Greece’s Piraeus Port Among World’s Top 10 Shipping Centers

Aerial view of the port of Piraeus, Greece
Greece has clinched a top-10 position among the world’s largest shipping centers with the port of Piraeus securing the eighth spot. Credit: Nikolaos Diakidis cc by-sa3

The port of Piraeus in Greece has risen to eighth place among the world’s largest shipping centres, according to the latest data from the Xinhua-Baltic Index.

Piraeus in the Athens metropolitan area is home to the globe’s largest fleet management. It has made significant progress, climbing to eighth place among the top shipping centers worldwide compared to the previous year.

The analysis underscores the significant role played by the Athens-Piraeus region. It supports over 5,500 ships belonging to the world’s largest shipping nation, through a network of more than a thousand offices.

The Xinhua-Baltic index assesses various factors, assigning a twenty percent weight to port operations, fifty percent to shipping offices and services, and twenty percent to the overall business environment.

Leading the rankings for a decade, Singapore retains its top position as the world’s largest shipping center in 2023, with London, a global hub for maritime arbitration and services, securing second place for the fourth consecutive year. Shanghai, China’s shipping epicenter, maintains its hold on third place, followed by Hong Kong and Dubai in fifth.

Europe’s two busiest ports, Rotterdam and Hamburg, claim the sixth and seventh spots, while Athens/Piraeus has overtaken New York this year. The top ten is rounded out by Ningbo-Zhoushan and New York in the USA.

Greece’s Piraeus port part of world’s top 10 largest shipping centers

The high world position of this Greek port is also confirmed by the indicators of previous years. In 2021, the Port of Piraeus achieved historic profitability, reporting over $40 million in after-tax profits. This is a notable 39.4 percent increase from 2020. Before-tax profits also rose by 33.3 percent to amount to $54.1 million. The annual profit margin reached $169.5 million, which is up by sixteen percent from the previous year.

Key areas of the port experienced significant growth, with notable increases in TEU handling, vehicle throughput, and facilitated cruise vessels. The Chairman of the Piraeus Port Authority, Yu Zenggang, praised the company’s resilience and commitment to its strategic plan.

EU Financing for Ports in Greece

As reported in January, four major Greek ports, including Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Heraklion, and Igoumenitsa, have secured EU financing for significant infrastructure upgrades. These projects have received approval and funding from the Connecting Europe Facility 2021 – 2027 fund.

The port of Piraeus is set to improve port facilities, offering electricity to ships with hybrid propulsion technology. Additionally, it will implement digital technology for Just-in-Time (JIT) arrivals and launch the SMILE project for sustainable logistics using digital data.

In the northern region, the port of Thessaloniki will utilize funding to restore minimum depths and enhance infrastructure. In the northwestern port of Igoumenitsa, energy infrastructure will be developed in the hopes of reducing the port’s carbon footprint, including supplying electricity to docked ships.

On the southern island of Crete, the port of Heraklion will improve its container terminal and provide electricity to ships carrying controlled temperature containers.

Additionally, the port of Alexandroupolis in the northeast will undergo essential infrastructural improvements to restore minimum depths in the port channel, accommodate large warships, and enhance road connectivity.

Decoding Linear A, the Ancient Minoan Writing System

A Minoan Linear A inscription on a clay tablet from Crete, probably 15th century BC.
Scientists have decrypted symbols denoting numerical fractions in the Linear A, a writing system used by the ancient Minoan civilization. Credit: wikimedia commons / Zde CC BY 4.0

Linear A, a writing system that was used by the ancient Minoans from 1800 to 1450 BC, has intrigued and frustrated experts for centuries. Despite the fact that it has never been fully decrypted, scientists and archaeologists believe they have decrypted symbols denoting numerical fractions in the Linear A writing system.

This writing system that was used in governmental and religious writings of the Minoan Civilization, was first discovered and named by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, who lived from 1851-1941.

Minoan Civilization’s Linear A has never been deciphered

It was succeeded by Linear B, which was used by the Mycenaeans (1700-1050 BC) to write an early form of Greek. No complete texts in Linear A have ever been deciphered.

The term ‘linear’ derives from script that was written by using a stylus to cut lines into a clay tablet, as opposed to “cuneiform,” which was written by using a stylus to press wedge shaped letters into the clay.

