Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The King's Mountain: the Battle of Faesulae, 1610 years ago

This post was published on "Resource Crisis" in 2012. It is republished here in occasion of a new anniversary of the battle of Faesulae, on Aug 23, 406 AD.

The southern side of the Mugnone Valley, in Tuscany. The narrow passage that you see between the two hills in the background marks the road to the central plains of Italy, toward Rome. It is here that, in 406 A.D., the Roman Army stopped the invading Goths in a memorable battle that lasted a few days. On Aug 23 of that year, Radagaisus, King of the Goths, was captured and executed on the hill that today takes the name of MonteReggi ("Mons Regis", the King's Mountain)

If you visit the Mugnone Valley, near the city of Fiesole, in Italy, you'll see a quiet place, mainly inhabited by people who commute everyday to Florence, just a few km away. But you may also note how the hills at the southern side of the valley mark the last natural obstacle for those who follow the road that goes through the Appennino mountains and leads to the central plains of Italy. Those hills have played the role of a line of defense more than once in history. Today, August 23rd, is the anniversary of the final act of the "battle of Faesulae" that raged there for a few days in the year 406 A.D. and that saw the attempt of the Goths to reach Rome stopped by a Roman Army.

In those years, Rome was entering what was to be the last century of the Western Roman Empire. The Roman society was experiencing a new phase of decline and collapse that led, among other things, to the loss of the fortifications that had protected the Empire's territory for centuries. Then, the peoples of the Eastern Regions, whom the Romans called "Barbarians," found that the road to to the Empire's territories was open for them. Entire populations moved onward and, in 406 A.D. the Goths, led by their King, Radagaisus, were marching South with the objective of conquering Rome.

The task of stopping the Goths fell on Flavius Stilicho, magister militum of the armies of the West and himself of Barbarian origin. He was acting on behalf of Emperor Honorius who, in the meantime, did nothing but hide in Ravenna, protected by the marshes surrounding the city. In Gibbon's words (chapter 30 of "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire")

..... such was the feeble and exhausted state of the empire, that it was impossible to restore the fortifications of the Danube, or to prevent, by a vigorous effort, the invasion of the Germans. The hopes of the vigilant minister of Honorius were confined to the defence of Italy. He once more abandoned the provinces, recalled the troops, pressed the new levies, which were rigorously exacted, and pusillanimously eluded; employed the most efficacious means to arrest, or allure, the deserters; and offered the gift of freedom, and of two pieces of gold, to all the slaves who would enlist

We don't have many details on how exactly the battle went, but it seems that the Goths first besieged Florence, then were forced to retreat and finally were trapped in the Mugnone valley; blocked by the fortifications built around the city of Faesulae. Gibbon tells us (chapter 30) that:

Conscious that he (Stilicho) commanded the last army of the republic, his prudence would not expose it, in the open field, to the headstrong fury of the Germans. The method of surrounding the enemy with strong lines of circumvallation, which he had twice employed against the Gothic king, was repeated on a larger scale, and with more considerable effect.

Surrounded, the Goths had no escape. The Romans and their Hunnic allies had turned the valley into a killing zone. After a few days of battle, they surrendered in great numbers; so many that the slave market is said to have collapsed for a brief period. King Radagaisus himself was captured and beheaded, putting an end forever to his attempt of conquering Rome.

That was not to be the last time that the Romans could defeat an army of invading barbarians. But each victory left Rome a little weaker and closer to the final collapse. The battle of Faesulae was not an exception: it was a great victory that brought nothing but disaster to the Romans. Just two years later, in 408 A.D., almost on the same date when Radagaisus had been executed (Aug 22), Stilicho was betrayed, captured and beheaded in Ravenna at the orders of Emperor Honorius. Being a general is always a dangerous job but, apparently, being a successful general is even more dangerous if you have to deal with a suspicious and tyrannical Emperor. Without Stilicho, the Roman army melted away, leaving Italy defenseless. Two more years later, in 410 A.D., Rome was to fall to another Gothic King, Alaric. The Empire survived this event, but it was another step along the way that would lead the Western Empire to its final demise with the last decades of the 5th century A.D.

