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Friday, January 28, 2011

Affairs of the Gods: No Sex in Athena's Room!

(As a special treat today, I offer you a most excellent guest post, written by the fabulous Valerie of As The Moon Climbs! You can check out her poetry and flash fiction on her blog, and I trust that you are all already following her on twitter? RIGHT? If not, after this post you will be persuaded, I'm sure.)


It's easy to talk about the many, many, MANY times that Zeus fooled around and got some poor girl in trouble--forget a little black book, the guy needed a whole set of encyclopedia-sized tomes to keep track. But by no means was he the only god sowing his wild ambrosia whenever, however, and--unfortunately--wherever he darn well pleased.

Museo civico archeologico di Bologna nettuno1
Poseidon's Backside
While not as, ahem, prolific in his conquests as his brother, Poseidon did his fair share of getting around. Most famously, he fathered Polyphemus, the Cyclops that Odysseus blinded, and who called on his dad for revenge and basically caused the rest of the Odyssey to play out as it did. Whoops! Moral of the story: don't mess with the dude whose dad controls 2/3 of the planet.

But a tale from Ovid's Metamorphoses gives a twist to another story by explaining how it all began, namely the tale of Medusa and her sibilant snaky locks. You probably know about how Perseus borrowed a shiny shield, snuck into her cave and tricked her into turning herself into stone by looking at her own reflection. But where did she get that snake hair in the first place? Let's go to the source:

"Medusa once had charms; to gain her love 
 A rival crowd of envious lovers strove. 
They, who have seen her, own, they ne'er did trace 
More moving features in a sweeter face. 
Yet above all, her length of hair, they own, 
In golden ringlets wav'd, and graceful shone."

So she was totally smokin' hot at one point, with the kind of hair that most people can't get with a closet full of beauty products. No snakes in sight. What happened?

"Her Neptune saw, and with such beauties fir'd, 
Resolv'd to compass, what his soul desir'd."

Oh, Poseidon, you sly dog. But just gettin' your freak on with a lady usually wasn't enough to get her punished, right?

"In chaste Minerva's fane, he, lustful, stay'd, 
And seiz'd, and rifled the young, blushing maid."

Ah, there it is, in 17th century Olde Timey Speak: they did the dirty deed in Athena's temple. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want my uncle putting the moves on someone in my room, either. And Medusa was supposedly a priestess of Athena at the time, which of course only made the problem worse, what with the whole mandatory virginity clause. So what did Athena do?

"The bashful Goddess turn'd her eyes away, 
Nor durst such bold impurity survey; 
But on the ravish'd virgin vengeance takes, 
Her shining hair is chang'd to hissing snakes. 
These in her Aegis Pallas joys to bear, 
The hissing snakes her foes more sure ensnare, 
Than they did lovers once, when shining hair. "

And there you have it. Because Poseidon couldn't keep his trouser snake in his, er--well, he probably wasn't wearing anything because he was god of the OCEAN, but you get the point--poor Medusa ended up with snakes on her head. She then experienced what is arguably the longest pregnancy ever because it wasn't until Perseus cut off her head that two kids jumped out, one of which was the fabled Pegasus.

On the plus side, she got to grace Athena's shield as a really creepy emblem. The downside: obstacle course of statues whenever she had to leave her cave to potty.

Meanwhile, Poseidon was off catching some gnarly waves en route to his next conquest. He may or may not have high-fived a few dolphins along the way, but Ovid is suspiciously silent on the subject so we'll just have to imagine it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Wheels on the Bus III point V

(The continuing adventures of Thor and his navigation of public transit! The first half of today's story is over YONDER on Mia Hayson's blog. Please do pop over there to read it! I will wait.
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Back?! YAY! And now, without further ado: Part 3.5!)

I tried to warn him, but the words stuck in my throat, and then there was glitter raining down everywhere, sticking to his hair and skin and clothing. I stumbled back right into a zombie, which promptly tried to gum my arm, but somehow--somehow I managed not to scream.

Thor's eyes blazed a blue-white so bright I expected the bus itself to explode around us with lightning, and thunder crashed so loud my heartbeat stuttered. Needless to say, faced with an enraged thunder god, the zombies fell back.

