The greek 'daktylos'

The greek 'daktylos'

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Does anyone know of a source regarding which finger 'daktylos' refers to (in regards to greek measurments) - the thumb / middle finger / etc.

From the "New Pauly", Brill 2015:

Daktylos (162 words) Article Table of Contents

[1] Measure of length [2] see Metrics

(δάκτυλος; dáktylos).

[1] Measure of length

The daktylos, Latin digitus, as a measure, is the term for the fingers' width, with four dáktyloi constituting a palm (παλαιστή; palaistḗ, Latin palmus), 16 daktyloi a foot (πούς; poús, Latin pes) and only in Greece 12 daktyloi making a span (σπιθαμή; spithamḗ). In Rome however the daktylos can also, according to the duodecimal system, be equated with the uncia and be counted up to the as (= pes). The guide for the daktylos is the foot that measures between 29.4 and 35.4 cm. It therefore fluctuates between 1.84 and 2.21 cm. Smaller distances are measured in fractions of the daktylos. Square and cubic daktylos were not in use.

Measures; Palaiste; Palmus; Pes; Pous; Spithame

Mlasowsky, Alexander (Hannover)


F. Hultsch, Griech. und röm. Metrologie, 21882, 28f., 74f.

O. A. W. Dilke, Digit measures on a slab in the British Museum, in: The Antiquaries Journal 68, 1988, 290-294.

The daxtylos is based, like much of early Greek science, on Egyptian standards. A finger is the distance between the tip of index finger and the crease of the first joint. In most people, this distance is close to one inch.

A palm is 4 fingers. A hand is 5 fingers.

So, to answer your exact question: it is the index finger's first joint. You can find a discussion of this topic in "Ancient Egyptian Construction and Architecture" by Clarke and Engelbach.

(Note that many reference books and sources incorrectly refer to a dactylos as being a "finger's breadth". In fact, it is absolutely clear that in both Greece and Egypt 4 fingers make one palm, and this would be impossible if a finger's breadth were meant, because a finger's breadth is less than a 1/4th of a palm. It is, in fact, the length of the first phalange of the index finger, which is exactly 1/4 of a palm.)

Daktylos is the Greek word for “finger”. As a unit of measurement it designated the breadth of one finger. I think all fingers (apart from the thumb) are about the same breadth.

It was named in 1985 by Giuseppe Leonardi and Guido Borgomanero. The genus links the name of the state of Ceará with the Greek daktylos, "finger". The name means "frightful" in Latin, a reference to the fierce teeth in the jaws.

The fossil comes from the Romualdo Member of the Santana Formation (110 million years old), and includes of a skull, 57 inches long, with lower jaws. First, the fossil was in Borgomanero's collection but is now at Brazil's Museu Nacional where the collection is included.

Mountains, five peaks and the abandoned village of Pentedattilo

A view of Pentedattilo. Photo: Gunold/Dreamstime

Not farfrom Reggio Calabria, deep into the beautiful Aspromonte National Park and at the heart of the Griko-speaking area of the region (Griko is a dialect, vestige of the old presence of the Greeks here), curious travelers will find one of the country’s most famous ghost towns, Pentedattilo.

From North to South, the ghost towns of Italy are many, result of a mix between economic necessities and territorial dangers: Bussana Vecchia, in Liguria, and Apice Vecchia, in Campania, were abandoned because of a earthquake Craco, in Basilicata, because of a landslide and Savogno, in Lombardia, fell victim to its people’s necessity to find work in nearby cities and towns.

And then, there is Pentedattilo. Just another name in this long list of places forgotten, or so it seems, by people, time and history. But is it really like that? In fact Pentedattilo, just like many of Italy’s ghost towns, may no longer be home to many, but has been enjoying a revival in the past few decades. Let’s see how and why.

Pentedattilo is a small hamlet in the municipality of Melito Porto Salvo, built entirely on a cliff of Monte Calvario, some 250 meters above sea level. Monte Calvario has a very peculiar shape, one that gave Pentedattilo its name: its peaks look like five fingers extended into the sky, thus the original Greek name of the settlement, pènta-daktylos, which means just that, “five fingers.” In its heyday, it even had a castle, of which, today, only some ruins remain all around it, the old village developed, in the form and shape it still has.

