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by H. Crosthwaite



HEAVEN and Earth, Thrones, Pillars and Trees: various and many are the attempts to copy on earth what is seen in the sky, some having been mentioned already, namely the use of sympathetic magic to bring low the monster, dragon, snake, bull, ram or goat that is threatening the established order in the sky. The Roman augur marks out the 'templa coeli', and transfers them to the ground. The helmet, plume, stephanos, painted faces and shields of warriors, the Philistines with their faces painted red, actors similarly, can all be derived from this. There are numerous examples. Here are two which seem to be possible candidates, though less obvious than most.

Aeneid IV: 146: Dido entertains the Troians at Carthage. Among the company that go out for the royal hunt, familiar to many through music by Berlioz, are the picti Agathyrsi, painted Agathyrsi, a Scythian people living in what later became Transylvania.

'Aga' in compounds implies 'very'. Were they experts with the thyrsus?

Iliad XVIII: 590: The dance at Knossos starts as a round dance like the dithyramb, then develops in confrontational style like the later tragic chorus, with two acrobats loose in the company. The columns of some Greek temples appear to be cut in marble in such a way as to suggest that wood was the original material. There may be a link between Yggdrasyl, the sacred oak tree of Zeus at Dodona and elsewhere, the columns of the Greek temple, the Lion Gate at Mycenae, and so on. Nails, Greek 'helos', were sometimes driven into wooden pillars. This was a Roman method of marking the date.

Pausanias III: 20: 9: "On the way from Sparta to Arkadia is the Horse's Grave, where Tyndareos made Helen's suitors swear to abide by her choice. Nearby are seven pillars in the ancient pattern, said to be statues of the planets. Further on is a sanctuary of Mysian Artemis."

There may be a link between the tree, the pillar, the poros and the tekmor of Alkman, and the pillar of Plato, Republic X. The Greek kion, pillar, can also, with a change of accent, mean 'going'.

Electrical displays, travelling through the sky, could be the explanation of the similarity.

Temple columns were thought of as supports for heaven. The Egyptian pylon, or gateway, is seb (Greek hepta = seven). The pulvinaria or capitals of the columns may suggest the cushions on which deities reposed.


VII: 44 ff.: Apollo suggests to Athene that they should rouse Hector to challenge one of the Greeks to a duel. Athene has no objection to the idea. Helenos, Priam's son, understood (put together in his mind) the plan that the gods intended. Helenos told Hector of this, assuring him that it was not yet the time for him to die, "for I heard this from the voice of immortal gods."

X: 313: Hector offers a reward to anyone who will make a night reconnaissance of the Greek ships. Dolon volunteers. He takes his bow (line 333), puts on the hide of a grey wolf, puts on his head a ferret-skin cap. 'Kunee' is a leather cap. 'Ktideos' is a marten or weasel or ferret.

A digression is necessary at this point. Smintheus, an epithet of Apollo, may be from Sminthe, a town in the Troad, or from sminthos, a Cretan word meaning a mouse, or both may come from the Cretan word 'Mouse-killer' is a possible translation for Smintheus.

In the Old Testament, II Kings XIX: 19: 6ff., we read how Isaiah prophesied to king Hezekiah that the army sent against Jerusalem by Sennacherib under the command of Rabshakeh would be destroyed by the Lord.

In II Kings XIX: 35 ff., we read that the angel of the Lord went out and smote the Assyrians; 185,000 were dead next morning. In XIX: 7, the words of Isaiah are: "Behold, I will send a blast upon him ..."

It is significant that in the following chapter, XX: 9 ff., Isaiah prophesies that the shadow on Hezekiah's sundial will go back ten degrees. In verse 11 we read that the Lord brought the shadow ten degrees back.

Herodotus II: 141, gives another version of Sennacherib's defeat. He learnt from Egyptian priests that Sennacherib's army had been destroyed in a single night. He saw a stone statue of Sethos set up in an Egyptian temple, holding a mouse. Herodotus was told that a plague of field mice gnawed away the bow strings, shield straps, etc, and the soldiers, their weapons useless, had to flee.

In the following chapter, 142, he mentions the Egyptian report that on four occasions since the time of the first king of Egypt, the sun had changed its position of rising and setting. It is interesting to compare this with the fact that in II Kings XIX & XX, Sennacherib's defeat is reported just before an account of a reversal of the apparent motion of the sun.