Linear A belongs to a group of scripts which are similar to hieroglyphics, but they evolved independently from the Egyptian and Mesopotamian writing systems.

During the second millennium BC, there were four major branches of this alphabet: Linear A, Linear B, Cypro-Minoan, and Cretan hieroglyphic.

In the 1950s, archaeologists deciphered Linear B as Mycenaean Greek. They found that Linear B shares many symbols with Linear A, and they may notate similar syllabic values.

But neither those nor any other proposed readings led to a language that can be read by experts.

The only part of the script that can be deciphered and read are the signs for numbers — which, however, are still only known as numerical values. The actual words for those numbers remain unknown.

Researchers decode symbols denoting numerical fractions

Recently, researchers in Bologna, Italy have deciphered the mathematical quantities for these symbols by combining methods of linguistics, mathematics and archaeology and comparing the material with the corresponding hieroglyphic symbols from Egypt and Mesopotamia, which are known.

The researchers started with the hypothesis that the simple division by two, the fraction ½, was the most common and that any fraction greater than ½ can be expressed as ½ + x. On this basis, the researchers calculated the various combinations and the frequency of the fractions they saw.

The Italian researchers created a table in which all the possible symbols of the fractions of Linear A were classified into specific numerical quantities.

Published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the table shows semicircular symbols with a serial number of lines for the fractions 1/4, 1/5 or 1/20, 1/30 and so on up to 1/60.

The symbol for 1/10 is reminiscent of the letter T. However, the fraction most often found on clay tablets is ½, which is like the letter J. The researchers from Bologna are optimistic that the combined method they used will one day lead to the decipherment of the entire enigmatic Linear A writing system.

The researchers found that tens were marked with horizontal lines or dots, hundreds with circles and thousands with circles framed by lines. What is striking is that the Minoans used even decimal fractions for their calculations and for recording quantities.

According to the researchers, Linear A contains 17 symbols which obviously meant fractions.

These decimal fractions were represented by triangular or semicircular symbols supplemented by one or more dots.

Scientists had already discovered this, but to date they had not been able to find the correspondence of the symbols with specific fractions.

The clay tablets that have survived are often fragmentary, and the correspondences have changed over time.

Linear A texts have been found throughout the island of Crete and also on Kythera, Kea, Thera, and Melos in the Aegean and on the Greek mainland.

The Bologna researchers believe that by continuing the study, they will one day decipher all the Linear A symbols and gain better insight into the language.

Giannis Antetokounmpo Opens Greek Restaurant in Milwaukee

Antetokounmpo Opens Greek Restaurant in Milwaukee
Giannis Antetokounmpo is increasingly looking for investments and beyond basketball. Credit: Erik Drost, CC22/Wikipedia

In collaboration with two Greek associates, Giannis Antetokounmpo opened a Greek restaurant in Milwaukee on September 20th.

Along with Giorgos Panou and Alex Saratsis, the NBA star established “Avli,” which means “Courtyard” in Greek. It is a restaurant chain that already has five stores in Chicago.

Giannis’ establishment is located at 1818 N Hubbard Street in Milwaukee.

The news was announced by Alex Saratsis with a post on Instagram. He stated:

I’ve been eating Greek food all my life. I never expected to serve it to customers. I’m proud of the folks at Courthouse for opening the first such restaurant outside of the Chicago area. Being a co-owner of a restaurant with George Panou and Giannis Antetokounmpo is an incredible experience.

Menus at Antetokounmpo’s Greek restaurant in Milwaukee

The menus at Avli, created by Executive Chef Babis Tsotras (formerly of renowned Grand Resort Lagonissi in Athens, Greece and Avli on The Park in Chicago, Illinois), feature items crafted in-house and made-from-scratch, including Greek mezze (small plates meant to be shared amongst the table), a selection of spreads, salads, vegetarian-friendly options, authentic Greek entrees, and rotating desserts.

Milwaukee diners can expect to discover Avli Greek classics, including kataifi prawns with shredded filo and spicy aioli, spanakopita with homemade filo, spinach, feta, onion, and grilled lamb chops.

The bar of Avli features a cocktail program “infused with Greek nostalgia paired with modern trends,” a curated Greek wine list, and traditional spirits.

Antetokounmpo looks beyond basketball

Antetokounmpo is increasingly looking beyond basketball and has an increased focus on business investments with his brothers.