Except for one.

It was one of Mia's. I thought his name was Adam. And then there was Mia with him, smiling her not-a-care-in-the-world-in-the-midst-of-Zombies-smile, and I had never, EVER been so glad to see someone in my life.

Thor, on the other hand, clearly did not agree. The sky was glowering again, and so was he. When she mentioned the glitter on his person, lightning flashed and thunder growled.

"Amaliaz!" She smiled a smile which I'm sure she meant to be reassuring, and hugged me. "You appear to have boarded the wrong bus! Perhaps! Let me help you. Where are you headed?"

"Thank GOD you're here," I said.

Thor snorted.

"NOT you," I amended quickly, rolling my eyes. At least if he was finding me amusing enough to snort, he wasn't going to blow up the bus. Yet. Mia was grinning. "Oh, Mia! We were on our way to the mall by bus-- the other bus-- and there was this Frost Giant sitting in front of us, and I really thought Thor was about to throw lightning right there, so I had to get us off the bus, but I didn't realize we'd stopped in Zombie Land! And then all I cared about was getting back ON the bus before I was coated in glitter and I didn't notice until it was too late that this isn't... well, how was I supposed to know they had special zombies-only buses?!"

Thunder rolled outside and the snare-drum beat of hail sounded against the roof of the bus. Thor was still dripping glitter, and the zombies, having gotten over their initial fright, were closing in again. On him. On me. He grabbed me with one be-dazzled arm and pulled me out of the way of a zombie lurching for my purse.

I am ashamed to admit it, but I am absolutely positive that by that point, I was cowering.

"I told you Zombies were trouble," Thor murmured in my ear, shielding me from the zombies which were NOT Mia's with his body. Thunder Gods, for all their faults, make excellent bodyguards. "Foul, loathsome creatures. At least Frost Giants I can pummel-- Whoever thought it would be a good idea to allow Zombie enclaves among human habitations should be smote."

"LOLZ!" Mia gave a wave and we were immediately flanked by her personal zombie companions. Some of them were still a bit more slobbery than I liked, but at least I knew I wouldn't be snacked upon. "Don't worry, Amaliaz! ZombieLine!Purple goes to the University, not the mall, but if you get off with me there, you can catch the human bus to where you want to go!"

Thor was still glowering, but now it was at Mia. She swallowed and took the tiniest step back.

I elbowed him in the gut and he transferred his glowing-eyed glare to me.

"Thank you, Mia! I don't know what we would have done without you!"

Thunder rumbled overhead again. "I can tell you exactly what we would have done," Thor grumbled.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a strange zombie leap back with a flash of static emanating from Mjolnir. Then another whimpered, and I recognized the tell-tale shimmer of electricity in the air, dividing Mia's zombies and ourselves from the rest of the bus.

"What was it you were saying about no miracles, major, minor, or otherwise?" I asked.

"That was before they started chewing on Mjolnir," Thor replied with a sniff. His glare fell on one of Mia's less sophisticated entourage which had started picking at the sparkling remnants of the glitter pot which still clung to his hair and clothing. "Mia-- if you wouldn't mind keeping your glitterati to yourself?"

"Er. Yes-- so sorry!" Mia clucked her tongue, then waved a hot dog in the air, trilling, "Hands to home!"

"How many more stops did you say it would be?" I asked. Even Mia's zombies couldn't be counted upon not to throw glitter around and my eyes were stinging in anticipation.

"Oh, just twelve more stops," she said, giving me a very bright smile.

I groaned. I had a feeling before this was over, I was going to wish I'd let Thor beat the tar out of that Frost Giant. Too late now.

One thing was sure, this was going to be a very, very long trip.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Affairs of the Gods: Zeus and Callisto

Thanks to Valerie for reminding me of this particular myth!

Pretty commonly, when Zeus wanted to get it on with a lady forbidden to him (either by his marriage to Hera, or parental control, or virginal vows), Zeus took the form of something else to disguise himself. Sometimes this disguise was for the benefit of those who might be watching for his next infidelity, but sometimes it was to deceive the woman he wanted, grant her a false sense of security, and then do the deed once she was in his power.
François Boucher 012
One such instance was the rape of Callisto. But this time, Zeus pulled a different trick. He didn't take the shape of an animal, or come to her as her husband. Callisto was a sworn virgin, a nymph of Artemis. So what did Zeus do?

