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The Tetraktys Swastika

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    This sort of staff is crooked at one end, and is called lituus; they make use of it in

    quartering out the regions of the heavens when engaged in divination from the flights of

    birds; Romulus, who was himself a great diviner, made use of it.

    (Plutarch - Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans)


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    Ten is the very nature of number. All Greeks and all barbarians alike count up to ten,

    and having reached ten revert again to the unity. And again, Pythagoras maintains, the

    power of the number 10 lies in the number 4, the tetrad. This is the reason: if one starts

    at the unit (1) and adds the successive number up to 4, one will make up the number 10

    (1+2+3+4=10). And if one exceeds the tetrad, one will exceed 10 too so that the

    number by the unit resides in the number 10, but potentially in the number 4. And so the

    Pythagoreans used to invoke the tetrad as their most binding oath: By him that gave to

    our generation the Tetraktys, which contains the fount and root of eternal nature

    (Aetius 1. 3.8)

    If the universal frame had been created a surface only and having no depth, a single

    mean would have sufficed to bind together itself and the other terms; but now, as the

    world must be solid, and solid bodies are always compacted not by one mean but by

    two, God placed water and air in the mean between fire and earth, and made them to

    have the same proportion so far as was possible (as fire is to air so is air to water, andas air is to water so is water to earth); and thus He bound and put together a visible and

    tangible heaven. And for these reasons, and out of such elements which are in number

    four, the body of the world was created, and it was harmonized by proportion

    (Plato - Timaeus)

    The tetrad is the first to encompass minimal and most seminal embodiment, since the

    most elementary body and the one with the smallest particles is fire, and this is the body

    whose shape as a solid is a pyramid (hence the name), which alone is enclosed by four

    bases and four angles.

    And there are evidently also four elements (fire, air, water and earth) and theirpowers(heat, cold, wetness and dryness), which are disposed in things according to the

    nature of the tetrad.

    The heavenly realm has also been arranged in the same way: for it has been

    assigned four centres - the one over the zenith, the one at the ascendant, the one at

    right angles under the Earth, and and the one at the descendent (which four turn out to

    constitute the zodiac between them).

    And moreover it has been assigned four limits - north, south, east and west - and

    taking account of its sphericity, it has been assigned centre, axis, circumference and


    Moreover, there are also this many so-called ninety-degree divisions of the zodiac,

    the points at which by means of the ecliptic there is contact with the four zodiacal signs

    in which the summer and winter solstices and the two equinoxes occur, which form a

    cross by being diametrically opposed.

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    Because the tetrad is like this, people used to swear by Pythagoras on account of it,

    obviously because they were astounded at his discovery and addressed him with

    devotion for it; so Empedocles says somewhere, by him who handed down to our

    generation the Tetraktys, the fount which holds the roots of ever-flowing nature.

    (Attributed to Iamblichus - The Theology of Arithmetic)



    Tomb II is a large vaulted tomb with two chambers, containing royal remains,

    excavated in 1977 in Verginia, northern Greece.

    This funeral construction is one of three royal Macedonian tombs. Archaeologists

    originally announced that the burial in the unlooted Tomb II was that of Philip II, father of

    Alexander the Great. The tombs contents included an elaborate ceremonial shield, an

    iron helmet, a silver headband, an object thought to be a royal sceptre, and a panoply of

    other weapons.

    Recent analysis of the tombs now suggests that the tomb is a generation more recent

    and is that of Philip III Arrhidaeus, Alexanders half-brother. This means that the armour

    in the tomb could then be from the panoply of Alexander the Great. Alexanders half-

    brother is thought to have claimed the royal armour after the death of Alexander inBabylon. It is now believed that it is likely that this material, including the ceremonial

    shield, was Alexanders.

    The shield seems to have a central image of Achilles in the act of killing the Amazon

    queen Penthesilea. Encircling this and forming an entire circuit around the shield runs a

    swastika meander.

    It is attested that Alexander took the Shield of Achilles from the temple of Athena at

    Troy at the start of his campaign of conquest. The Shield of Achilles was carried by

    Alexander or the shield-bearers into battle. It also functioned as a sacred symbol and

    was borne by the shield-bearers onto the field of war.

    Then going up to Ilium (Troy), he (Alexander) sacrificed to Athena and poured libations

    to the heroes. Furthermore, the gravestone of Achilles he anointed with oil, ran a race

    by it with his companions, naked, as is the custom, and then crowned it with garlands,

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    pronouncing the hero happy in having, while he lived, a faithful friend, and after death, a

    great herald of his fame.

    (Plutarch - The Life of Alexander 15)

    Alexander welcomed the prediction of the seer and made a splendid sacrifice to

    Athena, dedicating his own armour to the goddess. Then, taking the finest of the

    panoplies deposited in the temple, he put it on and used it in his first battle.

    (Diodorus Siculus - Library of History XVII.18)

    They now pressed in a solid body about the two fallen men; at first they rained their

    javelins on Alexander, and then closing went all out to slay the king. But exposed as he

    was to many and fierce attacks he nevertheless was not overpowered by the numbers

    of the foe. Though he took two blows on the breastplate, one on the helmet, and three

    on the shield which he had brought from the temple of Athena, he still did not give in,

    but borne up by an exaltation of spirit surmounted every danger.

