Sunday, December 30, 2007

Creativity vs Organization

I'll cut right to the chase. I'm reaching out to authors, published and aspiring alike in the hopes of getting some tips on organizing my many many many many many many notes. Many.

I have them down on paper. I have them down on various floppy discs. I have notes on this website. I have a collage of pictures so I can get an idea of what a certain character looks like. I have print-outs from various websites about the history and geography of Ancient Greece and Persia. I have it all, and no way of organizing it.

I tried by buying various folders and putting the notes in them, but it's still overwhelming mixing and matching stuff. I put all of my chapters together to see how they fit, but they're all over the place (stupid transitions...).

I have so many questions. What I do with quickly jotted down ideas? How do I get myself to look over these ideas in the future so I don't forget about them? What if Historians don't agree on dates or facts (as I've mentioned more than once 480BCE is a transitional period so it's not quite Archaic but it's not quite Classical)?

Of course there's no right or wrong answer here, I'm simply overwhelmed by how much "stuff" I have now. Should I make a website with character profiles and geography? Should I collect floppy discs (or in the came of labtop a usb port thingy) and keep track of different stuff that way?

Any tips would be GREATLY appreciated.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope you are having a magical time!

I am typing on my new Sony Vaio labtop. It is awesome. I'm hoping being armed with a new labtop will give me the motivation to organize my story notes, write more now that I have a computer in my room (and at just over 5 pounds can take around with me) and get my novel finished! Woot!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thinking Aloud

Famous bust of Themistocles (Roman copy)

I keep mulling over why it's so hard to write O&E. I think I've said this before, but I blame the time period. The early 5th century in Attica is a transitional period, which makes it hard to write about. To add to the frustration, ancient historians didn't always agree with one another, which means modern historians squabble about when things were invented, who did what and when they did it. This confusion makes it hard to reconcile certain "facts" in history and in my story.

This past weekend I finally come up with a plausible backstory for Themistocles, and even then I had to tweek some stuff. For example, his Archonship is traditionally dated to 493 BCE, but I push it foward to 483 BCE, because it makes his career easier to follow (and besides, Herodotus says that Themistocles had only recently came to power when he was in charge at Salamis!)

Anyway, this is what I have so far (keeping in mind it's still a very rough draft) :

Themistocles (son of Neocles) was raised by a single father after his mother--a foreigner-- died when Themistocles was two. The boy who's name means "Glory of the Law" lived in dire poverty after his father gambled away most of their money. The only way they could get by was to swindle the citizens of Athens by various monetary scams. Meanwhile Themis was influenced by the philospher Mnesiphilus and learned to appreciate the art of oration, which would help him later in the political arena.

When Themistocles was in his early teens he was a witness to great political change. In the late 6th century Cleisthenes established democracy in Athens, loosening the stranglehold the aristocrats had on power and giving it to the common citizen. Themistocles was so inspired by Cleisthenes he vowed to become a powerful politician himself. In the meantime he eeked out a living as an unsuccessful lawyer, until he suddenly landed a major case: Miltiades had fled Thracian Cersonese where Athens had a colony and was accused by the citizens of Attica of being a tyrant and put on trial. Remarkably, Themistocles managed to convince the jury not only to drop the charges but pursuaded them that Miltiades could be useful should the Persians ever attack Athens. When the Persians made their move not long after it was Miltiades who led them in battle. After the spectacular victory Miltiades tried to "punish" the city-states in the east that supported Persia but his mission was a failure and he returned home in disgrace. Men called for the death penalty, claiming that Miltiades tricked them, but once again Themistocles managed to change the verdict to a fine instead. Unfortuantly Miltiades died in jail and his young son Cimon was forced to pay the steep fine of 50 talents.

After making a name for himself as a lawyer Themistocles went on to work in the public sector until he gained enough popularity to run for Archon. In 483 he did just that and won by a landslide (some say a crafty scheme was involved). It was during his Archonship that Athens had a major windfall: a huge amount of silver was discovered just south of the city. Themistocles--using his political muscle, a little persuasion, and a lot of blackmail--convinced the citizens to use the silver to pay for a new fleet of ships. They agreed, though not without his enemies trying to ostrasize him. In an ironic twist he managed to get his enemies ostrasized instead! Meanwhile Themistocles increased the power of the Board of Generals so that he could join it after being Archon and continue to be a major influence. He also made sure nobody could have as much power as Archon again by pushing for the Archonship to be determined by lot. After a whirlwind year of change Themistocles go onto the Board of Generals where he continues to wield a surprising amount of power. But his enemies are determined to see his downfall. And for some, that means looking to the East for help...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

New Blog

As you can see, I changed the design and the name of this blog in the hopes of attracting more historical fiction fans. I'm not sure I'm happy with "Ancient Musings" though. Any ideas on a good name? Here are some words that I would be down with (not in any order):

1) Ancient
2) Greece
3) Hellas
4) Persia
5) Sparta
6) Queen
7) Lady
8) Chariot
9) Marathon
10) Scroll
11) Artemisia
12) Xerxes
13) Cyrus
14) Themistocles
15) Leonidas
16) Darius
17) Atossa
18) Artystone
19) Pasuanias
20) Archippe
21) Cimon
22) Acropolis
23) Palace
24) Muse
25) History/Historical get the idea.

If you can make anything out of this list of random words/names or have an idea for a cool title for my blog, let me know! I appreciate any and all suggestions.

Random Thoughts

Ack! I'm stuck again! Have I bitten off more than I can chew? Is three books too much? Should I just write straight through as much as I can? I just can't make little stuff come together. I have no idea what my problem is lately. I write (or at least research/read) for my novel almost every single day, but once again I'm suffering from writer's block. What gives?????!!!!!

This random string of thoughts was brought to you by the letter S. As in STUCK.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just wanted to drop by and say Happy Thanksgiving! I'm really thankful to everyone who reads this blog and responds. I love being a part of such a cool writing group. I'm also thankful I have a blessed life and am able to do what I love.

What are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Attican & The Ionian

This brief chapter will probably not make it into the final version of the novel, but I thought it was a cute idea to have a famous philosopher and a famous general meet. I know it's weird to give Anaxagoras an accent, but for some strange reason it just fit. This is the first half of the chapter. Enjoy!

*Themistocles asks his friend Mnesiphilus to find someone credible person to prove that a recent eclipse is not a bad omen for Athens and that they should continue to make preperations for war with Persia. Who Mnes finds is not who Themis expects...

A small breeze from the Aegean whispered through the distant olive groves, cutting the oven-like heat that hung over the city like a heavy cloak. Riding the wind was the faint tang of fish and salt, making a man hungry for charcoled tuna and fried mackerel. Above the polis the twinkling constellations floated in the cool black pool of night. Themistocles was lying on a stone bench looking up at them, fanning himself with one hand. He wondered if the deities of the sky looked down on humans and pitied them. They probably laughed. He would.

Taking a sip of Rhodes, he listened to the sounds of the city in his empty courtyard. Athens was never truly silent. Men stumbled home drunk from parties, married couples argued loud enough so everyone could hear, dogs barked in back alleys and goats bleated high atop the hills. The noises were signs that life went on, no matter how many times the Boeotians raided the northern frontier, or how many earthquakes there were, or how many volcanoes erupted, or how many eclipses happened, or even how many stories of the Persians marching west were heard. The sounds were comforting, a reminder that no matter how terrifying Night's presence Helios would never fail to rise up and chase her off. Even if it was an endless chase. Themistocles grimaced. I shouldn't think such things. Night is night and day is day. He rose up from the bench with a yawn. Tomorrow would be a brand new day, and he would begin his own chase.

He was just about to retire when there was a knock at the gate. It was late, and he was expecting no visitors. “Xenos.” Silence. "Xenos! No Sic, not you." He waved the servant away. As usual Sicinnus refused to retire until Themistocles was safely in bed. "Xenos!" The boy finally appeared from the servant quarters, bleary-eyed and yawning, his tunic inside out. "We have a visitor." Blinking away sleep, Xenos stumbled across the courtyard and unlatched the gate, swinging it outward slowly so as not to hit the visitor in the face. It was Mnesiphilus.

“Oh good you're up,” he chirped as he handed Xenos his hat and bent down to unlace his sandals. “Go on, boy! I don't need my feet washed and I'm not so old I can't unlace my own shoes." He grinned up at Themistocles. "Forgive the hour but I just had to come and see you." “Been drinking, have we?” His friend laughed as he threw his sandles against the wall and strolled over to clasp Themis on the shoulder. “Only a little. I was making my way home from a tavern in the Ceramicus and decided to take a walk to clear my head. I ended up on the Acropolis. And I met someone there." Themistocles gave a sly smile. "Oh?" His friend nodded. "Today's council meeting bothered me quite a bit so I went up their to comtemplate things. I mean, for those damn aristocrats to suggest making a peace offering with the Satrap in Lydia? And now trying to contact the grandson of Croesus, who may not even be alive for all we know.” “Like it would do any good anyway,” Thems said dryly. They had cut their ties forever with Lydia when the Alcmaeonidae had convinced Athens to help in the Ionian Rebellion fifteen years ago. The capital of Sardis had burned and the Persian king had been wroth.

“I suppose even more men are saying the eclipse means we should capitulate?” “Yes,” Mnes admitted. Then he grinned. “But that’s where this lad comes in.” Behind them a youth was just handing his dirt-stained boots over to Xenos, a freckled-face boy of no more than twenty with frizzy copper hair and large dark eyes. His beard was as gangly and scant as the rest of him, split by crooked-teeth that grinned out at his host. That was not what Themistocles had been expecting.

