Odysseus’ Journey Part 1 | Homer’s Odyssey Summary | #GreekMyths

You may know him as Ulysses or Odysseus. He was the legendary king of the island of Ithaca in Greece, husband of Penelope, and father of Telemachus. He is known as being resourceful, cunning, adventurous, brave, and determined. He was the person who came up with the idea of the Trojan horse in the Iliad after all. Sometimes, he appeared to be overconfident and faced the wrath of the gods. Today we will be exploring his nostos, his adventurous homecoming journey across the Mediterranean – known as “The Odyssey”, an epic poem attributed to the ancient Greek poet Homer.

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Nine Facts about Homer’s Odyssey:

  1. It is estimated that the Odyssey was composed around the 8th century BC;
  2. It is an epic poem and was meant to be verbally narrated but was documented on 24 books;
  3. The epic is the sequel of the Iliad, which revolves around the Trojan war;
  4. The Odyssey begins “in medias res” – instead of following a linear chronology, the story begins in the middle of the story (how many Netflix series have been inspired by Homer?);
  5. The epic poem starts with the invocation of the muse prompt – a prayer or address that acts as a prologue;
  6. It follows Odysseus (his Latin name is Ulysses) on his ten-year journey from Troy to his kingdom, Ithaca;
  7. Odysseus is brave and strong, but his greatest qualities are his cleverness and his ability to come up with quick solutions to gigantic (no pun indented) problems;
  8. The Odyssey serves as a cautionary tale for those who tend to brag about their achievements – hybris, the dangerous overconfidence, will lead you away from your path;
  9. Homer’s Odyssey stands as an inspiration for countless books, movies, and other forms of artwork. The most popular book is James Joyce’s “Ulysses”, one of the most important works of modernist literature.

The Summary of the Odyssey | The Odyssey in a Nutshell

Maybe you are preparing for a test or you are simply interested in getting the gist of the epic poem. Whatever the reason might be, here is the summary of Homer’s Odyssey – one of the most breathtaking adventures of all time.

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“The Odyssey” Books 1-4: What is Going on in Ithaca?

The first four books of the Odyssey describe the situation in the (real) island of Ithaca during king Odysseus’ absence. Odysseus took part in the ten-year siege of the city of Troy and his kingdom at the hands of his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus. Penelope is described as loyal, faithful, and patient. She awaits her husband’s return and hides away from the countless suitors that visit their kingdom in the hopes of marrying Penelope and ruling Ithaca. Although she dislikes the presence of the 108 suitors, she remains passive. She had told the suitors that she will remarry only once she completed a burial shroud for Odysseus’ father. However, every night she unravels the weaving to make sure that it will never be completed. Telemachus is in his teenage years and has started to get angry with the suitors who disrespect his father and create a sense of anarchy in the kingdom.  

 That is when goddess Athena decides to intervene. As the goddess of wisdom, she was in favor of the extremely intelligent Odysseus who had come up with the idea of the Trojan horse. After asking permission from Zeus, she travels to Ithaca in the form of Mentor, Odysseus’ friend. Athena reveals to Telemachus that his father is still alive and will return to the island soon. Telemachus asks for the gods to punish the suitors and soon two eagles appear on the sky, fighting. This was not the final punishment but rather a bad omen for the greedy suitors who chose to ignore it.

Telemachus follows goddess Athena’s advice and visits the Peloponnese region, specifically Pylos and Sparta, to investigate his father’s disappearance. He had been missing for over ten years after the end of the Trojan War – the trip should have lasted a few weeks or months.  King Menelaus, husband of Helen of Troy,  reveals to Telemachus that his father is stranded on the island of Calypso and really wants to come home. At the same time, while Telemachus is gone, the suitors start plotting his assassination. All they want is to take over the beautiful kingdom of Ithaca.

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“The Odyssey” Books 5-8: Odysseus Escapes Calypso’s Island

Books five and eight focus on wily Odysseus. The king is stranded on Calypso’s island, Ogygia, which is believed to be the island Gozo in the Maltese Archipelago. Calypso is a beautiful nymph who became Odysseus’ lover when he got stranded on her island and refused to let him return to his wife. Odysseus was in Ogygia for seven years with Calypso trying to convince Odysseus that she was much more attractive than Penelope. Although Odysseus did not agree with that statement, the nymph made him feel powerless and he acted as if he was her husband.

Thanks to Athena’s intervention, the gods of Mount Olympus agree to help Odysseus return home. Hermes, the messenger god, visits Calypso and orders her to let Odysseus go. However, Calypso is not the only one who wants Odysseus to stay away from his kingdom. Poseidon, the god of the sea, is mad at him – the reason is revealed later.