Image of Montereggi taken on Aug 22nd 2012, showing also your modest author, Ugo Bardi. More pictures of the city of Fiesole can be found at my blog "Foto di Fiesole"

Of those remote times, little more than a few lines in history books remain. But, in the Mugnone Valley, you can still find a hill that takes the name of Montereggi, from the Latin "Mons Regis", the King's Mountain. It is the place where, it is said, King Radagaisus was beheaded. We can still walk there and find a small Christian church surrounded by cypress trees. There is also a pile of stones with a sign that says "Ave crux, spes nostra" (Hail, cross, our hope). We have no reason to believe that it was the exact point where the king was beheaded, but surely it is a suggestive place.

Perhaps another echo of this ancient battle is the old legend that has that in the early times of the city of Florence, a king named "Fiorino" defended the city from the Etruscans of Faesulae and was killed in battle. It is said that the blood of king Fiorino turned red the irises flowering in the fields and that was the origin of the symbol of Florence, the red fleur de lys.

It is just a legend and surely no king with that name ever ruled Florence. But the links with the historical fate of King Radagaisus are evident and the legend might well be a garbled rendition of the ancient battle of Faesulae. After all, many of the defeated Goths must have remained in the area around the valley, either as slaves or fugitives. A little of their blood may well still be with us, today.

For more information about the tumultuous 5th century and the characters of the time, you can give a look at my article on Empress Galla Placidia "Chemistry of an Empire"

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Daenerys Targaryen: the Return of the Goddess

Daenerys Targaryen is, no doubt, one of the most interesting characters of the TV series "the Game of Thrones." An assertive, dominating queen portraited in a positive light; a character that would have been inconceivable in the fiction of just some decades ago. Something seems to be changing in the human mindscape.

The article by Gunnar Bjornson reproduced below (from "Katehon") reflects this mindscape change. It is dedicated to exploring the idea that some of the themes of "The Game of Thrones" are influenced by a return of the Goddess in the mindsphere; a creature that he identifies as "Cybele", the Graeco-Roman version. 

This article is highly questionable in several respects; not the least one that of dividing the human views of the world into three well-defined categories, inspired to Apollo, Dyonisius, and Cybele. It is a much more complex story than that and this kind of forcing the narrative into categories often has quite some problems in maintaining even a minimum contact with reality: See, for instance this sentence: 

The Logos of Cybele thus concerns materialism, the dominance of the female over male, progressivism (development from highest to lowest), linear time, and the possession of wealth as the sole purpose of life.

Hmmm.... did I say "highly questionable?" Yes, I did. Yet, I thought that it was worth reproducing this piece in the "Chimera Myth" blog, where I have often discussed the theme of the Goddess



Gunnar Bjornson

The sixth season of the popular fantasy saga "Game of Thrones" has concluded. True fans are worrying about the events of the last 10 episodes. The series has turned out to be surprisingly successful, with a both sudden and drastic development of story lines and in terms of the actors' performances and music and special effects. But most importantly, the last season demonstrates the triumph of well-defined archetypes underlying modern Western civilization. Perhaps not a single piece of recent popular culture has revealed this so vividly as “Game of Thrones.” Thus, it is necessary to turn once again to the mythology and philosophy of this popular show.

The victory of women

One of the most important results of the storyline at the end of the sixth season is the triumph of the female characters in the saga. Cersei Lannister takes the Iron Throne of Westeros and kills all of her opponents. In the kingdom of Dorn as well, all power goes to women. Having killed ruler Prince Doran Martell and his cousin, Ellara Sand declares that the government no longer "belongs to weak men." In the North, Sansa Stark makes a decisive contribution to the victory over Ramsey Bolton. Arya Stark begins to implement her plan of revenge and stabs Walder Frey. On the Iron Islands, the lesbian Yara Greyjoy aims to become the first woman on the throne, and then joins Deyneris Targaryen, another strong woman who seeks to conquer the whole of Westeros. Both Dorn and the House of Tyrell, which is also headed by a woman, Olenna Tyrell, are ready to join Deyneris. And even Northern lords are humiliated by young Lady Mormont.

