What are the darkest secrets of ancient Greece?

Ancient Greece was sometimes dedicated to the sacrifice of human beings to their gods. This practice, which was common in the peoples of the Mediterranean Sea, is very implicit in Greek mythology. Let us recall the sacrifice of Iphigenia, the sacrifice of the 12 noble Trojans by Achilles in the tomb of Patroclus, the sacrifice of Polyxena, and the sacrifice of Phrixos and Helle, all from ancient Greek mythology.

Many archaeological finds indicate that the ancient Greeks had human sacrifices. For example, archaeologists have suggested that the Minoans committed human sacrifice, as they have discovered evidence of slaughtered bodies at Knossos.

But there are historians and contemporary people who bear witness to such practices. For example, the Greek historian Plutarch stated in his “Parallel Lives” that the Athenians demanded that Themistocles sacrifice three Persian captives to Dionysus just before the battle of Salamis. Furthermore, Plutarch again writes that Alexander the Great sacrificed many young men before the Tomb of Hephaestion. On another occasion, Alexander sacrificed a virgin Macedonian woman before the construction of Alexandria

B Castrations

In later years, the practice of human sacrifice was abandoned and replaced by the castration of the genitalia of men who worshiped Cybele, also known as Rhea, mother of Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. The purpose was to give the earth the strength of men through the burial of severed testicles of young men buried in the earth around the temple of Cibeles. They were more common in places like Orchomenus and Ephesus.

On the day of the act they were performing with dances and using drugs and were later ritually castrated. After the procedure, the men now eunuchs gather in the sanctuary and constitute the priesthood. In Roman years, eunuchs self-inflicted. This practice of castration was preserved until the 5th century.

Γ´) Religious torture

According to Pausanias, after the reforms of the Lacedaemonian Constitution in the 8th century BC. C., the practice of human sacrifices was abolished. Later this tradition was replaced by the torture of young people in the name of the gods.

Specifically the torture was whipping the teenagers around the altar of Artemis. This fulfilled the wishes of the goddess, as the altar was covered in human blood. The area where this practice was most common, apart from Laconia, was also in Taurica.

This practice was not just limited to the worship of Artemis, but also of her twin brother Apollo. For example, every May the Athenians used to offer honors to Apollon, begging him to expel the evil from the city and persecute his misfortunes that threatened the harvest. Then, in an attempt to please their god, they flogged and drove two men out of the city, who were randomly chosen as scapegoats.

Δ´) Holy wars

Despite common misconceptions that there were no religious wars in Ancient Greece, there were many religious conflicts. It could be assumed that since all the ancient Greeks followed the same pagan religion, there would be no religious conflicts among the many Greek city-states.

The Holy Wars were a series of four holy wars, all controlled by the Oracle of Delphi. Furthermore, these wars involved many atrocities, including enslavement, slaughter, pillage of temples, burning of cities, and destruction of statues of the gods.

The First Sacred War took place between 590 and 589 BC When the Delphi accused the Cirreans of imposing heavy tolls on Delphic pilgrims, the council of the Amphicthones of Delphi proclaimed that the Cirreans were evil. Then a terrible and destructive war began, between the Amphictyonic League of Delphi and the city of Kirrha. The Cirreans were massacred and enslaved and their lands were stolen by Delphi.

The Second Sacred War, in 447 a. C., was declared by Delphi against the foci, under the command of the Spartans. This World War II was caused by the Phochians who wanted the sanctuary of Apollo to belong to all the Phokis and not just to the city of Delphi. When they captured the sanctuary, Delphi asked the Spartans to intervene. The Spartans rushed to restore Delphi to their sovereign rights over the sanctuary. But as soon as the Spartan army left Delphi, the Athenians occupied and handed the sanctuary back to the foci.

The Third Holy War, which occurred between 356-346 BC, began when the foci captured the oracle of the city of Delphi, so the Locrians, Thebans, Thessalians declared a holy war against the foci which were defeated. The Phokian leader Onomachus was crucified and the Phokian captives were thrown into the sea. All the Phokian cities were destroyed and had to pay homage to Delphi for 167 years!

The Fourth Sacred War, in 339 BC, began when the Locrians of Amfissa this time invaded the lands of the Oracle of Delphi. Against them, the Oracle declared a religious war, in which the Lokrians were defeated and Amfissa was destroyed.

