Tuesday, 8 April 2008
The House of Pax
With yet more wars in the 21st century, the Olympian goddesses Aphrodite and Hera became concerned. With all the men and women being slaughtered in these wars - love and marriage were becoming precarious. They consulted with each other and then went to see Zeus.
"Thunderous King of Olympus," they began, "with all this war around on an almost constant basis, people are having real problems with love and marriage. It's all the fault of Ares the war god. Can't something be done about him? He really is old fashioned for these times."
Zeus pondered on this for a moment. It was true that Ares - Sacker of Cities, Spiller of Blood was getting a little too big for his Grecian sandals. But as he pointed out, men will fight with each other and Ares took advantage of that. Still, he would see what he could do.
"Perhaps," sea-born Aphrodite suggested, "what he needs is a course in anger management? It would help him to control himself."
Zeus smiled, possibly not for the reason the goddesses had thought. But then he nodded his great head and agreed. Ares was summoned to Olympus and told to leave the battlefields for a while. He arrived dripping in blood, his skin sooty with the grime and sweat of war. His war blade seemed to seek out slaughter only to add to it. A grin was on his face for he loved the exertion and cruelty of war.
"What a barbarian!" Aphrodite sniffed, forgetting a little that he was her husband.
But remembering that he was a hopeless cook and never took out the rubbish. Vesta, goddess of the hearth had sympathised with Aphrodite and despaired of Ares.
"Typical god, always waiting for the goddess to clean up after them. Trailing his sandals through the house with blood and gore all over them, smelling like a charnel house. I'm amazed you put up with him," she'd said.
Zeus told Ares that there was too much war and slaughter. Not helping his case much, Ares grinned and nodded, his eyes flashing with blood lust.
"It really isn't good enough Ares. You get people all angry for the most foolish of reasons. Religion, greed, a stray princess having an affair. It's got to stop. At the rate you're going there won't be anybody left to worship gods. You never start a war among the atheists. That Richard Dawkins really annoys me going around telling anyone who'll listen that we gods don't exist. It's hard enough finding believers as it is. How would he like it?... well anyway all this war isn't good for business. So I'll tell you what. You just take off your armour..." Zeus told the young fiery god.
"WHAT!" Ares could not believe his ears, "Take off my armour? But that's how people know who I am." he complained.
"Alright, alright, don't get all upset, we don't want a war in heaven. The Christian God had one of those and look what happened there. You can keep your armour, but your weapons stay at home - got it?" Zeus reassured him.
"I've decided that with all that rage in you, what you need is a course in anger management. So you can leave your weapons here and off you go to the House of Pax. They do anger management courses; I've signed you up for one. You'll see, before long you'll be a lot calmer and then we won't have all our believers getting slaughtered. Even if some times they're killing each other in our name - or so they say. I don't remember telling anyone to kill anyone. The Muslim god Allah has the same problem - some of his believers keep wanting to slaughter the unbelievers and He never said a word. I'm telling you Ares it's getting serious. A little time away from war will do you the power of good." Zeus told Ares.
Ares looked a little hurt. After all, he was the god of War - he was supposed to spill blood and sack cities and slaughter people. It was what he encouraged people to do. Without that - what was he? A nobody. But it was Zeus' order and he had no intention of crossing the King of Olympus so off he went.
The house of Pax or Peace was a beautiful place of calm. Trees and flowers grew and the birds sang sweetly. A sense of calm and gentleness was all around and Ares had to admit he felt able to take a deep breath and relax for the first time in a long time. He was shown to his room by a charming young woman who offered to help him remove his armour, but when she saw his face she changed her mind and left him to settle in. There was group therapy, presided over by Pax herself with her dove sitting on her shoulder cooing gently.
Ares sat and listened to these men and women who could lose their tempers within seconds and he felt his spirits rise. Not even Eris, goddess of Discord could enter here, but he'd practically been ordered to be here. Then he felt the eyes of Pax upon him and he blushed. He felt that she was looking through his armour and softening his heart. But he shrugged the feeling off and crossed his brawny arms across his chest. His chin jutted out and he gave her a look of defiance. She smiled sweetly and he was reminded of his love, Aphrodite.
"What makes you angry Ares?" Pax asked him.
"Dunno." he grumbled.
"Do you feel under attack all the time, is that why?" she persisted gently.
"Bah! I'd like to see someone attack me, I'd make 'em regret it." he growled.
It went like this for the next few days, but still Pax persisted. Ares was getting cross at this. All the wars in the world and he was stuck in the house of Pax. It was pretty galling for a War god. He felt as if he was missing out on the slaughter and bloodshed and it annoyed him. But it was Zeus' command and he could not go against mighty Zeus.
All this meant that it took barely a week when the sweet and loving goddess Pax arrived on Mount Olympus in tears.
"By all that's sacred, gentle Pax, what's the matter?" Zeus asked her.
"It's Ares," Pax said through her tears, "First he incited the others on the course to fight each other, then he tried to get them to slaughter each other over who'd had the most coffee at breakfast. If that weren't all bad enough, he tried to slay my sweet dove for supper. I do wish he'd leave, he just doesn't understand peace at all."
Zeus smiled a little to himself. Aphrodite, Hera, Vesta - even Artemis and Athene sympathised with the poor goddess. Zeus summoned Ares to Olympus and he came.
"Now then Ares, what's all this, eh? Can't you manage your anger properly?" Zeus asked with a frown.
Ares shuffled his feet and stared at the floor. The terrible god of War reduced to behaving like a guilty schoolboy.
"Father Zeus, I can't help it. I'm the War god, it's what I do. I can actually control my anger. I can focus it to kill and maim. I just can't control it to get rid of it." he said apologetically.
Zeus sighed and threw up his arms in despair.
"It would be like asking Pax herself to start a war, my Lord." Ares said reasonably.
Zeus stooped before his throne, picked up Ares' weapons and threw them at him.
"You are hopeless Ares, take your weapons and get out of my sight!" he growled, but he whispered,
"Just try and keep the slaughter down a bit would you? There's a good fellow."
Ares nodded and returned to the battlefields with joy. After all, when so many men want to fight and kill each other, he might as well help them along to do it properly. That was what he was for as a War god.