on paris and persia

I’ve always sympathised with the Persians more than the Greeks in the Greco-Persian Wars, a titanic showdown that started around 490 BC and lasted for half a century. From the Persian point of view you have a large, sophisticated and wealthy imperial power, struck by an unprovoked(ish) Greek attack; it responds with a retaliatory invasion, gets mired in the ensuing faraway war, and finally pulls out in ignominy. It all smacks of high tragedy, there are lessons in hubris, triumph and fall; that side of the story appeals much more to me than the Greek story, that of the scruffy underdogs who took on the bad guys and won through sheer gutsiness. That’s probably also why I’m an Empire man and not Rebel Alliance. And don’t even get me started on films like 300 (fun though they may be). Continue reading “on paris and persia”

sacrifice pt 1: a buttock for Rome…

[This is the first of four parts in the penultimate chapter, titled Sacrifice.]

Now laws and oaths, as I have said, are hungry. Some gave their lives to uphold them, others gave slightly less. But laws and oaths are hungry.

Tarquin’s shadow came to Rome for the third and final time just one year after Brutus was slain. After his defeat at the forest of Arsia the old tyrant fled to Clusium. There he begged King Porsena to help him retake the seven hills. Now in your day King Porsena’s name is but a memory, but at that time it was a fearful name. King Porsena’s wisdom and military power were the stuff of legend. So you can imagine the fear which gripped our city! Finally Tarquin, through much effort, persuaded Porsena to march on Rome. The fearful Clusian army marched out, thousands in their gleaming armour, rumbling toward our city. Continue reading “sacrifice pt 1: a buttock for Rome…”

law pt 3: the oath of Brutus

Now this Brutus who had accompanied Collatinus to his house was a strange one. He became a great man, yet his early life had been one of trouble. His real name was Lucius Junius, and not many remember that he was King Tarquin’s nephew.

Now the proud King had a vicious streak in him, and among the many people he murdered was a brother of young Lucius. So Lucius, not wanting to draw unwanted attention, pretended from then on to be a harmless idiot – so gaining the nickname Brutus. Continue reading “law pt 3: the oath of Brutus”

fate pt 1: the happiest of men

[This is a project I’ve been working on and off for several years now, a collection of ancient short stories (mostly adapted from Herodotus and Livy), under the working title The Happiest of Men. These are grouped into four chapters: Fate, Law, Sacrifice, and Love. Every week for the next few months I will be posting a new story until the epilogue and then the afterword. Without further ado, enjoy!]

King Croesus ruled the land of the Lydians, and he was the richest king of all. His city of Sardis gleamed with shining gold and white marble, and his palaces and temples were the envy of the world. Even the wisemen of Athens, who loved wisdom more than gold, came to see his city.

One day the greatest wiseman of them all, Solon, came to visit King Croesus. Croesus was very flattered, and now he wanted to be praised. So he showed Solon the wonders of his kingdom, and then asked him, “My friend, who do you think is the happiest man you have ever seen?” He was expecting to hear, “You, o King.” Continue reading “fate pt 1: the happiest of men”

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