Plato on Astrocartography
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I will be connecting this page to historical artwork that demonstrates the powerful understanding, use, and depiction of astrology throughout history that has been censored, denigrated, and discounted by academia and the church.
From Sacred Geography of The Ancient Greeks, Astrological Symbolism in Art, Architecture, and Landscape
By Jean Richer, State University of New York Press, 1994
13. A TEXT OF PLATO'S
The Zodiacal Wheel Centered on Delphi
The division of historical Greece into the twelve signs of the zodiac, which had thus been clearly revealed, had quite probably left traces in certain texts.
The work of P. Saintyves, Deux Mythes evangeligues: les douze apotres et les soixante-douze disciples (1938), contributed some important information. On the question in general, he wrote:
All the peoples who either adopted the Chaldaean zodiac or established a set of twelve signs by imitation divided their countries into twelve sectors, which were governed by twelve chieftains.
With regard to Greece, an especially important text for my purpose is The Laws of Plato (Book V). Here is the essential passage:
The number 5040, which is so important in Plato's system of divisions, is the product of the first seven numbers: "The whole integer series, of course, admits division by any number and with any quotient, while our 5040 can be divided . . . into fifty-nine quotients and no more, ten of them, from unity upwards, being successive." And further on (The Laws, VI) the philosopher goes on to say that although 5040 is indivisible by 11, 5038 is divisible by 11 and by 458. In terms of the relationships of 5040 with astrology it has the advantages of being divisible by 7 (the seven planets), by 12 (the twelve signs), by 36 (the thirty-six decans), by 72 (the 72 spirits), and by 360 (the. degrees of the zodiac).
Plato writes in The Laws, Book V:
In The Laws and in The Republic, Plato refers to the authority of Delphi and does so repeatedly. It is therefore highly probable that his plan of the ideal society was in many ways a later codification of what had been an ancient practice. I believe this to be especially true of the division of the country into twelve sectors that corresponded to the gods of the zodiac.
This table may be used to interpret thousands of monuments from the Middle East and the Mediterranean area and objects in every museum in the world-what is utterly astonishing is that since 1967, when this book was first published, archaeologists have been incapable of using it! This speaks volumes about the rigidified state of some minds and the negative effects of a certain kind of "ultra-rationalistic" education. I have already given some examples of interpreting the monuments in Delphes, Delos et Cumes. In this book I give yet another in the detailed study of the temple of Athena in the Troad, which stands as an anthology of the symbols studied. The table is as follows:
A transition to the twelve-sign zodiac is impossible, because, in the heroic deeds of Heracles, the places related to the beginning of the year and to spring are represented by taurine creatures, such as the river Achelous, Deianira's suitor. Similarly, Perseus, a solar hero like Heracles, and as I will soon show, also associated with Leo, is substituted for him as the conqueror of the Gorgon, the ancient guardian of Virgo. So the sign of Aries is not really represented in the labors and deeds of Heracles, and Libra and Virgo are merged. Let me mention another interesting detail. According to one tradition, Chiron had a secret refuge in a cave at Cape Malea. And the Mount Pelion-Cape Malea line runs very nearly north to south, which demonstrates a rather good knowledge of the relative geographical positions of various sites on the Greek coast.
2. The Ancient Guardians of the Zodiac ("Hesiodic Guardians")
My observations establish that, in a certain number of labors, Heracles confronts monsters that characterize the signs of the zodiac. On this point as on several others, heroes like Theseus and Perseus were to imitate him but would become more specialized. A list of pre-Olympian deities, principally established on the Theogony of Hesiod and The Library of Apollodorus" will be extremely useful for the subsequent research.
Cancer: Hydra, Typhon, Cerberus
Leo: Chimaera (Orthus)
Libra: Phix or Sphinx
Scorpio: Dracus, Ophion, Echidna
Aquarius: Sirens, Pegasus, Chrysaor
Pisces: Ceto, Triton-Nereus
3. Heracles and Omphale
According to Apollodorus,'3 the conflict between Heracles and Apollo over the Delphic tripod meant that Heracles wished to institute an oracle that would rival Delphi. Zeus (or in a more ancient tradition, Athena) then intervenes. Heracles, who had come to consult the Pythia about being purified of the murder of Iphitus, was then ordered by the oracle to be sold into slavery. And he served, for one year (or three), Queen Omphale at Sardis. This can only mean that Heracles went to renew himself with the power of the Delphic oracle, since, as I believe, the oracles of Delphi and Sardis were identical. Marie Delcourt, for one, was aware of this and wrote: "Between the old stone of Delphi and the Queen of Lydia there is surely more than a mere assonance."' In addition, a foundation oracle was to associate Delphi, Heracles, and Sardis. Wasn't Pelops himself the son of Tantalus who reigned at Smyrna, which is on the earth line joining Sardis and Delphi? The Kings of Sardis were called the Heraclides, and Croesus was so eager to emulate Heracles that he wanted to die on a pyre like the demigod.
