κύριος (Alithos Anesti/ Alithos o Kyrios) – can be translated as “He has Truly Risen/ He has Truly (Risen) the Lord); the response to “Christos Anesti”.
  • Χρόνια Πολλά (Chronia Polla) – can be translated as “(May You Live) Many Years”; general greeting.

Learn Greek Online with Helinika

“I Understand Greek But Can’t Speak It” | How to Speak Greek with Confidence

A common phenomenon of language learning students is when they reach a point where they can comprehend others but can’t speak in their target language. Greek language students are no exception. In today’s bilingual video, you are provided with the reasons why this happens and how you can overcome this. Here is how to speak Greek with Confidence.

Learn Greek Online with Helinika

Learn Greek at Home During Quarantine

If you are interested in learning Greek but there are no classes taking place in your area, don’t be discouraged. Helinika, a platform dedicated to the Greek language, history, and culture, offers affordable Greek language lessons online. Learn Greek during Quarantine.

the greek language

Why learn Greek?

Why should you spend your precious time learning a new language spoken by over 13 million people around the world?

Greek Cases Exercises. Practice Your Greek Language Skills

You have learned the modern Greek cases (Ονομαστική, Γενική, Αιτιατική, Κλητική) but you may not feel 100% confident when using them. Here are three exercises to practice your Greek grammatical skills, specifically for the declensions of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives.

The Dragon Slayer, the Mermaid, and the Secret of Marmara | Legends from Medieval Greece #2 (Byzantium)

Interested in stories from Medieval Greece (Eastern Roman Empire)? Last time we discussed the Marble King, among other Byzantine legends. Today, we will discover the stories of the priest who vanished in Hagia Sophia, the secret of the Sea of Marmara, the giant Mermaid, and the Christian dragon slayer.

Learn Greek Online with Helinika

The Priest Who Vanished in Hagia Sophia

One of the greatest architectural wonders of Byzantine history is the Orthodox Christian Basilica of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom). The Church is located at the Old City of Constantinople and it is surrounded by numerous legends. One of these stories is the legend of the vanishing priest.

When the Ottoman troops attacked the city of Constantinople on the spring of 1453, they entered Hagia Sophia in search of civilians who might have sought refuge there. According to the legend, a priest was holding a liturgy at that time.

Before the troops were able to catch him, he entered a door and vanished. The door closed behind him and couldn’t be opened nor destroyed. Rumor has it that the door will open once Hagia Sophia becomes a Greek Orthodox Church again. The priest will reappear and continue the liturgy.

If you know any additional details regarding this legend, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section.

The Hidden Secret of the Sea of Marmara

The Sea of Marmara, also known as Propontis, connects the Aegean Sea to the Black Sea. It is the area ancient Greeks from Megara explored before they established the colony of Byzantion, as we’ve seen in the first episode. There is reportedly a part of Propontis that is always calm. The passage is safe to cross, no matter the weather conditions. According to a Byzantine legend, this part of the Sea of Marmara has a secret. That is the Hagia Trapeza, the Holly Table of Hagia Sophia.

According to a book by the Greek intellectual Dorotheos Monemvasias, three Venetian ships had reportedly taken the Hagia Trapeza and other relics from Hagia Sophia, intending to bringing them in Venice. The Byzantines wanted to protect the Christian relics from the Ottomans who had invaded Constantinople.

As the Venetians transported the items, the vessel that transported the Hagia Trapeza sunk. The Holly Table is reportedly still at the bottom of the sea for someone to discover and the area seems to be unaffected by the weather conditions.

The Giant Mermaid

When hearing the term “mermaid” a beautiful creature comes to mind. Half woman, half fish, probably looking like Ariel. But there is a mermaid in Greek folklore, that is feared by sailors and islanders all over Greece. This is the Gorgona (Γοργόνα) – a giant mermaid who is supposedly related to Alexander the Great.

Although inspired by historical figures of late antiquity, the myth of the Gorgona probably originates in Byzantium. This was the time period in which the mythical sirens, the half bird – half women creatures turned into the mermaids we know today.