Seriously followers and friends, this is by far the most underhanded of Zeus's tricks in my opinion, and I find myself slightly outraged by even reading about it. Zeus took the form of Artemis herself in order to get close to Callisto, and then when he had her in his grasp, he took her virginity and impregnated her. A sworn virgin and devotee of a virgin goddess!

Oofda. I'm not even sure I can find a way to swing that into something less than terrible! Holy Buckets, Zeus!

Apollodorus (3.8.2) presents the story this way:
Now Zeus loved her and, having assumed the likeness, as some say, of Artemis, or, as others say, of Apollo, he shared her bed against her will, and wishing to escape the notice of Hera, he turned her into a bear. But Hera persuaded Artemis to shoot her down as a wild beast. Some say, however, that Artemis shot her down because she did not keep her maidenhood. When Callisto perished, Zeus [...] turned [her] into a star and called it the Bear.
I'll say this-- if he approached her as Apollo, it's slightly less offensive. But notice here that nobody has minced words about the nature of Zeus' conquest. This affair was most definitely rape.

Bad form, man. Bad form.

The real tragedy of this whole situation is the fact that Callisto was the one who suffered for it, ultimately paying with her life. And this is also pretty typical of these kinds of affairs. Zeus sweeps in, has his way, and leaves the woman to deal with the consequences on her own. When Hera decides to go for blood, Zeus rarely prevents it, and why is Hera going after these women anyway, when it's Zeus who is the instigator?

What the behavior of the gods says about the treatment of rape in ye olden days and the culture of the Greeks is pretty awful. Granted, these were the gods, and as such their morality was-- well-- they weren't expected to behave in a civilized manner, it seems. Yet, in other instances we see the gods punishing men for cannibalism (Zeus, even), or smiting men for the murder of immediate family members. One moment, they are so reasonable in their behavior and expectation, their morality, and in the next...

In the next, Hera and Artemis are killing a young woman for the bad luck of capturing the carnal attention of Zeus, and suffering his imposition without consent.

I have to remind myself that we can not hold the divine to human standards, but I always kind of expect/hope that it's because the divine are something better and greater. In this case, Zeus and the Olympians prove me wrong.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Wheels on the Bus II

(Back by popular demand! In our last episode, we left Thor and his companion in ZOMBIE LAND after their near-miss encounter with that Frost Giant on the bus. Their adventures continue today, much to the chagrin of all parties, in GLITTER-TOPIA! This episode would not have been possible without Mia's co-authoring excellence!)

