Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Cranes of Stymphalos

This week's #Hercworks is labour 6
#laboursofheracles #heracles #greekmythology #greekmyths

(My apologies this is later than usual having trouble with the wifi on the laptop)


The painter has basically used the myth as an excuse or opportunity to demonstrate his ability to paint birds and the limited color makes the painting more beautiful. 

Greek vase painters used a limited range of colors because many pigments used by painters can not be used for ceramics due to the effect of heat and fire on them. True Glazes despite the use of faience by the Egyptians didn't reach the Mediterranean cultures from the Far East until much later.

The shine of the black part is burnished clay slip.

Now back to the myth.

There is still a lake in Arcadia by this name today. 

In ancient times there was a small city many religious shrines to Artemis and wetlands near the Lake. 

 A group of birds described as cranes migrated and settled there. 
These birds were said to have had razor sharp beaks and feathers and poisonous dung. Apparently none of the local farmers they were plaguing had archery skills at least not on the level of Heracles. Or the birds had the sense to hide deep in the marshes? 

Heracles used a rattle to startle them so he could shoot them. 

Some writers claim the "cranes" were actually fever demons.

However large birds despite their fragile appearance can be quite strong and a  swan can break a man's arm with its wings.

I suspect the farmers tried to drive the birds away from their fields and out of the wetlands but the birds defended their nesting sites so they had to call the Mycenaean age's leading pest control expert  HERACLES !

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Active and Actions Matthew 7 7 - 12

#gospel Matthew Chapter 7 #bible study

This is one of those sections that some translators tend to makeover into English thats maybe a bit too modern. Why?

Read on and there's a lovely ethics zinger at the end.
A very famous verse.

Literal translation with notes inserted in brackets

verse 7

Ask and it will be given(Future passive to you
(Greek often uses passive  and future where English uses Active voice)
Seek and you will find
Knock and it will be opened (Another future passive)  to you.

verse 8

all for he who is asking receives
all pas and a participle makes more sense in Greek so it has to be changed !
The sense of each person who asks as an individual but there is no equivalent to everyone in Greek ... well no ACTUAL equivalent pas panta can be all or every.
and the one who is seeking finds
and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Some people think Jesus was being very Zen like and referring to enlightenment but this verse seems ot be just as much as prayers and answers?

Most importantly given the end of the passage about TAKING ACTION.

Verse 9

or what (Man / person) is of you (the group listening an appeal to both the group as a whole and individuals) if should ask the son his for bread  not a stone he will give to him (instead)?

Good practical necessities are asked for. Dont repay evil for good is a theme that appears elsewhere.

Verse 10

and if a fish he should ask for not a serpent will he give him?

Verse 11

if therefore you evil being know gifts good to give to the children of you
how much more the father who in heaven (is) will give good things to them asking him?

Now the closer or the zinger that ties it all together!

Verse 12

All things therefore whatever you wish  that people should be done to you
 likewise so and you do to them.

this for is the law and the prophets!

Note prophets as teachers not prophecies !

Do good things to others human or divine if you want good things to happen to you ... treat people right  do unto others as an older translation puts it

Spiritual grace and insight and pracitcla necessities can be sought and prayed for but acts of faith must be balance by ACTION "random acts of kindness" or foreplanned charity .... whatever but the right thing is to do good!

And keep on doing it!

The Beatitudes Verses have so much we can learn from!

Mid week back to the Labours of Heracles !

If you have just discovered Metousia.
Sundays I comment on the Greek New Testament.
Midweek on Classical Greek  culture.

Do visit and share some of my prior posts!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014


The Stables of #Augeias
The #Labors of #Heracles 5

Apparent ancient Roman and Greek artists didn't find cleaning out stables an inspiring subject. I did manage  find one image.  This is an example of a type of Roman mosaic using what we might call a "Stick image"  that depicts Heracles digging through rock. We know it is meant to depict the Augeian Stable Labor since similar iamges often appear as part of a sequence depicting all 12 labors.

AUGEIAS was the King of Elis in the NW Peloponnese region of Greece.

Elis is spelt with a LONG E in Classical Greece. EELIS.

Now Heracles offered to clear Augeias cattle yards of dung in ONE DAY and the  story claims these yards hadn't been cleared since they were first built. 

Cow manure makes great fertilizer but perhaps Augeias refused to share his supply with his people which may be another reason Heracles got involved. 

