At the Gates

Meet me at the gates, Lord,
And we shall meet them.
I shall bear your spear, Oxos,
And together we shall pierce them.
No strength shall avail them to us,
And they shall be laid low,
An offering to smoke at your feet,
Their gore to adorn your shield.
We shall meet them at the gates, oh Ares,
And a great cry shall go out,
And the earth herself will tremble,
For no blade on the plain shall be left unslaked
The earth shall be made quick with their blood,
And their fear at our countenance shall forever stain the field,
And we shall spill from the gates, Andreiphontes,
And each soul shall be an offering.
Let no man be still,
Let him be filled with your fury, oh Theritas.
Let them rush as a wave for the boatman’s care, and let hades host them in the twilight.
Meet me at the gates, you lion-hearted god,
And men shall sing our hymn forever more!

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Brainstorming Festival Ideas

In light of my goal to create a new festival calendar, I’ve been brainstorming ideas for festivals and thought I might share a few. This is by no means a complete list, and some a more personal than others, and some are more historical while others are more UPG/mimicry of could have been.

The Lesser Aresia or Antibiannia (Unbinding)–this festival involving Ares, Hermes, and Dike is the opposite of my previously created Greater Aresia festival, and celebrates the opening of the campaign season and unleashing Ares to war. It will echo the Greater festival in reverse order, and include war blessings and such. While hardly any evidence exists for such a festival in Greece, an annual binding ritual implies an annual unbinding, and the Romans explicitly practiced a festival like this in which the iron gates of Mars’ temple were thrust open as the army marched out to begin the campaign.

The Xenia Festival–this festival would commemorate the accomplishments of community members and would occur on July 1st in remembrance of many of us who came together for Silent July. It would include offerings to Zeus Xenios and Zeus Philios to strengthen and watch over our communal bonds.

The Basilia/Tyrania–this festival reflects my own political aspirations/hopes for my country, and would celebrate Zeus Basilios as supreme king and beseech him to grant kings to the nations of the world. I plan on placing this festival on the Demokratia as my own cheeky way of giving the Ancient Athenians the bird.

The Enyalia–this is an ancient festival from Salamis celebrating Ares for victory during the marine invasion of a Persian encampment while the Athenian navy attacked the Persian fleet.

Untitled Festival–I’m not sure what to call this festival, but in keeping with my Laconophilia, I want to commemorate the victory of the Pelopponessian League over the Delian league and the hero-general Lysander. I was thinking of making this an event marked by ceremonial battle between Ares (to represent Sparta & the PL) and Athene (to represent Athens and the DL), finishing with a victorious but reconcillitory Ares after the manner of Lysander, who chose not to destroy Athens like his Theban and Corinthian allies wanted. I may also turn this into a three-day festival, with the above occurring on one day, a re-enactment of the victory of Athene over Ares in the Iliad and Theuseus’ victory over the Amazones another, and yet another showing their support of each other in the war against the titans. I’m not sure yet.

Areia–kind of the opposite to the last festival, this festival is a partial reconstruction of one held in the Athenian deme of Acharnai, in which the new Ephebes would take their oath at Athene’s altar, have a procession to the altar of Ares and Aglauros, and repeat their oath there. Little is known about this festival, but I think I might place it either near the Athenian new year (as this was probably the historic time) or near/on Veteran’s day. It’s a day meant to celebrate soldiers, and I plan to emphasize it.

Untitled Festival II–I’m not sure where to place this one (maybe Memorial Day), but I think there should be a festival celebrating the gods and heroes who fought the Trojan War and perhaps other mythic wars, like Dionysos’ campaign against India, the conquests of the Amazones, etc.

Some of the less-developed ideas I have include celebrating the relationship of Ares and Aphrodite (including offerings of apology to Hephaestos), the deaths of Julian and Alexander, the deaths or anniversaries of other important figures and battles like Patton and the Battle of Thermopylae, and maybe the service birthdays. That’s all I really have for now. None of them have real set dates, rituals, prayers, etc. written yet, so I’ll keep everyone informed if they’re interested. In the meantime, Hail Ares!

Trivia!

For fun, I’ve decided that I am going to start doing trivia on the Aspis of Ares Facebook page, so of you’re on Facebook, please join us for some good times!

