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Book 7 in The Long War series from the master of historical fiction, Christian Cameron
When the dust settled and the blood dried after the Battle of Plataea, Greeks might have thought that their freedom was secured. But before the corpse of the Great King's general was cold, Athens and Sparta began to bicker over dividing up the spoils.
After an autumn of victory, it's a long cold winter among the burned cities and destroyed shrines of Greece, and a hungry spring. And when Arimnestos goes to sea to cruise the Persian-held coasts, he finds that Persia is still not beaten... and that old alliances are now fraying.
Is the impossible true? Would the Spartans rather see Athens destroyed than Persia defeated? And who will save the cities of Ionia from the Great King's wrath?
It's the spring of 478BCE, and the Long War isn't over yet.
PRAISE FOR CHRISTIAN CAMERON
'The master of historical fiction' SUNDAY TIMES
'A storyteller at the height of his powers' HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY
'Superb' THE TIMES
'A sword-slash above the rest' IRISH EXAMINER
'One of the finest writers of historical fiction in the world' BEN KANE
Release date: August 22, 2023
Print pages: 416
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Treason of Sparta
Agoge The Laconian or Spartan training system. Sadly, almost all our information about this is much later, and may represent a sort of Spartan theme park established for rich Romans in a later era. Still, they did train some fine soldiers …
Agon A contest. Also the root word of agony …
Agora The central market of a Greek city.
Akinakes A Scythian short sword or long knife, also sometimes carried by Medes and Persians.
Andron The ‘men’s room’ of a proper Greek house – where men have symposia. Recent research has cast real doubt as to the sexual exclusivity of the room, but the name sticks.
Apobatai The Chariot Warriors. In many towns – towns that hadn’t used chariots in warfare for centuries, the Apobatai were the elite three hundred or so. In Athens, they competed in special events; in Thebes, they may have been the fore-runners of the Sacred Band. I have chosen to interpret them as possible elite military units.
Archon A city’s senior official or, in some cases, one of three or four. A magnate.
Aspis/Aspides The Greek hoplite’s shield. The aspis is about a yard in diameter, is deeply dished (up to six inches deep) and should weigh between eight and sixteen pounds.
Basilieus An aristocratic title from a bygone era (at least in 500 BC) that means ‘king’ or ‘lord’.
Bireme A warship rowed by two tiers of oars, as opposed to a trireme, which has three tiers.
Boule The council of a city, usually elected.
Chiton The standard tunic for most men, made by taking a single continuous piece of cloth and folding it in half, pinning the shoulders and open side. Can be made quite fitted by means of pleating. Often made of very fine quality material – usually wool, sometimes linen, especially in the upper classes. A full chiton was ankle length for men and women.
Chitoniskos A small chiton, usually just longer than modesty demanded – or not as long as modern modesty would demand! Worn by warriors and farmers, often heavily bloused and very full by warriors to pad their armour. Usually wool.
Chlamys A short cloak made by a rectangle of cloth roughly 60 by 90 inches – could also be worn as a chiton if folded and pinned a different way. Or slept under as a blanket.
Daidala Kithairon, the mountain that towered over Plataea, was the site of a remarkable fire festival, the Daidala, which was celebrated by the Plataeans on the summit of the mountain. In the usual ceremony, as mounted by the Plataeans in every seventh year, a wooden idol (daidalon) would be dressed in bridal robes and dragged on an ox-cart from Plataea to the top of the mountain, where it would be burned after appropriate rituals. In the Great Daidala, which was celebrated every forty-nine years, fourteen daidala from different Boeotian towns would be burned on a large wooden pyre heaped with brushwood, together with a cow and a bull that were sacrificed to Zeus and Hera. This huge pyre on the mountain top must have provided a most impressive spectacle; Pausanias remarks that he knew of no other flame that rose as high or could be seen from so far.