Odysseus is now free to leave Ogygia and, with the help of Calypso, he builds a raft within four days. With a magical breeze sent by gods, he is able to sail away from what we now know as the Maltese Archipelago. The 17th day of his trip, Poseidon sees him and conjures a storm that tosses Odysseus in the water – the king is almost drowned. With the help of the goddess Ino, also known as queen of the Sea,  and the goddess Athena, he manages to survive and get ashore.

The place he ends up staying is Phaeacia which is ruled by the king Alcinous, and many scholars believe is located near the island of Corfu. In Phaecia, a storm-tossed Odysseus meets Alcinous daughter, princess Nausicaa. Her female friends are all afraid of him; Odysseus looks similar to Tom Hanks in “Cast Away”.  But Nausicaa is instantly attracted to him. The princess wants to lead him to the palace but is afraid that people will start gossiping if they see him with her.

Odysseus is finally led to the palace with the help of Athena who is in the form of a little girl. At the palace, he is welcomed by Alcinous who is angered when he learns that his daughter left him find his way alone. After being bathed, clothed, and fed, Odysseus is encouraged to tell his adventures. And that is when the most interesting part of the epic poem begins.

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“The Odyssey” Books 9-12: The Wanderings of Odysseus

Odysseus starts narrating to the people of Phaeacia how he ended up stranded on their land. It all started ten years ago, right after the end of the Trojan War. He and his seamen started their nostos, their homecoming trip. Twelve ships sailed away and their first stop was the land of the Cicones, which was located in Thrace. Odysseus’ seamen start stealing and eventually the local army turns against them. Odysseus lost six men per ship and left as soon as possible.

Their next stop was the land of the Lotus Eaters, which is estimated to be located on the northern coast of Africa. The Lotus Eaters are very friendly and peaceful people. However, they lack motivation and ambition. All they want to do is eat their beloved lotus fruit all day and all night. The locals offer the lotus fruit to Odysseus and his crew. The fruit was apparently a narcotic and it was very addicting. Odysseus, a very ambitious man, could not bear see his men laying on ground all day, having forgotten their goal of reaching Ithaca. The men did not want to return to their duties on the ship and Odysseus had to organize a literal intervention and force his crew back to their ships. Their next stop was in Sicily, on the land of the Cyclopes, a group of gigantic, cannibalistic men with one huge eye on their forehead. What happens when Odysseus comes in contact with them? How wily Odysseus manages to free himself and his men from the barbaric Cyclops Polyphemus?

Stay tuned because we will be following the storyline in another video! Don’t forget to subscribe to stay updated!

Interested in reading the entire story? Here are some recommendations:

The Odyssey (Penguin Classics)

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What Does Greek Sound Like?

greek-speech

Are you debating whether you should start learning Greek, you may be interested in listening to what Greek sounds like.

In the above video, I am reading Greek aloud and specifically a part if the first paragraph of the book “The Secrets of the Swamp” by Penelope Delta, which is found in the repository of the Open Library (small part – in Greek).

Penelope Delta is the first Greek writer of children’s books. “The Secrets of the Swamp” is a book that anyone who is Greek or interested in the Greek history should read once in their lifetime. The book recreates the fierce Macedonian Struggle of the early 20th century, enacted “on land and water” at the swamp of Lake Giannitsa.

Buy the book in English.

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Echetlaeus: The Mythical Hero of The Battle of Marathon | #GreekMyths

echetlos-marathon

If you are interested in Greek history, then you must be aware of the Battle of Marathon – one of the greatest battles of the ancient world, along with the Battle of Thermopylae.  Now, that was a historical event and this series is dedicated on Greek mythology. However, sometimes, historical events are accompanied by legends. And today’s video is dedicated on such a legend: Echetlaeus, the super-hero of the battle of Marathon. But let’s take everything from the start.

The Persians, the Greeks, and the Greco-Persian Wars

Two ancient civilizations of great significance are the Persians and the Greeks. These two civilizations eventually clashed in a series of conflicts that lasted between 499 and 449 BC and we now know as “The Persian Wars”. The legendary figure we will talk about today appeared during the First Persian invasion of Greece which ended with the victory of the Athenians at the battle of Marathon 490 BC.

It all started in 547 BC, when the Persian Empire, which was lead by Cyrus the Great, conquered the Ionian region in Asia Minor, which was inhabited by the Greeks. The massive and ever-expanding Persian Empire soon noticed how independent-minded the Ionians were and a decision was made to appoint tyrants to rule each Greek-inhabited city.

That decision had the exact opposite effect from what they desired; the Ionian Greeks did not seem to conform. They actually started revolting and, with military support from Athens and other Greek city-states, they managed to cause a lot of trouble to the Persians, which included burning down the city of Sardis, the city that, according to the historian Herodotus, was founded by Hercule’s sons and later captured by the Persians.

These riots lead to the Persians deciding to take immediate action towards discipling the Greeks and making sure that the rest of the minorities in the Persian Empire would remain well-behaved. And they started by attempting to punish the Greek city-states that helped the Ionians revolt against them.