Topics will include factoids about famous warriors, battles, Aresian mythology and cult, as well as gee-whiz tidbits relating to the same. For instance, yesterday’s question was to name the only US president to serve on the battlefield during his term. Go “like” the page to find out the answer!

War Stories

So it’s been a while since my last post, and I apologize. School and such can get in the way, as can writer’s block. Thankfully, the imminent deployment of one of my Facebook homies to my old AO has me reminiscing on the good old days, so I thought I’d share (as much as is prudent) the story of my first major battle operation in Afghanistan.

It was Feb 2010, and I had pretty much just finished qualifying after my on-the-job training. We were getting ready to launch an offensive in Afghanistan that my commander called “one of those iconic Marine battles that they write books about” and “our Fallujah”. It was gonna be huge. The Taliban had set up in this little village called Marjeh and was using it as a hub to direct their ops, and the Marines were to go in, kick their ass, and install a new government. The Brits and Marines surrounded the town and dropped leaflets warning all the civies that we were gonna mess up the town, so they better hide or get out while the getting was good.

My job was to help prep the battlespace and keep watch over the Marines. The Taliban had mined the entire area, so everyone was on IED lookout. We were running double missions and collecting more info than could fit in a few books. To make things even more entertaining, we had Marine observers (who wanted to know how we got things done to improve comms in the future) and our imagery guys were also running humanitarian ops for the Haitian  earthquake. We processed so many reports and images I can hardly remember if I ever went off-line. It was as close as I could get to a baptism by fire.

Marjeh was also my first look at operational (and eventually strategic) stalemate. While the op was tactically successful (we only lost just more than 60 ISAF personnel), and we forced out most of the Taliban, Marjeh eventually became what Gen. McChrystal called a “bleeding ulcer”, as the Taliban simply moved on to form new hubs. It was disappointing, and the new Marjeh government was stagnating. Of course, pressure was on the intel guys to hunt everyone down, but being the nature of war, we couldn’t find everyone. Eventually, the area died down as we shifted focus to other areas.

All-in-all, it was an eye-opening experience for me. I learned how to multitask like a boss and stay calm in the face of overwhelming sensory overload, and I also learned that despite the in-theater gripes, the Marines did appreciate the work intel does for them. Sometimes I miss the pace of the offensive; nothing in the civilian world quite compares to the pressure. I definitely see, looking back, how some people just enjoy the thrill of it all; I did.

Saying that, I can see why Ares enjoys battle, too. Even if you lose (which we kind of did), it’s an almost ineffable feeling. I’d almost compare it to sex; it can be exhilarating or awful, there’s all this pressure to perform, you never quite know how good it’s going to be, and afterward, it’s mostly indescribable. Maybe that’s one reason Ares is paired so well with Aphrodite (and why they say all is fair in love and war). It may not be the best analogy, but there you have it. Hail Ares! May he bless my brothers and sister who served in that battle, and may those about to deploy carry with them the sharp spear of the War God.

Surrounded by Spartoi

If you’ve read my blog more than once, you’re probably familiar with the Spartoi, warriors who spring from the ground fully formed. They are children of Ares, and are often savage and single-minded. Little did you know, you are surrounded by spartoi every day. I am talking, of course, about ants.

Yes, you heard me correctly. I said ants. Ants are fascinating creatures. Their societies are highly organized with a queen at the top, followed by a soldier class, and finally the workers. They never see the earth’s surface until they are fully grown, and are one of the few species on earth known to go to war. Using some believe is a sophisticated hive mind, entire armies of ants scour entire regions looking for resources, fighting anything that gets in their way.

One species of ant, the Argentine ant, are very similar in behavior to humans. They are prolific colonizers, having colonized every continent but Antarctica (the irony is in the name, is it not?). Much like man, the Argentine ant recognises its own colonies, but becomes aggressive to native species and minority groups of Argentine ants. Ants are also one of the few creatures on earth that will enslave or domesticate other creatures. They can also cultivate certain species of fungus as a crop.