I shall now attempt to reconstruct the cycle of Heracles of Sardis in general outline. This is a system of eight main directions, like that of Phlius, where eight of the traditional labors have been placed. Remaining are:
The Cretan Bull (eighth labor)
The struggle with triple Geryon (tenth labor)
The conquest of the golden apples of the Garden of the Hesperides (eleventh labor)
The descent to the underworld at Cape Taenarum (twelfth labor).
It is obvious that the Cretan Bull and triple Geryon both stand for the sign of Taurus. Since this sign is also already represented by Augeas and Elis, I am led to conclude that Taurus appears no less than three times in the traditional list of the twelve labors.
The Cretan Bull and triple Geryon must each represent a complete calendar in which the year began at the spring equinox. And one of these calendars is that of Sardis, in which the Cretan Bull symbolizes Taurus. So the eighth labor establishes the link between the systems of the Peloponnese and Sardis, a connection also represented by the Sardis-Phlius-mouth of the Alpheus line, which is identical with the Olympia-Isthmia line.
From the story of the adventures of Heracles in Anatolia, a zodiac can be reconstituted which, in its present bastardized form, is something of a parody of the other labors of Heracles. In order to arrive at an acceptable layout centered on Sardis, one is forced to eliminate Aries and shift the earlier system by one sign, putting Taurus first rather than Aries, then Gemini instead of Taurus and so on. In this way one arrives at a scheme that probably corresponds to a more ancient state of the sky than that of Phlius. The symbolic "polar" axis was very probably the Cos-Mount Olympus of Bithynia direction.
Cancer. Significant in regard to Cancer is the sacrifice of the ram of the New Year at Cos in the house of Eurypylus. The character's name, which means "of the wide doors," refers to the solstitial gateways. The punishment of Hera and Hephaestus, who are associated with him, is an allusion to the equivalent axis in the Delian system.
At Cos, Heracles was honored as a god of marriage. The rite of transvestism known to have been celebrated there must have been associated with the summer solstice and Cancer, the lunar sign. The change of season was interpreted as a change of sex; the decreasing days marked the beginning of the feminine half of the year.
Gemini. The brothers Cercopes, who are associated with the region of Ephesus, suggest a pleasant symbol of Gemini. The many images on vases and sculptures of Heracles holding them like pieces of wild game, their heads dangling, echo the hieroglyph for this sign.
Leo. Lityerses, the "accursed harvester," must undoubtedly be associated with Leo and harvesttime in Anatolia (Leo-Virgo sector).
Libra. Similarly, the thief Syleus appears primarily as a grape harvester. He probably represents the eastern part of Anatolia and the sign of Libra. He may even represent a Libra-Scorpio-Sagittarius sector, if one looks at other sites in the same episode: Aulis, Thermopylae, and Mount Pelion which, in the systems centered on Phlius or on Delphi, define a rather wide area that takes in the whole northeast quarter.
Scorpio. The Serpent of Sangaris corresponds to this sign, with which Hercules is usually associated in the character of the serpent-strangler.
Capricorn. The episode of Hylas is connected with Cios on the coast of Mysia and with Capricorn in the Sardis system. It was in this area, according to Strabo, that some situated the myth of Typhon, another reference to the Cancer-Capricorn axis.
Aquarius. The expedition against Troy is associated with the sign of Aquarius (I will return to this).
Pisces. The marine monster Hesione (daughter of a king of Troy) represents the sign of Pisces.
In the system centered on Sardis, these zodiacal axes can therefore be found:
Cretan Bull: Serpent of Sangaris (Taurus-Scorpio)
Cercopes: Syleus (Gemini-Sagittarius)
Eurypylus: Hylas (Cancer-Capricorn)
Lityerses: Troy and the story of Hesione (Leo-Aquarius and Pisces), which corresponds to a division into eight.
Let me point out that, because of the degraded state in which these legends have come down to us, some correspondences are made by means of locations in space, while for others (Syleus, Lityerses) the connection is made through the calendar of field labors.
Furthermore, the Taurus-Scorpio and the Gemini-Sagittarius axes are merged, a tangible expression of the phenomenon of the precession of the equinoxes.
The connection between Hylas and Capricorn is not immediately obvious. But Cios was founded by the lapith Polyphemus, which sets up a relationship with Capricorn in the system centered on Delphi. Also, Apollonius of Rhodes tells us that the young people of Cios, who were sent as hostages to Heracles after the disappearance of Hylas, settled at Trachis under the guidance of the hero" who represents Capricorn in relation to Phlius. In this way subtle correspondences are interwoven between equivalent points in the different systems.
4. A More General System. The Directions of Space
A psychologist of the stature of Jung saw the hero as an image of the "integrated man," who contains in himself the four elements and the four cardinal points. This concept doubtless corresponds to an aspect of the legend of Heracles.
But while it appears clearly that there was a system centered at Phlius and another at Delphi, it is impossible in the present state of our knowledge to fully reconstitute the one centered on Delos. There is, however, an important trace of such a system in the episode of the "Boreades," who were slain by Heracles at Tinos, an incident that would relate to the sign of Capricorn, the north-south axis, and the cult of Boreas, so characteristic of this system oriented to Mount Haemus.
