Hippeis

Hippeis

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What is it about Greece?

Ten years ago this May, my wife and I were married at Fort York. We took our honeymoon on the Greek island of Lesvos (home of the word “Lesbian”) off the coast of what is now Turkey. I had taken Classics in University (a long time ago) and I knew a thing or two about Greek history. Or so I thought.

What is it about Greece? Looking at the Parthenon from the rooftop bar of the Attalos Hotel — lit with spotlights on a soft spring night — was beyond romantic. It was ethereal, graceful, the very soul of ancient wisdom, and also of history and democracy, two things in which I believe very strongly. Then, over the next three weeks, we wandered around Lesvos and saw marvel after marvel — a castle built on Bronze Age Foundations that rises, era by era, through Classical Greece and Rome and into Byzantine, Frankish, and Turkish occupation — a military monument to the passage of empires; the Archaic city of Mythymna, casually abandoned out the back of our hotel for our exploration; the Archaic city of Eressos, and Sappho’s citadel, a short hike away; a Bronze Age pier, built with giant stones the size of sheds, laid together perfectly and still functioning as a sea wall, four thousand years later.

There’s no end of it. I sat in waterfront cafes with my wife, and decided (like many thousands of philhellenes before me) that someone should write about all of this. But I decided that, instead of writing a modern novel, like James Chatto’s Greek for Love (which we read in situ) I’d write something I’d always fancied — an historical novel.

In fact, I wrote six novels before I got to write one about Lesvos and Chios — the Tyrant series. Although Lesvos creeps into many of them, they are, in the main, about the fascination intersection of Greek and Nomadic cultures around the Black Sea. The publishing industry has its own rhythms that can influence, or even dictate, the course of an author’s work. And at the end of the Tyrant series, as I’d started back in time to the Archaic, I was asked to write a book on Alexander.