Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hegemon Book 22. Lycurgus the Conqueror

And so it was ten years thence that you came from Doris to the Aegean, Lycurgus. Our men fought bravely, but there were few heroes amongst us who remained to defend Greece by then. Achilles, the two Ajaxes, Agamemnon…they hath all fallen before us. Diomedes was no longer in Greece, and by then, the wily Odysseus hath fallen ill of fever and passed away.

And so, the young kings Telemachus of Ithaca and Orestes of Mycannae joined my Spartans against you in the Battle of Thebes. Telemachus, son of Odysseus, fought like a lion his father was, but he was outclassed. We now know that you Dorians carry an iron sword that our bronze ones were no match for, but at that time, it was astounding to see the Ithacan blades crack like newly baked pots. Before the end of dawn, Telemachus was a dead man, unable to further the greatness his father hath bought upon the humble city to the House of Laertes.

Orestes fought bravely too, and the Mycannaens were the finest army on this side of the Aegean. Orestes once told me that you Dorians were nothing but barbarians, that you wore the skins of bear, but I heard from other sources too. Before his death, the soothsayer Calchus hath told me, “The sons of Hercules are come to avenge the House of Eurystheus, and the blood of Troy is upon you.”

It was then that I knew the truth. That you Dorians were descended from Hercules themselves, and because the House of Atreus was linked to Eurystheus who hath wronged the hero many years ago, war was inevitable.”

Orestes fought well, but the odds were overwhelming. The weapons were simply so different that though Mycannae may very well have outnumbered Doris three to one, the result was total defeat for the son of Agamemnon. It was at this time that I saw defeat in his eyes, for you carried High King Orestes on your shield…a lifeless body was he.

And it was then that you, Lycurgus, asked us to surrender, and many Aegean cities did, even as they called you barbarians and looked at you with disdain. Argos, ruled by the weak queen Agelia, came first. Then, there was Pylos and Crete, for the old king Nestor was now dead and heirless, so they invited you to take the throne.

But Sparta alone stood by, and we harbored the brave Myrmidons who hath once served Achilles in Thessally, and we stood our grounds despite the odds…until today…Our helmets broken, our swords shattered, but only our spirits remained. I, Menelaus, king of Sparta, least of the heroes of Troy, if I may even call myself one.

There is little for me to live for, Lycurgus, for my dear Helen was now with the gods having choked of the smoke during your pillage, and my daughter Hermione a widow. I wouldst have loved to fight you till an end, had not the exhaustion taken me by surprise. We Spartans have fought you Dorians for many a months, until one day, in my fainting slumber, I find myself bound before you, a prisoner, my crown at your feet. Even the Myrmidons, brave men who fought side by side with Achilles, are no more.

Perhaps, this is retribution for the House of Eurystheus for having angered Hercules, the son of Zeus, in the past. Perhaps, the King of Gods hath only spared Orestes to smite him at his greatest moment today. But I wouldst let you know that once, we Spartans and our Aegean allies stood before the walls of Troy and bested that mighty city of Asia. Now, take my life, Lycurgus, and tell your children that you have defeated Menelaus, and that he was one of the kings who looked Hector in the eye without fear, that they may honor you for time to come.

But Lycurgus did not kill me. Instead, he ordered me free from my ropes and said, “Hear me, King of Sparta! For though you are related to Eurystheus, we Dorians much do admire the brave. I shall be your brother, much as High King Agamemnon was, and your family, the House of Atreus, shall be Spartiates (Spartan nobles) much as mine shall be. Only the lesser Spartans will become helots (laborer class), so that my Dorian subjects can settle here and become true Spartans.”

And so, it was in this manner that I spent the rest of my life…A Spartiate noble in the court of High King Lycurgus. Sparta now became the center of Greece. The most powerful city. The Spartans, as the new Dorians called themselves, trained for war at all times. Even the women didst so, for they believed that strong women bore strong sons, and though I have been vanquished, I couldst not help but admire them.

And this is the story of my life. I Menelaus…one time King of Sparta, brother to two High Kings, and a Spartiate noble today, but at one time, I will not forget that I stood before the walls of Troy, looking Hector in the eye without fear, thinking that I could challenge the gods, thinking my Helen was fairer than the goddess Aphrodite…Folly though it may be, but then again, “What is life but the pursuit of dreams.”

Hegemon Book 21. The Trials of Orestes

And so, the Queen Clytemnestra hath seized power in Mycannae, the greatest city of Greece, and she hath installed her lover Aegisthus, that creature of incest, on its throne and imprisoned her own daughter Elektra. Is this the deed of the woman who said he loved her daughter Iphigenia? And in truth, Iphigenia was the kinder of the two, but I still think that Clytemnestra was a vile woman. Before she was imprisoned however, Elektra managed to help her brother Orestes flee.

My nephew Prince Orestes arrived in Sparta not many days later. I vowed to help him take back the throne of Mycannae, even though the Spartan army was much too small. It was at this time that he met my daughter Hermione and fell in love with her. For who could resist the daughter of Helen? She may not have her mother’s charm of a goddess, but it was more than a mortal prince could resist.

And though I was fond of Orestes, the brave young boy and son of the brother I respected much, Hermione was already betrothed to Neoptolemus Pyrrhus, son of Achilles and king of Thesally. A king’s word is his bond, and I could not go back on the promise I hath made to Neoptolemus, even though I was much angered that he took the wife of Hector, Andromache, for himself and dishonored her.

But at that time, there were greater things to worry about. In fact, up against the Mycannean power, Orestes may not even last, so I put these thoughts behind me.

But a hegemon’s son is bound to be a hegemon too. And so, Orestes asked that we set upon Mycannae and bring war to its doorsteps. I spoke to my Spartan officers, “Men of Sparta, I may not be born in this city, but I am your king. I am Spartan and proud to be one, but you need not follow me to Mycannae. Aegisthus is now the most powerful king of the Aegean, and this is a war for the honor of the Atreides alone.”

But Brasidas son of Lysander spoke up for his fellow Spartans, for he was a general of note and the man I trusted most, “King Menelaus, son of Atreus, we Spartans are the greatest soldiers the world have ever known, trained never to retreat, never to surrender. We will follow you on this just cause and bring death upon the traitor Aegisthus.”

And so in this manner, they followed me, but the Mycannaen army Aegisthus hath with him outnumbered the brave Spartans three to one. I was not afraid, and was about to order my men to charge when my nephew Orestes marched forward and shouted to the soldiers, “Men of Mycannae, wilt thou serve Aegisthus, that creature of incest, and call him thy king? Or wilt thou serve me and avenge my father, High King Agamemnon, the man who hath bought proud Priam to his feet.”

The Mycannaens saw their young prince, and they hated the usurper Aegisthus, so they decided to turn upon him. But Aegisthus asked to fight Orestes one on one, and Orestes decided to grant him a clean death.
Aegisthus was a skilled warrior, but a treacherous one too. He could see how well Orestes could parry his blows. Out of nowhere, he threw a poisoned knife at Orestes’s shoulder. The pain was but slight. Orestes recovered and continued his attack, knocking the sword off Aegisthus’s hand and slaying him.

Now, Orestes hath recaptured his birthright, the throne of Mycannae. He freed his sister Elektra, and the question was what he would do to his sinful mother Clytemnestra? For surely, a man must avenge his father, but what god could forgive a man who slew his own mother? Such was the dilemma that Orestes now faced.

But the young boy was decisive beyond his years, and so he uttered these brave words, “Arope hath betrayed Atreus, and now my mother Clytemnestra hath betrayed my father High King Agamemnon. Let the curse of Atreus end with me.” With these words, he stepped up to the throne and slew Clytemnestra.

Then, he spoke unto Zeus, “King of Olympus, listen to me, King of the Aegeans, as one king to another. I have broken thy law against matricide, and if thou shalt find me guilty, slay me!” He then slept for three days on an altar during a hard rain. There were many thunderstorms, and thunders, the thing of Zeus, hit nearby him many times but missed him by only a hand’s length. Then, the thunderstorm ended. Orestes was weak with fever but unharmed.

At this point, I spoke to the men of Mycannae and Sparta. “Aegeans, be my witness. The great god Zeus has judged my nephew to be a just and worthy king, for any thunder could have slain him thence, but it did not. Is there any man here who doth not agree with Zeus?”

And not a man stepped forward. At that point, I realized that the curse of Atreus was over.

My daughter Hermione took care of Orestes, healing him of the fever and poison from Aegisthus’s secret knife. It was clear that Orestes’ affection for her were not one-sided but mutual. Just then, Neoptolemus barged in and shouted at her, charging her with infidelity when he saw Orestes in her arms.

But Orestes was strong now and so he spoke these words, “Your father Achilles was a noble warrior, but you are not half the man he is. If you find Hermione blemished, then I shall marry her myself.”

But Neoptolemus was haughty, and he sneered, “Menelaus hath given her to me as a token of friendship to my father, who is greatest amongst all mortals and perhaps some of the gods on Olympus themselves. Now, that she hath dishonored herself, I will slay her and cleanse my name with her blood.”

But Orestes wouldst not allow that, and the two young kings fought for my daughter. Neoptolemus was the stronger of the two, but he was rather careless. At one point, Orestes fell, and Neoptolemus was about to slay him, when Hermione shouted, “No! I will do whatever you want. Only but spare him!”

Neoptolemus paused for a moment of shock, and during that split second, Orestes regained his sword, struck the son of Achilles in his spleen, and slew the great warrior. Finally, my nephew came forth to me in Sparta and told me of his intent to marry Hermione, and I was much impressed.

“You have defeated a hero of Troy and recaptured the throne of Mycannae before thy beard hath grown. What father can want a better groom for his daughter. Go with her, Orestes, for you have my blessings.”

In this manner, Hermione married the great Orestes, and for many years, we were content.

