Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of Jul 23rd - Jul 29th,  2004

Chapter I

Anger be now your song...

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  This week we are taking a look at Aries, the first sign of the zodiac.

Aries Constellation

The constellation of the Ram

  Symbolized by the Ram, this sign and constellation are ruled by Mars, the Roman God of War. It is a cardinal fire sign, which rules over military matters (hence the term, martial) and all that relates to it; such as war, men-at-arms, soldiers, troops, swords and marches, from which our month, March, gets its name; marking the cadence of spring when troops would march (Mars) out to battle. It deals with macho in general and of man in particular. It is the sign of the subjective; of I, me and mine. As the ruler of the head, this can be individual combat, face to face. As a fire sign, these folks can run hot, get angry, and pick fights where no offense was intended. They are not good at patience and their interests generally wither over the long haul. This is competition, of striving, of the supreme physical exertion to win, to be the best, to become the champion over all. This is the sign of courage, honor, and who is first, best, or the premier. These are picked men. A part of their high side is that they are ready to act, at a moment's notice, without hesitation or restraint. A part of their low side is that they are ready to act, at a moment's notice, without hesitation or restraint. The dog was considered to be the animal of Mars (man's best friend), and while they do guard and protect, so, too, they can snap at and attack anyone who approaches their territory, often stopped by only a leash or fence. Aries is a sign that lives in the moment.

  We have come full circle with Homer's Iliad. Having started with Chapter II. in May of 2003 with Taurus, and examined Chapter XXIV last week with Pisces, we now look at the first chapter of this work and complete the cycle. This is where Homer began his astrological primer, in the ninth year of conflict of the Trojan War, opening our theme by setting the stage (as he has through so many of the chapters in this work), by establishing the vibration of the constellation right at the start of the chapter.

Anger

Anger

"Anger be now your song, immortal one,
Akhilleus' anger, doomed and ruinous,
that caused the Akhaians loss on bitter loss
and crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
leaving so many dead men- carrion
for dogs and birds; and the will of Zeus was done."

  Anger, fear, quarrels and fights are the knotted weave of this chapter. In order now, let's work our way through and see who's angry at whom. It begins when Agamemnon ticks off Apollo, so that the god makes a 'burning wind' of plague rise in the troops (plagues generate fevers, our fire sign). So many die that the 'pyres burned night and day.' More fire. The problem, it seems, is that Agamemnon will not release a prize of battle. He had respectfully been asked by a priest of Apollo named Khryses who had brought 'no ends of ransom' to get his daughter back, but Agamemnon gets angry at him and sends him packing, without his daughter.

"So harsh was he, the old man feared and obeyed him,
in silence trailing away..."

Apollo

Apollo

  The priest then prays to Apollo to bring the plague on the army, which he does. Ten days later, after many dogs, pack animals and men have died, Akhilleus calls an assembly to discuss the plague and its causes. Agamemnon gets angry at the Greek diviner (one who received his gift of divination from Apollo) who says that having insulted Khryses, the priest of Apollo is, in fact, the problem, and then gets mad at Akhilleus for telling him to let it go. Akhilleus in turn gets mad at Agamemnon after quite a few taunts, Agamemnon finally concedes his prize on the condition that he take Akhilleus's prize of battle, another woman, instead. Akhilleus angrily contemplates single combat with Agamemnon, and is getting ready to kill him when Athena enters on the scene and tells him not to. Akhilleus decides to sit out the battle with the Trojans, no matter how much the Greeks need him, accuses Agamemnon of not having enough courage to fight with the troops, calls him 'dogface', and insults him in various other martial ways. Nestor tries to intervene, calling Agamemnon 'foremost in council' and Akhilleus 'foremost in battle.' Here we have the first and the best. Agamemnon is the Lord Marshall, while Akhilleus is the army's most formidable warrior. Each takes it personally, tempers are short, and Akhilleus seems to feel that the army has been personally offended by Agamemnon's actions. Hera gets mad at Zeus, and Zeus tells Hera to shove it, and our marvellous tale is off to its heated start!

