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Sunday, March 08, 2009

PROGRESS REPORT #52: IN PRAISE OF WOMEN

TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS, EPHESUS

My busy life is getting a little more slowed down (after this week) when classes end and Spring break begins. I need some time on my own now to catch up. It's been difficult trying to get any serious work done on SHADOW OF THE LION because of my busy schedule. But I have started PART VII and haven't too much to do before I am finished.
THE END. What a thrill that will be and it will certain call for a celebration. I finished the first chapter of Part VII and have started the second chapter. When I'm doing new work it means stopping and researching, checking facts etc. as this part (the politics) is somewhat complicating with conflicting notes. Keeping in mind I am writing a 'fiction' book I still have to be as accurate as possible for events that are recorded historically. This first chapter in Part VII begins with one of my fictional characters NABARZANES, the Persian court advisor who was expelled from Pella by Olympias (because she was jealous of the attention he paid to her grandson, little Alexander (Iskander). He had set off to return to Babylonia to seek assistance from either of his friends Peukestes or Seleukos to rescue Alexander's son from the clutches of Kassandros. He has, at this point, reached Ephesus where he has spent the winter with a dear friend of his, BARSINE, who is one of the women in Alexander's histories who doesn't get much exposure -- at least, not as much as she should in my opinion. And who knows what they said about her was all that truthful? After all, she was a Persian, daughter of a prominent Persian ambassador/satrap. And for a time she was Alexander's mistress. So, in honor of INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY I have decided to post a segment of this chapter that features beautiful Barsine.
And this is especially for any woman who has been abandoned by a man who she loved.


THE AGORA, EPHESUS
Nabarzanes whipped Shaqal into a gallop and sped out of the market square and up the cobbled road to the Hill of Nightingales. A pack of stray dogs ran alongside barking and snapping at the horse’s hooves.

Barsine’s villa was high on the terraced slopes where the wealthy Ephesians had their manors. The fine painted house had belonged to her husband Memnon,. a Greek general who had allied with Shah Darius against Alexander. A garlanded marble bust of Memnon guarded the front entrance.

Nabarzanes turned his horse over to a groom and mounted the steps to the porticoe. A fat, elderly chamberlain let him into the reception hall where the antique Persian-style furniture and faded wall murals showed the signs of the house’s fading opulence.

Barsine was waiting for him. Even in her late forties, she was still a woman of great beauty, with the delicate features of Persian nobility. She was almost as tall as he and her green-gold eyes met his steadily, the expression on her face grave.

“What news do you bring?”

Nabarzanes told her about the declaration of war. “Ptolemy’s navy has invaded all the seaports of Phoenicia. The coalition of Diodochi have declared war against Antigonos. Come summer, torrents of Greek and Macedonian blood will flow.”

Barsine’s face grew pale with shock. She caught in a sharp breath. For a long time she stood silent, as if trying to absorb the news.
“If there is to be a war, perhaps we should move north to Pergamon,” she said finally. “My husband had an estate there --- “
“You will surely be safe here, Barsine,” Nabarzanes said. “Antigonos has
deployed the royal navy in order to protect these northern ports.” He paused,
weighing his thoughts, trying to hide his real concern from her. “The way back to Babylon may be blocked. Seleukos has joined with the others against Antigonos. Now Kassandros has all the Diodachi on his side.”

Barsine looked pensive. It had been years since her husband was killed in battle and she, along with Darius’ royal women, had fallen into Alexander’s hands. “When Memnon was killed and Darius fled, the whole of Persia was there for Alexander’s taking. We all knew that Memnon was the strength and brains behind the Persian army,” she said. . She rarely spoke of her husband, Memnon, but when she did it was without the touch of bitterness that showed whenever she mentioned Alexander.

“Without Memnon’s brilliant leadership Darius was nothing. Darius knew he could not stop Alexander,” she went on. “The Egyptians welcomed him as a pharaoh-god; Babylon hailed him as liberator. Now Alexander, the Lion of Macedon, is dead, and those men who stood shoulder to shoulder with him squabble like a pack of jackals over his remains.”

