-Frosty’s Visions, intro
-‘[ Basilisk ]’, intro.?)
part 13: ‘[ Gorgon ]’ or ‘Commrade Woland!’
Etymology: “The word meaning for Gorgon…
… comes from the Greek word ‘Gorgos’,
… which roughly translates…
… to terrible.”
Gorgon pilot. Recruited out of [Pegasus] a lot of the time, they are the Fleet’s starship pilots. I mean we get briefed on what the military is doing, or I should say the defense administration, but the Gorgon insignia means the Fleet, starfleet, ultimately, and the mythological creature attributed to it is a big iron bull or ox. Sometimes it’s a boar. Most of the time, a pilot will have a decal of the Medusa’s head on the side of his craft, a truer representitive of the mythological Gorgon, with the portrait of the monster-woman usually framed or bordered by snakes or a snake. Their enemies are stone-faces, flash-frozen in agony, right before the end…
Potent venom for the enemy in image.
Maybe in one of the Pegasus stories one of the character goes by a hangar run by Emeralds, by chance AL’s family, and running in on him oversee construction and the assemblage of planes… and other aircraft… for private citizens to own and operate, and a place for them to store and land them like horse-stables.
Frosty and prescience:
Today’s images were more jarring than the previous ones had been. There are characters that I remember from past, images ive had, but now I see one is becoming clearer, I can see: they seem to have highlighted one: at first the imagery wasn’t quite clear, not really that detailed… But soon after, the representations were displaying for me a sort of violent display, frightening, and it was more like they were showing me someone’s soul than anything that had, or will have, happened. It was the spirit of the ages, I suspect, and they are sad, morbid, because it ‘is’ what it is, and they know there’s nothing they can change about that… I can only relay my notes to understand my experience: to myself. These are notes to my self, to survive the encounter with them, before memeory lapse… occurs… which seems to spring on me after every encounter… the only defense against this was journaling… and getting to writing, by disciplined force of habit, after every trance.
*Marching*Men are always marching.*Marching* The boy with cat’s eyes watches men marching on his chessboard. Marching… the ants go marching one-by-one, hoorah, hoorah; the boy spins the board, he laughs while squadrons of men walk into one another, confused, and crashing. *Crashing**Crashing* Men are always crash–in–g–looking to the Stars wondering, and hoping, despite the predictions planning for a brighter future.
The scene is quickly changing, and I cannot dwell on this any longer, so quickly: above the bottle, a gigantic Emerald melts, steadily streaming the liquefying contents into the crystal jar labeled “Absynth.” What does this mean? A full word… had never manifested… like that… in my visions before… Massive Vampiric Teeth: floating by in the abyssmal silence beneathing the ceiling but behind the walll… around him as well…
*Fighting**Fighting* Men are always fighting.*Fighting* The boy is coiled up, now, into a ball within the jail-cell…
All he can see from there are the stars. The stars have lost their beauty for him, though—he equates them inextricably with his confinement now. He just wanted out! Damn you, out!!! Tears streaming down his face form fissures upon his skin, what a horror it is to be alive, and what an unnatural punishment is dungeon confinement.
Wait, he wasn’t in any kind of jail cell… someone else’s memory? … a shared experience? … the way he was dressed, imagine one of your childhood doll’s, toys, action figures, starting to come to life–right before your eyes–creepy. Remember when you were a kid and that one night one of them moved–or maybe not–but you swear it, and now the memory is so old that you’re not sure if it did move, or had you just worked yourself into believing it, partially for the reaction it illiceted when you were telling it, to other young boys, as it has had it, maybe not so much in adult life, but back then those guys were really loving that kind of stuff, and ghost stories, and the more you pretended to believe it, maybe boy’s first instance of acting, the more you had established credibility with your ghost story. If you were naturally gifted in acting, and you really wanted to play a prak on everybody, the practical joke aspect of this is must be calculated into this… as this is a superiority complex win here, psychologically, and the dopamine spike could develop into a chemical-dependency.
The image has shifted, disappearing particles rain down, like sand.
The particles recongeal into forms, and the flamboyant child has returned, but now he is in that horrible black, living-tar-like substance, again. He throws a spear in the direction our men, those who are marching, posing in a perfect portrait like some Ancient Greek sculpture or engraving on a vase, his musculature defined by the toxic black suit, it was puffing air as if breathing, and towers are crashing all around this black and starry place… the castles in the air… About which, for awhile now, we’ve listened to you talking… His sister, and the boy with blond hair, a friend, sit at their thrones; the little girl’s is bejeweled, all of theirs are, blue, red, green… and the blond haired boy’s throne is crafted from wood, woven beautifully, and there’s something, yellow, a crystal glowing yellow… Aleon stands at his own throne, which is composed of metals, melted into an unidentifiable husk, ugly, but perplexing, … green, the throne was green, it was an Emerald, and the three children seem to be privledged by the dreamer, the vision quest, elevated to where…
He throws the Javelin right at us. It was a massive black spear, with, wings, bat wings, spread out horizontally like a cross right at the tip of it, made of some kind of silver, or platinum or something… He seems pleased, self-confident, that it will reach it’s target. An eight-story building is impailed by the weapon. It caves into itself, the javelin hit at incredible speed! A bottle is being filled… within the abyss… behind the javelin thrower… a genie in the smoke, being sucked back into a bottle, in the background. After fading the image replacing it is a very strange, and perhaps inappropriate, call me old fashioned, of a satyr, from Greek mythology, that has a gigantic penis… this is what the vision brought before, I’m not bragging and I’m being honest, it was a penis laid down upon a scale. Okay? Alright. And on the other side of the scale there was a pile of gold.