Earlier in 2023, Antetokounmpo ventured off the court to launch the Calamos Antetokounmpo Sustainable Equity Fund at the New York Stock Exchange.

The NBA star rang the NYSE closing bell to celebrate the launch of his exchange-traded fund (EFT) in partnership with investment management firm Calamos Investments. The Fund is a suite of environmental, social, and governance funds.

Earlier in September Antetokounmpo and his family announced their decision to invest in iconic Greek wine companies.

Hellenic Wineries and Boutari Winery are Greek wine companies with over a century of history, and the Antetokounmpo brothers have decided to invest in a ten percent share.

Giannis Antetokounmpo stated, “I am delighted about the investment and our partnership with Elias Georgiades. Together we will be able to develop companies with a history that produce natural products of the Greek land, such as wine and natural mineral water.”

In June, it emerged that Antetokounmpo bought a massive new home for the whole family, including his mother and brothers, in the leafy suburb of Psychiko in Athens.

Two Alien Minerals Unknown to Earth Found in Meteorite

Meteorite minerals
Two alien minerals found in a meteorite in Somalia. Credit: Image of a Meteorite at Auckland Museum, CC-BY-2.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Geologists have recently discovered two alien minerals unknown to Earth in a meteorite in Somalia. A small, 2.5 ounce (70-gram) fragment of the fifteen thousand kilogram fallen comet known as El Ali revealed the alien ore.

Scientists stumbled upon the unknown mineral in the meteorite while sampling a slice. It was only after analyzing the segment in a lab that they realized they had discovered something completely new.

Alien minerals in El Ali meteorite

Researchers, scientists, and geologists are excited by the revelation, as it might help them understand more about asteroids and how they form as well as the possibility of locating more.

Live Science magazine reports the curator and professor in the Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta Chris Herd as having stated:

Whenever you find a new mineral, it means that the actual geological conditions, the chemistry of the rock, was different than what’s been found before. That’s what makes this exciting: In this particular meteorite you have two officially described minerals that are new to science.

Herd named one of the alien deposits ‘elaliite’ after the El Ali meteorite. The other he termed ‘elkinstantonite’ after Professor Lindy Elkins-Tanto, the vice president of the Interplanetary Initiative at Arizona State University. Elkins-Tanton is also the chief investigator of what they call the ‘Psyche’ mission, part of the NASA operation to reach the Asteroid Psyche 16 by 2023.

How asteroids form

Elkins-Tanton is famous for her work on the formation of asteroids, which the foreign elements may help in deciphering. For that reason, Herd named one after her, saying that:

Lindy has done a lot of work on how the cores of planets form, how these iron nickel cores form, and the closest analogue we have are iron meteorites. So it made sense to name a mineral after her and recognize her contributions to science.

Asteroid-Earth. Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki/Science Photo Library/Corbis, CC-ZERO / Wikimedia Commons

The El Ali meteorite is composed of more than three hundred unfamiliar IAB elements and iron. Nevertheless, the discovery of something non-native to Earth came as a surprise to all. This is something that Herd’s colleague, Dr. Andrew Locock, affirmed.

“The very first day he did some analysis he said ‘You’ve got at least two new minerals here,'” Locock said.

Herd called upon his colleague, Locock, to study the segments they found. Locock is an expert in identifying formerly unknown minerals and possesses a wealth of knowledge on how asteroids form.


Researchers came upon the El Ali meteorite in 2020. That, apparently, was when most of the world found out about it.

According to IFLScience, however, it had had a long history in the oral culture and ancient folklore of the Saar people of Somalia eons before Western scientists learned about it.

The Saars sang songs of its mystery, mightiness, and magic for over five centuries. They also glorified it in poetry and dance and even used it to sharpen their knives, perhaps out of practicality.

Medusa, the Most Fearsome Figure of Greek Mythology

Medusa greek mythology
Medusa, one of the most feared figures in Greek mythology, as portrayed by Rubens. Credit: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Bilddatenbank/Public Domain

The representation of females in Greek mythology, including the Gorgon Medusa, has often included frightening images and ideas showing men’s fear of female power and their need to control or even destroy this power.

Like the monsters Scylla and Charybdis, as well as the Sphinx, Medusa, the “Gorgon,” was born from the gods herself.