The first Persian invasion of Greece, as documented by the “father of history”, Herodotus, began in 492 BC and ended with the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. The Marathon is a town in the east part of Attica – the region in which Athens belongs to. In the plains surrounding the town, approximately 11.000 Athenians (and people from Plataea) fought over 100.000 Persians and, although they were outnumbered, they managed to win. According to the legend, after the win, the best Athenian runner, Pheidippides, run to Athens at a very high pace from Marathon to Athens to announce the news. Right after he arrived in the city and exclaimed “we won!”, he died from exhaustion. And this is where the idea of running a Marathon comes from.

TL;DR: The Persians captured the Greek region of Ionia in Asia Minor. The Greek-inhabitants revolted with the help of Athens and other Greek city-states. The Persians tried to invade mainland Greece to diminish any dangers against their empire and the first attempt ended with the battle of Marathon. In this battle, some interesting things were documented by ancient historians.

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The Myths Surrounding the Battle of Marathon

The battle of Marathon is of great strategic significance. The Athenians were outnumbered but, by trapping the massive Persian army in the plains of Marathon, they were able to win the battle. However, since ancient times, some legends surround this historical event that try to explain how a small Greek army was able to defeat an enormous army of another advanced ancient civilization. What “paranormal” activities happened during the battle? Who was the warrior Echetlaeus/ Echetlos who fought with the Greeks, but no one knew or expected?

The first myth(?) that has survived till today says that Pan, the half-man – half-goat god, was observing the battle from a cave close to the battle ground. At one point, the runner Pheidippides came face-to-face with the god and the second had an important question to ask: why the Athenians did not honor Pan as much as they honored the Olympian gods. Pheidippides promised that the city-state of Athens would honor Pan from now on and the god is said to have helped the Greek army by scaring away a part of the Persian army with his loud, terrifying screams. The enemies were in panic mode: a term we use even today to express great fear.

The philosopher and biographer Plutarch mentions that the ghost of the mythical king Theseus appeared in the battleground and fought against the Persian army. And even gods and goddesses from mount Olympus were believed to have helped the Greek army in various ways. But the most enigmatic “supernatural” presence in Marathon is described by the ancient geographer Pausanias: Echetlaeus.

Echetlaeus / Echetlos/ Echetlaus / Echetlus: The “Super-Natural” Warrior… Sent by Pan?

In the Stoa Poikile in the north side of the Ancient Agora of Athens, a painting was created that displayed the heroes of the Battle of Marathon. This painting included the hero Echetlaeus (also seen as Echetlaus and Echetlus), who appeared on the battle-ground out of nowhere, fought against the Persians along with the Athenians, and disappeared after the end of the battle.

He was dressed up like a farmer and he held a plough and a cattle prod. These agricultural tools were his lethal weapons; he is described as killing countless enemies with no effort. Despite wearing no protective gear, he was not wounded and his appearance resembled a god: he has tall and muscular – almost unhuman.

Echetlaeus was worshipped by the Athenians as the hero of the echetlon (ploughshare). His name survives till today, although he is not as well-known as Hercules and other ancient Greek heroes. Some people believe that Echetlaeus was sent by the god Pan, since he was seen exiting the same cave from which Pan was observing the battle. However, others speculate that he is connected to Demeter, Persephone and the secret agrarian rituals revolving them: the Eleusinian Mysteries. And this is connected to another legend that wants the Athenians to have witnessed the Eleusinian procession the night before the battle – however, the people marching resembled ghostly-figures and not real people!

What are your thoughts on Echetlaeus? Do you think he is a mythical or a historical figure? Was he a strong farmer that happened to pass by the battle-ground and joined the Athenians or a “super-natural” being? And if he was not a human, was he sent by Pan or Demeter and Persephone? What other myths do you know surrounding this major historical event?

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How to Say “Yes” and “No” in Greek

Learning how to say “yes” and “no” is the most important step when trying to communicate in any given language. You can accept or decline, show affirmation and so much more. These two are the most basic words when it comes to any type of communication. When it comes to the Greek language, you have to be careful: saying “yes” might sound like saying “no”. Let’s see the translation of yes and no in Greek.

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Saying “Yes” in Greek

Ναι (Ne)

The Greek word ναι comes from Ancient Greek ναί, which is a variation of νή.

Saying “No” in Greek

Όχι (Οhi)

Όχι derives from the ancient Greek ούχι.

Saying “Yes or No” in Greek

“Ναι ή Όχι” (Ne e Ohi)

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Pandora’s Jar and The Lost Paradise | #GreekMyths

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Most cultures and religions have a story that explains all the suffering and negative things that exist on this planet; from diseases and natural disasters to jealousy, crime, and any sin committed by humans.  The ancient Greeks had coined the myth of Pandora and her box/jar*.

