Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of Dec 1st - Dec 7th, 2006

The Heart of the Scorpion

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  This week the Sun will align with the star known as Antares, the Heart of the Scorpion. It is also known as Alpha Scorpii, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpio.

Sun Antares conjunction (by longitude)

Sun Antares conjunction on December 1st, 2006.
Naturally, this could only be 'seen' in the daytime, and daylight in this image has been artificially darkened out.

  This is one of the primary stars of heaven, lying close to the ecliptic (path of the Sun) and known in the astronomical world as a 'Red Giant'. Since it is so big, bright and red,

The Red Giant Antares

there is much that has been written about it in various cultures. The Chinese called it the 'Fire Star'. (Although Antares is in the constellation Scorpio, due to precession it currently falls at 9 degrees and 40 minutes of the sign Sagittarius. There is a one zodiacal figure 'shift' between the constellations and the signs.) Like Antares, Mars is also red in color and although a planet, the two are sometimes confused when Mars is in the same constellation as Antares. To the Greeks, Mars was called Ares (the God of War). Some have interpreted the star's name as Anti-Ares (Antares), or the Antagonist of Ares.

  While investigating the life of Tiberius for some stellar research, I was struck by the intensity of this formidable monarch. His passion seemed to know no bounds and I was curious to determine why his actions seemed so loathsome. His birth date is known (16 November, 42 BC), and although he is a Scorpio and his sexual exploits were infamous, his exploits seemed to go far beyond those described by simply his Sun sign. There are many Scorpios, but they do not all act as Tiberius did. While studying his chart, I found no adverse natal aspects to his Sun (or any other planets) in Scorpio, which could account for his intensity. So I had to look deeper.

  A quick examination of his stars revealed that his Sun was in a tight conjunction to Antares, the dark heart of Scorpio, and suddenly things began to make sense. The interpretation of this influence in a (comparatively) contemporary text was offered by Reinholt Ebertin.
The Roman Emperor Tiberius

The Roman Emperor Tiberius

"Antares makes people tough, belligerent and pugnacious. This is an important star for military personnel and is said to convey mental alertness, strategic ability and courage and to make dare-devils... According to tradition, Antares is of violent character and is credited with being significant for a violent death, either in battle or by process of law."

  The following was what Suetonius had to say in his work, "The Reign of Tiberius." From LXI:

  "Not a day passed without an execution, not even those that were sacred and holy; for he put some to death even on New Year's day. Many were accused and condemned with their children and even by their children. The relatives of the victims were forbidden to mourn for them. Special rewards were voted the accusers and sometimes even the witnesses. The word of no informer was doubted. Every crime was treated as capital, even the utterance of a few simple words. A poet was charged with having slandered Agamemnon" (who had died more than a thousand years earlier) "in a tragedy, and a writer of history of having called Brutus and Cassius the last of the Romans. The writers were at once put to death and their works destroyed, although they had been read with approval in public some years before in the presence of Augustus himself. Some of those who were consigned to prison were denied not only the consolation of reading, but even the privilege of conversing and talking together. Of those who were cited to plead their causes some opened their veins at home, feeling sure of being condemned and wishing to avoid annoyance and humiliation, while others drank poison in full view of the Senate; yet the wounds of the former were bandaged and they were hurried half-dead, but still quivering, to the prison.
Tiberius orders executions in Rome

Tiberius orders executions in Rome

Every one of those who were executed was thrown out upon the Stairs of Mourning and dragged to the Tiber with hooks, as many as twenty being so treated in a single day, including women and children. Since ancient usage made it impious to strangle maidens, young girls were first violated by the executioner and then strangled. Those who wished to die were forced to live; for he thought death so light a punishment that when he heard that one of the accused, Carnulus by name, had anticipated his execution, he cried: "Carnulus has given me the slip"; and when he was inspecting the prisons and a man begged for a speedy death, he replied: 'I have not yet become your friend.'"

  The passages go on and on, and yet, as Ebertin points out, Antares is an important star for military personnel. The reason that Augustus had selected Tiberius was because he had been an excellent general, winning great recognition for his military abilities, but also because his other choices had already died, yet the passages are so graphic as to suspend belief. Even so, both Tacitus and Suetonius, early Roman historians, make similar accusatory observations regarding the life of Tiberius.


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