Memnonby Scott Oden
He lived in the shadow of kings. One trusted him with his empire; the other feared his every move...Memnon of Rhodes (375-333 BCE) walked in the footsteps of giants. As a soldier, sailor, statesman, and general, he was, in the words of Diodorus of Sicily, "outstanding in courage and strategic grasp." A contemporary of Demosthenes and Aristotle, Memnon rose from humble origins to command the whole of western Asia in a time of strife and slaughter. To his own people, he was a traitor, to his rivals, a mercenary. But, to the King of Kings, his majesty Darius III of Persia, Memnon was one man capable of defending Asia Minor from the rising power of the barbaric Macedonians. In a war pitting Greek against Greek, Memnon proved his quality beyond measure. His enemies fought for glory and gold; Memnon fought for something more, for loyalty, for honor, and for duty. He fought for the love of Barsine, a woman of remarkable beauty and grace. Most of all, he fought for the promise of peace. Through the deathbed recollections of a mysterious woman, the life of Memnon unfolds with brilliant clarity. It is a record of his triumphs and tragedies, his loves and lossess, and of the determination that drove him to stand against the most renowned figure of the ancient world-the ambitious young conqueror called Alexander the Great.
"Lovers of this period, of the military tactics, violence, lives and times of this world, will be hard pressed to find a more entertaining and enriching read." —NovelSpot
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By Scott Oden Medallion Press, Inc. Copyright © 2006 Scott Oden
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Chapter One "Memnon!"
The man who bellowed the name looked out of place on the docks of Rhodestown, as awkward as a sailor would be in the lecture halls of the Academy at Athens. Despite the heat he wore a pleated himation of faded blue cloth, pinned at the shoulder with a copper brooch fashioned in the likeness of an owl. His balding head glistened in the sun. The man paused in the shade of a statue of Helios, its surface crusted with gull droppings, and mopped at his brow with the hem of his robe.
"Memnon!" he cried again, waving.
Memnon, son of Timocrates, turned at the sound of his name, the sheaf of javelins balanced on his shoulders and ready to hand to another of Circe's crew. Eyes the color of a storm-wracked sea glittered beneath a mane of curly black hair kept in check by a leather headband. "By the Dog!" he muttered. "Will he never let me go?"
At the railing above, Patron, a Phocaean from the coast of Ionia and captain of Circe, scowled. Ten years Memnon's senior, he carried himself with the gravity of a Spartan elder. "Who seeks you this time?"
"Glaucus, my father's secretary. No doubt Timocrates intends to fetch me back to his side." At nineteen, Memnon did not give the impression of a rawboned youth; he had the muscular shoulders and flat abdomen of an Olympian athlete, a man on the cusp of his physical prime. The gods of Sun and Wind left his skin burnished and tough like old leather worn from use. Around him moved a handful of young Greeks, self-styled adventurers, modern day Argonauts-men forever linked by the poetic bond of shared hardship. They were the crew of Circe, the aging pentekonter that would deliver them to Assos, on the Asian shore, and into the arms of Glory.
"He's still furious, I take it," Patron said.
"Father? When is he not furious?"
"Have you not mended the rift between you?"
Memnon shook his head. "Far from it. It's his opinion that we're betraying Rhodes, abandoning her in her hour of need by running off to Assos and joining Mentor's army. He says we should be soldiers of demokratia, not mercenaries in a satrap's war. Great Helios! I feared for my health when I let it slip that I thought Rhodian democracy a dying beast, caught as it is between the spears of Athens and the swords of Caria. If ever you wish to sample true rage, mention that around father."
Patron looked askance at Memnon and shook his head.
"I think it wasn't such a slip of the tongue as you let on," Patron said. "If Mentor were here, he'd cuff your ears for goading your father as you do. I've half a mind to do it in his stead."
Memnon grinned. "Allow me what small pleasures I have left, Patron. Father has tightened his leash about my neck as though I were an errant hound. His spies dog my every step; every morsel of food that passes my lips, every cup of wine, is reported to him. Even Thalia-dear, vivacious Thalia-has been pressed into service by his minion, there." The young Rhodian indicated his father's secretary with a jerk of his head. "Zeus Savior! I can't relieve myself in the bushes without feeling a dozen eyes on me! You ask me, it's high time my father realizes I am my own man!"