Key Parts in The Myth of Pandora’s Box/Jar

As with most Greek myths, we know the story of Pandora from the ancient Greek poet Hesiod. Let’s see the most important parts of the myth:

  1. Pandora was a woman created by a god (Hephaestus) on the instructions of another god (Zeus);
  2. She was given various traits that were neither good nor evil;
  3. She had free will;
  4. She was given a jar, but she was warned to never open it;
  5. The woman opened the jar out of curiosity and the entire human race was damned.

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Different Variations of Pandora’s Myth

Hesiod narrates the myth of Pandora in two different works: “Theogony” and “Works and Days”. In “Theogony”, Pandora did not obtain any box or jar. She was created by the gods to collect all their blessings, after Prometheus stole the fire from Olympus and offered it to humans. She was the perfect human and the rest of humanity was jealous of her. In Greek, her name (Πανδώρα) means exactly that – she who bears all gifts/blessings**.

In “Works and Days”, the most popular variation of the myth, Pandora was created by the gods of Olympus to punish humans for using the element of fire to their advantage, without taking the blame themselves. The woman was given a jar (pithos) that contained all evils. Pandora opened the jar and accidentally released these evils. Humanity lost its Paradise and nothing was ever the same. Thankfully, one thing remained into the jar and was never released. That was hope – the belief that things will get better. And this is why humanity continues working hard and trying to make innovations that will better people’s lives; because they hope that better things can happen.

Over the years, many different variations of the myth have surfaced. The main similarity among all of them is that Pandora, a female, was a punishment for mankind.

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What Does Pandora’s Box/Jar Symbolize?

Pandora’s myth is one of the most difficult myths to interpret. Till today, classical scholars fail to agree on a specific interpretation. British scholar Martin Litchfield West has concluded that Hesiod’s myth is a combination of various different myths that did not survive through the years. It is indeed a very difficult myth to understand, but here are the most common interpretations of Pandora’s story:

  1. Pandora represents the misogynistic belief that women are the “root of all evils”.
  2. Curiosity can lead to tragedy (for both males and females).
  3. Technological advancements can have a negative effect on people’s lives (this is depicted by a) Pandora being a crafted, un-naturally born human and b) humans being punished for using fire to their advantage).

Of course, there are countless more interpretations of the myth. Do you know any? Leave a comment down below!

What Is The Connection Between Pandora and Eve?

If you haven’t noticed already, Pandora’s myth bears many similarities with the Judeo-Christian story of Adam and Eve. Both stories, whether they refer to true events or not, belong to the “theodicy” category, meaning that they explain why there is evil in the world and why (a) good god(s) permit(s) bad things to happen to good people.

Similarities between Pandora and Eve:

  1. Pandora and Eve are both divine creations living in paradise;
  2. Both women have free will but use it to do harm not good;
  3. Both myths bear a contradiction: the women had free will, however they did not mean to do harm;
  4. Misogynistic ideas can be derived from both stories (e.g. women are inferior to men, women cannot be trusted, women were created to tempt/punish men etc.).***

Differences between Pandora and Eve:

  1. Unlike Eve, Pandora was not tricked by an evil entity.
  2. Eve was punished for being curious and for disobeying God, while Pandora is the actual punishment. In Pandora’s story, people are being punished for their over-ambition and for having an advantage over the rest of the creatures living on Earth.

What are your ideas on Pandora’s myth? Do you see any connection with Adam and Eve? Comment your ideas down below.

*The original myth mentions a jar (pithos); the translated version by Erasmus of Rotterdam (16th century AD) mentioned a box.

**Certain scholars believe that the proper translation is “all-giving”.

***Hesiod himself has expressed misogynistic ideas when describing Pandora in Theogony: “(…) From her is the race of women and female kind: of her is the deadly race and tribe of women who live amongst mortal men to their great trouble, no helpmates in hateful poverty, but only in wealth.”

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How to Say Good Morning and Good Night in Greek

how to say morning and night in greek

Are you planning your next Greek vacation? Have you met a native Greek speaker and want to communicate with them? Or would you like to learn a new language?

Whatever the reason might be, this article will help you learn how to say “good morning” and “good night” in Greek, along with “have a nice noon/afternoon/evening”.

How to Say Good Morning in Greek

Καλημέρα – Kalimera: used to greet someone in the morning but also during the day. Literally translates to “good day”.

kalimera-good-morning

How to Say Good Night in Greek

Καληνύχτα – Kalinychta: used before going to sleep.

kalinychta-good-night
-night

Other Greek Greetings Based On The Time of Day

  • Καλό μεσημέρι – Kalo Mesimeri: Have a Nice Midday
  • Καλό Απόγευμα – Kalo Apogeuma: Have a Nice Afternoon
  • Καλό Βράδυ – Kalo Vrady: Have a Nice Evening

Greek is one of the oldest languages in the world, with a rich vocabulary, complex grammar, flexible syntax, and a unique alphabet. If you are looking for the next big challenge, why not learn Greek? Helinika offers a package of very affordable video courses that you can attend anytime from your personal computer/tablet. Watch the first video for free and register to access the rest of the videos!