Μέδουσα (as ‘Medusa’ is spelled in Greek), meaning “guardian, protectress,” who was also referred to as Gorgo, was one of the three monstrous Gorgons, generally described as winged human females with living venomous snakes in place of hair. Those who gazed into her eyes would turn to stone.

Most sources describe her as the daughter of Phorcys and Ceto although the author Hyginus refers to her as the daughter of Gorgon and Ceto.

Medusa was beheaded by the Greek hero Perseus, who thereafter used her head which retained its ability to turn onlookers to stone as a sort of weapon until he returned it to the goddess Athena to place on her shield. In classical antiquity, the image of the head of Medusa appeared in the supposedly evil-averting device known as the “Gorgoneion.”

Medusa pediment greek mythology
The Gorgon Medusa as portrayed on the pediment of the temple to Artemis on Kerkyra (Corfu). Here, Medusa is shown wearing a belt made of snakes. Credit: Dr.K./Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

In Ancient Greece, the Gorgoneion was a special apotropaic amulet portraying the Gorgon head used most famously by the Olympian deities Athena and Zeus both of whom are purported to have worn it as a talisman and are often depicted wearing it.

It established their descent from earlier deities who were thought to remain powerful. Among other attributes, it was assumed by the rulers of the Hellenistic age as a royal aegis that implied divine birth or protection. It was shown, for instance, on the Alexander Mosaic and the Gonzaga Cameo.

Gorgeoneion Shield greek mythology
A winged Gorgoneion used on a shield. Credit: Xocolatl /Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

According to Hesiod and Aeschylus, Medusa lived and died on an island named Sarpedon, somewhere near Cisthene. The 2nd century BC novelist, Dionysios Skytobrachion, places her somewhere in Libya, where Herodotus had said the Berbers created her story and image as part of their religion.

Naturally, the Romans adopted the Medusa as part of their mythology, as well.

In Ovid’s work, Metamorphoses, from the first century AD, Medusa was portrayed as a terrifying Gorgon whose serpentine locks of hair turned anyone who met her gaze into stone.

A Gorgoneium Cup on the Tondo of an Ancient Greek Attic black-figured cup, end of sixth century BC—Cabinet des médailles de la Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, France. Credit: Bibi Saint-Pol, Public Domain

Interestingly, much like the Sphinx, Scylla, and Charybdis of Greek mythology, Medusa ends up meeting her maker at the hands of a male hero. It does seem to beg the question of why all the female monsters in Greek mythology are killed by men.

Perseus somehow manages to do the Medusa in—but only with the help of magical tools including winged sandals from Hermes; an invisibility cap of invisibility from Hades, the god of the underworld, and a mirror-like shield that belonged to Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war.

Some believe all the Gorgons, the trio of winged females with venomous snakes for hair, descended from Gaia, the personification of Earth herself. Anyone who looked any of these powerful female figures straight in the face would turn to stone.

Roman Medusa
A Roman cameo of Medusa. Credit: Sailko/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 3.0

Perhaps reflecting the fear men had—and truthfully, often still have—of being sucked into a relationship because of the irresistible attractions of females, Medusa was portrayed as both deceptively beautiful and hideously ugly; of these three, however, Medusa was the only mortal Gorgon.

In the Roman poet Ovid’s version, Medusa had once been a beautiful maiden. However, after Poseidon, the sea god, raped her in the temple of Athena, the goddess sought revenge for the heinous act of defilement.

In an inexplicable act of cruelty, the goddess Athena herself, according to the male poet, of course, transformed Poseidon’s victim into a hideous monster.

Caravaggio Medusa
“Medusa,” by Caravaggio, showing a face that is conventionally beautiful and alluring in spite of the fact that it is framed with snakes. This portrays the evolution of Medusa as increasingly more feminine and attractive throughout the centuries; dated 1595. Credit: Public domain.

Very interestingly, experts have noted that over time depictions of Medusa have changed drastically. Specifically, more and more female features were shown with the passing of time. Kiki Karaglou, curator of the Met exhibition “Dangerous Beauty: Medusa in Classical Art,” said in a 2018 interview that sculptures of the monster from the archaic Greek period from 700 to 480 B.C. are mostly androgynous figures.

Clearly designed to be ugly and threatening, they feature beards, tusks, and grimaces. In the Metropolitan Museum of Art show, Karaglou brought together more than 60 depictions of Medusa’s face throughout history.