Hegemon Book 20. The Fate of a Hegemon

And so my brother Agamemnon made his way back home safely on the greatest ship of the Aegean loaded with Trojan gold and his new favorite, the beautiful Princess Cassandra. He hath grown fond of her, and her of him. Now, Cassandra hath the gift of Apollo that could make her see the future like Calchus, but unlike Calchus, Apollo hath curseth her, so that she would not be believed. She warned Agamemnon, “Fear the queen, High King, for she will be the death of us both.” But Agamemnon put that to petty womanish jealousy and so he said, “Do not despair, fair Cassandra, for you are far too beautiful for me to dessert you. She is the mother of my son Orestes and my daughter Elektra. Otherwise, I would have tossed that Spartan princess away. She is not so fair as her sister’s lady finger and doth not even possess your grace.” But Cassandra despaired further, “Oh mighty King!! You are missing the point. It matter not if I am but a plaything to you. Apollo himself would have me for a mistress, but I didst spurn him….Oh never mind, Apollo had curseth me, so that my prophecies will never be believed despite the truth in them.” And it was in this manner that the High King Agamemnon entered the palace of Mycannae, and he was welcomed by his wife, the queen Clytemnestra, with words of love and showers of roses. He was much honored, and she invited him and his mistress Cassandra to take a place of honor. And Agamemnon was much pleased. Holding Cassandra by his side, he didst not hold off on wine or food, and soon he was drunk. One of the nobles looked familiar, but he could not recall who the young handsome man was. In some ways, this noble looked much like his own son Orestes. So he asked the lad, “Young man, what is your name? Hath I seen you in court but only forgotten you due to my long years in Troy? Perhaps, thou hadst been too young to be recruited for the campaign.” But the handsome lad replied, “Great King, I am not so young, but simply not present at your court at the time. My name is Aegisthus, son of Theyestes.” Though still deeply drunk, Agamemnon was shocked by the name. Regaining some of his sense but not strength, he shouted, “What art thou doing in my court, thou runaway traitor?!?” But the banquet was surrounded by the queen’s men, and now, Agamemnon hath known the truth. In his absence, Queen Clytemnestra hath taken Aegisthus as her lover. She hated him for the death of her eldest daughter Iphigenia, sacrificed for the safe winds to Troy. The Queen took out her great hair net and threw it on Agamemnon and Cassandra. Agamemnon was too drunk to get it off, and Cassandra was but a weak girl. In a minute, Aegisthus stabbed them both bloody. Thus, it was in this manner that the High King of the Hellenes would die. He was a man before his time, eager to unite the Greeks and fight off the yoke of Troy and the Hittites, but men couldst not see through his great sacrifice and appreciate his leadership, and so he fell bloody and dead. Before Cassandra died, she said, “Oh Apollo, you are but a petty god to send the woman you love to die in this manner. You think the sons of Troy* will defeat Agamemnon’s men and take revenge upon your city, but it will not happen for many centuries to come, and the Hellenes shalt rise to greater heights than their High King (who fell with me) today.” *The Romans are believed to be descended from the Trojans. They did not rule the world until after Alexander the Great. But perhaps, the curse of Apollo hath been too effective, for I do not know if he even heard Cassandra.

Hegemon Book 19. Odysseys: Real and Imagined

After the great victory, reality descended upon us again. Wealthy as he was, Priam was but a vassal to the Hittite empire. The Hittite army under Emperor Hattusilis moved against us, and Agamemnon realized he was no much for the vast force. Hector had been of great service to the Hittites in the past, and the Emperor demanded that the Hellenes evacuate Troy lest we use it as a site to attack him from Troy in the future. And so our adventure in the East hath ended. Most of the kings returned to homeland without much event, but it is of note to mention the voyages of Odysseus, Diomedes, and my own. Odysseus’s voyage seemed to have been the most exciting according to accounts by Nestor and the Poet Homer, but it is almost impossible to separate the fact from fiction. In fact, future generations coined the word Odyssey for him. I will try to separate the sentimental from the fact as I best can, though believe me when I say my own abilities are quite limited. Odysseus claims that a bag of wind from the nymph goddess Calypso was wrongly opened and blew him back to Nestor in Pylos, but my guess was that his piratical enterprises failed and he was simply seeking supply with Nestor. No, he would say…the damage and loss of men came from him trying to pass Charybdis and Scylla. Charybdis was a whirlpool fair enough, but Scylla was a devious monster woman with many heads preying on his men. It was said that when Eros, the son of Aphrodite, fell in love with Scylla, his wife Circe cursed her and turned her into this monster. From what I heard, Scylla was no more than a dangerous cliff. Odysseus wisely chose to hit Scylla than have his whole ship drowned by the Charybdis, but his embellishments made him famous beyond our time. Some of his tales simply seemed to be pure lies. For example, he said that he bound himself and had all his men ear-plugged so he could hear the sweet songs of the sirens. The music was so sweet that if men heard it, they would sail to the cliff on which the sirens stood and crash the ship to smithereens. Basically, Odysseus claimed that he heard the most beautiful song of the sirens. In truth, I think he probably just had dinner with the bard Orpheus on the way back from Pylos. What happened after Odysseus reached Ithaca was probably more dramatic. The suitors of his wife Penelope had gained an upper hand and were ready to seize the city for themselves but had a problem deciding who would reign. Penelope delayed them by saying that she would knit a sweater for her new father-in-law, but instead, she unknit them at night. The suitors were led by Eurymachus, Antinuous, and Amphinomus. Odysseus realized he was outnumbered and so he disguised as a beggar and stayed with the swinehard of the royal palace. Only Amphinomus treated him well, whereas Antinuous was most contemptuous of him. Odysseus asked that Amphinomus to leave, but unlike the other suitors, Amphinomus was truly in love with Penelope, not simply after the throne of Ithaca. Odysseus finally revealed himself and with the help of the loyalists, he slew all the suitors. After that, he became king of Ithaca again. The story of Diomedes was no less inspiring. When he returned to Argos, a group of queens led by his own Agelia turned upon them in a planned usurpation of the kings. When Diomedes knew of this, he couldst have destroyed her, but Agelia was beautiful and Diomedes was still in love with her. So he opted to give her the city and himself with the Argives sailed to the coast of Hisperia. Here, he fought against men with iron swords that were better than our bronze ones, but Diomedes was swift, and who couldst have defeated such a hero? In due time, he would find the wealthy Aenas in Hisperia as well. They fought, but the gods had left Diomedes though Aphrodite would never betray her own son. And so, Aenas survived and founded the city of Alba Longa near the Seven Hills*, and Diomedes made great cities along the coast of Hisperia. *In later history, the Seven Hills became Rome, and a cult of Diomedes survived amongst the Latin cities that were enemies of Rome. And then, I return to my own journey with Helen and Hermione to our beloved Sparta. I joined with several Hittite and Phoenician pirates to plunder Egypt, the wealthiest land in the world. It was no less wealthy than Troy perhaps, and the Pharoah’s name t’was Ramses, the second by such a name. Pirating was not a bad thing in our days, for it showed that we Hellenes possessed greater maritime abilities than all the rest of the world, but Ramses was a great archer, and Egypt hath the greatest army in the known world. So he shot many of us, and as far as the eye could see, Greeks, Hittite, and Phoenicians were falling into the River Nile where green monsters eyed us. These monsters were worshipped by the Egyptians as gods, but there were as ugly as lizards. On land, they were slow, but their green tail couldst swipe a man like a strong whip, and their jaws were daunting. And so my ragged army against the world’s finest was much destroyed, and in this manner, did I return to my home city, albeit with the greatest wealth the world could offer. She was the most beautiful woman on Earth, and I couldst see why Alexandros gave up the rule of Asia and command of wars to behold her in his arms. …But then, my brother Agamemnon, High King though he was, greatest amongst us all…he would not be so fortunate, as I shall tell you soon.

Hegemon Book 18. My Reunion with Helen

And so with a force of thirty Spartans, I scoured through the halls of Priam’s Palace and ransacked the Eagle’s Hall in search of Helen, but she was nowhere to be found. My feelings raced in anticipation of my encounter with her. On the one hand, I felt rage and wanted to kill her for the shame I had to endure at her hands. On the other hand, I could hardly restrain the joy of possibility meeting her again. General Banokles and a handful of men met us in the inner chamber of the palace. He hath betrayed my brother, and yet now, he stood to defend the honor of Troy to the end. But he was grossly outnumbered by my Spartans, and we slew the Eagles one by one. Banokles was a great fighter, but I was not a mean swordsman myself. Such is the training of a Spartan king. “You will die for your betrayal, Banokles!” I shouted. Finally, I lurched with my sword above and slew him. I cut off his head and ordered the men to deliver it to Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, to avenge the death of his grandfather Peleus, who was killed by Banokles in the Battle at the River Scamander many years earlier. I finally found Helen in her bedchamber, or rather the one that once belonged to Paris. She stood there pensive before his picture like a statue carved from the finest marble of the Seven Hills by the hands of Hephaestus himself. “You have shamed me, Helen,” I said, “How could you have run away after that cowardly prince? For your sake, we have launched a hundred ships, lost men, and fought at the shores of Illium for a decade!” She slowly turned to me and spoke quietly, “Is it really me, Menelaus? Did I ever wish to be queen of Sparta? They say I am not even the daughter of Tyndareus. Is it too much for me to ask for…to be with the man I love in return for the throne of Sparta?” “And that man is not me but Paris,” I spoke, my anger clearly evident from my shaking fist. The other Spartans with me were clearly angry too. Here stood the king and queen of Sparta, but the honor in their relationship was clearly missing. It was hurting their pride, but for me, it was more a matter of the heart than of glory. I am no Agamemnon or Achilles. A greater man would have viewed this differently, or perhaps not…for what man can harden his heart against Helen. Perhaps, her true crime was not running from me but stealing all the beauty and affection of Olympus. I have never seen Aphrodite, but if I had, would she be as beautiful as the woman I see before me now? Would the narrow sunlight glorify her blonde hair and emphasize her perfect face in this manner? Only Zeus knows. But king though I am, I am but a mortal. “I will return with you, Menelaus, as a wife to her husband. Punish me if you will, but let me no longer be the cause of more bloodshed,” Helen concluded. But I could not bring myself to punish her, and so we decided to return to Sparta together. I forsook all my share in the spoils of Troy, for what treasure could be more important than Helen herself, if not her affection. Many years later, we would have a daughter together. Her name was Hermione, and she was a ray of sunshine much as my niece Iphigenia was to Agamemnon. She was radiant, but certainly nothing to compare to the otherworldly beauty of her mother. I would never sacrifice her on the altar, but then again, I am no High King. Often, I wonder if I am worthy or even want to be king of Sparta. Perhaps, I would be content to be a farmer lunching on cheese and olives by a humble hut with Helen by my side and no bitter memories of her betrayal, but fate would not have it so. I was king of Sparta, brother to High King Agamemnon, and she was the queen, who despite her gentle nature, hath caused more death than any woman in known history. Heroes of the era, Achilles and Hector, have fallen on the shores of Illium for her sake or perhaps my foolishness and blindness alone. A hundred men could not have dispatched those heroes, but fate and her beauty hath. The oath of the Hellenes…it was sad and yet awe-inspiring in itself. Yet, through the pains and toils of my life, I remained happy for the blessings of having her back.

