the Happiest of Men

This is a project that took several years of on and off work, 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. Enjoy!

Fate pt1

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. continue reading

Fate pt2

Victory had been close, so close! Only the year before, King Cyrus the Great, King of the mighty Persians, had begun his great conquest. His enemy was none other than his own grandfather, King Astyages of Media. continue reading

Fate pt3

Now King Croesus fancied himself the happiest man in the world. He ruled a powerful kingdom, he had magnificent wealth and a strong and brave son, Atys. But destruction was upon him. continue reading

Fate pt4

When King Cyrus the Great was approaching the end of his days, he was consumed with desire to conquer the wild horsemen of the north. Queen Tomyris of the sun-worshipping Massagetae was his next target. Her husband had died and now she was the sole ruler of her people. So King Cyrus asked for her hand in marriage. But she refused, for Tomyris was wise as she was fair. continue reading

Fate pt5

Nestled in the shadow of the Persian Empire was the island of Samos. The Samians were a proud people, good sailors. Now the rulership of Samos had fallen into the hands of one man, Polycrates, son of Aiaces, a king in all but name. continue reading

Fate pt6

When Polycrates, ruler of Samos died, a victim of his own greed, his power and riches passed to his steward Maeandrius. continue reading

Fate: Epilogue

I was at the busy port of Halicarnassus one day, when I stopped at the city square to listen to a storyteller. He told grand tales of the magnificent kings of Persia who dwelt in gleaming palaces, who demanded tribute from thousands of kinds of people: gold from the Indians, warhorses from the Medes, jewels from the Aghans, silver from the Egyptians, soldiers from the wildmen of the north. continue reading

Law pt1

In the rocky land of Greece, men loved to quarrel: farmers, heroes, kings, cities. No two cities hated each other more than Argos and Sparta. continue reading

Law pt2

Have you sat by the banks of Old Father Tiber before? On quiet days you may hear it murmur. Sometimes it grumbles as old men do, sometimes it sings, and sometimes it tells stories. I have heard a few stories in my lifetime, but none are so sorrowful as that of the woman Lucretia. continue reading

Law pt3

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. continue reading

Sacrifice pt1

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. continue reading

Sacrifice pt2

Porsena’s men never did take our city, but they did surround her. After the stand at the Sublician Bridge, the bronze-clad ogres decided to surround us with siege works. continue reading

Sacrifice pt3

Old Father Tiber has one more story to tell.

After the heady days of struggle against the tyrants, Rome grew fat. Our people had loved truth and freedom, now we lusted for coin, power and prestige. And so the ten decemvirs took power in our city. They were once good men who loved justice, but the taste of power poisoned the lot of them. The best and worst of them was the decemvir Appius Claudius. continue reading

Sacrifice: Epilogue

Rome is not a happy place. But it is the talk of all the big-wigs and the kings these days, is it not? That strange city of upstarts from the hills – of Latium, of all places! – has grown to take the lead in our world. Who has grown so quickly in strength like they have? That’s the talk of the town among those who study, these days. continue reading

Epilogue: Love

I remember sitting at the Hill of Ares in the great city of Athens. The wisemen of the city were there too, famed for their love of learning. So how surprising for us to hear a commotion one day coming from a Jew! He seemed to be peddling some god or another. Here and there you could see the furrowed brows and the puzzled looks as the greybeards humoured him and heard him out, this strange man. continue reading

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