How to Travel to Greece and NOT Be a Tourist |Advice by a Local

visit greece advice

Disclaimer: The video was filmed in May 2020 – a time when humanity was plagued by a global pandemic that halted travel from country to country and any type of large gatherings. However, some of you might be able to travel to Greece this year or you are already planning your vacation for next year. Nevertheless, this video provides general information regarding your trip and does not cover the things you should consider when traveling during the pandemic. For more information on this subject, check your local travel advisories and the website of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO).

Visit Greece Like a Local | Greece Travel Advice

Greece is one of the most visited countries in Europe, with over 20 million tourists arriving in the country every year. It is a relatively affordable and safe country with a rich history, warm and sunny weather, breathtaking  sceneries, and a long tradition of hospitality.

Many people can only stay in Greece for a few days and visit only the most well-known sights, such as the Acropolis of Athens, and the typical Cycladic islands with the white and blue houses, such as Santorini and Mykonos. If you are planning on staying in Greece for more than a couple of weeks either during your summer holidays, a semester abroad or as an au pair, you might want to experience Greece from a local’s perspective.

Here is what you should consider if you want to travel to Greece and NOT be a tourist:

  1. Start with the city of Athens and explore the countryside
  2. Avoid staying at a resort – choose a small hotel instead
  3. Connect with a local – Eat like a local
  4. Follow the Greek time schedule
  5. Learn some basic Greek

Start with the city of Athens and explore the countryside

Flying directly to an island or a seaside location might be the best option for someone who wants to soak up some sun and spend a relaxing vacation by the sea. If you want to get the full Greek experience though, consider spending a couple of days in Athens, the capital city of Greece. Why? Because nearly half of the country’s population lives there. By understanding the urban culture of Greece, you will understand the country better. 

There are plenty of things you can do in Athens. Visiting the Acropolis hill, the ancient Agora, and the Museum of Acropolis is a must. However, how about visiting Benaki Museum – the museum of Greek culture? Or what do you think about a bike ride in Stavros Niarchos Cultural Foundation; a day of thrift shopping in Omonoia and Monastiraki. A morning shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables in one of the various outdoors markets. And getting some affordable bites and drinks in Metaxourgeio and a tour with the tram on Poseidon’s highway – the road that connects the port of Piraeus with the “California style” south west suburbs of Athens. And going out for cocktails at the small bars on the streets next to square Klafthmonos. And what about getting some fresh air by visiting Mount Penteli or Mount Parnitha – the “magic” mountains of Athens. Stay tuned because we will be talking specifically about Athens in the near future!

Now, once you have experienced living in the city – including using the public transport and seeing the ups and downs of Athens – it is time for some exploration. You may choose the Cyclades, the sunny islands of the Aegean sea, or the “greener” islands of the Ionian. Or you might want to visit South Pelion and combine mountain and island life at once. Chalkidiki, the Peloponese region, Creta… the list goes on. All parts of Greece are beautiful and worth a visit. Whichever area you choose, I am sure you will have a great time. If you want to live like a local though, here is what you should avoid:

Staying at a resort?

There are many luxurious, all-inclusive resorts in Greece that can be the best option for someone who wants to spend some relaxing time with their family. However, if you would like to blend-in with the locals and experience Greece to the fullest, staying in a family-owned hotel (or Airbnb, if it seems appropriate) might be a better solution.

Not only you will get to support different local businesses instead of spending your entire budget in one place, you will also get to observe the locals’ habits, eat the authentic Greek cuisine, and listen to Greek music, instead of the music of your home country. You might also get the chance of meeting a local.

Connect with a local – Eat like a local

Greek people are generally very approachable and hospitable. Being offered free dessert, drinks, or fruits after a meal at a local taverna is quite common. Business owners might start chatting to you; this is often perceived as a “marketing trick” to lure the customers into spending more of their money, however, you have to remember that most small business owners do not necessarily have a business diploma. They might simply be interested in you and your life, since you are coming from a different country.

If you engage in the conversation, you might be lucky enough to get invited in their house and dine with them and their family. And trust me, when Greeks expect visitors, they prepare a LOT of food. The dishes are placed in the middle of the table and you are free to fill your plate as many times as you want.

One thing you will realize after getting in touch with the locals in Greece is that there is a different concept of time. And that is why you should:

Follow the Greek Concept of Time

When I moved from Greece to central Europe, I was surprised to hear that many people my age chose to wake up at five and six o’clock in the morning every day, without being forced to. In Greece, I was considered a morning person for waking up at seven or eight. And, indeed, what is considered early or late changes from country to country.