The unconditional domination of the feminine is thus the main feature of the sixth season. Male characters go by the wayside in a context of female domination. In medieval surroundings, an entirely strange picture is recreated. Of course, the European Middle Ages knew the reign of Queens. But not on this scale. The Middle Ages were foremost the era of the dominance of patriarchal relations and the male heroic type.

The rise of power-hungry women in the series is clearly consistent with the trends of real politics. Hillary Clinton, in the country where the series is produced, enjoys the sympathy of its creators. However, it is not only in this way that the series’ authors are trying to promote Clinton. Rather, there is another reason tied to the working of myths.

European society ceased to be the Christian one of the Middle Ages when it became “modern.” The modern world triumphed because it killed, crucified, and subjected directly to genocide (as in Ireland and the Vendee) the “old order,” the spirit of the old patriarchal-aristocratic and traditional Europe. Because of this, any clash between modernity in the Middle Ages is always hysterical. In this feminine hysteria, modernity reveals its true nature.


The series, like any other product of mass culture that works with images of the past, projects such on current trends. Romantic and unnatural surroundings are made more brighter and more visible than they are in real life. Gynecocracy, or women's dominance, is a feature unnatural to patriarchal Indo-European civilization, and especially for the type of thinking that dominated the historical era of the Middle Ages. This thinking was based on the celestial Apollonian philosophy of Platonism, which was adopted by Christianity. In its origins, it was based on the domination of celestial male deities over the chthonic creatures of Mother Earth (Titanomachy and Gigantomachy of ancient mythology) and the paternal principle over the mother’s one, heaven over earth and the chthonic, a priority that in religious and philosophical systems was given to the idea of the world. This was characteristic of the Indo-European worldview before the adoption of Christianity. The dominance of spirit over body, hierarchy, discipline, duty, sacrifice, honor, order, tradition, faith, and patriarchal family were the principles inherent to this particular civilization of true Europe.

On the contrary, matriarchal traits, such as the dominance of earthly sensuality and material wealth, were always associated with women in Indo-European families and cults. This, together with the legalization of every form of perversion and degeneracy, a distinctive feature of modern times in Europe, broke with traditional institutions. The famous traditionalist philosopher Julius Evola noted that the modern civilization of the West is based on the ideas which the ancient Indo-Europeans attributed to the feminine principle:

With the advent of democracy, the proclamation of 'immortal principles’, the 'rights of man and citizen’, and the subsequent development of these 'conquests' in Europe into Marxism and Communism, it is exactly the 'natural right', the leveling and anti-aristocratic law of the Mother, that the West has dug up, renouncing any ‘solar', virile Aryan value and confirming, with the omnipotence so often granted to the collectivist element, the ancient irrelevance of the individual to the 'telluric' conception.

Three Logoi

The contemporary Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin, in his complex project “Noomahy", (“war of minds” in Greek) offers an interesting interpretive model in which he reviews the structure of the three fundamental paradigms of thought corresponding to the three types of philosophy, religion, mythology, ritual, symbolism, epistemology and anthropology, which correspond to three mythological figures from Greek mythology: Apollo, Dionysus and Cybele.

The Apollonian Logos is related to Platonism and the traditional Indo-European solar theme. It emphasizes eternity, heaven, the paternal, and the spiritual, as opposed to the earthly, temporal, maternal, and material. This paradigm of thought states that only the divine and celestial, for example Platonic ideas, really exist. The world, as the organized cosmos, has a hierarchical structure which is aimed at the apophatic horizon of the inaccessible One. In politics, such a logos preaches monarchy, the reign of the philosophers, the idea of an eternal empire, hierarchy and caste society.

The Dionysian Logos is that of mysteries, battle and marriage, death and resurrection, the interpenetration of earth and heaven, earth’s subordination to the heavens, and the soul reigning over body, as form over matter. This is the philosophy of Aristotle, the metaphysics of the Son in Christianity, and Catholic Thomism. In politics, this is the idea of the imperial, eschatological savior king. It entails a distinctly messianic eschatology.

