Athena's Web Weekly Column

  Week of May 31st - June 6th,  2002

The Art of War

Columns Archive



aka Romulus after deification

   This week we're once again taking a look at Ovid's Fasti, a correlation of the calendar and the traditions associated with each of the Roman holidays through the year. This is part of an ongoing series, and our hypothesis is the original calendar of the Roman Republic was choreographed by the positions of the Sun and Moon, with each month beginning on the New Moon and reaching a crescendo with the Ides, corresponding to the Full Moon.

   Our progress has brought us to (XV Kal) February 17th. a day upon which the Moon would fall in Libra. This is a sign that is normally associated with law and justice, and indeed, the scales are often seen as a pneumonic symbol for the courts as a symbolic shorthand when stories involving a verdict, personality or landmark case are highlighted by the media. This is also a sign of relationships and one's partner. Because Venus is thought of as the ruler of Libra, the arts are also often associated with this sign, especially the fine arts.

The traditional view

The traditional image of Romulus

   But together with these themes, there's another side to Libra, and one that is often overlooked. Precisely because Libra is symbolized by the scales, it represents both sides of an issue. Libra's are constantly looking at things from another's point of view. If you say black, they'll tell you about the advantages of white. If you say left, they'll explore the merits of right. This is part of their propensity to seek balance, to find the middle ground.

   In preserving this fulcrum of opposites, Libra represents marriage, but is also the sign of divorce. When the peace and harmony of Venus is not maintained, then the opposite extreme can be the result. While Libra represents diplomacy, negotiations, mutual cooperation and legal contracts, the sanctity of marriage can be contrasted by the conflict of open enemies. It's not unusual, when a marriage goes south, that the person you used to live with, love and befriend becomes the one most out to hurt you. It is not surprising, therefore, that in many of the older traditions, Libra and Venus were thought of as the archetypes of both war and peace.

Romulus on a coin

Romulus on a coin

   With this in mind, it is on this day that the Roman calendar honors Quirinus, the god who, before his death and deification, had been known as Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome. Roman state religion had always been set up as a kind of "Quid pro quo" agreement, as though there were an official contract between heaven and earth. In effect it ran something like this: If you do thus and such for us, then we will do thus and such for you. This latter might have then been an offering of some sort, usually an animal sacrifice, and this is precisely how this day opens, reminding Jupiter of an old contract and his part in the bargain. In continuing with our Libran associations, on the day the myth of February 17th specifies, he was engaged in the powers earmarked by the scales:

   "It chanced that there, Romulus, thou was judging thy people."

   ...and then goes on to vindicate those who were falsely accused of wrongdoing, when,

   "The senators were falsely charged with murder."

   Then, in a visitation which has strong parallels to Christ's return from the grave, Quirinus (Romulus), in ghostly form reminds his people to cultivate the art their fathers cultivated, the art of war.


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