“How do you do, General!” the lad said in excited tones. He rushed over and grabbed Themis' hand and shook it vigorously. “It’s such a pleasure to meet you, Sir! I’ve 'eard all about you Marathon men! General Mnesiphilus 'ere was kind enough to talk to me and now I get to meet another brave soul such as yourself!” “Oof!” The boy's handshake was so enthusiastic Themistocles felt his teeth rattle. In the shadows Sic shifted as though ready to charge. It was an effort to shake hands and wave the slave away at the same time. When the boy let him go the world was spinning quite nicely.

“Do you have a name to go with that handshake?” “Anaxagoras of Clazomenae,” the boy announced proudly. Themisotcles frowned. “Clazo…?” “Between Sardis and Halicarnassus,” Mnes explained. “They speak a form of Attic dialect there.” “That they do, General that they do.” The boy's grin managed to widen. “No Dorian blood in this skinny ol’ body, if that’s what you’re wonderin’.” Mnes laughed. “It seems the Doric dialect isn't popular in that area of Ionia. At any rate, I remembered what you said about finding someone who thought the eclipse a good omen so we could convince the council to go to war with Persia, and found this boy right in the middle of market traffic today. Everyone was looking up and frowning as though another eclipse was coming. This one was was staring up at the sun and grinning. I saved him from getting his teeth knocked out by a farmer trying to get his wagon by.” It would have been an improvement, Themis thought. The boy’s teeth were truly ugly. It was an effort not to stare while the youth talked. “Me and the general 'here met again tonight when I was studyin' the stars. I just turned around and saw my 'ero nearby, standin' all by 'imself on the other side of the Acropolis. We got to talkin', and I told the General 'ere that the 'eavens are truly a blessin’ with many miracles, and that’s why I was smilin' at the sun earlier today'. That's when General Mnesiphilus said I should come with 'im. Meet the brains behind the great new fleet o' Athens.” His grin threatened to split his face in half. Themistocles had to struggle to keep his own smile. I wanted a scholar, not a vagabond!

"Great. Xenos, go mix up a bowl of wine for our guests.” The youth was lighting more torches in the yard but now put down his flint and oil and skittered off towards the kitchen. “Should I bring out the couches as well, Master?” he called over his shoulder. "I'd rather not have my guests sit on the ground, yes.” Meanwhile Sicinnus still had loomed in the shadows, glowering at the strangers. Themis sighed. He was going to have to keep an eye on Sic tonight. The man had not taken the eclipse as a good sign, and seemed to think it might be personally dangerous to Themistocles and his family. Lectures about who and who not to trust did not penetrate the man’s skull.

Once they were settled he was able to learn more about the strange youth from Ionia. The boy was as happy as a blind bard to tell his story...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Things We Learn

While looking up how the Ancient Greeks used the pillory (as mentioned in Herodotus), I stumbled across a totally unrelated fact: "In Ancient Greece, bankruptcy laws forced the debtor to sit in the market place and place a basket over his head." I had never read that anywhere, so I thought it was interesting.

It's always interesting how while looking for one thing, we find another. I didn't find anything on the use of pillories in Ancient Greece though. I wanted to know since King Cleomenes of Sparta gets thrown in one by his relatives. Did it look like the ones used in Europe 1000 years later? It would be interesting to know for my novel.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I saw this and thought it was hilarious....O&E still in progress.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dear History Channel...

Would you please stop airing shows that are not related to history? I'm tired of turning to you in the hopes of seeing something historical and instead see a show about truck drivers, martial artists or various technology. What happened to Alexander? Themistocles? Pericles? Cleopatra? George Washington? What happened to the battles of Salamis, D-Day, Stalingrad, and Marathon?

We humans have thousands and thousands of years of history involving hundreds of cultures from around the world. Yet like MTV you no longer bother with the things that made you what you are. Instead you have shows about things that would be better suited to the Discovery Channel. What's wrong with you?

If you're in need of ideas why not do a reality show where people must live like Ancient Romans? Or an all-history trivia show? Or even a cartoon for kids (I saw one about Herekles awhile back)?

Oh. And when you DO do history, would you please get basic facts right? Sometimes you get them wrong and it's a bit of a problem.

M. S.

Monday, October 01, 2007

What's In A Name?

Archippe (?)
I always wondered what the heck certain names meant in Ancient Greek. After all, so many of the names are similar. Thanks to a website I found last week (, I now have an idea of what some of those names mean. Here are a few of them:

Themistocles: "Glory of the Law." From the words "law" (themis) and "glory" (kleos). Awesome, especially since in my story he bends, twists, stretches and flat out breaks the law to get what he wants.

Cleisthenes: "Glorious Strength." From the words "glory" (kleos) and "sthenos" (strength)
Interesting. In my story Themistocles was inspired to be a politician after witnessing Cleisthenes turn Athens into a democracy.

Aristides: "The Best Kind." From the words "best" (aristos) and "kind" (eidos). This name fits the man, since he was also known as "The Just."

Xerxes: "King of Heroes/Ruler Over Heroes." From the Persian name Khshayarsha. An impressive name, though according to ancient (and biased) sources Xerxes is less heroic than eccentric...

Darius: "Possessor/possessing of Good." From the Persian name Dârayavahush. A very good name for a very shrewd man who managed to grab power in the wake in a coup. He managed to win battles and win over his rivals at the same time.

Leonidas: "Lion." Perfect name for a Spartan king who was brave enough to make a last stand at Thermopylae.

Archippe: "Master of Horses (?") Possibly a feminine form of Archippos. From the words "master" (archos) and horse (hippos). Archippe is the daughter of an illustrious Athenian so the name is perfect for advertising her blue blood.
Gorgo: "Gorgon." An unusual name for a girl, but perhaps not for a Spartan. Queen Gorgo may have had a male relative with the same or similar name.

Demaratus: "Hoped for by the people." It was this hope that was both the salvation and bane of the Eurypontid throne...

Sadly I still can't find the meaning of the following names:


If anyone knows what --menes means, or Cleo--let me know. Oh. And Meghan means "great." Great...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mars vs Venus In Writing

While reading over some of my work, I realized that I haven't entirely mastered the art of writing from a man's PoV. Being somewhat of a girly girl, I guess it's hard to wrap my brain around the way men think. At work I'm surrounded by boys who shoot each other with nerf guns, talk about crude bodily functions like it's an art form and do nothing but rib each other all day. Sometimes I think the only way I'll ever understand them is if someone takes a lead pipe to my head for several hours so my IQ goes down from 100 to 1.

I realize that my perplexity over guys also shows up in my writing. Pausanias reads more like a girl than a guy. I feel like I could make Themistocles a bit more rough around the edges. In my mind's eye King Leonidas is far about "fart jokes" and crude humor, but does that make the story less interesting or realistic?

What do you guys think? How can I get my characters to man up?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Stuck Again

Ack! My story has come to a complete halt. The problem is the first book doesn't have any battles or action scenes. It's about Athens and Sparta trying to unite the Hellenes and Artabanus trying to prevent Persia from going to war. Not overly interesting in and of itself, but important to the story. A few characters have some adventures, but other than that I need to make unexciting events exciting. So if you have any ideas, I'd be happy to hear them. (^_^);

Monday, September 17, 2007

Robert Jordan Passes Away

I'm sad to report that one of my favorite authors, Robert Jordan, has passed away. The WoT series is one of my favorite fantasy series of all time and I can't express how much fun it's been to read it. Robert Jordan will be missed by his fans.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Writer's Block

For the past few weeks I've been dealing with Writer's Block, a pesky imp that lurks in dark places and chases away the Muses. I haven't been able to think of any way to bring certain elements of my novel together smoothly and I blame this nasty little customer. It bites at my ankles and taunts me a lot, trying to get me to feel like a complete failure. Then I read Scott Oden and George RR Martin's blogs and apparently every author has had to deal with orcs and imps and other kind of writing fiends, so I know I'm not alone. Luckily last night a Muse made a quick visit to my brain to drop off an idea. I'm excited about it and hopefully something will come of it. Stay tuned.

P.S. Finish your novel, Scott Oden! Some people want to read it!!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Group Tours To Greece?

For the past month I've been trying to plan a trip to Greece that allows me to hit Athens, Sparta, Corinth and Delphi. Unfortunately I've come to the realization that NOBODY wants to visit Sparta. I keep looking up tours for Greece and could see every major city except Sparta. Of course I could just arrange my own tour but I don't want to travel by myself.

If anyone knows of a group tour going to Greece that goes through these cities by all means let me know. I've only found one tour that stops by Sparta and I'm looking for more. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Fun Facts About Ancient Greece

I spend a lot of time researching for my novel The Owl & The Eagle, and I'm surprised at all the interesting facts I come across about Ancient Greece and Persia. Therefore I decided to start sharing these facts with readers of my blog, just in case they're interested as well. :)

Fun Fact #1

OK, this is more of a theory than a fact, but I found it so fascinating I just had to share this! According to Nicholas Ostler, author of Empires of the World: A Language History of the World, Ancient Greek was actually a tonal language, with ..."each word given a distinctive melody of high and low tones..." The language that most closely parallels this today? Japanese!


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Historical vs Fiction

This week I am proud to say my story The Owl & The Eagle is really moving along. I got a lot of work done (which can be tricky with a full-time job) and the novel is really starting to solidify. The only problem is that a major plot point in the story didn't happen according to Herodotus. It's nothing silly or magical, and ties several people and events together rather well, but I still can't help but feel a twinge of guilt. I mean, if it really happened (Themistocles being shipwrecked on Aegina) you'd think someone somewhere would have reported it. I guess that's why my genre is Historical Fiction, but I still feel like people will frown on it. What say you? If you know Herodotus (or Greek history in general), would you mind a bit of tweeking to history for the sake of a more interesting story?