Hegemon Book 17. The Fall of Troy

And so, the hero Diomedes came to replace Achilles as our lead warrior. While Diomedes was not as great a hero as Achilles, his knowledge of strategy was second only to Odysseus himself, and he basked in the glory of being the conqueror of Thraaki and vanquisher of the Seven Against Thebes. Some say that Diomedes defeated Ares, the god of War, himself and wounded the hand of Aphrodite, and there were many who believed this. And so, it was with this greatness that the son of Tydeus arrived on Trojan soil.

Odysseus, our grand strategist, first approached him, “Greetings, son of Tydeus, it is with great honor that we receive you. The soothsayer Calchus says we can only defeat Paris with your help, and that it is Aphrodite who protects Paris and Troy. We know Calchus’ word to be true, and having seen the conquest of Thraaki, I trust in your ability on its own merit.”

“Have no fear, son of Laertes, I will bring Priam’s crown jewels to the shores of Mycannae,” replied Diomedes, and with that, the Greeks rejoiced. Such was their fate in Diomedes. We hath fought ten long years and still the walls of Troy continued to evade us.

And so, Diomedes called upon Paris at the battlements of Troy and called him by names, denouncing him as the son of a swine and a man whose honor was beneath that of a dog, but Paris saw through this and merely laughed at him without coming out to face him.

Then, Diomedes called Helen a slut and prostitute and claimed that he hath slept with her before. I was angered beyond reason, for I loved Helen much, but Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, held me back and his arms were strong. But Diomedes’ taunt did the trick, for I was not the only one whose love for Helen was unlimited.

Paris came forth to the battlement, and the walls of Troy seemed like it would reach the mountain. What we Greeks saw then, Diomedes could have achieved only with the help of a god. He shot the arrow up, and it struck Paris between his eyes. The deceitful prince was dead at an instant.

After the death of Paris, the Trojans lost hope, for Priam was now heirless. Aenas, great hero though he may be, was king of the Dardinians and not truly Trojan. Surely, he could not inherit Priam’s throne. Priam, once a great leader, only sulked in his palace. Not long after Paris’s death, Hecuba, Priam’s wife of twenty years and mother to Paris and Hector, died. It seemed Priam was now gone mad, and the defense of the city was left solely in the hands of General Banokles, the Trojan general who once served my brother but later betrayed him.

Yet, the walls of Troy continued to elude us. We knew well that we could win if we could get inside, but there was no way to do then. One day, the goddess of wisdom, Athena, appeared before Odysseus and inspired him with an idea. We went with his plan.  Agamemnon, myself, Neoptolemus, Diomedes, and Ajax the Younger hid in the belly of a wooden horse, later known to historians as the Trojan Horse, and took the risk. Nestor and Ideomenus drove some of the ships far enough away from shore to trick the Trojans into believing that we had retreated and sent the Horse as a sign of peace and goodwill.

There were many risks in this plan. How would we know that Ideomenus would not betray us? What would happen if the Trojans simply burned the Horse down? Nevertheless, the audacity of Odysseus’ plan was the reason it worked. When Ideomenus rebelled, Nestor’s men slew him and we gained firmer control of the Cretan navy.

Priam could have burned down the Horse, but he saw it as a challenge rather than trickery, so instead of burning it down, he ordered it bought into Troy. The Horse was too large to get into the gates, so Priam ordered part of the walls breached to get it in.

At night, we scurried out from the Horse, opened the gates for Nestor and reinforcement, and sacked Troy. Priam was still asleep, when my brother Agamemnon found him. He woke shocked. Agamemnon then said to him, “Priam, your arrogance knows no bounds. You think your wealth would always protect you, but it will not save you from my sword.” With these words, Agamemnon slew Priam.

Neoptolemus slew Astynax, the young son of Hector and potential heir, when he came of age and took Andromache as his mistress. Ajax the Younger raped the prophetess princess Cassandra before presenting her to Agamemnon as a gift. The High King found much favor in Cassandra, not knowing that she now carried Ajax’s child, and took her for his own mistress.

For seven days and seven nights, we burned and looted Troy. The treasures of Troy would sate any man’s greed, but then again, the gods of Olympus know that man’s greed truly knows no limits. The wealth and women of Troy were numerous, but I hath come to see what we stooped to.

Noble Diomedes only sought the life of his archenemy Aenas, but alas, that would elude him. It was said that Aenas fled to the Hesperia*.

*Hesperia = Italy. According to legends, Aenas later founded Alba Longa and was ancestor of the Romans.

The wealth of Troy had no appeal to me. I sought only my heart back. Helen, where was she?

Hegemon Book 16. The Hero’s Last Stand

One day, as Achilles waited in his tent, an old man approached him. Achilles was dismissive of him, until he realized that it was King Priam of Troy himself. Surely, Achilles could have captured, ransomed, or even killed him, but thankfully, he did not. Otherwise, my archenemy Paris would rule over the Golden City.

Priam pleaded with Achilles for the return of Hector’s body, for Hector was his most important son and the greatest hero Troy hath ever known. Achilles still had nobility in him, and his rage hath abated somewhat, so he returned Hector’s body to Priam for proper burial. That which Priam could not buy with all the wealth of Troy, he took back with fatherly tears and concerns. Such was the wisdom of Priam.

It was in the seventh year of this great war with Troy, and though Achilles hath won many battles, the Hellenes could still not scale the great walls of Troy. Achilles challenged Troy’s heroes out to battle him, and one by one, they fell. Even Aenas was badly injured and forced to retreat. It was well-known that outside Olympus, there was no man alive who could defeat Achilles, so much so that the legend spread that he was invincible for his mother had dipped him in the River Styx and rendered him invulnerable.

Of course, Cassandra, the prophetess of Troy and beloved of Apollo, told the Trojans that Achilles was not invulnerable at his heel, for his mother hath held him by that part in dipping him in the River Styx.

Paris, now crown prince of Troy, told his cousin Aenas to lure Achilles to the wall, and then treacherously shot Achilles at his heel with a poison arrow. To his credit, it was a masterly shot and an ignonimous end to the great hero Achilles. Achilles died of Trojan poison, and the age of the heroes would end with him.

With Achilles’ death, the Greeks and Trojans were in stalemate for another three years. The Trojans were unable to drive us back, but we were unable to breach Troy’s high walls.

At this time, Agamemnon summoned the soothsayer Calchus and asked him for advice. Calchus had the air of Olympus about him. It was he who hath told us to trade the life of Iphigenia for passage on the Hellespoint to Troy, and now, the High King was seeking his advice. This was Calchus’ reply,

“In three years’ thence, will thy call upon the son of Tydeus.
Without him, Troy wilt not fall, but beware High King,
For the gods are jealous, and once you break open the Golden City,
The cost may be that which you canst not pay.”

But Agamemnon, my brother, was one who would spit into the eye of death, and even at the risk of re-ignited that ancient rivalry with the King of the Argives, the High King summoned Diomedes back to the fields of Troy. For him, nothing was more important than this conquest and the redemption of my honor by recovering Helen.

Hegemon Book 15. The Wrath of Achilles

Patroclus, as his name suggests, was a patriot. I hath only known him for a few years, but Achilles was his lifelong friend and so was Odysseus. It was said that Achilles and Patroclus would train together from dawn to dusk, and though they were only cousins, the bond between them was stronger than the brotherhood between me and High King Agamemnon.

And so when Achilles refused to lead the Myrmidons to battle, it was Patroclus who borrowed his armour, dressed up as Achilles, and led the Myrmidons to battle. Each Myrmidon was easily worth ten of the Trojan Eagles, and the Trojans feared them believing it was truly the invincible Achilles who led them. Banokles’s contingent hath retreated, and now, it was Hector who led the great white horses to meet Patroclus himself.

“Ah, so the great Achilles has finally given me the honor of meeting him in combat. It is a good day to die, but let it be the will of Apollo to decide which of us will fly to Olympus today”, shouted Prince Hector.

Patroclus did not reply, for fear that the Myrmidons would realize he was not truly Achilles but merely marched out to meet Hector in combat. Patroclus was swift. He could move much like Achilles for he hath trained with him for many years. I once bought Patroclus to the mountains of Taygetus, which we Spartans believe is home of the dead, but the brave young man scaled it as one would scale a tree.

Patroclus was a great fighter, but despite his speed, he was too young and did not have the strength of Hector or Ajax. After several parries, he fell due to a smashing blow from Hector and was slain. Soon, Hector realized that the man he hath killed was only a young lad and not Achilles himself, and he felt remorseful.

“What have I done,” Hector said, “I have slain the lad in belief that he was the great Achilles.”

So Hector ordered the body of Patroclus and the fallen Myrmidons returned in honor to the Thessalian camp where Achilles resided. He even restored the armor of Achilles, for he hath not gained victory over the great hero yet. Such was the nobility of this Prince of Troy. So different was he from his vile brother Paris Alexandros, my arch-nemesis.

Now, Achilles was inconsolable. His friendship for Patroclus was dearer than his love for Bresias and purer than the finest gold, and so he took it upon himself to avenge Patroclus’s death. To give him greater incentive to do battle, Odysseus asked Agamemnon to give up Bresias as a reward for Achilles’ return to battle on the condition that he killed Hector.

And so Achilles marched forth to meet Hector in bloody combat. Hector was fearless, but he knew of Achilles’ reputation, so before he went forth, he said farewell to his wife Andromache and his infant son Astynax lest he would not return victorious or even alive. He spoke of nobility to Achilles and said that if he should triumph, he would bury Achilles with honor equivalent to that of a Trojan prince.

But Achilles was angry beyond reason. Such was the purity of his love for Patroclus that he replied, “But there will be no burial or honor for you, vile Hector, for Patroclus is dearer to me than a son is to a father, more than a brother is to man. Your corpse will be fed to the crows and vultures, for your foolishness in believing you can slay one as the great Achilles himself. Come, fool! Come to thy death!!”

Hector was rather taken aback by Achilles’ crude comments. He had known the Thessalian Myrmidons to be rough men, but expected more nobility in a hero as Achilles, so he tried to reason with him, “Come now, hero of the Hellenes. It was nobility for all brave men to do combat and to honor one’s enemy as the heroes they are.”

“You are no hero, Hector! You slayed Patroclus, and your corpse will be defiled like the dog you are. Now, face the wrath of Achilles!”