    (Diodorus Siculus - Library of History XVII.21)

    It is also said that he (Alexander) went up to Ilium (Troy) and offered sacrifice to the

    Trojan Athena; that he set up his own panoply in the temple as a votive offering, and in

    exchange for it took away some of the consecrated arms which had been preserved

    from the time of the Trojan war. These arms were said to have been carried in front of

    him into the battles by the shield-bearing guards.

    (Arrian - The Anabasis of Alexander XI)

    Therefore according to ancient accounts Alexanders shield was, at least in myth,Trojan in origin. In reality the swastika can be traced back to Troy and through this

    association with the Trojan war was imbued with sacred values.


    Swastika is a Sanskrit term for the symbol that has been in use in English since

    1871, replacing the Greek derived gammadion. The word swastika came from the

    Sanskrit word svastika, meaning any lucky or auspicious object, and can mean well-

    being, corresponding to a lucky charm or something that is auspicious.

    However this does not appear to reflect the deeper meaning the swastika must have

    held in ancient Greece, Rome and Asia Minor. The symbol appears here to have had a

    sacred signification.

    Swastika is a relatively modern term in English and the date of its widespread

    inception into the English language coincides with Heinrich Schliemanns controversial

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    excavations at the site of ancient Troy. These excavations uncovered numerous

    examples of the swastika indicating that the symbol had held significant sacred value.

    In any case, to judge from the discoveries of M. Schliemann, it was especially

    amongst the Trojans that the gammadion (swastika) played an important part from a

    symbolical and religious point of view; which may be attributed to the belief that it was

    there closer to its cradle and even nearer to its original signification. (Count Goblet

    DAlviella - The Migration of Symbols)

    The excavations began in 1871 and can be linked, through the publicity and

    excitement generated at the time, to the discovery and reconstruction of the Pergamon

    Altar. The Trojan excavations received extensive media coverage in Europe and due to

    a cleverly planned publicity campaign generated numerous headlines. Consequently the

    term swastika replaced gammadion and the symbol was presented by the European

    media in this sensational Trojan context. This set the context for it to be appropriated

    later as a political symbol.



    The term gammadion is derived from the ancient Greek name for the symbol. The

    symbol was seen as being formed of four upper case Greek gamma characters and this

    is reflected in the term. Four gamma characters are combined to form one symbol.

    In addition, as the third letter of the Greek alphabet the gamma character numerically

    represents the number three. It thus symbolizes the triad of deities in one syncretism.

    The construction of the symbol consisting of four gamma characters, each of which

    numerically represents the triad, therefore contains the combination of four and three. It

    is then a symbol that simultaneously represents the religious triad and the cardinal four


    The symbol therefore represents the sacred.


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    Tetra is derived from the Greek meaning four or having four constituents. Therefore

    the more correct term for the gammadion is tetra-gammadion since this name transmits

    the central concept of the symbols construction from four parts.

    The meaning of tetra-gammadion is intrinsic to the numeral four. By its construction

    of four gamma characters, and also by containing four arms, the symbol represents the

    cardinal four points. These are the four cardinal directions of east, west, north and


    It therefore indicates the earth and the rising and setting of the sun. The astral

    movement of the heavenly bodies is likewise indicated. The two solstices and the two

    equinoxes mark the four solar extremities. These are connected to the four seasons of

    the year.

    There are also the four quarters and the four winds of heaven. The symbol

    represents the four corners of the earth and from these come the four winds of the

    earth. There are also four rivers in paradise.

    It further represents the four classical elements as described by Plato. From the four

    elements are derived the four humours of the body.

    The multiplication of four by the numeral three of the gamma letter leads to the twelve

    months, disciples and signs of the Chaldean zodiac.

    At the finality, from the four corners of the earth, and from the four quarters ofheaven, come the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.


    The Tetragrammaton is the name of the four letters that reveal the unutterable name

    of God. The occultic four is in this case translated into the four letters that form the

    name of the deity.

    The gammadion is formed by joining four gamma characters into the shape of across. Like the Tetragrammaton the gammadion is constructed of letters which form a


    The gammadion is also called the tetra-gammadion so containing in its meaning the

    four gammas, tetra indicating four. The two names, Tetragrammaton and tetra-

    gammadion, show their close association of meanings.

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    The additional association of the gamma character as the third letter in the Greek

    alphabet means that the tetra-gammadion also contains the qualities of the religious

    triad or the Holy Trinity.

    Thus the gammadion, or tetra-gammadion, symbolizes the Tetragrammaton and ishence the symbol indicating the deity. By this association the swastika as the tetra-

    gammadion and as the Tetragrammaton can be be considered as the sacred symbol of

    the deity.

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    (John 1)


    Bless us, divine number, thou who generated gods and men! O holy, holy Tetraktys,

    thou that contains the root and source of the eternally flowing creation! For the divine

    number begins with the profound, pure unity until it comes to the holy four; then it

    begets the mother of all, the all-compassing, all-bounding, the first-born, the never-

    swerving, the never-tiring holy ten, the keyholder of all.