Friday, July 13, 2007

70K words!?

Wow. The other day I did a word count for my novel, and even though a lot of it has huge breaks in between paragraphs, not all of it is double-spaced and some stuff will be deleted entirely (and replaced with other chapters), I'm still surprised. It's over 60,000 words. In fact, counting all the weird breaks and what not, it's actually over 68,000 words! And I'm nowhere near finished.

In the meantime I'm planning a trip to Greece in late September early October. I'm trying to go to Corinth, Athens, Sparta and Delphi, but nobody wants to go to Sparta so it keeps messing up my itinerary. It would be cool to hit up Turkey as well, but time and money are two things I'm a bit tight on.

For now I need to keep working on my novel though. Hopefully I'll put up part of another WIP soon (though I'm being told it's not a good idea to post my story in public lest I lose rights to it).

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Your New Queen!

The title "Queen" in front of my various blogs and online personas was always kind of a joke, but it now turns out I might actually be related to a queen. Recently I was informed that my mom's relatives (Highlanders out of Scotland who settled in North Carolina around the early 18th century) are somehow related to the Royal House of Stuart/Stewart. It's kind of cool to think that somewhere there's an empty throne in Europe just waiting for me to claim it.

So if you're a prince looking for a princess (with a family tree that actually FORKS), I'm always available. :D

In other news, My O&E progress came to a screeching halt last week as I had a game review to write up (although I did have a a lightbulb moment that involves Themistocles/Xanthippus/Aristides/Aegina/Sparta) so hopefully I'll get back on track this week. I also bought Acacia and agree with about 100 other reviewers that the story is quite enjoyable and David Anthony Durham is an awesome writer. He's also very interactive with his fans, so if you haven't done so, click on the link to his page and check it out. Very cool.

Monday, June 18, 2007

King Alexander WIP

As promised, here is another (admittedly short since the rest of the chapter is still being edited) excerpt from the The Owl & the Eagle. It's from the POV of King Alexander, who is somewhat of a mysterious character in Herodotus. Is he supporting the Hellenes or the Persians...?

Summer 481 B.C.E.

King Alexander swirled his wine filled cup and watched the sun melt into the sea, the light making puddles in the dark, foaming waters beyond the strip of rocky land. Days ago it had vanished from sight, shrouded by the moon's gray pall. The eclipse had left him shaken, and then there was the letter that arrived this morning to chill his blood even more. Only two lines and full of ominous warning. Do not resist. It is futile. Were they words urging him to caution? Or telling him of his fate? He drained his cup. “There are no witnesses,” he said aloud. If they came looking for the giant, they would only find bleached bones.

He was alone on the balcony, but could not resist caressing the hilt of his sword. He was never without it. The Persians might come for him any day now, and lay the charge of murder at his feet. Sixteen charges for sixteen men. The thought filled him with dread. He knew what the Empire did with murders. He knew what it did with traitors, too. His hand tightened around the hilt. The scabbard was inlaid with gold and silver, the blade finely forged. The sword was a gift from his Persian in-laws, meant to tie the two royal houses together through the marriage of one of their generals and his sister, but really it was a fetter that bound him to their service. It was the price he had to pay to keep his secrets.

A strong wind tugged at the king's dark green himation. It was always windy on the peninsula. Here the North Wind bent blades of summer grasses in the fields and valleys, pushed at rocky hills, and ruffled the restless waters below Mt. Athos. For countless centuries Boreus had kept away pirates and invaders with his cold whispers. Once his icy breath and piercing howls gave the king comfort, but no more.

Below the palace the sound of construction shook the air, along with barked instructions and curses in a dozen different tongues. In a steady line stretching west to east towards the peninsula’s outer edge, men in dirty loincloths crouched in deep trenches, digging deep into the land, their spades biting into the stubborn clay-filled earth. Others shifted buckets of soil and silt from the earth and handed them to the people above. Their overseers were dressed in bright colored robes that glinted in the sun, whips coiled at their waist like sleeping vipers. Sliding nervously past them slaves shouldered heavy wicker baskets full of food and supplies along the work lines, stooping low to hand out wares to the workers before they stood up, warily shrugged their baskets higher onto their shoulders, and continued on. The work in this heat was unpleasant no doubt, but the king would not be sad if they all dropped like flies. The foreigners were a swarm of locus, emptying his granaries and wasting his wine and harassing his people. For two years the construction of the canal had been going on. For two years it had drained his resources and been an affront on his sovereignty. The project was nearly finished, but Alexander knew his woes were just beginning.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Princess of Persia

Still working on my O&E chapters (the one with Alexander that I want to put up is a bit complicated so it's taking more time to finish than I thought). In the meantime, enjoy this above delightful picture of me and game hottie the Prince of Persia. As you can see, I'm the power behind the throne. ;P

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Themistocles in Aegina

The wind whipped his hitoman about his legs and arms and hit him with the sharp, tangy scent of salt water and pitch. We're close now, Themistocles thought. He could see the ship sheds over the ridge, their steepled roofs rising and falling like red tiled waves, ringing round the harbor and jutting to either side like a perfectly shaped omega. The ships, tarred black with pine resin gleamed in the dull sunlight. As they made their way down to the harbor they could hear the buzz of human voices muted by the roaring surf and sharp cry of sea birds. "That man spoke the truth. The sea is rough today," Mnes said. "Nikandros is a fool. It would be easy enough to postpone the race for a few days." Themistocles said nothing. He agreed, but the enthusiasm of the masses waxed and waned and the promise of a more dangerous race had brought them out en mass, hoping to see action. Their appiteite was huge. And isn't that what I wanted? He made his way to his ship shed, where Cunning was just now being brought down the ramp by a large group of men. Her hull jutted out proudly, her marble eyes promising mischief. Now there's a good wife. Boyent, beautiful, obedient and serves me well.

They would have to make their way carefully; the straits of Salamis were narrow and windy, and hidden shaols and what not were waiting to catch the ship up. Thems could here the clicking language of dolphins even through everything and Thems smiled. That was a good sign. Stories claimed if a man was shipwrecked the dolphins would push him to shore. As they rowed they passed a small fishing vessel making its way from Salamis, the startled fishermen gawking at the trireme. Until the wake caught them and then they toppled over each other. He hoped the dolphins were still nearby.

The man guaffed. "Salamis? Look around you, my good man. You're not on Salamis." Themistocles frowned around the clouded mist. It had hid the seashore but now was breaking up a bit, swirling away with the wind and revealing a rocky bank further inland and patches of stubborn seagrass. Salamis was a sleepy little island full of fisherfolk and modest villages. This was a crowded seaside villa, the evidence of an industrious city-state. Above on pine clad hills were colorful buildings lined up like a row of crooked square teeth in too small a mouth, shouldering agianst each other as though each wanted to be the first to dive into the sea. Dive into the sea. Themistocles knew with a sinking feeling the man had spoken the truth. When he turned back the man favored him with a cruel smile. "Welcome to Aegina, my Athenian friends. You're all under arrest."

Archippe hurried through the dusty streets, heedless of the burning noonday sun or the angry scowls from people she was knocked out of her way. In truth Archippe had no idea where she was going. She had been circiling the city for hours, anxious and fearful for news on Themistocles. The Assembly was meeting now, deciding how to proceed against Aegina. As a woman she had no access to Ares Hill, no way of knowing what was going on. She had paced the house until her mother threatened to tie her down with carted wool. So Arch paced the streets instead.

I'm going to strangle that man the moment he walks in the door. I bet he's arranging a marriage with an Aegian princess in exchange for his freedom, she seethed. Only that was nonsense. He had enough to negotiate as it was, and anyway there was no royalty on Aegina. Only an ogliarchy. They can't kill him. We still have Crius and the hostages. She had always felt sorry for them, but now she couldn't be more greatful they were here. Still, the Alcaemenid might be more than happy to leave Themistocles on Aegina. Or worse, declare war. If they went to war, the Persians might just sweep in and take Athens while the men were away. It was enough to make her feel sick with fear.

If Aristides were here, he would know what to do. He could convince the Assembly to quit stalling. She was not sure where the thought came from. Aristides had no reason to love Themistocles, not the man who threw him out of the city. But Aristides had been the voice of reason with the Alcameanae, who were wolves among the sheep. Or so Thems always claimed.

