You may already know that Plato (428/427 BCE – 348-347 BCE) was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. You may also be familiar with him thanks to the Italian Renaissance fresco in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican called “The School of Athens”. Here are five facts about Plato that you may or may not know. Stay till the end and comment down below whether you knew some of the facts already.
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Plato was the student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle
The Athenian philosopher was closely connected to two other highly influential ancient Greek philosophers. Plato was a student of the Athenian philosopher Socrates, whom we know mostly through Plato’s writings. Plato later taught many influential philosophers and leaders, including Aristotle, who is credited with the earliest study of logic.
Plato is one of the most influential authors to have ever existed
Although his teacher, Socrates, did not leave any written heritage, Plato dedicated his life to writing. The philosopher did not view writing merely as a tool to organize and record his ideas, but also as a creative process that he really enjoyed. You might have heard of Plato’s dialogues; a collection of written conversations between different philosophers on various topics, including ethics, politics, physics, and metaphysics. Perhaps, the most well-known dialogue of Plato is “The Republic”, which we will cover in detail in a future video.
The philosopher is also the creator of some highly-influential allegories, such as the “Cave” (which we will also discuss in another video), and his writing style is often described as “poetic”. At the same time, Plato often expressed his disapproval of poets and poetry, because “it is based on falsehood”. Based on this idea, poetry is an “illusion” that drives us away from the “truth”.
Plato was born into an aristocratic Athenian family. His father was Ariston, a descendant of king Codrus of Athens, and his mother was Perictione, who descended from an oligarchic family. The philosopher considered Aristocracy the best form of governance. Aristocracy places the power of a city-state in the hands of a few. The main difference from monarchy is that, in monarchy, the rulers inherit their power, whereas, in aristocracy, the rulers are selected based on their skills. The aristocrats are «άριστοι» (aristoi – meaning excellent). Plato suggested that the ideal ruler is the philosopher, the lover of wisdom, and he even stated that philosophers, who usually despise power, should be forced to rule a city.
Plato was the founder of “the Academy”, the first higher learning institution in the West
The Platonic Academy was founded in 387 BC in Athens. Plato’s Academy was the first school of higher education in the West and it attracted countless great thinkers, such as Aristotle, Heraclides, and Eudoxus. Students would be taught mathematics, dialectics, natural science, among other sciences. You can visit the archaeological site of the Academy of Plato the next time you visit Athens.
Plato was the first most influential dreamer and idealist
Although Plato despised illusions, he is generally perceived as the “dreamer” among the ancient Greek philosophers, especially when compared to the more rational Aristotle. That is because classical idealism is closely associated with Plato, although the philosopher cannot be considered an idealist in the modern sense. In philosophy, idealism is focusing on the perception of reality from a metaphysical point of view. Plato is often considered as the “earliest representative of metaphysical objective idealism”.
Did you know any of these facts about Plato? Leave a comment down below. If you enjoy watching videos from Helinika, don’t forget to subscribe and follow the platform on other social media!
Greece’s geographic location and long history have enabled the establishment and adoption of various traditions. Some of them can be traced back to Greece’s pagan roots, others are related to the Christian Orthodox faith, and some have been adopted from other cultures and religions. Forget Christmas trees, Christmas carols, and Santa Claus. Let’s see some of the most unique Greek customs and traditions that are celebrated during the winter months.
Unique Greek Winter Holiday Traditions:
The Feeding of the Water Spring and the Unspoken Water
Nautical Christmas Decorations
The Smashing of the Pomegranate
Cutting the King’s Pie
The Theophany and the Great Blessing of the Waters
The Feeding of The Water Spring in Thessaly (The Silent/Unspoken Water)
If you have ever visited the picturesque villages of Thessaly, a region located in central Greece, then you must have noticed the traditional stone drinking fountains that are located in each villages’ central square and on some key-locations in the cobblestone routes that surround them. These water fountains, called «βρύσες» (vrises) in Greek, are being “fed” every Christmas eve or New Year’s eve.
The “feeding of the water spring” (το τάισμα της βρύσης) could be described as an offering to a deity that is connected to the water element. Young maidens walk towards the water fountain late at night and pour honey and butter to “please” it. Depending on the location, various other items, such as olive tree branches, are “offered” to the spring. The latter then starts gushing the “silent” or “unspoken” water, as they call it.
The young women fill in their clay pitchers and return home, bringing many blessings to their household. While carrying it home, they are not allowed to talk to each other or to anyone else, hence the name “silent/unspoken water” (αμίλητο νερό). This water is used similarly to “holy water”, mostly for “cleansing” the house on a spiritual level. In certain regions, the unmarried women use the water to make predictions about the future, usually revolving around their marriage and future family.
It is not clear when this custom was established in Thessaly. Its ritualistic nature and the act of making an offering to what appears to be an elemental deity can, however, lead us to the conclusion that it is rooted back to Greece’s pagan culture and religion. The “feeding of the water spring” bears close similarities to another Greek tradition, which takes place every spring or summer (depending on the region).
Klethonas (Κλήδονας) is an ancient Greek ritualistic custom that was re-established by the Christian Orthodox religion and takes place in certain parts of Greece to this day. The custom occurs in the span of two days and it entails the collection of the “silent/unspoken water” and the storage of this water in a container made out of copper. The women drink the water and sit outside, waiting to hear a voice that would reveal the name of their future husband. Another way to predict who they will marry is by falling asleep and seeing the image of their future husband in their dreams. This is not the only way to celebrate the Klethonas and the use of the “silent/unspoken water” may differ from region to region.
Today, Klethonas is connected to John the Baptist who is believed to reveal the future. However, ancient Greek historian Herodotus and the geographer Pausanias do mention Klethonas in their observations; in ancient times, the omens of the Klethonas were revealed by Zeus through Hermes.
