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Date: Sat, 10 May 2003 16:13:27 -0500
From: James Jordan 
Subject: (urth) Fwd: sphinx, lions, wolves, and Latro

Reposted from Nutria, since Crush is still out of pocket:

>Okay, I admit this is long, and for starters, let me say up front that I
>don't claim to understand everything Wolfe is intending in the Soldier
>novels. There is a (necessary) great deal of convolution and confabulation
>here. Here's what I'm reasonably confident of:
>*    It would be difficult to overemphasize the shadow that Graves' "The
>Greek Myths" (TGM) and (to a lesser extent) "The White Goddess" (TWG) cast
>over these novels.
>*    Latro was one of Xerxe's "Immortals" -- **the** elite Persian fighting
>force. During the war with the Greeks, the Persians violated Demeter's grove
>and it was believed by both sides that from that time She operated against
>*    Demeter is the mother of Persephone/Core/The Maiden. When she curses
>him, he becomes a conduit between the divine and the mundane -- if he
>touches a god or spirit, they become as material to mortals -- if he touches
>a mortal, become accessible to a god or spirit (see Latro's conversation
>with the serpent woman for this).
>*    Marc, you are clearly aware of all this, but I wanted to spell out
>certain details for the sake of my argument. According to Graves, Demeter,
>Cybele, Rhea, Hera ***and the Theban Sphinx *** (TGM 82:6) are the Great
>Mother who rules alternately in the sky, on earth and on the sea, and in the
>infernal regions of the dead under the earth and sea. Her emblem is the Moon
>which is full, waxing/waning, and new.
>     Her colors are white, pink, and black/violet respectively (Eurykles
>explains this to Latro in SotM). She is virginal, erotic/fruitful, and a
>crone respectively. ( I have a planned essay showing that the life of
>Eurykles also definitely follows this lunar cycle).
>     The lion is her symbol, but so is the wolf which howls at the moon and
>nursed Romulus and Remus. The wolf hunts at night and the lion is one of the
>few cats known for hunting during the day. Persephone is called Demter's
>daughter, but she is essentially the same person exemplifying her changing
>phases. It's an endless cycle in which  the Maiden ushers in the Crone and
>the Crone the Maiden. I was not aware of the Sphinx's "Day/Night" riddle
>that you mentioned, but it certainly fits and further explains why Wolfe
>chose to include the Sphinx in the first novel rather than the third.
>     Amazons are known as worshippers (and children) of the Thracian Ares but
>Graves says they were priestesses of the Moon -- so it is reasonable to
>conclude that (ah ha!) Wolfe is saying that Ares is really that same
>goddess. I don't want to look like I'm self promoting, but for further
>evidence that Graves sees Ares this way, I refer you to my article on
>Trivigaunte at my site http://www.urth.org/whorlmap. For this reason alone,
>I find it unlikely that Latro is Ares or a son of Ares -- as I understand
>the themes of the novels, it is difficult to shoe-horn in such a high degree
>of free-agency in a single god. Incidentally, Marc, since you have recently
>finished SotM, you might be interested in my essay "The Wolfe and the
>Laidely Worm".
>Now for these statements:
>Marc said:
>"Why aren't Latro's symbols wolves instead of lions, since his name is
>I think you are thinking of Lycaeus. Lucius means "Light Bringer". It is the
>name for the morning star and is synonymous with Lucifer. His name **is** a
>major support for your theory because Venus as the morning star is a symbol
>of warfare. But I think this spin is sufficiently covered in that Latro is
>an expert soldier.
>Primarily, I think the significance of the name is that it comes from the
>same root as the word "lucid". Due to his curse, Latro is the opposite of
>lucid, yet his curse has also granted him uncanny lucidity.
>Buuuut, Latro's surrounded by wolves as well as lions. I don't understand
>it, but IIRC he **is** accused of being a "Neurian" by the ghost of a man he
>and another Neurian kill. IIRC, the Neurian says that their changing in to
>wolves is a curse of ?Cybele? and the Apollo refers to Latro's curse as a
>wolf's tooth.
>Marc said:
>* "The advice of Hercules to Latro is easily followed by him: Latro has all
>the tools, he just doesn't know it because he has been stripped of his
>Latro doesn't know what he knows but when he is put to it, he can access any
>technical knowledge he needs without help. He can speak any of the languages
>he has learned if he happens to be speaking to (or pretending to speak to)
>another speaker of that language. He can access his knowledge of tactics and
>war engineering while on a battle field.
>He can discuss Zoroastrian theology when he is queried about "what a Magi
>would say". He even seems to know that he is not a Zoroastrian. Is there a
>reason Ares would study Zoroastrianism? I think it is reasonable to assume
>that any advice he needs from Hercules, is knowlege he didn't have before
>his curse.
>     Latro's only divine act is one that is not shared by any other god
>including Demeter whose curse seems to have blessed him with it -- to make
>the divine real. I can't imagine why that should be a special propensity of
>Instead of Latro working miracles that show him to be divine Ares, the gods
>work for Latro -- treating him alternately as a court favorite or a
>Marc said:
>* "I maintain that there is a close relationship between Latro and Ares, and
>that Nike certainly follows him without appearing to him."
>"Hegistratus and Cimmon and company swear to protect Latro before he goes
>off to the Spartan ceremony of manumission, for no apparent reason.  It
>seems as if they are talking about how necessary Arete is for the survival
>of their cities, and their icon of arete has become Latro.  Why?  The name
>of Ares is in the word Arete."
>     Graves says that the Athenians weren't fond of Ares. He also says none
>of the other gods were fond of him either -- except for Eris and Hades. This
>is certainly not true of Ares.
>     I don't see how Nike standing behind him means he is Ares or anyone in
>particular. If it were Eris, that would be another thing. Nike (the
>personification of Victory) is at least as often invoked in athletics as
>warfare. Perhaps her favor is why the gods back Latro.
>     If Arete equals Ares then Latro is a **soldier** of Ares, not Ares
>Marc said:
>"When Latro fights Pasicrates on the shore, lions are showing up all over
>the place."
>     The roaring lions during Latro's fight with Pasicrates I took to mean
>that Leonides (note the name) and his soldiers were supporting/rooting for
>Latro (remember they were at their shrine). Possibly because Latro (as
>Pasicrates' slave) refused to submit in battle just as they did before
>     Marc, I think you have put your finger on the fact that Latro
>consistently has more in common with Heracles than with Ares -- Heracles
>**who was draped in a lion's skin** and was cursed with madness so that he
>did not recognize his children. He's clearly not Heracles himself, yet he's
>a Heracles-type (whose name supposedly means "the glory of Hera -- ironic,
>isn't it?). I like this idea the more I think about it. I bet one could map
>Heracles over Latro rather nicely. I like this idea much better than
>associating him with Achilles.
>Wolfe offers two competing images of the gods in the Soldier novels. One of
>servants of a dealing with petitioners to a Great King (I think it is
>significant that Wolfe's image is that of a king and not a queen). The other
>is of an actor who puts on masks to become different characters.
>I believe Wolfe is going beyond Graves, to say that the White Goddess and
>any other god as well are servants of the true god, and in another sense the
>god Himself. Note that he uses this imagery again in "The Long Sun" where
>the gods are all interfaces of the Mainframe (which causes me to speculate
>on the purpose of the Echidna coalition in preventing the colonists from
>-- Crush


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