"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."

Friday, 21 February 2014

SPARTAN (The Wooden Wall)

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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.»