The inscription in Latin read: “Worth it’s weight in gold.”
Now, has the Stratego of Earth really produced all of this, with ‘his’ own mind, if he’s never been to Italy? He saw the imagery in Latin, but he knew exactly what it read… he read it in English in his head… as if the understanding were provided to him… The look of shock, or bewilderment, one wipes sweat beading from one’s forehead deciphering it all… As the black-gunk, around the boy from the Asteroid, throws his bat-winged Javelin at us, I can see it piercing the Moon, now. The chessboards below us have men in blue and gray suits, like soldiers from the American Civil War, a cat knocks the table over, all of them are falling over each other, slipping around in the blood streaming down from the Moon’s punctured hole, the cat is bigger than the moon now, a black tomcat, and he’s smoking a cigar, laughing down at Earth, wearing a top hat and a monocle…
There are flames behind him now. The black tomcat. He stands with a wand held into the air.
*Justice**Justice* Are men not perpetually seeking Justice?*Justice!* If not justice, we should call it Adjustment, rather, and instead make a balance of contrasts, and make note of it, in-keeping with Nature’s tune, and our own. Uncompromising honesty and objectivity, it’s impossible, and the people from the stars have learned a wisdom we as men secretly yearn for, which is that this act of Justice, or this self-righteousness, is what we are ‘really’ seek, it’s pure, and isnt it just simpler? This young man is the harbinger of the oncoming Aeon; the ‘adjustment;’ the embodiment of… In my gathering, he is drunk with power. He’s yearning to exercise some magnitudes more of it. I had never seen the boy’s face clearly before. It was strange, knowing–and yet alien. Was he coming for us? He had pursed black lips, chubby cheeks, in many ways there is a look of affluence to him. He has deeply knowing eyes.
The vision was longer this time and when the travelers got to the part with the chessboards, and the violence, the boy seems to be wearing some white powder make up, and the pale complexion made his features standout more, and in an unsettling way—in a nightmare kind of way… And the room had shifted in its atmosphere. The mist was more prominent, there was a shift in the energy, a frequency in the room had changed, and the visual images had stopped.
Tick tock, of my clock. I was back in my room again. It was black all around, as usual once the visuals had ceased he was back late at night inside his room. These creatures, perhaps the lost citizens of Utopiaoid, perhaps… it seemed to return to their ambiguous observations of me. Was it people who had abducted me? He asks, not referring to the Amazon, and the ransom, but the hallucinogenic experiences, where he had had the experience of an abduction, and vision-memories, they were real, whether produced in the brain, or an actual material phenomena, or otherwise, science and forensics will fail to tell you, but they happened and regardless of the ultimate explanation for the causes of them, it could be some bad pastrami he had earlier in the week, but …
The Legendary Armor of Aleonitus
-Airship Factory hangar b#H29, Emerald Industrial sector-
Sparks from welders working steel—beam menageries explode all around them… and they are immersed in demands of time and attention. Stoically, his workmen are fusing steel and…
Some men favor working with the blueprints themselves. Some men like to reconfigure molten steel with fire and levers.
… in the background, the tradesman work their art on the reality of the solid material that they clutch with their own two hands.
Getting things done, pushing the envelope of time… AL was… making extravagant proposals and in madness pursuing every claim his mouth had in-errantly proposed. It was a posture of confidence which he needed to abandon. The thing is… he often ‘can’ accomplish what feats he’s taken on, but it’s hard when he had to do it on command, by… others. A fire drives the boy that’s like a warp-drive, sometimes it can be an in black well gravity well, dense, made of the gravity that defies comprehension and sometimes the hypothesis of mathematics man can even muster.
The attendants demanding his attention… in private, fearing all signs of death and decay… he was like Howard Hughes…
… an obsessive compulsive disorder developing… he was like a mad orchestral composer… or strange rituals were sometimes seemingly required, and to help in coping with the strenuous cognitive demands, strange effluences actualized.
Marching they go, up the steel stairs and platforms of the Ruby-owned warehouse with “industrial Emerald pace”; a hurried Aleon is trailed by these several Emerald attendants, all of them desperately seeking his attention for various aims that he has undertaken: “I want those blueprints for the air shuttle!” My God, he really ‘was’ like Howard Hughes. Attendant: “We need more time, no one can find the ones you’re looking for. The deadline for the steel casings is completely unrealistic here…” Aleon, hair wet with sweat and grease, his black curls straightening under the hyper productive strain: “Well whoever’s looking for those blue prints–please aid them!” Attendant 2: “I gotta know what material you want to use for the control console?” What was this, ‘The Aviator’? “Did you still want to use the leather trim around the throttle control?”
Attendant 3: “Sir, a simulation designer is here to see you, says he’s here for a job interview…” Aleon: “Tell him to wait a little longer. I’ll be with him in a few moments.” Attendant 1: “Look, the Ruby airship fleet is going to be faster this season unless we get a ‘cruise-liner’ class airship for Emerald out this week! before they do somethin’ better; it’s got to be today I get these details done, or it’s never!”
AL: “They are limited to one factory per process, and as we are we’re booked out. Out of credit by them. So there’s no reason why–“
A pipe with steam burst, and several mechanical engineers ran over to attempt to deal with it.
Then, Aleon, nearly blowing a gasket himself with all the strain he likes to heap upon himself…
… again in the flowering fractal darkness behind his eye lids spins while he shut them for infrequent enough rest. Go, go, go; do more, do more, do more… what was it Democritus said, “If you seek Tranquility do less…” Hah, the ‘laughing philosopher’.
He saw sleep itself as a kind of death. Democritus should try having been a golden-ticket winner.