Daimon Literally a spirit, the daimon of combat might be adrenaline, and the daimon of philosophy might simply be native intelligence. Suffice it to say that very intelligent men – like Socrates – believed that god-sent spirits could infuse a man and influence his actions.
Daktyloi Literally digits or fingers, in common talk, ‘inches’ in the system of measurement. Systems for measurement differed from city to city. I have taken the liberty of using just one, the Athenian units of measurement.
Daric A gold coin of standard weight, minted in the Persian Empire. Coinage was relatively new in 480 BCE and standard weights and measures were a radical innovation. Cries of ‘Persian Gold’ usually meant that someone had been bribed by the Great King.
Despoina Female honorific, like ‘Lady’
Diekplous A complex naval tactic about which some debate remains. In this book, the Diekplous or through stroke, is commenced with an attack by the ramming ship’s bow (picture the two ships approaching bow to bow or head on) and cathead on the enemy oars. Oars were the most vulnerable part of a fighting ship, something very difficult to imagine unless you’ve rowed in a big boat and understand how lethal your own oars can be – to you! After the attacker crushed the enemy’s oars, he passes, flank to flank, and then turns when astern, coming up easily (the defender is almost dead in the water) and ramming the enemy under the stern or counter as desired.
Diolkos The paved trackway that crossed the Corinthian isthmus, allowing ships to be transported from the Aegean to the Ionian Sea without circumnavigating the Peloponnese, saving time and shipwreck.
Doru/Dory A spear, about ten feet long, with a bronze butt spike and a spearhead.
Ephebe A young, free man of property. A young man in training to be a hoplite. Usually performing service to his city and, in ancient terms, at one of the two peaks of male beauty.
Ephor A member of the ruling council of Sparta, five magistrates with extensive powers, even over the two kings.
Epilektoi ‘Chosen’ or picked men. The best hoplites of any city, usually the best armoured and best trained.
Eromenos The ‘beloved’ in a same-sex pair in ancient Greece. Usually younger, about seventeen (but in Sparta up to thirty). This is a complex, almost dangerous subject in the modern world – were these pair-bonds about sex, or chivalric love, or just a ‘brotherhood’ of warriors? I suspect there were elements of all three. And to write about this period without discussing the eromenos/erastes bond would, I fear, be like putting all the warriors in steel armor instead of bronze …
Erastes The ‘lover’ in a same-sex pair bond – the older man, a tried warrior, thirty to sixty years old.
Eudaimonia Literally ‘well-spirited’. A feeling of extreme joy.
Exhedra The porch of the woman’s quarters – in some cases, any porch over a farm’s central courtyard.
Helot The ‘race of slaves’ of Ancient Sparta – the conquered peoples who lived with the Spartiates and did all of their work so that they could concentrate entirely on making war and more Spartans.
Hetaera Literally a ‘female companion’. In ancient Athens, a Hetaera was a courtesan, a highly skilled woman who provided sexual companionship as well as fashion, political advice, and music.
Himation A very large piece of rich, often embroidered wool, worn as an outer garment by wealthy citizen women or as a sole garment by older men, especially those in authority.
Hoplite A Greek upper-class warrior. Possession of a heavy spear, a helmet, and an aspis (see above) and income above the marginal lowest free class were all required to serve as a hoplite. Although much is made of the ‘citizen soldier’ of ancient Greece, it would be fairer to compare hoplites to medieval knights than to Roman legionnaires or modern National Guardsmen. Poorer citizens did serve, and sometimes as hoplites or marines – but in general, the front ranks were the preserve of upper class men who could afford the best training and the essential armour.
Hoplitodromos The hoplite race, or race in armour. Two stades with an aspis on your shoulder, a helmet, and greaves in the early runs. I’ve run this race in armour. It is no picnic.
Hoplomachia A hoplite contest, or sparring match. Again, there is enormous debate as to when hoplomachia came into existence and how much training Greek hoplites received. One thing that they didn’t do is drill like modern soldiers – there’s no mention of it in all of Greek literature. However, they had highly evolved martial arts (see Pankration) and it is almost certain that hoplomachia was a term that referred to ‘the martial art of fighting when fully equipped as a hoplite’.
