Wonder Women of Greek Myth: Hecuba and Leda
Of all the queens in Troy and Greece, Hecuba and Leda hold a special place in my heart. They are the mortal matriarchs of the Trojan War epic. And they deserve their fair share of the limelight along with the likes of Helen, Clytemnestra, Andromache, and even Briseis. I wanted to talk about them side by side, because they share similar qualities as matriarchs of their prestigious families. We can glean quite a bit about our heroes and a mother’s love through their respective narratives. Hecuba and Leda are complex women, having suffered at the hands of the gods and their husbands. They fiercely love their children, almost to a fault. They’re complex and wise, powerful and tender, and uncompromising in their quest to establish control in their worlds.
I’d like to take a wee side road about portraying the feminine role in ancient Greek mythology. I’ve been recently reading a paper by Emily Hauser, PhD and author of the Golden Apple Trilogy, about the ancient women’s voices echoed in modern fiction, and how it’s in the minimal space they’re afforded in the text that gives us the latitude to explore who they were, contemplating their motivations, goals, and achievements in their own right. (Emily Hauser’s paper “There is another story: Writing after the Odyssey in Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad” is available at her Academia.edu account.) It got me thinking about how privileged I feel to be writing about all the lovely female characters, which for the most part, hold pivotal positions in the most powerful stories, yet are relegated to being foils or temptations for the male characters, or the objects of illicit desires and subjects of kidnapping and rapes. So, let their voices RISE in modern song.
QUEEN HECUBA is barely mentioned by Homer, yet she undoubtedly played a key parental role in raising Hektor, the greatest defender of Troy. In the tension between Hektor and Achilles, we see a mother’s deep devotion and agony as she’s helpless to keep her grown son safe from the notorious killer, Achilles. For a mother, there’s no such thing as forgetting that your child was once young. You carry them, suckle them, and in return they drank in your presence. Even as a grown man stands before you, rugged and bearded, shoulders wide enough to crush a bull—you can still see the little boy beneath the layers of years. Surely, Hecuba had that kind of bond with her son, Hektor. How might this relationship have evolved? How might she have influenced her son’s maturity and prince hood; his priorities, loyalties, and sense of responsibilities? And most importantly, by looking at Hektor’s story what can we hear Hecuba saying?
We have to go back to the beginning. Hecuba was Priam’s second wife, who became the primary wife and mother to almost 2 dozen royal children. Hektor was likely the first child they had together, as well as the first son with Paris being the second son. Because Hektor was the first born, he probably remembered the baby Paris, who disappeared. Perhaps he knew exactly what happened, maybe not. It doesn’t really matter, only that he was there to witness the effects on his mother. He certainly would’ve remembered his mother’s grief and sadness, because prophesy or not a mother doesn’t forget a child she loses for whatever reason. Because Hecuba’s voice is silenced in the myth, we’ve freedom to explore what she felt by looking at her son’s marriage and her desperate efforts in the Iliad to persuade Hektor not to fight Achilles.
I think Homer (whoever he/she was) understood the implied complexity of Hecuba and Hektor’s relationship on some level. Their marriages are mirrors of each other, and becasue of that we can see and hear a Hecuba more clearly. There’s the implication that Hektor knew the pain his mother carried after the baby was stripped from her arms and afterward, when King Priam took concubines, BECAUSE Homer gave Hektor’s wife, Andromache, a barren womb until the 11th hour. This is a stark contrast to his mother’s fertility and her having to accept the existence of multiple of wives and concubines. No doubt Andromache’s barrenness troubled Hektor for a couple of reasons. First, that he couldn’t father a son, or daughter. Secondly, his only viable option was to take another wife or collect concubines. He of all the princes should’ve had a brood of children to succeed him, if we take Priam’s example into account. So, why didn’t he take a second wife or take a concubine? This is exactly the dynamic I delve into in the Homeric Chronicles, giving us a clearer vision of WHO Hecuba was.
In chapter 7, "A Prince and His Mother" I wrote:
FIVE YEARS, HECUBA thought. Five years and the ache for the son she’d never known still throbbed painfully in her chest. She’d grown accustomed to the hurt. Watching her children romping in the courtyard, the queen sighed. Little Deiphobus entertained his younger twin siblings with his wooden sword and shield. The youngest, Polydorus, nursed at her breast. She’d refused a wet nurse for all of her children after the loss of her second son. Rarely did she allow her children from her sight. The ache for her second son pulled at her again, never giving her peace. In truth, some days she conjured the pain to remind her of his little face, and some days she cursed the sadness and prayed to Apollo and Artemis to wipe her memories of him.
When Hektor appeared at the courtyard gate, she smiled widely despite her melancholy. He waved, making straight for her. Only he had the power to dull the hurt that had become as much a part of her as her hand or foot. The other children, although a source of joy, reminded her of the one she’d lost. Hektor’s presence was the only one not marred by grief. He was her Golden Prince.
Hektor approached and kissed his mother’s cheek. “Mother,” he said, pinching Polydorus’ bare foot. The baby kicked at his eldest brother’s attempted affection. “Such a strong leg for someone so little,” he laughed. “You’re sad again, Mother. I can see it in your eyes.”
