Athena Emplaced As The Great Protectress Upon Macedonian Royal Armour [ Arte-Facts #15 ]

It is FRIDAY – Devi’s Day ! And therefore, as has become our custom … a beautiful presentation of Her.

In this case, via the apotropaic Athena plate that is found on the side of this seriously impressive Macedonian armour – unearthed in the Royal Tombs at Vergina ( Aigai ) … and generally thought to have been that of Philip II himself!

Now, there are several points to be made here – but we shall start with the pretty straightforward matters of material composition afore moving onto the religious purpose emplaced here.

The armour itself is ceremonial – particularly the rather immense shield, which bears some seriously, seriously impressive iconography that we may perhaps return to explore at some later time. Its major composition is iron – hence why it has rusted to its present colouration as can be seen on the Thorax and Helmet; whilst the gold has remained much as it was.

There are also a pair of bronze greaves (one slightly different to the other – likely to accommodate an old war wound), and what would have been a sword in its wooden scabbard had not the wood rotted away to leave only the gold-and-ivory fixtures to remain.

most of these images sourced from the Herakles Cithare twitter account

Now, to return to Athena’s prominence here – we note that this is on the right side of the Thorax. This is important, as it is the side of the armour – and the wearer’s body – that is NOT protected by the suitably immense shield. It is, therefore, something of a vulnerable spot. And so that is also where the protection is thusly to be strongest.

What manner of protection is this? The Goddess Herself.

How can we tell? Not simply because of the obvious iconographic saliency of Her in gold plate thereupon.

But due to the comparative Indo-European theology of the Mat(t)er.

How can we tell? Not simply because of the obvious iconographic saliency of Her in gold plate thereupon.

But due to the comparative Indo-European theology of the Mat(t)er.

We have observed that in various Indo-European spheres, the Goddess is asked to do two things in relation to a human ruler.

They empower him, they make him both mighty and sovereign (and we shall, perhaps, post a brief piece on this at some point in the future in addition to our previous work); and the Goddess is also called upon to protect him.

As applies the former, we observe the situation elucidated in the famed Rabatak Inscription of the Kushan (interestingly, written in Greek script) – wherein the Emperor Kanishka is said to have been given his power and station by the Goddess Nana, Umma. We also observe those situations of Devi’s invocation in coronation rites more ‘closer in’ to the core of the orthodox Hindusphere in India, as well.

Yet in terms of protection – well, we shall just quote a few Vedic verses via way of exceptionally brief illustration as to the latter:

AV VII 6:
“We call for help the Queen of Law and Order, Great Mother of all those whose ways are righteous,
Far-spread, unwasting strong in Her Dominion, Aditi wisely leading, well protecting.
[…]
Earth, our strong guard, incomparable Heaven, Aditi wisely leading, well protecting.
Let us bring hither, in pursuit of riches, Aditi with our Word, the Mighty Mother,
Her in whose lap the spacious air is lying: may She afford us triply-guarding shelter!”

RV VIII 47:
“8 Resting in You, O Gods, we are like men who fight in coats of mail.
Ye guard us from each great offence, ye guard us from each lighter fault.
9 May Aditi defend us, may Aditi guard and shelter us,
Mother of wealthy Mitra and of Aryaman and Varuṇa.
10 The shelter, Gods, that is secure, auspicious, free from malady,
A sure protection, triply strong, even that do Ye extend to us.”

RV VIII 56:
“10 And Thee too, O Great Aditi, Thee also, Goddess, I address,
Thee very gracious to assist.
11 Save us in depth and shallow from the foe, Thou Mother of Strong Sons
Let no one of our seed be harmed.”

RV VIII 18:
“4 With Gods come thou whose fostering care none checks, O Goddesss Aditi:
Come, dear to many, with the Lords who guard us well.
5 For well these Sons of Aditi know to keep enmities aloof,
Unrivalled, giving ample room, they save from woe.
6 Aditi guard our herd by day, Aditi, free from guile, by night,
Aditi, ever strengthening, save us from grief!
7 And in the day our hymn is this: May Aditi come nigh to help,
With loving-kindness bring us weal and chase our foes.”

White YV 21:
“5 We call to succour us the mighty Mother of those whose
sway is just, the Queen of Order,
Strong-ruler, far-expanding, ne’er decaying, Aditi gracious
guide and good protectress.
6 Sinless may we ascend, for weal, this vessel rowed with
good oars, divine, that never leaketh,
Earth our strong guard, incomparable Heaven. Aditi gracious
guide and good protectress.”

There are literal litanies of additional ritualistic invocation that we could further quote to elucidate our purpose here – but I think the point is made.

And lest it be thought that the notion of the Goddess as a ‘protector of men’ is something exclusively Vedic – or, perhaps, Indo-Iranian – we also have a whole series of occurrences in the Iliad of Athena doing just exactly that for Her Chosen. Men such as Diomedes and Achilles. I have quoted the relevant passages often enough wherein She turns aside otherwise-severe blows and empowers these most able of heroes to ever-further superhuman feats upon the field of war.

Without intending to get into the rather .. complex scenario of how this pertains to the relevant comparative Indo-European theology, we also feel it apt to provide brief mention for the figure of Hera Alexandros – that is to say, Hera the Protector (‘Alex-‘) of Men (‘-Andros’).

In any case, some absolutely beautiful armour – ‘Kavacham’ we may say in Sanskrit – and excellently evocative illustration of an Indo-European theological principle:

Namely, the Surest Defence is Devi !

Jai Mata Di !

2 thoughts on “Athena Emplaced As The Great Protectress Upon Macedonian Royal Armour [ Arte-Facts #15 ]

  1. Pingback: Athena Emplaced As The Great Protectress Upon Macedonian Royal Armour [ Arte-Facts #15 ] – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

  2. Pingback: Athena Emplaced As The Great Protectress Upon Macedonian Royal Armour [ Arte-Facts #15 ] — arya-akasha | Vermont Folk Troth

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