Since many young people leave the countryside and move to bigger cities and since the traditional gender roles have evolved during the years, customs such as the ones of Klethonas and the “feeding of the water spring” are becoming less and less known.
Before we get onto the next tradition, it is worth mentioning that similar customs take place in other parts of the world. For example, there is a Scottish custom called the “Unspoken Water” that entails the collection of water from under a bridge late at night and under complete silence. The water is then used to heal someone who is sick. There is no proof that the Scottish custom has been inspired by the Greek custom nor the opposite, which makes the tradition even more fascinating. Perhaps, the answer could be found in Carl Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious and the set of universal archetypes that are manifested in different cultures in similar ways.
Decorating a Christmas Boat Instead of a Christmas Tree
Nowadays, most Greek households associate Christmas with a decorated evergreen tree. This is a custom that was introduced in Greece in 1833 by the Bavarian prince Otto who ruled as the king of Greece for thirty years, but was adopted by the Greeks in the 20th century, after witnessing depictions of holiday gatherings in foreign movies and tv-shows. Since pine and fir trees are not common in the coastal areas of Greece, a lot of people use fake but realistic-looking trees that people store and re-use year after year. But what did the Greeks decorate before the adoption of the Christmas tree?
If you have ever visited Greece, then you know the importance of the sea in the country’s culture and economy. Greece, a country of 11 million people, is the world leader in maritime shipping, with the current value of the Greek-owned fleet standing at almost 100 billion dollars. If you are not new to this channel and you have watched Helinika’s playlists narrating the Odyssey and the Argonautica, then you already know that Greeks have been dominating the seas since ancient times. It comes as no surprise that Greeks have been decorating their boats -big or small- with Christmas lights for centuries.
This custom might be getting less and less popular today, however, it is well-established in the Greek islands and in the most important port-cities of Greece, like Piraeus. Since not every single Greek person owns a boat, it is very common to own a miniature wooden vessel. This vessel is put in display in the living-room and lit with various lights. Since many Greek families have members who work in maritime shipping and are often absent during the holidays, the wooden vessel symbolizes the love and devotion the whole family has for the seamen while waiting for them to return.
The Smashing of the Pomegranate
A panhellenic custom that survives to this day is the smashing of the pomegranate on New Year’s eve. When Greeks are invited to a NY’s eve party, they sometimes offer real pomegranates or objects depicting this fruit to their hosts. A pomegranate often hangs above the house’s or apartment’s main entrance, bringing luck and blessings to the household members and all of their guests.
During the countdown, minutes or seconds before the arrival of the new year, the hosts smash the pomegranate by hitting it with their right hand against their front door. In this way, the fruit’s red seeds scatter around the house, bringing luck to all of its members. If someone ends up getting red stains all over their clothes, he/she is believed to be the luckiest of the year. This tradition may differ depending on the region of Greece you visit.
Vasilopita (King’s Pie) is a pie that is prepared, blessed, and shared by families and organizations, such as schools and companies, on the 1st of January. The pie has a hidden coin, real or fake, and the person who finds it in his/her piece is believed to be the luckiest of the year. The recipe varies from region to region, but it usually looks and tastes like sweet bread.
The tradition is associated with Saint Basil’s (Άγιος Βασίλειος) day on January 1st, hence the name. Saint Basil the Great was the bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia from 370 AD till 379 AD and he is believed to be the one who brings presents to children on New Year’s Day. He is the Greek Orthodox version of Santa Claus with the difference that he is visiting on January 1st instead of Christmas.
The tradition is common in countries that follow the Christian Orthodox religion, and its roots go back to the Byzantine Empire. The tradition of the cut of vasilopita resembles the tradition of the “three kings’ cake” that is established for the past three centuries in France, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, and New Orleans. However, this custom is associated with the biblical three wise men (or Kings) who visited Jesus on the day of his birth rather than with Saint Basil.
It is worth mentioning that the name Basil (Βασίλειος) derives from the ancient Greek «βασιλεύς» that means “king”. Therefore, the Greek custom is translated into “King’s Pie” rather than “Basil’s Pie”.
On the 7th of January, people who follow the Greek Orthodox religion celebrate the Theophany, also known as “Phota” (Φώτα). This day celebrates the baptism of Christ and symbolizes people’s spiritual rebirth. There are several customs that take place in Greece on that day but the most common one is the “Great Blessing of the Waters”.
A priest from each village, town, or municipality visits the nearest coastline and sings hymns to bless the waters and protect the people working in the sea, such as fishermen, sailors, and mariners. On the rare occasion that a village or town is not close to the sea, the priests bless the nearest pond or river. The custom’s roots take us back to the third century AD and it is obviously associated with the Christian Orthodox religion.
In some parts of Greece, the 7th of January is also closely associated with the «Dance of the Goblins”. Goblins (Καλικάντζαροι) are believed to be chthonic tricksters that are only able to step foot on the Earth’s surface when the waters are “unbaptized”. According to the legend, they roam the streets between Christmas and the 7th of January, just before the “Great Blessing of the Waters”. In some villages, the locals scare away the goblins by dancing and singing loudly or by organizing bonfires.
Why are there so many buildings that resemble ancient Greek temples in Europe? And why do so many artists from the Romantic era depict ancient Greek mythological characters in their sculptures and paintings? The answer is Neoclassicism or Hellenism. Here is what you should know.
Is meze Greek? Is Greek food Mediterranean or Middle Eastern? Do Greek people eat lamb on a regular basis? And why are Greeks so obsessed with olive oil? Today, Helinika unravels the history of Greek food and Greek cuisine.
What is “Greek” Anyways?
You are visiting a Greek restaurant somewhere outside of Greece. You sit on a blue-painted wooden chair, next to an Ionic column, and you are given a menu written in an ancient Greek font. You choose between a big range of options: from typical Greek street food, such as gyros and souvlaki, and traditional Greek meze, like tzatziki and dolmadakia, to more gourmet dishes, such as split peas mousse with prosciutto, chives and sesame paste vinaigrette –a sophisticated way to describe fava. But is this actually… Greek food?