Patron glanced down, his narrow countenance severe. "It must have been Timocrates who had the harbor master look into my doings. Old Herodas wanted to know when I planned to sail, and if I hoped to return. I thought it an odd question, but now ..." Patron trailed off.
"Forgive my father for his meddling, Patron. It's not personal."
"You think it's not? In truth, Memnon, you're a smart lad, and handy with a tiller, but I'll not go against Timocrates. He's a powerful man, not the sort I'd like to trifle with. If he has other plans for you I'll not be the one to thwart them. Settle this business with him and get his blessing before we sail or Circe will sail without you. Understand?"
Memnon's jaw clenched. He nodded as Glaucus bustled up, the secretary's round face the color of a ripe pomegranate.
"Rejoice, son of Timocrates! Thalia said I might find you here."
"You're a long way from your familiar haunts, Glaucus," Memnon snapped. "Has father sent you to spy on Circe's crew? Or will you join us and seek your fortunes among the Persians?"
"Neither, thank the gods. Timocrates asked that I escort you to the Assembly. He's denouncing the oligarchs today; afterward, he craves a word with you."
Memnon looked up at Circe's master and made a show of deferring to his judgment.
"We can spare you," Patron said. The look on his face did not invite debate. "Attend to your father. Remember what I've said. With or without you."
* * *
Jostling bodies thronged the narrow streets of Rhodes: porters bearing baskets and bales to the marketplace; slaves on errands only they and their masters knew; the travelers disembarking from foreign ships were outnumbered by natives seeking passage to far ports of call. An air of desperation clung to the people of Rhodes, a perfume of fear and uncertainty. Memnon knew its cause.
Rhodes stood on the brink. Democrat fought oligarch in the Assembly, an inflammatory war of words that trickled down to real violence on the streets. Memnon had heard stories of whole families slain for speaking out against tyranny, of oligarchs knifed in their sleep, and of innocents abstaining from either side burned out of house and hearth. And his father, noble Timocrates, orator, statesman, a Rhodian Pericles in an age of gilded tyrants, only added to the discord with his pro-Athenian rhetoric.
Glaucus cleared his throat. "What did that fellow mean, 'with or without you'?"
"Stay out of my business, Glaucus," Memnon barked over his shoulder. "You're my father's secretary, not mine. Nor do I count you as a friend. It's bad enough you've charmed Thalia into divulging my dealings ..."
"A lovely girl, Thalia. You are lucky to have her."
Memnon lengthened his stride, forcing Glaucus into a half-run just to keep up. The secretary huffed and puffed, blowing like a winded horse as they ascended a steep, cobbled road lined with columns, each bearing the names of men lost to Poseidon.
"Have I offended you?"
"You presume too much," Memnon said.
Glaucus shrugged. "I only seek to understand you, young sir. It's all Timocrates desires, as well."
Memnon stopped and rounded on the secretary. "How could either of you understand? Zeus! You're both cut from the same cloth! Bureaucrats to the marrow who have dreamed of nothing else since the womb! How could you understand the attraction of distant shores when all you desire can be found in the soil of Rhodes?"
"Now who is presumptuous?" Glaucus said. "All young men would rather pursue the path of Achilles, the path of glory and immortality. I was no different. But if every man could be Achilles, then the mystique of the son of Peleus would lessen, would it not? Warriors are noble and enviable, but they haven't the sole claim to Glory's rewards. A secretary can carry himself with as much nobility; an orator is no less enviable. The only difference being poets don't compose odes to secretaries and orators."
