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.”

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