    (Prayer of Pythagoras)

    By that pure, holy, four-lettered name on high,

    natures eternal fountain and supply,

    the parent of all souls that living be,

    by him, with faith find oath, I swear to thee.

    (Oath of Pythagoras)


    A swastika meander traversed the coffered ceiling of the Parthenon.

    In 1970 excavations at the Athenian Agora found various marble fragments from the

    Periclean period. These fragments were from coffered ceilings and these were

    conclusively proved to have originated from the Parthenon. Comparison of the coffer

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    fragments with past drawings and with fragments still lying within the Parthenon

    confirmed this.

    The coffer dividers have an incised and painted swastika meander pattern between

    bead-and-reel designs. The coffered ceiling of the Parthenon could then be determined

    to have had frames decorated and enlivened with gold swastika meander. Below the

    ceiling there was a swastika meander pattern on the frieze crowns. On these a double

    swastika meander was deployed.

    Consequently the swastika meander ran extensively across the ceiling and also

    across the frieze crowns situated above the internal frieze. By taking colour fragments,

    and according to early accounts, it has been determined that the double swastika

    meander on the frieze crowns was painted in gold. A striking image therefore emerges

    of rich bands of golden swastika meander traversing the length and breadth of the


    The colour of the gold, contrasted to the darker colours of the background or ground,

    and set against the white marble would have had a strong visual impact. This would

    have been reinforced by the reflective nature of the light cast on the gold swastika

    meander. The primary purpose of the gold swastika meander may have been to reflect

    and recast the light in a type of visual vibration across the upper reaches of the interior.

    The aetherial light, the light of the heavens or that of the fifth element, is then present.

    To the four earthly elements Aristotle added aether as the quintessence. He reasoned

    that the heavenly region must be made of a different, unchangeable, heavenlysubstance. The swastika then was alight with the aetherial fire cast by the sun and by

    this immanence expressed the sacred.

    The ceiling of the Parthenon appeared to function as a metaphor for the heavens.

    The swastikas on the ceiling and on the frieze crowns expressed the duality of the

    heavens above and the earth below. The sun or sky was considered the male, or active

    part; the earth was represented as female and, with its qualities expressed in the statue

    of Athena below, as the passive part.

    The bright sky, Aeschylus says, loves to penetrate the earth; the earth on her part,aspires to the heavenly marriage. Rain falling from the watery sky impregnates the

    earth, and she produces for mortals pastures of the flocks, and the gifts of Ceres.

    The sky, Plutarch says, appeared to perform the functions of a father, as the earth

    those of a mother. The sky was the father, for it cast seed into the bosom of the earth,

    which on receiving them became fruitful and brought forth, and was the mother.

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    The swastika could also be seen as the sun or stars moving through the heavens in

    what were imagined to be specific channels. They would thus be seen in a metaphorical

    sense as rivers of stars.

    According to Plutarch they say that the sun and moon do not use chariots, but boatsin which to sail round in their courses; and by this they intimate that the nourishment

    and origin of these heavenly bodies is from moisture. They think also that Homer, like

    Thales, had gained his knowledge from the Egyptians, when he postulated water as the

    source and origin of all things.

    By its definition the swastika meander refers to a river. The Meander was a

    celebrated river of Caria in Asia Minor and was known for the way that it backed up on

    itself in its meandering course. It appears earliest in the Catalog of Trojans of Homers


    Another connection with mythical Greek rivers are the rivers of Hades. According to

    this myth the souls of the dead were herded through the hollows of the earth by the

    meandering rivers of Hades. They were carried beyond the earth-encircling river

    Oceanus and the gates of the setting sun to their final resting place in Hades.

    This meandering course through an underworld also reflects the Cretan myth of the

    Labyrinth and the Minotaur. The swastika bands in their gridded form recall the

    labyrinthine structure of the classical labyrinth. Here, instead of reflecting the

    underworld, the golden bands on the ceiling of the Parthenon refer to the heavens. Tothe metaphor of the river of stars can be added the labyrinth of stars.

    The movement of the heavenly bodies across the heavens reflects the golden

    swastika meander traversing the gridded structure of the Parthenon ceiling. On the east

    pediment of the exterior of the Parthenon the reclining figure almost certainly is that of

    Dionysus. He looked out from the pediment toward the corner and the chariot of Helios,

    god of the sun, rising at daybreak.

    A river of stars, in the shape of the river Po, begins from the left foot of Orion. The

    water that runs from Aquarius takes its course between the head of the southern Fishand the tail of the Whale. I have explained the constellations displayed and formed in

    the heavens by nature with a divine intelligence, according to the system of the

    philosopher Democritus, confining myself to those whose rising and setting are visible. I

    have described the true circuit of the heavens above the earth. (Vitruvius - de


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    Heliopolis means city of the sun in the ancient Greek context. A swastika meander

    traversed the entablature of the Temple of Jupiter in Heliopolis, now known as Baalbek.