Ε´) War crimes

Since I described the existence of religious wars in ancient Greece, I think I should also mention the fact that the ancient Greeks often committed inhumane crimes in their wars. These atrocities were committed both against fellow Greeks and foreigners.

The ancient Greeks, when they had defeated their enemy in battle, would aggressively attack the cities and towns of the defeated, destroy their buildings and loot their houses, burn down their temples even though they believed in the Pantheon itself, demolish the walls of the city, massacre all the male civilians, enslave their wives and children, burn their crops and cut down their fruitful trees. It was a complete and utter disaster, for which his enemies could never get revenge.

There are many examples of these actions in history. In 660 BC C., the Corinthians led by the tyrant Kypselos massacred all the corfiots in Illyric Epidamnos. The culmination of his crimes was the sending of 300 captive boys to Sardis to be castrated! Furthermore, in 505 a. C. the Spartans, under King Cleomenes, after defeating the Argeans, forced all civilians to flee to a “sacred” forest. Then they set it on fire, burning alive about five thousand Argeans! In addition to this, in 416 a. C. the Athenians attacked Melos, since it was inhabited and they had decided to remain neutral in the Peloponnesian War. They murdered all the men, enslaved women and children, and settled with Athenian colonists.

For the sake of space, I will continue to mention the genocide of Orchomenus by the Thebans, the Eretrians of Halkides (700-650), of Samos of the Athenians (440 BC), of Thebes of the Macedonians (337 BC). C.), from Dodoni. and Dion of the Aitolians (219 BC) (219 BC), of Pergamum (201 BC) and Attica (200 BC) of the Macedonians.

But these atrocities were not only committed against the Greeks, but also against foreigners, and above all against the Persians. For example, Athens looted and burned the Persian Sardes. These actions also occurred during the campaign of Alexander the Great. It was Alexander who ordered the destruction of Persepolis, one of the most important cities for the Achaemenid Persians.

The Hellenistic states did the same with the Jews. They tried to make the Jews deny their religion and convert to Olympian paganism, which resulted in bloody wars. To do this, Antiochus IV banned the Jewish religion with a royal edict on the death penalty in 168 BC. C. In addition, Ptolemy IV killed 30,000 Jews, without saving women and children.

ΣΤ´) Barbarism in the Olympic Games

Some of us are talking about the Ancient Olympic Idealism, which promoted peace, fair play and equal competition among athletes. However, the truth is very different. According to Pausanias, Philostratos and many others testify that in order to acquire the means of a rich and comfortable life, many professional athletes did not hesitate in the face of all kinds of illicit and dishonest acts.

For example, they sold and bought victories in the Olympic Games. This meant that former champions and winners would not participate again if they were paid in gold. Others to raise money and others to avoid dangerous conflicts.

Also many athletes bribed their rivals to win the competition. Sometimes, after the Olympic Games, a winner could sell his victory to another in exchange for money. Even tyrants like Ieron of Syracuse and Theron of Actagas were honored, as they won by buying fights by paying their opponents and the Hellanodikae.

In addition, the athletes received nutritional ingredients to improve their physical performance in order to win the olive branch at the Olympic Games. Athletes tried to increase their strength using many methods. Athletes were also known to drink special potions and eat exotic meats, hoping to gain an advantage over their opponents. Dried figs, wine potions, herbal medicines, strychnine, and hallucinogens were commonly used.

Furthermore, the Ancient Olympic Games were very aggressive, violent and immoral. Especially in sports like Pankration and Wrestling, which were considered in Olympia as the most beautiful for their brutality. In these duels, anything was possible. There the contestants could drown their opponent, they could bite him, gouge out his eyes, crush his bones, break his neck and many more. The only rule was not to break the palms of the other athletes.

In one instance, the two opposing wrestlers, Krevgas the Epidamnian and Damoxenos the Syracursian, agreed after a long fight with no winner to strike each other down, and the one who would stand would still win. Krevgas hit Damoxenos in the head without dangerous consequences. Damoxenos struck Krevgas with outstretched fingers, pierced his visceral bone, and pulled out his organs with his hands. Krevgas immediately perished and Damoxenos was declared the victor!

