Tyche Whispering

Your Tyche, glad that good things are said of my voice, will sing later, not now.   I prefer to sing only as and of the lovely. By no means do even gods get their way Now, as appointed spirit of the city sworn to some honesty on some occasions to some people, I whisper to you of other things. We are confidents, you and I, about this my Antioch, about more than what you have already learned, yet of much less than you will learn over time. 

As the four women look at me, I look at them. Mine is a downward look for, after all, I am on a pedestal and they are dirt beneath me.  The women cannot hear me. Were they women deeper in potential or given wider experience, they might sense me better, for immortals to be known at all they must reveal themselves to others who have made themselves ready.  History shows we do that only slowly, in increments of understandings, disclosures, and elaboration, yet because of our otherworldly nature and habitat we remain, even after revealings, or indeed sometimes because of them, mysterious.  

We must also be practical. If we are not revealed and thereby named in awe whatever the name, there will be no worshippers nor those who fear us.  There will be none to bring us offerings, nothing to pay the priests who polish and adorn us, nothing to hire the sculptors who fashion us in marble or bronze the better that the majority of folk, those who have difficulty in conceiving of other than the concrete, will in finding us embodied know we are real. 

I am a limited goddess although as I told you I once I was much the greater.  In my present domain all gods lesser and somewhat greater are varied in power, aspect, locale and means by which we are apprehended. All of us, at least until this last millennia, have lived and acted, been characterized by uncertainty.  Immense power is required for certainty, certainty of any kind, whether by observations and counting, logic, insight and theory, or as for what gods themselves can do.   There must also be, in the capacity to appraise the revelations and experience that become us, significant powers of others in conceiving of our nature.  There must be the capacity to receive, imagine, construct.  This varies with people and their place and time.  There will also be capacities for near endless error, varying with credulity, vanity and wish.

In a city which trades in ideas and names of gods, there will be as in all trade, deceit, profit, guile and cunning.  Error is easy enough in conceiving the gods, but it is grossly compounded by fraud.   How that is checked depends on how sound a people are, their clarity, science, and limits to madness and vanity.   We have now in Antioch a philosopher who holds that because a man or woman can think it, name even a non “it” a name, or imagine it, that is proof the whatever product of mind is externally real, or capable of being real, that is, in some way objectified.  Were this man an artist who sought through his own work to show his proofs, I, since as the Muse of Music I am also artist, would approve.  I would approve even his failures if they grew out of his discipline and talent.   Were this same man a scientist, building on his conceptions mathematical, however cosmic, but consistent in logic and inference, as did the Elean and following Greeks so beautifully, I could only admire him.  Music is kin to mathematics and its order, beauty and reality in this and its own world.  But this philosopher who expounds no boundaries, consistency, regular substance or proofs, is himself proof of one, vanity.  People flock to hear him. They are transported by their own vanity. The philosopher earns well from that.  He is not then unrealistic.  At home in concealed luxury, which does not befit a philosopher, he approves his own vanity with a smile.  He is better off than his bilked audiences, for his smile know the difference between a public fool and his private self.   I, Tyche, smile a bit at his audaciousness, but wish his mind were better applied to other than outrageous fraud.  In Antioch we are too full of fraud, for when a people have an appetite for vanities, there will always be stalls in the marketplace selling satisfactions.

In revealing myself it is to teach you Antioch. In your hearing me, however much I am metamorphosed, learn to experience without skepticism and allow yourself awe for thereby  you may learn to live intimately with the savoring presence of the gods..  Much is imaginable, much of that may be real. Do not fear its intensity, allow yourself the apprehension of the timeless, the immortal..  Understand this Syria, within it our Palestine, as the great marketplace congregating immortals.  Our trade has been in gods sent and received from Egypt, the Fertile Crescent, Greece, India, -for our Seleucid kings inherited from Alexander’s conquests the goods of India including thoughts on deity and cosmos, and, ever so important, small Judea, so rich in produce of the mind.  These are the cultures of creation and Creator. These places constitute the workshop of and for deity, these places for the labor and manufacture of their understanding.  

I, Tyche, have too narrow a range to sing of creation and all it embraces. No music nor lyric has that reach. But hear me, we are here the work of deity.  At this time in Antioch our people are fertile in conceptions, that real and spiritual geography which maps the contemplation, sometimes the response of the gods.

No song then now from Tyche, but two of the women seated below her could be heard. Both were coughing, one softly, persistently, with occasional blood speckled foam.  It was not a good sign. All knew that.  She or her daughter would have to give an offering to Asclepius who heals when he can, or to the healing twins, Pollux and Castor.  A bad sickness was theirs, not only because it caused pain, bothered those about, but, in reducing the ability to work, cost money. Everyone in these families would be hungrier, that itself spreading pain and weakness. As for the tending Asclepius who must receive his votive offerings, here as elsewhere a sickly city assures the priests of the Asclepiad are fat and sleek.   The god protects his own.  The priests do not suffer the coughing diseases.   Asclepius has his own temples, a place underneath them for the ill to sleep. The ill are sure to be visited in the night, tended at day, whether the visitor is , the god himself or one his priests, once is not sure, the god.  If it is but the priest, he might have him the god within him.   The god, the priest, discerning is difficult in the candlelight under a temple, one makes sacred signs over the sick, sings chants. Some will be cured until their proper time to die.  Asclepius is good because he never brings illness. He is not a cursing, or greedy god.

It is regrettable that in our modern times he has become weak; one going to him now is much less likely to recover.   Even so it can yet be observed objectively that those who attend the god, receive his herbs and priestly ministration in the spirit of faith are more likely to live than others similarly ill who are not so attended.  Excluded of course, those who could afford Greek or Roman physicians.  Nevertheless the rule: death in Antioch comes readily. Long life is a blessing that money as well as the gods deliver.

Three of the four women were fated for early deaths which could not be postponed.  Crones now at 35 or 40, only one would reach age 50. For most like them there was no hope for succor no matter how long or hard they worked, sweeping, stocking, lifting, never near to the cash, two of them in a retail stalls somewhere behind the marble columns lining the grandest street in Empire That Street of Herod and Trajan probably begun by King Antiochus, made marble by Herod, extended by Caesar Augustus, then Tiberius, just now completed by Trajan.  What a promenade!  A double row of 3200 columns. 35 feet wide, three miles long, coming from where the Silk Road entered the city, that road to the entire east.. The crossing avenue led northeast across the Orontes Bridge into the palace, where now Trajan, returned from Parthian conquests, was staying.

The crossings roads formed a tall, pillared covered square, a mall if you will, near the muses, bronzed Calliope there atop her columns in the elaborated carved large, flower floating pool in the entrance to the tiered open hillside theater given to Antioch by Julius Caesar himself and next to it that pool where the fountains made music, around which sat the four unsmiling women.  Nearby I, Tyche sat on a rock representing Mt. Silpius, which overlooks the city.  In this embodiment of myself, bronze sculpted 400 years ago by famous Eutychides, I wear a crown and in my arms hold a sheaf of grain. I am far the lovelier muse. The women will give their meager offerings to my priests waiting on the steps of my temple.  Priests tend to be a hungry lot.

Yes, a goddess must have her priests and adoration. She must receive petitions and offerings, lest she be wrathful or, unnourished, disappear. In return a goddess must prove her worth.  My presence is acknowledged when I appear in dreams, or for those chosen for the hearing, singing my song.  I do not often speak of such matters as now I have, but the strange circumstances of our meeting here, you and I, are remarkable, even magical, just as you rightly sense.    I lend myself to such wonder,  as I trust you also shall. Without wonders what are either of us?


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