Nabarzanes knew it pained her to think of Alexander who she had known since childhood when her father was the Persian ambassador to Macedon. When Memnon was killed and Darius fled leaving his harem behind, Alexander had treated her with deep respect, and in fact they had become lovers. Nabarzanes remember the night when he and Barsine had sat together on this same terrace and she had told him of her despair when Alexander abandoned her in favour of Roxana, not knowing she was pregnant with his child.

“Alexander’s fame has not been very well received since the gods received him,” Nabarzanes agreed. “No-one can match his greatness, yet instead of honouring him his Successors defile his memory by fighting to destroy Alexander’s world. It will be a bitter war, one that cannot have a celebration of victory, and it could mean the end of Alexander’s dynasty. It is Alexander’s son and his mother that I am concerned about. I swore allegiance to the child at his birth and promised, when Olympias expelled me, to protect and honour him, to seek counsel from my friends Peukestas and Seluekos for they were not allied with Kassandros then.”


Barsine interrupted, her voice sharp. ““If they kill the Soghdian‘s child, then there
is always my son. Herakles is almost old enough to claim what should be his inheritance, because he too, is Alexander’s son.” She looked at him, her eyes beseeching him. “Nabarzanes, I know you are an honourable man, and Iskander-shah was like a son to you, but...”

“Iskander-shah is more than a son, Barsine. He is the Chosen One, and just as I served his father, Alexander, so I also swore an oath to serve his son.”

“But how can you now?” Her eyes glittered, and her voice grew impatient. “You cannot return to Macedon or Kassandros will have you killed. Seleukos has been driven out of Babylonia and the city is under siege by Antigonos, so it is too dangerous for you to return home. Stay here, with Herakles and me. We need you now as much as Roxana and Iskander do. Who can we trust in these uncertain times but each other? Our world, as we knew it -- Persis, Babylonia, Media - have once again fallen. Alexander may have dreamed of uniting our worlds, but his dreams now lie in ashes.”

Nabarzanes weighed his response carefully. In the months that he had been a guest at her villa his sole concern had been to return to Babylon. Now that he was rested and his horse fit to travel again, he had planned to set out for Syria, and from there follow the Royal Road back to Babylon. Now, with the ships of Egypt ranging the coast and the armies of the other Successors mobilizing on land, he knew it was best to remain here in Ephesos. Looking into Barsine’s eyes, he wanted to explain that he must go, but now he knew he could not.

He leaned forward and kissed Barsine softly on the cheek. She suddenly took his face in her hands and pressed her mouth against his. Startled, he was speechless and felt his cheeks grow hot. In spite of his honourable intentions to devote himself to rescuing Roxana and the child, he found his resolve distracted by her unexpected affection.

They sat side by side on the divan. Barsine’s warmth and the sweet fragrance of her rose to him. He felt deep pleasure in her presence though out of his respect for her he had always kept his feelings in check. He took her hand. It felt like ice. He rubbed it gently between his palms. Her fingers curled tightly around his.

“Are you afraid?” he asked.

“These are dangerous times and I fear for my son, just as you fear for yours.”

“Iskander is not my son. He’s Alexander’s,” Nabarzanes interjected.

“Herakles is Alexander’s first-born son.” Barsine’s bitterness showed in her sharp tone.

“You know that Roxana was Alexander’s legal wife,.” he reminded her gently.

“Campaign wife!” Barsine retorted.

“They were married according to the Soghdian rituals. Under the eye of Ahura, they were truly wed.”

“But Alexander was mine...“Her voice quavered. “He would have wed me if...”

‘If he had known about Herakles?”

“Yes, If only I’d had the courage to tell him.”

“You could not have held Alexander that way, Barsine. Nobody owned Alexander. And if you had tried, perhaps you would have ended up murdered like the princesses. You know the Macedonians considered you nothing more than Alexander‘s war prize.”

She trembled against him. “By our sacred oath to Ahura, we Persians cannot Lie and neither can promises be broken. Alexander said he loved me and promised that we would be together. He broke his promise. Now I want what is due my son.”

He tried to embrace her, to comfort her, but she pushed him away.
”You came to Ephesus because you were seeking help for my son’s rival. Now you want to make love to me? Why, Nabarzanes?”

He looked into her face, puzzled. “I seek no favours from you. If I can do nothing more to help Roxana and Iskander-shah, then at least I can see that you and Herakles are safe.” He pulled her close. “I’ve always thought you a most beautiful woman...a woman of great esteem.”

