THE OLYMPIC CHARIOTEER:
had grey eyes under dark brows in a face that was fox-like in its
sharpness. Antyllus was reminded of the foreman's depiction
the slave as "sly." More startling, he had an ugly scar running from
two inches above his left brow to the inside corner of his right
eye. It was the kind of scar a man got from
Antyllus thought he saw the lips move,
and he leaned
over solicitously, expecting a thank-you or a request for
He held his ear close to the bleeding lips, and the slave whispered to
him in a rasping, pained voice: "Don't
think I'm grateful."
Antyllus drew back offended, and then he
his head and laughed at himself. Hadn't he interceded because
had seen a death wish in the slave's eyes? How foolish then
expect gratitude for saving the slave's life.
He went down on his heels beside the
slave and laid
his manicured hand on his dust-caked, bony shoulder, "I understand. But
you'll get over
it." Then he ordered one of the drivers to keep an eye on
team - and his new slave, and went in search of the overseer.
At the end of the training
session, Lysandridas was deeply depressed by the thought that Thessalos
would go to Olympia. If he won, it would be because of the
horses, and if he lost because of his driving. Much depended
what driver Antyllus found. His team wasn't as strong as this
one, but it was very willing and all four of the horses would break
their hearts trying - for the right driver….
wiping sweat from his forehead with the back of his arm. "Well? What do you
think of them?"
"They're the best
team of horses I've ever seen," Lysandridas told him
why do you
look so glum? You can't want Tegea or Corinth to win?"
"No. I just
wish I were going to drive them at Olympia."
Thessalos laughed, taken aback by the
then he said seriously, "if
something happens to me, you can be sure my granddad will give you the
I will tell you why I oppose this
war with Tegea and why I am willing to risk an open confrontation with
the Kings, and even an internal conflict that could shake the
foundations of our City."
Teleklos looked up sharply.
"It is because
Sparta can only lose. What I mean is that even if we win -
especially if we win - we lose."
Chilon laughed. "What I'm saying is that if we
have sacrificed more young lives for nothing, other families - or even
the same families - will be forced to pay huge ransom sums they can ill
afford. Our reputation throughout Greece will
Argives certainly and very likely the Messenians will be encouraged to
challenge us. Argos could well attack and the Messenians
in a co-ordinated effort causing us to fight on two fronts.
Argos, Messenia and Tegea join forces, we could be crushed completely."
Teleklos was horrified. "You seriously think Tegea is
don't. I simply don't think any city should go to war without
considering the consequences of defeat. But the far more
scenario is that we will conquer Tegea. And then?
what we will have done. We will have conquered yet another
free-minded Hellenic people that will oppose us at least as vehemently
as the Messenians." Chilon let this sink in and then
did we gain
by the conquest of Messenia? Our territory doubled.
natural produce, trade and material prosperity in every respect
increased. And our security?
do you keep
twice as much territory and twice as many helots under control with the
same number of citizens? More than twice the number of
corrected himself. "Consider the fact that in
have Perioikoi who support us and share the burden of our
defence. In Messenia we are an occupation power. In
it would be no different. How do you think we can spread a
citizen-body of 8,000 to 9,000 men across an ever greater
territory? Isn't it bad enough that we constantly have to
Messenian revolt? Do we want to live in fear of a Tegean
Teleklos shook his head sadly.
It would be a
Chilon continued, "A
city - no less than an individual - has to know the limits of its
power. Know thyself is the most important lesson any boy - or
- can learn. Sparta cannot expand without endangering its own
ethos and integrity. That is why I believe a victory in Tegea
would be even worse than a defeat."
came stumbling out of their beds bewildered while in the courtyard
Philip just stood waiting. "Cobon! Melissos! Strip him
and tie him to
the pillory! I'll show you what insolence will earn
ON! Tie him to the pillory!"
Cobon and Melissos, though dazed, each
of Philip's arms, and led him to the pillory in the corner of the
courtyard. The pillory was almost obscured from view by a
chestnut tree that had grown up in the last decades.
They pulled his chiton down, to expose
faced him to the pillory and would have fit his hands into the rusting
hand-cuffs that hung from it, but suddenly he thrust them aside so
violently and unexpectedly, that he nearly knocked Cobon over and was
free of them. He spun around to face Antyllus, screaming loud
enough to wake the dead; "I'm
beast!" He made no move to run away. "You don't chain me! I
He faced the pillory again, and gripped it just above his head with
both hands, his bent arms at right-angles to his body so his shoulders
were taught and offered to the whip like a sacrifice. The
of other floggings stood out sharply on his naked back.
