Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of Jul 2nd - Jul 8th,  2004

Chapter XXII

No Respect

Columns Archive


  This week we are taking a look at Capricorn, the 10th sign of the zodiac.


The Sea Goat

  This is a cardinal earth sign, ruled by Saturn, known to the Greeks as Kronos. He is both Father Time and the Reaper, who share a common symbol, the scythe or sickle. His concerns are maturity, old age and the accomplishments of a lifetime. Today we think of this as one's professional image, reputation or career. On the down side, this can be a loss of status, standing or being dishonored, while conversely it can be the best society has to offer, of success and public acclaim. In our personal lives, it deals with parents in general, and the predominate parent (usually the father) in particular. In the body, it rules over the bones, knees and skin. Just as Capricorn rules the skeletal system internally, so it also rules society's exoskeletal systems, our government, public buildings, and walls which protect us and provide a framework for society to work from within. Among other things, this is the sign of the architect.

Saturn and the Sun

Saturn and the Sun

  If our hypothesis is correct, that Homer was writing an astrological primer for those studying astrology, then we should find these themes being repeated and emphasized throughout Chapter XXII, just as we did in Chapter X, the first time we glimpsed the nature of Capricorn. This is a hard sign, of difficulties, success and the frailties of age. There is a mountain to climb, working against gravity, and that ain't easy. For those that manage to make it, there's a sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction of a job well done. For those who make the attempt and don't succeed, there can be exhaustion, frustration, and embarassment, or possibly even scraped skin and broken bones. Since Capricorn is in opposition to Cancer, the sign of emotion, sensitivity and sentimental feelings, you will find none of that here. This sign is as far away from Cancer and its themes as you can get. We see this scenario being played out, as Hektor appeals to Akhilleus just before his death:

  "I see you now for what you are. No chance
to win you over. Iron in your breast your heart is."

Priam's grief

Priam's grief

  But this same lack of empathy is demonstrated by Hektor himself, earlier in the chapter, as his parents pleas fall on deaf ears. First we hear from his father, King Priam:

  "The old man gave a cry. With both his hands
thrown up on high he struck his head, then shouted,
groaning, appealing to his dear son. Unmoved,
Lord Hektor stood in the gateway, resolute
to fight Akhilleus."

"Stretching out his hands,
old Priam said, imploring him:

'No, Hektor!
Cut off as you are, alone, dear son,
don't try to hold your ground against this man,
or soon you'll meet the shock of doom, borne down
by the son of Peleus. He is more powerful
by far than you, and pitiless.'"



  Then Priam attempts to use his age to convince him to come inside the protection of the city walls.

"'But when an old man falls,
and dogs disfigure his grey head and cheek
and genitals, that is most harrowing
of all that men in their hard lives endure
The old man wrenched at his grey hair and pulled out
hanks of it
in both his hands, but moved
Lord Hektor not at all

  Unfortunately, since the Moon is in its detriment in Capricorn, being as far away from the sign that it rules (Cancer) as it can be, emotions and family issues are weak, and have little leverage. His mother also tries to persuade him, using her most moving memories:


Hekabe (Hecuba-
Rosemary Harris)

"The young man's mother
wailed from the tower across, above the portal,
streaming tears, and loosening her robe
with one hand, held her breast out in the other,
saying: 'Hektor, my child, be moved by this,
and pity me, if ever I unbound
a quieting breast for you. Think of these things,
dear child; defend yourself against the killer
this side of the wall
, not hand to hand.
He has no pity...'"

"With tears and cries the two implored their son,
and made their prayers again, but could not shake him.
Hektor stood firm, as huge Akhilleus neared."

  The reason Hektor will not come inside the walls (Capricorn) is because of his professional pride (Capricorn); his honor and glory. Hektor attempts to 'hold his ground' (our earth sign) because he feels someone inferior to himself will tell him he failed. To the end, his reputation is what is most important:

Castle Walls

Castle walls

"Here I am badly caught. If I take cover,
slipping inside the gate and wall, the first
to accuse me for it will be Poulydamas,
he who told me I should lead the Trojans
back to the city on that cursed night
Akhilleus joined the battle. No, I would not,
would not
, wiser though it would have been.
Now troops have perished for my foolish pride,
I am ashamed to face townsmen and women.
Someone inferior to me may say:
'He kept his pride and lost his men, this Hektor!'
So it will go. Better, when that time comes,
that I appear as he who killed Akhilleus
man to man, or else that I went down
fighting him to the end before the city."

  '...when that time comes,' as we focus on the themes of Saturn and Hektor's professional pride. Both Capricorn and Leo share this quality of pride, but with Leo it is personal, how you see yourself, whereas with Capricorn it is professional, of how others see you. After Akhilleus kills Hektor, witnessed from the city by all save Hektor's wife Andromakhe, Queen Hekabe brings this point home.

