Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of March 5th - March 11th,  2004

Chapter XI

Lions at Bay

Columns Archive

Zeus and lightning

Zeus and his lightning

  This week we take another look at Aquarius, this time through the eyes of the Greeks of the 8th or 11th centuries BC, depending on whether you consider when Homer wrote it, or when the actions allegedly took place. Either way, it was a long time ago. Aquarius is the sign of the collective, of the people, and of teamwork. It is the sign of the unexpected. It rules over knowledge, science and the stars, whether as astrology or astronomy. It is also the sign of lightning and electricity.

  In the beginning of Chapter XI, the section of Homer's work which would correspond to this 11th sign of the zodiac, the images to the sky, heaven, and the stars are particularly abundant. Indeed, the opening lines set the stage for our Aquarian theme:

  "Dawn came up from the couch of her reclining, leaving her lord Tithonon's brilliant side with fresh light in her arms for gods and men..."

  These images, lightly seasoned throughout Chapter 11, keep peeking out at us like starlight playing hide and seek among the clouds for those of us watching from below.

  "As from night clouds a baleful summer star
will blaze into the clear, then fade in cloud,
so Hektor shone in front or became hidden
when he harangued the rear ranks- his whole form
in bronze aflash like lightning of Father Zeus."

  The relationship of the gods with heaven is repeated over and over again in subtle ways.

Hektor throwing the firebrand

Hektor throwing the firebrand

  "While the sun rose and morning grew in splendor..."

  "Diomedes answered him:
'I'll stand with you
and take what comes, by heaven!'"

  "Undaunted Diomedes answered...
'By heaven, arrows of mine are whetted differently.'"

  "Now, in the end,
when he was near the city and the wall,
to earth from heaven the father of gods and men
descended and sat down on Ida's crests
amid her springs, bearing his jagged lightning..."

  "...till the sun dips and starry darkness comes..."

  "...till the sun dips and starry darkness comes..."

  Yes, it is repeated twice. Notice that in two of these sections, the lightning image is also used twice.

  But these images seem to fade after the opening few pages of this chapter, and two other Aquarian themes emerge, themes which one does not find in the text books. Similar to the shock value of the storm troopers of World War II, there is an element of Blitzkrieg (Lightning Warfare) which erupts throughout Chapter XI; of first this champion and then that champion, of Agamemnon and then Hektor, Diomedes and Odysseus, having their moment of glory, but then being hit, hurt, and taken out of the action. Aquarian energy is intermittent in its nature. When it works, like a new computer, it's performance is phenomenal. But when it crashes, it goes down and is gone. The Sun, the planet of power and heroes, is in its detriment in Aquarius, and here are the heroes at their low ebb after a series of brilliant flashes. As Nestor complains to Patroklos,

Agamemnon and Odysseus

Agamemnon and Odysseus

  "How is this, that Akhilleus cares for any
Akhaians who are hit? He has no notion
of what distress has come upon the army.
Wounded and out of action, our best men
are lying by the ships: Lord Diomedes;
Odysseus, the great spearman; Agamemnon;
Eurypulos, hit by an arrow in the thigh;
and this man (Makhaon) whom I brought just now from war
disabled by an arrow from a bowstring."

  Indeed, this image of the Sun in its detriment is strong here, as the heroes are protrayed by Homer as lions at bay. Listen as he describes even the towering bulk of Aias in retreat.

  "He stood stock-still
and tossed his sevenfold shield over his shoulder,
dazed with dread. With half-closed eyes
he glared at the crowd, a wild thing brought to bay,
turning a little, shifting knee past knee.
So formidable in his fear he was-
like a dun lion from a stable yard
driven by hounds and farmhands: all night long
they watch and will not let him take his prey,
his chosen fat one. Prowling, craving meat,
he cannot make a breakthrough. Volleying javelins
are launched against him by strong arms, firebrands
bring him to heel, for all his great elan,
and heartsick he retreats at dawn. So Aias,
heartsick before the Trojans, foot by foot
retreated grudgingly for the ships' sake."


Patroklos and Akhilleus

  This same lion image is used earlier in the chapter for Odysseus, who is wounded. There are also many other Aquarian themes which run through this chapter. For instance, in the body, Aquarius rules the ankles.

  "Upon his legs he fitted beautiful greaves
with silver ankle straps..."

  Friendship is also an important Aquarian theme, and it plays larger in this chapter, as Nestor asks Patroklos to use his friendship with Akhilleus as leverage.

  "There's sweetness in persuasion by a friend."

  Saturn's old rulership of this sign continues to come through as in Chapter X (Saturn also rules Capricorn), and it is hard times for the Greeks.

  Nowhere is any one figure dominate throughout this chapter. Nowhere does the Sun or lion stand for too long. This is the dispersed energy of scattered starlight, twinkling through the atmosphere, providing mere glimpses of a higher truth.