In that instant, Antyllus felt the first
guilt. But he had made too much of a scene to stop
reminded himself of the smile on Philip's face as he - in blatant
disobedience - let the horses gallop toward the curve. He
reminded himself that they would both be dead - or at least seriously
injured - if he hadn't crouched down and managed to weight the outside
wheel enough to prevent the chariot from over-turning. He
reminded himself of Philip's smile of triumph as he saw he had
frightened his master, and it merged with Dion's red and sweated face
as he rushed from the house in the middle of the night - Dion who was
now standing and gaping with open mouth as he cradled his splinted
arm. Antyllus brought the whip down on Philip's exposed back
all the strength he had in him.
Philip's back -
frail and bony -
flinched, but not a sound came from the slave. Antyllus felt
humiliated. Was he so weak and old that he couldn't even hurt
skinny, little barbarian? He gathered his strength again, and
moved in closer. He brought the whip down and the sound of it
made him wince, but there was nothing audible from Philip.
He started beating faster and more
The skin finally burst. Blood started to seep up out of the
crevices torn in the flesh. It collected and ran down the
of flesh like rain in the furrows of a field. From behind
Antyllus could hear the gasping and mutterings of the others.
Suddenly he saw himself from the
brutal man, no better than the foreman at the quarries, or the
contemptible Polycritus of Corinth. He too was flaying a
who was neither defending himself nor trying to evade the
punishment. In horror Antyllus flung the whip away as if it
burning him and rushed for the house, shouting to cover his own
you could be next, Dion!" It felt good to say
Dion deserved a flogging! So why had he been beating
Philip? What was it about the young slave that apparently
his masters to abuse him?
Kyniska and Leonis' aunt bathed the bride in water scented with crushed
rosemary. They washed her hair and then cut and styled it
great care. Knowing how much Lysandridas liked her long hair,
Leonis found it hard to part with it - and yet this was the symbol of
her new status, which she was proud to show the rest of the city after
It was late afternoon by now and the
courtyards of the townhouses were in shadow. From the
came the sound of pipes wailing. "I hadn't realised it was that
Kyniska exclaimed surprised.
Leonis and her Aunt stopped and
listened, and Leonis
knew even before her Aunt voiced it: "That's
not the call to dinner. That's alarm!"
They looked at one another, and then
rushed down the
stairs, across the courtyard and out into the street. In
doorway women and small children clustered, while men in various states
of arming themselves clattered out and past them. They ran,
pulling on their caps and helmets as they went, their shields over
their backs clacking against their swords with every stride.
unit of youths from the agoge plunged down the street in a pack,
jabbering and shouting to one another. A senior commander, in
distinctive cross-crested helmet of Spartan officers, galloped by with
his scarlet cloak streaming out behind him.
that the Tegeans could have attacked the city?" Kyniska
distress, and then without waiting for an answer, declared: "I must get back to my babies!"
Forgetting her shawl, she rushed down the street in the opposite
direction of the last men still responding to the howling of the pipes.
Then the street was silent and
women returned inside to wait.
"We were given a
mandate to secure the freedom of the captive women at almost any price,
provided they had not been violated."
"And have they been?" Antyllus asked with raised eyebrows.
We were able to visit them last night and speak to them in
private. Harmatides surprises me. For a tyrant he
remarkably - humane."
under-estimate him. He is capable of cold-blooded
But he is losing control of the mob."
"What use is a tyrant who does not control the mob?"
use," Antyllus agreed.
a moment of
silence. Then Chilon remarked, "Odd.
Then why didn't he sacrifice the captives for his popularity?
would have been so easy."
of the captives is the widowed sister of our Agiad King Anaxandridas,"
Chilon told Antyllus.
caught his breath, and then asked slowly, "And what is the Lacedaemonian
prepared to offer for her safe return?"
"A non-aggression pact,"
even as Chilon said
it, he knew it wasn't enough. "Is
there anyone here who wants it?"
entertaining novel....Anyone interested in exploring the years prior to
the Persian invasion – the alliances and intrigues,
especially between Sparta and her
future ally Tegea – will enjoy this novel."
Martin, author of
Headlong God of War and In Kithairon's Shadow
another gem to polish and keep in my bookcase when I want a look back