And so Achilles and Hector met in battle. The two men were strong and quick, their skills above all other men on both sides of the Hellespoint. I witnessed that combat as no other combat before it, and I dare say any after it. Was Hercules himself as great a warrior as these two? I could not say. It was as though the gods of Olympus hath descended upon earth and fought before our mortal eyes. Perhaps, Achilles was Ares himself, and Hector his brother Apollo, for no man could fight like the two of them in that day.

Each sword clang was louder than a thunder, and each parry so masterful that the eye could not even see their swiftness. How they moved with such speed can only be ascribed to godhood, for it was not something a mere mortal as I or countenance. But Hector was older than Achilles, and the latter was filled with inconsolable rage, which doubled his strength and determination. Hector fought to defend his noble city, but Achilles fought for vengeance and honor. In the end, Achilles’ sword crashed over Hector’s shield and split it in half. The greatest man of Troy was slain. Surely, it was an omen from the gods that Troy must fall, as their champion Hector fell to ours.

Achilles tied Hector’s leg to his chariot and raced around the Trojan walls three times, leaving Hector’s body emaciated beyond recognition. None of the Trojans dared come out of the city walls to challenge him. At Odysseus’s command, the Greek ships re-occupied the shores of Illium again, and we led our forces onshore. Neoptolemus, myself, and Ideomenus captured the three sites on the Scamander River, while my brother Agamemnon slew all the Trojan soldiers in the Temple of Apollo. With Hector’s death, we were victorious again, and Troy was besieged.

King Priam offered a king’s ransom for Hector’s body. Hector was the greatest hero the Trojans had ever known, and he was also crown prince of Troy. But Achilles did not offer the body back even when Hector’s cousin and his lover Bresias begged him. His heart was hardened by the death of Patroclus, and he would shame Troy, pushing Priam’s honor to the dust for the death of his friend.

Hegemon Book 14. Hector of Troy

The war with Troy dragged on for three years, and the Hellenes had grown tired. I foremost amongst them. It was felt that the struggle was really a personal one between me and Paris, and so it should be determined by the two men alone. Paris was prince of a great city, and I was king of a small one but linked to High King Agamemnon. Many considered us equals.

So I threw the gauntlet and demanded that the coward Paris meet me in personal combat, of the rights over Helen and that whosever win shall take her back without more shedding of blood.

Paris met me in the fields outside Illium. His blows were quick, but I parried him one for one. Soon, my sword knocked off his shield and wounded him on the side, but instead of meeting death like a man, he fled!! What coward!! I could not believe Helen could fall for a dog like this and chose the coward over me. He hath forsaken his own honor by fleeing from combat.

And so the war raged on, but there were grave problems on our side. Achilles was so found of the captive princess Bresias that he did not pay as much attention to the command of war as he did before. Angered by this, my brother Agamemnon took the girl for himself, but instead of putting his heart fully into the war again, Achilles refused to give combat and merely sulked in his tent. I was much appalled. What tricks the gods do play upon us!! Is this the hero that we Greeks have come to praise and honor?!? Can the great Achilles truly be sulking over a mere girl?!?

And so when Achilles stepped down from command, other heroes stood up, for Greece did not have just one hero. Oddysseus and Agamemnon took command of the front armies, and war with Troy dragged on. Brave Ajax demanded combat with the bravest of the Trojans, and it was none other than Paris’s eldest brother, Crown Prince Hector, who responded to his call.

Now, mind you. Ajax was no ordinary warrior. Like Achilles, he could slay a hundred men in a single day of combat, and he was a giant of a man but swifter than an eagle. I had seen him throw a javelin further than any amongst the Hellenes save for Achilles and Diomedes. But he would meet his match in the Trojan prince.

Hector met him outside the courtyard outside the walls of Troy, and I daresay his brother Paris was not half the man he is. Ajax wielded his club like it was part of his body, and against a hundred men, he would have been victorious. But Hector was no ordinary man. He may have been older and smaller than the giant Ajax, but the Trojan hero parried some blows with his great shield and swiftly hid from others.

Suddenly, Hector knocked Ajax with the boss of his shield and the strength of Apollo, and Ajax fell back. Before the day was over, Hector hath slain Ajax. The Trojans were emboldened, and the Greeks lost hope. Hector’s great army, known as the Eagles, drove the Greeks back to the shores. Luckily, our admiral Oddysseus was an able commander, and the Trojan fleet hath already been destroyed. So we Hellenes were forced to stay on our ships.

Only the camp of Achille’s Myrmidons stayed on land. They would not give battle, and they were certainly greatly outnumbered by the Trojans. But the name of Achilles could strike fear in the ears of a god, much as Diomedes had struck a wound in the side of Ares himself. And so the Trojans were content to drive the Hellenes from their shores but allow quarter to Achilles’ men.

I looked in anger from my Spartan ship. “Why hath Achilles put his own desires before the fate of his fellow countrymen? Was Bresias now more precious than the honor he so well guarded?!?” I looked at my own brother Agamemnon in anger, but it was difficult for me to utter a word against either of them. Had this war itself not been wrought by my jealousy of Paris over my love Helen. But like a blind man, I said to myself, “Helen is different. She is a goddess. There is no woman to compare with her, and all the Greeks had sworn to protect her, hence the reason we were all called Hellenes.”

No, our ships left the shores of Troy, but not too far away. Little did I know that outside the walls of Illium, the young warrior Patroclus looked in anger at the Trojan victory from the Myrmidon camp, and he vowed to avenge the defeat of Ajax at Hector’s hand. But could he really do it? Hector stood there in front of the Eagles, and to me, he looked like the god of war Ares himself. Perhaps, if it hath been him rather than his weakly brother Paris who hath battled me, I would have been slain by now. Hector was the tamer of horses, skilled in both combat and strategy. By now, his deputy Banokles hath recaptured the Temple of Apollo, and capturing Troy seemed harder than ever. Could even Achilles be the match of this hero? So I wondered…

And so as I watched Hector with awe, so Patroclus watched him with hate and vengeance.

Hegemon Book 13. Battle by the River Scamander

Whilst Diomedes battled the gods and subdued the Thraaki, our war with Troy on Trojan grounds began in earnest. Odysseus led the navy, and he destroyed much of the proud Trojan fleet with Greek fire, a substance that continued to burn in the water. Meanwhile, Achilles, Agamemnon, and myself marched to the River Scamander where a large Trojan force led by Prince Hector was assembled.

Achilles was the first to run towards the enemy with the Myrmidons, while his father Peleus guarded our flank. These men were hardy soldiers worthy of Achilles’ leadership. It was said that the Myrmidons were descended from ants.

At one time, Thessaly was hit by a terrible plaque, and much of their inhabitants had died. Peleus’s grandfather asked to sacrifice himself to Zeus to save his people, so Zeus turned the king into a fish. And when the people ate from this fish, they were healed, but there were so few of them. So Zeus turned the ants by the altar into Myrmidons, whose descendants fought for Thesally to this day. I do not know if the fable was true, but certainly they deserve the name “ant people” for the Myrmidons could fight armies far superior to themselves in numbers.

Achilles moved like a god. He was so swift that none of the Trojans could touch him. Perhaps, it was for this reason that we all thought him invulnerable, though we would later learn that he was not. He slew the Trojan soldiers who stopped him in their rafts by the tens, and once he landed, Achilles threw a spear that struck a man to the statue of Apollo, the patron god of Troy, missing Hector by only inches. No Achilles would not have Hector die by a mere spear throw. He would save him for greater glories.

But for those of us who were not war gods like Achilles, the battle was brutal. I missed an arrow by less than two steps, and my life would have otherwise been forfeit. Achilles’ father Peleus was less fortunate. He was slain by a Mycannaen general Banokles who had defected to Troy for its gold.

Achilles’ son Neoptolemus (or Pyrrhus as some call him) arrived at the flank too late to save his grandfather. Achilles wept, and let it be told, that one such as Achilles rarely did. His friend Patroclus was by his side. There were no words to be said between them. Patroclus was simply there for Achilles to share his sorrows. But by the end of the day, Achilles was no longer prince, but king of Thessaly.

Hoping to avenge the death of his comrade Peleus, Agamemnon and the warrior Ajax pursued Banokles. Banokles was a great warrior in his own right, and he was aided by his bodyguard Kalliades. Agamemnon fought like the lion that he was, but he was no match for the two of them. Just then, Ajax leapt to his rescue and slew Kalliades. Banokles escaped by a cat’s whisker.

Banokles was now beside Hector, having been promoted to his right hand man. The Trojan fleet had been crushed by Odysseus at the Hellespoint, and Odysseus hath now landed on the shores of Illium once again.

Hector did not engage us immediately, but that night he led a sortie against our camp and slew a great many of us. By the time, we woke up, Hector was retreating. Agamemnon followed him but was injured by a surprise attack of Banokles’s archers. Luckily, the injury was not too severe.

Achilles and Ajax soon followed, and once again, the Trojans were defeated. We had the larger army, and soon Hector realized his forces could not keep the Scamander so they retreated. As Hector’s forces fled behind the walls of Troy, our army captured the Great Temple of Apollo. There, we found a beautiful princess Bresias, who was a priestess there, and curse be the day we found her, for she was the start of all our problems, much as Helen was mine.

Achilles looked at Bresias in a way that he never looked upon my niece Iphigenia, comely though she may be, and those eyes said that she was his. That was when I knew problems would arise, for we Greeks have a saying, “Love is blind, and possession is madness.”

Hegemon Book 12. Diomedes Subdues the Thraaki

While our main army was camped outside the great walls of Troy, Diomedes lay sick in Argos, but perhaps, this was heavenly intervention, for his presence proved more useful to our cause. The Thraaki* was large nation to the northern borders of Greece. It was a barbaric nation, but they were also good horsemen.

*Thrace or modern-day Bulgaria

The Thraaki were split between two tribes: the Kokoni and Sosoni. Through the financing of the Trojans, the Kokoni hath conquered the Sosoni, and their king Restum became allies of Troy. They were now intent on destroying Greece, and Restum led the invasion of our homeland in hope that he could rescue Troy in this manner.

Had it not been for the heroism of Diomedes, we may have been forced to abandon our attack of Asia to defend our homeland, but this is the story of Diomedes’ extraordinary feats.

The valiant Diomedes, only recently recovered, led an army of 7,000. Most of them were Argives, but others came from allied cities such as my own. These were the ones who were left behind at the homeland for we did not have enough ships to bring everyone to Troy.