In Greece, when people say that they will meet you at noon, they don’t necessarily mean at 12.00 pm. Noon is usually when the sun is too bright – usually between 12 and 15.00 in the winter and 12.00 to 17.00 in the summer. Afternoon is around 18.00 and evening around 20.00. It is common for people to eat dinner at 20.00 or 21.00 pm and going out for drinks is usually after 22.00. If you are planning to go clubbing, you might be surprised to find out that being there at midnight is considered early.

Another thing you should keep in mind is that, it is generally acceptable to be late for five, ten, fifteen minutes. However, being punctual is very important when you are going for a job interview! In Athens, due to the traffic, buses and trolleys can often be very late. That doesn’t apply to the underground though. In general, being flexible with time will make your life easier in Greece. The same goes for making plans; being spontaneous is more common than planning weeks ahead.

Speak Greek with the Greeks

And now we get to the most important tip that will help you have the ultimate Greek experience: speak Greek with the Greeks. Of course, if you have no previous knowledge of Greek, you might want to start with some basic words and phrases. How to say “yes” and “no”, how to greet people on the street and order something at the taverna or the bar. People will be positively surprised and you might meet some new people this way.

If you are interested in learning Greek (either a few phrases or completing an entire level in Greek), Helinika can help you with some VERY affordable on-demand video courses.  Watch the first video for free and decide for yourself! As a registered student, you will receive a 100% FREE e-book and you can always contact us with questions regarding your assignments – as if you have your own personal tutor! (just much cheaper and available anytime, anywhere).

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The 12 Olympian Gods | Greek Gods Family Tree: From The Titans to The Olympians | #GreekMyths

There are many Greek gods and goddesses – it is called polytheism after all. We have talked about Persephone, Hecate, and Pluto. But there are twelve names that everyone who has studied Greek mythology knows.  Today we will be talking about the 12 gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus and how they are related to each other.

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The 12 Olympian Gods and Goddesses | The Major Olympian Deities

2.918mMount Olympus is a real mountain located in Thessaly, Greece. In fact, it is Greece’s highest mountain (2.918 m) and a national park since 1938. As you can imagine, ancient Greeks must had been very impressed when looking at this breathtaking view. They believed that this was the home and observatory of their gods and goddesses. The latter are known ever since as the twelve Olympian gods. The Greek Dodekatheon in the beginning consisted of six male and six female deities. When Hestia offered her throne to Dionysus, Mount Olympus was dominated by men.

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The Greek Dodekatheon consisted of:

  1. Zeus
  2. Hera
  3. Poseidon
  4. Demeter
  5. Athena
  6. Apollon
  7. Artemis
  8. Ares
  9. Aphrodite
  10. Hephaestus
  11. Hermes
  12. Hestia (her place was later given to Dionysus)

As you can see, Pluto, Persephone, and Hecate are not among the 12 Olympian gods and goddesses. In fact, there are several ancient Greek deities who consist the Greek pantheon.  However, these twelve gods are the ones that were the most popular. And we know this because there was an altar for twelve gods and goddesses in the ancient agora of Athens. The altar was set up in 522 BC by the grandson of the tyrant Pisistratus who bore the same name. The altar was not only used for worshipping these twelve gods and goddesses; it was also a place where people would seek supplication and refuge.

The Genealogy of the Olympians | Greek Gods Family Tree

What are the origins of the Olympian gods and goddesses? How are they related to each other?

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Cronus: The Vicious Patriarch

The first generation of the Olympian gods and goddesses are descendants of the Titans. According to Hesiod’s Theogony, the Titans were children of the Sky (Uranus) and the Earth (Gaia) and the deities that ruled the world before the Olympians. Their leader was Cronus, a cold-hearted, blood-thirsty tyrant who ate his own children. His wife was Rhea, another Titan and also one of his sisters.

The reason Cronus consumed his offspring was because of a prophecy that wanted him dethroned by one of them. He had done the exact same thing to his own father Uranus with the help of his mother, Gaia, so the scenario did not sound unfamiliar.

Cronus had six children with Rhea: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Pluto, Poseidon, and Zeus – the youngest one. After hearing the prophecy that one of these children would dethrone him, Cronus did the unthinkable: he consumed his five older children alive; he did not chew them, he swallowed them whole. Zeus was a little baby at that time and he was breastfeeding when his siblings were eaten alive.

Once Rhea realized what her husband had done to the rest of their children, she was appalled. She wanted revenge but also to protect her youngest son; but she knew that Cronus was the most powerful Titan. He was blood-thirsty and willing to kill anyone who would try to take over his power. And that is when she orchestrated her plan to take Cronus down. It would take years but she was determined to do everything in her power to succeed in this.

