I. Ancient Greece

In the Classical Age of Ancient Greece, people believed that their universe followed strict laws.  They set about to discover them.  Once the laws were known, they were the rules to live by. Anyone audacious enough to ignore these limits committed HUBRIS and faced retribution. “HUBRIS breeds NEMESIS,” it was said.   The Oracle deals with this key Greek belief.

The Oracle

Engrossed in their conversation, two men strolled along the narrow streets of Pelenea. Animated dialogues were commonplace, but Andreos and Philesthenes turned the heads of many a bystander with their emphatic gesturing.

“I will say it again, Andreos. Such a campaign would be utter madness. Megathenea is large, it is well fortified, and its generals are not the fools he believes them to be.”

“But I have served under him, and I know that with such a commander nothing is impossible. He is a gifted man, and I believe that his confidence is well founded.”

Exasperation spurred Philesthenes to greater urgency. “And should it not be, we would be left open to attack with hardly more than our city walls for defense. We would be at the mercy of anyone who besieged us!”

His companion smiled reassuringly. “But the gods favor someone as bold as Losander, my friend.”

“They would have to. To a man like me, such an undertaking seems foolhardy in the extreme.”

Andreos persisted. “Come, my friend. Where is your memory? It has been only a year since Losander led the revolt that forced the oligarchs to give up exclusive control of the polis. No one else possessed the leadership — or maybe the courage — to seize what we had all been grumbling was rightfully ours. He acted decisively and did not show the slightest desire to declare himself monarch! Was he not an able administrator? And he even resigned his tyrant’s office voluntarily and at the height of his popularity!”

“But to declare war on a traditional enemy just so he may overthrow the aristocrats who govern there? No, he is going beyond his duty proposing such a campaign. It is foolish and it is dangerous. If he were to lose, as I think likely, what would prevent our former rulers from reestablishing themselves in power? The risk is simply too great!”

The argument continued until the two men separated to return to their livelihoods. Their conversation and those of many others around them was typical of the agora, the marketplace where public meetings were held. There all native free men exercised the newly won right to discuss and select public policies. It was there also that Losander had shocked them all with his proposed “war of liberation” against Megathenea. No immediate action had been taken, but a decision would have to be made at the next assembly.

Philesthenes, a potter and sculptor whose wisdom exceeded his meager fmances and common lineage, had been one of the most outspoken critics. At forty he was certainly old enough to remember the condescension of the powerful aristocrats, who favored no policy that did not increase their wealth and power. He had fought, as was a citizen’s duty, in their trade wars, although he could never hope to share the benefits of victory. Like the others, he had disliked the rulers and cheered when the dashing young man with the magnetic personality had staged his revolt. Now, however, he feared their democracy was too young and fragile to weather the shock of war. “We must solidify our gains,” he thought. “We could easily defend ourselves if attacked, but an aggressive war? With its complicated problems of coordination and supply, it is too great a risk. The gods appreciate a careful, practical man; moderation is the key.”

Andreos, the lawyer and teacher of rhetoric, was younger than Philesthenes, but he could appreciate the change Losander had brought to the government. He was an impetuous poet at heart, and when he heard the call to revolt, he did not hesitate to join the movement. Now he viewed its handsome, gracious, and decisive leader as an Olympian instrument. If Losander had urged the Peleneans to assault the Furies, Andreos would have confidently picked up his sword and shield. Here was a man worthy to stand beside the bold heroes of the Iliad.

As Andreos made his way back to the public area where he would meet some of his students, he felt the exhilaration of a man who trusts his natural impulses to be unerring guides. He had asked Losander and several friends to dinner and had had the presence of mind to invite Philesthenes. In a small group, the critic would be won over by Losander’s personality and logic.

He greeted the young men whose parents wanted them to learn the most basic skill of public citizenship, the ability to be persuasive. In the open porch which Andreos used as his classroom, the students drilled and questioned. Nevertheless, it was hard for the instructor to keep his mind on his explanations. He kept thinking of the social gathering awaiting him that evening.