Pentedattilo is today an abandoned town. Photo: Marcobarone/Dreamstime

As its name tells us, Pentedattilo was first occupied by the Greeks in 640 BC: it was a lively and prosperous center and had also an important military role, that was kept throughout the Greco-Roman period. After the decline of the Western Roman Empire, the area was ruled by the Byzantines and a long time of decadence, marked by poverty and frequent Saracen incursions, began. In the 12th century, Pentedattilo was conquered by the Normans and passed in the hands of a number of noble families: it was, however, two families in particular that associated their name to that of the village, the Alberti family and the Abenavoli family. They are at the heart of a sorrowful and tragic event, the Massacre of the Alberti, which took place in 1686 and that was to shape the history of the village.

The Alberti, marquises of Pentedattilo, had succeeded as rulers in town to the Abenavoli, and the relationship between the two families had never been good. Things did seem to get better though, when Bernardino Abenavoli asked to marry Antonietta, daughter of the Marquis. That wasn’t an uncommon move: we all know that, in the past, many family feuds were sorted through combined marriages. In a typical twist, Antonietta’s brother —unable to mind his business and let dad run the show — decided to give his sister’s hand to Don Petrillo Cortez, son of Naples’ Viceroy. As you may imagine, Bernardino wasn’t impressed and so, on the night of the 16th of April 1686, he broke into the Alberti castle in Pentedattilo and killed everyone, including young Simone Alberti, aged 9. He saved only Antonietta and Petrillo Cortez, to ensure the Viceroy was not going to retaliate. But Cortez, as any good military man and ruler of those times would do, opted for the sword and sent his army to Pentedattilo. Some of the conspirators were captured and killed, but Bernardino managed to escape with Antonietta, whom he first married and, then, abandoned in a convent. Legends say that Bernardino, eventually, enlisted in the Austrian army and died in battle.

While the massacre of the Alberti family is historically real, a large number of legends flourished around it. For instance, it is said that the five, finger-like peaks of Monte Calvario will one day fall upon the village to punish its people for Bernardino’s blood thirst another says that the peaks symbolize the bloody hand of Bernardino Abenavoli himself, and that’s why locals call the mountain the “Hand of the Devil.”

As it happens in any self-respecting ghost story, some swear they can hear the cries of the Albertis still echoing at night, when it’s very windy, among the five rocky fingers of the Hand of the Devil.

A street in Pentedattilo. Photo: Sabine Katzenberger/Dreamstime

Pentedattilo’s history seems to eerily hint that Abenavoli did, in fact, attract evil and negativity on the village because, less than 100 years later, it was severely damaged by a earthquake: the beginning of the end. Its people felt Pentedattilo was no longer safe and sought protection — and better jobs — in nearby Melito Porto Salvo. Because of it, in 1811 Pentedattilo lost its municipality status and became a hamlet of the larger village.

Pentedattilo remained at high seismic risk, and flooded often: this is why in 1968, almost three centuries after the massacre that brought gloom and misfortune upon it, it was declared uninhabitable and finally abandoned in 1971.

Life started smiling again on Pentedattilo in the 1980s, when several associations with members from all over the world decided to redevelop it. And so, local craftsmen and artists returned to its abandoned stone homes, fixed them up and opened ateliers and shops. Local heritage and produce museums have also opened since, including the Museum of Popular Traditions, and the Casa del Bergamotto, dedicated to the ancient cultivation of bergamot in the area.

There is more: every summer, Pentedattilo also hosts two important art festivals, the Paleariza, an itinerant event aimed at keeping alive the heritage of the Greek dialect spoken in the area, and the Pentedattilo Film Festival, dedicated to emerging short movies’ directors.

While living in Pentedattilo is no longer an option, its history and heritage are kept alive and can still be enjoyed, day after day, by all visitors who’d like to know more about them.

Non lontano da Reggio Calabria, nel profondo del bellissimo Parco Nazionale dell’Aspromonte e nel cuore dell’area di lingua grika della regione (il griko è un dialetto, residuo dell’antica presenza dei greci), i viaggiatori curiosi troveranno uno dei paesi fantasma più famosi del Belpaese: Pentedattilo.

Da nord a sud, le città fantasma sono molte, frutto di un mix tra necessità economiche e pericoli territoriali: Bussana Vecchia, in Liguria, e Apice Vecchia, in Campania, sono state abbandonate a causa di un terremoto Craco, in Basilicata, a causa di una frana e Savogno, in Lombardia, ha subito la necessità dei suoi abitanti di trovare lavoro nelle città e nei paesi vicini.