    The temple forms part of a complex of temples in Baalbek, Lebanon, and was the

    largest of its type in the ancient period. The site was originally named the city of the

    sun by the Phoenicians in dedication to the sun god Baal. It was rededicated later by

    the Greeks who dedicated the main temple to their sun god, Apollo, and called the site


    The Romans were building the Temple of Jupiter during the reign of Augustus thus

    making it contemporary with the Ara Pacis in Rome. The syncretism of religions during

    this period of Roman imperial expansion and consolidation meant that the Temple of

    Jupiter was also allied with the Greek Apollo and the local deity Baal.

    The temple is cardinally aligned and opens to face the east which must have been a

    deliberate orientation to the sunrise. Apollo, the slayer of the Python, symbolizes the

    morning sun dispelling the darkness in the east.

    As the Roman Empire was expanded into the east it was necessary to synthesize the

    various deities into the Roman pantheon. One method of achieving this was to

    recognize the central importance of the various sun deities throughout the Empire as

    supreme in the religious hierarchies and synthesize them all into one sun deity. Deities

    such as Baal were incorporated into the new imperial pantheon.

    At Baalbek the main temple was erected to the Roman god Jupiter but included other

    sun deities in the syncretism. The Augustan period of construction at Heliopolis was

    both physical and religious in that a new imperial religion was being constructed. The

    Hellenic Greek tradition was recognized and this symbolism was overt in the swastika

    band of the precinct walls of the Ara Pacis.

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    The Temple of Jupiter incorporates a similar swastika meander band explicitly and

    prominently in its entablature. The swastika must have held a solar symbolism within

    this context.

    In Baalbek, because of the determined dedication of the temples name, the

    entablature iconography likely symbolizes the deity of the sun. The swastika entablature

    meander, which is given such architectural significance, is unlikely to be a mere

    meaningless pattern.

    The placement of the temple complex oriented to the sun, the explicit names given to

    the complex, the Chaldean solar pantheism, all indicate the particular significance of the

    iconography of the swastika meander.

    The columns of the Baalbek complex supported Corinthian capitals with acanthus

    leaves of gilded bronze. Consequently the swastika meander must have been likewise

    decorated. The swastika meander bands would have been golden in effect. They would

    then have been similar to the golden meander bands of the ceiling coffers and frieze

    crowns of the Parthenon.

    There is one surviving description of the famous statue of the god which stood in the

    Temple of Jupiter recorded by Macrobius in the fifth century: by the rites of the worship,

    and by the attributes of the statue, which is of gold, representing a person without a

    beard, who holds in his right hand a whip, charioteer-like, and in his left a thunder bolt,

    together with ears of corn; all of which mark the united powers of Jupiter and the sun.

    Solar pantheism developed among the Syrians of the Hellenistic period as a result of

    the influence of Chaldean astrology and spread throughout the Roman Empire. In this

    Syria had a significant influence on Rome. Syria itself was influenced by the Chaldeans

    and the line of influence can be traced back to Babylon itself. Both the Greek Hellenic

    and Roman Empires were deeply influenced by Chaldean / Babylonian astral worship

    and solar pantheism.

    This solar pantheism is represented at the Temple of Jupiter by the surviving

    description of the statue of the god by Macrobius. It is also represented by the

    remaining fragments of the swastika meander entablature.

    I have described the true circuit of the heavens above the earth The rest which

    relates to astrology, and the effect produced upon human life by the twelve signs, the

    five planets, the sun and the moon, must be left to the discussions of the Chaldeans,

    whose profession it is to explain the past and the future. The talent, the ingenuity, and

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    reputation of those who come from the country of the Chaldeans, is manifest from the

    discoveries they have left us in writing. (Vitruvius - de Architectura)



    A large swastika band traverses the precinct walls of the Ara Pacis altar in Rome.

    The Senate decreed that there should be consecrated in the Field of Mars an altar to

    the Augustan Peace and ordered that the officials, priests and vestal virgins should

    celebrate a sacrifice at it every year. (Res Gestae of Augustus)

    The Emperor Augustus and the Roman elite wished to incorporate the elements of

    the new resurgent Roman Empire which they were to manage during the Augustan

    Peace, the Pax Augusta. This made them especially conscious of the Greek legacy to

    the Empire and the Ara Pacis demonstrates the infusion of these Hellenistic influences

    into the highest reaches of the Roman state.

    The altar is an example of the use of traditional Greek devices to institute the

    renewed Roman reign over the Empire. In this context the altar has a deliberate

    propagandistic purpose in envisaging the reinvigoration of the Roman Empire with

    Augustus at its apex. Respecting the inheritance from the Greeks the Ara Pacis follows

    the traditional Greek altar design. It resembles in this way the Altar of Zeus at

    Pergamon, a Greek Hellenic kingdom.

    The altar is constructed entirely of white marble and has two components, the altar

    itself and the precinct wall surrounding it. Around the precinct wall runs a large swastika

    band which is integrated with the columns on the corners and on either side of the doorstructure. Included in the frieze panels above is a description of Romulus and Remus

    being suckled by a wolf. Here the Roman foundation myth is portrayed.

