"I write because by writing i find beauty.
To speak about terror or human cruelty is
to seek a way for beauty and justice.
To write is to go against.
All my novels, historical or not, are the way:
From the soul to the soul."

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Last Emperor of Byzantium

The Last Emperor
of  Byzantium 
A best selling novel
An epic novel that brings to life one of the most significant historical events of the past millennium: The Fall of the Byzantine Empire.
The novel is based on the historical context of the clash between Christianity and Islam, that led to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the destruction of the Byzantine Empire. While historical fact is the starting point, the aim is to focus on the human aspect of these events: The sadness, desolation, and hopeless heroism of the Byzantines, the ruthless cunningness and determination of the Turks.
With power thought, face to face with historical fact, the author Maria Lampadaridou Pothou conveys, minute by minute, the ultimate agony of the last days of the Imperial City, the struggle of that tragic besieget people, who became a universal symbol.
But beyond that, Maria Lampadaridou Pothou, with her hero as a mythic axis, describes the decline of Byzantium, as well as the painful experience of the Greek people after the Fall – an experience that gave rise to the flowering of the Greek spirit in Western centers of the Renaissance.

The novel Byzantium - The Fall has been translated into English.

"What I hoped to do was to find that which almost always remains outside of history: the passion, the miracle, the heroic grandeur of that tragic besieged people, abandoned by God a man. All those things I attempted to portray through the pain of the One Conscience, the One Solitary Cry, so that today’s man and woman could participate in that stunning event, which determined the historical course of the last millennium.
I believe that only historical self-knowledge can lead a nation to transcend blood, and that the death of the Byzantine Empire constitutes a historical past for every contemporary man and woman. In the spirit of peaceful co-existence foreshadowed by the new millennium, knowledge of the historical truth is that which will shape the new ecumenical human being."

"When I began to write my novel about the fall of the Byzantine Empire, I could not imagine the adventure on which I was embarking. On the one hand, there was the position I had to take, as author, toward a historical event that altered the world stage and shaped a new order in the balance of power throughout the world; on the other, there was the psychic price to pay, in reviving the wrenching experience of the last days of the siege of Constantinople and its fall.
The novel describes, moment by moment, the last fifty-seven days of the dying Byzantine Empire and at the same time recounts the unhappy course of thw Empire’s decline and of its abandonment by the West. It, also, outlines the painful experience of the Greek people after the fall which led to the flowering of Greek learning in the West.
I made use of poetic language and symbols, in order to enrich the epic account with insights from contemporary psychology.
History needs poetry in order to survive.
Poetry was my raw material".

First Edition 1996, 19th edition 2010

«Η αράχνη υφαίνει τον ιστό της και η κουκουβάγια κρώζει στους πύργους του Αφραστάβ…»
Ήταν ο στίχος του Πέρση ποιητή που απάγγειλε ο Μωάμεθ, ευθύς μόλις μπήκε κατακτητής στη σπαραγμένη Βασιλεύουσα και επισκέφθηκε το Ιερό Παλάτιο και την Αγια Σοφιά".

Friday, 21 February 2014

Mystic Passage

Swedish edition by BONNIERS

Winter will find me naked
In a dilapidated room
With time welling up through the holes of the floors
Winter will find me stirring the ashes of my poetry
A handful of words -- like star or blood
Like I wander or oath -- like
Souls can smell -- I burn them to warm myself.

Winter will find me barefoot wandering
Up and down the one and only abyss
The soil is soft I sink into it
Mud from ancient stars
"I will get through," I say
Branches of the azure in my hands
And the tree officiates over the silver of the desert
Odor of the boundless void
My pained matter that I inhabited.

I raise my poetry before
Garment stained with blood
I burn it to warm myself.

And it rains and rains in my tattered room
Which sways a reward for fire
It rains full moon and ancient blood
Crystals laden with my centuries.

I bend over to look at myself in the most,
In the most deep well of cracked crystal
My face perplexed and mournful
And it rains and rains silver deserts on the sacred icon
My body is an odor of night's shudder
And the archangel standing in the window
Fashions a sensuous curve from God and Universe

I wrap myself in the boundless azure
To pass through.

Winter will find me dreaming
A rose sprouted on the storm
With paradise shifting like a mirage
and Time still prophetic
liberating the stars from my flesh.

Winter will find me in the desert
Marching like a revelation
And Age, the Exterminator, melts like
A scented candle
With the seven flames kindled in my body
Sites of nascent whiteness
With a frgrance of burnt pine-needle for recognition
A rose that prays forgotten
At the edge of the storm

I walk no longer
I sink down like a prophetic dream.