Patting his arm with her free hand, she said, “Nothing can be hidden from my Hektor. Someday you’ll be a wise king.” Hecuba sighed, and her eyes found her son’s. “I’ll always be sad. I fear that if I’m not, I’ll forget him forever. And that would be worse. His memory is all your father left me of him.” She switched the baby to her other breast, adjusting his heavy weight in the crook of her arm.
A commotion across the yard drew Hecuba’s attention. “Deiphobus! Be mindful of Helenus! Cassandra, move away from the fountain! Where is Tessa when I need her? Tessa!”
From the balcony above them, Tessa called down to her queen, “Yes, my lady?”
“Come! Take the twins and the baby. They must rest.” Deiphobus laughed at his younger siblings. Hecuba added, “And take Deiphobus, as well.” The boy threw his wooden armaments down, kicking the ground, and mumbled to himself. “Truth be told, I’m the one in need of rest.” She rubbed the side of her swollen belly. “It seems I am forever with child. How was your training?”
Hektor placed his hand on the pommel of his short sword. “I’m much better with the sword than a spear.”
Tessa came to take the children. The queen handed her servant a very sleepy baby. “My lady, he is a fat one.” The nurse cradled him carefully in her arms and steered the gaggle inside, leaving Hektor and his mother alone.
“Where is my father?” Hektor asked.
Hecuba stiffened. “Where he always is this time of day.”
Hektor wrapped his hand around his mother’s, dwarfing hers. “I’ll have only one wife, Mother.”
“We’ll find you a fine wife, Hektor. A beauty in heart, as well as face.”
“If she’s as beautiful as you, I’ll be satisfied. But that is a long way off!” Hektor grinned, warming Hecuba’s heart.
Taking his mother’s hand, he pulled her up. “Come. I want to show you my horse.”
Hecuba stood reluctantly, putting a hand to the small of her back. “The stables are a long walk from here.”
“It’s not so far. Besides, you smile more when away from the palace.”
The stables dominated the entire southwest of the citadel’s lower levels. Spreading out as far as the eye could see, the horse fields were covered in tall, swaying grasses and low brush. From their vantage point, they could see horses running and kicking up clouds of dust. Pausing to admire the horses, Hecuba said, “Can you imagine Troy existing without horses?”
“I wouldn’t recognize our city without them,” Hektor mindlessly answered. “Mother?”
“I remember him, too,” he said quietly.
Hektor was tall for a boy his age, standing nearly eye to eye with her with his curly black hair shining in the sun. He is the kindest soul. She wrapped her arm around his shoulders, pulling him close to her. “You’re truly Troy’s greatest treasure.”
Hektor looked at his mother, beaming. “You only say that because you’re my mother. What else would you say?”
“I say it because it’s the truth.”
In Troy Fall of a City, they attempt to tackle the effect on Hecuba of abandoning Paris to death. Their Hecuba is at a strange peace with the decision, even though she and Priam have kept the truth from everyone; she doesn’t blame Priam or even the gods really. In fact, Priam is more distraught than she is and it’s Hecuba who comforts Priam all the while, defending the decision. They’re portrayed as an intimate and passionate couple. I find this VOICE and portrayal of Hecuba, unsatisfying. Perhaps, it’s because it’s a masculine writer’s attempt to create a strong Trojan Queen that any true regret and lingering grief was glossed over. Perhaps, a mother tormented all her life by grief somehow made Hecuba seem to the modern masculine writer as weak? Women who’ve lost a child know that in the quiet grief of loss, their deceased children remain alive. The life their child should’ve HAD emerges at each anniversary of death with thoughts like—Today, I would’ve had a 5 year, a 10 year old, or a 15 year old, etc. That’s part of a mother’s strength, carrying and living with this particular pain. And this pain is echoed at any time with a loss of a child at any age. Hecuba’s most passionate and telling scene, as a woman and a mother to Hektor was also incomplete. At the end of the day, TFOAC stripped Hecuba down to a two dimensional character at best.
The fact that Hektor never took a second wife is significant. In the Homeric Chronicles I explore his character as being a lifelong observer of his mother’s grief and heart break. He doesn’t set Andromache aside because he knows firsthand the grief his mother experienced at losing a child, and his mother’s pain at having to watch other women bear her husband’s children. If it was no big deal to have concubines and father children, then he likely would have because the Prince of Troy needed heirs. But we don’t even have whispers this was even in question. Perhaps, he observed his mother growing distant from his father, and didn’t want to risk losing Andromache’s love? Certainly, Hektor loved Andromache, but it was Hecuba, NOT Priam, who taught him HOW to love and honor a woman.
As for Hecuba and Priam’s relationship? Hecuba would surely have been a devoted and dutiful queen to Troy, but I’ve left room for the woman behind the crown. I think it likely she’d blame Priam for the loss of Paris and her years of grief. Watching your husband father a brood of heirs by other women, could certainly create an emotionally distant wife. That’s the path I took anyway in the Homeric Chronicles.