E poi c’è Pentedattilo. Solo un altro nome in questa lunga lista di luoghi dimenticati, così sembra, dalla gente, dal tempo e dalla storia. Ma è davvero così? In realtà Pentedattilo, come molti dei paesi fantasma d’Italia, non è più la casa di molte persone, ma negli ultimi decenni sta vivendo una rinascita. Vediamo come e perché.

Pentedattilo è una piccola frazione del comune di Melito Porto Salvo, costruita interamente su una rupe del Monte Calvario, a circa 250 metri sul livello del mare. Il Monte Calvario ha una forma molto particolare, che ha dato a Pentedattilo il suo nome: le sue cime sembrano cinque dita protese nel cielo, da cui il nome originale greco dell’insediamento, pènta-daktylos, che significa proprio questo, “cinque dita”. Nel suo periodo d’oro, aveva anche un castello, di cui oggi rimangono solo alcune rovine intorno ad esso si sviluppò l’antico villaggio, nella forma che ha tuttora.
Come ci dice il suo nome, Pentedattilo fu occupata per la prima volta dai greci nel 640 a.C.: fu un centro vivace e prospero ed ebbe anche un importante ruolo militare, che fu mantenuto per tutto il periodo greco-romano. Dopo il declino dell’Impero Romano d’Occidente, la zona fu governata dai Bizantini e iniziò un lungo periodo di decadenza, segnato dalla povertà e dalle frequenti incursioni saracene. Nel XII secolo, Pentedattilo fu conquistata dai Normanni e passò nelle mani di alcune famiglie nobili: furono però due famiglie in particolare ad associare il loro nome a quello del paese, gli Alberti e gli Abenavoli. Esse sono al centro di un evento doloroso e tragico, il massacro degli Alberti, che ebbe luogo nel 1686 e che segnò la storia del paese.

Gli Alberti, marchesi di Pentedattilo, erano succeduti agli Abenavoli come governanti della città, e i rapporti tra le due famiglie non erano mai stati buoni. Le cose sembrarono migliorare, quando Bernardino Abenavoli chiese di sposare Antonietta, figlia del marchese. Non era una mossa insolita: sappiamo tutti che, in passato, molte faide familiari venivano risolte attraverso matrimoni combinati. Con un tipico colpo di scena, il fratello di Antonietta – incapace di farsi gli affari suoi e lasciare che fosse il padre a dirigere lo spettacolo – decise di concedere la mano della sorella a Don Petrillo Cortez, figlio del viceré di Napoli. Come potete immaginare, Bernardino non ne fu contento e così, la notte del 16 aprile 1686, irruppe nel castello degli Alberti a Pentedattilo e uccise tutti, compreso il piccolo Simone Alberti, di 9 anni. Salvò solo Antonietta e Petrillo Cortez, per assicurarsi che il viceré non si sarebbe vendicato. Ma Cortez, come avrebbe fatto ogni buon militare e governante di quei tempi, optò per la spada e mandò il suo esercito a Pentedattilo. Alcuni dei cospiratori furono catturati e uccisi, ma Bernardino riuscì a fuggire con Antonietta, che prima sposò e poi abbandonò in un convento. Le leggende dicono che Bernardino, alla fine, si arruolò nell’esercito austriaco e morì in battaglia.
Se il massacro della famiglia Alberti è storicamente avvenuto, un gran numero di leggende è fiorito intorno ad esso. Per esempio, si dice che le cinque cime del Monte Calvario, simili a dita, un giorno cadranno sul villaggio per punire gli abitanti per la sete di sangue di Bernardino si dice anche che le cime simboleggiano la mano sanguinante di Bernardino Abenavoli, ed è per questo che la gente del posto chiama la montagna la “Mano del Diavolo”.

Come accade in ogni storia di fantasmi che si rispetti, alcuni giurano di poter ancora sentire le grida degli Albertini riecheggiare di notte, quando c’è molto vento, tra le cinque dita rocciose della Mano del Diavolo.