Karaglou wrote in her 2018 essay that was published along with the exhibit that depictions of the Gorgon became notably more beautiful as time went along. “Beauty, like monstrosity, enthralls, and female beauty in particular was perceived—and, to a certain extent, is still perceived—to be both enchanting and dangerous, or even fatal,” she said.

This trope of the villainous, vampish female who posed a clear danger to men became more marked throughout the centuries, embodying the trope of an evil seductress which still endures to this day.

“Mens’ fear of women’s destructive potential”

In a recent story in Smithsonian magazine, author Nora McGreevy recalls remarks made by classicist Debbie Felton in an essay from 2013 which states that such tales, passed down through the generations, “spoke to men’s fear of women’s destructive potential. The myths then, to a certain extent, fulfill a male fantasy of conquering and controlling the female.”

Journalist and critic Jess Zimmerman, writing in a collection of essays entitled “Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology,” says “Women have been monsters, and monsters have been women, in centuries’ worth of stories, because stories are a way to encode these expectations and pass them on.”

Zimmerman theorizes that is expected in cultures that punished women for their inherent intelligence and for “keeping knowledge to themselves.”

Intact Marble Head of Alexander the Great Uncovered in Turkey

Marble head of Alexander the Great Turkey
The 2nd century AD marble head of Alexander measures 23 centimeters. Credit: Düzce Municipality

The head of a statue determined by archaeologists to belong to Alexander the Great, was unearthed during excavations in north-western Turkey.

The marble head, dated to the 2nd century AD, was found at the top of a theater in the ancient city of Konuralp, near modern-day Düzce.

While most parts of the ancient theater have been unearthed during the excavations, similar historical remains such as the head of the Apollo statue and the head of Medusa were previously found in the upper part of the structure.

During the excavations carried out in the Konuralp Ancient Theater excavation area, archaeologists identified an artifact in the ground at the top of the theater area. As they kept digging, they removed the artifact, which appeared to be the head of a bust.

As a result of the consultation of history experts, it was determined that the bust head found belonged to the Macedonian King Alexander the Great.

In a statement, Konuralp Museum provided information about why they determined the bust to belong to Alexander the Great.

Bust Alexander the Great Turkey
Credit: Düzce Municipality

“The head, measuring 23 centimeters [from head to neck] was found during the excavations in the ancient theater. It is depicted with deep and upward-looking eyes made of marble, drill marks on the pupil and a slightly open mouth that does not show much of its teeth.

“His long curly hairstyle up to his neck and two strands of hair [Anastoli] in the middle of his forehead are like the mane of a lion. This depiction is a hair type typical of Alexander the Great,” the statement said.

The marble head of Alexander the Great delivered to Konuralp Museum

Historical Konuralp is 8 km north of Düzce; first settlements there go back to 3rd century BC. Until 74 BC, it was one of the most important cities belonging to Bithynia, which included Bilecik, Bolu, Sakarya, Kocaeli.

It was conquered by Pontus and then by the Roman Empire. During the Roman period, the city was influenced by Latin culture, and it changed its name to Prusias ad Hypium. Later on Christianity affected the city and after the separation of the Roman Empire in 395, it was controlled by the Eastern Roman Empire (the later Byzantine Empire).

In 1204, the Crusader armies invaded Constantinople, establishing the Latin Empire. Düzce and its surroundings are thought to be under the dominance of the Latin Empire during this period. Düzce was under Byzantine rule again from 1261 to 1323.

The Konuralp Museum has some rare exhibits. A 1st-century sarcophagus, Orpheus mosaic, the mosaic of Achilles and Thetis and the 2nd-century copy of Tyche and Plutus sculpture are among the notable items in the museum. There are 456 ethnographic items.

In the ethnography section clothes, weapons, and daily-usage articles about the late Ottoman era are exhibited. There are also 3837 coins from Hellenistic to Ottoman era.

Newborn Rare Red Panda Becomes Athens Zoo Sensation

Red Panda Athens zoo
Visitors to the zoo will vote for the name of the newborn panda. Credit: Instagram/Attica Zoological Park

A newly born red panda has become an instant star of a zoo near Athens as hundreds queued to get a glimpse last weekend on Red Panda Day at the Attica Zoological Park.