The most telling scene we have of Hecuba is in the end, when Achilles comes for Hektor. Hecuba has already lost several children to the murderous Greek and begs Hektor to stay behind the wall and live. Her agony at anticipating what his death would be, clearly evident. Fagles’ Iliad 22: 94-107 reads:
"And his mother wailed now, standing beside Priam, weeping freely, loosening her robes with one hand and holding out her bare breast with the other, her words pouring forth in a flight of grief and tears: 'Hektor my child! Look—have some respect for this! Pity your mother too, if I ever gave you the breast to soothe you your troubles, remember it now, dear boy—beat back that savage man from safe inside the walls! Don’t go forth, a champion pitted against him—merciless, brutal man. If he kills you now, how can I ever mourn you on your death bed? Dear branch in bloom, dear child I brought to birth!—Neither I nor your wife, that warm, generous women…Now far beyond our reach, now by the Argive ships the rushing dogs will tear you, bolt your flesh!' So they wept, the two of them crying out to their dear son, both pleading time and again but they could not shake the fixed resolve of Hektor.”
What happened to her son was worse than she imagined, one can only wonder how she survived the horrific scene. I think this image of a mother showing her breast is significant to Hecuba’s character. It’s a simple act carrying the most powerful message a woman can give without words. And to make my earlier point more clearly, Hecuba is addressing the mightiest warrior as “child” and “boy” not because she’s diminishing his prowess, but because as a mother her first instinct is to reach the little boy inside the man who she lavished her love and attention on, and who she was able to comfort.
By examining Hektor’s life, we see a Hecuba who is stoic, resilient, and strong. A woman devoted to her children, especially her favorite son, Hektor, almost to a fault. And this bond between mother and son is most evident when, in her desperation to save him from merciless Achilles, she set aside her modesty in front of the court by literally pulling her breast from her gown showing it Hektor, calling him out to ease her agony by reminding him of what she’s given him all his life: love, loyalty, and support.
Let’s turn to the Spartan Queen: LEDA is an intriguing character whose voice, like Hecuba’s, is mostly silent in the text. She’s the Queen of Sparta, wife to Tyndareus, and mother to four famous children: Caster, Pollux, Clytemnestra, and Helen. Yet, most of what we know of her is through her rape by Zeus and her quiet death.
So, I guess the best place to start is with what Zeus did to her. So many works of art and literature have depicted the union of Leda and Zeus as “sensuous” or consensual—but I think it was neither sensual nor consensual. By the balls of Zeus, it was a giant swan. A flapping foul. How can being set upon by an animal, or rain, of a horse not be scary? And the bestiality of it, Zeus or not, is horrifying. By making it “sexy” we diminish the trauma Leda suffered. Furthermore, she’s assaulted not once but twice by my count.
In the first 3 episodes, I debunked the 4 eggs in a batch theory, in favor of a more humanistic approach. There’s no way the brothers, Caster and Pollux, can be the same age as Helen, because they’re grown men when she’s a girl kidnapped for the first time. If you missed episode 1-3 where I talk about my ever-expanding a timeline, you go back and give them a listen. And because I don’t think the brothers were the same age, which means that Leda is assaulted twice by Zeus. Regardless, once would be enough to traumatize Leda, and this would definitely affect her future.
In Song of Princes [Sacrifice], I write the rape of Leda for what it was: awful and horrifying. Zeus used Leda as a tool to dominate and control his world. Clearly, Zeus is a master at manipulating. He doesn’t have to lay with mortal women, yet he seems not to be able to control himself. He’s a serial cheater, who has no respect for Hera, his wife. In a way, Zeus is a mirror of Odysseus’s infidelities, whose cheating we minimize because of his being enchanted by goddesses. Zeus, on the other hand, is the enchanter, the aggressor, the predator. And that’s just not sexy, it’s unbalanced. The power difference between Zeus and his mortal conquests is entirely tipped in his favor, and the women have NO choice but to give him what he wants. That’s what makes his “union” with Leda rape. There’s no equality between Zeus and a woman, only what Zeus wishes to take.
How would this experience affect Leda as a woman, queen, wife and mother? That’s what I thought about as I developed her character. I wanted to reconcile her humanity with the myth. Being raped by Zeus is no doubt a trauma. Leda feels degraded and defiant. It’s that reaction I use to build her into a resilient mythological woman. Leda understands her position in a patriarchal world. She knows she can’t fight Zeus or Tyndareus’ inevitable disdain for her violation. (On Tyndareus’ reaction, I took the Philip of Macedonia route where Philip was disgusted by Olympias after seeing her with Zeus in the form of a snake). She lives with his disgust, but must find her way to create her own world and what measure of control she can. Leda is a complicated, yet easy to understand.
**disclaimer: these are show notes and may note contain everything said in the podcast
Discover more about Queen Hecuba and Queen Leda in the Homeric Chronicles.
ONE, smoke and dreams
“There now, you’re safe,” Hecuba whispered, standing in a pool of silver moonlight. A cool breeze fluttered the privacy draping surrounding the royal balcony. Heavy with child, she craved the cool night air on her face and against her damp skin. “If I should lose you, my heart …” The baby kicked at her protective hands.
Reaching for the polished stone railing, she leaned into the night. Hecuba scanned the entire skyline of the Trojan citadel, reaching far into the blackness of the night. Throughout the city, the orange glow of oil lamps broke through the black night, dotting windows of merchant shops and citizens, reassuring her that Troy was at peace. The child stretched as the pull of the Moon Goddess stirred her unborn child. She closed her eyes to the city. By all the gods, I beg you, let this child live.
