Monday, January 19, 2009

Goat Song

Goat song - A Novel of Ancient Greece by Frank Yerby is set in the Peloponnesian War (5th century BC). Goat song means tragedy = song at the sacrifice of a goat. This book is rich with details of life at that time [ancient Greece]. Most of the men seem to be homosexuals.

The hero is Ariston, a handsome Spartiate (they say he is as beautiful as Dionysus) , who is only 17 when the novel begins. As hinted by the title, his life is a tragedy. He is caught by the Perioeci (the Dwellers Round, who are freemen, but the Spartans treat them almost like slaves.). A girl helps him to run away. The girl will later die horribly. Ariston cannot stop blaming himself and since then it seems he will never be happy. He also believes he is the cause of his father and mother's deaths. He then goes to the war against the Athenians, gets caught, and is sold to a bathhouse as a slave. Ariston is only free from the bathhouse when one of the richest men in Athens adopts him to replace his dead son. To be able to keep his promise to marry an Athenian citizeness, Ariston will go again to a war against the Spartans.

There are also ancient Greece real characters like: Socrates, Euripides, Plato (not much mentioned here), Critias, Sophocles, Alcibiades...

Ariston's love story with Cleothera, a slave from Massalia (=Marseille) is very moving. He has bought her for his friend without seeing her first, so when he does, it is too late. Plus, he has a promise to marry another girl, who in fact doesn't love him and vice versa. When he can keep Cleothera as her mistress, his wife drives her away. When he meets her again four years later, she has been with another man.

Interesting to note that when Ariston goes to war against the Spartans in order to gain his Athenian citizenship, it is mentioned that in that time King Darius the Great rules Persia. I believe this is the same King Darius mentioned in the Book of Daniel.

From all Frank Yerby I've read, Goat Song is one of the bests. My other favourites are: The Saracen Blade and The Odor of Sanctity.

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