In the Name of Eirene, Keeper of Peace…
(I’m pretty sure this is either “eye-REE-nee” or “eh-RAY-nay”. I tend to say the latter. It is also spelled “Irene”, pronounced the same, just another way to attempt to write “Εἰρήνη”. I generally have a strong preference for whatever version of a god’s name doesn’t sound like and isn’t spelled liked a different familiar word or name. If I write it “Irene” I am going to say it “eye-REEN”.)
Writing these posts, I’ve actually been doing a tiny bit of research on these gods. Generally it doesn’t come to much, but the case of Eirene, again and again you see Peace portrayed primarily as a time of agricultural abundance. Hesiod’s Works and Days 212 explains that when rulers are honest and just, the land will prosper. Not in the obvious sense that men who aren’t off at war can stay home to tend to their livestock, and invading forces will not burn your fields. That is obviously bad for prosperity. But this was directly, in the sense that a peaceful society invites the blessings of the gods, especially Eirene, which makes the land fruitful. For “men who do true justice”, “The earth bears them victual in plenty, and on the mountains the oak bears acorns upon the top and bees in the midst. Their woolly sheep are laden with fleeces; their women bear children like their parents. They flourish continually with good things, and do not travel on ships, for the grain-giving earth bears them fruit.”
(As an aside, this is the second time this month, looking at classical Greek stuff, where I’ve seen sailing casually contrasted with harmony and abundance. The other was a reference to the golden age before written history, when men lived in harmony and and did not yet know how to sail ships. I can make some guesses about that, but at some point I should ask one of my Hellenic friends.)
The concept that keeps going through my head is, “Do what you must to maintain Justice, but always, always, return at once to the work of Peace.” And the work of Peace is not diplomacy or mediation or non-violent protest – those are tools of Justice. The work of Peace is what you do when you are not struggling to obtain Justice. It is work that sustains and nourishes. Till the fields, shear the sheep, delight in art and music. Through your own labor, sustain yourself on the abundant earth, and you will have no need to seek wealth by conquest. Eirene “honours a city that reposes in a life of quiet, and augments the admired beauty of its houses, so that they surpass in prosperity the neighbours who are their rivals.” “How far peace outweighs war in benefits to man; Eirene, the chief friend and cherisher of the Muses; Eirene, the enemy of revenge, lover of families and children, patroness of wealth. Yet these blessings we viciously neglect, embrace wars; man with man, city with city fights, the strong enslaves the weak.” (Quotes from Theoi.com.)
I hate to reduce plain statements to metaphor, but I’ve got nothing to say about politics on a national or international scale. I think about this in terms of a small community, and an individual’s relationship with the world. How we should not be so quick to set our work aside, and fight. How when it is necessary to act in the name of Justice, we should return to the Peace which is our natural state. Unless we are truly called to be Daughters and Sons of Justice, and make that our life’s work, we mustn’t identify ourselves by the battles we face. And those Daughters and Sons of Justice, remember that what they fight for is for the people to live in Peace.