Barsine raised her eyes to his face. Her tone softened. “Yes, and you were a friend to me when I was abandoned by Alexander.”

Nabarzanes took her by the shoulders. “I want to stay with you, Barsine. But I made a vow, and pledged my loyalty to Iskander-shah and I must keep my promise. However, I will stay here with you at least until this tempest is past.”


HARBOUR STREET, EPHESUS


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14 comments:

Meghan said...

Another great chapter, as usual! And I love the pictures. They're fantastic. I hope you can finish your novel soon. I feel like I've waited forever for all my fave authors to finish with their work, but I know it will be worth it. :)

Wynn Bexton said...

I workshopped the interlude part at the end of Part VI tonight and got extremely favorable critiques on it. I've working on the second chapter of Part VII now and made a lot of notes today so I should proceed with that by tomorrow.

(the photos are off the internet. I've been to Ephesus, but it was a long time ago before the days of digital cameras -- when I used to live in Greece in the '80's. I went there a couple of times. The ruins there now are mainly Roman period.)

Father Park said...

“Ptolemy’s navy has invaded all the seaports of Phoenicia. The coalition of Diodochi have declared war against Antigonos. Come summer, torrents of Greek and Macedonian blood will flow.”

This will be the winter of 316/15. In which case, Ptolemy’s fleet is doing no such thing. Seleucus, Ptolemy’s “admiral”, has “invaded all the seaports of Cyprus” (315) as Asander (Caria) allies himself with Ptolemy.

“We all knew that Memnon was the strength and brains behind the Persian army… Without Memnon’s brilliant leadership Darius was nothing. Darius knew he could not stop Alexander”

Cough, choke, splutter… I suppose that’s what a wife might say. Even so, it’s a bit like saying “we all knew (Australian PM) John Howard was the brains behind the CoW. Without his brilliant leadership…”

“Seleukos has been driven out of Babylonia and the city is under siege by Antigonos, so it is too dangerous for you to return home.”

Seleucus was forced out of Babylonia in late summer 316. Peithon (son of Agenor) assumed the satrapy sometime after (he came west from here to fight alongside Demetrius at Gaza). There was no siege of Babylon unless one considers Seleucus’ storming of it in 312 or 311 such.

Yes, I know it is not a history as such but one should limit the violence one does to history. The "armies on land" will be Asander's end in Caria (as well as Kassander's)? The big confrontation, Gaza, won't happen until March/April 312.

Wynn Bexton said...

I have right here in front of me the Chonology of the Diadochi (from www.livius.org) as well I have consulted some other sources. It says here clearly:
315 (Jan) Euemens defeated
315 (spring) Seleukos flees
314 (Spring) Third Diadochi War
314 (summer) Antigonos in Phoenicia
314 (Autumn) Antigonos declares freedom of Gree. Ptolemy seizes Cyprus
etc.
And that is what I am following for my research (besides the other info I have here.)

Regarding Memnon, I have also read this in other sources that he was the strength that helped Darius and once he was killed Darius fled.

And yes, I know the battle in Gaza is in 312 (autumn) and Ptolemy is in Cilicia in Summer of 312. Then, in May 311 he invades Syria and Seleukos returns to Babylon. Etc Etc

I know how you historians hate historical fiction accounts. I have seen how you put down Steven Pressfield. But I am doing my best to be as careful with the 'facts' as I can, no matter how many of them are contradictory (and there are lots!) I believe it is a member of pothos.org who has posted Chronology. And I believe he is also a scholar?

Wynn Bexton said...

PS, and according to my research, Peithon was killed by Antigonos orders after he had come out of Media, lured with an offer of alliance. And that was some time in 315. He had revolted in Spring 318, was defeated in that same autumn and was later killed.

Father Park said...

It appears my previous explanatory post has been deleted? Anyway…

Livius (Jona) is an excellent source for material. The chronology you’re following (as he) is called “the low”. It is, to my (and many others’) mind, past its use by date. It will not affect your novel in any great fashion other than you being a year late and having to cram over two years’ worth of action into 313 so as it will fit. You will find this dry and, likely, boring but it is seminal.

Regarding Memnon, I have also read this in other sources that he was the strength that helped Darius and once he was killed Darius fled.