According to this legend, princess Thessalonike, half-sister of Alexander the Great, had washed her hair with the water of the “Fountain of Immortality”. That meant it would be impossible to die, even if she tried to.

When her brother, Alexander, died, the princess was shocked. She attempted to end her life by jumping into the sea from a cliff. But, instead of dying, she turned into a mermaid. A giant mermaid to be precise who terrified sea men and islanders.

Thessalonike then migrated to the Black Sea but she would sometimes return to the Northern Aegean in search of her brother. The legend says that she desperately asks the sailors if King Alexander is alive. If they give her a positive reply, she dives into the water, looking happy. If they reply “no”, Gorgona destroys the vessel. After a while, she regrets her action and starts crying, causing a storm.

Do you know any other variation of this story? Comment down below.

Learn Greek Online with Helinika

St. George, the Dragon Slayer

George of Lydda was a Roman soldier of Greek origin who is recognized as a Christian Saint. The Saint is associated with a Byzantine legend, the one of the evil Dragon. There are many variations of the story but the most popular one takes place in Libya.

George of Lydda was passing by a Libyan city (Silene), when he saw a beautiful woman crying, while being transported to an unspecified location. Saint George overheard that the woman was selected to be fed to a bloodthirsty Dragon that terrorized the area.

The Dragon looked like a winged giant lizard. It breathed fire and was able to kill humans from a distance. Rumor had it that it had arrived in the area centuries ago, causing chaos. The locals managed to appease the beast by offering it two sheep. And they would do the same every year to make sure that the dragon doesn’t attack their city. But there was a time when there was no more livestock to feed the Dragon. Or, according to another variation, the Dragon couldn’t be appeased by feeding on animals. It demanded human flesh.

For the past few years, a member of the local community, usually a peasant, was selected annually to be fed to the dragon. The selection process was not clarified but we assume that they used a draw. That year, the unlucky human to be sacrificed was no other than the beloved princess of the city. The locals protested but no one was willing to take her place.

Saint George was moved by the story. He wanted to end this custom, just like Theseus did in the myth of the Minotaur. The soldier Saint followed the trail that led to the Dragon and stopped the princess from entering the Dragon’s lair. He volunteered to be the offering. But as the beast laid down, waiting to be fed, Saint George revealed a spear and killed the dragon to everyone’s surprise.

It goes without saying that the local King named the soldier a hero and offered him a fortune. But Saint George distributed the treasures to the locals instead. It is important to note that Saint George is not the only Christian Dragon Slayer. Similar legends and stories have spread all over the world. If you know any of these, feel free to share in the comment section.

Now, if you haven’t watched the previous videos covering various Byzantine legends, don’t forget to do so. In Helinika’s channel but also in helinika.com, you can find plenty of videos and articles on the Greek language, history, and culture. Don’t forget to subscribe and follow Helinika on social media to stay connected.

What Was the Byzantine Fire (Liquid Fire)? | Byzantium (Eastern Roman Empire)

One of the most mysterious and fascinating aspects of Greece’s Byzantine history, is the so-called “Greek Fire” or “Liquid Fire” (Ύγρόν Πυρ). Western Romans called it “ignis graecus” and it was no other than the powerful weapon that saved Constantinople multiple times from Arab and Rus invaders. The weapon was the most well-hidden secret of the Byzantine Empire.

Greek Stores and Shops | Stores You Can Find in Greece

greek shops

What are some typical Greek stores and shops? What stores can you find in Greece? What is a periptero? What is a bakaliko? Where do Greeks buy sweets from? And what about the bread? Today we are talking about some typical Greek shops you can find in almost every corner!

Learn Greek Online with Helinika

Stores You Can Find in Greece:

The Marble King, The 100 Gates Church and More | Legends from Medieval Greece #1 (Byzantium)

People around the world read and narrate myths from ancient Greece or legends from Medieval Central and Western Europe. But stories from Medieval Greece are lesser known. Here are some legends from Greece’s Byzantine Past (Eastern Roman Empire). Keep in mind, that some of these legends are based on real historical events.