Food plays an important role in a culture. In order to understand what Greek food is, it is important to define the adjective “Greek” and what the Greek culture really is. The modern Greek culture, which is defined as the predominant culture in the state of Greece from 1821 till today, is built upon various complimentary and contrasting cultures and subcultures. These were either developed or adopted by the Greeks and other ethnic minorities that lived in Greece throughout the years.
Some people, predominately outside of Greece, consider “Greek” anything that is tied solely to the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods of Greece’s history. This is what some consider as the “purest” form of the Greek culture. In Greece, the great majority of people also consider the history of the Byzantine Empire and the religion of Orthodox Christianity as an important influence on the modern Greek culture.
At the same time, there is a time period that is rarely discussed: the Ottoman Occupation, also known as the “400 years of Slavery”. The Ottoman rule in Greece, lasting from the mid-15th century till 1821, had a significant influence on Greeks and their culture and this is the reason why some words, musical instruments, and dishes are common in both Turkey and Greece.
Since the Greek culture has been intertwined with similar but also contrasting cultures, Greek food includes various dishes for every taste. In Europe and most parts of the world, Greek cuisine falls under Mediterranean cuisine, whereas in the United States, they consider it “Middle Eastern”. This is why you might come across Greek restaurants with a contrasting décor and menu. The owners are simply trying to accommodate the needs of various people who perceive Greek cuisine differently. Before mentioning some popular and some lesser known Greek dishes, let’s see some ingredients that are predominately used in Greece.
Commons Greek Ingredients
Greeks love using their “liquid gold” in every single meal. The Greek extra virgin olive oil is used in cooking, but it is also used raw as a garniture in salads and cold dishes. It is actually Greece’s fourth most important export and its importance can be traced back to ancient times.
Now, some people, mostly in the US, believe that Greek food is spicy. However, authentic Greek food is savory and Greeks usually cannot tolerate spicy food. You might already know that oregano and basil are two of the most used dried herbs in Greece (and in other Mediterranean countries).
When it comes to dairy products, feta cheese and Greek yoghurt (simply called “yoghurt” in Greek) are consumed on their own or used in various dishes. Last but not least, let’s not forget honey. Greeks have been consuming honey since ancient times, not only for its sweet taste, but also for its various health benefits.
If you ask someone to name a Greek dish, they will mention “moussaka”. This eggplant and potato-based dish is consumed in most Balkan countries, in Turkey, Egypt, and elsewhere. Moussaka has roots in Ottoman Greece and it is not universally considered a traditional Greek dish. Due to the fact that it requires a lot of preparation, it is served hot, and it is high in calories, this dish is not consumed regularly. The generally warm climate in Greece requires light and easy-to-digest dishes: fish, salads, vegetables, and legumes.
A lot of people also believe that Greeks consume lamb very often. The truth is that many Greek families roast lamb on Easter Sunday, following a long Christian Orthodox tradition. It is not clear when this tradition started. It is also worth mentioning that gyros and souvlaki are rarely served with lamb meat in Greece. Gyros with lamb is mostly served in Greek restaurants in the United States and Australia.
A very-well known Greek side dish that is actually consumed regularly in Greece is the Greek salad. The original Greek salad, called «χωριάτικη» (choriatiki * from the village) in Greek, has no green leaves. It can be eaten as a main dish, since it consists of uncooked pieces of vegetables, mostly tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions. Add some olives, a feta brick, oregano, and lots of extra virgin olive oil and voilà: you made yourself an authentic Greek salad.
Meze Culture in Greece
In Greece, meze is also a huge part of the food culture. Meze is a selection of small dishes (e.g. dolmadakia, eggplant dip, tzatziki, pita bread, stuffed mussels etc.) served with alcoholic drinks, such as ouzo and rake. Each person on the table gets a small empty plate and tries a little bit of everything. Since the meze culture was introduced in Greece (and elsewhere) during the Ottoman occupation, some people refuse to consider it “Greek”.
It is important to note that meze culture is also present in the Middle East, however, the dishes are usually a bit different. For example, instead of a dip called fava, other countries consume hummus. These two look a lot alike but the first consists of fava beans and the latter consists of chickpeas. Hummus is rarely consumed in Greece; in fact, people who are now in their 80s and 90s have never heard about it. But if you visit a Greek restaurant in the US or Australia, hummus will most likely be in the menu.
The “purest” form of Greek cuisine is what we consider “Mediterranean Cuisine”. Ancient Greeks ate a lot of cereals, olives, grapes, legumes, and barley bread (often dipped in wine). All of these are still consumed at great amounts in Greece and are also exported abroad. Ancient Greeks also ate a type of pancakes called «τηγανήτες» (teganetes). These are widely eaten to this day.
Other authentic Greek dishes are the ones that were consumed in Byzantine times. Cheeses such as anthotyro (ανθότυρο) and kefalotyri (κεφαλοτύρι) were consumed by Byzantines and are still produced and consumed by Modern Greeks. That was the time when Greeks started using spices and sugar to their meals as well. On very special occasions, rich Byzantines consumed lamb, which is why Modern Greeks consume lamb on Easter Sunday. A very popular Byzantine omelet dish consumed till this day is «σφουγγάτα» (sphoungata). Many scholars also believe that the Greek pies that Modern Greeks love originate from the Byzantine Empire.
Some of the most sophisticated Greek restaurants today have started experimenting with ingredients that were widely used in ancient and Byzantine Greece but are now forgotten. There is also a resistance towards a demand for Greek restaurants that serve all tastes: the humble but rich in taste meze dishes of the enslaved Greeks, the simple yet sophisticated ancient Greek delicacies, and the delicious Byzantine meals.