Poetry: Mystic Passage

Ο χειμώνας θα με βρει γυμνή
σ' ένα ερειπωμένο δωμάτιο
με τον χρόνο να αναβλύζει από τα τρύπια πατώματα
ο χειμώνας θα με βρει να σκαλίζω τη στάχτη από την ποίησή μου
μια φούχτα λέξεις όπως
άστρο ή αίμα
όπως οδοιπορώ ή όρκος
όπως 'αι ψυχαί οσμώνται'
τις καίω να ζεσταθώ"

SPARTAN (The Wooden Wall)

Like a summary


One day the enemy went to conquer Sparta. At that time, the Spartans could not protect their town because they had not yet built the wall. And, when they saw the enemy, they did this strange thing:

They gathered all the citizens, bonded by the shoulder and surrounded their town as if they were a strong human wall.

The men of the enemy army stood up surprised and looked for some hours at the phenomenon.
Then they left.

Sparta has been a unique town of human history, a closed society, with a philosophy of life based on hard discipline and deprivation. They believed that only in that way could be the absolute virtue as an honor of the Spartan.

It was prohibited by the laws to have the citizens money. It was this a part of their philosophy of life. And the citizens so deeply respected their laws that they did not need the money.

When Athenians asked them what could corrupt them, they answered: Only the sound of money.

Their male children, from the age of seven, were given at the Military Schools to educate them according to their laws, to make them worthy warriors, to initiate them at the virtue of honor.

It was a hard military society with absolute values.
It was prohibited for the warrior to come back alive at his town if his army did not win at the battle.

The hero of my novel, Aristodemos, was blinded on the third day of battle of the Leonidas 300, at Thermopylae, and he left. Leonidas told him to leave. But when he returned in Sparta, he was held in disgrace by his compatriots, because he was not killed in the battle with his comrades.

Through Aristodemos tragedy, through his deep humiliation, the novel gives all the philosophy of the society of Sparta. A society which until today is the big enigma of human history.

The Athenians:

Athenians had a completely different philosophy of life. It was then (about 480 p. X) that democracy was born. The sense of nation, also. The freedom of speech and thought was the principal value of democracy. It was exactly the moment that blossomed the spirit, the dramatic poetry as education of the citizen, with Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides. All the three great poets are present in the novel and participate in it. Aeschylus, about 45 years old, fought in all the big battles, Marathon, Salamis. Sophocles was a very young poet at that moment. And Euripides was a child of 5 years old who saw the naval battle of Salamis from the rocks of the island where he lived.

When the giant army of Xerxes (the Persians) came to conquer Greece, all the Greek cities were merged for the first time in order to refute them.

These battles the novel tries to describe. How the few Greeks, with their genius, won the huge volume of the Persian army.

Nobody can know what today’s world would be like, if Persian imperialism, with its immense riches and its servile spirit, had prevailed at that moment.

Certainly the world today would be different.

Europe, which was born in the following years, the Nations which composed them, was based on the Athenians values, on democracy and the freedom of thought and, also, on the sense of civilization, as they had developed it.

To understand the difference between the Athenians and Persians (who if they had won, then, would dominate all the known at that time world) I will refer to a dialogue between Xerxes and one of his generals.

When their gigantic army reached the place near Thermopylae, they found there only some Greek soldiers who did not fight. Then Xerxes asked what happened. And they answered that at that moment were taking place the Olympic Games and the Greeks had “ekeheiria” (which means: I keep your hand and not my arms) and any war stops.

Xerxes asked again: What is the reward for the Olympic winners. And they answered: A branch of olive tree.
And then Xerxes shouted: “Papai Mardonie, against who you have brought me to fight! That people gives to the winners a branch of olive tree and not gold”.

That was the difference.

And on these values would be based the civilization of the Europe nations which were born at the following years.

{That is why there exist so many great writers who loved deeply the Greek History and they dedicated their life writing for its spirit and history. Like sir Steven Runciman, George Thomson, George Steiner and many others. Steiner, one of the best contemporary philosophers, Prof in Cambridge, said: “There is indeed a motion of 'homecoming to ancient Greece' in western thought and speech. To articulate experience grammatically, to relate discourse and meaning as we do, is to 'be Greek''' .

George Steiner, ANTIGONES – The Antigone myth in Western literature, art and thought, Oxford University Press, 1984, p. 135.}

The plot of the novel :

Alcamenis, a ten years old boy from the island of Lemnos, who was taken slave by the Persian ships, is becoming the witness of all events which follow. With him the Persians take, also, his teacher and a little girl, Hipolyte, who will become his unique love.