When he had fulfilled his tutor’s obligation, he left the still-bustling agora and headed rapidly home. Passing through the outer gate, he hurried into the living quarters in search of his wife. He found her busy at her domestic chores.

“I will be entertaining guests for dinner. Please make the arrangements.” No further directions were necessary. She was a faithful, competent woman who knew what to prepare, how to arrange the entertainment, and when to remove the children and herself from the room. Thanks to the efficiency of his household, he had nothing to do but eagerly anticipate the arrival of his guests.

* * *
It was customary to dine in late afternoon, so the guests began arriving while the heat of the day was still very much evident. They were ushered into a wide room furnished with couches on which to recline while eating their meal of fish, cheese, bread, and assorted vegetables. Jars of wine were at hand for constant circulation.

The simplicity of the fare derived from the fact that, wherever possible, the food came from farms or ports under the city-state’s jurisdiction. This achieved a measure of self-sufficiency, which was necessary in the hostile environment of internecine war that characterized the Hellenic world.

Andreos greeted Isophanes, a fellow-lawyer, and Melkon, the wine merchant. Both were amiable men and always a pleasure to entertain, although neither was considered a political activist. They would provide the ballast to prevent the anticipated debate between Philesthenes and Losander from getting out of hand. The sculptor himself arrived soon after them and begged his friend’s forgiveness for being tardy. Last minute touches on a commissioned statue had taken longer than he had expected.

Andreos assured him that no apology was necessary as the man who was clearly the guest of honor had not arrived. This was no surprise, for grand entrances were Losander’s stock-in-trade. He seemed always to be the center of attention, and it often appeared that he contrived to have it that way. He was still only thirty, but his experience in governmental affairs surpassed that of men twice his age. His accomplishments and versatility were admired and envied widely, but much of his reputation stemmed from an innate gift of showmanship that guaranteed that his qualities would not be overlooked or underemphasized.

Approximately an hour late, Losander arrived. Profuse apologies were offered and graciously accepted by the doting host. They immediately began dinner, assisted by an unobtrusive servant. There was little conversation during the meal, as it was the custom to reserve that for the hours which followed, when the guests could relax over their cups of wine.

Andreos casually surveyed his guests as they ate quietly. Isophanes maintained an exaggerated dignity; his narrow features and balding head were reminiscent of an eagle. He would nevertheless shed the formality after a few cups. The wine merchant who sat beside him presented an almost ludicrous contrast. Perpetually grinning, Melkon’s ruddy face showed that he was an expert in the merchandise he traded. Then there was Philesthenes, muscular and somber, apparently brooding over the debate he knew would inevitably ensue. Finally, the relaxed but imposing figure of Losander beamed confidence. He alone seemed talkative during the meal, but the graceful flow of his speech prevented it from being intrusive. Only he among them was by birth a wealthy aristocrat, yet he complimented Andreos on the food and made admiring references to various accomplishments of the other guests. “Surely Apollo must resemble this man,” thought Andreos, observing Losander’s blonde head as it nodded to acknowledge a comment.

After dinner a flute-girl briefly entertained the group. Andreos, however, was eager to begin the conversation. He dismissed her and turned his attention to the guests.

“I do not believe we need to observe all the banquet rituals. Let us acknowledge Dionysos, the wine-giver, and then discuss as friends those subjects which are so dear to ourselves and our city.” They sang the Pæan, or Hymn of Praise, to the god, and with full cups settled back as their host continued.

“Losander’s proposal has created bitter division among our citizens. To be able logically to assess its merits, we need a calmer discussion than that which occurred in the agora today. I propose that we now listen to him again so that we may debate at ease.”

Everyone agreed, and with a cordial smile the young aristocrat began.