The first thing she did was to hide Zeus in a place that was unreachable by Cronus. She went to the sacred Minoan cave of Psychro – also known as Dictaeon Antron- and hid the baby in there. A goat* named Amalthea became the baby’s foster mother, providing him with milk. Zeus was also protected by the Kouretes, a group of mighty Cretan soldiers who danced and shouted louder than the infant’s cries. Nowadays, Kouretes are a traditional dancing group for men in Creta.

Once Rhea returned to her husband, he demanded to bring him Zeus for dinner. The female Titan was already prepared for this: she had wrapped a piece of rock in a blanket and offered it to Cronus instead of the baby. Cronus consumed the rock and continued on with his life, thinking that none of his children could succeed him.

The Titanomachy and The New Generation of Gods and Goddesses

Years past by and Zeus grew up and became the powerful and cunning god we all know. He knew he wouldn’t be able to take his father down by himself, so he organized a plan to free his siblings from his father’s stomach.

Pretending he is someone else, he offered Cronus a herbal-based potion that caused him to get sick to his stomach. Since Cronus hadn’t chewed his children, Hestia, Hera, Demeter, Poseidon, and Pluto managed to escape**.

What followed was a ten-year war between the Olympians and the Titans, known as the “Titanomachy”. The battles took place in Thessaly and resulted in the victory of the Olympians who not only overthrew Cronus but managed to castrate him. According to Hesiod, this action resulted to the birth of Aphrodite. However, according to Homer, the goddess of love and beauty was the daughter of Zeus and Dione.

The Rise of The Gods and Goddesses of Mount Olympus

After the war, the Titans were locked in Tartarus, the darkest part of the underworld and the Olympians took over Mount Olympus. Zeus and Hera got married and became the king and queen of the gods. Zeus in particular became the ruler of the sky and the earth and was given the lightning as a weapon. Pluto*** became the ruler of Hades, the underworld, and Poseidon took over the seas. Pluto was considered a chthonic deity after taking over Hades; therefore, he was not considered as part of the twelve Olympian gods and goddesses.

Since we are going to be talking about the different gods and goddesses on separate occasions, let’s see how all of the twelve gods and goddesses were related to each other.

Siblings: Zeus, Demeter, Hera, Hestia, Poseidon, (Pluto), Aphrodite

Spouses: Zeus and Hera

Children: Dionysus, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Hephaestus, Athena, (Persephone) etc.

Note1: The gods and goddesses in brackets are chthonic deities and not part of the twelve gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus.

Note2: Only Hephaestus and Dionysus were children of Zeus and Hera; Zeus had many extramarital affairs that resulted in pregnancies (Apollo, Artemis, Dionysus etc.), while some of the children

*other sources mention a nymph.  

**there are other variations of the myth that want Zeus conducting a C-section to his father and rescuing his siblings.  

***Also known as Hades; Hades is the name of the underworld.

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Three Greek Sayings and Quotes for a Happier Life | Greek Words of Wisdom

Some of them are ancient – they carry over 2000 years of wisdom – and others are quite recent. Here are some words of wisdom that Greeks abide by for a happier, more balanced life.

«Σα βγεις στον πηγαιμό για την Ιθάκη, να εύχεσαι να είναι μακρύς ο δρόμος.» | “As you set out for Ithaka, hope the voyage is a long one.”

-Constantine Cavafy, one of the most important contemporary Greek poets. From the poem “Ithaka” (1910/1911).

Ithaca/Ithaka is a beautiful island in the Greek Ionian sea. In Homer’s “Odyssey”, Ithaka is the main character’s home, the place he is trying to reach while exploring the Mediterranean in a series of adventures that we call “the Odyssey”. And today, it still symbolizes our goals and dreams, what we are destined to be. Constantine Cavafy’s poem teaches an important lesson to all ambitious young people: happiness is a journey, not a destination. In other words, don’t post-pone happiness; enjoy the journey. Fall in love with the process of reaching your goals. And wish that the process will be long and full of adventures. Just like Odysseus, sometimes you will find yourself straying from your path. And this is ok. Life is not a race. Life is not even a marathon. Life is a journey.

«Θνητός γεγονώς άνθρωπε, μη φρόνει μέγα.» | “You were born a mortal human, don’t see yourself as great/invincible.”

-Menander, ancient Greek dramatist. The phrased was coined around 400 BC.

I know, this sounds depressing. But we live in a very grandiose, narcissistic, and self-entered era. There is nothing wrong with self-love and being confident or knowing your value. But being self-centered is another. If you think about it, there are trees on this planet that can live for thousands of years. The planet is more than four billion years old and Homo Sapiens is not even half a million old. You are just a small dot in the entirety of the universe. Realize that life does not revolve around you. So, it is ok to be stupid sometimes. It is ok to make mistakes and it is totally fine if you are not the best of the best, if you never get to become famous, rich or superior to others. Because none of that really matters. Be humble and appreciate the “small” things in life that are actually much bigger than you think. And realize that, although you may not be able to change the world alone, you do have power and you can have an impact in someone’s life. It could be your mom, your best friend, that puppy you found on the street. Don’t waste your life trying to be the best. Try to be the best version of yourself instead.