When Hektor came to the light, she rejoiced in his black curls and hazy blue eyes. She’d kissed each finger and each toe. It was the only time she’d ever seen her husband weep. Hektor was the Golden Prince of Troy. The beloved son. She quickly conceived again, but the joyous birth ended in mourning. And then again with the third. Hecuba, grief stricken and desperate, routinely made sacrifices to Apollo and Artemis. She’d even set up a private shrine to Eleithyia, Goddess of Childbirth, in her private quarters. But not until now had her womb quickened for a fourth time with the king’s seed.
Hecuba rubbed her naked belly again, and ran her hands up to cup each aching breast. Beneath the inky blue sky dusted with stars, she prayed. Please. What must I do?
Only recently had she even dared to believe that this child would come to the light as another proud young prince or princess for Troy. But as soon as she embraced the thin hope of happiness, the gods sent her a troubling vision. The jumbled images held no clear meaning, but try as she might, she couldn’t dismiss them. The figure of the foreign warrior, armored all in gold, haunted her even in the light of Apollo. “There can be no promises between lions and men.”
A light caught in the corner of her eye and she turned to see the dark outline of her husband’s body as he slid from their bed, holding a small oil lamp in his hand.
“What is it, Hecuba?” King Priam’s voice, rough with sleep soothed her from across the room. The king came up behind her, pressing his warm, naked skin against her nude backside. He set the lamp on the balcony railing.
Hecuba shrugged. “It’s nothing, my love. The child is restless.”
Reaching for her himation draped over a sitting bench, he wrapped the finely spun cloth around her shoulders. “You and our son will catch a chill.” Priam’s hands slid down the familiar curves of his wife’s widening waist, then up to the sides of her heavy breasts. His lips brushed against the nape of her neck, his warm breath raising the fine hairs along her arms. “You’re too tempting without a covering.”
She took his hands in hers, placing them on the widest part of her belly. “Surely, one of your concubines would please you more than I. What if it is a daughter?”
King Priam chuckled. “I love all our children.” He gently nipped Hecuba’s neck with his teeth. “You know there is no one I desire more than you.”
She swatted at his exploring hands. “Leave me be.”
He gently pinched her nipples, until they wrinkled into tight buds. “We’re no strangers to these discomforts are we, my love?”
Hecuba reluctantly accepted the tradition that as Queen of Troy, she’d never be the only woman in her husband’s life. After the loss of two heirs, the king’s councilors urged Priam to take other wives and concubines. Custom, after all, decreed that the King of Troy should have as many children as possible, securing the royal line and breeding strong, valiant Trojan commanders and warriors. When Priam had agreed, Hecuba realized for the first time what it meant to truly be queen. The king would be her whole world, but he’d enjoy a life separate from the one he shared with her.
In these moments of weakness and self-doubt, she reminded herself that he’d chosen her for love, not simply duty or lust. He proved his loyalty to her by sharing the royal bed only with her, his queen, every night without fail. No concubines or other wives desecrated their private chambers. Priam had never remained long in the arms of another woman after mating, always returning to her freshly bathed. She’d never caught the lingering scent of another woman on her husband’s skin or dress. But, from time to time, she’d catch sight of a beautiful woman with a rounded belly. And soon, little children with dark curls and dimpled chins ran about the halls and courtyard. Hecuba knew in her heart they belonged to Priam, but she could never voice her agony or speak of betrayal. The king would do what he must for the city.
“Why are you standing here, naked for all of Troy to see?”
“I couldn’t sleep.”
Priam sighed. “Is it the vision?”
Hecuba nodded. “I can’t forget it.” She pulled his arms tighter around her. “It frightened me,” she admitted. “I hear that warrior’s voice roaring in my head. No promises between lions and men. What does it mean? We’re at peace, finally. Aren’t we?”
“War is inevitable, Hecuba. I know why you’re fearful.”
“It means nothing, sweet wife.”
She shivered in his arms. “But the warrior—“
He leaned his cheek against hers. “Consult Iphicrates in the morning, if it will ease your mind. Now, come to bed, wife. I grow cold.”
Hecuba turned in his arms, catching the mischievous gleam in his eye. “You will keep me with child until I am old and grey.”
Priam stung her buttocks with a firm slap. “That would not be such a bad thing.” He swooped up his pregnant wife, protesting and laughing, and carried her to their bed. The himation slipped to the floor. Despite her growing belly, she wrapped her legs around his still narrow waist. He growled into her neck, biting and kissing her.
Hecuba nipped the square of his chin, and then grabbed his curly black hair at the nape of his neck, pulling his head closer so her teeth could find his earlobe. She kissed softly down his neck.
Untangling her legs from his waist, he positioned her against the pillows. “You’re a playful woman,” he laughed. “And you’ll pay for teasing your king with such kisses.”
Hecuba cocked an eyebrow. “How shall I pay you? I have no gold or silver, my lord.”
The king knelt between her legs; his eyes burned with passion. “You have buried your treasure and …” Priam bent down, ***EDIT sex scene*** (Sorry, it was a good one, too)***
Hecuba wrapped her legs around his thighs, digging her heels into his upper thighs. “Priam, by Apollo … now.”