She turned a corner and only then heard the hooting. Before she could locate its source the horses were almost right on top of her. was nearly run down by [nikandros' son]'s holligans, racing through the agora yet again. Arch yelped as she someone caught her by the arm and pulled her out of the way. "My lady are you hurt?" Revolted Archippe leaped back angrily. The face hidden deep in the cawl was still just visible enough to make out those piercing dark eyes and handsome features. "Sir Aristides!" He hushed her. "Do not say my name." He frowned at her servants, then quickly peered around the shadows. Finally he gestured. Come with me." Unthinking she followed him, her alarmed slaves catching her up in confusion. She glared at Xenos when he protested he should find Sic. Sic will tell Thems if he doesn't kill Aristides first. They walked along the narrow ally, under cool shadows that hid them from the blazing summer sun, around and over pottery shards that once held wine and apparently a lost sandal, and past painted walls that were badly peeling, until they came out in a small grove of pine on the northwest side of the marketplace. Along the way Arch tried to straighten her skirts and hair, knowing she looked frightful. Ever since Thems had been captured she had barely paid attention to her toilette, her concern on getting her husband back and keeping her family together. You're a fool. He's married and you're too tired to think straight. But she couldn't help herself. As he looked around for witnesses she could no longer hold her tounge, though she managed a near whisper. "What are you doing here? It's dangerous for you to be in the city!" "I know, daughter of somebody. But I could not stay away." Even tired he was so handsome, his glossy black hair combed and shining like a Spartan, his beard shaved to help hide his identity. He was dressed in rough wools of dark green and brown, part of his chignon over his head to hide from men as well as the heat of the sun. He looked so much younger, like a young god. He'll help me. He will. His silver voice and golden words could sway the citizens of Athens it was said. Gold and silver could not save him from my husband's conviction to ostrasize him, a voice inside her head warned, but she shoved it aside. He was so gallant and his love for his city-state was so admirable. Themistcoles always said the content of a man could be known by the love he had for his city-state. "You love Athens that much?" "The city? I do, but truth be told I could not stand to be away from my wife. I love her more than my own life. And my children. They are the most precious thing I have. I could not stand to be parted from them, thus Xanthippus and I--" he stopped. "Alas, I have said too much." "I won't tell anyone, I swear," ARchippe said quickly. Her heart hurt. He came to see his family. Just his family. No one else. She could hear Themistocles laughing at her. She was sure he would if he knew. Aristiedes frowned. "Forgive me. I did not mean to imply you would talk. You are quite intelligent, I am sure." She realized she was glaring at him and made herself smile. "Sir Aristides, you must know about Themistocles. [Aristides writes a letter allowing Thems to be 'put on trial' Thems will know that when he gets to the asembly room in Aegina. He'll have to thank Aristides for that and convince both Xan and Aristides to come back.] He's been captured by the Athenians." "I cannot go before the Assembly," Aristides said, stricken. "I am not of this city for a few more years yet. I should not even be here, but I cannot stand the thought of being without my family for so long, and so I snuck in." "As a Xenos, you could convince the Assembly of what is right. Of what just!" When he shook his head she pressed on stubbornly. "There's no law against a man being a guest-friend. I know. Themistocles told me all the laws. He likes to practice speeches and my father taught me a lot and I know it's legal. They CAN"T prosocute you." She knew she was rambling now, but she couldn't stop. "Please. I don't care what Athens says about me or Themistocles. He's a good man and my children won't understand what's happening." The twins' plaintive questions made tears spring in her eyes. "Please. I have to do SOMETHING." I'll march into the Assembly myself. How she's get past the archers she had no idea though. The man sighed. "Attica cannot afford bloodshed. Not now. Persia is coming. I came to warn some close friends of it, and now it seems I must tell all. If Aegina and Athens go to war the Persian will merely sweep in and defeat them both. A hostage exchange might be possible, yes." "But the Acamaenae--" "will listen to me girl. Even THEY must listen to reason, now." "Good!" a voice boomed. Arch nearly jumped a stade in the air. "Xanthippus, you should have announced yourself," Aristiedes scolded. "And YOU should not be letting anyone know of our presence here, especially the wife of our greatest enemy." "Archippe glared. Xanthippus was known to have a short temper, and had was known to act first and ask questions later. Or so Thems said. "You're in the city together?" "Not exactly," Aristides told her. I arrived a few days ago, and since my wife and his are close friends she let it slip her husband is also in the city. Perhaps this is an omen." "I know you don't like my husband, but it's not his fault six thousand men voted you out of the city-state and not him." She could have bit her tounge off--that was the same situation as with Aristides, but she stubbornly plowed on. "You're both influential men. Can't you do something?" "Why should we? We both oppossed the man's fool idea to place the safety of the city-state into the hands of hoodlums and slaves," Xanthippus said. "He's corrupting the system. My own son questioned me just this morning on why it would be so bad for the poor to be a part of our new democracy. I've never heard anything so outragous in my life!" He turned to look behind him. In the shade of a distant pine a boy of no more than fifteen with dark curly hair was studying his sandals, unable to meet his father's stern look. Great. Everyone in Athens will know Aristides is here. She didn't care a fig for Xanthippus, but she'd defend Aristides from harm, ugly wife or no. Aristides sighed, and for a moment Arch feared he could read her mind the way Thems could. But he only shook his head and said,"Perhaps we were wrong, Xanthippus. Perhaps it is time to conceed that the navy is our only hope." "Are you mad? You're going to agree with that Thracian welp?" "My husband's mother was from Caria and of Ionian blood, same as yours!" Arch snapped defensively." Xan shrugged. "I hear Halicarnnasians speak Doric, not Ionic. Halicarnassus for one thing speaks some twisted dialect of Sparta's language." "We're wasting time. Who knows what the Aegians are doing right now!" "I understand your anxious, my lady," Aristides said soothingly. "But I am not sure how we can help." "You could go before the Assembly. Your words are always so golden and persuasive and they'll listen to you. I know they will. You're Ariston The Just." "Listen to her," Xanthippus snorted. "She thinks you're some sort of god to win the people with your mighty powers. I swear you have the strangest hold over women." Arch blushed angrily. She wanted to black the man's eye. "I won't help!" Xanthippus said stubbornly. "You WILL help, or I'll run to Cimon and tell him you're here!" "He has no love for you, and I don't either. I'll swear up and down that not only did I run into you but you tried to force yourself on me." She gestured to her dress, and saw his face change from anger to alarm. "So you will help me, Xanthippus. Or all thirty Demes in Attica will know you're here if I have to climb to the top of the Acropolis and scream it." The man's jaw dropped. Even Aristides looked shocked. "My lady," the younger statesment stuttered, " are tired and frightened, I know. Yet you mustn't say such things." Archippe whirled on him. "My husband is right. You are NOT just! You're a coward! The whole city is going to burn by Persian fire and nobody cares! I hate you! I hate all of you!" She was shouting now, crying now, but she didn't care. "Why won't you go to the Aseembly and say something."

"We cannot help your husband directly," Aristides said slowly, "however it may be possible to call on some former guest-friends to help." "Who?" Arch asked anxiously. "The Spartans." Thems will go through the roof tiles! If there was any city-state that he hated more than even Aegina, it was Sparta. "I once was a guest-friend of King Ariston. A good man. Honest and just, as a king should be." He sighed. "I wish his son were still in power, but the Mad King drove him off some years ago. In any case, his cousin King Leotychias once made overtures about the hostages we hold here from Aegina. Perhaps I can write him and he'll help." "How long do you think that will take?" "It depends on the messenger-" "Alexandros!" Arch blurted. "He's the fasted runner in all of Attica! He's the cousin of [runner of Marathon]. He'll get there in a day or two I know he will." "It's not that easy, girl!" Xanthippus snapped. "He could have Hermes' winged sandals and arrive there in a flash but it could still take days, if not weeks." "But why?" "Because of the Ephors," Arisites told her. "Because Sparta never hurries. They are slow and deliberate, and will sense no urgency in this. It is not their problem, and if Aegina and Athens go to war it will free Sparta of outside interfearence. I know very little of King Leonidas, save that he is supposed to be a hard man and focused on righting all of Cleomenes' wrongs. Perhaps he will right the wrong of Cleomenes interfearing in our affairs." "He's the brother of Cleomenes," Xanthiuppus growled. "You'll get no help from that quarter." "We must try," Aristides said. "Persia is coming. We must gather our resources and form an alliance, or not one of us will know freedom."

Archippe followed the two men into the agora, their hoods up and among her entoruage so it looked like they were merely slaves escorting their lady about the city and had to pass through the marketplace in order to get to their destination. She prayed anyone glancing her way would mistake them for Xenos and Sic. Where was Sicinnus anyway? He had stayed by her side night and day as if she were a queen in need of a bodygaurd, as if somehow he thought she might try to swim to Aegina and save Thems herself. Yet this morning he had been at dissapeared, and last night he had gone out, only explaining that he had seen something suspicious the day before (marchois). She hadn't asked--she was too busy fretting, but now she was both glad and upset he wasn't there. Xenos was at home, nervously going about his chores but all the slaves looked to her for answers. As if I had any. And so she had taken them out, though now she had to send Xenos off to look for Sic. The agora was full, but they found who they were looking for. It wasn't hard; only one man with long hair and a scarlet cloak that had seen better days existed in Athens. At the moment he looked grumpier than ever, and no wonder: a chariot salesman was hounding him. "I have a sturdy cart with everything you need," the man was saying. "Four-spoked two-wheeler, pole, yoke and harness included, a removable leather seat, beatifully decorated rails and Corinthian style box with bronze folaiage design, with room for four." The Spartan scowled. "I have two feet and a good horse." The salesman stepped back but amazingly still persisted. Before he could speak Aristides stepped foward. "A moment of your time, my Spartan friend," he said in a low voice. The Spartan turned his ferocious scowl on him, and opened his mouth as if for a serious tounge trashing before he peered closer and nodded. He frowned at Arch though he squirmed under the scrutiny. It wasn't a leer, but rather a dissaproving look that made her feel unwanted. Perhaps they had no need of her now, but she refused to leave. Dorians weren't the only ones who could be stubborn.