“To plead my cause before such an illustrious jury is a great honor. Friends, to be quite blunt, I feel I have a duty — a burden, if you will — given me by the gods. Oligarchy must be overthrown and replaced with democracy. I need not dwell on the relative merits of the two systems of government. We have lived under both. I have seen the selfish, greedy motives of the “best families” from a vantage point not open to you. I know the inherent evils of such a system; that is why I turned against my own class. We cannot stop with our local success. We must follow our destinies and remove this blight from other Greek cities.”

Here Philesthenes interrupted. “But why now? We are hardly strong enough for such an undertaking.”

“We did not think we were strong enough to cast out aristocratic rule either. No one can run from his destiny, Philesthenes, and I firmly believe that it is a divine wish that I lead this campaign.”

There was something about the total conviction in Losander’s voice and his slow, emphatic gestures that impressed his sincerity on his listeners. Philesthenes asked the question that each was thinking.

“How can you be sure of such selection?”

The young man’s face held a look of mystical conviction as he answered softly. “Apollo told me at Delphi.”

Melkon, after a moment of silent astonishment, asked, “The Oracle? You mean the god really told you to lead a revolution?”

Losander’s reply, given with the same hypnotic, total commitment, held his listeners spellbound.

“Two years ago, I traveled to Delphi to learn Apollo’s wishes. I could not decide if I should go through with the revolt against the oligarchy. I presented an offering to the god and asked the Oracle what course I should pursue. I still remember the words of the prophecy: ‘Praise to him who fights for men. The fire that burns for them spreads.’ I will not turn back now, my friends.”

Andreos felt a thrill run through him. He was indeed the image of Apollo! No one else in the room dared utter a word. Even Philesthenes, the critic and pragmatist, could offer no challenge to Losander. To do so would mean a public affront to the clearly expressed will of Phoebus Apollo! The sculptor now knew that he too could lose himself in the personal magnetism of the young leader, as so many had done, without the nagging doubts of reason.

The advisability of the campaign was no longer in question. Everyone in the room was willing to acknowledge Losander’s calling. All that was left for discussion were particulars of strategy, and these were also dominated by the aristocrat. A garrison of a thousand could remain to guard Pelenea, while five thousand troops by forced marches could cross the mountainous terrain that blocked the way to Megathenea in the north. They would swing in an arc around their objective, since the southern defenses of their traditional foe would be strong. An attack from the north would be totally unexpected, if the army could keep its movements a secret. Speed and surprise were the crucial elements.

When the discussion finally broke up, each guest was convinced that Losander’s plans were more than plausible. They agreed to use their energies to persuade other citizens to support the proposal, and their extensive connections seemed to guarantee success. The oracle’s prophecy would not go unheeded.

*            *            *
In light of the importance of the subject, an extraordinary meeting of the public assembly was set for the following week. Sessions were normally held at monthly intervals, but a few days of serious unofficial debate would suffice to harden opinions on one side or the other. Andreos and the others worked diligently to sway reluctant friends and acquaintances, and they met with gratifying success. Everyone granted that Losander possessed a unique talent for leadership, but it took a reference to Delphi to gain support for the proposed campaign against Megathenea.

When the day arrived to resolve the issue, all native adult males in good legal standing congregated in the agora. They numbered only a small percentage of the city’s population, but they alone could claim the privileges of citizenship. It was substantial crowd nevertheless that waited for the meeting to begin.

A member of the governing council called for quiet from the rostrum around which everyone had gathered. He immediately asked Losander to restate his proposal, and the handsome figure strode with confidence to the speaking area. Once again, he urged an aggressive campaign against the oligarchy to the north. He volunteered to direct it, and without specific reference to the prophecy, urged his listeners’ aid in fulfilling the wishes of the gods. He was impressive and commanding; his natural histrionic ability heightened by fanatical obsession swept the crowd into a frenzy of enthusiasm.

One man remained unaffected by the eloquence. He was Kandlos, an actor, once a famous leading man reduced now to supporting roles by the passage of years. “A brilliant performance,” he thought skeptically. “That man belongs on the stage.”