There are many reasons to learn Greek but few people have money in mind. By learning modern Greek, you acquire a rare and valuable skill that you can use for your own benefit. Here is how to make your rare language skills into a money-making machine.
With Halloween approaching, today’s video on Greek mythology is dedicated on ancient Greek ghost stories. Before we get started, make sure to subscribe to Helinika’s YouTube channel and never miss a video in the future.
Cases of ghostly apparitions have been reported since ancient times, particularly in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece. There are many references of ghosts in Mesopotamian religions and in the ancient Egyptian culture, where ghosts were believed to be the souls and spirits of people who exited their material body and influenced the lives of the living. Ghosts could either harm people or assist them.
In classical antiquity, however, the concept of “haunting” was introduced and ghosts were perceived similarly as in Mesopotamia and Egypt. The souls of the dead could walk on the world of the living and haunt them. An example of that would be the story of Athenodorus’ haunting.
Helinika has collected ghost stories from different times of Greece’s ancient history. Some of them were narrated for entertainment purposes, while others were reported by ancient historians as real events. Stay till the end because some of the stories are terrifying.
Odysseus Crosses the Veil Between the Living and the Dead
Odysseus was an ancient Greek king of the island of Ithaca in the Ionian Sea. He is known as the mythical hero of the epic poem “The Odyssey”, which is attributed to the ancient Greek poet Homer. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus goes through a series of adventures to get from Troy to Ithaca. At some point, he is instructed by a witch named Circe to contact the dead and learn more about his upcoming obstacles.
Odysseus arrives at a dark, foggy, and cold place named “Cimeria”, which is estimated to be modern-day Crimea. According to the legend, the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is very thin there. As soon as the Ithacan king arrived in Cimeria, he dug a hole in the ground, sacrificed animals, and poured milk and honey in the pit in order to attract the souls of the dead.
The otherwise brave and fearless Odysseus is terrified with the terrifying ghosts that appear before him. However, he manages to keep calm and finally talk to the blind prophet Teiresias, who instructs him how to reach Ithaca safely. He is also able to talk to his late mother – a tragic scene, since the hero was unaware of his mother’s death. It is important to remember that, in order to communicate with the dead, Odysseus had to offer animal blood, milk, and honey. These three things are considered to be attractors of ghosts till this day. So, if you do believe in ghosts, never mix all these ingredients together.
Macabre Tales of Ancient Greek Necromancy
Necromancy (from the Greek “νεκρός” and “μαντεία”) is a divination practice that involves some type of communication with the dead. You might be aware of modern-day mediums contacting spirits through dreams and visions or during seances and even by playing board games. Although these ways of communicating with the dead still give people the creeps, you can’t imagine how terrifying ancient methods of necromancy could get.
The less scary divination and magic practices involved inhaling hallucinogenic gases and chewing Nerium. Just like Pythia did in the oracle of Delphi when she supposedly communicated with gods and spirits. However, ancient Greek witches would often follow macabre rituals that involved digging up graves and stealing parts or entire human bodies. They would then use them to briefly bring the dead back to life and reveal secrets and truths. Sometimes, they would ask the dead man or woman to ask Hecate or another chthonic deity to curse someone. They would then burn the bodies and end their lives a second time.
A macabre story of necromancy is the one of Thelyphron in Apuleius. Thelyphron is a (fictional?) man that visits the Greek city of Larissa, where he learns that the area is infested with shape-shifting witches who try to steal the bodies of people who have recently died. The man is offered a well-paid job: to guard the body of a man the night before his burial. Thelyphron spends a night in a dark room with the dead body, holding a lantern. At some point, a bird enters the room and he tries to catch it. Within seconds, he falls into a deep sleep and awakens only when the sun is shining. Thankfully, the body he guarded was intact.
The widow thanked him and payed him for his service. When he tried to exit the house, he was greeted by an angry crowd. Friends and relatives of the diseased man were accusing the widow that she murdered her husband to live with her lover. A necromancer arrives at the scene to awaken the man. A ghost appears and enters his lifeless body.
The zombie reveals that he was indeed poisoned by his wife. He then turns his head and stares at Thelyphron, who stood there petrified. The zombie thanks his guardian for scaring away the witch who entered his room at night. However, he reveals that the witch, disguised as a bird, hypnotized Thelyphron and stole parts of his nose and ears. Thelyphron is shocked; he touches his nose, then his ear and chunks of wax fall on the ground. The witch had not only stolen his body parts, but had replaced them with wax figures. The crowd starts laughing at poor Thelyphron who runs away from Larissa.
Athenodorus was a philosopher and student of Posidonius of Rhodes, who eventually became the mentor of the first Roman emperor. However, he is known not only as a great thinker, but also as the witness of the first haunting ever reported. His experience has inspired countless urban legends, novels, and movies, but it has been reported as a true story.
Just like other thinkers in the 1st century AD, philosopher Athenodorus spent time studying in the city of Athens. As a broke student, he was looking for cheap houses to rent. After long research, he came across an amazing opportunity. There was a large and beautiful home offered at an extremely low price. It was a catch!
Athenodorus was warned that the house was rumored to be haunted with the spirit of a chained old man who would roam from room to room at night, dragging his chains and moaning. Not only that, but the ghost was said to have cursed the house. Whoever was brave enough to rent it would suffer from mysterious sicknesses. Rumor had it that those who stayed there for too long would eventually die from the lack of sleep and the abundance of stress and fear.
However, Athenodorus was a sceptic. He kept thinking how much money he would save while staying in a literal mansion. The philosopher rented the house and spent his first day organizing it. The house was a literal mess. And by the time the first night stars started beaming in the Athenian sky, he was able to relax in his new office room and start studying philosophy – his favorite nightly habit.