The Logos of Cybele, named after the Goddess of Asia Minor, is a matriarchal cult of the Great Mother, the Earth, believed to generate all. This is the idea of the material origin of things and the solely material nature of the world. This is the philosophy of Epicurus and Democritus, the ancient materialists, and the ideas of the Roman Titus Lucretius Carus of the evolution of species and the spontaneous generation of life from Mother Earth.

In fact, this logos is an extrapolation of the ancient feminine chthonic myths that have since become the axioms of modern science. These were chtonic cults where the dogmas of modern science first originated. The is the dominant Logos in modern times which manifests itself in the form of scientific thinking. At the same time, however, it is still an archaic mythology inherent to pre-Indo-European ethnic groups in Europe. The Logos of Cybele thus concerns materialism, the dominance of the female over male, progressivism (development from highest to lowest), linear time, and the possession of wealth as the sole purpose of life.

The religious centers of the matriarchal goddesses, such as the temple of Artemis in Ephesus, served as the first banking centers. The Greek philosopher and atomist Democritus was one of the first to put into practice the method of speculation and considered democracy to be the ideal political system (Plato and Aristotle considered it to be the worst). The same Democritus blinded himself in order to refrain from looking at women, a fact which resembles the ritual self-castration of the priests of Cybele in Asia Minor.

The Face of Cybele

Democracy, progressivism, evolutionism, feminism, egalitarianism and the destruction of traditional hierarchies, the revolt against the gods, gender ideology, atomism, materialism, capitalism - all of these ideas are very archaic phenomena that have become modern only because Europe chose them in the early modern period and abandoned its former identity. These are in fact integral elements of the cult of the Great Mother. And the further we are from the historical Middle Ages, the more the ancient goddess veils her face under the guise of modernity.

And in Game of Thrones, the Gestalt of Cybele is extremely open. One of the key characters of the series, Princess Daeyneris Targaryen, embodies this archetype more than any other character. Let us recall that the Great Mother (Cybele, Rhea, Ishtar) in Greek, Asia Minor’s and Semitic mythologies is surrounded by chthonic monsters. Her priests practiced ritual castration and, in addition to the court of monsters and eunuchs, there were also dwarfs. Throughout the whole story, Deyneris is accompanied by chthonic monsters, dragons, to which she refers as to her children, and she is worshipped by an army of castrated slaves. Other male characters finally come to Cybele-Deyneris having experienced the act of castration, such as the eunuch Varys and Tyrion Greyjoy, whose sister Yara is also an embodiment of the archetype of the insurgent Cybele.

Naturally, the only dwarf in the series, Tyrion Lannister, is also in the end included in the court of Daeyneris. She destroys social hierarchy in the conquered cities, eradicates slavery and introduces election management insisting on equality and multicultural democracy. The egalitarian masses proclaim her to be “Mother" (Misa). As the Mother of Dragons and mother of rebellious slaves, it is is symbolic that the Phrygian cap, the headdress of Cybele’s lover Attis, became a symbol of the rebel slaves in Rome, and then the symbol of the French Revolution.

The main centers of Cybele’s cult were located in Asia Minor. Coincidentally, in these cults was the culture and geographical design of the continent of Essos, where Daeyneris begins the invasion of Westeros, which resembles ancient Asia Minor. Thus, her war is a war of Cybele’s Logos destined to conquer Europe and suppress all the remains of old traditional order.

Of course, she is not the only embodiment of this principle. Other facets of the archetype of Cybele are revealed in the character of Cersei Lannister who creates children from sexual relations with her own twin brother, the person most biologically identical to herself. In this can be seen the myth of parthenogenesis, the birth of Mother Earth’s children by and out of herself. They are destined to fail and be killed as are many of the creatures of the earth like the numerous offspring of the goddess Gaia in the Greek myths of the Olympic gods. Everything that she likes is associated with death since her love is insatiable and proprietary and killing is the love of Cybele. It is this archetype which leads those she loves (like her lover Attis) to their death.

