Arcadian Nights: The Greek Myths Reimagined
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The vibrant retelling of the central Greek myths by acclaimed novelist John Spurling, author of The Ten Thousand Things, winner of the 2015 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
The classical Greek intellectual tradition pervades nearly every aspect of our modern Western civilization. Our logic and science, our philosophy, politics, literature, architecture, and art are all indebted to the ancient inhabitants of the small mountainous Mediterranean country. And the powerful myths of the Greeks, refined by Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus, and the great Greek dramatists, still resonate at the core of our culture.
Taking as his starting point many of the famous tourist sites in the Peloponnese, where the stories are set, John Spurling, winner of the 2015 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, freshly imagines key narratives from the Greek canon, including tales of the doomed house of Atreus (notably Agamemnon, leader of the Greeks at Troy, murdered by his wife in his palace bathroom); of the god Apollo; goddess Athene; Theseus, scourge of the Minotaur; the Twelve Labors of Heracles; and Perseus, rescuer of Andromeda.
In this vibrant, gripping and often grisly retelling of the Greek myths, stories of murder, power, revenge, love, and traumatic family relationships are made new again for our time with wit and relish by a gifted author. Spurling has added scene, dialogue, and context, while always staying true to the spirit of the original myth.
Peirithoös’ wife and Theseus sent the messenger back to say that he, who had attended their wedding and helped save the bride from the centaurs, would attend her funeral and offer what comfort he could to his grieving friend. Phaedra, however, surprising herself again, said that while he was away she would like to stay in Troezen rather than return to Athens immediately. Theseus too was surprised. ‘It’s quite a small town,’ he said. ‘What will you do here?’ ‘What do I do in Athens?’ ‘You
even the gods of the underworld. They allowed his dead wife Eurydice to follow him back to earth on condition he didn’t turn back to look at her on the way up. He did and lost her a second time. Ouranos Child and husband of Gaia. Father of Cronos, who mutilated and dethroned him, the same treatment afterwards meted out to Cronos in turn by his son Zeus. Pan The Arcadian god of flocks and shepherds, forests and hunters, usually represented with horns and goat’s legs and often playing the
conventions. We cannot invite you into our palace, but we can offer you refreshment. A beaker of pomegranate wine perhaps?’ Herakles shook his head and politely declined, though he was very thirsty. He knew from his initiation at Eleusis that even to taste anything in the underworld, as Persephone herself had after she was abducted, was to become part of it. This was why Persephone had to spend half the year as Hades’ queen in spite of the grief and anger of her mother. The initiates at Eleusis
Perseus found the storyteller sitting morosely in his courtyard contemplating their livestock, which consisted of four or five hens and a cock. They couldn’t even afford a goat or a donkey. In order to ply his trade and eat his dinners in other parts of the island, the storyteller had to walk and he would soon be too old for that. Storytellers’ circumstances have not much changed down the ages. Perseus sat down beside him on a step and came straight to the point: ‘Where can I find the Gorgon
In a cave on the slopes of those mountains you will find the Graiai and I think you already know how to make them tell you where to find the Gorgons.’ Perseus sat down and strapped on the sandals, then got to his feet and picked up his cloak and the helmet of Hades. The sickle was tucked into his belt, on the other side from his knife, the bat-skin satchel and his lunch-bag hung from their straps over his shoulders. ‘Put on the helmet now!’ said Hermes. Perseus did so and was astonished to see