When her pleasured moans echoed across the chamber, Priam roared his release over hers. They collapsed together, their legs tangled in the bed linen. With a contented sigh, Priam collapsed on his side and fell back into an easy sleep.
Hecuba stared into the dark for a long while, until sheer exhaustion pulled her into the restless world of nightmares.
APOLLO’S LIGHT, FLASHING off the golden helm and shield of the foreigner, blinded Hecuba as she gazed down from the dizzy heights of Troy’s southern wall. The stranger caught her stare, his eyes flashing blue fire, chilling her to the bone. She pulled her dark veil tighter around her face. The warrior hefted a bronze-tipped spear, leveling it at the man armored as a Trojan warrior. His helm hides his face. But I know him … how do I know him? It’s not Priam. But who?
From below, the foreigner’s voice thundered through the air, shaking the stone foundation beneath her feet. “There can be no promises between lions and men!”
Hecuba watched in horror as the golden armored man charged with shield tilted and spear leveled for a fatal strike. We are not at war? How can this be? The men crashed into one another, splintering their shields, tossing the remnants to the ground. With a roar, the tall, golden warrior circled and attacked like a lion. Death sang clearly in the clash of their silver swords. The queen’s heart pounded frantically, knowing one of them would surely die.
The queen opened her mouth to scream the burning questions: Who are you? Why do you fight? But, the words dusted on her tongue. She clasped her hands beneath her heavy belly. Not now. Not now. Dust swirled about the combatant’s feet, as they danced to their death. The shining warrior lunged with grace, his spear finding the soft flesh beneath the Trojan warrior’s shoulder. The foreigner laughed as the spray of blood splattered across his armor. The man whose face remained in shadow dropped hard to his knees, his chin bobbing close to his chest. Is he dead? Who are you? Why are you here? In that moment; Hecuba realized she stood alone on the rampart. Where is Priam? She turned to see smoke rising from the citadel. What is happening? Priam! Priam! Where have you gone? Why have you left me alone?
Warm liquid trickled down her inner thighs. Hecuba glanced down to see a pool of blood at her feet. Her fingertips bled as she gripped the edge of the stone wall, bracing for the birth. I cannot have the child on the wall. A searing pain tore through her, dropping her to all fours. Not yet. Not yet. She placed a trembling hand to her sacred opening, feeling for the baby. Her fingers touched a rounded object emerging. Screaming, she pushed for relief. In triumph, she pulled it forth, only to find she held not her long-awaited son, but a burning log. She dropped it, screaming and running from the wall.
“MAMA? MAMA, WAKE up now.” Little Hektor peered over the edge of his mother’s bed, placing his chubby hand on her arm. “Mama?”
Hecuba opened her eyes to see her eldest child. Hektor was a glorious boy. His eyes shone like two polished stones of lapis lazuli, a gift from the gods. The rest of him exuded Priam’s stock—the black curls framing a handsome face, the slight dip in the middle of his tiny chin, and the bump of Priam’s strong nose. Hecuba loved her son’s contagious lopsided smile the most. Whenever Hektor asked his father why they both shared the same chin, Priam regaled him with the story of how Zeus touched the chin of all those of royal Trojan blood. “It is a mark of honor,” he would say. “A mark of the princes and kings of Troy.”
The queen gently placed her hand over her son’s. “I am awake now, Hektor. Tell me, what have you been doing all morning?”
Hektor’s eyes rounded with excitement. “I was in the stables with Xenos,” he took a big breath, “helping with the horses.”
“As a Trojan prince should. What else did you do?”
Hektor’s face beamed. “I rode Ares for the first time.” The young prince loved his horse. Priam had purchased the stallion as a colt from the southern Troad where the finest war horses were bred. The colt’s sleek obsidian coat and the luminous white crescent stamped on its forehead set him apart from all the others in the royal stable. Hektor and Ares had become inseparable. Life existed this way for the princes of Troy. The Trojan tradition of breaking horses was a gift admired far and wide, reaching even across the storming seas. Some worlds revered their fast ships and others their monuments stretching toward the heavens, but the Trojans venerated their magnificent horses. A warrior’s worth extended to the mount he rode into battle, honor and nobility bonding the rider and the steed. And for a chosen few, the god Apollo gifted the ability of communicating directly with the majestic beasts by whispering secret words into their ears. The gift had not come to Hektor, but Hecuba hoped it might be granted to the son she now carried.
“And how is Mighty Ares?”
“He grows strong, Mama. He ate all of the oats I carried to him.”
Queen Hecuba sat up, pulling the boy to her side. “Did you ride long, then, this morning?”
“Yes.” Hektor’s gaze fell to his hands. “But I fell off.”
Hecuba tilted her son’s chin up. “Xenos tells me all warriors fall off. Even princes and sometimes, even kings.” She tapped his nose. “With my own eyes I have seen your father tossed more times than I have fingers.” She held up both hands showing all ten fingers, wiggling each one for emphasis.
Hektor squinted in disbelief at his mother. “My father fell off that many times?”
“Yes,” the queen laughed. “Breaking horses is difficult when you do not grow up together as you and Mighty Ares have. Some horses never feel the weight of a man until they are already grown. They are wild, free spirited beasts.”