Now, I have nothing against zombies themselves, really. As long as they're drooling and shambling and glitterizing somewhere else, I'm perfectly content to let them co-exist in the world. Thor did not share this opinion. In the slightest.
"Zombie Land," he sneered.
I sighed. "You have no one to blame but yourself, really. If you hadn't been about to pick a fight with a Frost Giant on the bus, we wouldn't have had to get off in such a hurry."
Thunder rumbled again overhead and I pulled my hood tight to keep the wind out. 
"Yeah, yeah," I said, trudging off in the direction of the next bus stop. "I know you're cranky. How do you think I feel about all this glitter? I'm one wrong face-rub away from putting an eye out!"
Thor snorted. Whether in amusement at my semi-irrational fear of glitter on my face, or irritation with the fact that I wasn't taking HIS aggravation seriously, I didn't care.
"So your solution, then, is to get back on a bus?" he asked.
"My solution is to get out of zombie land before you start trying to pick fights with them, too. There should be another bus in ten minutes." I glanced at him sidelong. "Unless of course you have a better idea?"
Thunder gods are very accomplished glower-ers. I didn't even have to look at his face to know he was doing it. The sky had turned slate grey over my head and lightning flashed, reflecting off the snow.
"You know the rules." Thunder cracked, emphasizing his words. "No miracles, minor, major, or otherwise. That includes teleportation out of Zombie land."
"Forget I mentioned it," I mumbled. "I was just trying to illustrate a point."
A semi-truck blew by, sending a cloud of glitter swirling up into the air. I couldn't quite stop myself from moaning as I buried my face in my hands to protect my eyes. 
"I hate Frost Giants!"
That time, Thor chuckled. "I warned you not to take the bus."
When the glitter cloud settled I lifted my face and glared at him. Thunder gods were very good at being right, too. It was insufferable at the best of times, and I didn't dignify his comment with a response, stalking to the street corner instead.
"Perhaps next time you'll believe me when I say you'd be better off taking a cab." A flicker of sunlight glanced off a stop sign and I knew without looking he was still laughing at me. 
I huffed and ignored him, making for an over-sparkled bus-shelter down the street. I hated taking cabs. The drivers might as well have been zombies. At least on the bus you knew you wouldn't wind up in an accident or the middle of some kind of road-rage episode.
Inside the shelter, I crossed my arms over my chest to keep from accidentally coming into contact with any more glitter. Thor leaned against the wall, Mjolnir at his hip, seemingly without regard for all the tiny shards of shining plastic and glass. Of course. Thunder Gods don't have to worry about scratching their corneas on man-made (and might I add, completely unnecessary) glitz. 
"You can't really be angry," Thor murmured. 
The sun shone, reflecting rainbows, and I sighed. "Zombie Land is not an improvement over Frost giants who WERE minding their own business until you started getting uppity."
A purple bus pulled up, trailing feathers and bringing another cloud of glitter. I shut my eyes tight and held my breath until the toxic rain stopped pinging against my skin. I marched up the steps when the doors opened, not glancing back to see if Thor followed.
"And if you hadn't identified me, we'd still be on the bus--albeit uncomfortably near to a monster that would just as soon grind your bones to make his bread as sit passively."
I grabbed one of the overhead handles, spinning to glare at him. "Oh, sure. It's MY fault that you can't control your urge to pummel things for a ten minute ride." 
"You should sit down," he told me, but his lips were twitching again, and his amusement didn't help my irritation. "Unless you'd prefer I be required to catch you every time the bus stops."
I narrowed my eyes, then turned my back on him. But when I looked for a likely seat...
Well.
The bus was an open platform, filled with hunched bodies. They hung to the railings and chewed on the metal posts. 
"Oh, no."
When I turned back to Thor, a zombie was gnawing on the corner of Mjolnir. Lightning flashed and thunder shook the bus.
This--
This was not good.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Affairs of the Gods: Zeus and Leda

Leda mosaic
Google Image Search Leda and the Swan at your own risk.
To say that Zeus has a reputation for raping and seducing women would be an incredible understatement. You really can't turn around without hearing about some woman Zeus* made off with/made love to/brutally raped in the guise of some animal or other in Greek mythology, and Leda is really no exception.

The story is that Leda (perhaps laying by a stream) was hanging out when Zeus came to her in the guise of a swan (possibly fleeing from an eagle who may or may not have been Aphrodite, or else perhaps chasing after a goose-who-was-Nemesis), and when Leda took him into her arms, he ah-- took advantage of her. From there, Zeus took off, as is his usual MO, and she went home to her husband Tyndareus, King of Sparta**, and, uhm, engaged with him, too.

Apollodorus (3.10.7) tells us:
But Zeus in the form of a swan consorted with Leda, and on the same night Tyndareus cohabited with her; and she bore Pollux and Helen to Zeus, and Castor and Clytaemnestra to Tyndareus.***
Consorted.
Raped.
Seduced.

Really, it's hard to say what kind of relationship Leda had with Zeus-the-swan. Obviously to catch the eye of Zeus, Leda must have been some kind of beautiful. But I don't know that being beautiful does anyone any favors when it comes to the gods.

Isocrates offers this opinion on Zeus's relations with Leda (and other women):
[...] and in the guise of a swan he took refuge in the bosom of Nemesis, and again in this form he espoused Leda; ever with artifice manifestly, and not with violence, does he pursue beauty in women.
It just sounds a little bit idealized to me, is all. Zeus never struck me as a very considerate lover. He is after all a god, and I'm sure felt he was well within his rights to take whatever he wanted from whoever he wanted, and if that meant making a--ah--deposit in someone else's wife or daughter, I'm not really convinced he was interested in doing said woman any favors in the process. And he wouldn't really have had the time, anyway, with Hera sniffing around, ready to punish him, the poor woman, or both.