Hoplomachos A participant in hoplomachia.
Hydria A ceramic water jar, sometimes beautifully decorated for temple use.
Hypozomata The tensioned rope connecting the stem and stern of a trireme and keeping the hull stiff.
Hypaspist Literally ‘under the shield’. A squire or military servant – by the time of Arimnestos, the hypaspist was usually a younger man of the same class as the hoplite. (Thus different from the elite military unit of the time of Alexander the Great).
Kithara A stringed instrument of some complexity, with a hollow body as a soundboard.
Kline A couch.
Kopis The heavy, back-curved saber of the Greeks. Like a longer, heavier modern Kukri or Ghurka knife.
Kore A maiden or daughter.
Kubernetes The senior helmsman on a trireme.
Kykeon A welcome cup, which could be a simple as wine with grated cheese, or more complex. In the Iliad there’s some suggestion that women know ‘magic’ versions.
Kylix A wide, shallow, handled bowl for drinking wine.
Logos Literally the ‘word’. In pre-Socratic Greek philosophy the word is everything – the power beyond the gods.
Longche A six to seven foot throwing spear, also used for hunting. A hoplite might carry a pair of longche, or a single, longer and heavier dory.
Machaira A heavy sword or long knife.
Maenad The ‘raving ones’ – ecstatic female followers of Dionysus.
Mantis A seer or wizard.
Mastos A woman’s breast. A mastos cup is shaped like a woman’s breast with a rattle in the nipple – so when you drink, you lick the nipple and the rattle shows that you emptied the cup. I’ll leave the rest to imagination …
Medimnoi A grain measure. Very roughly – thirty-five to a hundred pounds of grain.
Megaron A style of building with a roofed porch.
Metic A legally resident foreigner.
Mina Roughly a pound, in many ancient weighing systems across the Mediterranean.
Navarch An admiral.
Obol A small copper or bronze coin.
Oikia The household – all the family and all the slaves, and sometimes the animals and the farmland itself.
Opson Whatever spread, dip, or accompaniment an ancient Greek had with bread.
Pais A child. Sometimes a derogatory name for a slave.
Palaestra The exercise sands of the gymnasium.
Pankration The military martial art of the ancient Greeks – an unarmed combat system that bears more than a passing resemblance to modern MMA techniques, with a series of carefully structured blows and domination holds that is, by modern standards, very advanced. Also the basis of the Greeks sword and spear-based martial arts. Kicking, punching, wrestling, grappling, on the ground and standing, were all permitted.
Parasang A Persian unit of measurement, representing about five kilometers. An army was supposed to march four to five parasangs a day. Herodotus says the Parasang is equal to thirty stadia.
Pelte/Peltast The pelte is a crescent or half-moon shaped shield usually made of wicker; the peltast is a lightly armed soldier carrying a pelte. Just to confuse us, later Peltasts carried small round shields …
Pentekonter Fifty oared ships, about one third the size of a trireme, too small to stand in the line of battle but useful for trade and for piracy.
Petasos A broad brimmed sun hat, usually made of wool.
Peplos A short over-fold of cloth that women could wear as a hood or to cover the breasts.
Phalanx The full military potential of a town; the actual, formed body of men before a battle (all of the smaller groups for ed together made a phalanx). In this period, it would be a mistake to imagine a carefully drilled military machine. In modern scholarship there is much debate about ‘when’ the phalanx formed. In my opinion, the deep, cohesive phalanx of the hoplite was a development of warfare with Persia, and thus quite late, but I’m not a professional.
Phylarch A file leader – an officer commanding the four to sixteen men standing behind him in the phalanx. This term is probably anachronistic, but I needed something.
Polemarch The war leader.
