Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Athens (3)

During the height of the Athenian summer, the Academy always
declared a month's holiday for both lecturers and scholastics.
With this, I decided to escape the heat and head for Delphi.
Considered one of the most sacred sites in Greece, I had long
planned to go there. Now I had the opportunity, though it would
be a long trip through mountainous regions far north of Athens.

Fortunately I had my pick of caravans traveling to Delphi. It
seemed a cool place to go during Athenian summers. The
journey getting there was arduous, but I passed the time
enjoying the scenery and engaging in good conversations
with my fellow travelers.

Delphi, itself, rested on the side of a mountain called "Parnassus."
There was a theatre there for plays as well as nearby inns. After
settling-in, I found out there were two major temples in Delphi:
one to Athena, and the other to Apollo. Most importantly, the
Pythian priestesses resided at the Temple of Apollo.

Most people wanted to present a question to the Pythia, the
selected priestess who served as the "Oracle of Delphi." As
I came to understand it, one writes a personal question that
usually pertains to one's fortune or future, submits it to a priest
of Apollo, who then gives it to the Oracle.

The Oracle goes into a frenzy, probably--in my estimation--
because she is drugged or intoxicated by all the underground
fumes that rise up in fissures found in the floor of the Temple.
In her frenzy, she speaks in gibberish to the priest. In turn, he
somehow manages to translate her answer to the submitted

Well, thank you anyway! I wasn't about to engage in that kind
of religious magic which smacked of human trickery. So the
Oracle got no question from me. Regardless, I did take note
the inscription in the vestibule of the Temple of Apollo. It said
"Know Thyself." That's an important suggestion for any soul,
if you will. But I'm not sure we will come to know ourself through
trickery or magic. For me, it's more about my own inner work
and applied learning.

Still, I didn't come away from Delphi disappointed. The second
temple I visited there was dedicated to Athena. Having now
spent some considerable time in Athens, having visited the
Parthenon on the Acropolis, I took time to attend more to this
powerful daughter of Zeus and Metis, who was a goddess of
wisdom and knowledge.

The myth tells us that Zeus seduced Metis, and then feared that
their offspring might be a son who would supersede him. This
led him to swallow Metis--but it didn't do any good, in that Athena
was born out of Zeus' ear (I believe). Literally at birth this great
daughter came forth fully armored. She was a powerful warrior
goddess, yet full of wisdom. She so enamored Zeus that she
became one of his favorites amongst his many children.

As for Zeus himself, I never much liked him--even though he was
declared our "Father." He was a seducer, indeed more than often
portrayed as a rapist. He not only seduced goddesses, but human
women. Hence we have quasi-sons of Zeus running about all
over the landscape.

But Athena (known as Minerva in Rome) quite appealed to me,
probably because of her combination as a warrior who was wise.
I must admit that I saw myself some like Athena. Here I had lived
a military life, as a Praetorian Speculator, and now I was striving
towards some semblance of wisdom through my studies. In the
end, of course, I found that wisdom was an ingredient born of
not only study, but also of one's personal nature and experience.

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