Tony Robert-Fleury - Léda
Ovid gives us a few lines, capturing a very romantic view of Leda's experience as well:
Arachne drew the fam'd intrigues of Jove, 
[...]
And shew'd how Leda lay supinely press'd, 
Whilst the soft snowy swan sate hov'ring o'er her breast, 

What's really fascinating about the mythology of Leda and the Swan, is how obsessed with it artists seemed to become in much, much later history! We have a TON of imagery reflecting the myth. Why is it so interesting? What makes it so captivating a subject? I'm not sure I have any kind of answer to those questions, still. Certainly I don't find Leda anywhere near as interesting a character as Helen or Pollux or even Tyndareus. But I do wonder if being a reputed beauty herself--beautiful enough to catch the attention of Zeus!-- Leda bore a certain amount of jealousy toward Helen.

So why do you think Leda and the Swan captured the imagination of artists?

(I've talked a little bit about the mythology of Leda and Zeus in the past, concerning the births of Pollux and Helen in my novel.)

*To be fair, the same could really be said of Apollo. Holy Buckets.
**and interestingly enough, though Sparta was afterwards inherited through it's women, it seems like Leda married into the Queenship of Sparta, going off of Apollodorus (3.10.5).
***The Greeks were all about giving people two fathers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Wheels On The Bus

(Happy Tuesday! I thought you might like a little flashy kind of treat, and it's been a while since we've seen Thor around these here parts--kind of. Really this is the result of my lack of focus today, but you know-- lemons into lemonade, and all that! I hope you enjoy it!)


We were on the bus.
Normally, I wouldn't have taken it, being that it travels through the less than savory part of town, and even with a Thunder God over my shoulder--maybe especially with a Thunder God over my shoulder-- I didn't care to take my chances. Finding out what Thor would do to a mugger wasn't on my top ten list of things to discover before I died, after all.
Anyway, we were on the bus.
I took the window seat, as always, and Thor dropped into the seat beside me with ill-grace, casting a dark glance at the other riders.
It isn't as though they're zombies," I murmured under my breath.
Thor snorted. "You don't have any idea."
"They aren't shambling, or drooling, or covered in glitter."
He raised both eyebrows, and his eyes slid over my shoulder. In spite of myself, I looked back.
"That doesn't count," I said immediately. "Girls her age are ALWAYS covered in glitter."
His lips twitched, and the sun beamed through the window. I sighed, turning my face toward it and soaking it up. He couldn't be that irritable if the sun was shining, so I relaxed and leaned back in my seat.
"It isn't just the zombies I worry about, you know." He kept his voice so low I could barely hear it over the rumble of the engine and the road noise. "It's winter, now."
"So?" I asked.
"Frost Giants," he murmured, and the sun disappeared again.
"Not on the bus!" I glared at him and pulled my hood up to protect myself from the temperature drop. Thunder gods, in my experience, didn't feel cold, but I was frequently freezing thanks to his cloud cover. 
He said nothing, but his mouth pressed into a thin line, and he stared pointedly at the back of a man's head, in front of us. Sure, the guy was tall, and his head was pretty lumpy, but that didn't mean he was a frost giant. He could just be having a bad hair day. Or. That disease where the skin turns into hard scaly masses...
Right. So that was probably unlikely.
"You can't be serious," I hissed.
His fingers wrapped around the grip of the hammer on his hip and his eyes blazed white. Thunder rumbled outside, in spite of the snow. I swore.
"Do not. Even. Think about it."
 Lightning flashed outside the window, any hope of sunlight long gone.
We were ON a bus. There were bystanders. And the last thing I needed was to have my buspass revoked because I brought an unruly passenger on board. People could be arrested for that kind of thing these days!
"Thor, I am begging you."
The lumpy-headed man's head jerked, and a cauliflower ear turned in our direction.
I swallowed. So maybe announcing the presence of the Thunder God on the bus next to me right behind his natural enemy wasn't exactly the wisest course. The tension in Thor's shoulders told me I only had a matter of seconds.
I jerked on the yellow stop-cord and the bus braked, nearly throwing me off balance as I rose from my seat and grabbed Thor by the arm. I tugged him with me.
"Our stop," I said.
It was a good thing he let me shove him down the aisle. Thunder Gods are like mountains when they don't want to be moved. The back doors on the bus hissed open and I pulled him after me down the three steps. The lumpy-headed man-- or Frost Giant, I suppose, stared at us through the window with yellow eyes.
"See?" Thor said, glaring at the creature.
I sighed, looking for the street signs.
"Well I hope you're happy," I said when I finally found them. "Now we're stuck in Zombie land."
The glitter was everywhere.