He asked and received permission to speak when the young aristocrat had finished. “A difficult act to follow,” Kandlos thought as he came forward.

“Friends, to serve others with heroic deeds, as Losander suggests, is indeed a cause the gods should favor. But we must temper our enthusiasm by remembering one thing all heroes have learned, and that is that we are mortal. We must be careful, not reckless, if we are to fulfill divine wishes. Audacity means pride, and pride is a destroyer. Consider carefully. Be moderate and reasonable.”

Kandlos had called on his acting experience to add what force he could to his words. As he descended from the rostrum, he wondered if the warning had had any effect on his listeners. He returned to the spot in the crowd where he had been standing; but before he reached it, Losander’s persuasive voice rang out again.

“The heroes of old who created our heritage are not remembered for indecision. They were bold men, proud of their abilities and not afraid to use them. Are the days of such men past? Fellow-citizens, I say that they are not!”

The crowd cheered. “Well, award him the laurel wreath,” thought Kandlos with a wry grin. “I must go home and polish my armor.”

The vote was emphatically in favor of Losander’s proposal. He was given command of the expedition, as he had wished, and immediately set about raising supplies and coping with the hundreds of details that must be mastered before the attack could be launched. Three weeks, he reasoned, would be enough to finish preparations. If the Megatheneans heard of the campaign, as they no doubt would, that would create no insurmountable problem. His strategy would outflank any defenses they might erect or strengthen. The Oracle had said he could not lose.

*            *            *
Among Losander’s many talents was his skill as an efficient organizer. At the end of three weeks, the army was ready to leave Pelenea. Loyal aristocrats formed the cavalry, since they were the only citizens financially able to supply horses as well as armor for themselves. The main force consisted of the hoplites, or infantry, the extent of whose wealth permitted them to bring only armor and weapons. Poorer citizens filled support roles.

Before departure, Losander led a procession to the temple of Apollo, the most imposing structure in the city. As general, he would give the ritual offering and prayers for victory that were the necessary prelude to any military campaign. Crowds lined the streets, cheering deliriously, as the man whom many now openly hailed as an instrument of the gods rode by in full armor, shining like the sun. Arriving at the building, he dismounted and approached the pillars that lined the entrance. He stopped at the door of the temple before a ceremonial altar placed in full view of the crowd, and was handed a cup of sacramental wine. The hushed onlookers saw Losander slowly raise the cup above his head in a gesture of offering. He then poured its contents over the altar. His spoken prayer was enveloped in the cavernous surroundings, and only a few claimed to have heard it. They said he thanked Apollo for making him a hero about whom poets would sing for centuries to come.

The ritual completed, the entire force, with the young general at its head, filed from the city until the walls of Pelenea faded away in the dust clouds behind them. Even by forced marches, it would take five days for them to cross rugged mountain passes and circle their quarry for an attack from the north. Scouts would keep them informed of any threat they might encounter along the way. With care an army even as large as theirs could conceal its plans until it was too late for the enemy to benefit from their discovery.

Along the road Losander mingled with his troops, and his presence helped to imbue the men with confidence. Andreos and Philesthenes, who were serving in the same detachment, often found the commander at their campfire. He engendered devotion and pride wherever he went.

“I will erect a new temple to Apollo in Megathenea after our victory to commemorate this event. We do indeed live in heroic times. Men shall extol these deeds as they do of those of Achilles and Odysseus.” Losander stared dreamily into the fire, as if reading the future in the dancing flames.

“We shall serve you to the end, Losander,” Andreos fervently assured the young leader.

“And I shall see that you are rewarded with undying renown, my friends,” came the response.

On another occasion the commander recognized among the infantry the actor who counseled moderation at the fateful meeting of the assembly. Although he was well along in years, Kandlos was fit enough to remain a formidable soldier. His sharp wit attracted a following of younger men who found him an entertaining companion. He was declaiming a speech from a favorite play to a band of admirers when the general joined the company.