    Also among the panels is one depicting the Penates in a shrine to the Trojan

    household and so alluding to the sack of Troy. The altar is therefore imbued with the

    valour of the Trojan tradition that was central to Roman military values. The symbolism

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    of the altars position in the Campus Martius, the Field of Mars (the god of war), would

    have been significant in this context.

    The procession scenes display the appropriation of Hellenic forms and themes

    integrating them into Roman codes. The procession scene towards the sacrifice (with

    what may be the Vestal Virgins) suggests the mystical and mythical nature of the Greek

    mysteries while grounding them in the realistic portraits of the Roman individuals. By

    appropriating the symbols of Greece the Ara Pacis integrates them into the new power

    structure of Rome.

    The Swastika meander band traverses completely the precinct walls and structurally

    separates the human friezes from the Dionysian acanthus and vine friezes below.

    Traditional Greek symbols are synthesized and assimilated in the Roman ethos of

    power. This has the intent of legitimizing Roman rule and branding and concreting the

    unfolding of Roman history. Consequently this was a work of propaganda, founded in

    war for the Roman Empire and dedicated to peace, the peace of the Empire - the Pax


    The location of the Ara Pacis in the Campus Martius (the Field of Mars) was therefore

    appropriate. Before this dedication the Field of Mars was dedicated and consecrated to

    Mars, the Roman god of war, with an ancient altar. The Lusus Troiae, Troy Game or

    Game of Troy, was an equestrian event held at the Field of Mars. The military drill is

    described by the Augustan poet Virgil in the Aeneid:

    The labyrinth, between walls in the dark,Ran criss-cross a bewildering thousand ways

    Devised by guile, a maze insoluble,

    Breaking down every clue to the way out.

    Complex intertwining manoeuvres as a display of horsemanship were characteristic

    of Roman cavalry revues on the parade ground. Augustus established the Troy Game

    as a regular event and it was performed ritualistically on a purification day (dies lustri).

    The children in eastern dress on the Ara Pacis frieze panels have been interpreted as

    Gaius and Lucius Caesar in Trojan dress for the Troy Game.

    Virgil explicitly compares the patterns of the drill in the Troy Game to the Cretan

    Labyrinth which is associated with the myth of the Minotaur. In myth and ritual the

    Cretan Labyrinth in its military celebration has been interpreted as a military initiation

    ritual. The Trojan myth was transcribed over the myth of Romes birth as an example of

    heroic military valour.

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    The potent symbolism was carried through into the meanings surrounding the Ara

    Pacis. Here it was translated into the intertwining and interlocking labyrinthine path of

    the swastika band traversing the precinct walls of the altar. The altar encapsulates the

    military triumph which it celebrates in order to proclaim the Pax Augusta.

    Virgils Aeneid glorified both Rome and Augustus through telling the story of Aeneas,

    the hero of Troy. Aeneas led a group of Trojans to the kingdom of Latium from where

    Rome would come to rise, thus weaving the Trojan War into the myth of the founding of

    Rome. In parallel to this, and under the aegis of the Roman Empire, Augustus founded

    a new city, Ilium, on what was believed to be the site of ancient Troy.

    Amongst the most ancient evidence recovered of the swastikas origins in Europe

    and Asia Minor are the whorls of Troy. These take the form of swastikas and solar disk

    patterns and numerous examples of these were discovered by the excavations of

    Schliemann on this site.

    In any case, to judge from the discoveries of M. Schliemann, it was especially

    among the Trojans that the gammadion (swastika) played an important part from a

    symbolical and religious point of view; which may be attributed to the belief that it was

    there closer to its cradle and even nearer to its original signification. (Count Goblet


    The original signification here seems to point towards the solar character of the

    symbol or at least to an astral nature connected, as in the Chaldeans, with the worship

    of the heavens. This connects with the related monument that was intimately connectedto the Ara Pacis and erected by Augustus also in the Field of Mars. The obelisk of the

    Solarium (Horologium) Augusti was a thirty metre red granite obelisk that Augustus had

    transported from Heliopolis in Egypt.

    Both the Heliopolis of contemporary Baalbek in Lebanon and the Heliopolis of Egypt

    are therefore connected with Augustan Rome and its religious syncretism. Both sites

    were associated with the worship of the sun and their association with the new

    monuments on the Field of Mars shows the Roman imperial reach. In the case of the

    obelisk the inscription associated with it celebrates Egypts submission to the Roman


    The obelisk was erected in such a way that it cast its shadow on a pavement inlaid

    with a gilded bronze network of lines. The Solarium Augusti obelisk was integrated with

    the adjacent Ara Pacis in such a way that the shadow fell towards the altar according to

    the position of the sun. The two monuments were clearly planned together and also

    integrate with the pre-existing Mausoleum of Augustus. The collective message of

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    peace from military authority and imperial expansion can be linked with the Roman

    imperial syncretism of the solar religions.