Diomedes quickly formed an alliance with the nobles of the Sosoni who were in rebellion against Restum and promised them their homelands in return for the alliance. Together with this, he mustered a force of 9,000 men and marched upon the Thraaki, not waiting for Restum to come to him. He believed that the best defense was offense.

But Restum was not a man who would be easily defeated. After all, he hath united Thraaki with Trojan gold and now had more than 15,000 men with him. At first, it was only seen as an obligation to his Trojan allies. Now that Diomedes and the Sosoni were allies, Restum was forced to defend himself.

Diomedes first led the attack on Restum’s camp with a few shock troops. Easily outnumbered, he retreated. Restum, seeing that he hath defeated the great hero, ordered his entire Thraaki army in pursuit. Suddenly, they were caught in a narrow pass. Before them were wooden pikes. The Thraaki horses were unable to get through and had little room for maneuver.

At this point, Diomedes ordered his men to shoot arrows at the Thraaki without abandon. Many thousands perished before the pike. By the time, they broke through the barrier, there were not many of them left. Diomedes ordered the best Argive horsemen into full attack and easily defeated the Thraaki.

As they retreated through the narrow pass, more of them fell to Diomedes’ archers who hid along the mountainsides, and many hundreds were said to have fallen upon Diomedes’ sword. Now, they could see that the king of Argos was not only a great swordsman but also a master general.

Desperate to redeem his name, Restum charged for Diomedes himself, but was slain with a single blow. “What foolishness!”, thought Diomedes, “I have single-handedly defeated the Seven Against Thebes, and this barbarian thinks he can challenge me.”

The remaining Thraaki united under the leadership of the Trojan Prince Aenas. He was a cousin of Hector and Paris, and his father was the Trojan prince Anchises, half-brother to Priam. Aenas was the greatest of the Trojan warriors, second only to Hector himself. It was said that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and Anchises had an affair, and the result was Aenas*.

*According to later legend, Aenas was the ancestor of the Romans.

And so it was that the two heroes Aenas and Diomedes fought, and men would later report to me that it was like seeing two Titans fight amongst themselves. Such was the powerful blow of Aenas and the masterly parry by Diomedes. In the end, it was Diomedes who prevailed. Aphrodite laid out her hand to defend her son, but Diomedes son of Tydeus struck at the hand of the goddess and wound her son. At this point, Aphrodite grew angry with Diomedes and vowed to avenge him at a later time.

The Thraaki army was in full retreat, and Aenas prayed for Ares, the god of war, to intervene. Ares sided with Aphrodite, for they were lovers, but Athena, the god of wisdom who hated Aphrodite, sided with Diomedes.

Diomedes: Oh great Athena, do not think me meek. On this earth, I fear no man, and even if Achilles and Hector were before me, I would not retreat but one step. But how can man challenge a god? Surely, I am no match for Ares, who invented war himself.

Athena: Fear not, loyal Diomedes. For I, who am by your side today, am goddess of wisdom, and with me, none shall lose. Aphrodite (Love) is blind, and Ares (War) without direction is meaningless.

So Diomedes followed the lead of Athena and wounded the side of Ares in combat, after which Ares fled back to Olympus.

Upon seeing the defeat of Ares, Aenas exclaimed, “Who is this man, the son of Tydeus? Is he a demi-god like Hercules? For surely, no mortal could vanquish Ares, the god of War, himself.” Then, Aenas and the Trojans fled back to Troy, and left the Thraaki in the mercy of Diomedes’ victorious army.
And so in this manner, man defied the will of the gods, and Diomedes subdued the Thraaki for his allies, the Sosoni tribe. They remained eternally grateful and loyal to him. Now, Diomedes was ready to join us in the Battle of Troy.

Hegemon Book 11. The Eagle’s Hall

And so we sailed to the shores of Illium (Troy), five hundred ships strong from the shores of the Aegean under the sacrifice of Iphigenia and the consent of Poseidon. We Hellenes were a civilized lot, and though Achilles, the greatest warrior amongst us, wanted immediate war with the Trojans, Odysseus counseled caution.

Odysseus: Illium is not without its heroes, son of Peleus. Do you not remember how Prince Hector helped the Hittite emperor against the Egyptians at Kadesh?

Achilles: I fear not for this son of Priam (Hector). I would savor the chance to crush him in battle myself. Odysseus, do you think me not one of his better?

Odysseus: This, I do not know, Achilles. Amongst the Hellenes, there is none who can beat you, and Diomedes is not here with us today, too sick from fever, but he were here, he too would counsel for caution as I do now.

Agamemnon: Go then, son of Laertes. Since it is my brother Menelaus whose cause it is, you and Menalaus would meet Priam and demand the return of Helen. But failing that, war will follow, and the haughty king of Troy will know that the sword of Agamemnon does not know mercy, and neither does the wrath of my comrade Achilles here.

And so it was, that I and Odysseus went forth to negotiate the return of my wife from Priam, the king of Troy in the Eagle’s Hall, where we had audience with Priam. It was said that Priam was a wise man, and it is not his legendary wealth alone that makes him so respected. But beside me was Odysseus, the most cunning of men, and I hath no fear.

Priam: Odysseus, king of Ithaca and Lord Admiral of the Hellenes. Menelaus, king of Sparta and brother to High King Agamemnon. Greetings! What brings you here with five hundred ships to the shores of Illium as though we are enemies? Hath not Troy shown hospitality to all Greek ships?

Odysseus: That hospitality was well bought with gold coins that have made you, Great Priam, wealthier than all under Olympus, but I am afraid you have something which does not belong to you, Great King.

I glanced at Helen sitting beside Paris, and my heart burned with envy. It was difficult to restrain but finally I spoke, “I have come to reclaim for Sparta that which belongs to Sparta!”

Priam: For what purpose? To what ends, Menalaus, do you reclaim that which belongs to Sparta?

I was enraged beyond speech, but before I flew into tirade against the King of Troy and forfeit my own life, Odysseus spoke on my behalf:
“For what cause? To what ends you ask, my Lord? For Love, my Lord! For how can a man eat, sleep, or drink knowing that his wife is with another man. What good is all the gold and honor and trophies to my friend Menalaus if he can not have Helen by his side for one more day. What good will all the glory in this world do him if he can not sit by Helen again and call her his? You ask for cause, My Lord, and it is Love I say. The mixture of honey and poison that Aphrodite has intoxicated all mankind with, but that which we can not live without.”

The words touched both me and Priam. I could not have spoken my own feelings more clearly than Odysseus hath done for me himself. Priam gave a considerate look, eyeing back to the two lovers, Helen and his son Paris before replying, “Well said, son of Laertes. I will give you an answer before the sun hits noon.”

And so we left the Eagle’s Hall and waited in our camp. It was the longest wait in my entire life. Anger swelled in me, but somehow I hoped that the Trojans would see reason in the glint of Hellene swords and the wrath of Achilles.

So we waited…and waited…until noon, but no heralds came forth from the Eagle’s Hall, and it was then that I knew we are at war….with Troy.

Hegemon Book 10. The Honor of an Artreides

But I was brother of Agamemnon, High King of the Hellenes and son of Atreus. Mycannae would not let Sparta go to war against Troy alone, especially since the Hellenes have all sworn to defend my rights over Helen. The Trojans called her Helen of Troy, and there could be no turning back now.

Agamemnon heard that Odysseus had gone mad and was tilling his farm like a common peasant, so he decided to visit him in Ithaca. And yes, it was hard to believe that the wily Odysseus was now a madman. But Agamemnon was not one to be tricked so easily. He knew Odysseus loved his wife Penelope and family dearly, so he put Odysseus’ son Telemachus in his path, and the latter was forced to stop.

Now, Agamemnon knew Odysseus was only feigning madness and spoke unto him, “Odysseus, son of Laertes, one such as you have never been known for cowardice but guile. I canst not believe that the greatest pirate in the Aegean would cower back upon the chance to crush the Trojan navy and avenge my brother Menelaus of his lost pride.”

Odysseus now admitted the truth, “High King Agamemnon, it is not for fear of the Trojans that I have feigned madness but the love of my dear wife Penelope and precious son Telemachus. For the Oracle of Delphi hath told me that going to war with the Trojans this once, I will not be back in ten years. But I have made a promise to the Hellenes, and the son of Laertes can not break his promise, so I will lead your navy for you and challenge the might of Priam and his great son Hector.”

And so with these words, Odysseus king of Ithaca decided to lead the navy of the Hellenes for Agamemnon. He also coaxed Achilles into joining the war.

Just then, the Hellenes questioned whether Agamemnon, High King though he may be, should lead them against Troy or whether Diomedes, son of Tydeus and king of Argos, would be a better choice. After failing to win the hand of Helen, Diomedes married the beautiful Ageilia, but he now decided to challenge my brother’s leadership out of spite.

At that point, the northwestern wind that was to lead us against Troy was missing. The soothsayer Calchus spoke to the gods of Olympus and heard that they needed a supreme sacrifice for Poseidon, god of the seas.

“What of this sacrifice?” asked Agamemnon.

“Poseidon has spoken, my Hegemon. Only the life of your daughter Iphigenia will suffice”, Calchus replied.

I could see Agamemnon’s eyes sink in despair. Iphigenia was the daughter he had with Clytemnestra, and he loved her dearly. She was a sunshine to all of us, but the honor of an Atreides could not be defiled. So Agamemnon would sacrifice his beloved daughter for the leadership of the Hellenes and conquest of Troy and to restore the honor of his brother.

And so a summon was sent to the court of Mycannae to summon Iphigenia to the Hellespoint where she was to be married to Achilles, son of Peleus. Now, there was not one maiden in Greece who did not have an eye for him. For though Achilles was no Adonis, he was comely enough with his golden locks flying high and his muscles bulging like Hercules himself.

When Iphigenia arrived though, she was to find to her bitter shock that she was to be sacrificed to the gods, so that Poseidon may send the wind for their attack on Troy, but she meekly accepted her faith and was willing to die at the hand of her own father.

Before that, she went and spoke to Achilles, “Son of Peleus, my life is forfeit today, but I must have you know that I have no heart for any other man but you. May my life buy the winds that bring you to your glory in this war with Troy.”

And yes, that was what Achilles craved all along, was it not? Glory!! His mother Thetis once asked him if he wanted a long life or a glorious one, and the young man replied, “I would rather have a short and glorious one that my life be remembered for all eternity.” His eyes did not move, and I could see no sympathy or feelings for my niece.