Phoebus Apollo

Phoibos Apollo

  One of the first things that jumps to mind in reading through this chapter is the predominace of Apollo throughout. While Mars is the ruler of Aries, the Sun (Apollo) is exalted in this sign. The qualities of the Sun do well in Aries. As the Sun crosses the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring, light overcomes darkness, and the promise of a new, vital year, with all of its opportunities for living begin to unfold. The days are getting longer, winter is behind us, and the exuberance, enthusiasm and excitement of shedding winter wraps, seeing the first blossoms of Spring and watching lambs, colts and calves playing in the fields warms our hearts and dispositions. While making its passage through Aries, the Sun moves fast, is strong, and gets stronger with each passing day.

  Since the Sun, as the Lord Apollo, is the essence of light and life, it also represents truth, wherein no falsehood, darkness, or deception can enter. The light of the Sun eliminates shadows, and no matter how dark the tale, it cannot approach the throne of the Sun. This is why Apollo was the Lord of the Oracle, divination, and Delphi. He discerned ways to tell the truth. His association with the arrows are the rays and astrological influence of the Sun, while the realtionship to fire and the plague with its fevers should be obvious. Akhilleus has no problem making the connection of the plague to Apollo, even before the diviner has confirmed what the problem is by asking "Why all this anger of the god Apollo?"

"The son of Zeus by Leto (Apollo). Agamemnon
angered him, so he made a burning wind
of plague rise in the army
: rank and file
sickened and died for the ill their chief had done

in despising a man of prayer.
This priest, Khryses, had come down to the ships
with gifts, no end of ransom for his daughter;
on a golden staff he carried the god's white bands
and sued for grace from the men of Akhaia,
the two Atreidai most of all:

Agamemnon

Agamemnon

"'O Captains
Menelaos and Agamemnon, and you other
Akhaians under arms
!
The gods who hold Olympos, may they grant you
plunder of Priam's town and a fair wind back home,
but let me have my daughter back for ransom
as you revere Apollo, son of Zeus!'

Then all the soldiers murmured their assent:

'Behave well to the priest. And take the ransom!'

But Agamemnon would not. It went against his desire,
and brutally he ordered the man away:

'Let me not find you here by the long ships
loitering this time or returning later,
old man, if I do,
the staff and ribbons of the god will fail you.
Give up the girl? I swear she will grow old
at home in Argos, far from her own country,
working my loom and visiting my bed.
Leave me in peace and go, while you can, in safety.'"

  Notice how it is the army which keeps being brought into the focus.

"...so he made a burning wind
of plague rise in the army
: rank and file
sickened and died for the ill their chief had done
..."

  Dogs and foot soldiers, the minions of Mars.

Hoplites

Hoplites,
the Greek footsoldiers

"Now when he heard this prayer, Phoibos Apollo
walked with storm in his heart
from Olympos crest,
quiver and bow at his back, and the bundled arrows
clanged on the sky behind as he rocked in his anger,
descending like night itself. Apart from the ships
he halted and let fly, and the bowstring slammed
as the silver bow sprang, rolling in thunder away.
Pack animals were his target first, and dogs,
but soldiers, too, soon felt transfixing pain
from his hard shots, and pyres burned night and day.
Nine days the arrows of the god came down
broadside upon the army."

  Kalkhas, the diviner comes forward when asked by Akhilleus in front of the troops what the problem might be, but he is afraid to speak.

"He knew what was, what had been, what would be,
Kalkhas, who brought Akhaia's ships to Ilion
by the diviner's gift Apollo gave him.
Now for their benefit he said:

Oracle at Delphi

The Oracle of Delphi
Truth from the shrine dedicated to Apollo

'Akhilleus
dear to Zeus, it is on me you call
to tell you why the Archer God is angry.
Well, I can tell you. Are you listening? Swear
by heaven that you will back me and defend me,
because I fear my answer will enrage
a man with power in Argos
, one whose word
Akhaian troops obey
.