These three persons are the axis of the myth I created to give the charm but also the cruelty of a world one might call up-to-date.

Hipolyte will become priestess at the Elefsinia Mysteries. Alcamenis, charmed by the narrations of his teacher for Sparta, manages to arrive at the town and to know this famous city. But Spartans do not want the strangers.

As a child and as a young man he will be experienced by all the hard approvals but, also, he will be initiated in the spirit of their absolute military virtue.

He will be a helot for Aristodemos. As a helot, as a moribund, as a fanatic warrior, he will be experienced by all the aspects of their life. He will fight for his beloved Hipolyte. He will win the respect of Spartans. He will participate in all the big battles.

As helot of Aristodemos, Alcamenis will live with him all the martyrdom of his smashing after his disgrace.

He will be friend of an aristocrat Athenian, Dexileo, and this friendship will help him to experience, also, the secrets of Athenians conception of life. And when the very handsome Dexileo will be wounded at the naval battle of Salamis and will be invalid, Alcamenis leaves Sparta (just at the moment that they decided to make him a real citizen) in order to help his friend.

The Spartan, who more than the others tortured Alkamenis in the first years, will save his son, four years old, a child of his love with Hipolyte.

The novel ends with the battle of Plataea (final horrible defeat of Persians) where Aristodemos ran first to the battle, ran as if he was dancing in order to die for his town and in that way to be expiated for the shame that he was returned alive from the battle of Three Hundred.

The end of the novel takes place seven years after the wars, when at the theater of Acropolis is playing (“is taught” they said then) the Aeschylus tragedy “Persians” which gives the naval battle of Salamis where he fought. And from all the cities the people ran, since the early morning, to take places at the theater. They believed that they would live again the triumph of their victory. But the tragedy was written to evoke awe. The awe of the defeated. The Poet gave it with all the splendor and compassion that every great calamity has.

This is the novel.

I tried to portray the human side, to find the daily way of life in the ancient
world, so that the events unfold at a time abolished but also magically present,
a time alive.

I believe that “SPARTAN” is a contemporary novel. Not only because it
brings that distant age to our days, but because it contains, prophetically,
everything that glorifies or plagues contemporary times.”

Aristodemos is a real historic person.
And all historic events are verified from the historic sources.

At the end of the novel I put the maps which show the genius strategy of Themistocles, all the movements of his ships, to make it clear how the few Greeks managed to win the colossal fleet of Xerxes.

«Προσπάθησα να δώσω την ανθρώπινη πλευρά, να βρω την καθημερινή τελετουργία του αρχαίου κόσμου, έτσι που τα γεγονότα να ξετυλίγονται σε ένα χρόνο καταργημένο αλλά και μαγικά παρόντα, σε ένα χρόνο ζωντανό.
Πιστεύω πως το “Ξύλινο τείχος” είναι ένα μυθιστόρημα σύγχρονο. Όχι τόσο γιατί φέρνει στις μέρες μας τη μακρινή εκείνη εποχή, αλλά γιατί αυτή εμπεριέχει, προφητικά, όλα όσα μεγαλύνουν ή μαστίζουν τον σύγχρονο κόσμο.
Αν και ιστορικό μυθιστόρημα, λέω πως το έγραψα μυητικά. Και κάθε μυητική περιπλάνηση είναι ταυτόχρονα και αναγωγή της ψυχής στον εαυτό της, στην πολλαπλότητα της αυτογνωσίας της.»

Friday, 14 February 2014

SPARTAN (The Wooden Wall)

click on the image of the book cover
Cover page:
“And nobody can know what today’s world would be like, if Persian imperialism, with its immense riches and its servile spirit, had prevailed. It was the clash between two different civilizations, two different worlds, in which the “few” free ones predominated.”

The Wooden Wall is the oracle that the god of Delphi gave to the Athenians before the battle of Salamis in 480 B.C.

The novel animates the epic of the ancient world through the eyes of a child from Lemnos, Alkamenis, who was taken slave by Persians. He managed to go to Sparta and know that unique city. There he became the witness of the greatest military conflicts in human history. As helot, as moribund and as observer he is becoming the mythic axis for all the cruelty and the charm of a world one might call up-to-date.

The Wooden Wall is, above all, the human adventure, the human being. The epic of man’s struggles, but also, his conception about life and Moira, about Hades, about the soul. And only the decision of those “few” to oppose the hybris of Persian imperialism gives the measure of that era.
With a vivid and perceptive language, with the events running in their archetypal ritual, the novel animates that time. It annuls the millenniums, becomes an adventure of today’s human being on the same earth.
A novel which searches, in the depths of the soul, the collective memory and the lost self-knowledge.