Learn Greek Online with Helinika

The Legend of the Last Emperor (Constantine XI Palaeologus or…?)

Constantine Palaeologus is an important historical figure; he was the last emperor of the Byzantine Empire. His reign lasted for four years, from 1449 AD until his death in the battle of the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD. But Constantine is also known as the “Marmaromenos Vasilias” (Μαρμαρωμένος Βασιλιάς) – the “Marble King”.

According to a legend, when the Ottomans started taking over the city of Constantinople, an angel transformed the emperor into marble and hid him beneath the Golden Gate of Constantinople. The legend says that Constantine will be revived one day and return the city to the Greeks.

But is this legend really about emperor Constantine? Some scholars argue that the “Marble King” is Emperor of Byzantine Nicaea, John III Doukas Vatatzes, who died 200 years before the Fall of Constantinople. He is often called the “Father of the Greeks”, since he was one of the most peaceful and just emperors to have ever existed, according to the scholars.

Many people who have heard this story from their grandparents, mention certain signs and omens that will prepare us for the return of the king. For example, a bright star, probably the Star of Bethlehem that shined on the night Jesus Christ was born, will appear in the night sky.

Have you heard any other variations of the story? Feel free to share in the comment section down below.

The Church with 100 Gates

The story of the “Marble King” has inspired other legends across Greece. An example of that is the legend surrounding the historical church “Panagia Ekantotapyliani” (Παναγία Εκατονταπυλιανή) in Paros island.

 The Byzantine church is dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God and its name “Ekantotapyliani” means “100 gates”. The church reportedly has 99 visible gates and a hidden one that, according to the legend, it will be revealed when the marble king awakens.

In another variation of the legend, the 100th gate will be revealed when another hidden door will be found in Hagia Sophia, which is allegedly under the ground. This will be another omen that the Marble King will be awakened soon.

Kassiani’s Wit and the Emperor’s Ego

Kassiani or Kassia is a historical figure. She was a Byzantine abbess and poet who lived between 810 AD and 865 AD. According to an allegedly true story that has become a legend, Kassiani almost became the empress of Constantinople, but her wit and overall attitude scared away emperor Theofilos.

The mother of Theofilos, Thekla, had organized a “bride-show”, a Byzantine tradition that bears similarities with many other traditions around the world. The most beautiful maidens of the Byzantine Empire had gathered at the palace as soon as Theofilos was old enough to get married. Kassiani was rumored to be the new empress. She was the most beautiful and smartest of all the contestants.

The young woman immediately caught his attention and he approached her saying that the “worst things come through women” (Ἐκ γυναικὸς τὰ χείρω), referring to Eve. But Kassiani replied “the same for the better things” (Kαὶ ἐκ γυναικὸς τὰ κρείττω), referring to the birth of Jesus Christ by Mary.

Theofilos failed to understand Kassiani’s humor and became defensive. As a result, he rejected Kassiani and selected another woman, Theodora, instead. Kassiani ended up following a monastic life which is explained by scholars in two different ways. She either fell into depression after her public rejection or that was her initial plan anyways.

The Devilish Dog

A legend that has survived over the years is the one of a vicious black dog that would target monks and priests at Mount Athos. Some said that the dog was possessed, other that it was a demon residing in hell. But some believed that it was the devil himself.

Saint Parthenios, bishop of Lampsakos, who lived in the 4rth century AD in the Byzantine Empire, was allegedly attacked by this dog but managed to escape by blowing at it and making the sign of the cross. In his book “From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium”, William Dalrymple briefly narrates this story.

If you liked these stories and you are interested in learning more about Greece’s Byzantine history, don’t forget to subscribe and stay connected. In next week’s episode, we will reveal the hidden secret of the Sea of Marmara, the dragon slayer Saint, and many more Medieval Greek legends.

Receive All the New Articles by Helinika:

Smart Cities and Maritime Shipping? | 6 Facts About Greece (Modern Times Edition)

facts about greece

When talking about the achievements of the Greeks we often think of Democracy, the Olympic Games, Astronomy, and Mathematics – all bound to our ancient past. With Modern Greece celebrating 200 years of independence, it is important to see some facts related to the achievements of Greeks in modern times.

