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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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The Iniquity of Oblivion Blindly Scattereth her Poppy
I was always fascinated by the story of Herostratus, the young man who is said to have destroyed the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, just so that his name would go down in history. Well, he got his wish.

I wonder how easy it would have been to destroy a large (110x55m) temple, without explosives or even paraffin? Weren't those things made of stone? It's actually quite an impressive feat, in its way.

The online Encyclopædia Britannica refers to Herostratus as a "madman", which seems harsh. At least, it's a very common form of madness - the last infirmity of noble mind, as Milton put it. And at least Herostratus didn't kill anyone - unlike Alexander the Great, who was born the day the temple burned and was clearly driven by similar motives, at least to judge by the number of cities he named after himself.

I read The Persian Boy recently, a novel about Alexander, so I know that Alexandria Bucephalous on the Wikipedia list is named for Alexander's horse! And that Bucephalous means Oxhead.

The book is pretty great, and totally romanticizes Alexander, and in her author's note Mary Renault says stuff about how all that killing he did wasn't immoral in his own day, "In his time the issue was not whether, but how one made it" (war) (really?). She clearly had a major thing for Alexander and wrote two other novels about him (I bet they're amazing too). As well as a biography (I bet it's super-romanticized too).

No small part of why I like The Persian Boy is the hero-worship, I'm sure--not only Renault's own (though the term worship is too fawning for her tone, which is measured) but her characters'--but then I tend toward hero-worship myself, I really like reading about superhuman excellence, and others' reactions to it (worship). And I have to remind myself that Great Man etc. is a myth. And a toxic one!

I love that trilogy! The hero worship is channelled through a character's mouth, but it's totally Renault's own, too.

I think The Persian Boy is probably the pick of the bunch, objectively speaking, but I have a fondness for the last, Funeral Games, too, which shows that Alexander could dominate as much by his absence as by his presence. On the Great Man thing, there's a lovely bit where Alexander's sister (her name escapes me) attempts to lead an army of her own, in something of a "Well, if he could do it!" spirit, only to discover the enormous command of unspectacular detail required (logistics, supply lines, terrain, weather) beyond mere bravery or even charisma. Then (a little late) she realises that a lot of Alexander's greatness was hidden below the surface - not unlike a man becoming President and discovering to his surprise that the job is not only time consuming, but actually rather difficult!

Edited at 2017-06-03 07:28 am (UTC)

Yay! I had to restrain myself from going straight on to Funeral Games after finishing The Persian Boy. Restrain because I have made up a reading list that I'm trying v. hard not to deviate from, for discipline's sake!

not unlike a man becoming President and discovering to his surprise that the job is not only time consuming, but actually rather difficult!


That's a melancholy thought, about oblivion falling haphazardly, and the builders and makers sometimes being forgotten, and the destroyers' names living on. I've been glad to see some reaction against that of late, with newspapers and other media playing down (or just not mentioning) the names of mass killers.