Thursday, May 26, 2005

Poison in Athens
By Margaret Doody

"It is the autumn of 330 BC, and three law cases are exciting Athens. Ergokles' case against the wealthy Orthoboulos for malicious wounding seems to come out well for the dignified man, but shortly afterwards he is found dead of poison, evidently hemlock. His second wife is accused of the crime, and her trial for poisoning sets Athens at odds, as sympathies divide. Her stepson is her greatest enemy, and seems sure that she has done the deed, but there are other candidates. Meanwhile, the most beautiful woman in Athens, Phryne, is accused of impiety, a charge that can carry the death penalty. Stephanos, in treating himself to brother visits as she tries to recover not only from his wound but from having killed a man, gets close to danger, and his position as a witness could damage his prospects of marriage. Misogyny, political wrath, and lack of judgment bring affairs to a boiling point, stimulating Aristotle to intervene lest the trial of the stepmother break Athens into fragments. He endeavours to solve the mystery with the help of Stephanos, and also with his assistant Theophrastos, who has made a special study of plant and thus of poisons..."

Mysteries of Eleusis "A series of thefts (some comic, some sinister) puzzles Athens early in 329 BC. Stephanos has become publicly betrothed to Smikrenes' daughter in the autumn of 330, and the couple wed in Gamelion. Meanwhile, Aristotle has settled down into a sexual relationship with the slave Herpyllis. Stephanos is getting his life in order and he tries to establish his political position as an Athenian by giving a dinner party. However, the happiness of his marriage is hampered by some vexations lawsuits: one from a neighbour of his in-laws in the Hymettos property, another from the father of the girl he was once supposed to marry. Connection with Smikrenes, whose land his own child or male children will inherit, causes Stephanos to take more interest in Eleusis. The series of thefts seem to have some connection with a little shop that makes statuettes of Demeter and Kore. Stephanos and Philomela decide to become initiates of Demeter and Aristotle is persuaded to join them. Their connection with the Mysteries allows them the chance to observe some phenomena that don't add up. In the end they are able to pin some important thefts and a murder to personages closely connected with the Mysteries. The climax comes in September 329 BC, during the celebration of the Mysteries at Eleusis..."

The Season of the Hyaena
By Paul Doherty

"Mahu, former Chief of Police and Keeper of the Secrets of the Heart is sitting down to record his memories. He sees uneasy quiet reigning in the Royal Circle at Thebes, after the disappearance of the Pharaoh Akenhaten and the abandonment of his new, sun-worshipping religion. Members of different factions are barely held together by loyalty to the six-year-old Emperor, Tutankhamun. Then extraordinary news reaches the Council: Akenhaten has returned to Egypt. The words are greeted with dismay by all who hear them, for surely Akenhaten is dead? Mahu can certainly vouch that the woman claiming to be the Emperor's wife, Nefertiti, is a fraud. Whoever the man is who has appeared in the Delta, he must be investigated."

Monday, May 02, 2005

Cleopatra's Kidnappers

I see Stephen Dando-Collins will be delving into the history of Caesar's 6th Legion in his upcoming book "Cleopatra's Kidnappers", subtitled "How Caesars Sixth Legion Gave Egypt to Rome and Rome to Caesar". This latest offering, following Dando-Collins successful "Caesar's Legions" and "Nero's Killing Machine", is due out in October.