Learn Greek Online with Helinika

6 Facts About Modern Greece:

  1. Greece Continues Being the Leader in Maritime Shipping
  2. Two Nobel Prizes for Modern Greek Literature
  3. Athens Continues Being the Capital of Theatre
  4. Greek Island Holds the Secret to Longevity
  5. A Leading Smart City in the Greek Countryside
  6. 3% of the World’s Greatest Scientists are Greek

Greece Continues Being the Leader in Maritime Shipping

When thinking of Greece’s economy, the first thing that comes to mind, after the recent debt crisis, is the tourism and service industry. But one of the most important industries in Greece is maritime shipping. The country is in the top 10 ship owning nations, competing with Japan for the first place. The current fleet value is at 100.5 billion dollars, according to VesselsValue. The small country of approximately 11 million people surpasses China, a country of 1.4 billion people. As we have seen in previous videos, Greeks have been exploring the sea in search of resources, trading opportunities, and lands to establish new colonies, since the Bronze Age. And they never stopped dominating the seas.

Two Nobel Prizes for Modern Greek Literature

Western literature has been greatly influenced by ancient Greek literature, and especially epic and lyric poetry. Greece continues producing great writers and poets in modern times as well. Odysseas Elytis, the romantic modernist poet, and Giorgos Seferis, the well-known poet and diplomat, have been awarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature. The first in 1979 and the second in 1963.

Athens Continues Being the Capital of Theatre

Western theatre was born in ancient Athens and specifically in the theatre of Dionysus. And Athens continues being a cultural center with a focus on theatre. According to Athens Social Atlas, the capital city of Greece has more than 152 theatre halls, including the Odeon of Herodes Atticus that was built on 161 AD. The city is the perfect destination for any theatre lover.

Greek Island Holds the Secret to Longevity

The Greek diet and overall lifestyle have been connected to longevity for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, Greeks living in big cities and industrial areas have adopted different lifestyles – they stress more, cook less, and consume highly processed foods. But those living in the Greek countryside have generally continued following their traditional way of living. A specific island has caught the attention of scientists; that is the island of Ikaria. You might have heard the “Ikaria Study”, since the island has one of the highest percentages of people above the age of 90. It is worth mentioning that it is not just the diet that, according to the study, may contribute to the longevity of the islanders. The overall lifestyle, including the active social life and optimistic attitude, contribute to that. The NYT have called Ikaria “the island where people forget to die”.

A Leading Smart City in the Greek Countryside

In Greece, we might love tradition, but that doesn’t mean we are not open to innovations, following the paradigm of “polymechanos Odysseus”. Trikala is one of the first smart-cities in Europe by integrating new technologies into the daily lives of the citizens. The city, located in Thessaly, has over 80.000 inhabitants. The city has seen driverless buses, robotics kits in its 120 public schools, and countless other innovative programs and solutions.

3% of the World’s Most Referenced Scientists are Greek

Greeks make up around 0.13% of the world’s total population. Professor of Medicine at Stanford Prevention Research Center, John P.A. Ioannidis, presented statistics that showed that the percentage of referenced Greek scientists in the world reaches 3%. Many of them conduct research for foreign Universities. To be more specific, data retrieved from the database of Google Scholar, showed that 672 Greek scientists have been referenced approximately 17.000 times in various scientific reports.

Mysterious Places in Athens, Greece | Mysterious Greece

The city of Athens has a history spanning over three thousand years. As you can imagine, the capital of the Hellenic Republic of Greece is the birthplace of countless important figures, revolutionary ideas, legendary stories, and mysteries. Here are some of the most mysterious places in Athens, Greece.

greek food input

Greek Input #3: Greek Food Vocabulary Input | Comprehensible Input

Learn Greek food-related words with comprehensible input. The language input learning method enables listeners to comprehend audio in a foreign language, without necessarily possessing a rich vocabulary in this language. This is achieved by repetition and adding relevant images on the screen. This is the way toddlers start memorizing words. Input videos should be watched in combination with other Greek language learning videos.