Much like the Spartans, the Slavemaker ants only produce soldiers. To get the needed workforce to care for their queen, young, and retrieve foodstuffs, Slavemaker ants will send a strike team into the colony of another ant species and slaughter all the adults. Then, they take the larva from the nurseries and enslave the ants that develop from them. The Slavemaker queen fools these younglings by faking her own death so that she will be led to the enemy queen. She then slaughters the enemy and bathes in her goo, picking up her pheromones. Here’s a video of them:

 

Interestingly, however, is the fact that while ants are not directly tied to Ares in myth, the Greek word for ant, μυρμηκεσ (murmekes), is where we get the word Myrmidon from. Yes, the legendary band led by the hero Achilles are in fact named for/created from ants. The story goes that Zeus created the Myrmidons for his son Aeacus to rule over on the island of Aegina.

So yeah, ants are pretty cool. Hail Ares!

Amphiareos

So I’m re-reading Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes, and I’ve found myself quite interested in one character in particular: Amphiareos. He is an ally of Polynices, brother of the chief protagonist, Eteocles. He is also King of Argos.

His name means something akin to “doubly Ares”, or “twice cursed” (both “Ares” and “curse” take their root from AR-A/E, “to harm”). He is a successful warlord and renown oracle/seer. His character intrigues me because of his seership and the possible source for this power. Wikipedia (dubious, ,I know) has it attributed to Zeus or Apollon, both of whom championed Amphiareos. My hypothesis, however, is that Amphiareos   is actually an oracle of Ares.

This can be a contentious claim. Both Zeus and Apollon are oracular deities, and it would make sense that any oracular ability would stem from them. However, given that Ares is also an oracular deity, specifically one which concerns himself with the affairs of war, national security, and justice (especially from the perspective of Aeschylus), it can logically follow that this power can stem from Ares.

More specifically, it is the words and demeanor of Amphiareos (not to mention the etymology of his name) that leads me to this hypothesis. Railing against Tydeus, whom Amphiareos accuses of goading him to war, he declares,

“Murderer, maker of unrest in the city, principal teacher of evils to the Argives, summoner of vengeance’s Curse, servant of Slaughter, [575] counselor to Adrastus in these evil plans.”

I think, given Aeschylus’ penchant for Ares in this play, as well as the allusion to Ares as the curse both early in the play (Line 70, meant to foreshadow) and later on the shield of Polynices, it is possible in my mind that he is also addressing Ares. Many of the elements integral Ares’ epithets are present, i.e. Murderer, Summoner of vengeance’s Curse (Ares is often paired, at least in Aeschylus’ plays, with the Erinyes), and Maker of Unrest (Ares as a god of civil strife).

Amphiarios’ death was pretty epic, too. Chased away on his chariot, Zeus struck the ground before him and he was all swallowed up. The most interesting thing, in my mind, is that this is the exact opposite of the birth of the Spartoi of Thebes, who sprang up from the earth and founded the dynasties of Thebes with Cadmus. I can’t help but feel that this, though it is contained in Apollodoros’ account, is almost more Aresian than Zeus-related.

Anyway, those are just some of my musings on the subject. I’m sure I could be reading too much into things and of course showing my bias, but it’s fun to think about nonetheless. Hail Ares!

The Black Hawk Down Incident, or Battle for Mogadishu

This post is about two weeks late, but we have now passed the 19th anniversary of the First Battle of Mogadishu, better known to most as the Black Hawk Down incident, of which a famous movie was made directed by Jerry Bruckheimer. In all, UN figures claim 20 Allied KIA and 700+ Somali KIA.

There are two men in particular I wanted to talk about in this post, men who Homer would title the Scions of Ares: Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart.

Both men were assigned to the First Special Operations Operational Detachment – Delta (Delta Force) and were providing sniper support for Operation Gothic Serpent, meant to capture key supporters in the army of General Adid, a Somali warlord operating out of the capital of Mogadishu. During the assault on a compound harboring high value targets, two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down: call-signs Super 6-1 and Super 6-4.

While Army Rangers worked to recover the dead and wounded at the Super 6-1 crash site, sergeants Gordon and Shughart went to provide cover for the wounded at the Super 6-4 site. Gordon requested a drop at the site, though he was initially denied permission to engage on the ground. After arguing with the command, Gordon received permission to insert and he and Shughart set up defensive positions around the downed helicopter. Their third partner, SFC Hallings, manned a minigun from above until his weapon ran dry and the helicopter was forced to leave. Both snipers were killed as an overwhelming force of Somali militia entered the combat zone, eventually capturing the pilot, CWO Mike Durant.