Greek pillar

Greek pillar

"You were my pride in all my nights and days
pride of the city, pillar of the Trojans
and Trojan women
. Everyone looked to you
as though you were a god
, and rightly so.
You were their greatest glory while you lived."

  These are some of the central themes around which this chapter turns, and each is played out as a part of the weave of these celestial threads. Notice how Queen Hekabe appropriately uses a Capricornian symbol to describe his standing in the community. He is a 'pillar' of society, an architectural support. Priam hopes to use his age as a bargaining chip in attempting to get Hektor's body back from Akhilleus, hoping he will pity him; after all, 'His father, too, is old...' he says, even though this rationale had not helped him to persuade Hektor.

  Other threads are woven into the choreography as well. Capricorn is also the sign of success and accomplishment. It can represent great wealth and power. Priam considers what leverage his wealth may play early in the chapter, as he looks for Lykaon and Polydorus as the troops file into the city. He does not yet know that they have already been laid low by the anger of Akhilleus.

Greek pillar

Silver and gold bars

"If they are alive
amid the Akhaian host; I'll ransom them
with bronze and gold
: both I have, piled at home,
rich treasures..."

  And later, as Hektor waits before the gates of Troy, his mind vacillates as to how to deal with Akhilleus, and one option he considers illustrates this side of the Capricornian coin.

"Then I might add, apart from these, a portion
of all the secret wealth the city owns.
Yes, later I might take our counselor' oath
to hide no stores, but share and share alike
to halve all wealth our lovely city holds,
all that is here within the walls. Ah, no,
why even put the question to myself?
I must not go before him and receive
no quarter
, no respect!"

  Respect is what this chapter is all about, and this is the manner in which Homer plays out these themes throughout his work. He does not limit his interpretations to professional glory, incredible success and great wealth, all of which would be the high side and benefits of this sign at the material (earth) level, but he also shows us what it is to lose respect, to be dishonored, or to face hard times.
Saturn's hard won reputation

The Rings of Responsibility

The pillar which runs through our illustrations of celestial design is tall and strong. It starts at the base where it touches the earth and provides us with our foundation in the mundane issues of loss, failure, or grief; marks the mid-section of familiarity of what we must see at eye-level and deal with in everyday life, and then rises to support the super-structure, as we aspire to touch the divine within ourselves, of where we are lifted above common concerns and reach out to have the divine work through us. The influence of the constellations runs from the hard lessons of experience to the lofty accomplishments of the ages. We are learning what is best, what is worst, and what is in-between in each of these chapters, as Homer schools us in the ways of heaven on earth. From the tallest pillar of society to no respect (here depicted through the same individual), he covers the gamut from one end of the celestial spectrum to the other.



  Here are some other reflections of fame, honor, glory and reputation sprinkled throughout the chapter.

"Better we duel, now at once, and see
to whom the Olympian awards the glory."

"Would you release him from his painful death?
Then do so, but not all of us would praise you."

"Take heart, my dear and honored child."

"Deiphobos, you were always the closest to me
in the old days, of all my brothers, sons
of Hekabe and Priam. Now I can say
I honor you still more
because you dared this foray for my sake

  Other mundane examples which fall under Saturn's sickle are the knees. Here we have another Cap in a Cap image:

Classical knee

A classical knee

" Hektor
ran with flashing knees along the wall."

  And yet again, this time as Andromakhe learns of Hektor's death...

"My knees are like stone under me."

  Remember that this is an earth sign. And yet again we have another repetition, as Andromakhe bewails the fate of their child, who has now lost his father. This plays into both our Capricornian theme, as well as the Moon's position in its detriment in this sign. Andromakhe imagines what it will be like for those who have no father.

"'Outside you there! Your father is not with us
here at our feast!' and the boy Astyanax
will run to his forlorn mother. Once he fed
on marrow only and the fat of lamb,
high on his father's knees."

Akhilleus charges

The final moments
Akhilleus charges

  In fact, we see three Capricornian images here. Marrow is the central essence of the bone, as he sits on his father's knees. Andromakhe knees shake, while Akhilleus claims that, in killing Hektor, he has made his 'knees give way.' These represent some of the mundane, minor supports which help to keep aloft our Capricornian structure in this chapter.

  Several of these images all weave together, of the wall, one's glory, hard fate, old age, earth, and even grief and misery, as Priam pleads to Hektor.

"Come inside the wall, child; here you may
fight on to save our Trojan men and women.
Do not resign the glory to Akhilleus,
losing your own dear life! Take pity, too,
on me and my hard fate, while I live still.
Upon the threshold of my age, in misery,
the son of Kronos will destroy my life
after the evil days I shall have seen
my sons brought down, my daughters dragged away,
bedchambers ravaged, and small children hurled
to earth in the atrocity of war..."