Polis The city. The basis of all Greek political thought and expression, the government that was held to be more important – a higher good – than any individual or even family. To this day, when we talk about politics, we’re talking about the ‘things of our city’.
Porne A prostitute.
Porpax The bronze or leather band that encloses the forearm on a Greek aspis.
Proxenos Something like a modern consular officer, a citizen of one state who provided guest services and good council for another state. So, for example, Cimon son of Miltiades was proxenos for Sparta most of his life, even during the events of this volume.
Psiloi Light infantryman – usually slaves or adolescent freemen who, in this period, were not organised and seldom had any weapon beyond some rocks to throw.
Pyrrhiche The ‘War Dance’. A line dance in armour done by all of the warriors, often very complex. There’s reason to believe that the Pyrrhiche was the method by which the young were trained in basic martial arts and by which ‘drill’ was inculcated.
Pyxis A box, often circular, turned from wood or made of metal.
Rowers on a Trireme – thalamite, zygite, and thranite, the three ‘layers’ of rowers in a trireme from bottom to top. Given that everyone rowed naked and no one stopped to use a washroom, one can easily imagine why the lowest layer was considered the worst duty.
Rhapsode A master-poet, often a performer who told epic works like the Iliad from memory.
Satrap A Persian ruler of a province of the Persian Empire.
Saurauter The bronze spike on the back end of a Greek hoplite spear. Literally, the ‘lizard killer,’ which tells us a great deal about the boredom of military service.
Skeuophoros Literally a ‘shield carrier’, unlike the hypaspist, this is a slave or freed man who does camp work and carried the armour and baggage.
Sparabara The large wicker shield of the Persian and Mede elite infantry. Also the name of those soldiers.
Spolas Another name for a leather corslet, often used of the lion skin of Herakles.
Stade A measure of distance. An Athenian stade is about 185 meters.
Stasis In Greek, it means civil war, a terrible thought to all Greeks.
Strategos In Athens, the commander of one of the ten military tribes. Elsewhere, any senior Greek officer – sometimes the commanding General.
Synaspismos The closest order that hoplites could form – so close that the shields overlap, hence ‘shield on shield’.
Taxis Any group but, in military terms, a company; I use it for sixty to three hundred men.
Taxiarchos A company commander; the officer in command of a taxis, which was not a standardized command. In modern Greek the expression ‘Entaxi’ still means ‘in order’ or ‘okay.’
Tekne The craftspeople of Ancient Greece, highly skilled professionals with deep expertise.
Thetes The lowest free class – citizens with limited rights.
Thorax/Thorakes Chest or torso armour. In 500 BC, the best thorakes were made of bronze, mostly of the so-called ‘bell’ thorax variety. A few muscle corslets appear at the end of this period, gaining popularity into the 450s. Another style is the ‘white’ thorax seen to appear just as the Persian Wars begin – re-enactors call this the ‘Tube and Yoke’ corslet and some people call it (erroneously in my opinion) the linothorax. Some of them may have been made of linen – we’ll never know – but the likelier material is Athenian leather, which was often tanned and finished with alum, thus being bright white. Yet another style was a tube and yoke of scale, which you can see in vase art. A scale corslet would have been the most expensive of all, and probably provided the best protection.
Thugater Daughter. Look at the word carefully and you’ll see the ‘daughter’ in it …
Trierarch The captain of a ship – sometimes just the owner or builder, sometimes the fighting captain.
Trireme The standard warship of the Persian Wars, a ship with three ‘decks’ or banks of oars, a crew of about two hundred including oarsmen, sailors and marines, and a heavy bronze ram. Early triremes focused on delivery of the maximum number of marines into massed boarding actions, but Athens, specifically, began to develop better rowing and ramming tactics. The modern reproduction ‘Olympia’ represents the best reconstruction research available on the military trireme. Triremes were not good sailors, and it was almost impossible to fight with the masts raised. They can carry only very limited cargo because they are lightly built and all the ‘space’ in the hull is filled with rowers.