Z´) Burning of books and persecution of philosophers

We generally like to think of Ancient Greece as an age of philosophy, open-mindedness, and knowledge. However, the truth is far from this. The ancient Greeks were highly superstitious, backward, and prone to obscurantism. Sometimes they persecuted philosophers who proposed unusual theories that were opposed to their religion and burned their books.

Plutarch writes that in the 5th century BC. C. the Athenians voted a law against those who did not believe in the Olympian gods and spread their own theories. Those who disobeyed were punished with death banishment and burned their work. According to this law, many philosophers of Athens were condemned.

When the philosopher Protagoras denounced in his book “On the Gods” that he is not convinced of the existence of the gods, the Athenians expelled him from Athens and put heralds to collect his books to burn them.

The philosopher Prodicus of Ceios, student of Protagoras and contemporary of Democritus, died in Athens after being forced to drink hemlock, on the grounds that it corrupted youth.

Likewise, Anaxagoras was sued for irreverence for theorizing that the Sun is a fervent metallic sphere and was sentenced to pay a fine of 35 talents and be exiled from the city.

But I believe that the most important thinker who was executed by the ignorant masses was Socates, who was convicted of corrupting the youth of Athens and introducing strange gods, and has been sentenced to die by drinking poison hemlock.

H´) Infanticide

The practice of infanticide was widespread in the ancient Greek world. Usually children who came from impoverished families or were imperfect were left in the wild to die.

It is well known in Laconia that if the child born were weak and deformed they would believe that it would be better for the state if they killed it. Thus, the Spartans sent sick children to remote places called “Apotetes” near Taygetus. The children of the helots who were not accepted were thrown into Keadas, a cliff in Taygetus as well.

Similarly, poor families, who had children they could not feed, would send some children. Especially girls were more likely than boys to be abandoned, as it was more expensive to pay their dowry. Sometimes abandoned girls were spared death, only to be led into a life of prostitution.

But even in the later periods of Ancient Greece, it seems that Aphrodite’s priestesses have been replaced in most cases by female slaves. In Cyprus, literary evidence shows that before marriage all women were forced by tradition to prostitute themselves to strangers at the sanctuary of the goddess. They did this to earn the money for their marriage dowries.

I´) Pedophilia

But I personally believe that the darkest misdeed of the ancient Greek world was the practice and legalization of pedophilia. If we believe the writings of contemporary people, it was a very common act, in which even legislators, poets and philosophers participated.

This practice was born in Greece in the Classical Era, around the 7th century BC. C. It came from the Middle East through the island of Crete, where it was widespread. Thus, the custom came to Greece through trade with the East, which is why it was most prominent in areas such as Crete, Athens, Thebes, and other trading city-states, which were influenced by foreign habits. On the other hand, the more isolated kingdoms of northern Greece, such as Epirus and Macedonia, knew of no such practice.

There are many examples in which these depths were recorded by people of the time, such as Strabo, Plutarch, Xenophon, Plato and many others. For example, Strabo claims that pederasty in Crete was very common and that it was legal for someone to kidnap for a sexual purpose. This custom was later legalized in other parts of Greece, such as the Athenians of Attica, the Thebans of Boeotia, the Chalcidians of Euboea, and the Lacedaemonians of Laconia.

Also another case, mentioned by Plutarch and Xenophon, is the Sacred Band of Thebes. This elite force from Thebes was composed of 150 male pairs, each pair consisting of an older adult erastes (lover) and a younger adolescent eromenos (beloved). This was not only a relationship of two fellow soldiers, but also a sexual one, between a man and a teenager. Furthermore, in his “Symposium”, Plato describes the practice of pedophilia in Thebes and Sparta, which he considered manly. He later states that he believes that the erastes imbues the eromenos with virtues.

After all, the ancient Greeks had even created an excuse for this custom. This is a myth, which probably originated in Crete, about Zeus and Ganymede. In this story, the teenage Trojan Ganymede was seen by Cronus’ son Zeus, who kidnapped him in the form of an eagle and transported the young man to his palace on Olympus. There he granted her eternal youth and immortality and made her his cupbearer. Also the myth states that Hera, the wife of Zeus, was jealous and saw Ganymede as a rival for her husband’s affections.