La storia di Pentedattilo sembra suggerire in modo inquietante che Abenavoli abbia effettivamente attirato il male e la negatività sul paese perché, meno di 100 anni dopo, fu gravemente danneggiato da un terremoto: l’inizio della fine. La sua gente sentì che Pentedattilo non era più sicura e cercò protezione – e migliori lavori – nella vicina Melito Porto Salvo. A causa di ciò, nel 1811 Pentedattilo perse il suo status di comune e divenne una frazione del villaggio più grande.
Pentedattilo rimase ad alto rischio sismico, e si allagò spesso: per questo nel 1968, quasi tre secoli dopo la strage che portò su di esso tenebre e disgrazie, fu dichiarato inabitabile e infine abbandonato nel 1971.
La vita ha ripreso a sorridere a Pentedattilo negli anni 󈨔, quando diverse associazioni con membri provenienti da tutto il mondo hanno deciso di riqualificarlo. E così, artigiani e artisti locali sono tornati nelle case di pietra abbandonate, le hanno sistemate e hanno aperto atelier e negozi. Da allora sono stati aperti anche musei del patrimonio e dei prodotti locali, tra cui il Museo delle tradizioni popolari e la Casa del Bergamotto, dedicata all’antica coltivazione del bergamotto tipica della zona.
C’è di più: ogni estate, Pentedattilo ospita anche due importanti festival d’arte, Paleariza, una manifestazione itinerante volta a mantenere vivo il patrimonio del dialetto greco parlato nella zona, e il Pentedattilo Film Festival, dedicato ai registi emergenti di cortometraggi.
Anche se vivere a Pentedattilo non è più possibile, la sua storia e il suo patrimonio sono mantenuti vivi e possono ancora essere goduti, giorno dopo giorno, da tutti i visitatori che vogliono saperne di più.

Format of the Ancient Olympic Games

The Olympic Games were actually a series of a greater set of athletic competitions. These were called the Panhellenic games. The other three games were the Pynthian Games held in Delphi. The Nemean Games held in Nemea and Corinthia. Finally there was The Isthmian Games held in Isthmia and Sicyon. Like the Olympic games, these were all done in the name of various gods including Apollo, Heracles, Posiedon and of course Zeus. Despite this the Olympic games were still considered the most important of these games. The Nemean Games and Isthmian Games would be held every two years while the Olympic and Pythian games would be every four.

As the power in ancient Greece became centered around city-states in 8th century BC, many of the procedures and rules of the games would come to reflect this. For the first couple hundred years the games were dominated by Peloponnesian athletes. It was much more of a regional religious event at the beginning. These city states often competed in a friendly manner. It wasn’t until the spread of Greek colonies in 5th and 6th century that you see the games elevate to the level of a national event. With this elevation of symbolic importance among the Greek citizens, the games would drift from this friendly, fun loving nature.

The games were a time of a national truce or “ekecheiria”. The starting of this peace period was represented by three runners know as spondophorio, departing from Elis to each participating city state. This peace period was even supposedly held during times of all out war, including the Peloponnesian War. The truce was eventually broken in 364 BC, but not by any specific city state. The previous organizers of the games, had lost their privilege of hosting the games due to themselves becoming too political. Accused of corruption and duties replaced, they decided to openly attack the new organizers. This was somewhat of an anomaly as most of the time the peace was held. During the Peloponnesian war the games were used as a tool to announce alliances and have large scale sacrifices to the gods.

The contestants of the games could be any free man of Greece. The contestants ranged from kings to shepard to philosophers. However as time went on and the importance of the games increased, many of the contestants would be of either professional athlete or a member of the military. As many of the games were based off of military practices or combat sports this makes sense.

The Olympic games were by no means an example of equality. Women were not allowed to partake in the games and married women were not even allowed to watch the Olympic games. This isn’t to say women athletes were not admired in ancient Greece. Instead women would compete in the Herian games which was devoted to the goddess Heraia.

The events at the games were referred to as gymnikos agon. The translation being nude competition. So yes the games were in fact done in the nude for the most part. The reason seems to be for simply the admiration of the human body. There are other explanations however saying the Spartans long standing tradition of nudity impacted this, aswell as a story of the first Olympic victor losing his pants during the race. Neither of these can be said to be the actual reason but speculation can be made. Males who didn’t participate naked would wear a kynodesme (“dog leash”. Essentially a thong made from a piece of leather, used to restrain a male competitors junk.

Unlike the modern day games, there was no first, second or third place. It was a winner takes all format. The winner of the event would be presented with a wreath made of wild olive leaves from a tree near the temple of Zeus. However the true prize for Olympic victors was having their name forever immortalized in the list of previous Olympic victors. These records can still be found today.

&bull dactylography &bull

Meaning: Fingerprinting or the study thereof.

Notes: Fingerprinting has become a highly sophisticated science within law enforcement, so it is not surprising that it has taken on a name reflecting its current status. A person who specializes in the dactylographic science is a dactylographer.