In modern mass culture, we see the resurgence of ancient myths earlier veiled by the hypnosis of scientific thought, rationality or “common sense.” But, as the prominent German conservative and specialist in Greek mythology, Friedrich Georg Junger, said, when the gods are gone, the titans occupy their place.

Rejecting the celestial spirituality of Christianity, the West was doomed to chthonic matriarchal cults and to the resurgence of ancient mythical figures in its imagination. Cybele’s trend in Game of the Thrones is just one example of the changing gender mythology of the West which is renouncing its masculinity in psychological self-castration. From imagination, this will turn into real politics to the point that we will soon see the deadly incarnation of the bloody goddess enthroned.


Catastrophe is the fate of the titans, the sons of Gaia, just as it is her own. The catastrophic absence of a “happy ending” is a distinct feature of Game of Thrones. The series’ credibility and success is largely due to the fact that the authors allow the myth to work. The myth of female domination and titanic power, as the above-mentioned Friedrich Georg J√ľnger noted, is inevitably linked with the prospects of disaster and catastrophe. The Greek word for catastrophe literally means to turn to the bottom, to matter and the Great Mother. The disaster awaits those who stand on the side of chthonic power, who follow their passions, and stand in the ranks of the army of titans. Their lack of the harmony given by God to the world will be punished. The disaster is always present where there is an immoderate desire for power. Another leitmotif of Game of Thrones. In the world of Game of Thrones, the Middle Ages without Christ, there is no other possible outcome than one of total destruction. The imaginary world of the West shares the fate of and projects the future of the real world.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Eyes of the Goddess: The Secret of Red Catherine

It all starts with this painting: Caterina Rossa  (Red Catherine) painted by the Neapolitan master Giovanni Ricca, probably around 1630. I saw it in Naples, a few months ago, and Caterina has been lingering in my mind ever since.

Now, when something makes this effect on you, it means that there is some meaning that you can't catch exactly, but it is there. So, I set Caterina's face as the screen background of my PC and I kept looking at it every day. I knew that, at some moment, Caterina would speak to me and tell me her secret. 

And she did. In part, the dark/white dichotomy of her face immediately hinted at the Moon Goddess. But there was more, it was not just a dark/white face that was staring at me. Penetrating that secret took longer, but I think that now I have it, although maybe not completely, yet. But something went through. 

The flash came a few days ago when I was visiting a museum that exhibited some medieval Madonnas. I looked at them, and the face of Red Catherina flashed in my mind; why that? And then I had it: the elongated eyes; a typical feature of Medieval Madonnas. Look at this one by Giotto. (ca. 1320, National Gallery, Washington D.C.) 

Not all Madonnas painted by Giotto have these elongated eyes, but several do and, in general, you can often find this kind of eyes in many Medieval paintings. Note also how  that these slant eyes are typical of female figures: male figures of saints and prophets normally have round eyes. 

It may well be that Giovanni Ricca was inspired by Giotto or by some other Medieval image when he painted her wife as such a richly symbolic figure. Yet, that leaves a question open. Why those elongated eyes in Medieval Art? Well, it turns out that they are a characteristic of Byzantine art, too, the main source of inspiration for Medieval Art. Also there, not all Madonnas have elongated eyes, but several do. Here is, as an example, the Theotokos of Vladimir, the much venerated Vladimirskaya, created by a byzantine medieval painter. 

So, there is a thread from Ricca, to Giotto, to the unknown author of the Vladimirskaya. But where is the thread leading us to? I toured ancient Roman and Greek art, but I didn't really find faces with elongated eyes. But, if we go further back, to Etruscan art, well, there is something. Here is the sarcophagus of the spouses, (Villa Giulia, Rome)

Look at how the woman has elongated, nearly elvish eyes. Also, the man has somewhat elongated eyes, but much less. Did that Etruscan guy marry a girl from China? Not very likely. That's not supposed to be a realistic portrait; it is an iconographic convention that had some meaning for the ancient Etruscans, although nowadays it escapes us. And here, too, women have elongated eyes, but not men.  