The location of these cattle  yards may have been in an area now covered by a dam where two rivers join the Peneios and Ladon as there was a Mycenaean settlement on the nearby hill of Armatova near Agraidhokhori thought to have been ELEAN PYLOS. 

Nestors PYLOS was in Messene further south. 

Heracles succeeded in doing this in one day by diverting the waters of two rivers thru walls he smashed though the depiction in Roman art of him digging suggests to me a more prosaic form of the story in which he made use of existing irrigation channels to direct those river waters into the yards. 

I suspect farmers further  downstream were probably extremely pleased to get their fields fertilized for free?

Sunday, 19 October 2014


#gospelofmatthew #bible study

Gospel of Matthew Ch 7 Verse 6

People tend to cite the middle of this verse and ignore the rest.

Literal translation

Not give (aor subj)  the holy to the dogs.
Nor throw (aor subj again) pearls yours in front of the the swine
lest they tread down  / trample katapateoo  upon them in the feet of them
and having turned around  strephomai aor part they rend (another aor subj) you.

note this verse is not just about pigs seen as unclean animals.

While the Jews didn't eat pork they may have farmed pigs for the bristles and leather from their hides or seen local Greek colonists farming pigs or had wild pigs coming down form the highlands and forests  wandering the area eating waste.

This verse isnt just about waste but about avoiding danger?

I wonder if Jesus was referring to some local recent event during which someone was silly enuff in Galilee to actually throw low grade pearls into a pig sty to demonstrate how pigs will eat anything and the pigs being intelligent animals got really offended.

Note the use of en as a dative agent ... the pearls were crushed  into the pigs "feet" which are very sensitive probably irritating them so enraged they turned on the human attacking them?

Perhaps we could also read this as not only  don't waste but do feed or offer people the correct food or don't try to test and fool people so they don't get angered by your extravagance and turn on you?

Thursday, 16 October 2014


The Labours of #Heracles
The Boar of #erymanthios

Erymanthios is a real mountain in the NW Peloponnese and its lower slopes did have Mid Helladic and Mycenaean settlements and those fertile slopes and farms were once ravaged by a enormous wild boar.

Heracles was ordered to bring the beast back alive not just kill it.

Now this wily porcine know all the hiding places and thickets and it was winter when Heracles finally cornered the beast forcing it into a deep drift of snow so he could could snare it and tie and bind it and carry it back to Mycenae.

His unfortunate cousin Eurystheus was so horrified he was said to have hidden himself inside a pithos or a bronze urn and refused to face him though the vase painter seems to have preferred a version of the story in which Heracles confronts him.

Perhaps this is a scene from an Attic satyr play?

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Matthew 7: 3-5

#gospel #biblestudy #matthew #beatitudes

Matthew Chapter 7 Verses 3 -5

Here's a word for word translation of the Greek.

why you look at the mote the object in the eye of the brother of you the but in the of you eye beam / log not percieve / notice.

how you will say to the brother of you
Let me cast out the mote from the eye of you

Behold the beam in the the eye of you
Hypocrite cast out first the beam out of the eye of you

and then you will clearly to cast out the mote out of the eye of the brother of you.

Nows what noteworthy in the greek that differs from the English and can add to your insight without removing wood be it dust or huge chunks!

Mote is karphos something small wooden and dry splinters chaff sawdust

Dokos by contrast is a log or plank a large length of timber used as a roof support or bar or shaft.

Many translations say look or see but the verb is katanoew perceive notice understand THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE SEEING  thoughtful observation?

Verse 4 seems to contain a quote? Perhaps from another preacher regarded as a hypocrite by some?

Was some one talking about spiritual blindness or comparing sin to dust ?

Note also that every form of ekballoo cast out / throw away  in these verses is spelt with a single L which means they are AORIST!

Finally we have another form of Blephoo see look but with dia added.

This gets translated as see clearly in English but can also mean to look through something or focus and give special attention while looking.

I hope these notes have added to your understanding and pleasure while studying the Beatitudes!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Labors of Heracles 3 - the Ceryneian Hind

One of the lesser known labors of #Heracles is that of the #CeryneianHind.

The Hind of Ceryneia was sacred to Artemis with golden horns and hooves of bronze and could not be hunted by ordinary men.

Possibly it was just some priestess' spoilt pet helping itself to local crops and gardens and just making a general nuisance of itself damaging gardens however it be have been sacred for other reasons too!

Legend and some historians speak of "Hyperboreans" visiting the shrines of Greece particularly Delphi following the Amber trade route.