Hektor shrugged his little shoulders. “Someday, I will break the horses.”
“Yes, I am certain you will.”
Hektor’s eyes sparkled with the anticipation only an innocent could have. “And learn to fight.” He spoke of war as a game he’d play, running safety back to his mother’s arms.
Icy fingers squeezed the queen’s heart. Her dream of the foreign warrior, lunging gracefully with a spear poised for a lethal strike loomed behind her eyes. His voice thundering, ”There can be no promises between lions and men.” Hecuba willed the image to a shadow with a shake of her head. She recalled what Priam had said about war being inevitable. Was it a god-sign? A warning? A mother’s fear? Looking at her little boy, her heart ached. She wanted her husband to be wrong, to believe that war was an invention of greed that diplomacy and honor could wipe from their world.
The moment passed as quickly as it had overwhelmed her. It’s a woman’s burden knowing men will one day go to war. Since girlhood, she’d been raised knowing this was the way of life, but now, as a mother, she agonized over it. Men wished to be proud warriors, heeding the call to battle, holding their shields and spears aloft, and roaring their blood lust for battle to Ares as they charged headlong into the face of possible death. Fathers raised sons, and those sons raised more sons … all glorifying the field of battle and the dark God of War, Ares, for honor and song.
All women, even queens, faced the agonies of war’s aftermath. Bodies broken beyond recognition, bloody wounds requiring a steady hand to stitch them closed, and ruined minds to mend. All that paling in comparison to washing and dressing the dead for the funeral pyres, and when the smell of burning flesh filled the air, men swore under their breath it would be the last. Until the next season brought new challenges, and it all began again.
Hecuba pulled Hektor’s little head toward hers and kissed him on top of his curls. He smelled of hay. “You will be a great warrior someday, my little Hektor, breaker of horses, my golden prince.”
Hektor wrinkled his nose at his mother and crossed his slender arms across his chest. “I’m not little.”
Hecuba pinched his cheek. “Only to me, sweet boy.” Hektor leapt into his mother’s bed. She tickled him under his arms. Rounds of cheerful giggles bounced across the chamber, echoing out the open windows. Hecuba forced all of the frightening prospects of the future from her mind. She poured her affection and joy into the moment with her son laughing next to her.
He put his hand on his mother’s rounded belly. “Is he truly inside of you?”
“Yes, he is,” Hecuba said. “But, don’t be disappointed if it’s a girl. Kings need daughters, too.”
Hektor laughed. “I can’t break horses with a sister. I see a brother for me. We will ride together. Fight together.”
Hecuba’s eyes filled with tears. “Then, a boy it must be.”
HECUBA’S VISION DISTURBED Priam more than he allowed her to believe, stealing his peace with each passing day. When the priests summoned him, he traveled alone cloaked through the city he loved, the stone streets winding toward the citadel’s center where Apollo’s temple stood. The city’s inhabitants regaled their patron god’s part in building their fortress home in songs, holding many festivals in his honor.
Apollo’s temple dazzled with marble pillars towering to dizzying heights set against the expanse of the heavens. Paintings of gods and goddesses and their heroic deeds spiraled every marble column from cap to base around the outer perimeter of the temple. On each corner, a magnificent sculpture of Apollo held up the temple’s roof with the structure resting on each statue’s shoulders. A carved relief depicting Apollo and Poseidon building Troy’s great ramparts adorned the immense pediment above the temple’s entrance and black marble paved the entry.
As Priam passed beneath the great triangle, entering Apollo’s sacred space, he thought of his legacy, his immortality. For him, it lay in the hope that his sons and grandsons depicted his life in some glorious measure on a wall or column or in a song of his great deeds. Trojan kings may rule the city, but in the end it was the city itself that was the true inheritance of all Trojan kings. He must protect it.
The king walked to the cella, the sacred chamber, readying his offering on the plinth stone. Setting down the small basket of pearls and the shimmering gold crown of laurel leaves, he wondered if it was enough. In the morning, I will bring a fatted bull as well.
An errant pearl slipped through the basket, bouncing behind the wall of blue curtains where Apollo’s secrets floated as whispers into the ears of eager priests and priestesses. Sheer blue fabric shielded the sacred adyton from the direct gaze of supplicants, preserving the sanctity and the mystery of the god. Priam heard the pearl roll to silence. I have not brought nearly enough. I cannot carry the entire treasury on my back. Why was I summoned? Was it Hecuba’s vision?
A priestess with hair as pale as summer honey emerged holding the lost pearl in her palm. Her dark grey eyes looked on him with pity, as she placed the gem in his outstretched hand.
Priam placed it back with the others. “Gratitude.”
When her steady gaze probed his face, the black ice of her pupils pierced through all of his fears. “You are troubled, King Priam.”
“It is not every day one is summoned to the god.”
The priestess nodded. “That is true.”
“Why am I here?”
“Apollo demands a great sacrifice. Troy must be saved.”
King Priam shook his head in confusion. “But we are not at war?”
“The city will fall before a descendant of Aeacus, unless the boy dies.”
“Troy has no quarrel with the western tribes. Pirating along the southern Troad coast has died down to nothing. We bear the west no ill will,” Priam argued. Then … “What boy?”
“Your unborn son.”