Athenodorus was concentrated on his studies when he suddenly heard heavy steps and chains rattling within his house. Could the rumors be true? Or was someone playing a prank on him? The young philosopher stayed focused on his books, refusing to look at the source of the noise. The footsteps kept coming closer and closer and he could hear a man’s heavy breathing. He eventually looked up only to see the ghostly figure of a man in chains.
Although terrified, the philosopher asked the ghost to leave his room. He needed to study. The ghost seemed impatient, he rattled his chains and seemed to be asking Athenodorus to follow him. Athenodorus finally understood what was going on and stood up. He was willing to follow the phantom wherever he wanted him to go.
The chained ghost started walking from room to room and finally exited through the backdoor. As soon as the phantom stepped on the courtyard, it vanished. The philosopher grew suspicious. Was someone murdered and buried there?
The next morning, Athenodorus visited the city officials and asked them to excavate his courtyard. He was right; a skeleton tied with heavy chains was discovered there. The bones were removed and buried according to the ancient traditions in a cemetery. No ghosts ever visited Athenodorus again. He was able to enjoy his enormous house all by himself!
Have you ever heard of any of these stories? Feel free to share any ghost stories from your countries and don’t forget to follow Helinika on social media!
Helinika’s shop on Redbubble is introducing a new collection named “Minimal Shape and Line Art”. Inspired by the simplicity of the Greek aesthetic, these wall art designs will add character to your living space.
On the 28th of October Greeks and philhellenes around the world celebrate the “Anniversary of the No” (Επέτειος του Όχι), also known as “Ohi Day” (Ημέρα του Όχι). It marks Greece’s rejection of Benito Mussolini’s ultimatum to allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory during World War II.
The 28th of October is an annual national holiday in the Hellenic Republic, and it is celebrated with military and student parades. The student parades are a controversial topic in Greece, with some people stating that children should not be parading as soldiers and others adding that the parades are symbolic, showing the young generation’s respect for their ancestors’ sacrifices.
The Greek Anniversary of the No (Ohi Day). Metaxa’s Reply
According to the official report of events, the Prime Minister of Greece, General Ioannis Metaxas, received an ultimatum from the Italian embassy to Greece in the early hours of the 28th October 1940. They demanded to allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory; otherwise, war would ensue.
Metaxas replied with the phrase “Alors, c’est la guerre!” (Then it is war!). However, there is an unverified common belief that his reply was a laconic «Όχι!» (No!). This day does not only mark the start of the Greco-Italian war, but also Greece’s general stance against Italian Fascism and German Nazism.
It is important to note that General Metaxas was the totalitarian leader of the 4th of August Regime that was inspired by the rhetoric of Musolini but kept closed relations with Britain and the French Third Republic.
Some time ago I posted a video with do’s and dont’s in Athens, Greece. But I realized that there are other things that I did not mention and that do not apply only in Athens. So today I will discuss some things to avoid when traveling or moving to Greece. Before we get started, make sure to subscribe and stay till the end because the last two things I will mention are literally lifesaving.
When Eating and Drinking in Greece, Avoid Splitting the Bill
You are eating out with friends in a restaurant in Greece and it is time to pay the bill. Although a lot of bars and restaurants nowadays offer the option of having each person pay individually, splitting the bill is considered bad etiquette and it is generally frowned upon. In Greece, restaurants are responsible for creating a bill for every single table and not for every single person who is eating there. Then, it is the responsibility of the people who sit on the table to find a way to pay for everything.
That is not only because it is way faster for the waiters and waitresses who need to attend other tables, but also because, in Greece, it is common to order food as a group and not as an individual. For example, Greeks usually order a bunch of different dishes that they agree upon and each person gets an empty plate to fill it up with anything they like. Just like a family would do at home.
It is important to remember that Greece is considered much less individualistic and much more collectivistic than countries such the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, without that meaning that people have less individual rights or anything like this. It is more about how well people integrate into groups and how easy it is to take decisions as a collective.
Tipping Might Be Optional in Greece But It Is Also Expected
Tipping in Greece is not mandatory, as it is in the US, and you definitely don’t have to do any calculations to make sure that you tipped an acceptable amount. However, unless the service was terrible, you are expected to leave a tip on the table that you deem appropriate for the service. That applies mostly in cafes, bars, and restaurants, rather than hair salons or other businesses that offer some type of service. Tipping taxi drivers or employees in self-service restaurants is less common. However, when ordering food, tipping the delivery man or woman is recommended.
There is no specified percentage of the bill that should be offered as a tip. Most people would agree that one euro for two cups of coffee and five euros for a 25-euro bill at a restaurant are acceptable. When the amount you have to pay is too small, it is preferred to round things down: giving 2 euros when the bill says 1,65. However, leaving 1-2 cents as a tip is worse than not leaving a tip at all.
Most museums and archaeological sites around the world have dress codes or at least a few rules regarding what is not allowed to wear. The same applies in Greece. As in most European countries, the dress code in Greek museums is very relaxed – you don’t have to dress up formally or cover your entire body, but you might be asked to cover up if you enter without a shirt or with a crop top.
What most visitors do not know is that there are stricter rules when visiting archaeological sites. For example, the Herodion Theater of Athens does not allow the entrance to anyone wearing hilled shoes, since they can ruin the marble auditorium. Furthermore, if you are visiting historical churches and monasteries, you might be asked to cover your legs, whether you are a man or a woman.
Avoid Showering When the Water Heater (Boiler) is On
Houses and apartment buildings in Greece have two different water heaters: one powered with solar energy and an electric one. The second is used only on the rare occasion that there is no sunlight for over 24 hours. Also, some old houses do not have a solar powered water heater installed.
If you have to turn on an electric water heater when travelling in Greece, note that you shouldn’t let it run for hours. It is extremely costly and the chances of starting a fire due to an electrical short circuit are high. But the most important part is to always turn it off when someone is showering. Many water heaters are not properly insulated and showering with the water heater on can lead to electrocution.