Death. Destruction. A ‘Wunderkind,’ He saw a beautiful landscape in front of him but also Death and the necessity for hard lessons felt to him like it was stacking up. Building armaments from which one day to siege him, all at once… right when he put his guard down… There’s so much left to do here. The clock is always ticking.
AL makes his money from Pegasus. The denizens of Pegasus are the base source of his wealth. Having overseen the construction of fleets of airships, of many kind, even the floating palatial airship his father half of the time now lives on, even as an extremely young age because he had simply been around it and the industry so much, as a baby, and of growing up around it all that it was natural to him to help in operations of the business and so AL learned the names of the equipment, and the instruments, and he knew the guys who operated the machinery and he asked them a bunch of questions, and he knew the heads of industry and designers who were manufacturing fleets of aircraft…
… he was surprised they brought him in for help with just …
… when he had spent the conjoining chapters of his short life assembling aircraft en masse.
His life outside of school recently in time was in construction, and flying, and of organizing storage, and of elaborate airships, massive slow-moving platforms, for the wealthiest of the famous and the elite in order to flaunt their riches and participate in group airship activities like parades for the public viewing pleasure. When they weren’t on parade they could be found at high altitudes, assembled together socializing. Honking horns, making silly light shows and performances with smoke machines for each other, always displaying novelty and humor for one another to get a laugh. It was a kick to see the bubble machines or the whacky fireworks displays coming out of the old men’s airships up above everyone.
They seemed quite alien to me. I couldn’t really see them (the people who left on Utopiaoid) having really changed quite this much! It was like an entirely separate species. I reasoned that this could also be a sort of occult representative of the Asteroid, and perhaps this was some secret society working as a research team, or something, upon the Earth for some…reason. Everything is quite unclear to me.
I have a feeling in my gut. I’ve learned to trust my gut—in fact I have listened to its every word—even fed it, to make it grow up big and strong—well, big, that is. My gut hardly fails me, and it says something very bad is about to happen. Something tells me that these are not humans at all, that they are travelers from another solar system, extra-terrestrial travelers, perhaps here to observe a pivotal moment in Earth’s history. However, I also find it strange that beings which have the capacity to traverse the stars would be worshipping relics in such a way that is so similar to human beings in more archaic times of civilizations.
It is not inconceivable that these images, smells, chants, etc. would not be utilized by another form of sentience, however, and it is only when you consider the whole star-travel capability thing does the wrench get thrown into it…no offense to anyone who may read this, but these things seem a bit, primitive, for an intelligence which has the ability to travel between stars. However, mind ‘is’ mind, and although in the past I’ve perhaps limited my own perspective, I am quickly coming to the conclusion that the world, or universe, is very much not what I thought it is. I hadn’t really pondered the idea of extra terrestrial contact very seriously…now I seem to be Earth’s unwitting Ambassador.
On the topic of other’s potentially reading this one day…I hope this isn’t going to be my last words, and I want to say that (other than the slightly frustrating ambiguity), my stay here has been quite comfortable. I detect no hostility by my hosts, or ill intentions. I would like to return home, yes, of course, but I also wouldn’t mind staying here awhile. I mean, the implications are astounding, I would love to know more. This experience is the most fascinating thing I’m likely to experience in my life, and I’d like to get some mileage out of it. Why communicate in this roundabout way, surely they have a language? And for that matter, why me? There are certainly more powerful, influential people that they could have approached…why Richard Frosty, recently demoted Stratego?
The visions continue, now much calmer: A baby boy plummets into blue pool water. It awkwardly flails its limbs attempting to swim. The baby has never before been submerged in water during its short life, yet it knows inherently to make the motions of swimming. Pushing water down to force its own mass up, the baby does not panic. It looks as if it plays. The throat has built-in physiological mechanisms (I read scientific magazines at work occasionally) to seal off the muscles of the throat, so that the infant does not take-in water. Now why would that be? The infant is not scared of drowning because it has no concept of drowning. It has no concept, yet, of life or death.
The mother lifts the baby out of the water. The background is a chilled, reflective marble, pure-black, far off in the distance. The offsetting sleekness makes the room appear vast, yet altogether calming, and almost sacred. The baby looks around the pool, perhaps mimicking consciousness, perhaps wondering if this is what life is. Is there more to see? Will he one day ask: “who am I?” or “what is consciousness?” And once he knows what our answers for these questions are, will he then ask “why?” some more? “Why do I live?” will he ask “why is there life at all?” and then will he ask: “why is there evil in the world?” And then will he care to be good? When he doesn’t get an answer, what then? The shining black looms in the distance. The monolithic face of strength manifested in this black marble, there is a likeness of Atlas engraved on one of the walls of the pool hall, but it was too far away to see clearly from here. I felt like this scene was grimly alluding to a new life of dark necessities.
“Aleon.” Words, spoken by a character, perhaps the first word I have heard yet. I started trying to recall if I had heard any real sounds at all, other than ambient noises, more for mood than anything. This was another reason I suspected these traveling observers to be extra-terrestrial. It was their lack of dependence upon sound. It made sense, then, that they never tried to speak to me with words. It reminds me of the notion that there are no sounds in space, and if these creatures can travel between the stars, then they probably have endured eons of silence.
Gigantic, slender hands wrap around the baby’s body. The light from the skin of these motherly arms fills the room. Gently, his mother pulls him up and out of the water. Aleon. The boy kicks with excitement. The woman makes direct eye contact with her child, and it looks back into hers and smiles. It stares back into her eyes with a dumb smile and a look of astonishment. It is as if the child knows that she is communicating with it. Perhaps it is frustrated that it does not know how to communicate back. All the mysteries of the Universe will be open to you, the boy Aleon—an imagination will run rampant within you!