Wrong. Memnon was given command of those “by the sea” by Darius and his wife and children were held hostage for his good behaviour. He was to fight a holding and diverting coastal battle whilst Darius assembled a royal army. Which army he led, far from fleeing after Memnon’s death, to battle at Issos. He then – sans Memnon – led another at Guagamela (on these you need to read Jona’s descriptions)

Your source material has mislead you I’m afraid.

PS, and according to my research, Peithon was killed by Antigonos orders after he had come out of Media, lured with an offer of alliance. And that was some time in 315. He had revolted in Spring 318, was defeated in that same autumn and was later killed.

PS, You have your Peithons irretrievably confused – and I don’t mean snakes. Peithon (son of) Crateuas, Antigonus’s ally for the 318-316 campaign against Eumenes and somatophylax of Alexander, was convicted in a “kangaroo court” of Antigonus’s philoi in 316. Antigonus did not like ambitious allies. Peithon led Antigonus’s right wing in both major battles of that campaign (Paraetecene and Gabiene) – a difficult thing to do in revolt.

Eumenes “revolted” from Antigonus in 318 having repudiated the alliance he contracted to get out of the siege of Nora – not Peithon.

As I wrote: Peithon (son of) Agenor assumed the satrapy of Babylonia sometime after Seleucus was expelled (he came west from here to fight alongside Demetrius at Gaza). There was no siege of Babylon unless one considers Seleucus’ storming of it in 312 or 311 such.

Another bottle of red at the publication party or am I no longer invited??

D.A. Riser said...

Hi Wynn,

Thanks for visiting my blog. I responded to you there, but in case you don't see it, I wanted to let you know I added your blog to my google reader.

I look forward to reading your finished work. This post from Book VII was great! Quite enjoyable and highly readable.

Also, have you read David Gemmell's "Dark Prince" and "Lion of Macedon"? They cover the birth and boyhood of Alexander.

Go Greece!

Wynn Bexton said...

In the last part of Shadow I am not necessarily dramatizing any of the battles or conflict, merely mentioning them in narrative (otherwise it will be too dry and expand the novel which is already too long) It is mainly concerned with the final years of Roxana and young Alexander (Iskander). I am going over all the pages of research that I have been following (not just from livius.org but also from other sources and matching up the dates, times of years the events supposedly happened etc.

If my interpretation of Memnon doesn't suit the historians, I am going by what I have read about him and the fact that Alexander admired him as a general and treated his family respectfully when they were captured. Did he ever run from battle like Darius did on a number of occasions?

Thanks for your advice. I am doing my best to untangle the events in spite of many conflicting pieces of information.

To the Greek Writer, yes I enjoyed looking at your site and I think you have chosen a very interesting subject to write about. Have you been to Homer's land? I've been to nearly all the places (including Ithaka). Greece is my second home. Will be returning there shortly.

Father Park said...

Did Memnon ever “run from battle like Darius did on a number of occasions”?

The answer, I’m afraid, is yes. If we remove the emotive “run” Memnon, self evidently, escaped the carnage of Granicus. He also escaped from Miletus (Diodorus says “took flight”) with the other Persians and resisters. Finally he “abandoned” Halicarnassus after his allied mercenary commander, Ehpialtes, had died leading the heroic mercenary phalanx charge on the Macedonians.

That would be three times that Memnon “ran”.

Of course, this is not ever presented so in the Helleno-centric sources. Rather it is Memnon, as commander, removing himself when matters are lost so as to lead and fight again. When Darius, at Issos and Gaugamela, is shown doing the same thing, he is a coward who runs.

You are using Jona’s Livius site, you should read his rendition of these conflicts – especially the desertion of Darius by his troops at Gaugamela.

Back to the post that was “etherised”.

I know how you historians hate historical fiction accounts. I have seen how you put down Steven Pressfield.

Now, now. Next you’ll be calling us “ilk”. I do not mean to pester or attack; merely to help. You’ve asked many questions (at Pothos) and I’ve attempted answers. If this book is published and if it is widely read, many may be interested enough to read the actual history. In that case you don’t wish to appear lax or flippant with it.

In which case, there may be many reasons why your Narbazarnes might be advised not to travel to Babylon (Seleucus is in Egypt and Peucestas has been deposed and brought under Antigonus’s sway) rather than Babylon undergoing a siege that did not occur. Perhaps, as Ptolemy is not invading the seaports of Phoenicia, he might be better advised to contact Seleucus, commanding Ptolemy’s navy, who was invading the cities of Cyprus and, later, Caria?