    The obelisk in the Campus was put to use in a remarkable way by August of

    Revered Memory so as to mark the suns shadow and thereby the lengths of days and

    nights. A pavement was laid down for a distance appropriate to the height of the obelisk

    so that the shadow cast at noon on the shortest day of the year might exactly coincide

    with it. Bronze rods let into the pavement were meant to measure the shadow as it

    gradually became shorter and then lengthened again. (Pliny)

    The Solarium Augusti was a solar meridian designed to indicate the progress of the

    year as the sun appeared to move through the sky from solstice to solstice. Its purpose,

    as stated by Pliny, was to measure the shadow day by day as it gradually became

    shorter and then lengthened again. Inlaid into the surrounding paving was a longitudinal

    line, demarcating the furthest extent of the shadow at noontime on the winter solstice.

    The obelisk of the Solarium Augusti was inaugurated around the same time as the

    Ara Pacis was dedicated. Both the obelisk and the swastika are associated with the four

    cardinal points. From the obelisk, situated in its geometry of lines, can be determined

    the two solstices and the two equinoxes. The four cardinal points are represented by the

    swastika, the structure of which points in four directions. The two solstices and the two

    equinoxes are thus determined by the obelisk, and symbolized by the swastika.

    If, at Rome, the shadow be eight ninths of the gnomon, let a line be drawn on a

    plane surface, in the centre whereof is raised a perpendicular thereto; this is called thegnomon By an analemma is meant a rule deduced from the suns course, and

    founded on observation of the increase of the shadow from the winter solstice, by

    means of which, with mechanical operations and the use of compasses, we arrive at a

    accurate knowledge of the true shape of the world. By the world is meant the whole

    system of nature together with the firmament and its stars. (Vitruvius)

    The gilded bronze lines on the paving around the obelisk marking out the path of the

    sun were reflected in the golden swastika meander around the Ara Pacis altar walls.

    There has been a recent visualization of the Ara Pacis based on an analysis of the

    traces of the paint residue. This visual enhancement was also based on a comparisonwith other painted monuments of the period. The reconstruction provides a revealing

    image that transforms the way in which the appearance of the Ara Pacis has been


    The swastika meander bands are golden against a visually receding ground colour.

    The swastika bands are thus projected out in form, colour and reflective light to become

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    a key component of the altar. There is therefore a triad of the Parthenon, the Baalbek

    temples, and the Ara Pacis, all of which have golden swastika meander bands as

    central components of their construction and effect.

    A river of stars, in the shape of the river Po, begins from the left foot of Orion. The

    water that runs from Aquarius takes its course between the head of the southern Fish

    and the tail of the Whale. I have explained the constellations displayed and formed in

    the heavens by nature with a divine intelligence, according to the system of the

    philosopher Democritus, confining myself to those whose rising and setting are visible.

    I have described the true circuit of the heavens about the earth, the arrangement of

    the twelve signs, also that of the northern and southern constellations, because

    therefrom, from the opposite course of the sun through the signs, and from the shadows

    of gnomons at the equinoxes, are formed the diagrams of analemmata.

    The rest which relates to astrology, and the effect produced upon human life by the

    twelve signs, the five planets, the sun and the moon, must be left to the discussions of

    the Chaldeans, whose profession it is to cast narratives, and by means of the

    configurations of the stars to explain the past and the future. The talent, the ingenuity,

    and reputation of those who come from the country of the Chaldeans, is manifest from

    the discoveries they have left us in writing. (Vitruvius - de Architectura)



    At Pergamon is a great marble altar, 40 feet high, with remarkable statues, and the

    entire is surrounded by a battle of the giants. (Lucius Ampelius)

    The architecture of the Zeppelin Tribune (or Zeppelintribune) in the Nuremberg NaziParty Rally Grounds was based on the Pergamon Altar. A parallel history of excavation

    and reconstruction links the Pergamon Altar to the Ara Pacis. The Pergamon Altar is a

    monumental altar that was situated on a terrace of the acropolis of the ancient city of

    Pergamon in Asia Minor.

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    In 1878 the Berlin Museums had begun to excavate the Pergamon citadel. At this

    time the German government, wishing to promote the values of the German Empire that

    was proclaimed in 1871, demanded that the museums match the acquisitions of the

    other great powers. In this context the retrieved fragments were sent back to Berlin to

    be reconstructed in a dedicated museum which opened in 1930.

    The newly founded German Empire adopted the Pergamon Altar as a symbolic

    expression of the Prussian creation of a new German ascendancy. Consequently the

    Pergamon Altar was to assume a cultic character for German nationalism. In this sense

    the reconstruction of the Pergamon Altar parallels that of the Ara Pacis in Rome.

    The Ara Pacis had been destroyed and lost and a seemingly permanent veil had

    been drawn over its history. In 1861 a transcription of the text of the Res Gestae of

    Augustus was found and this also included a brief description of the Ara Pacis and

    evidence of the altars Field of Mars location. This was followed by an 1879 publication

    in which the German archaeologist Friedrich von Duhn argued that previously

    unidentified fragments in various collections belonged to the Ara Pacis.

