Damon, Pythias, and the Test of Friendship

Overview

Outside of ancient Syracuse on the island of Sicily, there lived a cruel ruler named Dionysius. He trusted no one. Nearby lived two best friends, Damon and Pythias. One day Pythias spoke out against Dionysius, who quickly ordered his execution, to take place in one month. Pythias wanted to return to his elderly parents to say goodbye and arrange for their care. Dionysius laughed, not trusting that Pythias would return. Damon stood up and offered to take Pythias' place until he returned. The ruler agreed only ...

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Overview

Outside of ancient Syracuse on the island of Sicily, there lived a cruel ruler named Dionysius. He trusted no one. Nearby lived two best friends, Damon and Pythias. One day Pythias spoke out against Dionysius, who quickly ordered his execution, to take place in one month. Pythias wanted to return to his elderly parents to say goodbye and arrange for their care. Dionysius laughed, not trusting that Pythias would return. Damon stood up and offered to take Pythias' place until he returned. The ruler agreed only after stipulating that if Pythias did not come back, Damon would die instead. When the execution day arrived, Pythias had not returned, but Damon still believed that his friend would be there if he could. Just in time, Pythias ran in, offering up his own life for his friend's.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
Bateman breathes new life into this ancient story, and Johnson accents it by stunning paintings. Young readers will be drawn into the Greek legend of the power of friendship, courage and justice. When Pythias spoke out about the harsh ruler Dionysius of Syracuse, he was imprisoned and sentenced to death for treason. Pythias asked one favor before he was to be put to death, to see his elderly parents one last time. So that he could leave jail temporarily, his best friend Damon took his place, vowing to die in Pythias' stead should he fail to return. On the day of the execution, Pythias failed to return at the appointed time. The heartless Dioynsius berated Damon for his foolishness in trusting his friend. But before the order could be carried out, Pythias returned to take his punishment. The tyrant of Syracuse was so overwhelmed by the strength of their friendship that he asked to be part of their bond. Drama and tension will keep readers turning the pages in this exciting tale of friendship put to the ultimate test. It is a fine introduction to heroes of Greek mythology. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal

Gr 2-4

This classic tale of friendship is set in Sicily in the fourth century B.C.E. Dionysius, a "cruel ruler," surrounds himself with bodyguards, reigns with an iron fist, and sneers at the idea of trusting others. Pythias speaks out publicly against the tyrant and is sentenced to death for treason. The young man's request to journey home to bid his parents farewell is granted only after his good friend Damon steps forward and offers to take Pythias's place in prison, vowing to die in his stead should Pythias not return in a month. The traveler is delayed, and Damon prepares to accept his fate. Pythias arrives just in time, and their heartfelt reunion inspires Dionysius to revoke the sentence and ask the two young men for a "favor": "Might I be the third in your friendship?" Johnson's realistic artwork evokes the setting and time period with rich detail, alternating landscapes and city scenes with close-ups of the characters' faces. The paintings glow with deep apricot and jewel tones, while darker colors underscore powerful emotions. The text reads aloud smoothly with strong dialogue and vivid similes. While Dionysius's instantaneous turnaround from harsh oppressor to humble supplicant might be a bit abrupt and simplistic, it is in the spirit of this ancient fable. Share this offering to launch discussions of friendship, faith, and trust.-Joy Fleishhacker , School Library Journal

Kirkus Reviews
A tyrant's coldness jeopardizes the lives of two Syracusan youths. In the fourth century BCE, the small island of Sicily is ruled by the Greek commander Dionysus. A ruthless warrior who climbed from the ranks to his current position, he is known for his cruelty and lack of trust; to Dionysus, true friendship is a myth. A brave young man named Pythias speaks out against the tyrant in the marketplace. Getting wind of this, Dionysus arrests him for treason and sentences him to death. Damon offers to take his best friend Pythias's place in prison while Pythias makes the lengthy journey home to say goodbye to his elderly parents. Weeks pass and Pythias does not return; has Damon been a fool for trusting in his friend? The story's ending might surprise young readers. Bateman's retelling of the ancient fable is measured and lucid; Johnson's bright paintings add clarity, though his studied compositions lack movement and his "ragged, travel-worn" Pythias looks a little too clean. An unusual tale to bring to children, but worthwhile. (Picture book. 7-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781621278740
  • Publisher: Av2 by Weigl
  • Publication date: 9/28/2013
  • Sales rank: 1,051,991

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