In Play: First and foremost today's Good Word is associated with the world of fingerprintery: "Now my son&mdashthe kid who used to leave his fingerprints all over the house, is taking a course in dactylography at the Police Academy." As you can see, the term is generally restricted to the law enforcement arena: "Fortunately, whoever robbed the office lacked basic dactylographic skills and left plenty of fingerprint evidence for the police to work with."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a compound comprising two Greek words, daktylos "digit, finger or toe" + graphein "to scratch, draw, write." Greek daktylos is probably related to Latin digit, from which we derive digital as a result of humans having a finger count of exactly ten. Greek daktylos was borrowed as Latin dactylos "date", the fruit that looks like a finger. This word descended to Old French as dactele then dacte to ultimately become Modern French datte and, of course, Modern English date. The meaning of Greek graphein, slipped from "scratch" to "draw" then "write" because the ancient Greeks began drawing and writing with styli (styluses), scratching pictures and letters into wet clay or carving them in stone. The same root emerged in Old English as the name of that scratchy crustacean, the crabba "crab". The sense of "drawing" is retained in another form of this root English borrowed: graphic. (Today we point the finger of gratitude at David Stevens, a fellow traveler on Facebook.)

The land appears in several myths. The first of these was the story of Phaethon, the boy who tried to fly the chariot of the sun, but lost control, and was struck down by Zeus with a thunderbolt, His flaming body fell into the Hyperborean river Eridanos, where his mourning sisters, the Heliades, gathered and were transformed into amber-shedding poplar trees. His friend Kyknos, in his grief, leapt into the bitumen lake of Phaethon's fall, and was transformed into a swan. Hyperboreans afterwards leapt in this same very lake as they were approaching death and were transformed into singing white swans. The bird migrated to the Lydian river Kaystros and other places in the south, but remained mute beyond its homeland.

Perseus travelled to Hyperborea and was entertained by its folk when he went in search of certain Nymphswho guarded treasures of the gods, or else the Graiai, swan-bodied hags who could reveal the location ofMedusa.

Perseus' descendant Herakles made the same journey on two separate occasions. The first time was in his quest for the golden-horned deer of Artemis which fled north during the chase. The second time he was seeking Atlas to obtain the golden apples of Hesperides. The Titan stood holding the sky aloft in Hyperborea beneath the heavenly axis around which the constellations revolved. (Later? versions of this story place Atlas in North-West Africa).

Another body of stories connected the Hyperboreans with the founding of several important religious shrines in ancient Greece. In the distant past the god-blessed race was said to have sent many holy prophets and pilgrims into Greece.

On Delos, one story told how the pregnant goddess Leto travelled south to the island from Hyperborea, accompanied by wolves, where she gave birth to the god Apollon. Artemis-Eileithyia was summoned from the northern realm to assist with the labour.

After the event, the Hyperboreans despatched pilgrims to the island, five men known as the and maiden-priestesses of the goddess. However, after several of the maidens were either raped or killed the Hyperboreans ended the pilgrimage, delivering their offerings instead through neighbouring tribes and peoples. Sometimes these are described as passing through Skythia on the Black Sea, at other times through Istria at the northern end of the Adriatic. Within Greece itself the offerings were carried from Dodona to Karystos in Euboia, then Tenos, before finally reaching Delos. The Athenians claimed they came to their town of Prasiai from Sinope on the Black Sea.

The next major shrine connected with the Hyperboreans was the oracle of Apollon at Delphoi. The second of the temples built to the god was said to have been built by Hyperborean pilgrims of beeswax and swan feathers. When the army of the Gauls tried to seize the temple in historical times, phantoms of these prophets were said to have appeared on the battlefield, routing the invading army.

Finally they appear in the myths of the founding of the Olympic Games. It was said that when Herakles (either the Daktylos or the son of Zeus) established the festival in honour of Zeus he decided to adorn the grounds with holy trees. To this end he made a pilgrimage to Hyperborea to obtain sacred wild olives for the shrine.

Perhaps the most famous prophet of the Hyperboreans was a man named Abaris, who was given a magical arrow by the god Apollon on which he flew around the world performing miracles. Some say this arrow was the one which Apollon had used to slay the Kyklopes, which he had hidden beneath a Hyperborean mountain.

The greek 'daktylos' - History

Dates, also knows as date palms, are a flowering plant species in the palm family, Arecaceae, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. The species is widely cultivated and is naturalized in many tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. Take a look below for 26 more fun and interesting facts about dates.

1. Date trees typically reach about 21 to 23 meters, or 69 to 75 feet, in height, growing singly or forming a clump with several stems from a single root system.