The red baby panda is two months old. She has not been named yet and is mostly seen sleeping in her mother’s lap.

The red panda also known as the lesser panda, is a small mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. It has dense reddish-brown fur with a black belly and legs, white-lined ears, a mostly white muzzle and a ringed tail.

Its head-to-body length is 51–63.5 cm (20.1–25.0 in) with a 28–48.5 cm (11.0–19.1 in) tail, and it weighs between 3.2 and 15 kg (7.1 and 33.1 lb). It is well adapted to climbing due to its flexible joints and curved semi-retractile claws.

The red panda’s place on the evolutionary tree has been debated, but modern genetic evidence places it in close affinity with raccoons, weasels, and skunks. It is not closely related to the giant panda, which is a bear.

The species has been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2015. It is protected in all range countries.

Red panda’s Athens zoo

The Attica Zoological Park is the only zoo in Greece, receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors of all ages, every year, from all over the country.

It was initially founded as a bird park in May 2000, hosting the world’s third-largest collection of birds (1,100 birds from 300 different species).

Striving to combine entertainment with education, it now offers visitors a unique journey to the five continents, through the lives of more than 2000 animals from 290 species, such as lions, Asian elephants, giraffes, monkeys, bears, penguins, parrots, dolphins and many more, in an area of over 20 hectares.

The zoo says that while zoos are a place for entertainment and relaxation, central to the philosophy of Attica Zoological Park is an effort not only to entertain but also to educate our visitors.

“Raising public awareness of the animal kingdom, as well as preserving and breeding endangered species – some 30% of the park animals are threatened or threatened by extinction – are among our main objectives. Our pursuit is to be, first and foremost, a place of education and conservation,” it adds.

The Attica Zoological Park played a key role recently in trying to save a rare white tiger cub found abandoned near Athens.

The cub was found under a garbage bin and was in a desperate state.

Jean-Jacques Lesueur, the founder of the zoo where the white tiger was housed, explained that the decision on the fate of the animal was made and it will be euthanized, as it cannot be saved.

Greek University Opens Branch in Alexandria, Egypt

Greek University Alexandria
Students of the Averofeio Greek school of Alexandria during a parade to honor the Greek National Day. Credit: ERT

The Greek University of Patras announced recently that is opening a branch in Alexandria, Egypt in a first-of-its-kind move by a Greek higher education institution.

On Friday at the offices of the Greek community of Alexandria, the rector of the University of Patras, Christos Bouras, and the president of the Greek community of Alexandria, Andreas Vafiadis, will co-sign a memorandum for the establishment of the branch.

The University of Patras became the first Greek university with a branch abroad.

“For the first time in the history of the Greek community of Alexandria, a university-level project is about to take place. The Greek Quarter of Alexandria will acquire special glamour and prestige,” the President of the Greek Community of Alexandria, Andreas Vafiadis, told state-run ERT.

Branch of the Greek university in Alexandria will have two departments

The University of Patras branch will operate two departments, one Greek-speaking and one English-speaking in the subjects of Greek culture, Greek language and Greek philosophy.

Each program will be able to accept approximately 100 students. There will be tuition fees, which however have not yet been determined.

Teachers in the branch will be professors of the University of Patras and external collaborators for one semester. It is estimated that the branch will be operational by 2025.

The rector of the University of Patras said that the decision to establish a branch in Alexandria was not just an important step in the growth of the institution.

“We wish to strengthen the Greek presence in Egypt and Africa, as well as the effort of the Greek government and the Patriarchate of Alexandria for a strong Greek presence in the region,” Bouras told Kathimerini.

Story of Greeks in Alexandria

The story of Hellenism in Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city, goes back more than two millennia and is marked by Alexander the Great’s placement of the first stone as part of the city’s first street in 331 BC.

Hellenistic Alexandria was best known for the Lighthouse of Alexandria (the Pharos), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; its Great Library (the largest in the ancient world); and its Necropolis, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages.

Alexandria was at one time the second-most powerful city of the ancient Mediterranean region, after Rome.

In modern times, Greeks began to settle in Alexandria again in the 18th and 19th centuries. A new wave of immigration flooded Alexandria shortly after the Greek revolution of 1821, marking the beginning of the so-called European era of the city.

