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From: "John Barach" 
Subject: (urth) Ares & Aphrodite & Other Latro Stuff
Date: Tue, 27 May 2003 10:50:56 -0600

Earlier this month, Nutria wrote:

>          Add to your data his tryst with Venus/Aphrodite,
> lover of Mars/Ares. I brought this up to Wolfe in my
> looong interview, mentioning that Venus was married
> to Vulcan and had adultery with Mars (plug in the Greek
> names as you wish). He acted confused, saying that he
> had thought Venus married to Mars, at least in some
> versions. I say, "acted" confused. It's hard to believe he
> did not know this. Which made me wonder if perhaps
> "more" were not involved.

I just finished reading _Soldier of Arete_ (for the first time) last night,
and came across this passage on p. 344 of the old edition (toward the end of
chapter 42):

     Polos came to watch me exercise the horses.  As
     Diokles and I rubbed them down, he asked me to
     explain *arete*.  "I know Ares is the war god here,"
     he said, "like Pleistorus.  But this isn't war.  How
     can anybody say that the man who runs fastest shows
     his *arete*?"

     "It isn't the man who runs best who runs from the enemy,"
     I told him, "and sometimes you want your men to run.
     When they do, you'd like to see them escape so they
     can fight again, on better terms or from a better

     Diokles spat.  "War isn't all blood and death, lad.  And
     it isn't always the biggest army that wins.  Pretty often
     it's the one that drills the best, and keeps its armor
     clean, and stands up best to long marches on short
     rations.  Old Ares isn't some kind of monster, see?
     Think of him as a plain man that wants to win the war
     and get back home to Aphrodite.  He's for training,
     discipline, and fair play with the men.  And he whistles
     when he loses just like he whistles when he wins."

Does this passage support the idea Wolfe (claims he) has that Ares and
Aphrodite were husband and wife?  Diokles could simply be saying that Ares
wants to get back to his mistress, but the comparison with a "plain man"
suggests a husband trying to get back to his wife.

Of course, Latro doesn't have a wife -- or doesn't know if he does -- to get
back to.  But like Ares or a soldier, he just wants to get back home.  The
reference to running fits here, too, because Latro does run at the end of
the book.  But is he simply running away with the Crimson Men?  Or, as he
says to Polos, is he running away (perhaps without realizing it) to "fight
again, on better terms or from a better position"?

A couple of questions about SoA:

1.  What ever happened to (the ghost of) Artembares?  He follows Latro much
of the way to Rope, and then disappears.  Was he exorcised by Sisyphus,
along with the ghostly soldiers of Riverland (ch. 32, p. 256)?

I note, by the way, that another clue that Polos is a centaur may be the way
his eyes roll everytime Latro talks to the ghost of Artembares -- like a
spooked horse, no?

2.  Who is the woman (goddess) who waves at Latro and Io from the marble
benches at the end of chapter 42 (p. 345)?  My best guess right now is that
it's Elata.

3.  Why does Latro have blood on his fingers after seeing the armor of King
Leonidas (ch. 36, pp. 290, 291)?

4.  Perhaps my biggest question: What exactly happens at the end of the
manumission ceremony (ch.37)?

Latro is bumped by a wiry little slave (p. 296) -- perhaps (I venture a
guess) Queen Gorgo's charioteer, not, as Latro thinks "to assure himself, as
well as me, that this was no dream," but to check to see if Latro is armed
(Latro later bumps into the wiry slave's sponsor and discovers thereby that
he is armed).  It seems to me that the two nudges invite us to read them
together.  If the wiry slave is the charioteer, then he may be planning to
kill Latro for having beaten him in the chariot race.

(If it be obejcted that Latro would have recognized the charioteer, well,
it's dark and Latro doesn't in fact recognize the man who dies later as the
charioteer until he gets him into the light.  The charioteer is "short but
muscular," and the guy nudging Latro is "a wiry little rogue from what I
could see of him")

The prince gives Themistocles a silver chariot (p. 297), which Latro
recognizes -- presumably as the silver chariot (without horses) he was in
back in pp. 129-130.  What is the significance of Cybele's chariot?

Pausanius twice tells Hippoxleas not to let anything evil happen to Latro,
and Queen Gorgo's eyes are full of tears.  Latro hears the baying of hounds
(not for the first time).  Suddenly the charioteer who lost to Latro comes
running past, drenched with blood and holding a knife.  Hippoxleas tries to
stop him, gets stabbed, and *snatches away Latro's crown of flowers*.  A
dozen people strike down the charioteer.  Latro loses sight of his party and
searches for them, finally coming back to the same place where he stumbles
over the charioteer, recognizes him, and tries to help him.

Why is the charioteer drenched with blood earlier?  Presumably because he's
already stabbed someone and/or been stabbed.  Is it that he is to be killed
because he lost the race to Latro (making the queen lose to the prince)?
The Rope Maker sponsor of the "wiry little slave" is armed, perhaps in order
to kill that slave (the charioteer) himself.  But somehow the charioteer
gets a priestess's knife, escapes from the guard, kills Hippoxleas, and then
is struck down ... but Latro attemps to save him but fails.

So Latro's grief ("man is a wolf to man") may then include the realization
that simply by winning the race he ensured this man's death.  He's being
used, then, as a pawn in someone's game, which is why he later determines to
get away on his own, leaving behind all his friends (even Io) ... to fight
again and better?

Thinking out loud,


John Barach


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