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“Greek Flag Day”, known also as “Greek National Day”, is celebrated on the 27th of October, one day before the “Ohi Day”. Helinika has gathered everything you should know about the national flag of the Hellenic Republic.
The flag of Greece as we know it today was adopted in 1978. However, similar versions of the flag had been used throughout the years since the Greek Revolution, also known as the Greek War of Independence.
The national flag of the Hellenic Republic is blue and white and it is therefor called «Γαλανόλευκη» (Bluewhite). There is no specified shade of blue for the Greek flag. Generally speaking, the darker the shade of blue used, the more conservative the flag maker is. That is because a darker shade of blue was used during the years of the Greek junta. The colors symbolize the sea and clear blue sky; two of the most iconic elements of the Hellenic Republic.
There are nine horizontal stripes on the Greek national flag: five blue and four white. According to popular belief, that the number of stripes symbolizes the nine syllables of the historical phrase «Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος» (Freedom or Death). However, others suggest that they are a symbol of the nine Muses in ancient Greek mythology.
The cross on the upper left corner of the Greek national flag signifies the most predominant religion in Greece, which is Greek Orthodox Christianity. Religion plays a big role in the Greek culture, however, Greece is a secular state.
You may already know that Plato (428/427 BCE – 348-347 BCE) was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. You may also be familiar with him thanks to the Italian Renaissance fresco in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican called “The School of Athens”. Here are five facts about Plato that you may or may not know.
You may know Socrates as the Classical Greek philosopher behind the quote “I know that I know nothing”, who also laid the fundamentals of western philosophy. Here are five facts about the classical Greek philosopher that you may or may not know.
Is meze Greek? Is Greek food Mediterranean or Middle Eastern?Do Greek people eat lamb on a regular basis? And why are Greeks so obsessed with olive oil? Today, Helinika unravels the history of Greek food and Greek cuisine.
One of the most underrated ancient Greek heroes is Jason, the prince of Iolcos and husband of the witch Medea, who you might know from the ancient Greek tragedy with the same name. Jason is the hero of the myth of the Argonauts, the sailors of the legendary ship named Argo, and the main character in the epic poem Argonautica by Apollonius Rhodius. The legend of Jason is actually one of the most fascinating ancient Greek myths and there are plenty of conspiracy theories surrounding this topic. Today, we are following the hero to Colchis, where he travels to obtain the mythical golden fleece.
Facts About Jason, Argo, and The Argonauts | How It All Began
Jason was the son of Aeson, king of the city of Iolcos in Thessaly. God Herme’s blood run in his family and he was the student of the Centaur Chiron in nearby Pelion. Prince Jason was actually sent to live with the half-man – half-horse creature when his uncle, Pelias, took over the kingdom of Iolcos. Pelias started killing the descendants of his brother, the rightful king, except for newborn Jason. His mother and her maids had faked his death: as soon as he was born, the women started crying over his cries, saying he was a stillborn. Then, they escorted him out of the palace and hid him in the woods of the nearby mountain range.
Jason was raised by wise Chiron and he was taught hunting, music, and medicine. He was a natural-born leader and he knew that he was the rightful king of Iolcos. As soon as the prince started approaching adulthood, he visited his birthplace to announce to Pelias that he is now ready to sit on his throne.
Pelias immediately remembered a prophecy he had heard many years ago. He had been warned by an oracle that a man with one sandal would try to dethrone him. When the young man approached him, he looked at his feet. This man named Jason was wearing only one sandal; the other was lost while he was trying to help an older woman, who was actually goddess Hera dressed as a peasant. The cunning king knew he must be strategic and not infuriate Jason. Otherwise, he would risk getting killed.
“To take my throne, which you shall, you must go in a quest to find the golden fleece.”, he said, knowing that the task would be impossible to complete.
In Greek, it is called «το χρυσόμαλλο δέρας». The golden fleece was the fleece -as the name suggests- of a mythical golden-wooled flying ram. This ram was called Chrysomallos, meaning “golden hair”, and was sent by Poseidon to save prince Phrixus from being sacrificed to end the drought in his kingdom. The young man was saved similarly to Iphigeneia and similar stories of princes and princesses being saved by animals were quite popular in ancient Greece.
Chrysomallos, the flying ram, brought Phrixus to Colchis, an area on the coast of the Black Sea, where modern-day Georgia is located. According to the legend, Phrixus sacrificed the ram to Poseidon (other sources mention Zeus), as it was intended. Then, he hung the ram’s shiny fleece from a tree, which was guarded by a serpent. The description resembles that of a dragon, an important detail for some conspiracy theorists. The golden fleece was so well guarded that soon became a symbol of authority and leadership. Whoever was able to attain it would be able to lead any group, any community, any city. As for the spirit of Chrysomallos, it is said that the animal became a constellation and it represents the sign of Aries in Greek astrology.
Jason’s Quest | The Journey to Colchis | The Argonautica
Jason was intrigued by the idea of traveling to a foreign land to obtain a status symbol. He didn’t want to be offered the throne so easily. Like other ancient Greek heroes, he wanted to prove his worth. And this is how the quest to Colchis began.
Prince Jason gathered some of the bravest, strongest, most disciplined, and smartest men from all over Greece, including Hercules. He then made sure that he and his 49 men would travel with the safest and fastest ship that was ever created. According to Apollonius Rhodius, the builder Argus constructed the ship Argo with the help of goddess Athena. The latter favored highly intelligent and strategic people, as we have seen throughout this entire video series.
The Argonauts in Lemnos
Argo is still one of the most legendary ships of all times and it is said to have flied over the skies and turned into a constellation. Thanks to its clever design and great weather conditions, the ship took the men safely to the island of Lemnos. There, the Argonauts learned that all the male residents of the island have been killed.
