Saturday, June 18, 2022

The Sacred Band: Three Hundred Theban Lovers Fighting to Save Greek Freedom


James Romm's The Sacred Band: Three Hundred Theban Lovers Fighting to Save Greek Freedom is a well written history of an important period of Greek and political history, roughly 382-335 BC. Readers looking for an emphasis on the Sacred Band of Thebes, however, will be disappointed. Romm tells us what is known about the fighting unit composed of what today would be termed gay lovers. But not much is known. If you expect this history to center on the elite force, you will be disappointed. It really doesn't, although it is centered on Thebes the city, and its fragile democracy.

The greatest lesson here is not the undoubted heroism of The Sacred Band, but the seemingly eternal struggle between freedom and autocracy. Thebes, like many Greek cites of the time, flipped back and forth several times in the 47 years covered here. This history shows how little the mass of the people had to do with these somersaults between democracy and dictatorship. It had to do with the wealth of the upper class who wanted oligarchical rule and the military strength of opposing cities who looked for Thebes' downfall. Sadly, both Thebes and its Sacred Band ended by annihilation. Literally although at different times.

The Book is worth reading, but ignore the title, it is just bait. I fell for it, and I'm still glad I read the book, although I might have felt better about it had the title been an honest portrayal of the contents instead of an attractive lure.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022


Brian Carland's Reviews > Arrowood

Arrowood by Mick Finlay

's review
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it was amazing

Finlay has hit on a great approach to writing Victorian detective fiction. His detective is the antithesis of Sherlock Holmes. Where Homes uses deduction, Finlay's William Arrowood uses his gut instinct (he calls it "psychology"). Homes is slender, smokes a meerschaum pipe, and is consulted by the upper crust of 1890's society. Arrowood is fat, smokes cigars, and is consulted by "everybody else." Holmes' chronicler, Dr. Watson, is a bumbling airhead, while Arrowood uses Norman Barnett, an assistant whose intellect often saves the day when the "turnip headed" Arrowood chases his gut instinct down a rabbit hole.

And there are plenty of rabbit holes in this first of what will hopefully be a long series. His client is the beautiful Caroline Cousture, who wants him to find her brother (she chooses him, she says, because she can't afford Holmes). Unfortunately, she has a bad habit of lying. Like, every time she says anything. And, her missing brother worked for Stanley Cream, owner of the Barrel of Beef and head of a gang that terrorizes all London and has bested Arrowood and Barnett before. And threatened them with death if he ever saw them again. But Arrowood promised the shapely Miss Cousture his help before he learned this and is a man of his word. (And impossibly stubborn to boot.)

It all leads to a merry chase that despite many a cliff-hanger leads to a happy ending for Arrowood and his intrepid sidekick Barnett. And, of course, Miss Cousture finds her brother, and the evil Stanley Cream gets his. You, the reader, may have found a new author to follow, and I am looking forward to reading Arrowood #2.