"I'm not a glory-hound, Glaucus. It's just ..." Memnon trailed off. He walked to the road's edge and stood between two of the columns. At this height, Rhodes-town seemed small and of little consequence against the vast sea of blue. From the mole-protected Great Harbor, with its crowd of ships, Rhodes crawled up the hillside in steps, like seats in an amphitheater. Whitewashed walls and red-tiled roofs stood cheek-by-jowl with crude timber sheds and old thatch. Up the hillside, on a three-hundred-foot spur of rock, towered the acropolis. The High City. Terraced and unfortified, its temples and public buildings were shaded by groves of sacred olive, knotty sycamores, and dusty green poplars. Red-tinted limestone winked in the noonday sun.
Despite its beauty, Memnon saw in that city of rose-red stone the outlines of a prison, a place where his youth would be snuffed out by endless hours of discourse, where his dreams would wither and rot like fruit left overlong on the vine. "Can you truly see me up there," he gestured to the acropolis, "standing atop the plinth in the Assembly declaiming the ills of society?"
"If that's what the Fates decree, then yes.
Memnon sighed. "If the Three Sisters themselves came to father and told him my destiny lay elsewhere, he would dispute them. I want to join Mentor at Assos, to serve Artabazus in his rebellion against the Great King. What is so distasteful about that? Artabazus is a good man; I've heard father say as much. Good enough to marry my sister, Deidamia. Am I any better than my sister? Than Mentor? Zeus Savior! I cannot understand why ..."
Glaucus gave a start; in a brief moment of clarity, he glimpsed the inner paths of Memnon's heart. "Truly, you cannot see it, can you? I had thought you were only playing a game with Timocrates, keeping him at loggerheads to satisfy some childish whim, but you honestly have no idea what his motives are."
Memnon frowned. "And you do?"
"Listen to me, young sir. For once, pay heed to my words. It is on you that Timocrates has pinned his hopes."
"On me? But, Mentor is the eldest, he-"
Glaucus silenced Memnon was a terse gesture. "Yes, yes! Eldest though he may be, Mentor cuts a rough figure in your father's eye. Timocrates praises his competence as a soldier, while mourning the realization that his eldest son will never amount to anything more than a mercenary in Persia's service. And Deidamia, the very image of her mother, is lusty, loyal, and as fertile as Ephesian Artemis. But she, too, will never rise above her station. It is you he would groom to carry on his legacy. He sees in you another Socrates, another Pericles, another Alcibiades, if only you'd come to your senses and forget these foolish dreams of yours."
"I am not so remarkable," Memnon said, as he felt the invisible noose about his neck tightening.
"I would agree, but I am not Timocrates," Glaucus said. "Come. We are lagging. Your father will be mounting the plinth any moment now."
* * *
The Assembly met in the shadow of the temple of Athena Polias, Athena of the City, in hopes that the wisdom of the goddess would guide their dealings. Constructed of the same rose-colored limestone as Athena's shrine, the circular Assembly building boasted a sunken floor and marble seats that rose in tiers around the plinth, a platform of polished stone from whence orators spoke. Instead of walls, Doric columns supported a tiled roof that kept the sun off while allowing the cooling sea breezes to flow unimpeded. Memnon turned and glanced north, shading his eyes. From here, he could see the vibrant blue waters of the Gulf of Marmaris and, beyond, a line of purple hills demarcating the frontiers of Caria and Lycia.
"I should have sent word for Bion to reserve us a place," Glaucus said, glaring at the press of men before him. Latecomers, full citizens of every station leavened with a smattering of curious non-citizens and foreigners, circled the Assembly building, each jockeying for a better position where they could hear the man speaking inside.
Memnon scanned the crowd and did a quick tally in his head. Three thousand citizens had to attend the Assembly in order to pass laws. Easily, Memnon counted a quorum. "Is there to be voting today?"
Glaucus shook his head. "Only debate. They'll put it to a vote next week." The secretary clutched at his cloak and elbowed his way through with cries of "Pardon" and "Make way." Memnon followed, slower, shuffling like a man bound for the gallows. They inched down the stairs of the entryway and found a place to stand beneath a statue of Dorieus, the farseeing statesman of Lindos whose dream of a united Rhodes brought the city into being.