    There was increasing academic interest and in 1894 Eugen Petersen published a

    proposed visual reconstruction of the Ara Pacis. In 1903 Petersen, now the Secretary of

    the German Archaeological Institute, sought permission for excavation of the site. A

    drawing by Joseph Durm in 1904 was the first to visually reconstruct the entire Ara

    Pacis as it would now be recognized and this was included in publications about the

    altar. The interest aroused by this media dissemination meant that in 1934 major

    excavation of the Ara Pacis began.

    Also in that year, and also because of the increasing interest in the site, Vittorio

    Morpurgo was chosen to create the design for the Piazza Augusto Imperatore with new

    fascist architecture. The proclamation of the Italian Empire was made by Mussolini in

    1936 and the excavation and reconstruction of the Ara Pacis presented an opportunity

    to cement the values of the nascent Italian Empire with the glorious Augustan past.

    The bimillennial of the birth of Augustus was a further opportunity to synthesize the

    elements of the Augustan period of imperial glory and military prowess with the

    embryonic values of the Italian fascist state. The event was intended to function aspropaganda alongside the archaeological significance of the altars reconstruction. The

    glorious past was invoked to add legitimacy to the new standard-bearers of these

    ancient values brought again to life in the proclaimed new fascist era.

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    Rows of columns flanked the central section of the structure which was 300 metres in

    length and was inspired by the extended array of columns of the Pergamon Altar. The

    architectural effect of the Pergamon Altar is largely due to this extensive array of

    columns that frame an altar raised above the participants in the rites. One of the central

    rites performed before the altar in Nuremberg was the Cathedral of Light, also known as

    the Dome of Light or the Vault of Light.

    The Cathedral of Light was one of the main aesthetic features of the Nuremberg

    Rallies and consisted of 130-150 anti-aircraft searchlights aimed skyward to create a

    series of vertical columns. The participants were therefore enclosed in a temple of

    columned beams of light. The idea was that of Speer and like the architecture of the

    tribune can be considered to have been inspired by the Pergamon Altar.

    The columns of this new altar were the projected beams of light which created a

    classical temple formed of immaterial light. The shafts of light encased the golden

    illuminated swastika above the tribune making this symbol the dominant architectural

    element of the entire sequence of constructions. It was situated above the rostrum and

    by being both golden and illuminated by searchlight was the focus of the new solar


    The overriding golden swastika symbol was formed into a disk by the Roman wreath

    that encircled the symbol. All these elements together created a ritualistic environment

    in which the leadership could be dissolved into the massed participants. This dissolution

    would here be in the context of a religious conversion where the individual initiatesexperience their dissolution into the beams of light. This was then a modern solar

    pantheism which already alluded to contemporary ideas of nuclear radiation.

    This solar pantheism is expressed in the oath that was said under the dome of light at

    the 1936 Nuremberg Party Rally: In this sacred hour, as the endless dome towers over

    us and into eternity, this we pledge: We have come for the good and to renew the holy

    oath, blazing flames hold us together into eternity.

    On the 22 April 1945 the US Army held its parade of victory in front of the Zeppelin

    Tribune. In a recorded event the huge gilded swastika that had presided over theceremonies and the mysteries of the Third Reich was detonated and destroyed.

    A river of stars, in the shape of the river Po, begins from the left foot of Orion. The

    water that runs from Aquarius takes its course between the head of the southern Fish

    and the tail of the Whale. I have explained the constellations displayed and formed in

    the heavens by nature with a divine intelligence, according to the system of the

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    philosopher Democritus, confining myself to those whose rising and setting are visible.

    (Vitruvius - de Architectura)



    The inner precinct walls of the Ara Pacis depict the wooden stakes of a traditional

    templum minus. Four wooden stakes would have originally defined the corners of a

    sacred area intended for ritual sacrifice. A wooden fence would have further delineated

    the consecrated area. These are here rendered in sculpted marble.

    The area bounded by the four corners would have been defined in accordance with

    sacred formulae. The enclosed sacred area consists of four corners and four sides with

    two entrances consisting of four frames.

    On the exterior the traversing swastika meander which defines the outer precinct wall

    also encloses and demarcates the sacred area of the altar. The swastika band also

    geometrically contains four elements within its design.

    The four structural elements of the swastika traverse the four sides of the altar sodefining the sacred interior space. The swastika meander band inscribes the sacred

    formulae behind the altars construction.

    LITUUS - A staff with a curved or a crooked top, used by the augurs in quartering the

    heavens; an augural wand.

    Below the swastika meander the scrolling acanthus decoration of the vegetal frieze

    echoes the form of the lituus, the crooked wand or staff used by the augurs for


    The templum in augury referred to the space of sky above and the space of earth

    below which the augur marked off with his lituus. By this method the Roman augur

    marked imaginary lines from north to south (the cardo) and from east to west (the

    decumanus), thus dividing the space observed into four regions.

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    Lituus seems to have been derived from an Etruscan word signifying crooked. The

    lituus was the crooked staff borne by the augurs, with which they divided the expanse of

    heaven when viewed, with reference to divination, into regions. By Roman practice this

    was originally four.