2. The leaves of date trees are 4 to 6 meters, or 13 to 20 feet, long, with spines on the petiole, and pinnate, with about 150 leaflets.

3. The species name for dates “dactylifera” comes from the Greek words “daktylos”, which means “date” and “fero” meaning “I bear.”

4. Fossil records show that the date palm has existed for at least 50 million years.

5. Dates have been a staple food in the Middle East and the Indus Valley for thousands of years. There is archaeological evidence of date cultivation in eastern Arabia between 5530 and 5320 calBC.

6. Dates are believed to have originated around what is now Iraq, and have been cultivated since ancient times from Mesopotamia to prehistoric Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians used the fruits to make wine and ate them at harvest.

7. There is archaeological evidence of date cultivation in Mehrgarh around 7000 BCE, a Neolithic civilization in what is now western Pakistan.

8. Evidence of date cultivation is continually found throughout later civilizations in the Indus Valley, including the Harappan period 2600 to 1900 BCE.

9. The date was a popular garden plant in Roman peristyle gardens, thought it would not bear fruit in the more temperate climate of Italy.

10. Date plants are recognizable in frescoes from Pompeii and elsewhere in Italy, including a garden scene from the House of the Wedding of Alexander.

11. Date trees held a lot of significance in early Judaism and in early Christianity, in part because the tree was heavily cultivated as a food source in ancient Israel. In the Bible, palm trees are references as symbols of prosperity and triumph.

12. One cup of dates has about 400 calories, 27% of the recommended daily requirement of potassium and 48% of daily fiber needs.

13. Dates also provide calcium, zinc, iron, copper, magnesium and other minerals that may help lower blood pressure, stroke risk and labor complications in pregnant women.

14. Dates are rich in the antioxidants known as polyphenols, which fight disease causing free radicals.

15. There are very few people that are allergic to dates.

16. Due to their low water and high sugar content, dates can stay fresh for a long time.

17. Dates made nomadic life and trade possible in the very dry and hot regions of the Middle East and North Africa.

18. Because the tree and its fruit have so many uses, from food to building materials, the date palm is known as the tree of life in the Middle East, and it’s the national symbol of Saudi Arabia and Israel.

19. Date palm seeds can go dormant for decades until the right light and water conditions come.

20. Some scholars believe that a date, not an apple, was the real fruit mentioned in the Bible’s Garden of Eden.

21. Dates and laban, or buttermilk, are traditionally used by Muslims to break the Ramadan fast each evening.

22. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics mark years with images of full date palms, as the trees grow 12 new fronds per year.

23. The majority of U.S. dates are grown in California’s Coachella Valley. High temperatures and irrigation from the Colorado River make growing conditions ideal.

24. Ancient Mesopotamians considered dates to be an aphrodisiac. It’s the symbol of the goddess Ishtar, who was the prototype of Venus and Aphrodite.

25. Date palms were brought to Spain from North Africa around 800 AD. Spanish explorers brought seeds to Cuba in the 1500s. Missionaries planted them in Baja, California in 1765, while other varieties were imported to California in the early 1900s.

26. In the Quran, Allah instructs Maryam, or the Virgin Mary, to eat dates when she gives birth to Isa, or Jesus. Similarly, they are recommended to pregnant women.

Greek Myth and the Olympics

Greek mythology has had a large influence on modern day sports, especially the Olympic Games, held every four years in different metropolises. The first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC, and were held in honour of Zeus every single time. The origin for the Games was Olympia, which held every ancient Greece Olympic tournament. They continued for nearly 12 centuries, until Emperor Theodosius decreed in 393 A.D. that all such “pagan cults” be banned.

Male contestants, and only male, participated in various sports, such as javelin throwing, wrestling, and racing. They competed nude and put olive oil on themselves. The competitors would pray to Hermes, the God of transitions and boundaries, for speed. Today, people from all nations come to compete in various sports, in which every country wears different types of uniforms and colours. Women were originally not allowed to compete in the Ancient Olympics Games and were even forbidden to watch any event. If a woman was caught watching the Olympic Games, she would be killed. The modern Olympics have changed ever since however, considering that women are now allowed to watch and/or compete between 1940 and 1948. There has been a large increase of women competitors in the Olympic Games ever since.

The oldest myth of the Olympic Games is that of Idaios Daktylos Herakles. In this myth, Zeus, the father of humanity, fought and defeated Cronus in a struggle for the throne of the gods. Finally, the well-known demigod Herakles is mentioned. He staged games in Olympia in honour of Zeus, because the latter had helped him conquer Elis when he went to war against Augeas.