Priam’s knees buckled and he caught himself on the altar’s edge. “It is a boy?”
The king’s mind reeled. “I cannot kill my own child. My son.” How could I do such a thing? How would I tell Hecuba?
“Then, Troy will perish.”
“Why does Apollo punish me with this task? Have I not made all of the offerings? Does Troy not venerate the Shining One above all others?”
The priestess folded her hands. “Do you remember your sister, Priam?”
Guilt surged through Priam’s heart. “I lost my entire family the day Hesione was taken from Troy. How could I forget?” The image of Hesione’s pale blue gown fluttering in the wind, her head bowed low, as Herakles dragged her off to his ship still haunted him all these years later. “Priestess, Apollo must know what happened to Hesione was not my fault. My father—”
“Your father’s legacy is yours as well. A royal daughter of Troy now lives among the Greeks. What was it, Priam? Cowardice or greed?”
Priam clenched his jaw, his face flushed with frustration. “I had been away. I am not responsible for my father’s dishonor. What else could I do in that moment?”
“What could you have done? That is what Apollo wishes to know. Gods test mortals in many ways. And you doubted Apollo.”
Priam’s face shook, the vein on his forehead bulged. “Where was Apollo when Herakles and his Greeks came to Troy? What happened was not because of me.”
The priestess remained unmoved. “Unless you obey him, Troy will be burnt to ashes, wiped clean from mortal memory. The wall will crumble to ruin and dust. The sand will drink the blood of Trojan warriors. And its women and children condemned to slavery. Is refusing this sacrifice worth the lives of thousands upon thousands?”
Priam’s hope of saving his unborn son slipped from his fingers. “Is there no other way, Priestess? I beg Apollo to take my life in his place. Just let my son live.”
“If he lives, Troy will burn. It’s that simple. There can be no oaths between lions and men.” She disappeared behind the blue veil.
Suddenly, it struck him. He’d heard that warning before in Hecuba’s vision. “Wait! What does that mean? About lions and men?” But the priestess was gone and he dared not follow her.
Priam’s heart sank, knowing Apollo refused a compromise. As the king, there would be only one choice, and as a father it was no choice at all. Priam understood, now, his complicity in the episode looming before his family and city. I was a coward. And deeper yet, he knew he craved the power of kings. I have brought this on myself. Hecuba … she’ll never forgive me. Perhaps he would yet find a way around this. Maybe Apollo tests me again? Maybe he will stay my hand in the final moment? There was time to win Apollo’s favor.
“WHAT NEWS FROM Apollo’s priests?” Hecuba could stand the silence between them no longer. “We keep no secrets between us.”
Priam stared into the hearth fire.
Hecuba could see the flames reflecting in his stony dark eyes. “Priam?”
“They say the babe must die, or Troy will fall.”
The words pierced Hecuba’s heart, stealing her breath away. Tears burned at the edges of her eyes. “Surely, you don’t intend to listen.”
Priam turned his wounded eyes to his wife. “I don’t know what I intend. If Apollo does not relent, I must choose between one life and thousands.”
“But it’s our child.”
Priam’s nostrils flared and his chin shook. “Do you think I am unaware of that? That I haven’t grieved in my heart for our lost children? Do you think I want this?”
Placing her hands on her rounded middle, Hecuba choked down her tears. “I beg you, make more sacrifices. Whatever Apollo wants, give it to him.”
Priam took a long drink of his wine. “He asks only for our son, nothing less.”
“Is there … no hope?” Tears fell from her eyes like summer rain.
“Hope.” He drained his cup. “That’s all we have left to us.”
I AM reading Dr. Emily Wilson's English translation of the Odyssey. It's the first time a woman has translated Homer's work into English. The fanfare has just begun and rightly so. I'll probably do a podcast about her work, because I love it so much. I've read several translations and used them in researching my work for the Homeric Chronicles, but NONE of them has touched me like Dr. Wilson's.
For example, as everyone already points out, she begins with calling Odysseus a "complicated man." Brilliant, because Odysseus is complicated. He's not straight forward in anything he does. He's tender and loving with Penelope and Telemachus, but he's also a murderer and a man who "skirts" the boundaries of his marriage. He's vengeful, but with good reason. A trouble maker and a charmer. And stubborn. Let's not forget stubborn. Despite all this, we love to love Odysseus.
Her word choices stand out for me, more than any other translation. Reading the scene where Odysseus is deciding when to kill the slave women (and mind you it's not a moral dilemma of IF he should, but a matter of WHEN he will kill them...this is one of the ways he's complicated: his ability to premeditate massive slaughter) builds such powerful imagery. I can see a mother dog guarding her puppies, teeth bared and growling at strangers. It's scrappy, fierce, and dangerous.
Dr. Wilson is equally descriptive with Penelope. I love the passage where Penelope has just been told that the suitors are plotting to kill her son, Telemachus. She's distraught because he left Ithaka without telling her and no one knows for sure where he is. So, she can't protect him. Her mind torments her like a trapped lion...What parent can't relate to that terrifying feeling?
She definitely spanked some magic out of Homer's Greek.
If you enjoy Greek mythology, you're going to love this new translation. I'm using it for all my podcasts on Greek Mythology Retold and for the continued research for the Homeric Chronicles.