«Η φτώχεια θέλει καλοπέραση.» | “Being poor requires living well.”

-Original source unknown. The phrase is known from the 1958 movie with the same title.

Just because you are not rich according to today’s standards does not mean you are not allowed to have fun and enjoy life. Dancing, telling stories, laughing, hugging your loved ones, watching the sunrise or the sunset are for free. Don’t focus on what you lack. Focus on the things you have. And when you spoil yourself with a material “luxury”, stop feeling guilty. Money can’t buy happiness. Don’t wait to fill your pockets with money to be happy. Don’t be miserable because you lack money.

In an essence:

  1. Don’t post-pone happiness; enjoy the journey.
  2. You are not immortal or invincible; stay humble and grounded.
  3. Happiness is free; live well and enjoy life when you are low on money.

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Hecate: Goddess of Witchcraft, Ghosts, and Necromancy | #GreekMyths

Like Persephone, who was the queen of the underworld, Hecate, a daughter of two Titans, was considered a chthonic divinity; meaning that she spent most of her time under the surface of the Earth. She is often depicted holding a torch and a key. That is because she was able to unlock the gates between different realms – allowing people to communicate with the souls of the dead and supernatural beings from different realities.

Hecate as a Goddess of Necromancy

Due to her ability to create portals and points of connections between different realms, Hecate was considered to be the goddess of Necromancy. Necromancy is the practice of communicating with the dead to reveal secrets about the past, the present, and the future. This was a common practice in ancient Greece; visiting oracles for guidance was generally accepted and Hecate was a well-perceived and respected goddess. The ancient “mediums” would communicate not only with the spirits of the dead but also with the gods to receive information that would be taken into consideration for important strategic decisions.

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Ghosts in Ancient Greece

Since necromancy is associated with ghosts, the souls of the dead, Hecate was also the goddess of ghosts. Ghosts in ancient Greek were neither bad nor good. Sometimes they helped people make important decisions with prophecies, other times they would cause panic. And the most popular evil ghost of ancient times was Taraxippus – the ghost often caused panic to horses during horse races and battles. The ghosts were also blood-thirsty, similar to vampires, and if someone needed to consult them, sacrificing an animal was usually required.

Hecate as a Goddess of Witchcraft and Witches

Hecate was also the goddess of witches, witchcraft, and magic. She had a familiar which was a dog and not a cat! The goddess was nocturnal and knew a lot about herbs. She was therefore able to craft potions and medicines.  Dandelion, garlic, and lavender are some of the herbs that are associated with her. She is believed to give blessings to witches by offering her knowledge and rumor has it that she lurks in crossroads. Even today, crossroads in Greece are believed to be places that are favored by witches.

Hecate’s Cult

Hecate had many followers in ancient Greece and her shrines were often placed at a home’s doorway or at public crossroads. In ancient Athens, a pillar dedicated to the goddess was located in a crossroad that led to the Acropolis, the sacred rock of Athens. Sanctuaries of the goddess were found in the town of Lagina, in Argolis, on the island of Aigina and many other places. In the island of Samothrace, people would often use a ritual that involved Hecate that was believed to protect them from storms and other terrors. The rituals unfortunately involved the sacrifice of dogs.

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Hekate’s Deipnon

Deipnon in Greek means dinner. Every new moon, Ancient Athenians would honor Hecate and the souls of the dead by serving an additional meal for her. Hecate’s deipnon was also used as a method of purification of the house – a way to appease any angry ghosts that were roaming the house.

Ancient Greek Witchcraft, Curses, and Spells

Archaeological findings have shown that ancient Greeks often practiced witchcraft and cast spells/curses to win a battle, attract a love interest, make money, and generally succeed in life. The process involved writing spells or curses on tablets and/or use figurines that could be compared to voodoo dolls. These objects would be thrown into the graves of those who had recently passed-away.

The ancient Greeks believed that the souls of the dead were messengers between different realms – the ones who recently died would carry these messages with them to the underworld and then Pluto, Persephone, Hecate or any other chthonic divinity would use their powers in favor of the spell caster. It is not clear whether the latter would have to pay a “price” for the “service”.

 A great example would be the discovery of 30 curse tablets in a well in the ancient Greek cemetery of Kerameikos. The people who cast the curses were asking for the help of various chthonic gods and goddesses. You can find images here (the text is in Greek). Although witchcraft was generally accepted, “black” magic and casting curses were not only considered unethical, but also illegal. However, in ancient Athens, there was one exception:  before a battle, all Athenians would be invited for a public curse session against the enemy (source also in Greek).

*Often spelled Hekate.

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