The local women revealed that they were angered by the fact that the men were unfaithful to them and had abducted women from Thrace to keep them as slaves. It was later revealed that goddess Aphrodite was to blame. The goddess of romance and beauty was forgotten by the Lemnian women who paid no tribute to her. And that is why she decided to make the local men look for women elsewhere.
The only man who was spared from the wrath of the Lemnian women was king Thoas, whose daughter could not bear the idea of killing him. His daughter was no other than Hypsipyle. The young woman was immediately attracted to prince Jason, who ended up getting pregnant by him. The entire crew ended up impregnating the women who were left on the island and then departed to continue their quest. If you are aware of the tragedy called Medea, then you should know that Jason had commitment issues when it comes to relationships.
Argo’s next stop was the Arctonisos or Bear Island, which is basically an island in the Sea of Marmara, known as the Propontis. This area connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea and it is rich in marble. The Bear Island was ruled by king Cyzicus, a hospitable and amicable man who made sure that Jason and his crew-members had a comfortable stay at his palace.
King Cyzicus wanted to warn the Argonauts to avoid sailing to the eastern side of the island, since they were constantly getting attacked by the Pelasgians and his army was always guarding the east coast. However, he ended up getting distracted and forgot to mention this important detail to Jason.
After the Argonauts departed, a storm started, and they soon lost their orientation. The men ended up on the east coast of Bear Island, where they were attacked by the army of Cyzicus. The latter thought that they were approached by enemies and the Argonauts were unaware that they had ended up at the same island. Jason and his crew ended up killing the majority of Cyzicus soldiers and Cyzicus himself. When they realized what was going on, it was way too late. The Argonauts were quick to judge the situation and why they were being attacked. They ended up killing the people who had hosted them. The people who fed them and prepared them for the rest of their trip. The Argonauts left the island only after mourning the dead and paying for a costly burial for Cyzicus and his army. Cyzicus’ sons took over the island and the Argonauts sailed to Mysia in Asia Minor.
The Argonauts in Mysia and in the Land of the Berbryces
According to some sources, Hercules was left in Mysia. He was either lured there by nymphs and never returned to Argo or, according to the historian Pherecydes, the ship complaint about his weight and asked him to disembark. The most interesting variation of the story is, however, that Hercules stayed on the island after his lover, Hylas, fell in love with a local nymph. In any case, Jason was extremely sad that one of his bravest men chose a different path.
Argo’s next stop was the land of Berbryces. The people there were not very friendly. Their king, Amycos, challenged one of them to a boxing match and, for the first time in history, the king lost. The Argonauts managed to leave the island before they got slaughtered by the local army.
The Argonauts were able to surpass many challenges during their trip to Colchis. One of their greatest achievements was scaring away the Harpies from the home of king Phineus. The latter was a cursed Prophet who was not only blinded by Zeus, but was hunted down by some terrifying birds called Harpies. These birds would steal Phineus’ food and torment him. The Argonauts felt bad for the man and chased the enormous birds to scare them away. The Harpies left the area and never returned. Phineus thanked the men by revealing the dangers they would encounter in their trip. He warned them of the Symplegades, the terrifying rocks of the Bosporus that were classing together every time a boat would try to pass by.
When the Argo approached the Clashing Rocks of the Bosporus, Jason released a dove. He wanted to see how fast they would have to go to cross the stream successfully. The bird flew between the cliffs and the rocks managed to cut only a small part of its tail. The Argonauts used all of their strength and also managed to go through the rocks by only sacrificing a small part of the stern ornament. From that moment on, the Symplegades stopped moving.
Adventures By The Edge of The World and Arriving to Colchis
The Argonauts continued their journey and encountered many obstacles as they were approaching what was believed to be “the edge of the world”. They lost some of their men from wild boars and mysterious diseases. They encountered the Stymphalian Birds and managed to scare them away with their growling sounds. They also offered a helping hand to four shipwrecked brothers who warned them about the terrifying serpent that protects the Golden Fleece.
With the winds in their favor, the Argonauts arrived in Colchis, where the sacred grove of Ares was located. After wandering around Colchis they soon came across a beautiful palace. Four fountains could be found in the courtyard, surrounded by vines and beautiful flowers. They were gushing water, milk, wine, and aromatic oils respectively. This was the home of king Aeetes, who was standing there next to his beautiful daughter Medea.
Jason had been debating over the past few days which strategy he should follow to obtain the shiny fleece. He believed in his powers and if he started a fight, he could win. However, all these days travelling around the world had taught him a lot. Success can be achieved with the power of persuasion. Violence is not always necessary to get what you want.
Jason came to Colchis in peace. He accompanied the four shipwrecked siblings to the palace and was hosted there by the king Aeetes himself. Meanwhile, goddess Athena and goddess Hera were plotting how to get princess Medea fall in love with Jason, which would eventually help the hero persuade the king of Colchis. They eventually got Eros, the Greek version of Cupid, to shoot the arrow of romantic love to Medea, who instantly developed feelings for the prince of Iolcos.
Jason knew that, in order to persuade someone, you need to gain their trust. He was a stranger in Aeetes eyes and it would take forever to make him like him. However, he ended up using one of his good deeds to his favor. It was revealed that the brothers he had saved were the king’s grandsons. The eldest of the young men started narrating how he and his brothers were going to die until Jason and his crew found them and rescued them. He then proceeded to tell the king that Jason has lost his throne in Iolcos and he needs to obtain the fleece and take his rightful place.
Although these words were coming from his grandson and not Jason himself, Aeetes became enraged. How could someone ask for the most precious item of his kingdom? Jason heard Aeetes and how he would punish him for his audacity to demand something like this. Jason stayed calm. He did not take things personally. Instead, he started complimenting Aeetes and telling him that he would be willing to pay a price for getting the fleece. Not only that, but Iolcos would be forever grateful to him. He would be known for his generosity in his kingdom and beyond.