For their actions, both Gordon and Shughart were posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart. Despite their actions and the success of Operation Gothic Serpent, public opinion went against the actions in Somalia, and the UN and US was forced to abandon the country in March of 1994.

The following is the citation for MSgt Gordon, signed by President Clinton on May 23, 1994:

Master Sergeant Gordon, United States Army, distinguished himself by actions above and beyond the call of duty on 3 October 1993, while serving as Sniper Team Leader, United States Army Special Operations Command with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia. Master Sergeant Gordon’s sniper team provided precision fire from the lead helicopter during an assault and at two helicopter crash sites, while subjected to intense automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fires. When Master Sergeant Gordon learned that ground forces were not immediately available to secure the second crash site, he and another sniper unhesitatingly volunteered to be inserted to protect the four critically wounded personnel, despite being well aware of the growing number of enemy personnel closing in on the site. After his third request to be inserted, Master Sergeant Gordon received permission to perform his volunteer mission. When debris and enemy ground fires at the site caused them to abort the first attempt, Master Sergeant Gordon was inserted one hundred meters south of the crash site. Equipped with only his sniper rifle and a pistol, Master Sergeant Gordon and his fellow sniper, while under intense small arms fire from the enemy, fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured crew members. Master Sergeant Gordon immediately pulled the pilot and the other crew members from the aircraft, establishing a perimeter which placed him and his fellow sniper in the most vulnerable position. Master Sergeant Gordon used his long-range rifle and side arm to kill an undetermined number of attackers until he depleted his ammunition. Master Sergeant Gordon then went back to the wreckage, recovering some of the crew’s weapons and ammunition. Despite the fact that he was critically low on ammunition, he provided some of it to the dazed pilot and then radioed for help. Master Sergeant Gordon continued to travel the perimeter, protecting the downed crew. After his team member was fatally wounded and his own rifle ammunition exhausted, Master Sergeant Gordon returned to the wreckage, recovering a rifle with the last five rounds of ammunition and gave it to the pilot with the words, “good luck.” Then, armed only with his pistol, Master Sergeant Gordon continued to fight until he was fatally wounded. His actions saved the pilot’s life. Master Sergeant Gordon’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest standards of military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit and the United States Army.

 

The following is the citation for SFC Shughart, also signed 23 May, 1994:

Sergeant First Class Shughart, United States Army, distinguished himself by actions above and beyond the call of duty on 3 October 1993, while serving as a Sniper Team Member, United States Army Special Operations Command with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia. Sergeant First Class Shughart provided precision sniper fires from the lead helicopter during an assault on a building and at two helicopter crash sites, while subjected to intense automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fires. While providing critical suppressive fires at the second crash site, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader learned that ground forces were not immediately available to secure the site. Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader unhesitatingly volunteered to be inserted to protect the four critically wounded personnel, despite being well aware of the growing number of enemy personnel closing in on the site. After their third request to be inserted, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader received permission to perform this volunteer mission. When debris and enemy ground fires at the site caused them to abort the first attempt, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader were inserted one hundred meters south of the crash site. Equipped with only his sniper rifle and a pistol, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader, while under intense fire from the enemy, fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured crew members. Sergeant First Class Shughart pulled the pilot and the other crew members from the aircraft, establishing a perimeter which placed him and his fellow sniper in the most vulnerable position. Sergeant First Class Shughart used his long-range rifle and side arm to kill an undetermined number of attackers while traveling the perimeter, protecting the downed crew. Sergeant First Class Shughart continued his protective fire until he depleted his ammunition and was fatally wounded. His actions saved the pilot’s life. Sergeant First Class Shughart’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest standards of military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit and the United States Army.

 

These men, as well as the men they served alongside, were true scions of Ares. Like Ares, they fought unrelentingly to protect their fellow soldiers while attempting to destroy the enemy. Keep them in your thoughts this October, and Hail Ares.