HESTIA was the virgin goddess of the hearth (both private and municipal) and the home. As the goddess of the family hearth she also presided over the cooking of bread and the preparation of the family meal. Hestia was also the goddess of the sacrificial flame and received a share of every sacrifice to the gods. The cooking of the communal feast of sacrificial meat was naturally a part of her domain.
In myth Hestia was the first born child of Kronos and Rhea who was swallowed by her father at birth. Zeus later forced the old Titan to disgorge Hestia and her siblings. As the first to be swallowed she was also the last to be disgorged, and so was named as both the eldest and youngest of the six Kronides. When the gods Apollon and Poseidon sought for her hand in marriage, Hestia refused and asked Zeus to let her remain an eternal virgin. He agreed and she took her place at his royal hearth.
Hestia was depicted in Athenian vase painting as a modestly veiled woman sometimes holding a flowered branch. In classical sculpture she was also veiled, with a kettle as her attribute. Continue reading →
Pan, god of the mountains, protector of hunters and fishermen, son of Hermes and the nymph Dryopi had α goat’s horn on his head as well as goat’s hoofs instead of feet. When he was born, his mother horrified from the look of the hairy child smiling at her, deserted him. His father, Hermes wrapped him in a hare’s skin and took him to mount Olympus. All gods were enchanted by his charm and playful demeanor, so Dionysus named him Pan (“All” in Greek) since all gods adored him. Pan was cheerful, amorous, always in love with a nymph and played his flute in such a melodic way that sounded like the song of a nightingale. His favorite place was the caves of Arcadia where he lived dancing and scaring away the goat herds, with his shrieks. The word “panic” is derived from Pan and the sudden flight from the dreadful situations he brought about. Continue reading →
A Centaur in Greek mythology is a savage creature, half man and the lower half, horse. Centaurs, usually resided in the mountains of Thessaly, southeast of mount Olympus. According to Pindar, an Ancient Greek lyric poet from Thebes (c. 522–443 BC), the first Centaur was born from the union of Ixion (king of Lapiths, the most ancient tribe in Thessaly) and Nephele (the cloud Zeus created to resemble Hera in order to test Ixion’s integrity when he realized that he was lustful for her) where none of the Graces (Charites) was present at his birth. The Centaur mingled with the mare at the Magnesian peninsula (where the city of Volos is, today) thus engendering a whole nation of mythical monsters. The myth says that they were extinguished by the brave and civilized nation of Lapiths when they tried to abduct Hippodamia during her wedding to their king Pirithous.
Hercules’ second labor was to go to swampy Lake Lerni, near the city of Argos in the Peloponnese and kill a creature that lived there, called the Hydra. Hydra was a huge snake with nine heads, all poisonous. The middle head was immortal. Every time she came out of the swamp hissing, her heads swayed and swinged in frantic wrath. With the help of Goddess Athena, he tried to chop off the heads of Hydra, but each time he chopped one off, a couple of others emerged. It seems this wasn’t enough; a huge crab dashed out of the swamp and bit him fiercely on the leg. Hercules immediately killed the crab and with the help of his nephew Iolaus who had come along as his guide, started a fire. Each time Hercules chopped off a head, Iolaus burned Hydra’s wounds, so no more heads could spring forth. Then he reached for the middle head, which as soon as he chopped it off, he buried in a big hole and covered with an enormous rock. Then he tore Hydra’s body and in her gushing blood he dipped his arrows that became forever, poisonous.
Corfu’s olive trees, spreading and gnarled with luxuriant age, dapple the island in a silvery green mist, punctuated like exclamation marks by dark, slender cypresses. The hedges are garlanded with honeysuckle in spring, and fireflies flash green globes through the nights of early summer, when the fields are carpeted with wild lupine and cyclamen, daisies and celandines. Corfu is the only place I can think of where the bird song is sufficiently strident to wake you at dawn, and it is certainly the only place where I have felt impelled to photograph sheep. Grazing at the roots of olive trees, they are rather special, not like plain sheep at all but with long fleeces, narrow, rather intelligent faces and a coronet of curls on top their heads. Although only about forty miles long and two miles wide at its narrowest point, Corfu is too unwieldy to be toured in haste. Its very separate areas, each on different routes out of town, should be savored one by one. Some beautiful landscape borders the east coast corniche road that follows the mountainous shoulder of the island, facing the Albanian coast. Beyond Dassia and Ipsos the objective is Nissaki, a little hamlet of great charm, wondrous views, one tavern, and a steep, gray-pebbled beach from which one plunges into deep, buoyantly clear water. (Extract from “Gourmet” magazine of an article written by Doone Beal in 1972).
The best way to keep zucchini blossoms open is after you extract the stamen by twisting gently and you clean them with fresh water, stack them the one inside the other like plastic cups. Leave them in a bowl of cold water till you use them. It is absolutely necessary to cook them the same day you buy them.
Art has been interested in Leda since ancient times. In Renaissance only, there was almost no great artist that had not been inspired by the story. Leonardo, Raphael, Correggio, Veronese, Tintoretto, Rubens (to mention some).
Leda was the daughter of king Thespis of Aetolia. She was so beautiful that, allegedly, many cities claimed her. Her father gave her as a bride to Tyndareus, king of Sparta, as he had helped him in his fights with trespassers and other surrounding enemies. In accordance, one very nice day, as Zeus, father of Gods and Men, looking down from mount Olympus discerned her strolling about the Taygetos mountain was, of course, utterly drawn to her! He asked the advice of the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, and it seems, he, in accordance, took the form of a beautiful swan and, to make it more ‘real’, Aphrodite herself took the form of an eagle that pursued the swan. The tender-hearted Leda as she saw the beautiful bird trying to escape the fatal eagle grip opened her arms and engulfed him in her bosom. The result was that she was impregnated and, according to (one of the versions of) the myth, she gave birth to two eggs. One of them contained the twins Kastor and Polydefkis and the other the beautiful Helen of Troy. The twins were protectors of seafaring men and did many heroic deeds. In time, Zeus himself granted them immortality by turning them into the two brightest stars of the constellation of Gemini (May 21-June 20). [Leda had one more notorious daughter, from her husband Tyndareus this time, Clytemnestra, queen to be of Mycenae and wife of Agamemnon, leader of the Greeks in the besiege of Troy]. Continue reading →
Whichever gods and satyrs, nymphs and muses still inhabit the peaks and glades of Crete, they smile benevolently on visitors to their island home. Crete is, after all the home of a dynastic soap opera to top all dynastic soap operas. The cast of characters includes Zeus, born in a mountain cave to keep him out of reach of his father, Kronos, who considered him a threat to his throne; Pasiphae, wife of king Minos, who fell head over horns in love with a handsome bull and gave birth to the part-man-part-bull creature known as the Minotaur; Theseus of Athens, who entered the labyrinth built by Daedalus, killed the Minotaur, and escaped to tell the story with the help of a spool of thread supplied by Ariadne, Minos’s daughter-whom he seduced, carted off to the island of Naxos, and promptly abandoned, thus inspiring Richard Strauss to create one of the twentieth century’s most glorious operas, Ariadne auf Naxos. (Extract from “Gourmet” magazine of an article written by Ian Keown in 1987).