In Aegean Fire, in 433 BC in Classical Greece, from his chained position at his oar, Arion catches a glimpse of Athens’ fabled Akropolis through an oarport of the trireme commanded by his nemesis, Smerdis. Despite the fantasies of his childhood as the scion of a wealthy mercantile family on Lesbos, when he had always dreamed of coming here, he now hates Athens.
After the Battle of Sybota, due to previous violent insubordination witnessed by Artontes, Arion’s new master, Arion is dispatched to the dreaded mines in Laurion.
In 431 BC, like all other movable property, Arion is brought back to Athens for the duration of the first Peloponnesian summer occupation of Attica. After Arion nurses Artontes’ wife and child through the plague, Artontes shows his appreciation by assigning Arion to an oarbench on one of his cargo ships, but exposure to pirates might be more threatening than the plague, naval battles, or the mines.
To assist potential readers in making good choices about whether or not to purchase any of the four volumes of Arion’s Odyssey, I offer the following additional information about this tetralogy, which is set in Classical Greece, with the city-state (polis) of Athens as one protagonist and Arion (a human) as the other.
Each volume of Arion’s Odyssey is a combination of historical novel, ancient travelogue, ancient poetry, mythology, religion, and history. If you would enjoy a saga as detailed as Melville’s Moby-Dick, as kaleidoscopic as Michener’s Iberia, and as expansive as Hugo’s Les Misérables, you might love this tetralogy.
Regarding Athens and its empire, the following portion of each novel is similar to an ancient travelogue: one third of Life After Death at Ipsambul (volume 1); one fifth of Aegean Fire (volume 2); one tenth of Beyond the Battle of Naupaktos (volume 3); one tenth of Return to Lesbos (volume 4).
Set in the ancient Mediterranean world, Arion’s Odyssey is an adult story about Arion, a sensitive Greek (boy becoming a man) from a wealthy mercantile family on the Greek island of Lesbos. It begins fourteen years prior to the inception of the Peloponnesian War, and ends during that war: it spans the period from 445 BC to 427 BC.
If you would like to experience life in the ancient Mediterranean world, then you will probably enjoy this adult story about coming-of-age there.
Sten (Return to Lesbos, 2017, etc.) presents the second installment in a historical-fiction series about one man’s travels through ancient Greece.
The year is 433 BCE, and the hero of this series, a man from Lesbos named Arion, rows with other slaves aboard a Greek ship known as a trireme. It’s carrying sacks of grain to the busy wharf of Kantharos, where it will be unloaded and its owner (and Arion’s master), Artontes, will prepare it for battle. It turns out that the trireme is to be sent to aid in what will later be known as the Battle of Sybota. Arion takes part in and survives the naval conflict, but he has little reason to rejoice, as he’s then sent to work in the Laurion mines. Some call these mines “the tomb of the living,” and anyone who attempts to escape can expect a hot iron to the forehead. Meanwhile, a peace between Athens and Sparta is unraveling as both parties head toward what will become the Peloponnesian War. To make matters worse, a plague breaks out in Piraeus, then Athens. Even if Arion survives his years in the mines, he’s sure to have a difficult time wherever he winds up. Thus his adventure unfolds against a backdrop of conflict in the ancient world. It’s in the details of this world that the book is at its best. The narrative explores numerous elements that illuminate the action, such as shipbuilding materials (fir and pine) and breakfast food, including “porridge, dried figs, and bread with olive oil.” On the other hand, the motivations of some characters are less specific. At one point, for instance, Arion is said to feel “rage, anger, frustration, and sorrow”—a mixed bag of general emotions whose description does little to help the reader understand what Arion is actually going through. But even if the modern reader isn’t likely to fully understand what it means to be in the sandals of a slave, this book does succeed in portraying the complexity of his situation.
An intricate, if unevenly written, narrative that shows the many facets of a life of servitude.