The Reaper

The Reaper

  And finally, Saturn is the planet which deals with time. As Father Time, he holds the sickle which, at the stroke of midnight on the holiday terminates another year, never to return. As the mythological figure, he castrated his father Uranos with a flint sickle, and so became the Lord of the Titans on Earth (a golden time, according to the Romans). As the Reaper, a figure composed of dark tones and bones, he also carries the sickle and waits for our mortal time, our terminus, our end. With the Greek concept of fate, our birth, as well as our death, is appointed. Astrology embraces the same notion and we see how the two weave together as one in both their spirit and essence. This theme plays out many times throughout Homer. Andromakhe outlines this concept fully, having just seen Hektor's body being dragged behind the chariot towards the ships by Akhilleus.

"Hektor! Here is my desolation. Both
had this in store from birth- from yours in Troy
in Priam's palace, mine by wooded Plakos
at Thebe in the home of Eetion,
my father, who took care of me in childhood,
a man cursed by fate, a fated daughter.
How I could wish I never had been born!
Now under earth's roof to the house of Death
you go your way and leave me here, bereft,
lonely, in anguish without end."

  Notice the reference to the 'earth's roof' in this chapter of the earth constellation. Hektor expresses the same sentiments, but focusing on the more somber aspects of time, and one's appointed time. Hektor has been deceived by Athena, and now reads the writing on the wall, as he has overcome his fear and stands up to Akhilleus, a larger and stronger man, in mortal combat.

Hektor dies

Hektor dies

"This is the end. The gods are calling me deathward
I had thought
a good soldier, Deiphobos, was with me.
He is inside the walls. Athena tricked me.
Death is near, and black, not at a distance,
not to be evaded. Long ago
this hour must have been to Zeus's liking

and to the liking of his archer son.
They have been well disposed before, but now
the appointed time's upon me. Still, I would not
die without delivering a stroke
or die ingloriously, but in some action
memorable to men in days to come

  We are in Capricorn's chapter, the constellation of reputation, public fame, and glory. Hektor's actions, portrayed above, have been immortalized in these lines and stand at the pinnacle of success and defeat, of fame and infamy in Homer's epic work, just as Capricorn stands at the summit of the mountain, and the summit of the chart. For three thousand years we have remembered Hektor's and Akhilleus's names. With his life on the line, confronting a champion who is bigger and stronger than he is, knowing that his time is up, he nevertheless faces death and tries to make the best of it he can, his concern being that his reputation be preserved for future generations.

Gate of the Gods?

Gate of the Gods?

  Finally, Capricorn had a special relationship with death and dying. We know that at birth, the soul is supposed to enter through Cancer, a sign dealing with nurturing, the womb and motherhood.
Babylonian inspiration

Babylonian Inspiration?

There is also an ancient association, of which very frequent mention was made among the Platonists among others, that when released from the body the soul ascended to heaven through the stars of Capricorn, and as such this constellation was called the Gate of the Gods. Is this indeed the metaphorical gate in front of which Hektor now stands, and which we are told Akhilleus will later die in front of at the hand of Alexandros? In the same way Homer in the last chapter placed a river at the front of Sagittarius, precisely where the Milky Way cuts the zodiac and was known to cultures around the world as the river, so are we now once again seeing celestial design being built into its framework. This would be consistent with the pattern we have seen established so far. As Hektor waits in front of the gate, he finally gives into his fear and runs around the city, three times. As he does so, there is one location which Homer takes pains to describe.

"They passed the lookout point, the wild figtree
with wind in all its leaves, then veered away
along the curving wagon road, and came
to where the double fountains well, the source
of eddying Skamander. One hot spring
flows out, and from the water fumes arise
as though from fire burning; but the other
even in summer gushes chill as hail
or snow or crystal ice frozen on water.
Near these fountains are wide washing pools
of smooth-laid stone, where Trojan wives and daughters
laundered their smooth linen in the days
of peace before the Akhaians came. Past these
the two men ran, pursuer and pursued..."

Algedi, Alpha Capricornium

Algedi, Alpha Capricornium

  The lucida of Capricorn, alpha Capricorium, is in fact a double star called Algedi, from the Arabic name Al Jady, the goat. As early as 1,000 BC (approximately contemporary with either the historical event or the writing of the Iliad), a Babylonian planisphere shows the sea-goat or the goat-fish as the symbol for this constellation. To the Babylonians, he was known as Ea, 'He of Vast Intellect and Lord of the Sacred Eye. Ea was the protector of his people, and from his place in the sky the great rivers flowed, giving life.'

  Brady's Book of Fixed Stars, p. 300

  Vivian Robson states in her work on the stars that Deneb Algedi causes sorrow and happiness, life and death, beneficence and destructiveness.

  Is this the same 'hot and cold' that we see Homer describing as the source of the river and the influence of this double star? Is this the same philosophical river of heaven as depicted by the Babylonians? Is Homer in fact giving us an astronomical, as well as an astrological interpretation of the stars of antiquity?

  Only Time will tell.