Consider the figure of Ajax the Lesser. Specifically in the context of his actions during and after the Sack of Troy. Here, we see a number of accounts attesting that Ajax (the Lesser) had sought booty of war by pillaging even into the Temple of Athena – grabbing hold of Cassandra, who had been taking refuge in sanctuary there, clinging in prostration before Her, and potentially even violating Cassandra within the bounds of the Temple itself!
This, understandably, left Athena *distinctly* displeased – for, in a manner *worse* than what is alluded to as having been *avoided* in the Gylfaginning account pertaining to Fenris which we have earlier encountered, the sanctity of the sacred space had been violated [potentially on multiple levels]; and the Divine Protection of the Goddess, had been insulted by the transgressor.
It is also mentioned in some accounts that Ajax (the lesser) may have damaged or caused to fall, the statue of Athena at the heart of the sanctum – a situation which, given the way in which a Murti works [and which appears to hold in an array of other Indo-European contexts, including a certain living statue of Freyr that we have mentioned previously; as well as, in this case, some accountings having the statue of Athena visibly express Her disgust at what was ensuing in front of Her], would be almost tantamount to striking at the Goddess, Herself! [And, indeed, we can see this entailed in several law-codes from the Germanic, the Hindu, and other Indo-European corpuses – wherein the penalties for such attacks against Murtis and Deific Representations, are rather *visible* deaths]
Odysseus, ever the perspicacious and insightful figure, and with an especial favouring of Athena, advised that Ajax (the lesser) be put to death via stoning forthwith. However, even in spite of the counsel of the seer Calchas, the assembled Greek leadership refused to take such corrective action.
This was because of Ajax’s seeking of sanctuary in the Temple of Athena (and, according to some accounts, making an oath protesting his innocence, invoking Her Name) – as the Greeks were themselves trepidacious about violating the sanctity of the sacred space by carrying out violence therein, or causing inadvertent damage to the shrine in the course of their dealing with Ajax.
This enraged Athena further, and lead to the consequent doom of many of the departing Greeks in storms and shipwrecks upon their way home.
So it is safe to say that the Greeks made rather decisively the *wrong* call in *not* carrying out sanction against Ajax (the lesser); even (and perhaps especially) given his seeking of sanctuary in Her sacred fane.
Now as this pertains to our unfurling mytho-ethical framework, this is interesting – as it tells us that a) the prohibition upon violence within the sacred space is a vitally important, and well-acknowledged ethical precept; but also that b) this is not, and cannot be an absolute. And that where a greater outrage would be committed or facilitated by *refraining* from carrying out sanction within or moving through the sanctuary in question, this prohibition is rendered a secondary consideration rather than an overriding prime.
Indeed, I would perhaps approach it slightly differently, if we were to take things back to appropriate first principles.
The core kernel of Piety and properly Pious Conduct, is the respect, honouring, worship of The Gods. It is therefore eminently understandable that a space important to Them, where They Are [Their House, after a sort – and indeed there is some rather direct and explicit theology around exactly this concept as applies Temples in Indo-European mythoreligion] should be regarded as Hallowed Ground (quite literally) – and similarly (but not identically) respected as a result.
But you see, the Greeks who were reluctant to enter the Athena sanctum in order to drag out Ajax, because it was a Holy Site wherein the Goddess could be found via Her Murti … were attempting to respect the *image* of the Goddess, and the accompanying *indirect* majesty of Her – at the rather direct expense and abjuration of abiding by Her *actual* and expressed [via Odysseus, but also Calchas] Will.
Or, in other words, they had let the image, and the secondary considerations attached to their piety, get in the way of the *primary purpose* and sine-qua-non expressive consideration thereof.
If the Goddess Tells you to go into Her Temple in order to drag out some malefic wrongdoer who is even now *defiling* the Shrine with his unctuous presence therein … you do not object to this, or pretend not to hear Her , simply because you are concerned about violating a custom set up, implicitly, to honour Her. Because then you are honouring the Custom – and saying that this is, via implication, higher even than your loyalty and your duty and your respect and devotion to Her.
And that, to reference a maxim of Benjamin Disraeli, would be a tangible example of a principle which has had the spark of essential animating fore leave it, and become ’embalmed’. A fitting metaphor, given that this is *also* the likely fate of those who willfully allow themselves to become ensnared by this kind of hide-bound doctrinaire laziness, and attempt to use this to eschew their rightful and proper duties as a result.
To deploy a further illustration – The Rev. Rolinson has mentioned a possibly somewhat apocryphal story of an Anglican clergyman with a reputation for being hung up upon pro-forma considerations. The minister was asked if he would allow Christ to preach in his church; the response came that yes, he would – but not to preside over Communion, as He [i.e. Christ] wasn’t ordained. A moment’s consideration should reveal both the obvious problem here, as well as the manner in which this example quite strongly pertains to what has just been said about the Greek example.
But to bring it back to our emerging ethical framework (with its high-falutin’ philosophical and jurisprudential terms), what we have here is interesting. Because while *on the face of things*, what we are presented with is a situation wherein ‘Consequentialist’ ethics are ‘allowed’ to temporarily ‘eclipse’ ‘Deontological’ ethics – i.e. the Divinely-desired outcome of Ajax being removed from the Temple, dead or alive (and then dead soon after) being a more important consideration than the in-that-specific-instance upholding of the sanctity of the sacred space through a lack of violence occurring therein … in fact, this is something of a paradox.
By which I mean, a *seeming* contradiction, which upon closer inspection turns out to actually be an essential *unity* instead.
For just as we mentioned towards the outset of this piece, one of the *significantly, vitally* important Duties, Rules, Laws of us as proper, pious, and moral Indo-Europeans – is adherence to the Divine Will, the Divine Command : The Ishvaran Imperative, at its in-universe apex.
So therefore, it is *decidedly deontological* to go in there and act as the right arm of vengeance upon Ajax (the lesser), almost no matter where it is that eh should chose to cower.
Now having said that, there *are* a number of further, and quite important corollaries and considerations which condition this above scenario, along with its accompanying ethical extraction.
The first, is the reminder that Rta/Orlog is a-priori and Above – not only to men, but also to Gods [although some Gods , in particular Lady Vac , are in-universe expressions of Same]. So therefore, while it is the case that following the Orders From On High , the High(est) Command, is itself *congruent* *in principle* with the Divine Law – there is limited scope for a ‘Nuremberg Defence’. As we see from an array of cases, it’s possible to follow a command (or, more likely, what the mortal *thinks* was the command), that is itself incongruous to a greater or lesser extent with the Divine Law … and get one’s self into quite some trouble as a fairly direct result.
Although it is *also*, as we shall soon see in our third example, a case that some transgressions are actually running on a *deepa* understanding and therefore expression *of* the Divine Law, and are therefore not to be axiomatically regarded , in their totality , as an undermining or usurping of same. It’s complex. Because of course it is. [There’s a not entirely dissimilar concept in many Anglosphere legal codes around ‘Colour of Right’, but that is an explication for another time]
Now as applies the more specific elements of this particular case, and how they may or may not then extrapolate out more broadly … it is probably important to note that the Temple which formed the scene of the crimes here, was an Athena one. And that Athena Herself was the Divinity regarded as having mandated the slaying of Ajax, even despite his therein being.
This matters, because while it is certainly the case that Athena could lift or otherwise relax the protections covering Her *Own* Sanctum precinct – if *another* Deity had attempted to do so, without attaining Her blessing and permission first, the results would likely be quite different. [And might result in somebody being subjected to an Extreme Makeover: Gorgon Edition … since that’s rather akin to what happened there. ]