So…his name is Aleon…
<Molly is the captured child, the Thug is her captor>
She was smiling at him now. She really seems to be warming up to him. “Sure.” She kept saying that, so willing to be helpful now. What a good little girl. Leeroy had been on a lot of jobs just like this one. He had dug a lot of graves too. And a couple of little ones. They had been through alot together now, that’s for sure. She doesn’t seem to be afraid, it’s very strange. I’ve been guiding her along…until it was time to get in the shuttlecraft…then she got kinda’ nasty, so, maybe I got a little nasty… but that was all… I’m not some creep, I just lashed out a little is all…She was starting to understand things pretty quick, though, and that things were goin’ a lot better when she settled down. Now he didn’t do anything ‘sick’ to her, he would want to make that clear, in case any of y’all were wondering, but she did wise up real quick when Leeroy had to do his job, and put the kid in the shuttlecraft. He doesn’t mind kidnapping, if the pay is good, and he doesn’t really ask any questions besides that… he had a reputation for not harming the kids, and Leeroy wasn’t trying to kill any children or anyone if he could avoid it, so, that kinda’ stuff was ‘sick,’ he says. If you really go out and are all about it. This job was turning out to be one of the strangest that this little thug, Leeroy, for hire, had ever “had to get done.” The little girl, first of all, was all-green or something…she had like a light shade of green look to her skin… but not like an alien… just some kind of science experiment or something. It was just really weird. She didn’t seem sick or nuthin’ like that. She had this little attitude too, like there was nothing I could do to hurt her. She was kinda’ funny, taunting me, actually, but I don’t let children abuse much. I’m not the sharpest whistle in the mercenary community, but I’m not a block of wood ‘neither. Mollie slapped his hand against his own head. Leeroy was exasperatingly loud. Agonizing in frustration, and quite a little bit theatrical as well, for such a salt of the earth type guy. “It’s time to go!”
Molly: “You’re probably just a big pervert, aren’t you?”
“Oh boy,” Leeroy thought to himself, “now here we go…”
Molly: “… diddler.”
“With this kind of stuff…”
The Thug: “Where am I? Am I dead?”
He woke up to blackness. They were in some… strange looking room. It was dark… some kind of interrogation facility…
Aleon “No, you diddler…you’re not dead, you’ve been abducted—by me.”
Page 1. (Recreation of ‘Nightmare FActory’ issue of Hellblazer comics)
She smiles, however the man she travels with is the same man who had been experimenting on her at the geotronics lab. The series of panels depict the process of her escaping from her captor. The captor believes he has established trust, maybe even her love, and they symbolize this by having him holding her pink ice-cream cone. Casually she lets him know, smiling playing it cool like “nothing is wrong,” so her captor won’t expect, that she was just heading to the bathroom, it was okay, she could go by herself. She wasn’t going to try and escape anymore. He believed her, too. At the bottom of the page there are police officers visibly arresting him on suspicions of… diddling… I presume. Suspected diddling.
This was not the case, but he was a bad dude anyway. All the people on that military research base were bad. He had been duped–outmaneuvered, by a child. A child who is escapes, the thug is arrested, and the child, as she trades one set of problems for another one.
The Fear Machine dialogue reads:
“I won’t be long.”
[Faulton knows it’s over, and she’s taking his whole life off with her.]
*My own comment: He nods, coming to terms possibly, with the worst happening… as the cops walk over.
*His eyes are closed.
*In pain, he cringes as the sound behind him he expects to be…
*In the final frame two officers are arresting him.
There are eyes to the side of the frame,
perhaps Mercury’s [the little girl].
The eyes look perfectly calm,
he had Trusted
those eyes. Re work: of “Nightmare machine” here, starting with…
A girlfriend of his sister Mollie:
“What is that boy always doing, anyway?”
Aleon is sitting on the couch in his workshop, playing video games with his robotic black tom cat, Behemoth. “Don’t be jealous, just because I never give ‘you’ any attention.”
“Hey what are you reading there?”
It’s some ancient controller, something from the 20th century, early in the dawn of gaming.
First person narration.
“I noticed, then, a small metal badge on the offensively-spirited young man to be of a Unicorn…
…Unicorn, one of the iconic placements within Ruby primary education. What was the Unicorn’s inflection again?
“Oh, interesting!” He was seeking with eagerness, it was annoying me greatly. “Do you mind if I sit down?”
“A sprite.” Sometimes they were called a pixie, he never knew what terminology they would use: unicorn, sprite, or pixie. A Socializer. Great… I didn’t want to be sociable, as usual. I thought I wanted some company today… but now I just want to be ALONE! “Sure.” I continued, showing off my impeccable manners, “be my guest.” … And unfortunately a certain stern-tone betrayed my voice. He looked at me like–oh shoot, I’m bothering you–and then I genuinely felt bad, and I’m sure a student of social cues would notice the subtle communication, had a hint of the body language, but… of course he didn’t. The Unicorn ‘dude’ prattled on line an idiot for a long time. Maybe he didn’t pick up on the little squirt of venom, that I’d come to regret but now wanted back again, and this was tricky punishment for it all. Locked me away into a purgatory, of lecturing from this buffoon…
You see.. unlike this ‘Pixie,’ AL was at heart what he’d call… a technician…And he believes a “technician,” or a ‘poet,’ must restrain from many behaviors, compulsions, and vices, in order to become the proper medium… by which… it was something he had thought of while studying John Milton. If you make yourself a proper vessel, you’ll have more visitation by the muse…
Ruby: All of collected human knowledge can be explored here, in a variety of ways… but seeing the inside of one of these Virtual-Realities might surprise you.