Dusty sunlight slashed through the artificial gloom, falling like divine light on the man atop the plinth. Timocrates of Rhodes stood tall and loose, his gestures exaggerated as though he performed his speech at the theater. A slender line divided the two, actors from orators: where one played to the audience for the sake of entertainment, the other played for higher stakes, for the fate of nations. Today, with his fringe of silver hair and close-cropped beard, with his flowing white robe modestly bordered in Tyrian purple, Timocrates could have outplayed even silver-tongued Hermes. Memnon gave an ear to his speech.
"The oligarchs rule Chios and Cos now, and they threaten Rhodes; they are seducing you into what amounts to slavery. Slavery! It surprises me that none of you have conceived of the danger to our constitution, to our freedom, posed by these braggarts, these men who would suborn your ancestors sacrifice and bring their lives to naught. I urge you to regard them as the common enemies of all who love freedom.
"But indeed, it is not difficult to find fault with these demagogues or reproach the rest of you for your ambivalence, but our real task is to find by what arguments and by what course of action may our democracy be salvaged. Perhaps it does not suit the present occasion to deal with every facet of the question, but mine own view is that we ought to grapple with these problems vigorously, and act as becomes Rhodians. Remember, brothers, how it gladdens your hearts to hear a stranger praising your ancestors, describing their exploits and enumerating their trophies. Reflect, then, that your ancestors set up those trophies, not that you may gaze at them in wonder, but that you may also imitate the virtues of those men who earned them."
And with a small bow, Timocrates concluded his oration. A heartbeat later raucous applause echoed through the Assembly. The delegates from Ialysos and Kamiros clambered to their feet, jostling to be the first to acclaim the orator. The men from Lindos nodded their heads and stroked their beards in graceful approval. Only the oligarchs, the followers of Philolaus, abstained. These glowered at Timocrates with undisguised contempt as he stepped down from the plinth.
Beside him, Memnon could feel Glaucus vibrating with excitement. "Brilliant! Without a doubt, his most persuasive speech!"
"You heard but a fragment and you can judge it thus?" Memnon said. "You're more discerning than I, Glaucus."
"I had the opportunity to listen as he drafted it, as could you if only you spent less time carousing."
Memnon ignored him. Timocrates noticed them and threaded toward where they stood, his face an expressionless mask. Memnon saw movement from the corner of his eye, a swirl of blue cloth and flash of gold. He half-turned as a man thrust his way between him and his father. Short and barrel-chested with a swarthy face accentuated by his Persian-style beard, this newcomer smiled at Timocrates. Memnon could sense no warmth in the gesture. Beside him, Glaucus stiffened.
"Philolaus," he hissed.
This newcomer bowed low before Timocrates, a gesture full of scorn. "You've scored a small victory for your precious democrats, today," he said. "But all you've really done is bandage a dying beast. Your allies are hemorrhaging daily, their strength and the strength of your cause ebbing. How long will it last, Timocrates? How long will democracy be in its death throes?"
"You make assumptions without merit, slave of Mausolus. What you really should ask yourself is how long can the Carians play at empire before their master, the Great King, checks their ambitions? A month? A year? Your master cannot dabble long in the affairs of the Hellenes before the Great King makes an end of him."
"He needs to make an example of your son-in-law Artabazus first," Philolaus said, grinning. "And your eldest, I'm told. By the Hound, Timocrates! For a staunch, Athenian-loving democrat, you've had excellent relations with tyrants of all stripes. Why, you yourself once served old satrap Pharnabazus in his war against the Spartans, even as your son serves his, now! By what right do you condemn tyranny when it's part and parcel of your own kin? Are you a leaf blowing on whatever political wind is fashionable these days?"
Timocrates only smiled, saying, "It's one thing to serve tyrants and oligarchs when it's expedient; it's another thing to live under their thumb. Rhodes is free, and should remain thus. If Mausolus of Caria hungers for more let him take it from the Great King's plate, if he dares."
All around them, democrats and oligarchs began snarling at one another, hurling shouts and curses, and emulating the leaders of their respective movements. The chairman of this Assembly, old Diogenes, rapped his staff on the floor and cried, "Come to order! Who wishes now to speak?"