Trihemiola The trihemiola is (apparently) a western Mediterranean design often associated with piracy; in terms of naval architecture it represented an attempt to combine some of the qualities of a sailing ship with rowing and combat abilities of the trireme. The ship sacrifices some rowers (and thus rowing speed and endurance) for permanent standing masts and a better steering rig. I have chosen to interpret them as fully decked, which would have made them heavier (and slower) but stiffer and much better for sea keeping.
Xiphos The Ancient Greek short, straight sword. Mostly leaf-bladed, and often pattern welded.
Zone A belt, often just rope or finely wrought cord, but could be a heavy bronze kidney belt for war.
Zygon/Zygos Related to the middle bank of oarsmen, above, it means ‘the yoked ones’ and implies the close relation of hoplites in combat; like yoked oxen. A rank of hoplites was ‘yoked’ and sometimes the term ‘Yoked’ (Zygos) was used for the whole hoplite class.
On Apollo’s Raven
Arminestos of Plataea, of Raven
Aten, his servant
Damon, son of Eneas, senior helmsman
Nicanor, second helmsman
Nestor, son of Dion and sailing master (Old Nestor)
Nestor, the sailor (Young Nestor)
Styges, the marine
Hector of Anarchos, the marine
Hipponax of Arminestos, the marine (sometimes captain of Apollo’s Serpent)
Achilles of Simonides, the marine
Heraklitus of Ephesus, son of Briseis and Artaphernes
Polymarchos of Croton
Ka, the Nubian archer
Vasilos, an older man from Magna Graecia
Nemet, a small Nubian
Myron, the former Helot
Phorbas, the former Helot
Oarsmen and Sailors
Archelaus (later second helmsman)
Rigura, the King
Mera the cunning
Ole Llurin, the smith
The Ionian Squadron
Amaranth – Neoptolimos
Gad’s Fortune – Parmenios
Apollo’s Raven – Arimnestos
Nike’s Wings – Damon
Apollo’s Serpent – Hipponax
Theseus – Ion (cousin of Neoptolymos), a ship from Scyros
Black Raven – Moire
Amastris – Megakles
Arachne – Ephialtes of Naxos
Naiad – Theognis of Naxos
Athenian Ships and Captains
Parthenos – Ameinias of Pallene
Eumenes of Anagyrus
Horse Tamer – Xanthippus,
Athena Nike – Aristides
Ajax – Cimon, with Thekles as Marine captain. Cimon is an old friend, and one of the leading politicians of Athens, as well as being the son of Miltiades.
Dawn – Metiochus, brother of Cimon
Anaxagoras of Clazomenaeu, Archilogos’ friend
Briseis, wife of Arimnestos, former wife of the Satrap of Lydia, sometimes called ‘Helen Reborn’
Archilogos of Ephesus, boyhood friend or Arimnestos, Briseis’ brother, and leader of the new Ionian revolt
Alysia, a graduate of the school of Sappho, wife of an important Persian tax farmer
Cleis of Eresos, headmistress of the School of Sappho
Ataelus, son of Laertes, a pro-Persian Ionian
Thrasybulus the Samian, a pro-Persian captain
Theophilos of Lesbos, Archon of Mytilini
Dionysios his son, sometimes a marine on Apollo’s Raven
Spartans and Peloponnesians
Pausanias, Navarch of the Allied Fleet and victor of the Battle of Plataea
Gorgo of Sparta (Queen and widow of Leonidas)
Demaratus, exiled King of Sparta and friend of Brasidas
Sparthius, friend and comrade of Arimnestos
Medon of Hermione, of Revenge
Lykon, son of Antinor, of Penelope
Philip, son of Sophokles, of Thrace and Corinth, of Kore
Adeimantus, son of Ocytus, Navarch of Corinth, of Aphrodite
Katisa of the Melinditae
Thiale, Priestess of Artemis
Iris, wife of Hector
Heliodora, a young woman with blond hair (Hannah), daughter of Cleitus, wife of Hipponax
Themistocles the cunning, hero of Salamis
Aristides the just, politician and warrior
Jocasta the wise, wife of Aristides
Cleitus of the Alcmaeonidae, formerly Arimnestos of Plataea’s nemesis, now in an uneasy truce
Phrynicus, the playwright
Irene, his wife
Aeschylus, the poet
Pericles, an ephebe destined for greatness (age 20)
Aleitus, father of Euphonia, now-dead mother of Euphoria and wife of Arimnestos
Xanthippus, politician and captain
Socrates, a farmer
Gaia, his daughter, attending Sappho’s school in Eresos.
