Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of May 28th - Jun 3rd,  2004

Chapter XVII

Straight to the Heart

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The Sun, ruler of Leo

The Sun, ruler of Leo

  This week we'll take a look at Leo, the fifth sign of the zodiac, ruled by the Sun. This is a fixed fire sign. Compared to the life of an individual, the light of the Sun never expires. It represents life itself. Its symbol is the Lion, the King of the Beasts.

  When the Sun is in the sky, it's daytime. Our central star is considerably larger than all of the planets of the solar system put together. The planets bow to the Sun's preeminence, hiding behind a cloudless blue canopy during the day, only daring to venture out at night under the cover of darkness. In the body, Leo rules over the heart and eyes. As a personality, Leo shines through with honor and pride. They strive for glory. At their spiritual best, they both have and offer the love of God. On the flip side they can be vain and boastful. They are generally handsome and have great hair, of which they will be the first to tell you. They seek victory, glory and trophies, anything which helps them to stand out and shine. They desire to win favor and acclaim. Like any fire sign, Leo is prone towards action in bold, brave, center stage deeds. They want to be noticed, and are their own biggest supporters.

Lion

Lion

  In Book XVII of Homer's Iliad, our next Leo book, all of these themes are demonstrated at the very beginning of the chapter in an excellent celestial choreography. Watch for them, and learn how Leo plays from the heart, and is born to make a stand. Now, enter one king, center stage. Starting with (where else?) line 1:

  "In the midst of the great fight
the eye of Menelaos, dear to the wargod,
had seen Patroklos brought down by the Trojans.
Now he came forward in his fiery bronze
through clashing men to stand astride the body..."

  "One whose heart leaped at Patroklos' fall
was the son of Panthoos, Euphorbos
(a Trojan).
Halting nearby, he said to Menelaos:
'Son of Atreus, nobly bred, Lord Marshal,
yield, leave the corpse, give up his bloody gear!
No Trojan hit Patroklos in the fight
before I hit him. Let me have my glory.
Back, or I'll take your sweet life with one blow.'"

Patroklos

Menelaos holding Patroklos

  "Hot with anger, red-haired Menelaos growled:
'Father Zeus, this vanity and bragging
offends the air! A lion or a leopard
could not be so reckless; or a boar,
baleful with pounding fury in his ribcage
(his heart):
the sons of Panthoos are bolder,
more headlong
than these..'
'Aye, and you- I'll break your fighting heart
if you stand up to me. Give way!'"

  The two men clash, and it is Euphorbos who is undone by a single blow. We then learn how handsome he was, and what beautiful hair he had!

"He thudded down, his gear clanged on his body,
and blood bathed his long hair, fair as the Graces,
braided, pinched by twists of silver and gold..."
"...so beautiful
had been the son
of Panthoos, Euphorbos..."

"And as a mountain lion
cuts out a yearling from a grazing herd-
the plumpest one- clamping with his great jaws
upon her neck to break it, and then feeds
on blood and vitals, rending her; around him
dogs and herdsmen raise a mighty din
but keep away, unwilling to attack,
as pale dread takes possession of them all:
so not one Trojan had the heart to face
Menelaos in his pride."

Apollo

Apollo

  Following this confrontation between these two high-spirited individuals, Apollo, the Greek God of the Sun, makes his entrance. Notice that he does so through the influence of a mortal, just as the planets work through us even today.

"He might with ease
have borne Euphorbos' gear away, had not
Apollo taken umbrage and aroused
Hektor, peer of the swift wargod, against him.
In a man's guise, in that of Mentes, Lord
of Kikones, Apollo said:
'Lord Hektor,
here you are chasing what cannot be caught,
the horses of Akhilleus!...
Meanwhile Menelaos, dear to Ares,
stands guard over Patroklos. He has killed
a princely Trojan, son of Panthoos,
Euphorbos, putting an end to his audacity,
his high heart."

  Apollo's presence is strong in this chapter, as we might expect. And with this we may be catching a glimpse of just who it is that Menelaos is fighting. Is Euphorbos a take off on 'euphoria', a word meaning 'a strong feeling of happiness, confidence, or well-being' according to the dictionary? It would certainly fit in with the larger design we see at work here. But the Leonine images continue to flow, with the fire binding the notion of Hektor's heart with that of Menelaos.