Perhaps this deer was a reindeer hence its special status.

Now Ceryneia was the name of both a settlement and a river now called the Vouraikos, and this river that flows through a narrow gorge which is now notable for a scenic railway called the Kalavrita.

Due to the local geology the valley is broader up near Kalavrita and narrows to a gorge before reaching the narrows coastal plain.

Deer raiding gardens and farms near could have retreated into the safety of the narrow gorge and hidden in forested slopes difficult for even the most skilled hunters to access.

Heracles has said to have taken a year to catch the beast which may seem odd to modern hunters but remember he had to catch it alive to avoid offending the goddess or breaking a taboo.  Also no infra red scope!

I can also see some one saying
"How can we avoid breaching the taboo on that pesky deer?
Oh hey that Guy over at Mycenae whats his name Heracles the one already working off a curse ..."

Some versions claim Eurysthenes was going to add the deer to his private collection but Heracles either arranged its escape or first returned it to his half sister depending on which author you read.

The vase painting I selected shows Heracles between Athena and Artemis.

He is shown breaking off a horn so perhaps there is a lost variant of the story in which he does that?

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Judge NOT Matthew 7 : 1-2

are the opening words of #matthew #gospel 7:1-2
#biblestudy #jesus

Krinoo the verb which appears 4 times in these 2 verses is a cognate of latin Cerno

So  Not you plural judge so that or in order that as a consequence or result cos the secondary clause has a subjunctive verb form

Judge not lest you are judged!

For by the judgements you make you will be judged!

And in what measure you made you will be judged in turn.

Note Anti as a prefix appears in  Greek and its not just meaning against but in response the payback or balance of one action leading to another.

He's not saying to not judge  but to bear in mind as we may make decisions and judgements about others like judgement is made about us.

This leads in to the next passage which makes it clear he's talking about human sins and how humans judge each other in an unbalanced way.

One of the symbol for justice are scales for a good reason and perhaps while visiting one of the Greek cities in the area Jesus had seen a depiction of blind Justice holding scales?

krima krimati is a cognate of Latin crimen but means judgement not crime.

Metreoo is a contract verb related to metrov measure.

Next week Spots and Blocks!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Labours of Heracles Two - The Hydra of Lerna

#Heracles and the #Hydra of #Lerna

I have written about this before but that post focused more on Lerna as a whole.

Although artists and poets disagree about the number of heads the Hydra is described consistently as multiple heads that were snake like and a thick trunk and the ability to grow back any head that was removed and as being amphibious. 

The word Hydra means Water serpent.

The creature was said to have out of the wetlands adjacent to Lake Lerna which has now silted up and become farmland and made a lair near the source of a sacred river or the springs from which streams flowed that converged into a river. These have also disappeared apart from one last small pond. 

In ancient times Lerna south of the lake was an area of springs and several shrines and cults. Settlement here dates back to the Helladic and this is the location of the famous House of Tiles. 

This site is south of the modern village of Myloi the Mills.

Now notice that like the Hydra the river had MULTIPLE SOURCES.

While the Hydra could have been one creature Heracles was also famous of opening springs diverting rivers building walls ... he was some sort of engineer.

How does Heracles defeat the Hydra?  He cuts off and then burns the stumps of the heads and one head is buried under a rock? 

The stumps are burnt with wooden brands!

Now charcoal is used as a water filter and several writers have suggested the Hydra was a nick name for malaria. 

If heracles had been fighting a malaria outbreak he would tried to divert the waters away from the wetlands maybe by opening an extra channel to the sea. 

Instead he fights the Hydra near the source of springs.

I'm thinking somehow one or more of  the springs became contaminated with a virus or bacteria and cutting off the heads is a metaphor for having to cut off the springs and block one source ... the head under a rock ?

Perhaps he had to temporarily block each source to work out which one was contaminated and then permanently block that one? 

Or there was an infestation of snakes and he burnt down grasslands and shrubs around the springs? 

Or even both with the snakes mistakenly being thought the source of a plague of some sort? 

however whether the Hydra was a supernatural monster a plague or too many snakes Heracles acted to help commoners by ending its attacks.

It also inspired this famous Italian Renaissance painting.

 I hope you enjoyed the vase painting images I found. You can Google Earth Lerna and see the last remaining spring. Enjoy!

Next Time Over hill and dale. Heracles hunts a sacred deer or reindeer?