Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of Jun 11th - Jun 17th,  2004

Chapter XIX

War and Peace

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Constellation Libra

Constellation Libra

  This week we're taking a look at Libra, the seventh sign of the zodiac. Symbolized by the scales, this is the archetype of social justice and balance. Ruled by Venus, it strives for harmony, proportion, and what is fair. There is poise and grace when the two pans are equalized, but, it can also represent things out of balance when they're not. This lack of peace can be daily disagreements, court room battles or war.

  Libra represents relationships, which can be business partnerships or marriage. When things run awry, it is open enemies and divorce. Intentions are generally out in the open in this sign.

Aphrodite or Venus

Venus or Aphrodite

  The scales are the symbol for justice. This is the law and legal profession, court room etiquette, protocol and propriety. As an air sign, it rules contracts, agreements and oaths. It's the resolution of disputes, just as Venus and her bird, the dove, are symbols for peace. Venus is proportional and beautiful, whether sexy, cute, or simply charming. As a rule, Libras like to socialize, and will entertain or proffer gifts, usually taking into account the feelings, needs and desires of others. When the Goddess of Love bestows her gifts on the realm, there is peace and harmony in the land.

  In Chapter XIX of the Iliad, we find just these themes coming to the surface in a celestial choreography of Homer's astrological primer. In Chapter I, at the very start of our epic poem, Akhilleus and Agamemnon get angry at each other (Aries), and the former vows not to fight for the Greeks again until he has been avenged. In Chapter XIX, after the death of his friend Patroklos, Akhilleus relents, makes peace with Agamemnon, and vows to return to the war. The official reconciliation takes place in the assembly, an open public forum, in front of all the troops and before God as witness. It is here that all the gifts Agamemnon had promised to Akhilleus are once again offered and finally accepted.

  "Now, though
for your part, call the Akhaians to assembly.
Tell them your anger against Agamemnon
is over and done with
"...

Akhilleus

Akhilleus
or Achilles

  "And Prince Akhilleus
passed along the surf-line with a shout
that split the air
and roused men of Akhaia,
even those who, up to now, had stayed
amid the massed ships- navigators, helmsmen,
men in charge of rations and ship stores.
Aye, even these now headed for assembly..."

  "Let the Lord Marshal Agamemnon
bring his gifts to the assembly ground
where all may see them; may your heart be warmed.
...So may your heart be peaceable toward him!
And let him sate your hunger with rich fare
in his own shelter, that you may lack nothing
due you in justice. Afterward, Agamemnon,
you'll be more just to others, too. There is
no fault in a king's wish to conciliate
a man with whom he has been quick to anger."

  In other words, 'Let's kiss and make up!' I'll give you gifts, so we can have peace; you'll be more just, I'll be more just, we will all have learned our lesson and we can get back to the war! Standard Libra themes from 3,000 years ago!

Contemporary Akhilleus

Contemporary Akhilleus

  "Glad I am to hear you, son of Laertes,
finding the right word at the right time
for all these matters. And the oath you speak of
I'll take willingly
, with all my heart,
and will not, before heaven, be forsworn.
Now let Akhilleus wait here, though the wargod
tug his arm, and all the rest of you
wait here assembled till the gifts have come
down from my quarters, and our peace is made."

  As an air sign, representing intellect and communications, notice how what is being said is emphasized. "Finding the right word at the right time", and, as we shall see, "...a fine voice." These are communication with Venus as the driving force, making it smooth, pleasant, comforting or reassuring. This theme is played over and over again throughout the chapter. Etiquette, protocol, and propriety are all in strong evidence, in an almost courtroom-like setting.

"...it is fair

War and Peace

War and Peace

to listen to a man when he has risen
and not interrupt him. That's vexation
to any speaker, able though he may be.
In a great hubbub how can any man
attend or speak? A fine voice will be muffled.
While I open my mind to the son of Peleus,
Argives attention! Each man weigh my words!"

"...as all the troops kept still,
all sitting in due order in their places,
hearing their king.

Contemporary Agamemnon

Contemporary Agamemnon

"May Zeus, all-highest
and first of gods, be witness first, then Earth
and Helios and the Furies underground
who punish men for having broken oaths,
I never laid a hand on your Briseis,
proposing bed or any other pleasure;
in my quarters the girl has been untouched.
If one word that I swear is false,
may the gods plague me for a perjured liar!"

  Part of the emphasis of this chapter is in giving others their due, to have consideration for what they might say, just as our courts allow first one side to state their case, and then the other.