I do not “hate” historical fiction. My favourite historical novel is Burr by Gore Vidal (closely followed by Creation and 1876). The secret is to get the facts right and blend a story within their bounds – not to change them to suit a “better” story. This then becomes “histrionic” fiction.

I’ve read Pressfield. My concerns with his writing are pretty much limited to Tides of War. He commits the error above when he invents an assault on Ephesus so as to pit Alcibiades and Lysander against each other (from memory). This never occurred. The main problem with this book is attempting to cover 27 years with one central character. Far too difficult a task as Alcibiades only is centre stage for the period 420 – 407.

I shall take the hint though and but out…

D.A. Riser said...

Pressfield, while an accomplished writer, is a bit graphic for my tastes.

To answer your question, Wynn, I have been to Greece and hope to return again when I've some funds to do so. It's an absolute wonderfully charming place.

Phaiakia (the land in my book) is described by Homer as enchanted, but I've done my best to see that I adhere to the time period. It's not an easy feat. I can definitely appreciate what you've said about the conflicting sources.

I should point out that even one as immortal as Homer didn't follow the facts. His work is strewn with out of period exceptions. It still makes for a great story, though. As long as it's not marketed as educational, I'll take beauty over truth in a book.

An entertaining read covers a multitude of sins when it comes to altering history to fit a novel. If it's a good story, anything can be forgiven. I would, however, stick a section of author's notes at the end and convey to the reader what was changed from fact to fiction.

What fun!

Wynn Bexton said...

Father Park, I do appreciate your expertise on the subject and actually have noted the discrepancies you pointed out which I will alter. I was miffed by the tone of your first critique. As a writing teacher and also a person familiar with critiquing, it is not OK to be sarcastic and ascerbic when doing so. That is upsetting rather than helpful.

I went to see Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" tonight and while watching this rather complicated play my mind drifted off to my own novel and came up with some revisions I intend to make based on your critique. So thanks.

To my Greek writer, DA Riser,
I'm going back in June hopefully for a full month. I base myself in Athens as I know the city and have friends there to stay with; and will later travel around a bit. I'm thinking of going back up north again to see the tombs for a third time and a few other sites. Philippi and my one of myfavorite islands, Thassos.

Wynn Bexton said...

I must also add, in addition to following Livius' Chronology, that yes, I happen to have printed out a lot of the writing from his site which I also refer to. I recently printed out the Memnon bio and will make the necessary corrections to my text. A small slip-up mentioned only in the dialogue between Barsine and Nabarzanes.

Father Park said...

Not sarcastic or acerbic ... direct. Which, I'm afraid, I'm prone to on occasion. Sometimes it is easier that way.

By the way, Peithon Crateau actually commanded Antigonus's left wing in those battles. 'Fraid I'd just got done with final editing of a long piece on the Battle of Gabiene. I'd difficulty in conveying the fact that Peithon – and his left wing cavalry – wound up over on Antigonus's right where the Silver Shields were indulging in rather a large spot of bloody mayhem. Nothing like reconstructing Diodorus.

So you see, even I – a hush descends over the site – am capable of error (pins drop loudly as hush becomes dead silence…).

Glad to hear you’ve made changes. A comfortable chair and decent red will do....

What did you alter re Memnon?

Wynn Bexton said...

Haven't done the alterations yet. Hung out all day at a nice pub listening to Irish music. I will alter Barsine's dialogue and will also add a bit earlier when she has seen ships in the harbour (some of Antigonos fleet setting sail) and will reminisce about Memnon's role.
I also have to add something much earlier on (in about Part II) to indicate that Herakles was 3 yrs old when Alexander died. They do not play a very large part in the story-line but are never the less important players in the drama.

This Nabarzanes, of course, is a fictional character. (Not the one mentioned in the histories).

I guess another of the problems (with research) besides the conflicting dates etc are the conflicting names.

I might add, that as most of the action in this story takes place in Macedonia starring Roxana and her son, a lot of the political stuff is just referred to by various means. But for Part VII I needed to be a bit more explicit as these final wars are what helps bring down the dynasty. And we all know how it ends.