    The Etruscans divided the sky into sixteen parts. Of course it was easy enough for

    them to double the four parts into which we divide it and then double that total and tell

    which one of those divisions a bolt of lightning had come. (Cicero - de Divinatione II.18)

    The augur seated himself on his left hand, with his head covered, and holding in his

    right hand a curved staff without any knots, which they called a lituus. After surveying

    the prospect over the city and surrounding country, he offered prayers and marked out

    the heavenly regions by an imaginary line from east to west; the southern he defined as

    the right hand, the northern as the left hand. He then fixed upon an object, as far as he

    could see, as a corresponding mark, and then transferring the lituus to his left hand, he

    laid his right upon Numas head and offered this prayer: Father Jupiter, if it be heavens

    will that this Numa Pompilius, whose head I hold, should be king of Rome, do thou

    signify this by sure signs within those boundaries which I have traced. Then he

    described in the usual formula the augury which he desired should be sent. They were

    sent, and Numa being by them manifested to be king, came down from the templum.

    (Livy - History of Rome 1.18)

    The lituus marked out and demarcated the space of the heavens above the altar for

    the observation of auspices such as the flight of birds and the movement of the stars.

    The lituus also was a symbol of office for the augurs and functioned as a ritual stamp ofauthority. The formal repetition of this shape throughout the vegetal frieze binds the

    symbolic structure of the altar to the purpose of the religious ritual of divining auspices.

    This ritual divided the sky contained in the area above the altar into four sections or

    regions: dextera, sinistra, antica and postica (right, left, anterior and posterior). The

    augurs established by the ceremony of the lituus the templum or sacred space within

    which the heavens were observed and the ritual auspices were read.

    The sacred space had to be established and delimited. The ceremony involving the

    lituus performed the necessary purification of this space. The corners of the space wereestablished by the lituus and the space within was quartered. The space was thus

    defined by sacred formulae.

    This sort of staff is crooked at one end, and is called lituus; they make use of it in

    quartering out the regions of the heavens when engaged in divination from the flights of

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    birds; Romulus, who was himself a great diviner, made use of it. (Plutarch - Lives of the

    Noble Grecians and Romans)

    The vegetal frieze of the Ara Pacis also contains twenty swans distributed through its

    entire area. Their outstretched wings allude to flight and the importance of the swan to

    Roman augury. In the context of the Ara Pacis they can also relate to maritime themes

    and specifically to the Trojan War.

    Geese, and swans also, travel in a similar manner, but then they are seen to take

    their flight. The flocks, forming a point, move along with great impetus, much, indeed,

    after the manner of our Liburnian beaked galleys; and it is by doing so that they are

    enabled to cleave the air more easily than if they presented a broad front. (Pliny -

    Natural History X.32)

    They were like great flocks of geese, or cranes, or swans on the plain about the

    waters of Cayster, that wing their way hither and thither, glorying in the pride of flight,

    and crying as they settle till the fen is alive with their screaming. Even thus did their

    tribes pour from ships and tents on to the plain of the Scamander, and the ground rang

    as brass under the feet of men and horses. They stood as thick upon the flower-

    bespangled field as leaves that bloom in summer. (Homer- The Iliad)

    LITUUS (Modern) A spiral whose polar equation is r2; that is, a curve the square of

    whose radius vector varies inversely as the angle which the radius vector makes with a

    given line.

    Acanthus was related to Dionysian and Apollonian concepts of regrowth and the

    eternal cycle of life. In the Ara Pacis it is linked to the Greek mysteries, including the

    mysteries of the Vestals, which are also alluded to in the ritual processional frieze.

    Through its own rapid regeneration by luxuriant and virile growth the acanthus

    became a symbol of regeneration. The acanthus growth cycle the relates to human

    regeneration as recorded in the human processional frieze above.

    The spiralling forms of the acanthus scrolls of the great vegetal frieze unwind across

    the facades of the Ara Pacis.

    Other forms of spiralling shapes are composed of flower and palmette

    representations. These spirals revolve in both directions depending on their placement.

    The spiralling motion tends to mirror the opposing flower or acanthus formation


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    A structure of mirrored spiralling growth is created through an elaborate though

    relatively balanced symmetrical design. The symmetry implies an organizing principle

    such as a geometric Pythagorean structure beneath the surface.

    This is reflected in the swastika band in which the swastikas rotate or spiral in one

    direction on one side of the facade and in the other direction on the opposing side. The

    rotating and spiralling forms of the acanthus vegetal relief are strongly reflected in the

    geometric form of the alternately rotating swastika meander bands.

    The swastika, composed of four elements, reflects the ritually quartered space of the


    And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence i t was parted, and

    became into four heads. (Genesis 2:10)


    He (Hephaestus) began by making a large and heavy shield, which he decorated all

    over and round which he placed a bright triple rim of gleaming metal and fitted with asilver shoulder-strap. The shield consisted of five layers, and he made all sorts of

    decorations for it, executed with consummate skill.

    He made earth, sky and sea, the tireless sun, the full moon and all the constellations

    with which the skies are crowned, the Pleiades, the Hyades, great Orion and the Bear,

    also called the waggon. This is the only constellation never to bathe in Ocean Stream,

    but always wheels round in the same place and looks across at Orion the Hunter with a

    wary eye. (Homer - The Iliad)

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