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.

Update on Publication of SHADOW OF ATHENA

The publication date of Shadow of Athena has been postponed to an undetermined date in 2016, most likely in the fall. This is because Knox Robinson Publishing has changed distributors. I’ve been assured that books due out in 2015 will be given priority in the new year. I will post the date of publication as soon as I learn when it will be.

When this change came about, I had already been given a cover design. I’m pleased and excited by the cover art for Shadow of Athena. Here it is:

shadow of athena

Title Change: ANCIENT WRATH Is Now SHADOW OF ATHENA

After a lot of consideration, I have changed the title of Ancient Wrath to Shadow of Athena. It was suggested to me that “Ancient Wrath” sounds as if it is about warriors and wars. Also, the “ancient” was confusing. Did it refer to a wrath that was ancient to our hero and heroine? Or did it just indicate that the story took place in ancient times? So “Shadow of Athena” is a better fit. The word “shadow” is mysterious and can suggest either threat or protection, both of which are applicable to Athena in our story. Look for more forthcoming posts about SHADOW OF ATHENA, to be published on November 24, 2015.

A Map for ANCIENT WRATH: The Ancient Aegean World circa 700 B.C.

AncientGreece scaled down2
Graphic artist Carol Collier produced this map of the Aegean circa 700. B.C., to accompany ANCIENT WRATH when it is published, so that readers can trace Marpessa and Arion’s journeys through the world of Archaic Greece. Click on the map to enlarge it.

The publication of ANCIENT WRATH is set for November 24, 2015.

ANCIENT WRATH Accepted for Publication

After years of unsuccessfully seeking an agent for ANCIENT WRATH, I decided to try my luck by going directly to small, independent publishers. The first one I tried was Knox Robinson Publishing, which specializes in, among other things, historical novels, historical romance, and fantasies. They asked for my complete manuscript, and in short order offered me a contract. This is the dream of a lifetime, and, needless to say, I’m thrilled! I’m excited to have found Knox Robinson and impressed with the high quality of the books they publish.

I still don’t have a publication date, but I’m a “featured author” on Knox Robinson’s awesome, newly updated website. Check it out at >http://www.knoxrobinsonpublishing.com/

About the Phoenicians

Phoenician Merchant Ship
Phoenician Merchant Ship

ABOUT THE PHOENICIANS IN SHADOW OF ATHENA

I’ve always been intrigued by the Phoenicians, and as soon as the plot for Shadow of Athena began to take form, I knew that my young hero and heroine would have an encounter with this culture, and part of their journey would take place on a Phoenician ship. After all, the Phoenicians sailed all over the Aegean. How could Arion and Marpessa not run into them?

How would they communicate? Phoenician was a Semitic language related to Hebrew—not even close to Greek. And how would the Phoenicians have reacted to two young Greeks adrift in the world trying to make their way home? They would not have been welcoming, of that I was sure. Skilled sailors with superior ships, they would have inevitably safeguarded their navigating secrets from outsiders. Taking on Greek passengers would have been an anomaly for them. At the same time, they were not above making use of two able-bodied young people who could help with the incredibly difficult chores of navigating a huge trading ship across the seas in winter. With these thoughts in mind, I let the story unfold.

Unlike the early Greeks, the Phoenicians were willing to sail at night and even during the season of storms. They could navigate using the North Star. The navigational equipment on board their ships was superior and extremely well organized under the vigilant eye of the captain’s assistant, someone known as the “look-out man,” whose job it was to see that all the equipment was well maintained and well stowed. According to Xenophon, the Greek Ischomachus said, upon seeing a Phoenician ship, “I saw the largest amount of naval tackling separately disposed in the smallest stowage possible. For a ship, as you well know, is brought to anchor, and again got under way, by a vast number of wooden implements and of ropes, and sails the sea by means of a quantity of rigging, and is armed with a number of contrivances against hostile vessels, and carries about with it a large supply of weapons for the crew, and, besides, has all the utensils that a man keeps in his dwelling-house, for each of the messes.”* The look-out man knew precisely where each piece of equipment was and how to reach it even under the harshest conditions and the most violent storms.

The practical Phoenicians did not keep anything extraneous or superfluous on their tightly run ships. In our story, Arion and Marpessa, desperate to reach home, offer their services in exchange for passage aboard a Phoenician ship. The Phoenicians decide to avail themselves of the Greek pair’s skills as their trading ship undertakes a challenging and dangerous journey. But they have lied about the ship’s destination: they are bound for the Black Sea instead of Greece. Marpessa is passing as a boy for her own safety. When the sharp-eyed look-out man is about to penetrate her disguise, Arion, all but chained to his rowing station, cannot protect her. And the two have uncovered too many arcane navigational secrets. What will be their fate once the Phoenicians decide they have outlived their usefulness?

*Phoenicia, Phoenician Ships, Navigation and Commercehttp://phoenicia.org/ships.html#ixzz2qnN7sx12