"In my country men obey the laws," he scolded. If his harsh words affected Aristides, he showed no sign of it, but Xanthippus scowled back at him. "We were thrown out unjustly. You should know something of that." The Spartan hurumphed. "What is it you want then?" "We have need of your connections to Sparta," Aristides explained. "As you no doubt know, Themistocles of Deme was captured by the Athenians and is being held hostage. Perhaps Sparta can help persuade the Aeginians to let them go." "Why should Sparta care?" "What do you mean why!" Archippe cried. "Their hostages." The Spartan looked utterly amazed that she had spoken; Xanthippus shot her a nasty look. Aren't women freer in Sparta? What had Melissa said about that? " "You asked me why, and it is because of Persia. The country is assembling for a massive invasion." "I know." Now Xanthippus looked amazed. "You KNOW?" "I just said I did!" the Spartan snapped. "How?" Xanthippus demanded angrily. The Spartan looked as if that were the rudest question he was ever asked. Clearly he did not like having to explain himself to men he no doubt thought inferior. "Our king Leonidas suspects as much." "And how do you know." Xanthippus demanded again. He was as bad as Thems said, she realized. He really didn't know when to keep quiet. "My Listner wrote as much and Bulis doesn't lie!" the Spartan growled. The two men stood glaring at each other. Archippe shuddered. It seemed everyone knew about Persia and did nothing about it. Aristides stepped in smoothly before the two came to blows. "We did not come here to fight, or to beg. Merely to be reasonable. If Aegina mediazes again, it will give the Persians a jumping off point to invade both Attica and Laconia, and even Corinth. These three areas are invaluable to our freedom, however we express it." "The eclipse," the Spartan muttered. He seemed to be thinking, however slow and dull-witted Thems claimed the Spartans were, they weren't really stupid. "And the code...I will let them know. I doubt Crius and his ilk are any threat now anyway, and whatever makes that bastard Leotychidas squirm..." he shook himself. "I talk too much! I'm as bad as any of you." He frowned at Arc as though seeing her for the first time. "Are all your women part of your politics? Who in Hades' Domain is she?" Archippe drew herself up and wrapped her swag around her tightly. She was short, but he was not much taller and that put them on almost even footing. "I am the daughter of somebody, wife of Themistocles and chair of--" "shut your mouth woman. I didn't ask for your life story." Stunned Arch gaped at him. "Have a care, Spartan," Aristides said heatedly. "She is gently bred, the daughter of an important man of Athens and wife of a Marathon man and current general. " Archippe felt her heart take flight. He was defending her, her handsome demigod. She stepped closer to Aristides and gave the Sperthius a challenging look that did not phase the Spartan in the least. "You're women are weak," the xenos snapped. "Her duty should be to wait, not to interfear." "It was her wise council that brought us here now," Aristides said patiently. "And now Captain, if you would write a letter to your general and king, perhaps we can save Hellas before it is too late."

"My liege, I have been sent a coded message from Sperthius. Something is amiss in Athens that may affect Sparta." He presented the letter formally, the king taking it with a a nod before reading the code. When he was finished he handed it over to his twin to read aloud. 'Listen well. General of Athens captured by Aegina. Persia moving. Aegina mediazing. War for both. No allies against Persia unless we interfear. Asked help by The Just Athenian and Xanthippus. Request help." Cleombrotus through down Sperthius' letter, exasperated. "Who are these two Athenian swindlers I've never heard of!?" "I've heard of Aristides, and Cimon is the son of the general who led the battle at Marathon," Bulis said slowly. " More than that, if Aegina hates Athens still, they may mediaze for sure this time around. We have our warning. Even the Ephors cannot fail to see that." A silence followed, and all eyes went to the king, who frowned past them all, clearly weighing his options. Finally he slowly stood up. "Send an assembly to Aegina." "An assembly?" Cleombrotus sounded personally affronted. The king's look was sharp. "An Assembly. As soon as Eurabayetes is ready to sail." "When should I return?" "You're not."

Themistocles stared around the hall, made of gray-veined marble and limestone, a six colum wide and seven columed bulding with enough open space for a hundred men or so. There were only half that number now, but all fourty nine were hostirle towards him. Themistocles made sure to note who was curious and who was angry. None smiled or even looked sympathetic. He knew he looked terrible and smelled worse, and the fetters did not help either.

Aegina was a mountainous volcanic rock that jutted out of the Saronic Gulf, its inhabitants of Doric ancestory and therefore a quarelsome and stubborn people, which made them nearly as irritating as their land-lubbing kin in Laconia. The city-state was an ogliarchy reigned by maritime traders, their coin stamped with the image of a turtle. The Aegians were said to love their silver the way Lydians loved their gold. Themistocles wondered how much of Athens' silver it was going to cost to win his freedom. I need that money for my ships! His ships. He turned to look back east. Perhaps they would mount a rescue, or use this as a reason to formally invade. The Assembly would have no problems with that. The island was not exactly a haven for for a fleet, but if drawn out into the ocean Athens' sturdy ships and superior numbers would render Aegina's small swift fleet vulnerable to attack from the wind and waves. And ship rams. If only the Alcamaedae were smart enough to see the opportunity in this. He sighed. But they were stupid, and would only smirk he was out of their hair. The common men will see the insult. He had reminded them enough of Marathon and their place in glory. But who will lead the charge? No. He couldn't count on the Assembly. Too much like sheep, and the Alcamaenae too much like wolves. He still suspected their trechery. He would have to free himself and the ships. And the crew, of course. He glared at the Captain's back. The massive bruise on his shin a result from his boot.

At first the men had protested--some had even been dumb enough to reist--but the soldiers, or maybe sailors was a better word--managed to chain them up quickly and start the long march towards the magistrate. The man hadn't believed he was a general, though Themistocles supposed most men in high positions of government didn't volentarily row ships or socialize with their social inferiors. [sorry general we thought you were one of them. I am, he said placidly.] It was interesting to note that the rowers were no better socially than in Attica; perhaps he could use that to his advantage.

There were taken in chains up the steep mountain top, a temple looming majestically atop the acropolis. As they slowly wound their way uphill, Themistocles tried to remember everything he knew about Aegina. Knowledge was the key to survival. Instead of being paraded on the main roads they took smaller paths that were full of dry brush and dusty air that even the sea breeze did little too diminish. As the storm broke up the Aegean bled through the mist like spilled [Egyptian/Phonecian?] ink, and inland rows upon rows of colorful well-kept houses appeared, most four colums across (bigger houses need more colums?). Evidence of brisk ocean trade, and if not so wealthy as Corinth still well-to-do. What surprised Themistocles in spite of himself was the sudden appearence of a palace or two in the distance--something not seen in Attica since the Pistratid lands were divided up. The few people about-farmers with creeking wagons pulled by sleepy mules or merchants on horseback with the occasional slave weaving around them--gave them puzzled looks and hailed the gaurds and said only "Athenians." It was all they needed to say--the quizzical frowns turned into nasty grins. That doesn't bode well, Thems thought. They followed the winding roads, their captors saying little though they smirked openly at their windfall. And why not? For ten years Athens had held their most prominant civilians as hostages, a strange but welcome gift from their former enemies at Sparta. Now the tables had turned, and Themistocles knew that there would be no easy way out of this. He had to think fast. Those hostages back in Athens were the only leverage he had against this. They won't kill us. They know they can't. Their men will die if we do. But probability was not certainty.

The men looked at him, their faces a mixture of accusation and fear. "Let me do the talking," he told them over a meal of crusty bread and brackish water. "I have practice turning a room full of enemies into alies." It was true. He had escaped ostracism twice, convinced men to pay for warships instead of dividing funds among themselves, and swindled one of the most prominent men of Athens out of his only daughter. Though the latter might have been more a loss than a gain. "Now lisen. I may have to slither and grovel like a worm, but I'll get us out of this alive, I promise." They looked as if they almost believed him.

"Themistocles of Athens, you are hearby charged with intention to spy and land without permission upon our city-state. The penalty for Athenians is death."Little good we'll be dead," Themistocles said as casually as he could. "You'll have to build gallows or build a pit to throw us in or pour wine down our throats until he die. Although I wouldn't mind the latter, you'd have to import wine from Attican vineyards, and your people may not like that." A few chuckles sounded. A good start. "It costs nothing to throw you into the ocean," one pointed little man snapped. "I wonder," Themistocles said coldly. "How much is a man's life worth I wonder? How much is ten?" The sharp one snorted. "Ten against your dozens seems a fair bargain to me. And Crius and his ilk were a nuisance at any rate. None are sad to see them go." "I"m not that popular myself, but killing a Marathon man let alone any citizens of Athens will incite wrath in our Assembly. You may have noticed we arrived on a ship. There's plenty more where THAT came from. So whatever you do to us will be paid back ten fold to your own." "Is it war you want, Themistocles of Athens? Just say the word, and Attica will be drenched in blood. We're not afraid of you and your ships." "The waters here are narrow and trecherous, you could bring 1000 ships here and the storms would crash them and a well trained navy could easily manuver you into position and ram them. "Though I am a general, Sir, I live in a democracy and cannot speak for the whole of my citizens. That is how we do things in Athens. In any case, I'd say not war but peace is best between us. There is a much bigger threat coming this way." The man frowned. "Persia?" "Indeed. A hostage exhcange and a pledge of peace will make all the difference." I don't like this," the chubby youth murmmured. "Just a few weeks ago that volcano (Meghana) was smoking and a series of tremmers. Then the eclipse. I fear the gods are trying to tell us something." "That's there's trouble coming, no doubt." The sharp little man pointed at Themistocles. "And if we align ourselves with this man and his Athenian friends we're sure to be dragged into it. I say we remain out of the drama." "You can see this ugly rock from Pireus," Themistocles pointed out. "And if the Mede decides to vacation in our city, they can see it too." The men exchanged uncertain looks. "So be it. We'll send a messenger to Athens and have a hostage exchange arrranged at once." Themistocles smiled. Perhaps the storm was no accident. Perhaps the gods were with him afterall. Suddenly a comotion outside could be heard. For a moment Themistocles feared the ship's crew had tried to break free and were trying to break into the hall. When the huge marble doors were pulled inward however it was not his men but something far worse: the Spartans.