Greek mythology impacts our culture today in a way separate then the way Greece itself impacted our modern society. The Olympic Games are an example of a common, modern influence directly related to Greek mythology. The Olympic Games occur once every four years ever since they originated in Greece. The Olympics in ancient Greece were always held in honor of Zeus, (who is the God of all Gods). The Olympics were not the only games that were held in honor of the gods. There were other kinds of games that would be celebrated including the Ptythian games, which were held in honor of Apollo the sun god, and the Isthiam games, which were held in honor of Poseidon, the sea god. The prizes for winning these games were the fame and glory, also the winner’s faces are put on coins. Today, we still celebrate the Olympic Games, and many things are similar, like presenting olive leaf crowns and the opening and closing ceremonies.[1]

The Torch of the Olympic Games

The ancient Greeks believed that fire was given to humankind by Prometheus, and considered fire to have sacred qualities. Mirrors were used to focus the sun’s rays to ignite flames that would burn perpetually in front of Greek Temples. Greek rituals also included torch relays, although this was not actually part of the Olympic Games. Today, the Olympic flame is lit in front of the ruins of the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece. The flame emphasizes the connection between the ancient games and the modern ones. In the past, a high priestess of the Temple of Hera would light the flame using a skaphia. The modern use of the Olympic Flame began in 1936. It coincided with the advent of a long relay of runners carrying torches to bring the flame from Olympia to the site of the games. Once there, the torch is used to light a cauldron that remains lit until it is extinguished in the Closing Ceremony.[2]

Award Ceremonies of the Olympics

Winners of the ancient Olympics were awarded with crowns made of laurels and were granted eternal glory in their city-state. Today, the Olympics are celebrated every two years, alternating between summer and winter. The types of sports played vary, depending on the season for example, the summer Olympic Games include everything from judo to swimming, and the winter games include everything from freestyle skiing to luge. The winners receive medals depending on where they place.[3] Athletes in the Modern Olympics are awarded gold for first, silver for second, and bronze for a third place finish. They also receive flowers and fame around the world. Many Olympic medalists are then seen in commercials, magazines, write books, and even act in TV shows and movies.

In the Ancient Times the athlete’s received a wreath of olive leaves that was worn on their head. Their athletes were also awarded a branch from a wild olive tree, which was cut off by the usage of a golden handled knife. The winning athlete would thus be praised as being worthy enough to receive the attention of the Gods, particularly Zeus. The Olympic victor received his first awards immediately after the competition. Following the announcement of the winner’s name, a Hellanodikis (Greek judge) would place a palm branch in his hands, while the spectators cheered and threw flowers to him. Red ribbons were tied on his head and hands as a mark of victory. The official award ceremony would take place on the last day of the Games, at the elevated vestibule of the temple of Zeus. In a loud voice, the herald would announce the name of the Olympic winner, his father’s name, and his homeland. Then, the Hellanodikis placed the sacred olive tree wreath, or kotinos, on the winner’s head.

I’ve recently found myself in a writing critique group that has made me think about medieval/D&D-type fantasy kindreds in the context of the classical world. Specifically, what would you call such beings if you were discussing them not in English (or any other northern European language) but in Greek?

The short answer: It isn’t as easy as it looks, but there are some options.

Steven A. Guglich’s Veil Saga is shaping up to be a centuries-spanning tale of magic and intrigue. The bit of it that I’ve been reading/critiquing lately takes place in the fourth century AD, which means the characters are discussing elves, goblins, etc., in the language of that time and place: namely, Koine Greek. (Koine Greek is halfway between the Classical Greek of Socrates and the Byzantine Greek of the Middle Ages.) I’m thoroughly enjoying the tale, but the language nerd in me wants to know: How does one say “elf” (or goblin, or whatever) in Greek?


Let’s start with the easiest one. A dwarf is a νᾶνος (nanos). That term can be applied both to someone with the physical condition of dwarfism as well as to the mythological creature. If you wanted a term that exclusively referred to a mythological creature, I’d vote for δάκτυλος (daktylos), a race of rustic nature spirits who were skilled in metal-working.


The closest I can get is μορμώ (mormo, plural mormones), meaning “fearful ones” or “hideous ones.” This is the term for a Greek bogey-woman. A more fearful version might be a μορμολυκεῖον (mormolykeion) or “wolf-bogey.”