Friday, January 07, 2011

What do Pollux and Romulus have in common?

They both lost a brother. Because Being a Twin? It SUCKS.

Ill-fated twins pop up all over the place, often enough that you'd THINK being born a twin would immediately start people panicking over the future results. Three  Two (Thanks Wendy!) case studies today!

Romulus and Remus
Growing up they were heroes (according to Plutarch) and so honorable that after they helped Numitor (their grandfather) win back his kingdom from his-brother-their-uncle-who-deposed-him, they set off at once so that they wouldn't pose a threat to Numitor's rule. When they began founding their own city, however, the trouble started. Romulus and Remus both had different ideas for how Rome should be built and determined to settle it FAIRLY by letting the gods decide via the number of birds in the sky. Remus saw 6 Vultures. Romulus claimed to have seen 12. Remus, believing his brother had lied, began obstructing the building of the city wall by Romulus's design, and generally made a problem about it. He jumped over the wall, and was struck down, either by Romulus, or by Romulus's friend Celer. Either way, Remus ended up dead.

Tragedy Factor: 4 out of 5 if Romulus committed the murder, 3 out of 5 if his buddy Celer did. If Romulus lied about the vultures, then killed his brother for calling him on it, he's a real piece of work. I'm not sure I'd be too proud of him as a founder of MY city. Remus really got a raw deal.



Castor and Pollux
Absolutely inseparable twins, also known as the Dioscuri, and brothers to Helen of Sparta/Troy. Pollux was a son of Zeus and Castor was a son of Tyndareus (presumably--more on their paternity issues HERE). Castor and Pollux were by all accounts incredible hunters, horsemen, and very admirable men, running about the Greek countryside performing heroic deeds, raiding cattle, and stealing women (in the great tradition of all Greek heroes!), including the rescue of Helen from Theseus's clutches (or something). On one of these expeditions, they were caught in the act of raiding and Castor was killed by a spear. Pollux avenged his brother's death by killing the men who fought them, and then may or may not have been saved from death himself by Zeus-his-father. After this, Zeus offered Pollux the choice of giving Castor half his immortality, or to leave his brother and join the gods on Olympus. Pollux chose to share his immortality, so that he would never be parted from his brother. (can I get an "Awwww!")

Tragedy Factor: No more than a 2. Yeah, it's sad that Castor died, but that's the risk you take when you're stealing other people's livestock! Besides, they got a happy ending. Who can REALLY complain about spending half your time partying together on Olympus, even if the other half is spent in Hades? But see, this is why I do not understand how Theseus didn't get a sweet afterlife offer! I guess only the sons of Zeus get the hook-up to the Olympus after-party.

Any other famous and ill-fated twins that you can think of?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Theseus as the Father of Athenian Democracy

Vicky quoted me a quote the other day on my Fall of Theseus post, and I thought the answer to her question deserved its own post:
This is what Edith Hamilton in MYTHOLOGY, says about Theseus after his return from killing the minotaur: 

"So Theseus became King of Athens, a most wise and disinterested king. He declared to the people that he did not wish to rule over them: he wanted a people's government where all would be equal. He resigned his royal power and organized a commonwealth, building a council hall where the citizens should gather and vote."