The leader was an ape of a man, stout, muscled like a bull and offensively ugly. He was dressed in full armor, as though he meant to lead his men into a full-phalanx charge. Their scarlet cloaks and long hair were identical in nearly every way, and will the man wore no helmet the others did, as though they expected battle to break out any minute. "Who are you?" the beak-nosed man demanded. "Eurybates, Navarch of Sparta." The man's bronze armor was turning due to the salty air of the sea. Clearly he was a Navarch in name only. He looked like he had never cracked a smile in his life. He certainly didn't do so now. "What do you want?" "The Spartan king Leonidas sends word to let the Athenians go." The room exploded in outrage. The leaders openly cursed or guaffed. "You Spartans are as stupid as you are ugly. Ten years ago your crazed king Cleomeones came here demanding hostages and we were forced to hand them over to Athens. Now that we have Athenian hostages you want us to let them go. You Spartans had best make up your mind." The Spartan men shifted hands to swords. "Don't threaten us with those nail files you brutes," the beak-man screeched. This is no good. Both sides were Doric stubborn and neither would budge. If I don't say something now that Spartan will draw his sword. Spartans never made idle threats with their weapons, and the Navarch's hand seemed to twitch with a strained effort. "We have hostages. They have hostages. Why argue? Why not a hostage exchange?" he asked. "You be quiet, Themistocles of Athens." The Navach's glare slid over to him. "You're Themistocles?" His tone was dubious. "I am, Navarch. I appreciate your king's request. I owe him a great deal, although I'm afraid you've come all this way for nothing. The Aeginians and I have come to a reasonable agreement." The man studied him suspiciously. ""They will let us go provided we return Cruis and the others to Aegina." "The hostages will be let go because a Spartan king says so," the man retorded angrily. "

Leotychidas stared at nothing. In truth he could insist on them releasing the hostages--that would do much to repair his damaged reputation. Those damn Athenians! He still had not fogiven them their insult. It would silence his critics at home as well and might earn him a measure of respect from the Lion's Den, though he doubted it. He was a Eurypontid, meant to be clever at negotiation, but somehow he lacked his uncle's ability to strtegize or his cousin's ability to placate. Cleomeones was dead ten years now yet people still thought him a lapdog to the Agiad. Yet there was still the matter of Persia. If we involve ourselves in a fight, we could be overtaken by rebels. It was especially restless out there if even Dieneces couldn't get a handle on things. Where is Dems? He heard the boots stomping towards him. Only one person stalked around Sparta in a huff for no reason. "Jason." "You Highness." The youth inclined his head. He had grown accustomed to the name, and seemed to answer to it more readily than his true name, and so Leotychidas continued to call him by his hall name; now everyone did so. "A summons from the Lion's Den." Leotychidas grunted. He had ignored the summons twice already but now was required to appear before the council on the third one. It was a small measure of revenge, a way to salvage his pride. If it bothered Leonidas, the man made no show of it. He's a lump of ice, not a man. He had displayed so once again with his request to send an assembly to Aegina, cold and disspasionate yet oddly persuasive. The Gyrosia was divided and had been for a long time, an even mix of man who had supported his cousin and those that supported Cleomenes. The Agiad king commanded their respect though, and his rare requests were always granted.

"We wish to go with you." Marchois arched an eyebrow at them. "To Persia?" "To the king," Bulis told him. "None save noble blood can just appear before the king," the man explained patiently. "But perhaps I can send along vessels of earth and water--" "It is not a submission," Sperthius snapped. "We wish to amend a terrible mistake," Bulis added with a look meant to silence the older Spartan. His Inspirer had once been known to be outspoken by rocks he was so quiet, but lately the man had been unable to harness his tounge. Clearly Athens was to blame. "Ten years ago our king Cleomenes ordered the deaths of two Persian heralds. We wish to erase that debt." "No amount of money or words can atone for that," Marchois warned them. "But blood might," Bulis said. "We two are Heraclids, men of high birth and prestige, willing to die so that Sparta may live," Sperthius declared. Marchois frowned thoughtfully. "Not the first time I've heard similar words from an exile such as yourself [Dems]. Very well. It is a great risk, but no man ever won a battle without some risk, or so I have been told." He smiled, reminding them of Themsitocles' earlier words. "I will write to Hydranes in somewhere and tell him of your arrival. He can pass word on to Artiphranes who is brother to the king and satrap of Lydia. I cannot gaurentee you will the king personally, but perhaps your message will reach him. Now gather your things quickly. We sail on the morning tide."

"I tried inviting the Spartan but when I made a joke about a Spartan cup of wine he growled at me and stalked off." "They're very sensative about such things," Aristides said diplomatically. Xanthippus was less kind. "They're hypocrites. I hear they're king was crazy because he drank so much." "They consider wine not well-watered to be unseemly. I stayed just outside of Sparta, and though they didn't say so, they clearly disaprove of our way of life."

"I swear Themistocles you're worse than your wife!" Xanthippus snarled. Worse than my wife? When Aristides gave his college a withering look he knew something was afoot. "What does Arch have to do with anything?" "In truth General it was her idea for us to help you," Aristieds said slowly. "I had the misfortune of being seen by a guard and went to hide in the ally, though that didn't help my cause. Nikandros' son and his band nearly ran her over. I pulled her out of the way, and she recognized me." "How fortunate." Try as he did he couldn't stop sarcasm from entering his voice. His wife had been no doubt elated to run into her imaginary sweetheart. "Nikandros thinks because he married my wife's cousin he's Acamaedae but I assure you the whole family is made up of a bunch of idiots." Xanthippus waved his hand dissmisivly. "The only one able to even afford a worse is that impetious boy of his. The rest he bought for his friends." "No worries there," Themistocles told them. "That idiot group is going to make a bad mistake, and Cimon will be more than happy to catch him." The youth boiled to get his hands on his rival, but could not do so until an actual crime was comitted. Arch was right though: there needed to be a formal law against all that riding about before someone got seriously hurt. "In any case, I didn't ask you hear to talk about hoodlums and my wife's inability to stay out of trouble, I need you to help me pursuade the Assembly-" just then the backgate swung open and crashed against the stones. All were up from their couches at once. Siccinnus stalked towards him, sword unsheathed as though enemies were in front or behind him. "Good gods he's going to kill us!" Xanthippus cried, clawing for a sword he didn't have. Aristides at least knew better. "What is it, slave? What is amiss?" Sic ignored him. "Master. There is a high-ranking Persian in the city." The men gasped. "What? Where?" Xanthippus' head swirved. "He is heading in this direction. Of that I am sure." "Gods!" Xanthippus swore. "Clam down rock-head he's not going to start a fight in the middle of the city," Thems said even as his stomach churned. A Persian inside the city. A spy? "Sic how did you know?" The slave frowned around him. Ah. The trust issue. "It's OK Sic, they helped me and now I owe them the truth." Or some part of it. "Now tell me what happened." "A few days ago I was told there were two strange men in the city." He frowned at the ostragized Athenians. "But then I caught sight of a man near the Athenian fire temple he was...his words were different from other prayers. I followed him to his master's place in Phaleum and saw his master's dress." "That's why you dissapeared." Sic nodded. "I did not wish to alarm the mistress." "Good thinking." The news would only kindle her paranoia about that supposed prophecy. "We'll have to accomodate our guest, won't we? Xenos!" The boy approached him ashen-faced. "Don't be scared everything will be fine. Just wake up Cook and then mix another bowel of wine. Just tell Daisy some late-night gate crashers are coming and to get another wheel (?) or cheese and see if there's any lamb or squid left. Go on." The boy nodded, mute as a post as he ran into the kitchen as if an army of Medes were right behind him. The Spartan [is there?] frowned thoughtfully at Sic. "I think you would be a good match for Cerb," he murmmered. Whatever that meant. He heard voices then, and expected to see a fish-scaled warrior stroll through the door, but instead it was Cimon. He nearly groaned. No. Not now. He seemed to have made an enemy of time itself. "Strange to see your gate open in the middle of the night," the youth said in clipped, precise tones. His golden badge of office glittered proudly against his purple cloak, something most men wouldn't wear in such atrocious heat. The youth barely seemed to sweat."Your Highness what brings you here?" Themistocles tried not to seemed rush. He wanted to drop kick the boy over the wall! "Sorry father," a youth said breathlessly behind him. "Pericles, you moron! What do you think you're doing?" "You dissapeared for so long I was sure they had caught you. I only wanted to..." the boy trailed off. "He came in to my office demanding--demanding! to see his father. I told him I had no idea what he was talking about but was sure Xanthippus was in the city and illegally! The boy thought you were in some sort of trouble, and we've been looking for you ever since, for his sake I kept it quiet until I could confirm your presence. Now that I have I must arrest you all." "Don't be stupid!" Thems and Xanthippus said at the same time. "You can't!" Pericles added, horrified. "I have my duty," Cimon said cooly. Considering Xanthippus was the one who wanted to execute his father, this must have been a great moment of triiumph. Behind him were a guard of Scythian archers, almost lazily leaning against the door. The Spartans and Sic looked ready to form a phalanx. The archers seemed ready to go, and the Persians were edgy for sure. Only Marchois and Aristides seemed calm, though Marchois arched an eyebrow at Sic, who had thrown himself in front of Thems, who in turn was utterly baffled. There's going to be a war in my courtyard! He could practically feel the stones beneath his feet humming with battle. "Could we all just sit down and have a cup of wine?" Thems said as lightly as he dared. He felt like sicking up. Everything that could go wrong seemed to be going wrong all at once. "If you sit two or three to a couch I'm sure we can all have a nice time." Nobody moved. Then Marchois glided over to a couch and sat down, all smiles and nods. The Spartans sat down backs straight on one, clearly not willing to share and expecting a fight, for they were both even more stone-faced and had thrown back their cloask, hands on sword hilts. No empty threat there. Xan and Ari sat down on another. Pericles sat by Thems, terrified of his father as much as the Persian. He looks a bit like my twins. If anything happends Sic has to get Arch and the boys out of here. Only his slave seemed to have no intention of moving. He glared at Marchois as though at a personal enemy. Cimon had donned a cool air of indifference, though he was still clearly shaken. Without thinking he ruffled the boy's hair, but instead of being affronted the youth grinned at him, as if to put on a brave show. Cimon and Sic stood, one for formality the other defensively, and the gaurds were sent out on all sides. The tension eased, if not by much. "Now then, Sir Persian, what brings you to our fair city?" The man gave an easy smile. [cimon's rival kicks up rumors about him cajoling with persians, and cimon is forced to agree to thems terms in order to get what thems wants: support for the navy] "I have been sent out to see the mood of this city." "Looking for friends are you?" Thems shrugged. "You won't find many here. Most of the Pistratid are out of the city--almost all in fact. Though I supose there are others." He only had a suspcion of who had turned that shield, but Hippias and his ilk no longer had a grip on the city. It was the Alcamaedae he worried about now. "The Great King is most wrought with you," Marchois said sypathetically. "Sardis burned. His men at Marathon killed." "His father's men," Thems corrected but the Persian ignored him. "I myself owe the Great King a debt. When my father abandoned me to the somebody he offered me land, a wife and a fortune. All I had to do was convince my people to submit. It has been the best of decisisons." "The best decision?" Cimon seethed. His composure was unraveling now. "Oh yes. The Persians can help keep the Scythians away from my lands. They're terrifying in battle, their accuracy with a bow most terrible, as you no doubt know." The man had a way of placing an insault in the most sincere of compliments. That's a talent. Cimon bristled, but Xanthippus was furious. "You dare come strolling in here knowing you'll never fight your way out and then say such outragous things!" "I did not come to fight, but merely to make an offer." "An offer?" "Oh yes. The Great King is gathering his army as we speak. But in truth the men see little reason to invade such a poor land. It is the king's pride you see." "You're Persian and you speak thus?" "I am not Persian, but I speak thus, yes."