A great man in his rage is formidable
for underlings
: though he may keep it down,
he cherishes the burning in his belly
until a reckoning day
. Think well
if you will save me.'

Achilles

Akhilleus in battle

'Courage.
Tell what you know, what you have light to know.
I swear by Apollo, the lord god to whom
you pray when you uncover truth
,
never while I draw breath, while I have eyes to see,
shall any man upon this beachhead dare
lay hands on you
- not one of all the army,
not Agamemnon, if it is he you mean,
though he is first in rank of all Akhaians.'"

  Of course Kalkhas, being a diviner, is absolutely right. Agamemnon is furious.

"He finished and sat down. The son of Atreus,
ruler of the great plain, Agamemnon,
rose, furious. Round his heart resentment
welled
, and his eyes shone out like licking fire.
Then, with a long and boding look at Kalkhas,
he growled at him:

'You visionary of hell,
Calamity is all you care about, or see,
no happy portents; and you bring to pass
nothing agreeable. Here you stand again
before the army
, giving it out as oracle
the Archer made them suffer because of me
,
because I would not take the gifts
and let the girl Khryseis go; I'd have her
mine, at home. Yes, if you like, I rate her
highter than Klytaimnestra, my own wife!
She loses nothing by comparison
in beauty or womanhood, in mind or skill.

The Mask of Agamemnon

The Mask of Agamemnon?

For all of that, I am willing now to yeild her
if it is best; I want the army saved
and not destroyed
. You must prepare, however,
a prize of honor for me, and at once,
that I may not be left without my portion-
I, of all Argives. It is not fitting so.
While every man of you looks on, my girl
goes elsewhere.'

Prince Akhilleus answered him:

'Lord Marshal, most insatiate of men,
how can the army make you a new gift?
Where is our store of booty? Can you see it?
Everything plundered from the towns has been
distributed; should troops turn all that in?
Just let the girl go, in the god's name, now;
we'll make it up to you, twice over, three
times over, on that day Zeus gives us leave
to plunder Troy behind her rings of stone.'"

  There are many martial weaves at work in these paragraphs. Agamemnon is ticked. He wants his prize NOW, not at some later date. The army is being hit by the plague, the army is what he is concerned about being destroyed, and it is the army which is expected to come up with his new 'prize of honor.' Through Agamemnon, the subjective case of I, me and mine is underscored. "I, of all Argives?" My prize? Me? Rewards offered later hold absolutely no allure for the king. He wants it now! Aries is a fire sign, a sign of action and immediacy. Notice that the anger feeds through his heart and emerges through his eyes...

Resentment

Resentment

"Round his heart resentment
welled
, and his eyes shone out like licking fire..."

  Agamemnon is not a happy camper.

"Not that way
will I be gulled, brave as you are, Akhilleus.
Take me in, would you? Try to get around me?
What do you really ask? That you may keep
your own winnings, I am to give up mine
and sit here wanting her
? Oh, no:
the army will award a prize to me
and make sure it measures up, or if
they do not, I will take a girl myself,
your own, or Aias', or Odysseus' prize!
Take her, yes, to keep. The man I visit
may choke with rage
; well, let him."

  And this is where the concern for individual soldiers in the army is inflamed and considered reprehensible. Akhilleus projects his own rage onto the troops, but both are reflections of the red hot flame of Mars.

"Akhilleus frowned and looked at him, then said:

Soldiers fighting

Soldiers fighting

'You thick-skinned, shameless, greedy fool!
Can any Akhaian care for you, or obey you,
after this on marches or in battle?
As for myself, when I came here to fight,
I had no quarrel with Troy or Trojan spearmen:
they never stole my cattle or my horses,
never in the black farmland of Phthia
ravaged my crops...
No, no, we joined for you, you insolent boor,
to please you, fighting for your brother's sake
and yours, to get revenge on the Trojans.
You overlook this, dogface, or don't care
and now in the end you threaten to take my girl,
a prize I sweated for, and soldiers gave me!

