A Direct Link Between Myth and History?

legionxiiiiA direct link between myth and recorded history? You decide. An ancient legend, an ancient curse. A sacrilege is committed in Athena’s sanctuary during the sack of Troy. The goddess demands retribution. Two maidens, sworn to virginity, must serve as slaves for a year in her temple on an alien shore. Two new girls must be sent every year—for a thousand years.

Think it sounds far fetched? Think again. The Trojan War, if it happened at all, supposedly took place around 1200 B.C. So while this ritual may have originated in myth, historical evidence tells us that it was re-enacted annually until almost 300 B.C. That’s pretty close to a thousand years.

The Greek warrior Ajax’s rape of Cassandra in Athena’s Trojan temple was a sacrilege so outrageous that the wrathful goddess sank his homebound fleet, killing him and all his men, then wreaked famine and pestilence on his native realm, Locris. When the beleaguered citizens asked the Oracle of Delphi how to lift her curse, they learned that they must send the goddess two maiden slaves—you guessed it—every year for a thousand years.

What was it like, I wondered, to be one of those maidens chosen against her will and bound for an unforgiving shore? This is the premise for my novel Shadow of Athena.

Sixteen-year-old Marpessa’s name is drawn to be one of the unfortunate maidens. She and another girl must cross the Aegean to serve as slaves in Athena’s temple in Troy. As a part of the ritual, once they land they are hunted like prey and can be killed until they reach the sanctuary. If they survive their journey and their servitude, they return home at the end of a year but must remain virgins for life.

The day she is chosen is just the beginning of Marpessa’s troubles. Many unforeseen calamities befall her and the male slave sent to help her. Even if the two can find their way home at the end of their trials, Marpessa’s vengeful thwarted suitor awaits them there with murder in his heart.

To find out what happens, look for Shadow of Athena, by Elena Douglas, to be published by Knox Robinson Publishing in 2016.

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