Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Excerpt from my book

Here is an excerpt from my book (please review the previous post for the synopsis and also to check out my cover) :

Chapter 1
175 BC
Athens, Greece

Aristrates was highly regarded in Athens and also the proprietor of a prominent eating establishment or rather, tavern, called The Grotto of Aphrodite because of the huge naked statue of the Greek Goddess that straddled its doorway. Gigantic in size, it was a marvelous piece of work and was much admired by the men who frequented the street in which his tavern was located, just a short distance away from the Agora, or main marketplace, in Athens.

Although many citizens had protested to the city council at the inauguration and unveiling of the nude statue with its fanciful pose, its gigantic breasts and its suggested posture of invitation, some of the elders—ex-archon Philon among them—who had been invited to the function, merely laughed and told the women to avert their eyes if it offended them. The kneeling form of Aphrodite seemed to invite the people inside as the entrance to the tavern was framed between her lovely legs, with the outer edges of the doorway resembling the familiar parts of a gigantic vagina. To complete the overall effect, the sculptor had carved an engorged clitoris at the very apex of the opening, from the hood of which hung a ornate, carved wooden sign that simply read, ‘Enter my grotto, if you dare’.

The only concession Aristrates made to those who were sensitive or exhibited a sense of outrage was not to paint the edges of the entrance a bright red, a strong suggestion made by the artist, but to instead, leave the original white marble finish untouched. The wooden sign had been a finishing touch at the behest of Aristrates, despite Aristophanes’ protests—the famous sculptor of the times who designed and sculpted the entire statue in his workshop near the famed Acropolis, the place where all the temples were located. Enraged, he had refused to attend the inaugural event, saying, that as an artist, he refused to be upstaged by a crass merchant.

When a formal complaint was lodged by another prominent citizen of Athens barely days after the formal unveiling of the statue, filed by none other than his hated business rival, Triton, Aristrates coolly responded to this unethical tactic, saying the statue was erected in memory of his beloved first wife and did not actually represent the Goddess of Love. He also produced a letter written by him to the sculptor as evidence, stating he wanted to commission a statue in memory of his first wife. How was he to blame if the memory of his wife’s form closely resembled the famous statue of Aphrodite in her shrine on the Acropolis? As to her suggestive posture, he said that was the way he remembered her and no one should fault a man’s memory and his indulgence in sharing it with the public. If it offended anyone but his rival, who clearly had ulterior designs and wished to eliminate any competition, they could avoid the street altogether as he was not forcing anyone to visit his establishment.

Although Athens was subject to the rule of the Macedonian kings at the time, the city tended to function according to its Hellenistic traditions. Citizens were encouraged to openly discuss their issues if there were matters that affected the community at large, and any one of them could bring a complaint of a civil or criminal nature before the council.

The elders in the council were more worried at the time with the ambitious Romans, who were obviously planning on annexing Greece at some time in the future. Although they were friendly and appeared to court them, none of the Athenians were fooled, as they all feared the Romans’ rapacious appetite for land. Soon, all of Greece would be no more than a Roman province, predicted one of the archons, a grim-faced elder named Pedius.

The council was composed of a group of nine magistrates, known as archons, and decided any civil complaints filed by one citizen against another. As Aristrates was related through his mother’s family to Ariston, the current eponymous archon, or the chief of the council, he had no problem with convincing his distant cousin that the statue did not offend anyone, least of all those who were devoted to the worship of Aphrodite. Based on all the arguments made by Aristrates, the council unanimously voted to throw out the complaint and threatened to levy a fine on Triton if he sought to bring any other actions without evidence to back his claims.

The enmity between the two men was legendary and encompassed various businesses they had interests in. The taverns were a way of showing off their status and power and although they were engaged in their own private war, they made every effort to be polite in public, even to the extent of visiting each other’s establishments frequently.

