Friday, November 27, 2015

WHY ANCIENT ATHENS?

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.

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