When the performance concluded, Losander addressed Kandlos. “You have an enviable command of the poets, my friend, and I’m sure you are equally familiar with all our traditions. Do you know the story of King Oedipus of Thebes?”

The actor-turned-soldier smiled as if he had already discerned the direction the conversation was taking. “Of course, noble Losander. You are referring to the man who tried to evade his fate and by so doing only fulfilled it.”

The younger man nodded, adding, “Then you must see what happens to a man who rejects the path which the gods dictate for him. I hope you are now fully committed to our cause.”

“A loyal citizen always commits himself to his city’s cause, and a wise man knows when the gods call.” Kandlos was gracious but evasive; however, Losander chose to read into the words the acceptance which he sought. He excused himself to circulate among those at other fires.

As Kandlos watched Losander’s confident figure disappear into the throng, he muttered to himself, “I fear, sir, that you revel too much in your divine selection.”

*            *            *
The army happened upon a small band of enemy scouts, but the Megatheneans eluded capture and beat a hasty retreat to warn the city. Losander was not perturbed. When the forces were spotted, he had not yet committed the troops to the march that would sweep them around the city to strike from the north. There was no reason for anyone to assume that there would be anything other than the expected frontal assault on the southern defenses. He knew the attack would be a surprise.

It proved to be so. The small garrison that formed the rear guard for Megathenea was thrown into panicked confusion by the appearance of the enemy. Pelenean discipline was tight, and they fought with the fanatical abandon that comes from belief in a holy cause. Defenses collapsed and the northern citadel was breached. The massed forces that had been waiting to the south found themselves in an untenable position which left surrender as the only recourse. Surprisingly, the number of lives lost in the battle was small on both sides; it was over so fast that Losander’s entrance into the city resembled a ceremonial procession rather than the aftermath of war.

The aristocrats who had controlled the defeated government knew the purpose of the campaign. Those who were able to do so fled to the nearby city of Thalmis, where a sympathetic oligarchy still governed. Several officers died in the fighting, but those identified with the defeated ruling class who were captured faced the unfortunate prospect of a public trial for misdeeds. The threatened penalties were dire.

All of this was carefully overseen by the triumphant young commander from Pelenea. He declared himself in temporary control of the government and called a meeting of the men who, as he put it, would be “exercising the authority to which their citizenship entitled them in a very short time.” They assembled in the marketplace to hear the words of their deliverer, who chose to speak in full armor and on horseback.

“Friends and citizens of Megathenea! Today you are freed of the oppression of wealth and blood. I, Losander, obedient to the will of the gods, have done this, and I will administer your affairs until you are prepared to organize your own government. I ask only the building of a temple to Apollo to commemorate my campaign. From this city I will launch further expeditions until democracy firmly establishes its supremacy over oligarchy!”

Drawn up around the crowd, an honor guard of Peleneans listened intently. They were not greatly surprised by the announcement that the war had just begun; Losander knew best how to fulfill his glorious destiny. They found themselves cheering as wildly as the local citizens. The ease of this first victory confirmed in their minds the rightness of the enterprise.

Within a week the news spread throughout the encampment that Thalmis would be the next target. This was the logical choice, since that city had accepted the fugitive aristocrats and had condemned the unprovoked attack. By adding enthusiastic Megathenean volunteers, Losander’s army had almost doubled its size. The general was so pleased by this that he went about the preparations in a leisurely fashion, devoting almost as much attention to the construction of the temple as to the military plans.

He determined that the building would contain a mammoth statue of Apollo surrounded by lesser images of Victory. After sketching the design himself; he turned over its realization to a group of Megathenean and Pelenean artisans, among whom was Philesthenes. The entire project would take quite a while to complete, but the impatient Losander insisted that he see tangible progress before he would launch his next expedition. Specifically, they must raise the statue of Apollo; everything else could come at its own pace once this focal point existed. The commander wished to pay homage to the god, and that was the only way to do it.