"Philolaus!" someone called. Shouts of "Aye! Let Philolaus speak!" warred with the voices of those who wanted his blood. Philolaus acknowledged them with a wave and leaned close to Timocrates.
Excerpted from Memnon by Scott Oden Copyright © 2006 by Scott Oden. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Scott Oden has worked the usual variety of odd jobs: delivering pizza, driving a truck for a printing company, and clerking at a video store, just to name a few. Now a full-time writer, Oden lives in rural North Alabama, near Huntsville.
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I thought the Men of Bronze was superb. But Mr. Oden has clearly outdone himself with a more matured writing skills, more in depth historical facts'I checked out many of the names and places mentioned in the book', comprehesive description of the events and the emotional tolls they have on each persons involved. I was completely blown away by this book. I loved the military strategies Mr. Oden has painstakinly detailed out. Reading the strategies executed and unfolded was like watching a movie progressing frame by frame but not knowing which direction it will pan out. Love it.
Scott Oden's first book was a lot more of a hack-and-slash adventure story with one bloodbath after another, and kind of started to bore me toward the end. But it was obvious that he knew his history and could paint a vivid, detailed picture of the ancient world. With Memnon, Scott Oden is really coming into his own as a writer. It's much more of a epic, with both characters and battles that feel a lot more realistic than his first book. The simmering romance between Memnon and the woman who's married off to his brother for political reasons-and Memnon's struggle between duty and love-is especially good. This is a thrilling read that totally absorbed me.
Recommended for all lovers of historical fiction! Scott Oden's second novel , Memnon, is an astronomical improvement over his first novel, Men of Bronze. A great story for the one true adversary of Alexander the Great.
A little drawn out but definetly a good read.
I love reading a book that is full of action combined with historical accuracy. It really brings charictars and history to life.
Memnon of Rhodes was one of the few war heroes of ancient times who gave his enemy Alexander the Great a run for his money. The book follows Memnon's various battle campaigns at great length, with excellent (and sad) descriptions of war and its human cost. In a refreshing departure from most novelists' infatuation with Alexander, he is depicted here as one whom Memnon respects for his generalship, but whose legendary charisma Memnon finds non-existent! The moving love story of Memnon and the beautiful and clever Barsine softens this tale of bloodshed and battle. Though Mr. Oden's descriptive powers are impressive, I ranked this only four stars due to lack of a map, which is usually provided in works of historical fiction. Although I was aware of the general setting of the story in and around the Aegean Sea, the rapidly changing locations combined with ancient names made for confusion as to where exactly things were taking place. Pella, Assos, Adramyttium, Deidamia, the Hebrus Valley, the plain of Adrasteia - Huh?? Where the heck were all these places? A map would have helped in following this exciting story.
Being of Greek descent and having been born and raised on the Island of Rhodes, Memnon dreams that he will become the equal of his hero Achilles. However, when his father was beheaded during an uprising, Memnon fled his hometown barely escaping with his life. He becomes a mercenary for hire joining the militia of a Persian provincial governor as a lieutenant. --- He quickly realizes emulating his hero Achilles is not his fortitude, as he proves an able military strategist. When Alexander invades Asia Minor, Persian King Darius III hires Memnon as a general officer to defeat his foe and repel them back to Macedonia. The ensuring battle makes one of these fierce leaders a name for the ages and the other a footnote buried in encyclopedia. --- MEMNON is a superb ancient biographical fiction novel of a leading figure of the fourth century BCE who fought against Alexander and obviously lost as he became the footnote while his opponent became one of the Greats. The story line is action-packed yet provides the audience a deep look into Aristotle¿s Greece, Alexander¿s Macedonian Empire, and Darius¿ Persia. Though confessing that he was forced to 'have taken spectacular liberties' to fill the holes in the historical record, Scott Oden, as he did with the powerful MEN OF BRONZE, provides a fantastic fascinating ancient historical tale focusing on the exploits of Alexander¿s most capable opponent whose scorched earth advice on preventing the invaders from a sure win was rejected. --- Harriet Klausner