So, when Theseus realized that his father had died because of him, he "created" democracy. An interesting myth for the creation of democracy. What's your take on that interpretation? 
I'll admit this was the first time I'd really considered this at all-- but I went back to Plutarch (the go-to Theseus source for everyone) and took a look at what he had to say in regard to Theseus's kingship, and it sounds like Ms. Hamilton consulted Plutarch for her take on this as well. Plutarch says a couple of things along these lines, crediting Theseus with everything from the formation of Athens itself as a true city to coining currency and instituting the Isthmian Games. But in particular to this issue, Plutarch says:

[...] whereas before they lived dispersed, and were not easy to assemble upon any affair for the common interest. Nay, differences and even wars often occurred between them, which he by his persuasions appeased, going from township to township, and from tribe to tribe. And those of a more private and mean condition readily embracing such good advice, to those of greater power he promised a commonwealth without monarchy, a democracy, or people's government, in which he should only be continued as their commander in war and the protector of their laws, all things else being equally distributed among them;- and by this means brought a part of them over to his proposal.
In essence, in order to consolidate the people of Athens and his own power, he cut a deal with the people who opposed his reforms. Good politics, really, and besides which, it freed Theseus to go about taking care of business elsewhere instead of constantly going from community to community putting down disagreements. If Attica were at peace, Theseus could continue hero-ing it up and gallivanting around with Heracles and Pirithous.

But we also have to remember that Plutarch's purpose in writing this was to elevate Rome, first and foremost, by comparing Theseus to Romulus as a ruler, and Plutarch was writing in the First Century CE, and Theseus, if he lived, was born a generation or more before the Trojan War, an event which took place 1200-1300 years earlier.

Plutarch goes on to say this:
He then dissolved all the distinct statehouses, council halls, and magistracies, and built one common state-house and council hall on the site of the present upper town, and gave the name of Athens to the whole state, [...]. Then, as he had promised, he laid down his regal power and proceeded to order a commonwealth
 Theseus continued to expand the influence of Athens by inviting anyone who wished it to become a citizen of Athens to enlarge the population. Again, this would have resulted in fewer border skirmishes and less infighting around the countryside requiring Theseus's mediation. Plutarch tells us:
Yet he did not suffer his state, by the promiscuous multitude that flowed in, to be turned into confusion and he left without any order or degree, but was the first that divided the Commonwealth into three distinct ranks, the noblemen, the husbandmen, and artificers. To the nobility he committed the care of religion, the choice of magistrates, the teaching and dispensing of the laws, and interpretation and direction in all sacred matters; the whole city being, as it were, reduced to an exact equality, the nobles excelling the rest in honour, the husbandmen in profit, and the artificers in number.
From Plutarch's commentary we are left with the impression that above all Theseus wanted order in his kingdom. He wanted peace. Perhaps he did lay down his "regal power" but he did not give up his kingship. He created a system which would keep the disparate peoples and tribes from warring constantly. But why would he be so concerned with expanding Athens and consolidating the people of the lands into one united city if it weren't to bring them all under the umbrella of his influence and control? Theseus was no Solon, who after accomplishing his reforms for Athens, abandoned his power completely and left the country. Theseus stayed on as King.

So I guess to answer the original question, I take Plutarch with a grain of salt in this instance. I expect Theseus did what he had to do in order to grant himself a margin of freedom and some peace of mind. By consolidating Athens and banding the people of Ionia together under his rule, he ensured their safety whether he was physically present or not-- no one outside of Attica would wittingly wage war against a unified force of that size, and his own citizens would not be ripping one another apart when he turned his back on them for more than a week. In other words, with his own people happy and his forces swollen, he could leave without fearing that he'd return to a usurper on his throne from within, or an external king annexing pieces Theseus would then have to wage a war of his own to get back.

Perhaps we should call Theseus the patriarch of good politics rather than democracy. But whatever else he was, Theseus was certainly a very canny king and a clever politician. Between his physical power and his wits, I imagine he had no trouble getting his way in anything.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

No-Kiss Blogfest Palooza

Friends and Followers, I give you Young Thairon. You may now swoon.

Once you're finished reading and swooning, be sure to head back over to Frankie's blog and follow the Mr. Linky to the other participants!