"Barbarians have nothing trustworthy or true." Themistocles frowned, looking over the letter for more, but there was nothing. "The youth was puzzled. "A joke?" "Spartans don't make jokes. Oh sure. Men say they love a good quip, but they don't mean to be funny."

Bulis read the note for them to hear. "There is nowhere so much gold or a country so outstanding in beauty and merit that we should be willing to take it as a reward for going over to the Medes and so enslaving Greece. In fact there are many important things stopping us from doing that even if we wanted to. And then again there is Greekeness, being of the same blood and language, and having shared shrines and rituals and goods and similar customs which it would not be right for the Athenians to betray." He lowered the paper. "They could have just wrote 'we know,' Cleombrotus muttered. The king's look was hard as he scrutanized the letter."You are sure of this?" Bulis nodded. "Attic dialect is impossible to understand spoken, but easy enough to decipher on paper." The king set aside the letter and looked around the room. "Well?" "They got the message," Diences said with a lazy smile. "But this is not an official letter, so one man against a mob isn't promising." "This one man is said to be a good speaker, which counts for something in Attica," Bulis told them. "Yet we get no signs of a positive outcome." "We have a wrong to right."

Leotychidas decides to send Jason or Menes to Aegina to check for Dems. He still worries about Helot revolt, which Paus will use to take said helots into battle in exchange for their freedom. Priest encourages Leotychidas to make sacrifice to right wrong, perhaps Persia will not attack. Not because he's scared but one less thing to deal with? Leotychidas agrees and calls attention of issue before Assembly.

Tyrion merchants, their fingers stained purple from breaking open the small shells of Murex, told of a fantastic bridge of boats and a canal that ran through Macedonia.

Glass manufacturing, Sidon's most important enterprise in the Phoenician era, was conducted on a vast scale, and the production of purple dye was almost as important. The small shell of the Murex trunculus was broken in order to extract the pigment that was so rare it became the mark of royalty.

Thems snorted. "I would rather be thrown in the barathrum (criminal pit) than do that."

I hope that I never hold an office where I could not benefit my friends more than strangers who do me no pleasure," said Themistocles. Aristides was only interested in what was good for Athens, not in increasing his own wealth or prestige. He therefore would admit when he had made a mistake, even though it made him look like a fool. Once Aristides proposed something, and the council of four hundred -- over the objections of Themistocles and his party -- approved it. When it was submitted to the people for their ratification, and some good reasons were presented against it, Aristides got up and spoke against his own bill. It was his opinion that every honest citizen had a duty to serve the public interest without hope of any money or glory.
The Athenians chose Aristides to be their treasurer, and he discovered that Themistocles (who had held this office previously) had embezzled large sums of money from the public funds. When Aristides presented the evidence, Themistocles and his party made such a show of outrage and wounded dignity at this accusation that Aristides was fired and also fined for abusing his office. But the best men of Athens saw that a great wrong had been done, and they managed by their efforts to convince the people to repeal the fine and to allow Aristides to continue in his office for the next year.
After that experience, Aristides said nothing about corruption, and therefore the crooks praised him for being an outstanding public servant. These were his loudest supporters for another term in office as treasurer. After he was re-elected in a landslide, Aristides addressed the Athenians: "When I did my job to the best of my ability, you fired me and fined me. When I said nothing about the theft of public money, you called me an honest man and re-elected me. I want you to know that I am more ashamed of the honor you give me today than I was of the dishonor you put on me last year. It's a shame that you think it better to please the wicked than to preserve our city." He then proceeded to give them a full account of all of the corruption of the past year as the crooks listened aghast. That dog doesn't love anyone but Xanthippus.

The Spartan's face seemed frozen into an expression that said, "don't mess with me."

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Xerxes In The Movies

OK. I know I said I'd get another WIP piece up on the site but a) the chapter isn't quite ready even in a rough draft state, and b) I work full-time and so it's hard to spend lots of time on O&E right now. But no worries. Slowly it's coming along. In the meantime, I've recently spotted Ancient Persians all over the place!

A few days ago I rented One Night With The King, a movie that follows the Book of Esther in the Bible. It's believed by many that the king in the story is none other than King Xerxes I of Persia. Thus I wanted to see how they portrayed Ancient Persia and the Persians in the movie, and see if I could gleam any ideas from it. Alas, the movie isn't very good. The acting by the two main characters is cringe-worthy, and the story moves along at a rather clunky pace. I did however love the special effects and costumes, and was amazed that Luke Gross serpentine eyes are almost exactly how I envisioned Xerxes' eyes to look. I also noticed James Callis is almost exactly how I envision Mardonius in my head (well, him and Eric Bana from Troy).

Xerxes isn't the only Ancient Persian being portrayed on the screen either.Last night I watched the 5th part of I, Claudius, the 70's BBC production based on the book by Robert Graves. The acting in it is supurb and the costumes and sets are amazing. Imagine my surprise however when in one scene what looked like a Persian (and a Mede?) are standing right behind Claudius! I'm not sure what happens to the Ancient Persians after Alexander sacks Persapolis, so someone may have to confirm if I'm right about this one.

At any rate, I now feel inspired to go back and work more on my WIP. Hopefully in the next week it will be up and ready to go.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Owl & Eagle Update

I'm still working on the Owl & The Eagle.

I've got a couple of WIP stuff uploaded onto the site but have to tweak them a bit before sharing them with all two of my readers (LOL). One is from the POV of King Alexander I, and the other is from the POV of Themistocles. It's been a long, slow race towards the finish, but I'm still hanging in there. Hopefully I'll get one of my WIP chapters up in the next few days.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I am utterly exhausted.

A simple errand such as buying a bookshelf for my room should not have been this much of an ordeal. Yet it was, and I blame Ikea. Here's why.

I used to have a bookshelf when I was little. It was vine-shaped and made out of iron, small and always cool to the touch. Then after I moved to Japan my parents took the bookshelf out of the room, thinking I had left never to return. I did return though, and I brought all my books back with me. Yet for over two years I dithered on getting a new bookshelf, preferring to just stack my books in one vacant corner of my room, near my bathtub or under my bed. Books, newspaper articles and magazines were anywhere and everywhere, and it still never occured to be that I needed a bookshelf urgently. Someday I would. But right now? I had better things to spend my money on. Like more books.

Then last week I got seven more books on Greece & Persia, plus I bought a few more fashion magazines to add to my growing collection. And so I finally decided to quit procrastinating and drive to Ikea for an inexpensive but nice bookshelf for my literature.

I had been to Ikea before but forgotten how daunting it is. The building stretches for what seems a city block or more, with no windows and no way to get around without getting turned around. After making my way inside I wandered a bit aimlessly, trying to get my bearings. There was an area for living room furniture, for office furniture, and even dining room furniture, but what category did a bookshelf fall into? (short answer: library) I didn't see anything like that though, and in any case, I just wanted something small and tasteful. To my surprise I managed to find such a bookshelf, and for the reasonable price of $100. Satisfied, I scribbled down the ticket information on a receipt in pink lipstick (a writer without a pen and paper!) and then...had no idea to get down to the "Market Hall."

Embarrassed I decided to retrace my steps back the way I came (running into a dead-end or two) and luckily found the stairs. After making my way down to the bottom floor I grabbed a cart, pushed along to the designated aisle, and puzzled over the size of the bookshelf. Or rather, the length of it. My car is a Toyota Yaris, a great little car but not exactly a pick-up truck, and I wasn't sure how I was going to fit my bookshelf into it. Well, if worse comes to worse I'll just take it out of the box, I told myself.

After zipping through the line (luckily the store wasn't too crowded) I made my way over to the home delivery section. "How much is it to get this delivered to my house," I asked a tad breathlessly from pushing the cart around. "Eighty dollars," the woman behind the counter replied stone-faced. Eighty dollars!? That's almost as much as the bookshelf! I managed to stutter out something about trying to fit it into my car and pushed my cart outside. Eighty dollars! Who were they kidding?