I wept for Iphigenia, for her fate was too cruel. For the lack of virtue of my wife, a hundred Hellene ships were launched against Troy, and my niece would have to give her life for us, and yet, Achilles could not offer her one bit of sympathy. He had no eyes for her, but all of it was for glory. These are the heroes we worship.

Agamemnon kissed his daughter one last time, placed her on the altar, and slew her. As soon as Iphigenia breathed her last breath, I could see tears in my brother’s eyes. Diomedes would never challenge the Artreides for hegemony over the Hellenes again, for hero though he may be, he could never think of making such sacrifice to Poseidon.

A gust of wind blew our way, swaying my hair in the direction of Southeast. For Iphigenia’s life, true to Calchus’s words, hath bought the wind that would bring us to the walls of Troy.

But as the traveling bard Homer once spoke unto me, “King Menelaus, beware what you wish for.”


Hegemon Book 1: Hegemon

Hegemon Book 2: The Betrayal of Arope

Hegemon Book 3 Curse of the Gods

Hegemon Book 4: High King Agamemnon

Hegemon Book 5 The Humbling of Ideomenus

Hegemon Book 6: Achilles, son of Peleus

Hegemon Book 7: Diomedes and the Seven Against Thebes

Hegemon Book 8. The Daughter of Tyndareus

Hegemon Book 9. Paris the Deceitful

Hegemon Book 10. The Honor of an Artreides

Hegemon Book 11. The Eagle’s Hall

Hegemon Book 12. Diomedes Subdues the Thraaki

Hegemon Book 13. Battle by the River Scamander

Hegemon Book 14. Hector of Troy

Hegemon Book 15. The Wrath of Achilles

Hegemon Book 16. The Hero’s Last Stand

Hegemon Book 17. The Fall of Troy

Hegemon Book 18. My Reunion with Helen

Hegemon Book 19. Odysseys: Real and Imagined

Hegemon Book 20. The Fate of a Hegemon

Hegemon Book 21. The Trials of Orestes

Hegemon Book 22. Lycurgus the Conqueror

Hegemon Book 8. The Daughter of Tyndareus

Towards the island of Peloponese to the south lay the city of Sparta. It was famed for its soldiers and beautiful women. The King of Sparta was Tyndareus, and it was said that his wife Leda was raped by Zeus, the king of all the gods of Olympus. And so Tyndareus had four children: the twin sons Castor and Pollux and two daughters Clytemnestra and Helen. It was said that Castor was the true son of Tyndareus, but that Pollux and Helen were offsprings of the god. But perhaps, the tale stemmed more from Helen’s unearthly beauty and how Pollux hath survived the Caledonian boar hunt and hence became heir of Sparta.

The Spartans feared that Helen would discover her own beauty and so did not allow her to view the mirror. There was no man who could see her without falling in love. One day, Theseus, the king who killed the Minotaur and unified Athens, decided to risk the wrath of Sparta and capture Helen. The Spartan guards were dispatched by the hero Theseus, who kidnapped the girl Helen. She was only a child, but even then her beauty could rival Aphrodite. Theseus had many wives, but it was clear he was intent on marrying Helen when she grew up.

Helen grew up and became a startling beauty, and she was found of Theseus, who was handsome even in his old age, too. But Theseus was wondering whether it was really love or just proximity and so he hesitated to marry her. At this time, Pollux led a band of Spartans and attacked Athens. Pollux may have been a great warrior, but he was certainly not immortal. In this battle, both Pollux and Theseus were killed. Such was the fate of Helen. Though she was returned to Sparta, the great city was now heirless without Pollux.

It was at this juncture that my brother intervened. First, he requested for the hand of Clytemnestra in marriage, and that gave Mycannae considerable influence in Sparta. Then, he asked Tyndareus to appoint an heir for the stability of the league. Tyndareus did not want to give Sparta directly to Agamemnon, but he was willing to consider any of the unmarried princes for his throne. It was at this time that he said he would bequeath Sparta to Helen’s husband.

Perhaps, Helen’s hand in marriage was as precious a gift as the throne of Sparta itself, for all the great princes vied for it, except Odysseus of Ithaca and my brother. There was me, Achilles of Thessally, Diomedes of Argos, and even Ideomenus of Crete.

Agamemnon declared, “Only one man can win the hand of Helen, even though all of us may desire her. Henceforth, we shall all swear to protect his right to her against any common enemy.”

And so they drew lots, and it was I Menelaus who won her hand in marriage. But to have all the Greeks swear to protect her, I must make certain sacrifices. Hence, she was made to walk naked before the princes of the Greek cities, and it was like the beauty of Olympus hath descended upon us. After that marriage, I was made heir to Tyndareus. He died shortly, and it was upon that moment that I descended the throne of Sparta.

Hegemon Book 7: Diomedes and the Seven Against Thebes

In the city of Argos ruled the House of Tydeus. Tydeus himself was a raged warrior. It was said that the goddess Athena once supported his clan, but in one battle, he broke the skull of his enemy and ate his brain. After that, Athena left him, and he was slain in battle. His son, the more valiant and cultured Diomedes, succeeded Tydeus to the throne of Argos.

The Argives were the same people who sent Jason and the Argonauts to seek out the Golden Fleece. They were brilliant allies of Thebes, the city said to be founded by Cadmus from the seven teeth of the dragons. While it is impossible to prove such legends, there were truly seven noble families in Thebes said to be descended from the seven teeth of the dragons.

At the same time, there were seven vengeful nobles who sought to destroy Thebes. They claimed to be sons of rival nobles who had been crushed by the incumbent nobles of Thebes. Andronicus was their leader, and Telamon and Philemon were amongst their best fighters. The Seven Against Thebes led forces and surrounded the city. During the siege, the Theban nobles requested help from Argos.

Diomedes had just married his bride Ageliea, but he was not a king who would desert his allies. So he went forth to combat. Andronicus challenged him, “Why are you intervening in the affairs of Thebes, Diomedes? It is a personal fued between us nobles, sons of Cadmus.”

But Diomedes retorted, “Is it truly, Andronicus? How does the displaced sons of Cadmus find so large an army to challenge the mighty city of Thebes? Or is it the money of the Trojans that fuels your expedition and the cavalry of the Thraaki that supports you?”

And he hath a point, for many days earlier, the Argive spy had found Trojan coins amongst the market that the Seven Against Thebes passed before challenging the city, and the cavalry did look more Thracian than Hellene.

But Philemon was not afraid and decided to challenge Diomedes to personal combat, “Then, there is nothing to speak of. Let us see if the son of Tydeus is half as good as his father who fell in battle.”

The mockery was meant to enrage Diomedes, but he remained calm and marched forward for combat. Philemon struck with his battle axe, but Diomedes swerved away before the moment of contact and beheaded Philemon before he could recover his strength.

Telamon charged forward to avenge his brother followed by fifteen horsemen. The Argives quickly marched forward to attack Telamon’s men, while Diomedes engaged Telamon in personal combat. After three strokes, the great Telamon fell lifeless upon Diomedes’ sword, and the great battle hath began. The Thebans charged out of the city walls to help Diomedes.
In their turn, the Seven Against Thebes would fall to Diomedes’ blade….Amphitryon, Callixtus, Memnon, and Alexandros. Soon, Andronicus himself was captured and handed over to the Thebans.

“What fate shall befall the man who leads enemy forces against his own city?”, Diomedes asked of the Thebans who were assembled to decide the fate of Andronicus.

The council leader Demosthenes spoke on behalf of Thebes, “Let it be decided by you, Diomedes, for it is you who has saved our city today.”

Diomedes did not say anything in reply but slew Andronicus with a backhand slash of his famed sword, and the Theban Demonsthenes nodded in reply, “Rightly so.”

From that time onwards, the Thebans pledged their allegiance to him. They knew that the Seven Against Thebes hath been commissioned against them by Prince Aenas of Troy, and Diomedes vowed to protect Thebes. From then on, he became enemy of Troy. Diomedes knew that Troy was trying to spread its influence amongst the Hellenes, but he also knew that Agamemnon and himself were the leaders of the Hellenes and they would not let the Trojans have their way, no matter how wealthy and powerful they may be.

One day, Diomedes too was stand with me before the walls of Illium, but could a man as great as him be the Hegemon himself or was my brother Agamemnon to stand under his command?

Hegemon Book 6: Achilles, son of Peleus

Amongst the Greeks, there could be no greater warrior than Achilles. His father, Peleus, was king of the Myrmidons in Thessaly, and was the first to support Agamemnon’s bid for the position of High King. It was prophesize that any man who married the nymph Thethis would have a son greater than him, and for that reason, the god Zeus did not take her for a wife. It was also said that she dipped Achilles in the River Styx or the River of the Dead. Because of this, Achilles was invulnerable to all attacks except at his heels where Thetis held him.

I do not know if Achilles was truly invulnerable, but what I do know is that his strength was incredible. He could throw the discuss across the field and wrestle down ten champions in a day. Achilles could shoot an arrow further than the eye could see, and the Myrmidons did not simply follow him because he was a prince. He was truly the best of them and of all the Hellenes.

When he appeared at the Olympics, his golden locks would shine in the sun like the god that he was. Surely, Mars and Apollo must have looked like this. I could sometime even see my niece Iphigenia eye him with admirationand at times, I wondered if the young girl was not in love with this hero.

But it was in war, that he truly excelled. As an ally of Agamemnon, the Myrmidons had no shortage of war, and the warriors much preferred to be led by Achilles than his father Peleus. As an asset of the Greek army, there was none who could surpass Achilles, and in particular, I recall the campaign against Thessalonika, a city that would not send tribute to Mycannae.

The champion of that city stood eight feet tall, a giant he was! And even his shoulder towered over mighty Achilles, but Achilles could not be touched by fear. He was once asked if he preferred a long and peaceful life or a short one with memorable campaigns that would immortalize his name, and Achilles was to chose the latter. Fear had no part in his essence. Achilles did not care for the time he stood amongst men. It was not as important as the moment when he would stand with the gods.

He had just awoken late that day and was chided by my brother, High King Agamemnon, but the lad looked at the fearsome Thessalonikan champion and felt nothing but disdain for him. A young squire said to him, “I would not want to fight him if I were you.”

To which, Achilles simply replied, “That is why you will not be remembered.”