Inside a ‘pub,’ a human might see something a little bit more familiar. People coming together, for drink and for revelry.
It seems that there is a glow, no matter where you go, emmitting from the people having a time out on the town–the fuzzy pinkish light permeating the smoky, pheromonal dens; patron-secreted vapors waft around like something a mammal, or an insect, might expel in a hive; the silvery, rippling smoke clouds and rings glide about the dark corners of the room, hiding Satisfied Patron’s eyes, and everybody was apart of the scene. Everyone had their nook, and knew where to find their corner.
In Ruby, …
Wiki: “According to the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, in 493 BC, Themistocles initiated the fortification works in Piraeus and later advised the Athenians to take advantage of its natural harbours’ strategic potential instead of using the sandy bay of Phaleron.”
In 483 BC, a new silver vein was discovered in Laurion mines, which was utilized to fund the construction of 200 triremes, the Athenian fleet which was transferred to Piraeus and was built in its shipyards.
From then on Piraeus was permanently used as the navy base.
The Athenian fleet played a crucial role in the battle of Salamis against the Persians in 480 BC.
After the second Persian invasion of Greece, Themistocles fortified the three harbours of Piraeus and created the neosoikoi (ship houses); the Themistoclean Walls were completed in 471 BC, turning Piraeus into a great military and commercial harbour. The city’s fortification was farther reinforced later by the construction of the Long Walls under Cimon and Pericles, with which Piraeus was connected to Athens. Meanwhile, Piraeus was rebuilt to the famous grid plan of architect Hippodamus of Miletus, known as the Hippodamian plan, and the main agora of the city was named after him in honour. As a result, Piraeus flourished and became a port of high security and great commercial activity, and a city bustling with life.
During the Peloponnesian War, Piraeus suffered its first setback. In the second year of the war, the first cases of the Athens plague were recorded in Piraeus.
In 429 BC the Spartans ravaged Salamis as part of an abortive attack on the Piraeus, when the Athenians responded by sending a fleet to investigate, the Spartan alliance forces fled.
In 404 BC, the Spartan fleet under Lysander blockaded Piraeus and subsequently Athens surrendered to the Spartans, putting an end to the Delian League and the war itself.
Piraeus would follow the fate of Athens and was to bear the brunt of the Spartans’ rage, as the city’s walls and the Long Walls were torn down; the Athenian fleet surrendered to the victors and some of the triremes burnt, while the neosoikoi were also pulled down.
As a result, the tattered and unfortified port city was not able to compete with prosperous Rhodes, which controlled commerce. In 403 BC, Munichia was seized by Thrasybulus and the exiles from Phyle, in the battle of Munichia, where the Phyleans defeated the Thirty Tyrants of Athens, but in the following battle of Piraeus the exiles were defeated by Spartan forces.
According to Professor David Roochnik, in his lectures about The Republic, the choice of Piraeus as the setting for the dialogue is symbolic for two main reasons:
1 Piraeus was the place where the Thirty Tyrants were defeated and democracy restored, in 403 BCE.
2 Being the port of Athens, Piraeus was – as any other port city in the world – full of foreigners, some of whom, like Cephalus, were very rich.
Bellah writes (on page 577):
She notes that Plato himself begins and ends the Republic with… Socrates going [down] to the Piraeus, the port of Athens, to attend the festival of the Thracian goddess, Bendis…
…suggesting that the festival was more “international” than the short distance to the Piraeus might indicate, especially in view of Socrates’s remark that the Thracian procession was as fine as the Athenian one, expressing a Panhellenic viewpoint.
-Plato, ‘The Republic’:
“I went down yesterday to the Piraeus…”
“…with Glaucon the son of Ariston, that I might offer up my prayers to the goddess (Bendis, the Thracian Artemis.); …”
“… and also because I wanted to see in what manner they would celebrate the festival, which was a new thing.”
“I was delighted with the procession of the inhabitants; but that of the Thracians was equally, if not more, beautiful.”
“When we had finished our prayers and viewed the spectacle, we turned in the direction of the city; and at that instant Polemarchus the son of Cephalus chanced to catch sight of us from a distance…”
Quote from ‘Carthage Must Be Destroyed,
The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization,’
by Richard Miles:
“In 221 BC the question of succession arose again, when a vengeful servant whose previous master had been murdered on the general’s orders assassinated Hasdrubal in his palace in New Carthage.”
“The succession was, however, never in doubt. The Spanish army quickly acclaimed Hannibal, the 26-year-old son of Hamilcar, as their new leader, and the Carthaginian Popular Assembly then ratified the appointment.”
“HANNIBAL In many ways Hannibal represented the growing chasm between Barcid Spain and Carthage. He was a product of ‘the camp’. He had left North Africa at the age of 9, and his formative years had been spent among the troops on campaign in Spain. The later Roman historian Livy described the young general’s martial qualities as follows:
“Power to command and readiness to obey are rare associates; but in Hannibal they were perfectly united . . . Reckless in courting danger, he showed superb tactical ability once it was upon him. Indefatigable both physically and mentally, he could endure with equal ease excessive heat or cold; he ate and drank not to flatter his appetites but only so much as would sustain his bodily strength; waking and sleeping he made no distinction between night and day; what time his duties left him he gave to sleep, nor did he seek it on a soft bed or in silence, for he was often to be seen, wrapped in an army cloak, asleep on the ground amid common soldiers on sentry or picket duties. His clothing in no way distinguished him from other young men of his age; but his accoutrements and horses were eye-catching. Mounted or unmounted he was unequalled as a fighting man, always the first to attack, always the last to leave the field.”