There are a couple of other options here, though. A κόβαλος (kobalos, whence we get “kobold”), for example, is a roguish, gnomish sort of being, a shapeshifting companion of the god Dionysus. If you’re looking for a good Greek word for “kobold” or “gnome,” you can scarcely go wrong with kobalos.

A bit further afield, a κέρκωψ (kerkops) is a thieving, monkey-like creature. In mythology, there were only two of them, but the image might fit the bill depending on what your goblins are like.

This is where I started my musing, and it is in some ways the most difficult to pin down, mainly because people have different ideas about what elves actually are (mythologically speaking).

If you imagine elves as faery woodland creatures cavorting in a meadow, then you can’t go wrong with either σάτυρος (satyros) or πάν (pan) for a male and νύμφη (nymphe) for a female. (And yes, Greeks would use pan, plural panes, as a common noun.)

In English lore, elves, fairies, and nymphs and satyrs were all pretty much the same thing. Loads of Old English translations of Greek and Roman classics translated Greek σάτυρος or Latin faunus as aelf, “elf.”

At the same time, when Greek-speakers became more aware of the legends of their northern neighbors, they coined a new term for these fairy beings to distinguish them from those in their own mythology. In Byzantine Greek, such a being was called a χοτικό (xotiko), from earlier ἐχοτικόν (exotikon), literally “outlandish thing.” If the characters in Steven’s story are using this word in the fourth century, they are among the very first to do so.

If, however, you think of elves as more like friendly toymakers than eldritch wonders, you’ll probably have to default to nanos. If the most important distinguishing characteristic of elves in your mind is their diminutive size, you might want to consider…


The Greeks did have a word for a very small humanoid: πυγμαῖος (pygmaios) or “pygmy.” This comes from the word for cubit, a length of about 18″—although pygmies weren’t always that short in mythology. As I noted in a previous post, the term “pygmy” has some unfortunate baggage that makes it largely unusable in modern English. But for Greek-speakers in the ancient world, you might be able to get away with it.

So, if elves or goblins ever use their magic to send you back to ancient times, you can use this handy cheatsheet to explain your predicament to bystanders. You’re welcome.


Weights are often associated with currency since units of currency involve prescribed amounts of a given metal. Thus for example the English pound has been both a unit of weight and a unit of currency. Greek weights similarly bear a nominal resemblance to Greek currency yet the origin of the Greek standards of weights is often disputed. Δ] There were two dominant standards of weight in the eastern Mediterranean - a standard that originated in Euboea and that was subsequently introduced to Attica by Solon, and also a standard that originated in Aegina. The Attic/Euboean standard was supposedly based on the barley corn, of which there were supposedly twelve to one obol. However, weights that have been retrieved by historians and archeologists show considerable variations from theoretical standards. A table of standards derived from theory is as follows: Δ]

Unit Greek name Equivalent Attic/Euboic standard Aeginetic standard
obol or obolus ὀβολός 0.72 g 1.05 g
drachma δραχμή 6 obols 4.31 g 6.3 g
mina μνᾶ 100 drachmae 431 g 630 g
talent τάλαντον 60 minae 25.86 kg 37.8 kg

Athenians measured the day by sundials and unit fractions. Periods during night or day were measured by a water clock (clepsydra) that dripped at a steady rate and other methods. Whereas the day in the Gregorian calendar commences after midnight, the Greek day began after sunset. Athenians named each year after the Archon Eponymos for that year, and in Hellenistic times years were reckoned in quadrennial epochs according to the Olympiad.

In archaic and early classical Greece, months followed the cycle of the Moon which made them to not fit exactly into the solar year. Thus, if not corrected, the same month would migrate slowly in different seasons of the year. The Athenian year was divided into 12 months, with one additional month (poseideon deuteros, 30 days) being inserted between the sixth and seventh months every second year. Even with this intercalary month, the Athenian or Attic calendar was still fairly inaccurate and days had occasionally to be added by the Archon Basileus. The start of the year was at the summer solstice (previously it had been at the winter solstice) and months were named after Athenian religious festivals, 27 mentioned in the Hibah Papyrus, circ 275 BCE.

This section of a frieze from the Elgin Marbles shows a cavalry procession that was part of the quadrennial Greater Panathenaic festival, always held in the month Hekatombion.

Watch the video: Daktylos in Dorian Mode


  1. Chayo

    likely yes

  2. Duke

    you can say, this exception :) from the rules

  3. Halliwell

    I can offer a lot of information on this topic, do you need ?.

  4. Riordain

    Bravo, your sentence brilliantly

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