The giant ran to him with a long javelin in hand, while Achilles sped up with his famous shield and a short sword. The giant tried to kill Achilles with his ungodly spear, but Achilles seemed to move at the speed of thought, and the spear missed him. He leaped up and plunged the sword through the giant’s shoulder through his back. The impact was crushing, and he did not bother to look back as the monster fell lifeless.

The king of Thessalonika bowed before him, and Agamemnon had gained another vassal. It was true, as they said Achilles, son of Peleus, was worth a thousand men, and he was one of the heroes that I, Menelaus, would stand beside at Troy one day.

Hegemon Book 5 The Humbling of Ideomenus

Agamemon’s diplomacy and strength allowed most of the Hellenes to accept his authority, the Aegeans of the mainland and the Ionians of the Asian coast. Even the wild Thraaki, who were not strictly Hellenes, paid him tribute in horses and barley, but one land that did not was the island of Crete.

For Crete was ruled by the arrogant king Ideomenus of the House of Minos. In the time of Minos, it was the mainland Greeks who paid tribue to this island’s great navy. Though Ideomenus was not as powerful as my brother, he thought it was impossible for the Mycannaens to attack. Surely, the formidable Cretan navy and the island’s geography was protection enough. Ideomenus also housed several pirate bands who looked to him for leadership and did not follow the sanctions of Agamemnon. In war, they would follow his lead to a bitter end.

As long as Crete did not bow down to his will, Agamemnon could never truly be High King of the Hellenes. The bard Homer sang praises to the House of Minos. Did the existence of a Minotaur not show the Minos was the favorite of the gods? Was the labyrinth not the wonder of the Greek world? Even the Athenian hero Theseus himself hath come to this land subservient to the great Minos himself. As heir to the famous king, Ideomenus felt it was he, not Agamemnon, who should be recognized as High King.

But the king of Ithaca hated Ideomenus, and Oddyseus son of Laertes was dangerous man with the mind of steel and it was hi who offered to help Mycananeans crush Crete. The Cretan navy and the pirates sought to block the Straits, but Oddyseus used the fog to maneuver past them. Our fleet stormed the pirate ships and killed many in combat. Many pirates fell to the sword of Agurois in that battle.

Soon, the Mycannaen army landed on the island of Crete and besieged the capital city of Knossos, where Minos himself hath once ruled. Ideomenus knew he was defeated, so he sued for peace and sought the protection of Agamemnon. The victory was a glorious moment, and Ideomenus, like other rival kings before him, pledged to follow my brother to the ends of the earth. The campaign made an important man of Oddyseus and cemented my brother’s influence in the Greek world. Now, we had a great navy to impose our will upon Asia itself.

Oddyseus, son of Laertes, was the weakest of the kings, but his mind was the sharpest and none were his peers in seafaring. The great Cretan fleet was absorbed into that of the Greek alliance, and Oddyseus was made admiral. In this manner, the Hellenic Alliance became a force to reckon with.

Hegemon Book 9. Paris the Deceitful

Legend has it that when Prince Alexandros was born to King Priam and Queen Heckabe of Troy, his sister Cassandra forewarned the Trojan king that he would be the downfall of Troy. The sun god Apollo hath fallen in love with Cassandra and granted her the power to see the future, but when she spurned him, he decreed that none would believe her.

In this instant, Priam did not kill Alexandros but left him to die at Mount Ida. A kindly shepherd raised Alexandros, but having no knowledge of his princely status called him by his peasant name Paris.

One day, during the wedding of Achilles’ father Peleus to the nymph Thetis, Eros, the goddess of havoc, was not invited, so she cast a golden apple and said, “To the fairest.” Three goddesses vied for this apple, and because Paris was deemed to be a man of good character, he was made their judge.

First, Hera, the queen of the gods, approached him and said, “Give me the apple, and I shall make you ruler of Asia.”

To which Paris replied, “Lady, you are trying to bribe me.”

He then walked over to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and she said, “Give me the apple, and I shall make thee the greatest conqueror of all times.”

To this, Paris replied, “Lady, you are trying to bribe me.”

But then, Aprhodite, the goddess of Love, approached him and said, “Give me the apple, and I will let you win the heart of the fairest lady in the world.”

Paris said nothing, but handed the apple to Aphrodite…and so the legend goes. In due time, through Aphrodite’s influence, Paris returned to Troy and became a prince once more, much to the chagrin of his sister Cassandra.

Now, Troy was no ordinary city. Its walls were higher than any in Greece. Its wealth was legendary. It was said that Priam was the richest man on earth. Located on the connection point of Asia and Europe, its fleet controlled commerce by providing the best harbour, and though it paid tribute to the Hittite emperor Hattusilis, the Hittites largely left them alone.

One day, Troy decided to make an alliance with Sparta. I have always treated Prince Paris as my friend, but never would I imagine that he would betray my trust in such a vile manner…but perhaps, I should have, for the lad was comely and my wife Helen was the most beautiful woman to ever walk the Earth …and some say fairer than the goddess of Olympus.

Who could resist the charms of Helen? And what man could be so honorable as to forgo her? I knew only later from her chambermaid that Paris and Helen carried on an affair without my knowledge, and upon his departure, I realized that my queen was missing. This could only mean war. The Spartans think that I did it for Spartan honor and much as I would have them believe that, the truth was that I could not live without Helen. And so the die was cast. Sparta would declare war upon Troy. I would win back my wife and slay that deceitful friend, Prince and favorite of Aphrodite though he may be.

Hegemon Book 4: High King Agamemnon

After the death of Atreus, Theyetes and a number of his supporters attempted to storm  the palace of Mycannae, but they were defeated by my brother Agamemnon. My brother was but twenty at that time, but he had no qualms about challenging Theyetes. No, he was Theyetes’ better in all that counted. He slew twenty warriors in the space of a breath, and the battle joy was upon him. I, Menelaus, led a contingent of archers, and one of the arrows found the mark upon Theyetes’ forehead. Over thirty Mycanaen nobles who hath supported Theyetes were beheaded that day, and the House of Atreus was reinstated on that glorious day.

Agamemnon outlawed Aegisthus, and there was to be a reward worth one hundred talents of silver upon his head. But no man could find the renegade prince in our territory. We would not see him for some time to come.

Agamemnon quickly set about the task of a Hegemon. He was intent on making Mycannae the foremost city of Greece, building and training its great army day and night. Brave generals like Alektruon and Agurois who hath served Atreus were promoted to the rank of Peers and allowed to discuss military matters with him in private. Small cities such as Ithaca and Naxos sought the alliance and protection of Mycannae.

Agamemnon laid claim to our ancestral city of Tiryns and soon incorporated its territory into Mycannae. Soon, he was recognized as the most powerful king the Hellenes hath ever known. Nestor, the respected king of Pylos, and Peleus, king of Thesally, voted Agamemnon to the post of High King of the Hellenes and vowed to follow his lead against any common enemy.

It was beyond me to know at that time, but my brother’s aim was to unify and lead the Hellenes into conquest of Asia. And what I saw unfolding before me was but the beginning. Agamemnon was not content to lead the great city of Mycannae as Atreus had done, and soon his expansion would impact major cities as Sparta and Troy, and I was to be part of the scheme as Zeus would will it so. The king who deigned to chart the destiny of nations would rouse the anger of the gods, and it is said that the gods of Olympus are fickle.

Hegemon Book 3 Curse of the Gods

The House of Atreus was truly cursed, they say. Legend has it that Tantalus chopped his son Pelops and served it as a soup to the gods to test them. When Zeus, Foremost of the Gods of Olympus, found out, Tantalus lost his favor. Zeus cast Tantalus into a Hell known as Tartarus that was ripe with plump fruits of heavens, but when the starved Tantalus reached for it, the branches moved away from him. The winged herpes would pester him until he was rescued by the hero Hercules.

Zeus also bought Pelops back to life, and it was said that this Pelops was the same man as my grandfather. But if such tall tales were hard to believe, then surely what happened next was not.

Our father, still vengeful of the crimes of Theyetes, hath banished him from Mycannae. After many years, he invited Theyetes back and held a feast in his honor, where a soup was served. When Theyetes asked of the nature of the soup, Atreus answered, “The splendid soup is the flesh of thy own son!”

Theyetes was horrified. The two sons Arope hath borne him were butchered and served to him in such atrocious manner. Certainly, the deeds of Atreus hath gone too far, and like Tantalus, he would incur the hatred of the gods.

One day, a shepherd found a comely infant in the fields and presented him to my father, so he took the son as his own, our youngest brother Aegisthus, but little did we know of the foul nature of the child.

Aegisthus was the product of incest between Theyetes and his own daughter in answer to the Oracle of Delphi. The Oracle wanted Theyetes to take revenge upon the House of Atreus, and so Theyetes was both father and grandfather of Prince Aegisthus.

One day, the four of us went hunting together. Father and Aegisthus went after the Caledonian boar, and they moved so fast that neither me nor Agamemnon could follow. By the time we followed the boar, Aegisthus hath fled, nowhere to be found, but what we saw was truly the Curse of the Gods!! Aegisthus hath stabbed our father King Atreus to death, thus fulfilling the curse that Theyetes and the gods of Olympus cast upon our family. One day, blood would wash over blood, but today, Aegisthus could not be found, and my brother Agamemnon would have greater things to attend to.

Hegemon Book 2: The Betrayal of Arope

Theyetes may have the looks of Apollo, but his heart was as vile as Ceberus, the Dog of Hades. Little did we know until later that he would win the second contest of Mycannae by trickery and deceit, and it is shameful to admit that my mother, Arope, would have a part in this shameless deed.

The nobles of Mycannae assembled before the great chariot track where my father Atreus and uncle Theyetes readied themselves for the great race. Initially, my father led for a brief moment, but as though the gods’ favor hath turned from him, the spokes of his chariot careened off, sending him crumpled and injured on the ground as Theyetes sped ahead. Now, the two princes of Tiryns were drawn, for Atreus’ victory in archery was matched by Theyetes’ triumph in the more popular chariot race.

But my brother Agamemnon was suspicious of foul play, and that night, he urged me to be his lookout, while he investigated. We found the spokes of the chariot wheel sabotaged, but who could have done it? For the chariot hath always been a property of the House of Atreus, and no one would dare come near the precious vehicle without our notice.

As our mother Arope was out with the ladies of the court, we crept into her room and found shameless letters between her and Theyetes. They were in love, and in her affair, she hath tried to help Theyetes defeat our father. My brother and I bought this sad tiding to our father, but Atreus so loved his wife and could not bring it upon himself to punish her. Instead, he vowed that Theyetes would pay for this heinous crime one day.