If we keep going backward in time, we may get to something even more interesting: here is the Venus or Lady of Brassempouy, the Lady in the Hood, from Aquitaine, is a fragmentary figurine made from a tusk or mammoth ivory from the Upper Palaeolithic and about 25,000 years old, possibly the earliest representation of a human face we have.

Did the people of 25,000 years ago have the epicanthic fold that we often define as "slant eyes"? Perhaps. They lived during an ice age and the epicanthic fold is supposed to be an adaptation to cold wind and snow. So, could it be that when Giovanni Ricca painted Red Catherine he was influenced by an iconographic element that originated during the last ice age? Maybe; but I think there is more. Much more. 

Now, take a look at this, one of the female figurines found in Ubaid, in Mesopotamia, that go back to 7000 years ago. 

Now, these are slant eyes! And if you look at the few male figurines found in Ubaid, they have different eyes, not round, but not so elongated, either. So, the conclusion is that the Goddess has slant eyes because those are the eyes of a snake. The goddess is a snake. What that means still escapes me, but it casts the Biblical legend of Eden in a completely different light. Eve and the serpent, actually, were the same person. It was the Moon Goddess that disappeared from human consciousness for millennia, but that somehow resurfaced in the face of a Neapolitan woman named "Caterina la Rossa" who lived during the 17th century and who was so splendidly painted by her husband, Giovanni Ricca. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tearing apart the veil of lies: Yelena Isinbayeva speaks

Yelena Isinbayeva, Russian pole vaulting champion, speaks out after having been excluded from the Olympic Games in Rio. 

We are so used to being lied at in TV that we tend to classify as "lies" anything and everything we hear and see on a screen. Several people have reacted in this way to this video of Yelena Isinbayeva, Russian Olympic champion, who was overwhelmed by emotion during her speech. "It is a piece of theater," some said in the comments. "It is just to hide her guilt." 

Allow me to think otherwise. I can't believe that this is theater; this is not lying, it cannot be. This woman is speaking the truth, she is speaking from her heart, she is genuinely showing her feelings for her team having been unjustly discriminated for political reasons. That's what you would expect from someone who is the daughter of a plumber and of a shop assistant and who surely was never trained on how to be a politician. 

And about accusing her of doping, that's the silliest thing I can imagine. Doping is a plague in sport, yes, but it is mainly done to improve endurance in sports such as swimming or cycling. But pole vaulting doesn't require brutal endurance, it requires skill, intelligence, concentration, control, and grace. And, of this last quality, this woman has plenty. Look at her, jumping toward the sky.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

God is a girl: homage to Yelena Isinbayeva

If God is really a girl, She must look a little like Yelena Isinbayeva: Russian pole vaulting champion.

And if God is a girl, hell is the place reserved for the idiots who didn't want her to participate in the Brazilian Olympics!

Friday, July 29, 2016

The beauty of the human body

Yelena Isinbayeva: Russian pole vault champion. This clip doesn't really require comments; just watch it! But note how the idiotic politicized bureaucrats who run the Olympic committees forbade this woman from participating in the Brazilian Olympic games. Which is just as well; they don't deserve her. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Moon Goddess

The Goddess goes through many cycles of varied lengths, and She returns over and over in many forms. Here, She appears in a painting by the Neapolitan master Giovanni Ricca, probably made around 1630.

Note the play of light and shadows on the face of this beautiful woman - reminding those of the half moon. The human features of this image are, probably, those of Ricca's wife, Caterina Rossa ("Red Catherine") as she appears in a red dress in the full painting. But she is just an avatar of the true Goddess.

If you ever thought that Baroque painting was all about mannerism, think it over. If you think that no Baroque master could emulate the master of them all, Caravaggio, think it over. This is a painting that, alone, can justify the existence of the human species as it evolved in order to, eventually, produce it.

But women partake the nature of the Moon Goddess in many forms, and sometimes you don't even need a master painter to see it appear, as it does in this image of Ugo Bardi's daughter, Donata, photographed in 2016 at the Escher Museum in Delft, Holland.