Aristrates was a wealthy, well-connected man of means, with a penchant for fine food and drink from his early youth, following the dictates of Epicurus, who had died a couple centuries previously. However, Epicurus had left behind a legacy, a school of thought that many in the city widely embraced, devoting their lives to sybaritic pleasure, as opposed to finding ways to save their city from certain conquest by Rome. Unfortunately, in his specific case, Aristrates followed the famous philosopher’s teachings too literally and had gained a number of pounds over the years. He loved to carouse with his friends and at weekly symposions or drinking parties, a popular event among the rich in that city, he indulged in gargantuan feasts that frequently lasted all night. Unable to brook his gluttony, two of his former wives had already abandoned him, with one angrily returning back to her father’s house within a week of their marriage, and the other eloping with a slave.

Aristrates pretended to remember his first wife as Aphrodite, as she had been truly beautiful when he married her, although she was nowhere near as voluptuous as her statue that graced the entrance to his tavern. Unfortunately, no one could corroborate his memory as her entire family had left Athens many years ago.

Pondering his limp condition one morning after lifting folds of ugly belly fat to inspect his member more closely, Aristrates decided he needed new blood to revitalize his spirits. Looking for a young girl this time, maybe twenty years, but no more, he wanted a spouse who could satisfy his carnal needs, as it had been over a year since any wife had graced his bed. He remembered with a wistful sigh his last wife, Hypatia, who had become enamored of a slave in his tavern. This particular slave had worked as a juggler, conjurer, flute player and even erotic dancer as he used to entertain them while Aristrates relaxed in his andron, or dining room, along with several of his friends during his weekly symposion. Drinking parties were common in his house, which was attached to the tavern itself, and opened directly into his vast, airy and open courtyard. His house had been built around the courtyard, with most of the rooms looking into that space from a height of two stories.

Hypatia, although forbidden to attend these parties as no wives were allowed, since they were wild and often culminated in drunken orgies, invariably watched the dance at the very end of the event from behind a column. She would be watching the slave, Pinar, a tall, handsome youth of around twenty, perform his erotic dance with one or more of the slave girls. Pinar was from a mysterious land to the east, a former province of Persia. Since Alexander’s death, this tiny kingdom had declared itself independent of any outside rule and occasional skirmishes with the Greek city states resulted in the capture of slaves. As their people were highly trained in all forms of lovemaking, they were highly prized as slaves in Athens for their skills, particularly their erotic talents. When Pinar was not dancing, he was taking care of his mistress and Aristrates had caught him pleasuring Hypatia on numerous occasions within the house, or even in the courtyard.

At the time, he had thought nothing of it, thinking it to be a passing fancy of hers. Feeling secure in the love she appeared to bear him, he did permit her to enjoy herself with any slave she desired,. In fact, he considered himself liberal and magnanimous and even boasted to his friends that he allowed his wife a degree of freedom seldom seen in Athens.

When she had run away with the slave back to his kingdom—Pinar claimed to be some kind of prince in his own land—Aristrates was extremely surprised, as she hadn’t even left him a note.
For days, Aristrates wept silently and drowned himself in drink, as he genuinely believed she had loved him, especially for the care, comfort and various luxuries he had lavished on her. That was it, he realized one day with a rueful smile, as he contemplated his appearance in a silver, polished mirror his slave girls held in the courtyard as he tried on a new snow white chlamys—a fine woolen cloak that he fastened to his throat with a jeweled clasp. He had given Hypatia too much freedom as his wife. He had permitted her to go to the Agora, to the Acropolis and anywhere she wished to go in Athens, since she had numerous friends throughout the city she liked to visit. She was always accompanied by Pinar, who was her body slave and bodyguard, as he was skilled in various fighting arts, a true prodigy. Aristrates often wondered if he would have been a champion athlete if he had been born a Greek.

At the moment, Aristrates was really tired of his two personal slave girls, who performed more out of compulsion than from any kind of affection. Ever since his wife had left him, the numerous women he enjoyed on a daily basis left him unsatisfied and empty. If only he could rescue a girl from an impoverished existence and give her every luxury imaginable, perhaps she would respond to him with some feeling, some spark of emotion that would satisfy him. Ever since his wife had left him, he felt the need to be loved, to be desired by someone.


Blogger herakles said...

Interesting excerpt.. I love the period and am looking forward to the book, once it is published.

Please contact me a month before publication as one of the reviewers on my site may be interested in looking at your book.

8:07 PM  

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