Athena's Web Weekly Column

  Week of March 8th - March 14th,  2002

Royal Mane

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   We continue our exploration of Ovid's Fasti, this week examining Jan. 15th and 16th, when the Sun was in Capricorn and the Moon in Leo.

Ancient Europe

Pagan Europe, with 'AVSO-NIA' marked in southern Italy

   The central theme running through each of these days is that of the symbolic heart of the Lion. Leo is the sign of children, nobility, and leadership. We're examining two days, because the Moon remains in a sign for a period of approximately two and a half days. With the Moon in Cancer on the Ides of January, the 13th, two days later the Moon would be in Leo, the next sign of the zodiac.

   It seems that in days of old, 'Ausonian' matrons drove in carriages. This would have been a sign of distinction for them, separating them from the common folk who would have had to either go on foot, or find some other means of transportation. Ausonia was one of the ancient names of Italy, which it received from Auson, the son of Ulysses. The original text for this date is loaded with geographical tags with which the Romans of the early empire would have been familiar, but which seem foreign and distant from our perspective. But the central theme is that because these 'nobles,' these women of rank were stripped of a portion of their honor, they retaliated by aborting their children, and the senate finally had to do something about it.

   "For of old Ausonian matrons drove in carriages... Afterwards the honour was taken from them, and every matron vowed not to propagate the line of her ungrateful spouse by giving birth to offspring; and lest she should bear children, she rashly by a secret thrust discharged the growing burden from her womb. They say the senate reprimanded the wives for their daring cruelty, but restored the right of which they had been mulcted; and they ordained that now two festivals be held alike in honour of the Tegean mother to promote the birth of boys and girls."

Carmenta

Carmenta

   On the 16th, the theme shifts to a different facet of Leo. Here, respect for nobility and leadership is challenged, and stamped out. The motif is repeated, once using an example from the 4th century BC, the other more contemporary with Ovid's era.

   "Furius, the vanquisher of the Etruscan folk, had vowed the ancient temple, and he kept his vow. The cause was that the common folk had taken up arms and seceded from the nobles, and Rome dreaded her own puissance. The recent cause was better: Germany presented her dishevelled locks at thy command, leader revered; hence didst thou offer the spoil of the vanquished people, and didst build a temple to that goddess whom thou thyself dost worship. That goddess thy mother..."

   Livia, the wife of Augustus, was a mortal elevated to deity. The Roman emperors increasingly employed this practice, although as an oriental import it had initially been frowned on during the Republic.
Livia, wife of Augustus, and goddess

Livia, wife of Augustus, mother of Tiberius
Roman goddess

In each example, personal pride (Leo) is wrestling with the state (Capricorn), precisely as the celestial lights indicated.

   We are witnessing the calendar in action, with the old rituals and traditions mixing with the new glory of Empire. Ovid, and the priests who had coordinated the Solar/Lunar calendar of the Republic, had kept their finger on the pulse of the planets, choreographing it so that on holidays people would dance in time with its celestial drumbeat.




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