“With the appointment of Hannibal, the perception that the Spanish command was a Barcid family possession was confirmed. In his account Livy emphasized the sense of resentment towards the Barcids that had built up among some of the Carthaginian political elite, in a diatribe supposedly delivered by Hamilcar’s old enemy Hanno in the Carthaginian Council of Elders. Although the words are undoubtedly Livy’s, the sentiments that they impart are probably genuine: Are we afraid that it will be too long before Hamilcar’s son surveys the extravagant power and the pageant of royalty which his father assumed, and that there will be undue delay in our becoming slaves of the despot to whose son-in-law our armies have been bequeathed as though they were his patrimony?”
“It is clear from the Barcid coinage of this period that Hannibal was keen to promote his familial links with Hamilcar. A series of silver coinage issues appeared showing a portrait of Heracles–Melqart depicted with a number of elements associated with the Greek Heracles, including a club resting on his shoulder and a laurel wreath. The figure is a clean-shaven young man, and on the reverse is an African elephant. At roughly the same time a double-shekel silver coin was released which showed a similar figure with laurel wreath and club. Although this Melqart displays very similar characteristics, he sports a beard and is clearly older. On the reverse there is again an African elephant, but here with a driver on its back. These coins are a progression from earlier coins depicting Melqart, in that they attempt to associate the Barcids and the god. The war elephant was a symbol that came to be increasingly linked with the Barcids during this period.”
“Hellenistic kings and leaders had long blurred the division between personal and divine portraiture. There often appears to be an almost deliberate ambiguity between the human and the divine in the portraits on the coins of Alexander and his successors, which bolstered the issuers’ claims to divine protection and favour. In the Barcid context there also appears to be the added focus on articulating the legitimacy of Hannibal taking command as Hamilcar Barca’s son. That legitimacy over the Spanish realm was further bolstered when, as his predecessor Hasdrubal had done, Hannibal married an Iberian woman, from Castulo, ‘a powerful and famous city’, which was in close alliance with the Barcids.”
“Hannibal spent the first two years of his generalship mopping up opposition and expanding Barcid territory towards the north-west of Spain. He would soon prove his genius as a military commander.”
“Not only did he storm a number of important Celtiberian strongholds, but he also showed great cunning in his destruction of a dangerous enemy force. In the spring of 220 BC, finding themselves threatened by a formidable foe, Hannibal and his army feigned retreat by crossing the river Tagus and set up camp on its left bank. The trap was now baited by leaving enough space between his trenches and the banks of the river to encourage the enemy to attack. When the enemy started to cross the river, they found themselves under attack from the Barcid cavalry. Those who managed to struggle across found forty of Hannibal’s war elephants waiting to trample them underfoot.”
“Hannibal then crossed the river with the rest of his army to deliver the coup de grâce. This victory was so emphatic that others now knew not to test the military worth of the young general.”
THE CORINTHIAN THREAT It was Carthage’s determination to hold on to the western Sicilian ports that made it resist any potential external threats with such dogged determination and disregard for the heavy cost in manpower and other resources that it entailed. In the 340s the threat was from the Greek city of Corinth, which was becoming increasingly involved in the internal affairs of its daughter city Syracuse.131 The Carthaginians attempted to warn off Timoleon, the Corinthian representative sent to Sicily, but without success.132 Subsequent efforts militarily to intimidate him also failed, with Timoleon successfully establishing a new democratic government in Syracuse as well as creating a broad anti-Carthaginian alliance among a number of the Sicilian Greek city states.133 Further disaster struck when in 340 a large Carthaginian army–unusually, made up of a large contingent of citizen troops–was successfully ambushed by Timoleon.134 Marching deep into enemy territory, the Syracusans waited for the Carthaginians at the river Crimisus. According to Diodorus, on that summer morning the river valley was covered in a thick mist. The only sign that the Carthaginian army was on the move was a deep rumble which rose up to the Syracusans through the swirling mist. Later in the morning, as the gloom lifted, the Crimisus below came into view–and with it the aweinspiring sight of the Carthaginian regiments crossing the river.