Polycritus, son of Crius, commands the trireme Nike
Euphoria, daughter of Arimnestos
Eugenios, Briseis and Arimnestos’ steward
Polymachos, an Olympic trainer of athletes
Persians and their allies
Xerxes, Great King of Persia
Ariabignes, son of Darius and brother of Xerxes, commanding the fleet aboard Morbaal
Theomestor son of Androdamas, Samian, of Zoster
Phylacus son of Histiaeus, Samian, commands Paralamus
Artemesia of Hallicanarsus
Artaphernes the Elder, first husband of Briseis and Satrap of Lydia
Artaphernes II, his son
Heraklitus son of Artaphernes and Briseis
Maskames, Persian Governor of Doriscus, the last Persian stronghold in Europe besides Byzantium
Cyrus the Persian, an Immortal
Darius, his younger brother, an Immortal
Aryanam, his friend, an Immortal
Here we are again, friends! I promised you a hunt, and Thrace is the place to hunt. The game is better here than it ever was in my boyhood on Cithaeron, or in the hills of Attica. By Hera, there are still lions and bears here, and big deer fit for Artemis herself! We’ll not be clubbing rabbits for our meals.
And since you’ve been kind enough to fill this two-handled cup to the brim with unwatered wine, and to have my pais bring it to me, I feel that you honour me. And what can I give you in return but a story?
Well. I am well known for my stories, I think. So set your hunting spears aside, fill your cups and place them by you, stretch out by the fire, and let’s have a tale. Indeed, we’ll have a circle of tales, will we not? For I am not the only voice speaking at our fire circle, and others will tell you of far-off places and other wars, other ships, other men and women, heroes and cowards and victory and defeat, and the gods who walk among men.
But tonight …
There are some new faces here, so I’ll remind you of how we got here. You may recall that at my daughter’s wedding, I told you of the Long War, from my boyhood on the slopes of Mount Cithaeron, where my father was a great bronze-smith and my mother was a hard-drinking aristocrat, to the events of the modern age: the terrible defeat of the Greeks at Lade, the stunning victory of the Battle of Marathon, the tragedy of Thermopylae, the wasted victory of Artemisium and the desperate victory of Salamis. And finally, I told you of the day of the Rage of Ares, the greatest battle of our time, fought at my home town of Plataea between Mardonius leading the Great King of Persia’s mighty army against us, the coalition of all the Greeks. Well, let’s be honest – a coalition of Athens and Sparta, with some other cities trailing along with us. Too many gave earth and water to the Medes; Thebes, first and foremost.
But enough of us stood our ground and fought, and in the end, the Spartans and the Athenians defeated the Persians – aye, and the Megarans and Corinthians and some others. But we did a hard week’s work and got it done, and a bloody harvest it was.
At my daughter’s wedding feast, I ended my story by talking about the rebuilding, and that, my friends, is where I’ll take up the tale tonight. I’ll miss my daughter’s friend with hair of fire, who blushes so freely and so brightly, and I’ll miss my wife’s soft hands reminding me to keep the story within the bounds of social acceptability. And perhaps I’ll drink too much. These are times for wine, and friends.
And tomorrow we can run off our wine fumes and kill a boar.