Never have I had plunder like your own
from any Troyan stronghold battered down
by the Akhaians
. I have seen more action
hand to hand in those assaults than you have
..."

  To which Agamemnon replies:

"No officer
is hateful to my sight as you are
, none
given like you to faction
, as to battle-
rugged you are, I grant, by some god's favor...

I do not
give a curse for you
, or for your anger."

Briseis

Briseis

  And then Agamemnon really throws the gauntlet down in a show of personal power:

"...I myself
will call for Briseis at your hut, and take her,
flower of young girls that she is, your prize.
to show you here and now who is stronger
and make the next man sick at heart
- if any
think of claiming equal place with me
."

  This is where Agamemnon takes it to Akhilleus and calls his bluff, man to man, face to face, power to power. The time has come to either act, or back down. In return, of course, this is where Akhilleus is pushed to the limit, and it's only by the intervention of Athena that he holds his sword and gives him a tongue lashing and a promise instead, upon her advise. In the meantime Akhilleus identifies himself with the common foot soldier by asserting that Agamemnon will never abuse one soldier more (of course Akhilleus is the one who stands at the head of that line and is the one about to be abused as the others simply look on). The shouting match is more of the same, and the issues of anger, the soldiers, the army and other martial themes continue to boil away in the heat of this intense flame.

  An interesting side light, however, is when Nestor attempts to intervene, to make peace between these two, recognizing the potential consequences of not having Akhilleus there with them among the troops. In doing so, he relates stories of his youth, and a further stage is set wherein our martial champions can strut their stuff across the field of battle.

Aries Self Image

Aries Self Image

"Give me your attention. Both (of you)
are younger men than I, and in my time
men who were even greater have I known
and none of them disdained me. Men like those
I have not seen again, nor shall:
Peirithoos,
the Lord Marshal Dryas, Kaineus, Exadios,
Polyphemos, Theseus- Aigeus' son,
a man like the immortal gods. I speak
of champions among men of earth
, who fought
with champions
, with wild things of the mountains,
great centaurs whom they broke and overpowered...

I fought for my own hand among them. Not one man
alive now upon earth could stand against them
."

  This is what Aries is all about, champions battling with champtions, an Olympics of Supermen. These were men like the immortal gods! But after all of this build up of course, the impatience of the moment grabs them, they do not listen to Nestor's advice. Generally speaking, nobody is much interested in yesterday's heroes. They pay attention only to top dogs, not old dogs. As we have mentioned before, Aries is only concerned with the here and now, of might making right in the moment.

"They quarreled in this way, face to face, and then
broke off the assembly by the ships."

Mr Mars in Aries

Steve Reeves had a
Grand Fire Trine
with Mars in Aries as part of it.

  Aries is a sign born of spring. It is sure of its power, and when the blossom of that flower has faded, it looks back to when taste buds were intact, smells were richer, hearing was keener and vision sharper. In short, everything seems better because it was enhanced by the strength and invincibility of youth.

  To say that Chapter I of Homer's Iliad, or indeed any chapter of Homer's Iliad is an Aries work, and then to go through and try to pick out the examples is like carrying coals to Newcastle. They're everywhere! The entire work was written in the middle of the Age of Aries in the heat of battle. Champions, heroes, swords, anger, testosterone and the smells of the locker room after the game are all apparent in great abundance, so much so as to become offensive. But the framework of having the Lord Marshall (or Commander-in-Chief as we would call him today) square off with his most powerful warrior in potentially fatal face to face combat, demonstrating the height of egotism and self-service, and having the army bear the brunt of the divine retrobution for his indignation knots together the essence of this first sign of the zodiac about as well as anyone possibly could.


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