Thursday, July 21, 2016

CITY OF DIRTY TRICKS

For all its reputation for noble philosophical minds, ancient Athens has to have been tops at political dirty tricks.

Dredging up past misdemeanours of opponents and getting the word round, or even making them up in rumours difficult to deny.

Charging opponents with embezzlement or defaming the gods or of taking bribes and then hauling them into court – again, it didn’t have to be true as long as it stuck.

Speeches in the Assembly were a good method, but ran the risk of being accused yourself of misleading the people (which was a crime), but graffiti was anonymous, so were dirty jokes and satirical songs.

Mind you, it had a long history with the Greeks. One of their great heroes, Odysseus, was noted for trickery and respected for it.

The Trojan Horse was his idea and here he is tricking the Cyclops by hiding under a sheep.

They even had a god of cunning. That was Hermes, who was also patron of thieves,oratory, poetry, sports, invention and trade, boundaries and travellers.

He was also messenger of the gods and played his own first trick when he was a baby.


All Athenian houses had a bust of him at the front door which featured in the dirty trick that destroyed General Alcibiades when he was accused of having vandalized scores of them when drunk – almost certainly organised by rival politicians.

Top political trickster has to be Themistokles, who features in my novel "Death Comes by Amphora".

His most successful trick was getting a false message to the invading Persian Great King Xerxes that fooled him into sending his fleet into the worst possible place for a naval battle where the Greek navy, led by Themistokles, slaughtered them.

Then, years later, when the Athenians chucked him out, Themistokles somehow persuaded the next Great King to give him a princedom, though we don’t know what false promises he may have made to get it.

Whatever they were (like offering to lead a new Persian invasion), it seems the only way he could get out of keeping them was to commit suicide.

That's the story anyway.

In my novel, there are more cunning stunts that smack of Themistokles’ way of operating.

It looks as though Perikles learnt a lot from his example.

My novel "Death Comes by Amphora" is available on Amazon Kindle.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?


You’d think they hated women. Well, they didn’t trust them anyway. Or more like those wealthy Athenian men who ran things didn’t trust themselves. They didn’t trust themselves not to fall in love, or lust, or infatuation.

The evidence? Look at all those plays with their powerful female characters organizing a sex strike like Lysistrata, killing their husband like Clytemnestra, taking revenge on their husband by killing their children like Medea (above), or just disobeying orders and screwing things up like Antigone. All powerful, passionate women.

The men must have been scared of that, so they shut the women away and kept them uneducated, so that the women accepted it. Men (wealthy men anyway) didn’t marry till they were 30. Away fighting in wars before that and lots of brothels to let off steam, no chance of meeting citizen girls of their own age and falling in love.

When they did marry, it was to inexperienced girls of 14 – that way virginity was guaranteed - that’s gotta be my son not some other guy’s. It also meant more wives died in childbirth, unfortunately.

And then the wives were kept locked up in the house, allowed out only for funerals and a few religious festivals. The husband or slaves did the shopping.

The wife was there just for procreation and to bring up the kids. No real relationship.

To keep that danger at bay the husband went to dinner parties with male friends where slave girls offered entertainment and more or he kept a slave girl himself to entertain friends and keep himself amused. And there were always the brothels.

Generally, husband and wife slept on different floors of the house not just different rooms. Who could blame a teenage wife who responded to the blandishments of a handsome young fella met at a funeral?

What were they really afraid of? I think it was fear of losing control. Fear of acting irrationally, of excessive emotion that might lead them to do something they would regret. Rationality, thinking things through and acting on the conclusions, that is what we prize about our inheritance from ancient Greece. But it can’t have been much of a life for the women. Like Philia in my novel Death Come by Amphora which is available on Amazon kindle with this handsome new design.