Menelaos

Menelaos

"Turning back, once more the god
entered the moil of men. But heavy pain
bore down on Hektor's darkened heart, and peering
along the ranks in battle he made out
one man loosing the armor of the other,
prone on the field, his gashed throat welling blood.
Then Hektor shouldered through the fight, his helmet
flashing
, and his shout rose like the flame
of Hephaistos' forge, unquenchable. It blasted
Menelaos, and cursing in his heart
the Akhaian said to himself:

'What now? If I
abandon this good armor, leave Patroklos,
who lies here for my honor's sake, I hope
no Danaans may see me to my shame!
But if I fight alone in pride, they may
surround me, Hektor and the other Trojans-
god forbid- many against one man.
And now Hektor is leading the pack this way!
Why go on arguing with myself? To enter
combat when the will of god's against you-
to fight a man god loves- that's doom and quickly."

  'To fight a man god loves.' This image goes right to the heart of our theme, and as in the fifth book of the Bible, Deuteronomy, you will also spot images of 'god's will' and the 'heart', themes of Leo, coming through in these lines of Homer. But to return to our story, then our lion, King Menelaos, begins to back off, thinking better of his pride, and bowing to a more practical path.

Fighting Lion

A bearded lion

"Backward at last he turned, and left the body,
facing about at every step, the way
a bearded lion does when dogs and men
with spears and shouts repel him from a farmyard,
and hatred makes his great heart turn to ice
as he is forced from the cattle pen."

  After being beaten back, Menelaos finds Aias, and now it is the latter's turn to play the part of lion.

"And still Aias,
extending his broad shield above Patroklos,
stood as a lion will above his cubs
when a hunting party comes upon the beast
in underbrush, leading his young; he narrows
eyes to slits, drawing his forehead down.
So Aias took his stand above Patroklos..."

  Indeed, even the way in which Menelaos summons Aias to the contest uses Leonine themes.

Aias bearing a body

Aias bearing a body

"Menelaos ran to his side and said:

'Aias, come, good heart, we'll make a fight of it
near Patroklos, try to bring his body
back to Akhilleus, though he now lies despoiled,
his gear in Hektor's hands.'

This call went straight
to the fighting heart of Aias, and he followed
Menelaos down the field."

  Both flashing bronze and glory are strong in this chapter, as is the image of fire.

Fighting fire

Fighting fire!

"Around them
battle spread like a fire that seethes and flares
once it has broken upon a city;
houses fall in with flame-bursts, as the wind
makes the great conflagration roar: so now
incessant din of chariots and spearmen
beset them on their way."

  Notice how the fire roars! And then again...

"So all fought on, a line of living flame."

  And in one final scene, taken from close to the end of the chapter, the lion is tired, but the memory of the warmth of the heart of Patroklos keeps him going.

Aias

Aias

"Menelaos complied, but slowly, as a lion
goes from a farmyard, lagging, tired out
with worrying dogs and men who watched all night
to keep him from his choice of fatted cattle.
Avid for meat, he bounds in to attack
but has no luck: a hail of javelins
thrown by tough cowherds comes flying out at him,
and brands of flame from which he flinches, roaring.
At dawn he trails away with sullen heart.
So Menelaos, lord of the great warcry,
left Patroklos, hating to go, afraid
the panicking Akhaians would abandon him
to be their enemies prey. He lingered long,
bidding Meriones and the two named Aias:"

'Remember poor Patroklos, each of you,
his warmth of heart. He had a way of being
kind to all life
. Now destiny and death
have overtaken him.'"

  So, is it the lion or the fire which roars, or could they be one and the same celestial essence? As Homer draws upon these various images, and how they are symbolized through the spirit of fire, the heart of a lion, or the pride, vanity and boastfulness of ego, he crafts for us yet one more image, simple and to the point. What does the chariot of the Golden God look like on a sunny day?

A Sunny Day

A Sunny Day

"The main armies,
Trojans and Akhaians under arms,
were free to make war under the open sky
with sunlight sharp about them, not a cloud
appeared abouve the whole earth or the hills
."

  He doesn't seem to miss a trick. If you watch carefully for these themes, you will find them in great abundance. The image of a lion is a favorite of Homer's, and is used in many other locations, but not to the extent that it is found in this chapter. Remember that this epic was composed in the middle of the Age of Aries, a fire sign, and the spirit of battle was the backdrop around which much of life was composed, hence the Iliad is an epic of war. It is similiar to, but different from, the way the church and Christianity are an all pervasive backdrop for western culture during our time and throughout the last twenty centuries. But specific Leonine themes rise to the surface as various forms of vanity, pride, beauty, and boastfulness and are portrayed against this backdrop in the heat of battle. Leonine qualities are artistically interwoven in real time, with extensive examples occurring throughout Book XVII, in a chapter which has a total of 29 references to the heart, for those just learning astrology and how it really impacts life.

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