The novel The Wooden Wall has been translated into English.

"Centuries from now, I reflect, when time will have traced its endless cycles over us, this morning, in the last part of the month Boedromion, only one day before the new moon, I will be here again, wandering here, dead or alive, attempting to detach from oblivion this terrifying but also magnificent theater of history. Because witnesses do not die. Witnesses keep vigil in the solitude of time, keep vigil with eyes open. And I, the insignificant child from Lemnos, the Helot, the wandering dreamer, I, the owner of time am here today, I say, the witness of history".

"Σήμερα, εμείς θνητοί, εδώ σε τούτο το ματωμένο θέατρο, θα δώσουμε αυτό που οι θεοί δεν μπορουν: τη ζωή μας. Θα τη δώσουμε, για να μείνουμε ελεύθεροι και έντιμοι στη μνήμη εκείνων που αφήνουμε πίσω μας. Oι θεοί έθεσαν τον φόβο, ως μέτρο της ανθρώπινης φύσης. Για να τον κρατά μικρό και δειλό. Να τον κρατά στα μέτρα του ανθρώπου.
Σήμερα, εμείς θνητοί, Σπαρτιάτες και Θεσπιείς, περιφρονούμε τον φόβο του θανάτου. Αλλά και, περιφρονώντας τον θάνατο, ξεπερνάμε το ανθρώπειο μέτρο. Οι θεοί θα μας ζηλέψουν σήμερα. Γιατί η απόφασή μας να πεθάνουμε δεν είναι μόνο η αρετή του πολεμιστή. Είναι μια νίκη ενάντια στη θεϊκή μοίρα που μας έπλασε με τον φόβο και την αγωνία του θανάτου. Αυτό μαθαίνουμε από τα εφτά μας χρόνια εμείς οι Σπαρτιάτες. Αυτό μας κάνει ατρόμητους.
Μου πρότειναν να φύγουμε. Να σωθούμε. Θα μπορούσαμε. Όμως η πράξη μας αυτή θα εσήμαινε ήττα. Θα εσήμαινε δειλία και φόβο. Και εμείς θα χάναμε το μοναδικό μεγαλείο μας: να πολεμήσουμε σαν θεοί. Να πολεμήσουμε έτσι που οι θεοί δεν μπορούν: χάνοντας ό,τι πιο πολύτιμο μας χάρισαν: τη ζωή μας.
Τι θα βρούνε από εμάς, τους Σπαρτιάτες, οι μελλοντικές γενιές; Τι θα αφήσουμε στον χρόνο; Ούτε περίλαμπρους ναούς, ούτε μεγάλες τέχνες. Ούτε πλούτη. Όμως θα αφήσουμε αυτό το ξημέρωμα που θα ΄ρθει. Θα αφήσουμε το αίμα μας καθαρό να κυλήσει στο αυλάκι του χρόνου. Θα αφήσουμε τούτη την απόφασή μας να πεθάνουμε για την τιμή μας. Γι’ αυτό, μόνο γι’ αυτό θα μας θυμούνται".
Από το κεφάλαιο "Το ύστατο χρέος"

From the chapter "The Ultimate Duty"
"Today, we mortals here on this bloodied stage will give what the gods cannot: our lives.
We will give it so that we can remain free and honored in the memory of those we leave behind.
And giving our lives willingly in this battle of ultimate duty, we raise them to the heights of the gods. Because the gods have placed fear, as guard, in the soul of man. Fear, as the measure of man’s nature. To keep it small and fearful. To keep man within human bounds.
Today we mortals, Spartans and Thespians, disdain the fear of death. And disdaining death, we surpass human bounds. The gods will envy us today. Because our decision to die is not only the virtue of the warrior. It is a victory over the divine fate that created us with the innate fear and anguish over death. That is what we Spartans learn from the age of seven. That is what makes us fearless".
"They proposed to me that we withdraw. To save ourselves. We could have done that. But such an action on our part would have meant defeat. It would have meant cowardice and fear. And we would have lost our unique grandeur: to fight like gods. To fight as gods cannot: losing the most valuable thing they have given us—our lives"
“What will be the legacy of us Spartans to future generations? What will be our legacy to time? Neither shining temples nor great art, nor wealth. Our legacy will be the coming dawn. We will bequeath our pure blood, to flow in the channel of time. We will bequeath this decision of ours to die in obedience to the laws of our city. For that, and that alone, we will be remembered".
The 300 of Leonidas battle.