Today the Greek community of Alexandria has approximately 1,000 members. In its heyday, before the 1960s, it had 200,000-250,000 members. There are about 3,500 Greeks living in all of Egypt, namely in Cairo and Alexandria.

The Greek Alphabet and Its Surprising Connection to Egyptian Hieroglyphics

Evolution of the alphabet, Egyptian hieroglyphs ang Greek alphabet
The Greek Alphabet and Its Egyptian Connection. Credit: Video screenshot/UsefulCharts/Youtube

While the history of the alphabet of a particular language may not be of interest to many, it was quite significant to the Greeks. Lots of ancient Greek records contain stories about how they got their alphabet. It was the subject of myth and legend. What exactly did these legends claim about the origin of the alphabet, though? And how do these claims compare with modern discoveries?

Where did the ancient Greeks think their alphabet came from?

The earliest known record of the origin of the Greek alphabet is from Herodotus. He claimed that a prince from Phoenicia named Cadmus, arrived in Greece. He introduced the Greeks to their alphabet, who then adapted it for their own linguistic purposes.

In other words, the Greek alphabet was believed to be an adaptation of the Phoenician alphabet. This was the claim of Herodotus, and the theory is repeated in various other ancient Greek records after him.

When was this supposed to have happened?

Although there was widespread agreement about the fact that the alphabet had been introduced to the Greeks by Cadmus, there were varying opinions about when exactly this was supposed to have happened. Herodotus placed Cadmus about 1,600 years before his own time, which would be approximately 2000 BCE. This is about eight hundred years earlier than Herodotus’ date for the Trojan War.

In contrast, most later records place Cadmus much closer to the Trojan War, thereby making him a contemporary of a poet named Linus. This Linus was the teacher of young Heracles, who was born about a hundred years prior to the Trojan War. Therefore, Cadmus must have been active between one and two centuries before the Trojan War.

Genealogical information is probably more useful than Herodotus’ estimate, which may well simply be an exaggeration. In any case, both Herodotus and the later Greek writers were in agreement that Cadmus lived before the Trojan War. This would mean that the Greek alphabet was introduced prior to that war as well.

A Greek vase from the Geometric period, showing an early Greek inscription
Greek vase from the Geometric period, depicting one of the earliest inscriptions in the Greek alphabet. Credit: National Museum of Athens

Where did Cadmus come from?

Cadmus was supposedly a prince from Phoenicia, meaning that the Greek alphabet had a Phoenician origin. However, Greek records provide more information than this. Most records agreed that Cadmus was the son of a king of Phoenicia named Agenor. Agenor means brave or courageous in Greek, and it stems from two words, namely “agan,” which means ‘very much,’ and “anir,” meaning ‘man,’ according to Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English dictionary.

Ultimately, Agenor’s family was believed to be Greek in origin. Agenor himself was a descendant of Io, a princess from Argos who had escaped to Egypt. Some of Io’s descendants stayed in Egypt for several generations, much like Agenor’s family.

The fact that Agenor originally lived in Egypt before becoming the king of Phoenicia is found in records of writers such as Aeschylus (fifth century BCE), Hyginus (first century CE), and Pseudo-Apollodorus (c. 100 CE). These facts point to an interesting conclusion, although it is one which the ancient Greeks do not seem to have ever specifically mentioned themselves.

If the Greek alphabet came from Cadmus, but Cadmus’ family originated from Egypt prior to their moving to Phoenicia, then does that mean that the Greek alphabet originally came from Egypt before passing through Phoenicia?

What do modern discoveries reveal about the Greek alphabet?

Tthe ancient Greeks claimed that the Greek alphabet was introduced by Cadmus from Phoenicia at some point before the Trojan War. There is the possible implication that it had even been in Egypt before it arrived in Phoenicia. But what do modern discoveries reveal about the accuracy of these legends?

Firstly, scholars widely accept that the Greek alphabet stemmed from Phoenicia. Ancient inscriptions from Phoenicia (also called Canaan) can be compared with the earliest ancient Greek inscriptions. Their similarities then become obvious to such a degree that scholars agree they must be closely related.

Until today, the Phoenician inscriptions found predate the Greek inscriptions, so the Phoenician alphabet must have come first. Hence, although archaeology has not confirmed the existence of Cadmus specifically, it does confirm the legend that the Greek alphabet came from Phoenicia.