Philesthenes, who by this time had risen in rank and earned several honors, felt the need to protest the emphasis on speedy completion of the statue. He gained access to the young leader’s headquarters and immediately declared that the creation of a figure as immense as the Apollo design would require an inordinate delay in the campaign plans.

“All of us working together cannot complete such massive undertaking in less than a year. Working in stone, as well as gold, requires precision and balance, if the result is to last.”

Losander listened sympathetically, but he remained adamant. The Apollo must be hastily erected. “Service to the god does not go unrewarded,” he coaxed. “Give it your total dedication and it will take shape in months, if not weeks!”

Philesthenes felt his frustration melt before the general’s confidence. “We shall not rest until it is completed, sir,” he replied; and with only faint misgivings, he returned to the other workmen. They decided that for the sake of practicality they would sacrifice details in favor of haste. The god and his agent would be served, and there would be no delay in the campaign.

It was during the months when the statue dominated everyone’s attention that Losander decided to leave Megathenea for a second pilgrimage to Delphi. He would be gone scarcely more than a week; and the journey would be worth the brief excursion, since it would reinforce the confidence on which the young leader thrived. It would be little more than a redundant confirmation, Losander assured himself, but such a move would be popular with the troops. He also decided that Kandlos would be a logical man to request as a companion for the trip. The Oracle’s confirmation would be enough to subdue any of the actor’s lingering doubts.

They left Megathenea with a small escort and set out for the city situated in the central Greek mountains. It was a holiday for Losander. Kandlos thought he looked like a boy seeking his father’s applause for some clever trick.

The pilgrims eagerly pressed forward. Finally, the company reached their destination. Losander proceeded without delay to the shrine. He made known to the priest that he sought to ask Apollo if his conduct met with divine approval. The young man willingly paid the temple fee and performed the sacrifice necessary to earn a reply from the Oracle.

The medium through which Apollo was known to speak was a priestess, the Pythia, who sat on a tripod stool. With a priest to assist, the revered prophetess heard the question. The company, Kandlos among them, froze in silence, awaiting a reply.

They watched in awe as the priestess first lapsed into a deep trance and then shook with convulsions. The effect was jarring to the uninitiated. Finally, she mumbled softly and almost incoherently to the priest who had carefully approached without breaking her concentration. He immediately returned to the side of the eagerly smiling Losander.

“The god has spoken,” he said. “Your reply is ‘Flames now burn bright and alone. The blaze now consumes itself”

The young aristocrat was perplexed, and for once a frown crossed his handsome face. “What does that mean? I do not understand.”

“There are many possible interpretations, noble sir,” explained the priest. “I can only assume that it means you must follow your own energies, for your powers are great.”

“Of course!” answered Losander, smiling again. “There can be no other meaning!” He thanked the priest, and his party returned to the men waiting outside the shrine.

Kandlos followed respectfully. He had heard the priest’s explanation, and he was not satisfied with it. “I would have liked to have heard a few of those other interpretations,” he thought to himself.

*            *            *
The commander saw to it that the words of the oracle, and the priest’s favorable interpretation of them, were widely circulated among his army and the citizens of Megathenea. He suspected that his fame would precede his arrival in Thalmis, and this prospect was a source of great pleasure to him. The prophecy would weaken the enemy’s morale, while the delay occasioned by the temple construction could work to his advantage by allowing this insecurity to grow.

Losander’s eager anticipation of the statue’s completion was, however, stronger than his military instincts. Almost daily, he made inquiries about its progress. His impatience was forcefully conveyed to the artisans, who once again sought to please him by redoubling their efforts. At a rare moment of relaxation, Philesthenes remarked to Andreos that he hoped no aspiring sculptor would consider that statue a model to copy. It would be completed, but there would be sections where the artisans had taken a good deal less than normal care.