Gwen ran her fingers across her lips, staring at her reflection in the mirror. She sighed and dropped her hand from her mouth. She had spent half the night tossing and turning thinking about that kiss. About how she wanted to repeat it. 
Why was she doing this to herself? It was stupid. He was just going to dump her when he realized she didn’t have money, and she wasn’t willing to put out immediately. The thought made her close her eyes and she bit her lip. God. She hoped he was as good in bed as he was at kissing. Her cheeks burned. That was not something she should be thinking about before she met him for breakfast.
And why was she meeting him for breakfast, anyway? She grabbed her backpack and locked the door on her way out. In the hall, she stood for another moment, chewing on her lip. It wasn’t too late. She could just skip breakfast.
Her feet had other ideas. In spite of herself, she left the building, heading for the dining center. Really, that kiss had not been her idea. If he thought he was going to get any further, he was in for a surprise. She smiled. Yes. That was what she would say.
“Good morning,” he said, and she nearly jumped out of her skin. He was smirking. 
She glared, pressing her hand to her chest to keep her heart from leaping out of her ribcage. She hoped it was just because he had startled her and not because she couldn’t stop thinking what else his lips could do. 
“You scared me half to death.”
His smirk turned into a kinder smile. “Sorry about that.”
“You aren’t really sorry at all, are you?”
He shrugged. “I didn’t mean to scare you, but I can’t say that it wasn’t entertaining.”
“Ugh! Why do you have to be so--”
“Charming?” He caught her by the arm, pulling her off the sidewalk. 
She almost tripped, but he steadied her and all of a sudden she was in his arms with no understanding of how she had gotten there. His hand cupped her cheek and then moved into her hair. 
“You’re all I’ve been able to think about since that kiss,” he said.
She thought her heart stopped, and she swallowed against the lump in her throat. She couldn’t even breathe. “Oh.”
He chuckled, soft and low, and his thumb traced over her bottom lip. “Oh, she says. Can’t a guy get a little bit of encouragement?”
If she didn’t look away, he was going to kiss her again. She was sure of it. But she just kept staring at his face, watching the way his lips moved around the words. Thinking of how they had moved around hers. 
“I didn’t think you really needed it. After yesterday.”
“I couldn’t—” He stopped and pressed his lips together. “I’m sorry about that. Well, no I’m not sorry. I enjoyed the hell out of it. But if it wasn’t what you wanted—” He sighed. “God, Gwen. Tell me you at least aren’t mad about it. I can’t ever tell with you.”
She laughed, and her heart started beating again, but much too quickly. She touched his face, her fingers tracing the line of his jaw without her permission. She could reject him now, she realized, and he’d leave her alone. She’d be free of him. But she met his eyes and all she wanted to do was kiss him again. 
“I’m not mad.”
The tension around his eyes eased. Funny, she hadn’t noticed it was there until it was gone. He pressed his forehead against hers and brought her hand to his chest, holding it there. Holding her there, as if they were absolutely alone in the world. She closed her eyes and let him. But she shouldn’t have. She should’ve told him she was angry. That he’d had no right to impose himself on her this way. She should’ve shoved him away and gone back to her room.
His hand tightened around hers, as if he read her thoughts, and then she was free. She blinked, looking at him, and he smiled. 
Thairon raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. “I’m starving. And I’m afraid that if I make you late to class you’ll refuse to have breakfast with me ever again. Shall we?”
She bit her lip and repressed her frustration. God, he was so impossible. If it turned out after all of this that he lost interest the minute she gave in, she was going to wring his neck! She pulled her hand free and started walking again. Maybe she would wring his neck anyway. It wasn’t like he didn’t deserve it.
“Gwen?”
“What?” She could tell by the sound of his voice that he was smiling, and it made her even more irritated.
“If you’d rather be late...” His hand found hers again, and he gave it a gentle tug. Not enough to stop her, just a suggestion. And damn it all, but her fingers closed around his like they were meant to be there. When he slowed, she did too. “I’d be more than happy to give you a reason.”
She stopped and stared at the sidewalk, trying to decide if she was capable of letting go of his hand right then. She didn’t think so. And she wasn’t going to be able to focus in class either, thinking about what she had given up by attending. But no matter what happened in the next five minutes, she promised herself, she was not going to get in bed with him. 
“I guess I can get the notes from Kristen.” 
He pulled her toward him, and there was no smile on his face. No arrogant smirk. There was nothing smug at all in his expression. When he kissed her, he was serious. 
Maybe that was why she liked it so much.