  Mars is said to be in its detriment in Libra, being as far away from its rulership, Aries, as it can be in this sign. Enthusiasm and impulse may not work to everyone's advantage when placed here. While Akhilleus has been out of the battle for some time, and now chomps at the bit to get back in, Odysseus warns him not to be too hasty; that the troops need to be fed first in order to keep up their strength through the upcoming day. Consider the needs of others, he warns, before rushing in.

The troops

The troops

"Replied Odysseus, the shrewd field commander:

'Brave as you are, and like a god in looks,
Akhilleus, do not send Akhaian soldiers
into the fight unfed
! Today's melee
will not be brief
, when rank meets rank, and heaven
breathes fighting spirit into both contenders
.
No, tell all troops who are near the ships to take
roast meat and wine, for heart and staying power.

Hoplites

Hoplites

No soldier can fight hand to hand, in hunger,
all day long until the sun goes down!
Though in his heart he yearns for war, his legs
go slack before he knows it
: thirst and faminie
search him out, and his knees fail as he moves.
But that man stayed with victualing and wine
can fight his enemies all day
: his heart
is bold and happy in his chest
, his legs
hold out until both sides break off the battle
!
Come, dismiss the rank to make their breakfast.'"

  Mars in this cardinal air sign can be quickly depleted if one does not carefully consider the consequences. As an air sign, verbal commitments, promises and oaths are once more back in the picture. The sacred word is given a high profile as Agamemnon relates the story of an oath Zeus once made to Hera.

Hera and Zeus

Hera and Zeus

"But in her guile
the Lady Hera said: 'You may be wrong,
unable to seal your word with truth hereafter.
Come, Olympian, swear me a great oath..."

Zeus failed to see her crookedness: he swore
a mighty oath
, and mightly went astray...

(Zeus) picked up Folly by her shining braids
in sudden anger- swearing a great oath
that never to starred heaven or Olympos
Folly, who tricks us all, should come again."

  Oaths are more likely to be honored in Libra, a cardinal air sign, than in Gemini, a mutable (changeable, flucuating) air sign, where they were also being emphasized. Remember how Alexandros in Chapter III made a oath and then broke it? Here, in Libra's sign of balance and justice, all the oaths which are made are kept. Even though Zeus does not like what he has promised, he honors it. In terrestrial terms, Agamemnon underscores what he has already promised through Odysseus the day before...

Agamemnon and Odysseus

Agamemnon and Odysseus

"I here repeat my offer
of all that Odysseus promised yesterday!...

Men in my service will unload the gifts
from my own ship, that you may see how richly
I reward you!"

  This notion of gifts is also repeated many times in this chapter, first as what Thetis brings as 'gifts' from Hephaistos (in the last chapter they served as finely handcrafted objects with detailed themes), and then as the 'gifts' which Agamemnon had promised Akhilleus.

Contemporary Odysseus

Contemporary Odysseus

"Excellency,
Lord Marshall Agamemnon, make the gifts
if you are keen to- gifts are due; or keep them.
It is for you to say.

  Do it, or don't do it; the choice is yours. But the energy here is both in the sign of the scales, Libra, and in the planet that rules it, Venus. We have seen how this grace and harmony presents itself in the consideration that everybody has for each other, and the manner in which social decorum and ceremony is honored, but the beauty of the goddess makes an appearance as well. This is the woman which Agamemnon had taken from Akhilleus, promising that he had never touched her, who now returns. Coming back to the tent of Akhilleus, she sees the body of Patroklos.

Contemporary Aphrodite

Contemporary Aphrodite

"The girl Briseis, in her grace like Aphrodite,
on entering saw Patroklos lying dead
of spear wounds, and she sank down to embrace him
with a sharp sobbing cry, lifting her hands
to tear her breast, soft throat, and lovely face,
this girl, shaped like the goddesses of heaven.

  And what, pray tell, is it that she remembers about Patroklos?

"...you undertook
to see me married to Prince Akhilleus.
Conveyed by ship to Phthia, given a wedding
among the Myrmidons.

Libran Sunset

Libran Sunset

  Other, more subtle themes which play out in this chapter which are of a Libran vibration are the counselors who advise Akhilleus to eat something before he returns to battle (we saw counselors as one of the principle themes in Chapter VII), the way in which Akhilleus promises to fight, until the 'sun goes down' (Libra's position on the western horizon, and the source of the symbol from which it is derived), and, in our example above, the way Akhilleus wants the troops to fight without eating, until the 'sun goes down'. In that same example, the Trojans are identified as enemies, and elsewhere as 'our enemies, our dangerous enemies', all terms which should be found in greater evidence under the sign of the scales. In the end though, it is heaven who weighs the balance and finally decides. From Ch. XIX, lines 245-246.

"Zeus (Heaven or the Sky God, is the one who)... tips the scales."


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