When their labors were finished, the great Apollo seemed breathtaking in every respect. The painted stone figure towered over its supplicants with right arm majestically raised. Beaten and fitted gold formed the god’s robes, as it did his helmet, a touch specifically requested by Losander. The general viewed it with undiluted satisfaction and assured the artisans that they might complete the temple’s other requirements at their leisure.

The campaign against Thalmis was now the principal order of business. Reverting to his usual military thoroughness, the young commander set about final preparations. He reasoned that no ornate strategy of deception was necessary this time, since the enemy would already be suffering from an advanced case of hysteria when the liberating forces arrived. Within two weeks the army was ready to depart and awaited only the ritual libation to the gods.

Naturally, Losander intended the prayers and offering ceremony to take place in the unfinished temple before the statue of Apollo. He was at the head of a procession like that which he had led in Pelenea, but this one was on a much grander scale. Once again his gleaming figure acknowledged enthusiastic cheers. As the Oracle had suggested, his powers were great; there was no mistaking this prophecy.

The crowd hushed as Losander passed into the open sanctuary of the unfmished temple. He intended to pour the wine in the very shadow of the god whose mortal arm he had become. He stopped beneath the statue of Apollo and was handed the ceremonial cup, which he began to raise slowly in offering to the divine presence.

There was a loud, sharp crack, followed by stunned horror.

The great right arm of Apollo had broken off at the shoulder, crashing down on the supplicant below. So contorted was the limp, crushed body that there could be no doubt that Losander had died instantly.

Officers rushed forward to confirm their fears. Throughout the crowd, dismay and anger were replacing shock; and the more vocal of the onlookers began to scream for the execution of the artisans whose creation had killed their great leader. Confusion spread. The human source of public order had died, leaving no recognizable heir to his authority. The city had now become a leaderless mass, bent on ugly revenge.

Only someone with a flair for the dramatic could sway the crowd’s dangerous emotions. “May I have better success this time,” thought Kandlos, who rushed to the body of Losander and whirled to face the crowd. His trained actor’s voice boomed over the throng.

“Citizens! Do not blame the death of our general on those who spent their energies constructing this statue to his specifications! They are not responsible. I fear Losander was the instrument of his own destruction in a way that transcends the ability of man to effect.”

Kandlos called on every theatrical weapon in his arsenal to still the crowd. They were listening now, but he could tell they were not yet ready to accept his views. He must overcome this.

“The commander’s error is one each of us might share with him. He is a victim of pride; he replaced true service to Apollo with personal glory. All great heroes must seek undying fame, but Losander chose to seek it in opposition to the will of the god as declared to him at Delphi.”

An angry voice in the crowd yelled “Treason and sacrilege!”

Kandlos shouted in answer, “Is it treason and sacrilege to recognize that gods and not men are supreme? Is it treason and sacrilege to declare that gods do not permit a usurpation of their authority? The most slow-witted of you cannot have forgotten that Losander refused to acknowledge the gods in any temple but that which would reflect his own greatness. He would not move until this, his personal shrine, with his own personal god, was sufficiently constructed to do him honor.”

Now, Kandlos felt, they must learn of the real meaning of the oracle’s prophecy. “At Delphi, Losander first heard that his flame would burn brightly as long as he served the people. But a few short weeks ago, as all of you know, he returned to receive a confirmation of his actions. Had not he already begun to show a desire for glory that surpassed public service? Remember, my friends, remember! You have all heard the words of the second prophecy which he, in his supreme self-confidence, chose to interpret as a confirmation of invincibility. What were those words? ‘Flames now burn bright and alone. The flame now consumes itself’ Anyone not blinded by self-love must recognize Apollo’s anger at being supplanted by pride. But Losander would hear no other meaning but that which fed his personal esteem. Again I say that it was Pride, not the artisans,that brought about the death of our leader!  The angry god destroyed him!”

