People ask me, “Why Ancient Athens?” and “Why 461BC?”
Well, that’s easy. I studied Ancient History at secondary school and got fascinated at mention of an Athenian politician called Ephialtes.
He, it seemed, had brought in the reforms that led to the direct democracy of one man one vote of all male citizens. And that made possible the Golden Age of Athens led by Pericles or, as they would have spelt it, Perikles.
So an important guy. But this Ephialtes was then promptly assassinated ‘under cover of night’ and that’s all we were told.
What was going on here? Were the historians covering something up?, I wondered. It stuck in my head, so researching the novel was an opportunity to check it out for myself.
The answer was simple. Very little is actually known about Ephialtes. Apart from a tombstone indicating a state funeral, no mention of him before Aristotle’s Constitution of Athens , written some 130 years after the man died, and Plutarch’s Life of Pericles another 320 years after that and neither telling us very much.
All the more reason for exploring what happened and what better place than a novel.
Especially as lots more exciting stuff happened at about the same time.
Ephialites’ reforms took power from the wealthy aristocrats and handed it to the poorer classes of shopkeepers, craftsmen and farmers – that sounds like a revolution in anybody’s language and revolutions are usually pretty fraught times. Add that the top general and leader of the aristocrats General Kimon was voted into exile and that majority made possible by someone preventing four thousand aristocrats getting back from war in time for the vote. The danger of civil war must have been intense.
What would it be like to be in Athens then with your loyalties divided between both sides, aristocrats and workers, especially if you’re nosing around looking for the murderer of your rich uncle?
So look for a hero who is in that position – enter Lysanias, heir to that murdered rich uncle but brought up as an artisan and just 18.
A bit young so give him an elderly slave and advisor – that’s Sindron. A very segregated society, so how can these two investigate what the women are up to? If young Lysanias has to marry his uncle’s teenage widow, maybe she can look after that angle. So that’s my detective team.
Where did ideas for the plot come from? More about that in a later blog.
Saturday, September 12, 2015
The image on the left? Well, I had registered that there must have been plenty of merchant ships carrying supplies to and from big cities like Athens of timber, grain, wine, pottery, olive oil and more and, of course, passengers like my heroes Lysanias and Sindron.
They and crews would need water on the journey and I worked out what the big vessels for holding this, supported in harnesses of rope or leather to prevent spillage, would have looked like, even before I came across this picture. The multiple handles would take the harness. Something like this became the murder weapon in my novel and the ‘amphora’ of the title.
And the blacksmiths at the top? It seemed to me that the taking of power from the aristocrats in 461BC must be seen as tantamount to a revolution. And I knew that similar times in later history had resulted in interest by artists in depicting ordinary people and work situations.
When I came across it, this bas relief scene of blacksmiths at work seemed just such a piece and it gave me the inspiration for a dramatic incident at the funeral party also in Chapter 6. Incidentally, the muscular arms and hammers suggested the working class violence that the aristocrats may have feared at the time.
Put them together and what have you got? A new cover but also an indication of the thinking behind at least some of the novel.
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Time to re-activate my blog after a long break when other things got in the way. Why now? Because my novel Death Comes by Amphora is now under my own control and available from Amazon in a Kindle edition as well as in print, both with a brand new cover design. On top of that, next week (from 16th) will see it at a special low price, so why not check it out on Amazon. Watch out for more posts.