Aeetes started thinking about his options. He could detect Jason’s efforts to persuade him but he didn’t feel like ordering his execution anymore. Instead, the king of Colchis promised him that he would offer him the fleece only if he completed a series of “impossible” tasks, just like the Hercule’s labors.
To begin with, Jason would have to yoke a pair of fire-breathing oxen and plow the field. Then, he would have to plant dragons’ teeth in the soil and fight off the skeletons that would sprout. The final task would be to destroy the mighty dragon that guarded the fleece. The king believed that Jason would reject the proposal but maintain his positive attitude towards him. It would a win-win situation.
Jason was indeed overwhelmed by all these tasks and, although he was a confident and brave individual, he was also reasonable. He knew that it would be impossible to complete these tasks. But given the circumstances and the fact that, without the fleece, he would be assassinated by Pelias, he accepted the challenge. What he did not know was that two goddesses were on his side and that Medea, the princess of Colchis, possessed magic abilities and was also madly in love with him.
The young woman spent the night with her maidens, gathering herbs and other items to prepare a charm that would protect Jason from harms way. She then approached him and told him that, if he agrees to marry her, she will give him a charm that would protect him from fire and bronze. Jason agreed and received Medea’s magic protection.
The prince of Iolcos and leader of the Argonauts appeared in front of Aeetes, the people of Colchis, and his crew members. They would all watch him try to complete the “impossible tasks”. Since only him and Medea knew about the charms, the audience was left in shock while watching him approach the first ox, which started breathing fire.
Jason was not harmed by the flames, since he was protected by Medea’s charm. He was able to plow the field with the help of these dangerous animals. He then planted the seeds that were given to him. These were not normal seeds; they were dragons’ teeth. All of a sudden, skeletons started digging themselves out of the soil, forming an army. Jason followed Medea’s instructions and threw a rock at the skeletons who got disoriented. The blind skeletons started fighting each other and Jason was standing there watching them destroy themselves.
Jason and The Dragon of Ares’ Sacred Grove
After Aeetes watched Jason completing the “impossible” tasks, he panicked. He could feel that Jason could destroy the dragon and run away with the golden fleece. Before the Argonauts could realize what was going on, Aeetes ordered his army to destroy Argo. Medea then did the unthinkable. This wouldn’t be the first time she would commit such an act, but you have to remember that she was blinded by Eros; her love for Jason was not healthy. She was obsessed with him and would do anything to help him.
Medea killed her brother to destruct her father from destroying Argo and stopping the Argonauts from escaping. At the same time, Jason run towards the sacred grove of Ares, threw Medea’s poisonous potion at the dragon, and stole the golden fleece. Other sources mention that Medea sang a lullaby to the dragon and put him to sleep; a concept that we have seen in the first Harry Potter book. Another variation of the myth wants Jason consumed alive by the dragon but managing to slice open the monster’s belly with the help of the princess of Colchis. Jason then run towards Argo with his crew members and escaped with Medea and his golden trophy.
Returning to Iolcos
Going back to Iolcos was not an easy task. The Argonauts had to avoid the Sirens, Circe, Scylla and Charybdis, just like Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey. The Argonauts also faced Talos, a bronze robot-like guard of the island of Crete. Medea played a crucial role in helping the crew survive the trip. Without her magic spells and potions, fetching the fleece and going back to Iolcos would be a deadly task.
Unfortunately, Jason and Medea were not able to rule the city of Iolcos. Pelias refused to offer his throne and Medea did another atrocious act. She promised the daughters of Pelias that their father would get much younger and live much longer if they cooked him in a pot just like a lamb. Medea would use her magic herbs to revive him, which she never did. The couple was chased away from Iolcos and found refuge in Corinth. The tragedies never ended for them. However, the ending of the story is the topic of a tragedy, a theatrical play. Are you interested in a new series dedicated on Greek drama? Comment down below!
Theories & Conspiracy Theories About the Argonautica
There are many themes found in the Argonautica. The most obvious is that of power and how it can blind people and motivate them into doing the impossible possible. At the same time, we can see how humans are unwilling to give their powerful position to someone who is more capable than them. Sometimes, someone promised to give them power if they proved themselves. Have you ever worked for a company and gave your 100% to achieve the goals you were given, only to see yourself remain stagnant and not get compensated the way you were promised to get compensated? Then you know exactly how Jason felt when he returned to Iolcos with the golden fleece.
Another theme that is present in the Argonautica is that of the art of persuasion. Every ancient Greek hero has a set of qualities that make them stand out. They are all brave and strong, but this is not enough to move forward in life. Odysseus was witty and was able to trick others and get himself out of difficult situations. We saw that when he got Cyclops Polyphemus drank and when he came up with the idea of the Trojan horse. Jason appears to be a person who chooses his battles. He knows that violence can be unnecessary sometimes and that you can get yourself out of difficult situations by complimenting others and being diplomatic. Of course, nothing would be possible if Medea hadn’t fallen in love with him, proving that the greatest charm you can cast on someone is make them fall for you. Once Eros shoots his arrows, you have the person under your control.
Apart from the theories regarding the meaning of the Argonautica, there are plenty of conspiracy theories that suggest that Jason was a historical figure and that Argo was not a regular ship but rather a spaceship. Others say that the golden fleece actually represents sea silk and that the Argonauts were the first ones to cross an ancient silk road to modern day Georgia. There is not enough proof to validate these theories, however it is worth taking them into consideration. Have you ever heard of any of these theories? If yes, do you believe in them?
You may know Aristotle (Aristotélēs, 384–322 BC) as the ancient Greek philosopher who was taught by another well-known philosopher, Plato, during the Classical era. Here are five facts about philosopher and polymath Aristotle that you may or may not know.