Secondly, scholars generally agree that this alphabet first came to Greece in the 9th or possibly even the 8th century BCE. It seems that 900 BCE is the absolute earliest time period acceptable by most scholars in terms of the arrival of the alphabet to the region.

This does not correlate to the claim that the alphabet was brought to Greece prior to the Trojan War if we base this calculation on the traditional date of that war, circa 1200 BCE. On the other hand, if we use the date indicated by one of the earliest sources for the date of the Trojan War, which is the 8th century BCE, then this would match claims of ancient records.

The Egyptian connection to the Greek alphabet

But what about the implication that the alphabet had originally come from Egypt? Modern discoveries have definitely backed up this claim.

The Phoenician alphabet evolved from a script known by scholars as the Proto-Sinaitic Script. This was a form of writing that has been found on inscriptions in Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula, and Phoenicia (which is generally referred to as Canaan in references pertaining to this time period). These inscriptions date from circa 1800 to 1500 BCE.

During that period, Egypt was extensively populated by Semitic peoples, particularly from the land of Canaan. The earliest Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions come from Egypt, with only the later ones being found in Canaan. Thus, it is evident that the alphabet must have come from Egypt and was then brought to Canaan. The design of the letters also confirms this, as they are clearly adaptations of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Scholars now agree that the Proto-Sinaitic script was created by Semites living in Egypt. They adapted Egyptian hieroglyphs for their own use and language. They then brought this script back to their homeland, the land of Canaan, where it subsequently evolved into the Phoenician alphabet.

What this means, then, is that the Greek alphabet originally came from Egyptian hieroglyphs. Remarkable as this may seem, the Phoenician alphabet and the Proto-Sinaitic script provide clear evidence of such an origin. It could be that the legend of Cadmus’ family coming from Egypt is but a distant memory of this Egyptian origin.

Kissing in Ancient Greece: A Greeting and Sign of Respect

kissing ancient greece
Kissing in Ancient Greece: A Greeting and Sign of Respect. Image: An ancient relief from the city of Tarsus depicting a couple kissing. Credit: Public Domain

In ancient Greece, kissing was not considered strictly romantic or intimate; rather, kissing was a often a greeting between acquaintances and could be used as a sign of respect.

Ancient Greeks would often kiss each other and had distinct social rules for where these kisses would be placed on the body, depending on status and the relationship between the two people involved.

Kissing was also certainly considered a sign of affection, as in many of Homer’s works, kissing is used to illustrate a deep bond of friendship or kinship. Often, parents were described as kissing their children in order to show their love, and men who were close friends would also kiss.

Images depicting kisses also showed up in mythology, particularly in relation to satyrs and nymphs.

Kissing in Ancient Greece

One common greeting in the ancient Greek world was a kiss. This could be on the hand, the cheek, or the lips.

An ancient Greek historian named Herodotos of Halikarnassos, who lived between 484 and 425 BC, describes kissing as greeting between the Achaemenid Persians, who had conquered many of the countries on the Mediterranean Sea.

“When one [Persian] man meets another on the road, it is easy to see if the two are equals; for, if they are, they kiss each other on the lips without speaking; if the difference in rank is small, the cheek is kissed; if it is great, the humbler bows and does obeisance to the other.”

Although in the modern world kissing is associated with romance and intimacy, this was not the case in ancient times. When kissing was meant to be romantic, it was frowned upon if done in public. If women initiated romantic kisses, it would be taken as a sign of promiscuity or other negative attributes.

The ancient Greek handshake

Out of all the gestures of greeting used until recently around the globe, the handshake is the most widely used. This rang true in ancient Greece, where the handshake was the most commonplace greeting in the country.

The oldest indication of the handshake as a gesture of greeting is an ancient Greek sculpture, specifically one found on a funerary naiskos from the grave of Agathon and Sosykrates.

A funeral stele showing the sad farewell of a husband and wife. Ca. 350-325 BC. Credit: Marie Lan Nguyan/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.5

References to handshakes can also be found in Homer’s Iliad, which dates to roughly the year 800 BC. The gesture is described in that work variously as a symbol of agreement or oath, an offer of comfort to the bereaved, or as a pledge of trust.

Significantly, a handshake in ancient Greece meant that the two parties were equals: Gods shook hands with gods, warriors shook hands between them, and athletes shook hands as a sign of acknowledging respect for their rivals.