First came four-horse chariots fitted out for battle, and then the elite citizen regiment, the Sacred Band, distinguishable by their white shields, heavy bronze and iron armour, and the ordered discipline of their march. Anxious to catch these crack battalions before they had a chance to clear the river, Timoleon sent his cavalry in among them. During the battle a terrible hailstorm came to the aid of the Greeks, who had their backs to it. The Carthaginian line was broken, and many were trampled underfoot and drowned in the river. The Sacred Band, perhaps mindful of their citizen status, or knowing that their heavy armour ruled out any chance of flight, valiantly stood their ground until they were cut down to a man. Crimisus, in terms of citizen lives lost, stood as the worst military disaster that the Carthaginians suffered in Sicily. Over 10,000 Carthaginian soldiers were reported to have been killed, with a further 15,000 captured. The loss of the Sacred Band, the flower of Carthage’s citizen elite, ensured that citizen regiments would now be mobilized only in the gravest crises.135 The Carthaginians, however, did manage to recover from this terrible setback by continuing the war against the Syracusans by proxy. Fresh mercenaries were sent to Sicily to help various autocrats, the natural enemies of democratic Syracuse. This tied up the Syracusan forces so that the Carthaginians could quietly reconsolidate their hold on the western half of the island, and the tactics were vindicated when in 338 BC a new treaty was signed with Syracuse. Much of western Sicily was recognized as a zone of Carthaginian influence, and in return the Carthaginians jettisoned their new allies.136
The Realm of Heracles–Melqart: Greeks and Carthaginians in the Central Mediterranean HEROIC WANDERERS: THE LEGACY OF HERACLES When the first Greek traders arrived on the shores of the central and western Mediterranean, they had not come alone. They had brought with them not only their gods, but also many of the great heroes of the Greek mythological canon. Homeric figures such as Odysseus, Menelaus and Diomedes were portrayed as trailblazers who had roamed throughout the lands of the West in the long-distant past.1 Over the decades that followed, these heroes would play an increasingly important role not only in lending legitimacy and antiquity to subsequent Greek claims to newly settled land, but also in forging links with local indigenous elites, some of whom came strongly to identify themselves with particular Greek heroes. Thus the Etruscans in central Italy adopted the Greek hero Odysseus initially as their founder and then as the leader who had brought them to Italy.2 The most high-profile role in helping these new Greek communities as they sought to assert themselves over new and unfamiliar landscapes was played by the legendary strongman Heracles. As a famed terrestrial wanderer who roamed the lands of the West civilizing the indigenous inhabitants by abolishing savage customs and clearing away brigands and monsters, Heracles set something of a precedent for the Greek colonists’ sometimes aggressive dealings with the indigenous peoples.3 The developing relations between the colonists and the native populations were also reflected in the numerous offspring that the legendary womanizer was said to have sired through his congress with well-born local females.4 He was viewed not so much as a founder of colonies but rather as their initiator, who chose and secured locations before restlessly moving on, leaving it for those who followed him to settle there.5 Yet Heracles was far more than just a violent enforcer. The protection that he provided for the Greek colonists also encompassed the well-being of their harvests and livestock.6 Indeed, the succour that he afforded ranged from the highest-sounding heroic deeds to the absurdly mundane. In the Greek colonies of southern Italy, the hero was revered not only for slaying giants, but also for warding away the flies that plagued the summer flocks, and for keeping locusts away from the crops. Such was the enduring influence of the great hero that by the end of the sixth century BC, when the memories of the first settler leaders had begun to dim, and the desire to be considered as the equals of the Greek cities of their forefathers grew, a number of communities in southern Italy and Sicily began to claim Heracles as their actual founder.7 Souvenirs and relics long associated with his heroic labours in mainland Greece started to appear in these western Greek settlements. Thus the hide of the monstrous Erymanthian boar, the victim of one of Heracles’ famous labours ordered as a penance for his killing of his wife and children in a fit of madness, made the long journey from the Peloponnese to the temple of Apollo in the southern Italian town of Cumae. Colonists from the Greek city of Chalcedon relocated not only themselves but also Heracles’ famous battle against the giants to their new home in Italy.8 Heracles was thus gradually transformed from a talismanic figure strongly associated with terrestrial wandering and mercurial violence to an exuberant symbol of the success of the Greek colonial project in the West. The message that these legendary associations proclaimed was as clear as it was powerful: these colonists were no alien arrivistes. This was Greek land, bequeathed to them by none other than the son of Zeus. By the sixth century BC western Greek writers–most notably the Sicilian poet Stesichorus, in his epic poem the Geryoneis–had associated Heracles’ presence in the West with the tenth and eleventh of his famous labours: the theft of both the red cattle of the monstrous ogre Geryon and the golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides.9 In the fragments of the Geryoneis that still exist, Heracles travelled to Tartessus, where he borrowed a golden cup from the sun and floated across the ocean to Erythia, the mysterious island in the westernmost reaches of the world where lived Geryon. After killing his herdsmen and guard dog, Heracles eventually dispatched Geryon, took his cattle, and then returned to Tartessus to give the cup back to the sun, before driving the cattle overland to Italy and making his way back to Greece.
A constant presence throughout this book is the great hero Heracles (or Hercules). It may seen strange, even perverse, that a Greek deity who would also become a major figure in the Roman celestial pantheon should play such a prominent role in a book about Carthage. However, Heracles, better than any other figure, stands as an emblem of the cultural diversity and interconnectivity that typified the ancient Mediterranean. Although, as the great wanderer and strongman of Hellenic myth, Heracles was closely associated with Greek colonial endeavour, he also epitomized the syncretism–the amalgamation of different religions, cultures and schools of thought–that was one of the main results of the contacts that Greek colonists made with other ethnic groups, particularly the Punic diaspora. From the sixth century BC onward, Heracles came to be increasingly associated with the Punic god Melqart in the minds of not only the Punic but also the Greek populations of the central and western Mediterranean. It was no coincidence that, when the great Carthaginian general Hannibal cast around for a celestial figurehead to unite the people of the West against the ever-increasing power of Rome, he should choose the figure of Heracles–Melqart. Indeed, during the Second Punic War, Heracles came to symbolize the spoils of victory for which Carthage and Rome fought so hard and so long: the right not only to dictate the economic and political future of the region, but also to claim ownership of its distinguished past. Attempts to conjure up contemporary relevance with regard to the ancient world can often appear trite and laboured at best, and fatuous and false at worst. However, the history of Carthage does force us to reassess some of the comfortable historical certainties that underpin many of the modern West’s assumptions about its own cultural and intellectual heritage. The ‘classical world’ still revered as the fount of much of Western civilization was never an exclusively Graeco-Roman achievement, but was the result of a much more complex set of interactions between many different cultures and peoples. Thus Carthage stands not only as an eloquent testament to the cultural diversity that once exemplified the ancient Mediterranean, but also as a stark reminder of just how ruthlessly that past has been selected for us.