An uncertain quiet settled over the crowd. “They have listened,” thought Kandlos. “Apollo, the god of Truth, has opened their minds.” He turned to a military officer nearby and said, “See that Losander receives the noble funeral he deserves. He did much good until he fell victim to spiritual blindness. This ground, this temple rejected by Apollo, should be his tomb. Its existence shall serve to remind us of our mortality and our duty to serve the gods.”

A murmur of assent passed among the soldiers and the citizens. Kandlos stepped down to join the multitude and disappear from view.

*            *            *
The campaign against Thalmis, now leaderless, was abandoned. Prominent leaders agreed to exercise the governing authority in Megathenea, tempered by the will of a new citizen assembly. As in Pelenea, oligarchic rule was at an end, and for that men revered the memory of the heroic Losander. However, a tomb, made from a grand design left unfinished, reminded all that here a once bright flame had flickered and died.

Questions for Analysis:

1. In ancient Greek tradition, the term hubris is used to describe arrogance, something for which the gods always punished the offender. Kandlos accuses Losander of committing this offense. Do you feel that such a charge is justified? On what do you base your conclusion?

2. What explanations can you find in the story for the inability of the ancient Greek city-states to unite into a larger political entity, such as that which Rome would create?

3. Greek democracy was in many ways quite unlike our modern form of government. What characteristics can you find in the story that no longer apply? What similarities can you find? What is the modern definition of democracy? Do the Greek city-states who claimed to be democratic fit that definition?

4. How would you describe the role of women in ancient Greece, as suggested in the story? How has this role changed today?

5. Greek gods are described as “anthropomorphic,” that is, having human characteristics. Cite examples from the story that suggest that, to the Greeks, their gods looked and acted like men.

6. Losander desperately wanted to have his memory celebrated by poets of the future. It is suggested at the end of the story that he was remembered as a hero because of his accomplishments. Imagine that you are a minstrel or poet and are asked to tell the story of the young commander. Would you describe him as a hero or in some other way? Explain your answer.

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Anyone who has devoted time to the study of history knows that textbooks have two basic features. There is the narrative of events, usually highlighting “great deeds” in a compact story line. Then there is the analysis of patterns, delving abstractly into economic and social trends that provide the cultural arena for the deeds.

We do need to understand the environment of course. The problem is that the passages about cultural patterns too often seem so abstruse and detached that only the most dedicated reader plows though them; they are bypassed by everyone who wants to get back to the “important material”. Occasionally, even the authors themselves appear bored with these necessities, wedging them into sections or chapters as if they were intruders. Who can remember the endless stream of painters, writers, and musicians in these obligatory art/culture portions of many a “Western Civ” book? Yet who has not encountered them?

In an attempt to address these concerns some texts have opted for an extreme solution. They have made social patterns their core and pushed narratives into the shadows. This is hardly ideal, because impersonal data lists bore students and leave them unaware of the flow of events.

The problem is that without sufficient background in cultural values, a beginner may find a narrative incomprehensible. Perhaps even worse, he may attach to the events of the past modern values which often simply do not apply.

These stories provide what I hope will be an effective solution to this dilemma. They are designed to assist the student of European history by using fictional episodes to underscore concepts or patterns unique to or characteristic of various periods. My premise is “a story is a metaphor for reality”. Concepts wrapped in entertaining packages become more vivid and more useful.

It is true that in a number of places some events or concepts have been simplified or streamlined in order to focus on broader issues. Greater precision requires extensive exposition that would have lengthened each story and rendered it less attractive as assigned reading. If deemed necessary, these oversights can be clarified in the classroom.

There are questions for discussion accompanying each episode. They are meant to spur the reader to think about the values of an historical period and to contrast them with his or her own.

If history is, as Napoleon allegedly commented, “a fable agreed upon”, then all historians are storytellers. This collection contains a large dose of fiction designed to sweeten the bitter medicine in many texts.

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