In my subsequent study of the extension of the system of zodiacal correspondences over the whole Mediterranean basin, I shall have the opportunity to come back to certain features of the legend and travels of Heracles. But I can say right away that several very important episodes, particularly the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth labors, seem to designate both spatial directions and prominent sites in the systems centered at Delphi, Cumae, or Malta.
As already indicated, Geryon and his cattle stand for Taurus in a calendar of three seasons (see p.118), and the story of the return of Heracles, driving the cattle before him, supports the hypothesis of a type of calendar that is valid for the whole Mediterranean basin.
Of such a system at least two axes can be found:
l. A Taurus-Eagle axis (island of Erythea-eagle of Prometheus).
2. A north-south or Cancer-Capricorn axis.
With to the north: Atlas or else the Ceryneian Hind in Istria.
And to the south: Antaeopolis in Lybia.
The pillars of Hercules, Hyperborea, and the Garden of the Hesperides stand for other directions in the same system, which I believe to be the southwest, the northwest, and the west, respectively.
5. Vestiges of an Earlier Zodiac in the Legend of Heracles; the Sign of the Boar
Only one symbol of the earlier zodiac has survived in the labors of Heracles: the Boar, which corresponds to the region later occupied by the signs of Aquarius and Pisces. The heroic deed of Heracles harnessing a lion and a boar to Admetus's nuptial chariot alludes to a sacred marriage that took place at the summer solstice, the Leo-Boar axis then functioning as the Leo-Aquarius cosmic axis. This has been partly perceived by Robert Graves.
Certain incidents in the history of the hero immediately suggest the following zodiacal symbols:
The swan at Pagasae (Sagittarius sector).
The wolf and the seagull (Keix) at Trachis (Capricorn sector).
Two visits to Calydon in 1963 and 1964 revealed the role played by the ancient sign of the Boar in the system centered on Phlius. The very arrangement of the sanctuary at Calydon is in fact very telling. The sacred theores walked from the temple of Hera to the terrace of the temple of Apollo and Artemis, which opens to a good view of the Gulf of Patrae and the Erymanthus mountains. The mountains are invisible from the temple of Hera, being hidden by the high promontory of Varassova to the southeast. This clearly marked the symbolic equivalence of the boars of Erymanthus and Calydon.
The extensive embankment of a natural hill allowed the two temples of Apollo and Artemis to be oriented to a northwest southeast direction which defines an angle of 130 degrees to the north. If this angular value is transferred to the map of Greece, it becomes clear that the two temples were turned towards Phlius, omphalos of this system. I shall return to the question of the sign of the Boar in my attempts to reconstitute the old Greek zodiac."
6. Heracles and Apollo
The myth of Heracles is as closely associated with the sun as is the myth of Apollo. This is what Jane Harrison perceived when she wrote in Themis that the demigod was a solar spirit, daimon of fertility and the annual cycle. She interpreted from this perspective, correctly in my opinion, the story of the combat of Heracles and the river Achelous as told by Deianira at the beginning of
Sophocles' Trachiniae. She also commented that, at the beginning of the play, the wives of Trachis invoked the sun to obtain news of the hero.
She further mentions that the hero, as the "young sun," struggles with Hades, the setting sun, at Pylos, and that he once used the cup of the sun as a vessel. Let me say in my turn that, when he goes to seek Admetus in the kingdom of the dead, Heracles represents the springtime sun that regenerates the sun of the winter solstice: this comes out clearly in the diagrams. The duration of the labors of Heracles is sometimes given as one lunar/solar year of fourteen months (Trachiniae), sometimes as eight years and one month.'3 Eight years is, approximately, one quarter of the mean sun. The extra month, astronomically unexplainable, may symbolize the entry into another cycle.
The affinity between the cycles of Apollo and Heracles is expressed in many details of the legend. Hence, it is said that the god taught the hero the art of archery.= The struggle of Apollo and Heracles over Ambracia, judged in favor of Heracles by Cragaleus, takes on all its meaning when one realizes that this city, situated not far from Dodona, is opposite Delos, birthplace.,of Apollo, in relation to Delphi. Since he had failed to conquer Delphi, would not Heracles, or the group of people represented by this name, have wished to found an oracle at Ambracia, which, as the direct heir to the oracle of Dodona, would have tended to rival Pytho's?
A subsequent rearrangement of the mythical data made Apollo the artisan of the glory of Heracles. It was understood that it was the Delphic oracle who had directed the hero, after he had slain his children and those of Iphitus in a moment of madness, to retire to Tiryns and put himself in the service of Eurystheus, doing the works that the latter commanded, after which he would gain immortality. And Arrian says that Heracles was not given divine honors, either before or after his death, until the god of Delphi had given word to do so.
The reconciliation of the two traditions is completed by the apparent triumph of Apollo. But certain Heraclean directions, especially the Sardis-Phlius-mouth of the Alpheus axis, seem to have played quite a prominent role in the oracles of colonization, as will be seen in chapter 19. Heracles appears as the champion and almost as the instigator of Greek expansion, a role which seems natural, bearing in mind the labors and journeys of the hero. And later he appeared on many Sicilian and Alexandrian coins. In all these events, it is as though Apollo, after having supplanted Heracles, had then by compensation favored the spread of his cult throughout the Greek world.
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