Finally, the third contest came, and it was one of swordplay. Everyone knew Theyetes was a great swordsman, and I feared for my father. He hath displayed his great skills before our mother the week before, and I feared that Theyetes may now know of his prowress and how to defend from it.

But that day,  miracle hath happened. Theyetes was confident he knew how Atreus would attack, but he was badly misguided, for the attack that Atreus performed hath nothing in common with that which he performed in the family courtyard earlier on. Our mother Arope was greatly dismayed, but it was clear that her lover would lose to our father.

In seven strokes, Theyetes hath lost his sword, flown far from him, and his brother’s sword was at his neck. “Surrender to me, Theyetes,” our father said, “before the great noble houses of Mycannae lest you forfeit your life.”

Theyetes was angered and shamed, but he hath no way of resisting, so he replied, “I yield…to thee, my brother and king.”

And with that, Atreus lifted his sword from Theyetes’ neck, and the nobles of Mycannae hailed, “Long Live King Atreus!!.”

But do not let this fool you into believing  a happy ending was in store for us, for the House of Atreus was truly cursed.

Hegemon Book 1: Hegemon

The bards sing of the heroes of the Trojan War. Mighty Achilles, who vanquished Hector, Cunning Odysseus who surmounted the walls that challenged Olympus .But what of their leader?

Through the eyes of his brother Menelaus, we see Agamemnon as he really was. A visionary leader intent on unifying the Greeks and a conqueror of Troy with grander designs.

But the hegemon of Mycanae was a man befor his time, and for that, the end destined for him will prove more tragic than the ambitious plans he laid out.

Book I: The House of Atreus

I was there from the beginning. Invincible Achilles, Wise Odysseus, Mighty Ajax, and Noble Diomedes. These were all men who fought by my side at the shores of Illium, sharing moments of laughter and tears of despair. For a decade, we fought this mindless war, forgetting its cause in our long years of exhaustion.

I was the least of these men, but even the heroes had their moments of weakness. The bravest of us would sulk in his tent for months and not give battle for the sake of a woman, and those of us with the greatest foresight would be blinded by love of his own family. We were such a factitious lot that without our leader, we may very well have been squabbling over our own wretched shores and never really be of much threat to Troy, this greatest city of Asia.

I tell you this, Lycurgus, so that one day, you will know of the feats accomplished by the people you conquer today. That you know we are not fisherman rabble but warriors who once aspired to conquer the mighty nations of Asia. We Spartans did not shirk behind the safety of our comrade’s shield, and if you spare my people today, they will pay their dues not in gold and silver, of which there is little left, but in blood and valour, for which this city has in abundance.

It all started one fall at Mycannae. My father Atreus and his brother Theyetes stood boldly on the open fields of the royal palace, where the nobles of that great city assembled. The House of Eurytheus, sworn enemy of your own noble line descended from the hero Hercules himself, had died off with no direct heir. Called forth from Tiryns, my father and Theyetes were the closest of their blood.

“Come, Theyetes,” Atreus bellowed. “Let the lords decide which of us is worthy of kingship.”

Theyetes cut a handsome figure, his eyes shining strong blue, his locks shining golden in the dancing sun. Younger though he was, there was a good chance the Mycaneans would chose him over Atreus.

“Yes, brother. Let it be decided today. I shall challenge you to three races: archery, chariot riding, and sword combat. Let the great nobles be the judge of us today he who be the judge of them in days to come.”

My brother twelve-year-old Agamemnon, he was brave even in those early days. Young as he was, he did not share my awe of formidable Theyetes, but walked up to challenge our uncle. “Let me take up that challenge, Uncle, for you will be no match for my noble father Atreus!”

Theyetes gave his nephew a stunned look, while Atreus looked at his son with a mixture of pride and humor and calmed him down with the words, “Now, now, my son. There will be a day you can show your valour, but this is not that day. Let this be between me and your uncle.”

And so the two princes of Tiryns walked to the shooting range, where the contest would begin. It was a Greek custom to let the younger go first. Theyetes pulled the bow to its full length before releasing. The arrow stuck right at the center of the target.

“Bull’s eyes!”, a noble in the audience shouted, and a chorus of applause followed the handsome prince who now seemed to be the favorite of the nobility. I took in the sight with dismay, for I so much wanted my father to win this contest. But my brother Agamemnon looked at Theyetes in the shooting range, and there was confidence in his eyes, as if to say, “Victory will be ours, no doubt about that.”

Atreus was shorter and darker than Theyetes, but Father, equally confident as my brother, walked up to the shooting range and pulled the bow. It seem like the bow would crack under his immense strength, but just when the bow seemed at wit’s ends, he released it. The arrow flew true. No…truer than truer, for it split Theyetes’ arrow into two!!

Nestor, the wise king of Pylos who was there as an honorary guest and witness, could not believe his eyes. He rose and applauded our father, “One victory for Prince Atreus!! One step closer to the throne for you.” The nobles took in the sight with great astonishment, but a few seconds later, they too applauded Atreus, for such skill was not seen since the time of Hercules.

Atreus has won his first contest against Theyetes. In a few days, they would match their horsemanship in the favorite Mycanean sport: the chariot race.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Book XLIII. Ssuma Yen Reunites the Three Kingdoms

One day, as the Prince of Chin was feasting, he mysteriously died. They believe he was poisoned by his son, Ssuma Yen, who succeeded him as Prince. Ssuma Yen was more ambitious than his father. He wanted to become Emperor himself and soon forced Emperor Ts’ao of Wei to abdicate in his favor. When one of the Wei nobles denounced him, he had the man executed and said, “Wei seized power from Han. What is wrong with Chin seizing power from Wei?” In this manner, the great kingdom founded by Ts’ao Ts’ao almost fifty years earlier fell.

Ssuma Yen ascended the throne as Emperor Chin Kuang Wu Ti, and his only rival in the land was now Emperor Sun Hao of Wu. But Sun Hao was not a great man. He kept hundreds of wives, listened to music all day, and did not work towards the greatness of his Kingdom. True to the words of his grandfather, the Emperor Ssuma Yen spent ten years improving the economy of Chin. He would sometime go down-to-earth and till the soil with common farmers. In this manner, he was well-loved by the common citizens of Chin, and Chin became a powerful empire.

He then sent the Chin army against Wu, but Wu was defended by the great Marshal Ding Feng. The Chin general and Ding Feng hath great respect for each other and was unsure if one could dispatch each other. Instead, they embarked on a war of delay, exchanging gifts such as ermine and winter hare with each other. When winter turned to summer, Ding Feng died of old age.

With Ding Feng’s death, Ssuma Yen felt it was high time to conquer Wu. To prevent any further delays, he personally led the armies of Chin himself. The Wu navy put a brave defense and had chains interlocked on the river Yangtze to block the Chin navy, but Ssuma Yen ordered those chains molten with fire ships.

After that, the Chin navy easily outnumbered and crushed the Wu navy. With no able general like Ding Feng to defend Wu, the Chin army marched upon its capital of Nanking itself. When Emperor Sun Hao knew he had no chance of beating Ssuma Yen, he had himself offered up in a coffin, as was the tradition of surrender in those days.

Emperor Ssuma Yen lifted Sun Hao from the coffin and embraced him as an adopted son. From that day onwards, Ssuma Yen demoted Sun Hao to Prince of Happiness, and Wu was conquered by Chin. In this manner, China was now reunified under Ssuma Yen, and the Age of the Three Kingdoms came to an End.

The period is known for great men of wisdom (Kung Ming and Chou Yu), bravery (Kuan Yu and Chao Yun), and charisma (Ts’ao Ts’ao and Liu Pei) more than any other period in Chinese history. In my view, Ssuma Yen was not the greatest man of his age, but his victory merely came because he was the last one standing. Kingdoms withered and fell like leaves in autumns. Anyway, hope you enjoyed all our 43 episodes.

Book XLII The Ssuma Family Seizes Power in Wei

While Deng Ai heroically conquered Shu for Wei, the Ssuma family was busy seizing power in Wei. Ts’ao Shaung, who was related to the royal family, gradually reduced the power of the Emperor and the Ssuma family. Eventually, Ssuma I was removed from command and went into retirement. Nevertheless, Ts’ao Shaung’s advisors did not trust the cunning Ssuma I, so he advised Ts’ao Shaung to test him.

When they visited Ssuma I, the latter pretended to listen to the wrong words, vomit and go to the bathroom too often, although Ssuma I was actually in good health. Because of this foolish report, Ts’ao Shaung let down his guard against Ssuma I, who was known as the Imperial Teacher, and thought him sick and near dying.

One day, as Ts’ao Shaung went out hunting with his brothers and closest advisors, Ssuma I seized power with the help of the royal family, who had been oppressed by Ts’ao Shaung in the past. Although Loyang was firmly in Ssuma hands, Ts’ao Shaung’s advisors told him to raise an army elsewhere and seize power from Ssuma I later.

The one problem, however, was that Ts’ao Shaung’s family remained in the capital, so foolish Ts’ao Shaung surrendered to Ssuma I in false hope that he would be spared. Now, Ssuma I was back as Prime Minister, and it was Ts’ao Shaung who was forced into retirement. For many years, Ssuma I allowed Ts’ao Shaung to live but after killing all his close associates and advisors, he executed Ts’ao Shaung himself.

Ssuma I was 71 when he died. He told his sons, “He who controls the heart of a few men can be a bandit leader. He who controls the Emperor can be a successful noble, but he who control the hearts of citizens will rule the land.”

After his death, his eldest son Ssuma Shi became Prime Minister, and his younger son Ssuma Chao became Prince of Chin and Minister of War. The Ts’ao royal family were now mere puppets of the Ssuma. In one instance, the Emperor Ts’ao sought to overthrow Ssuma Shi. Ssuma Shi whispered to one of his generals, “Kill him and you will be rewarded.”

The general charged forward and murdered the Emperor Ts’ao, but during the funeral, Ssuma Shi framed him and had the general slain to demonstrate his loyalty. Such was the cunning of Ssuma Shi. Not long after this incident, however, Ssuma Shi’s mole broke and he perished. Now, absolute power fell to the hands of his younger brother Ssuma Chao.

During the tenure of Ssuma Chao or the Prince of Chin, the Wei army conquered Shu, and Chong Hui’s rebellion hath been put down as described in the previous episode. However, Ssuma Chao was a cautious man, and he chose not to usurp the Wei throne. That would be left to the time of his son, as we shall see in the final episode.