But, as is so often the case, I’ve left my course.
It was the year after the supposed ‘end’ of the Long War to free Greece. It was the year that Timosthenes was archon basileus in Athens. It was the year my friend Astylos of Croton won every running event at Nemea and established himself as the greatest athlete of my generation. It was the year that I was archon in Plataea. It was the year in which the Spartan strategos, Pausanias, the victor of Plataea and Greece’s greatest commander, rose high in the eyes of men, and thought himself the best man in Greece.
It was the year we thought to take the war to the Persians. At least, some of us thought so, as you will hear.
This is the story of that year.
Perceiving that the Athenians were going to rebuild their walls, the Lacedaemonians sent an embassy to Athens. They would have themselves preferred to see neither her nor any other city in possession of a wall; though here they acted principally at the instigation of their allies, who were alarmed at the strength of [Athens’] newly acquired navy, and the valour which she had displayed in the war with the Medes. They begged her not only to abstain from building walls for herself, but also to join them in throwing down the walls that still held together of the [other] cities. The real meaning of their advice, the suspicion that it contained against the Athenians, was not proclaimed; it was urged that so the barbarian, in the event of a third invasion, would not have any strong place, such as he now had in Thebes, for his base of operations; and that Peloponnese would suffice for all as a base both for retreat and offence. After the Lacedaemonians had thus spoken, they were, on the advice of Themistocles, immediately dismissed by the Athenians, with the answer that ambassadors should be sent to Sparta to discuss the question. Themistocles told the Athenians to send him off with all speed to Lacedaemon, but not to despatch his colleagues as soon as they had selected them, but to wait until they had raised their wall to the height from which defence was possible. Meanwhile the whole population in the city was to labour at the wall, the Athenians, their wives and their children, sparing no edifice, private or public, which might be of any use to the work, but throwing all down.
Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War Book 1, Chapter 90
My story begins, as it so often has, with the spring trading fleets coming in from Sicily. By the spring of the year after Plataea, I owned four warships, all laid up in my own boat sheds just over the mountain from Plataea, and six round ships, varying in size from a small tub that could just carry a few hundred big amphorae of wine or olive oil to the new Poseidon, a slab-sided monster that could carry almost six thousand medimnoi of grain. I’d paid for her to be built to keep the Corinthian shipwrights in business over the winter, but I’d imagined that she might play a role in the grain trade with Aegypt, because I could guess that it would be a few years before the farmers of Attica and Boeotia had recovered.
I also had the Leto, who’d been all but rebuilt over the winter, so that she had shining new wood, golden in the spring sunlight, stark against the grey-brown of the older wood in her hull, and the Io. Hector, my adopted son, took the Leto, as he had in the year of Plataea, and Hipponax, my son by Gaia, took the Io, and they were away in the first blush of spring.
If you’re not a sailor, listen. Greece is a country made by the gods for sailors, and not least because the land trails away into the sea in many directions, allowing a good captain to get off a beach in almost any wind. My sons were not taking such a foolish risk so early in the year; they could run down the Gulf of Corinth past Naupactus, all the way out into the Italian Sea, and never be so far from land that a man couldn’t swim ashore. And then, a single day’s sail, and they were in Croton, or one of the other Greek colony cities in Magna Graecia, and they could stay in with the coast around the toe of the boot and then for Syracusa on the first good wind.
They were joined by Leukas, who’d come over the mountains from Piraeus to take the big grain ship. He was the best of my captains, in any weather, now that Megakles and Moire had their own ships and their own business.
We loaded all three ships with whatever we could find to trade: hides, mostly, and some salt, and linen from the year before, and some loot; I remember loading one of the great tents that the Persians had left behind, and some Persian bows. It was an oddly jumbled cargo, but Leukas also had gold and silver to buy things we needed, and a long order list made up by half the citizens of Green Plataea – roof tiles and fabrics and statues and ironware.
My sons were right sailor-men, and Leukas was th
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