Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of Jul 19th - Jul 25th,  2002

Politicing for Pisces

Columns Archive


   This week we're once again taking a look at Ovid's Fasti, a correlation of the calendar and 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, correlating to the Full Moon.

   This week we're examining Nones 5th from Book III of Ovid's Fasti, a date we would interpret as March 5th,but which would translate as March 3rd in the Calendar of Numa during the Republic. On that date the Sun would still be in Pisces, and the Moon would be leaving Pisces for Aries.


March 5th, 13 AD, while Ovid was composing this work.
Although not visible in daylight, the new thin Crescent Moon
would have been observable with sunset.
Note how Sun and Moon both fall in Pisces.

   As he did on February 14th, Ovid is again attempting to explain the myth by using the helical rising or setting of various constellations he finds associated with this day . The listing for Nones 5th is a short one, and may be fully included here.

   "When from her saffron cheeks Tithonus' spouse (Aurora, the Dawn) shall have begun to shed the dew at the time of the fifth morn, the constellation, whether it be the Bear-ward or the sluggard Bootes, will have sunk and will escape thy sight. But not so will the Grape-gatherer escape thee. The origin of that constellation also can be briefly told."

   Who is he referring to? In Ovid's time early March would have seen Bootes getting ready to disappear across the western horizon, but who Bootes is is pointless. Who is the Grape-gatherer? It's possible the constellation Virgo (representing the harvest) might be meant, but the Grape-gatherer is usually thought of as Bacchus or Dionysus. Pisces is the sign of the vine, grapes, their gatherers, and revelry. In early March, the Sun is in Pisces, and so the constellation cannot be seen. It is the sign of those twice born, as both the Messiah and Dionysus experienced death and resurrection. The former through the cross, while the later was reborn from the thigh of Zeus after being plucked from his dying mother's womb. Wine is twice born; first as the fruit of the grape, later as wine. The remainder of the myth confirms our suspicions:

   "Tis said that the unshorn Ampelus, son of a nymph and satyr, was loved by Bacchus on the Ismarian hills. Upon him the god bestowed a vine that trailed from an elm's leafy boughs, and still the vine takes from the boy its name. While he rashly culled the gaudy grapes upon a branch, he tumbled down; Liber bore the lost youth to the stars."

   Bacchus immortalizes his consort and places him in the stars. Ovid is relating myths choreographed by the Sun and Moon, not by helical alignments. He is attempting to make sense out of the patterns he has been given, but in this case is reaching. With Sun and Moon in Pisces, we are seeing the influence of each; of the Sun as Bacchus, and the Moon as his reflection in the vine to which the gaudy grapes gave their name. The spread of the cultivation of wine was to breed new varieties of grapes, here anthropomorphized in myth as Ampelus, son of a nymph and satyr. Certainly there's nothing to be ashamed about in the development of a new breed of grape, depicted as a youth Bacchus loved. The authors of the Calendar of Numa were simply using poetic license.