Is there any way of harmonising these two accounts of the cause of the destruction of Sennacherib's army? The weasel-skin cap and wolf's pelt worn by Dolon may be a clue. The object in the sky may have looked like a weasel, wolf or mouse, the size being inevitably a subjective matter in the description. Cicero, De Divinatione I: XLIV, says that in the Marsic War, shields, with the leather gnawed away (derosos), fell from the sky, a most sinister portent.

Apollo Smintheus has a female equivalent in Mouse Artemis, mentioned by Pausanias.

DISTURBANCE IN THE SKY Lucius Annaeus Seneca, 4 B. C. to A. D. 65, wrote not only philosophical dialogues, but also a number of plays, modelled on Greek tragedy. It is in his Phaedra that we meet the well known passages about the moon, whose birth the Arkadians claimed to have witnessed.

In Act IV of his Thyestes, the chorus after the Messenger's speech express their fear that Chaos will come again, and that Nature will for the second time wipe out all the lands. The sun has turned aside from its usual path, and gone back to set in the east.

Such a passage can best be considered in conjunction with the previously quoted stories of Isaiah and the sundial of king Hezekiah, and the information given to Herodotus. The Greeks and Romans, and other early ancient writers who dealt with the problem, first described these happenings as historical facts. Psychological interpretations and rational explanations came later.

Iliad XII: 442 ff.: Hector storms the Argive wall. Helped by Zeus, he picks up a huge rock and breaks the gates.

Line 462: Shining Hector rushes in, his face looking like swift night. He shines like grim bronze. His eyes flash fire.

IV: 439 ff.: In the fighting that follows the breaking of the truce by Pandarus, Ares spurs on the Trojans, Athene of the flashing eyes the Achaeans, also Deimos (Fear), Phobos (Rout), and Eris (Strife), with insatiable raving, a sister and companion of man-slaying Ares. At first as she raises her head she is little, but then, though walking on the ground, her head stands up in the sky.

XIII: 299: Meriones and Idomeneus, as they set out to battle in their shining bronze, aithopi chalko, look like Ares and his son Phobos.

XIV: 243 ff.: Hera goes to Lemnos, armed with Aphrodite's girdle of Love and Desire, himas. This word also means a leather strap, harness of a chariot, whip. At Lemnos she asks Hypnos, Sleep, to lull Zeus to sleep. Hypnos is unwilling; anybody, even Okeanos, the father of the gods, rather than Zeus. "You once gave me a command on the day when Herakles, the arrogant son of Zeus, sailed from Troy after sacking the city of the Trojans. I sweetly lulled to sleep the mind of aegis-bearing Zeus, and you, devising mischief, raised fierce gales on the sea and bore Herakles away to Kos with its many inhabitants, away from all his friends. When Zeus woke he was angry, and hurled the gods about in the palace, and looked for me especially. He would have thrown me from the sky to vanish in the sea, had not Night, the tamer of gods and humans alike, saved me.

Iliad XV: 1-27: Zeus wakes to find the Trojans in disarray, and Hector out of action. He turns on Hera angrily and reminds her of the time when he punished her by hanging her high. "I tied two anvils from your feet and tied your hands with an unbreakable golden chain, leaving you suspended in sky and clouds. The gods in far Olympus were angry, but could not free you. For if I caught anyone, I hurled him, taking him by the foot, out of Olympus (apo Belou), so that he reached the ground powerless. But not even then was I freed from the grief for god-like Herakles, whom you, having by your subtlety persuaded the hurricanes, sent over the barren sea driven by the North wind." Akmones, anvils, were meteoric stones. The stones fell near Troy, and were shown to sightseers.

Belos, according to a scholiast, is an old Achaean word meaning heaven, distinct from the word belos, meaning threshold (Leaf and Bayfield).


The Greek work musterion, mystery, appears to be a compound of mus, mouse, and tereo, I watch, I observe, wait for.

The prophet or augur watched animals and birds. They would give warning, by their behavior, of an impending electrical storm or earthquake.

Tereus was the king of Thrace who was turned into a hoopoe. Musterion can also mean mouse-hole. The Greek word, which is almost always plural, musteria, means religious demonstrations, the knowledge being imparted in secret. The electrical significance appears in, for example, Euripides, 'Stemmata' 470, "semna stemmaton musteria", solemn mysteries of garlands. 'Stemmata' are the materials, flowers or wool, for making a crown, especially for the head or for a sceptre. They probably represent an electrical aura or glow. The Roman poet Status refers to the thyrsus as "missile lauro redimitum", as if it were a javelin bound with laurel, like the fasces of the consul Marius. (Achilleid 1: 612)

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