As I pushed along I began to have the sinking feeling that I was not allowed to take my cart all the way out to where I was parked. Sure enough I ran into a sign declaring as much, and was forced to turn around. The loading zone was far from where I was parked, but I was going to have to drop off my stuff, walk to my car and then drive it to the loading zone whether I wanted to or not. I returned to the exit area and looked around for someone who could watch my cart while I ran to get my car. I asked one lady but she (nicely) explained that she was about to have someone help her get her stuff loaded and might be gone by the time I got back. After an employee had finished loading the lady's things in her car, I asked if he could help me. "Where's your car?" "Way down there," I explained, beckoning in a south-easterly direction. Unwilling to wait around in case he needed to help other customers, he told me "you need to take that inside," and pointed to my load. Losing patience (especially since I thought he might say that) I stalked into Ikea, shoved my bookshelf unwatched into a corner and sprinted to my car. After I pulled up and un-popped the trunk I dragged out my purchase. One look at my bookshelf and then at my car told me this was going to be a be a challenge, if it worked at all. It was time to see what I could do.

Remembering how my mom and I had managed to fit something from Bombay Company into another car years ago, I used my keys to rip off the tape and took the bookself pieces out of the box. It started off promising: the first bits were the actual shelves to the bookshelf and were nice and small. Things got dicy however when I pulled out the side panels. They were the reason my package was so heavy and long. I felt tears welling up. There was no way these tree trunks were going to fit into my car. Even if I rolled down the window the boards would stick out too far out. Even worse, I had taken my bookshelf out of the box so now I was going to either have to a) ask for a whole new box so that Ikea could deliver it, or b) go through a lot of trouble to have the boards put on top of my car and strapped down. Neither alternative was appealing. By the way, it's interesting to note that Ikea employees and patrons were walking past the whole time, but whether they really didn't see a 5'3" woman struggling with her purchase or simply chose not to I don't know.

Just as I was about to give up however, I decided to give it one more shot. I took the plank boards and angled them in the back seat so the ends stuck out my back window, and LUCKILY they didn't stick out too far. Or rather, I told myself they didn't as I fell exhausted into my front seat and turned the ignition over. As I drove I home I envisioned knocking down tree branches, cyclists or unsuspecting joggers, or even worse getting stopped by the police ("you're not allowed to stick lumber out your car window, Miss)." My luck held though, and now my bookshelf is safely in the house, ready to be assembled. How THAT will go is a different story...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Character Profile: Artabanus

While writing the Owl & The Eagle I've tried to present both sides of the Greco-Persian conflict in an equal manner. This is sometimes hard to do since the Ancient Persians did not leave a whole lot of writing behind, unlike the Ancient Greeks (most of our information on the Greco-Persian conflicts comes from the latter). Still, I've come to realize that the Persian prince Artabanus (the uncle of King Xerxes and according to Herodotus one of his trusted advisors) is by far one of my favorite characters on either side of the conflict in The O&E.

Unlike most of the figures in Herodotus, Artabanus is not driven by ambition or alternative motives. When Xerxes announces that he plans to personally lead his army against Greece, it is Artabanus alone who begs him not to. He tells the king he has a bad feeling about the invasion, and that it is too problematic of a campaign anyway. Xerxes ignores this advice, and sends Artabanus to Susa to watch the capital while he's away. In the end Artabanus ends up being right, and Xerxes is defeated in Greece.

In my mind's eye, Artabanus looks very much like the Persian noble in the picture above. He's tall, well-built, and is both dignified and regal. He is fair of skin, with dark coiffed hair and large dark eyes that shine with intelligence. He grew up loving even the most arcane knowledge and is somewhat of a "bookworm." He is also a good listener and of a mild temperment, and this makes him a good arbitrator when conflict arises.

Artabanus loves his family dearly, especially his two grandchildren who are all that remain to him of his favorite son Darius (who was lost at sea during the first Greco-Persian war). He is quick to smile, yet his large dark eyes are always sad, for he holds in his heart a terrible secret, a secret that if ever revealed could jepordize his entire family, including the Great King himself...

**Note: If you're interested, check out the September/October section of my archives and read the story from the POV of Artabanus.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

My Ego

I've been tagged by Wynn! This is the first time anybody has tagged me. It's kind of exciting, actually! At any rate, the topic is "Eight things about Me" (I rounded it off to ten just for fun).

1) I'm a Leo. Meaning I love attention, think the center of any universe should be me, and am overly proud.

2) I'm also a Sheep/Ram. At least according to the Chinese Zodiac. This means that I'm spoiled (true) and surprisingly shy (true).

3) I love to write. I feel like I can never write enough, and am happiest when I've written something I'm proud of.

4) I love languages. I took five years of Spanish and almost five years of Japanese (I continue to self-study both). I also took French, and have tried to learn a bit of Russian, German and Mandarin. I'm also thinking of learning Ancient Greek to help with my novel The Owl & The Eagle.

5) I've lived in Japan and am a lover of almost all things Japanese. I've thought about publishing some of my emails from Japan since they're always about some interesting place I went to or some experience I've had (examples include going to a ninja restaurant, trying to fish for my dinner, getting caught in a typhoon, and attending a fashion show).

6) I love history. Most of my reading material is historical. In fact, my idea for "The Owl & The Eagle" came from reading "The Battle of Salamis" by Barry Strauss. I also read a lot of historical fiction novels, and enjoy reading books by authors like Scott Oden, Steven Pressfield and David Anthony Durham.

7) I love Greek Mythology. My love for it started in 1st or 2nd grade and is still with me. My favorite Greek goddess is Aphrodite, and my favorite Greek god is Hermes.

8) I love Fantasy novels. Robert Jordan and George RR Martin are my two favorite Fantasy authors. I like that their stories are about characters and not just a string of plot points.

9) I love wrestling (yeah, you read that right). It's just a soap opera with hot guys. My favorites over the years include Bret Hart, The Undertaker, and HHH.

10) My real name isn't Megumi, but when I was in High School I didn't like to give out my personal information to strangers on the Internet (I still don't). So, I decided to adapt the Japanese name Megumi for my "online persona," and still use it today.

So there you go. Now you know a little more about me. In other news, my first novel The Owl & The Eagle continues to progress, and will hopefully be finished by late summer. Maybe I should make that a birthday present to myself...

I tag anyone who's read this blog and wants to participate (^_^)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Getting Ready For Publishing

I'm not very good at taking criticism.

I always take it super personally, and feel devastated when my work is ripped apart (but then, who doesn't?) Lately though I've gotten better, as is evident by the fact I took feedback about my IGN review of Final Fantasy soundtracks in stride. Some of the more entertaining comments include the following:

"That Meghan Sullivan chick wouldn't know Final Fantasy music if it kicked her in the head."

And then there's this gem:

"for more giggles and eye rolls, i took a look at the writer's blog. the level of maturity and eloquence there is comical."

Granted these are kids who don't think before they shoot off an email, but it's good training for when real critics begin to evaluate my novel(s).

If you're wondering what blog the one reader is talking about, check out and judge the blog for yourself. (^_^)

Friday, May 04, 2007

Scott Oden Is The Man

Recently Scott Oden received a glowing review for his work here:

This is pretty awesome stuff, so if you haven't done so check out what this reviewer had to say about works like Memnon and Men of Bronze. Congrats, Scott!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Herodotus In Film

I'm always on the look out for material that can help me understand the Ancient Hellenes better. I feel like there's never enough. Yet when I want more information I usually turn to books or articles, since TV and movies tend not to be overly accurate or helpful. I was pleasantly surprised however when I watched the PBS special Greeks: Crucible of Civilization Special Edition. This nearly three hour documentary covers the amazingly rich history of Ancient Athens from the 6th century BC until the fall of the polis, using actors and a host of prominent historians to walk us through the events of the time. Among the more notable historians that appear in this film are Barry Strauss, Victor Davis Hanson and Paul Cartledge, all names that should be familiar to people studying Ancient Greece. These men lend a sense of legitimacy to the documentary that a lot of similar films lack. Yet what really sets this work apart is the director's ability to take the viewer back through time, showing us a glimpse of what life might have been like for men like Themistocles and Pericles.

Instead of offering cheesy acting or dialogue, the director hired professional actors and even real local specialists to simply act out different events. He also had cinematic shots of the modern city of Athens subtly painted over to make it look like more archaic, so when the shots appear on screen it's like you're seeing the city as it might might have been thousands of years ago. Especially impressive is the aversion of studio-made sets. When the film portrays men knocking olives out of trees, you know that those are real olive trees in the Attica countryside. When you see a spectacular shot of a trireme, you're looking at a real ship (the one built a few years ago by scholors). No expense is spared, not corners cut...but that's not to say the film is above reproach.

Despite its name, the documentary rarely focuses on any city-state but Athens, and almost never mentions men or battles that don't have anything to do with it. The oversight of events like Thermopylae is especially cringe worthy. Yet if you opt to listen to the Director's Commentary, the director does mention that he chose to have the film revolve around only a few select men (all Athenian), so a piece about Leonidas and his accomplishments would admittedly be akward. Still, it would have been better to change the documentary's name to Ancient Athens: Crucible of Civilization, thus making the absence of certain battles and historical figures less conspicuous.

This misnomer can be forgiven though once you realize the director's complete commitment to making this film as good as possible. Not only did he use professional actors and real locations, he also hired an orchestra to make a stirring and riveting soundtrack. This beautifully compliments the story telling in its richness and detail, making the experience of watching the film even more pleasant. So if you love Ancient Athens and want to see a detailed and complete picture of the early years of the polis, rent or buy this DVD. And hey: it's hosted by Liam Neelson. What more could you ask?