Athena's Web Weekly Column

  Week of April 5th - April 11th,  2002

Pied Piper of Peace

Columns Archive


   "...there Arion grasped his lyre and paid his fare in song, and with his chant he charmed the ocean waves."

   This week we continue our investigation of an ancient trail, as we pursue Latin verse in Ovid's Fasti, a work dedicated to recording the Roman holidays for the first half of the year. Our focus this week settles on what would be considered the 1st of February in the Julian calendar (in which January had 31 days), but would equate to January 30th in the older calendar of the Republic (where January was only allotted 29 days).

Arion on the waters

Arion on the waters

   If we follow our lunar reckoning for this date, the Moon would fall in the sign Pisces. Pisces is a Latin term that translates as 'fish'. As a sign of the zodiac, it relates to the ocean and often confers a sense of loss and suffering. Since Christianity is the principal focus of the Age of Pisces in the west, the renunciation of worldly values and the suffering one must endure helps prepare the way for the soul's entry into heaven and the afterlife, with the Messiah's crucifixion represented as the symbolic archetype for the Age. But because Venus is in its exaltation in Pisces, there is another side to this vibration, and that is the inner beauty, serenity, and peace that is conferred by spiritual gifts. Many artists and musicians are blessed by this placement, where they tap the hidden wellspring of creativity that bubbles up from the inner reservoir of the soul.



   The correlation of the imagery to this sign with the holiday is hard to miss. Our hero is Arion, the Pied Piper of the ancient world. Around 700 BC his songs charmed not only the people that came to hear him, but also the beasts of the field and fish of the sea, or at least the dolphins. Even the elements were subject to being hypnotized by his musical magic:


A more modern interpretation

   "By his song he used to stay the running waters. Often at his voice the wolf in pursuit of the lamb stood still, often the lamb halted in fleeing from the ravening wolf; often hounds and hares have couched in the same covert, and the hind upon the rock has stood beside the lioness: at peace the chattering crow has sat with Pallas's bird, and the dove has been neighbour to the hawk."

   The stage for our celestial choreography is set upon the open sea. Having just finished a successful tour of Italy and Sicily, Arion is returning home by ship, when those on board decide to rob him of his newly acquired booty.
An older depiction of Arion

An older Arion

They are about to kill him, but while refusing to accept gold in return for his life, they do give him leave to play once more before they murder him. Enchanted by his music, dolphins begin to frolic about the ship, and in full regalia, he quickly jumps overboard.

   "Straightway, with all his finery on, he leaped plump down into the waves: the refluent water splashed the azure poop. Thereupon they say (it sounds past credence) a dolphin did submit his arched back to the unusual weight; seated there Arion grasped his lyre and paid his fare in song, and with his chant he charmed the ocean waves. The gods see pious deeds: Jupiter received the dolphin among the constellations, and bade him have nine stars."

   When the pirates later put into port, where Arion has already arrived, they are promptly crucified. Music, suffering, loss, faith, crucifixtion and the ocean, they're all here to help fill the Piscean cup.


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