As adherents to a polytheistic religious system, the Phoenicians worshipped a wide range of deities, although there does appear to have been some kind of hierarchy. At the head of the Phoenician divine pantheon were El and Asherah, while the god Baal, in numerous different manifestations, played the chief executive role in a subordinate but more active day-to-day capacity.29 Religious ritual was a central part of the public and private life of the Phoenician cities. The great temples of the gods were the richest and, after the palace, the most powerful institutions in the Near East. They were huge corporations in their own right, employing not just priests but also a host of other professions. Some even had temple barbers for supplicants who wished to offer up their hair as a gift to a particular deity, and temple prostitutes, whose earnings supplemented the income of the temple. This concentration of power and wealth meant that tensions naturally existed between the temples and the other main power structure in the city, the royal palace. Indeed, it seems that a desire to bring the temples to heel lay behind the royal decision to replace the traditional chief deities of Tyre with a new god, Melqart (his name meaning ‘King of the City’), who would rule over their pantheon with his consort, the goddess Astarte. According to one ancient source, in order to guarantee the success of his religious putsch, Hiram had the temples of the old Tyrian gods demolished and built magnificent new sanctuaries for Melqart and Astarte. Although the latter part of this account is probably correct, it is unlikely that the religious revolution was quite so drastic as to have required the destruction of the old Phoenician pantheon. These changes signified not the demise of the old gods, but rather a significant readjustment of the Tyrian religious landscape. Indeed, it appears that El continued as the chief deity of Tyre, and that the three storm gods Baal Shamen, Baal Malagê and Baal Saphon maintained their seniority. However, Melqart was now the undisputed divine patron of the royal house. Thus he was a ‘political’ god, who acted both as figurehead and as vehicle for the aspirations of the king. The idea may have been imported from the Phoenician city of Byblos, where Baalat Gubal (‘the Lady of Byblos’) had long been worshipped in a similar manner.30
Through the worship of Melqart, the king could portray himself as the bridge between the temporal and celestial worlds, and the needs of the heavenly gods could closely correspond with the political exigencies of the palace.31 The king even introduced an elaborate new ceremonial to celebrate the annual festival of Melqart.32 Each spring, in a carefully choreographed festival called the egersis, an effigy of the god was placed on a giant raft before being ritually burnt as it drifted out to sea while hymns were sung by the assembled crowds. For the Tyrians, as for many other ancient Near Eastern peoples, the emphasis fell upon the restorative properties of fire, for the god himself was not destroyed but revived by the smoke, and the burning of the effigy thus represented his rebirth. To emphasize the importance of the egersis in maintaining the internal cohesion of the Tyrian people, all foreigners had to leave the city for the duration of the ceremony. Afterwards the king and his chief consort would take the roles of Melqart and Astarte in a ritual marriage which guaranteed the well-being and fertility of the king, as well as his legitimate authority. Indeed, the ceremony went far beyond ritual pageantry and role play. It strongly suggested that the king was nothing less than the living embodiment of the great Melqart.
Over the centuries, Melqart became increasingly dominant in Tyre, to the extent that he was often given the title of Baal Sôr, divine ‘Lord of Tyre’, and was even feted as the original founder of the city. When the Greek historian Herodotus visited the great temple of Melqart at Tyre in the fifth century BC, the priests told him that the temple had been built 2,300 years before, at the same time as the city’s foundation.
The negative associations surrounding the Carthaginians have proved to be extraordinarily pervasive–particularly the idea that, through its aggression, Carthage had brought its own ghastly end upon itself. When the poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht cast around for a historical metaphor to remind his fellow Germans about the dangers of remilitarization in the 1950s, he instinctively turned to a series of events that had taken place over two thousand years before: ‘Great Carthage drove three wars. After the first one it was still powerful. After the second one it was still inhabitable. After the third one it was no longer possible to find her.’ 10 Many of the prejudices first found in Greek and Roman texts were enthusiastically adopted and adapted by the educated elites of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe and America, who had grown increasingly interested in classical antiquity. The attitudes that they found in the Greek and Roman literature that they read quickly became their own. Thus the idea that the British–the inhabitants of ‘La perfide Albion’–were in fact the Carthaginians of contemporary Europe firmly took hold in Republican France.11 The sentiment soon spread across Europe and beyond.12 Thomas Jefferson, president of the United States in 1801–9, wrote of Britain, ‘Her good faith! The faith of a nation of merchants! The Punica fides of modern Carthage.’13 A nation of shopkeepers could not be trusted to keep its word.14 For the great powers of nineteenth-century Europe, the emulation of these ancient prejudices was linked to something far more particular than mere admiration for the classical world. During the colonial land-grab of the second half of the nineteenth century, the Roman Empire understandably provided an attractive blueprint for these new imperial powers, and Carthage also had a role to play as an ancient paradigm for the barbarity and inferiority of the indigenous populations that they now ruled over. Similarly, when the French had first started writing of perfidious Albion, it had been as much a way of bolstering their own imperialist claims as it was about undermining British pretensions to be the new Rome.
Carthage would also prove itself to be as attractive a metaphor for the oppressed as it was for their oppressors. For some, the fate of Carthage, as the victim of brutal cultural vandalism by a ruthless conqueror, appeared so uncannily to resemble their own circumstances that a common heritage could be the only plausible explanation. Eighteenth-century Irish antiquarians, reacting against Anglocentric assertions that the Irish were descendants of the Scythians, an ancient people from the Black Sea famed for their barbarity, counterclaimed that in fact their forebears were the Carthaginians. Serious scholarly attempts were made to attribute megalithic passage tombs in the Boyne valley to the Phoenicians, and to link the Irish language to Punic.19 These theories predictably attracted the ridicule of many in England…
Leave a Reply