(Disclaimer: these are my show notes. I do go off script when I podcast, but here's the basic framework)
Hello fellow myth lovers! I’m so excited to share with you the Greek world of the Homeric Chronicles. If you watched the movie Troy and loved it, or felt like you wanted more...If you’re currently watching the BBC One Troy: Fall of a City (or waiting for it to hit your Netflix playlist), this podcast is for you. You’re a Myrmidon. Basically, if you love Greek mythology in any form you’ve come to the right place. Shall we get started?
When I first began toying with the idea it was...what if you could read about all the mythological stories as one seamless tale? I thought, what if George RR Martin was telling it? It would be EPIC! CRAZY HUGE! Can you imagine the cast of characters? It’d be a celebrity Who’s Who of the ancient myth-historic Greek world. And because I love these stories, I got to thinking...what if I wrote it? No way, I can’t do that. Then, I thought, you have a degree in history, why not try? And the Homeric Chronicles was born.
That left me with the million dollar question: Where to start? How to begin? After piles of research, 25 gray hairs carefully dyed dark brown, and a bazillion cups of coffee later, I realized exactly where I needed to start: with Homer. But not just some retelling that was meant to get you to the “great war” or to take you through the bizarre journeys of Odysseus back to Ithaka...It needed to be MORE. Much more! But, Homer’s work in the Iliad and Odyssey definitely provide the backbone. I wove many other stories that touched on the characters in Homer’s work into the structure of the spine. The major heroes and heroines of Homer’s tales are entwined with so many other characters I had to dig deep, b/c it’s chronological, I had to make some hard choices. The original myth-makers weren’t worried about telling stories that made chronological sense outside of the story they were reciting. But for the Homeric Chronicles to be what I envisioned that’s exactly what I had to do.
I wanted to include the regulars: Achilles, Paris, Hektor, Odysseus, Menelaus, Agamemnon, Helen, Hecuba, Cassandra, Andromache, Leda, Deidamia, Priam, Tyndareus, Peleus, Thetis, and Chiron just to name a few. And include characters like Palamedes, the poor guy who unfortunately pissed off Odysseus, Tantalus the first husband of Clytemnestra, Oenone Paris’s first wife, Peisidike the Methymnaan princess in love with Achilles, well, you get the picture. Now, I was tasked with putting the myths in chronological order, and keeping them all easy to connect with.
It wasn’t until I fell in love with GRRM’s SOIAF that I knew structuring a story of this epic scale was possible. I take you along several characters’ journeys through five major kingdoms. And after the movie Troy ruthlessly cut them out (and I wonder if David Benioff wishes now that he hadn’t), I put the pantheon of gods and goddesses back in there.
On to chronology: The first chronological hiccup involved Helen, Paris and Achilles. Let’s start with Paris, in particular: the Judgment of Paris. Most people familiar with the story assume that Paris gives the judgment of the fairest goddess to Aphrodite and leaves to Sparta not long after. But, it just doesn’t make sense that way, not in the context of the larger EPIC tale. Let me explain:
The golden apple contest that caused the Athena, Aphrodite and Hera to seek Paris as the judge occurred at the wedding feast of Peleus and Thetis. These are Achilles parents. So, Achilles, the greatest fighter of all the Greeks has NOT been born yet. He’s the star of the Iliad. So, the judgment of Paris takes place soon after the wedding feast, before Achilles is conceived and born. Why does this matter? Because, we have to wait at least 15 to 18 years for Achilles to grow up, get trained, and father a son, Neoptolemus, BEFORE Odysseus can discover him on Skyros, dressed like a girl and call our hero into action. This means two things: Paris has to be at least 15-18 years old to be considered MAN enough to judge the goddesses (he’s not an 8 yr old judging 3 of the most powerful females in the story); therefore, Paris is 15-18 years older than Achilles. Most movies and books depict Paris and Achilles about the same age, or as in Troy make Paris much younger than Achilles. It’s all wrong. Paris is definitely Achilles’ elder.
That raises the next logical question: When does Paris meet and woo Helen? Because that is the EVENT that brings the Argives, Achaeans, Danaans to Troy. Paris couldn’t have taken off with Helen any time soon following the judgment because that would mean Paris and Helen would’ve been in Troy for years before Menelaus even tried to get her back...B/C we’d be waiting for Achilles to get born and come of age. Even if you take the whole Paris and Helen get lost in Egypt into consideration that still leaves too many years in between the kidnapping and the attempted rescue. Remember, no matter what, Achilles has to be old enough to lead the Myrmidons and have fathered a child before he goes to Troy, as other prophecies depend on it.
My research took me to Apollodorus (a 2nd century AD compilation of ancient texts) which states in 3.13.8 that Achilles was 9 when he was taken to Skyros, because Odysseus was looking for him due to a prophecy by Agamemnon’s seer, Kalchus. There is some consensus that Achilles left Skyros at about 15. But let’s break this down chronologically and logically.
1. If Odysseus is looking for Achilles when Achilles is 9 and that’s why Thetis hid him as a girl, then he has to be hiding there for years before he’s old enough to get the princess Deidamia pregnant. So, for all these years, what are the Greeks under assembled under Agamemnon’s banner doing in Aulis? Twiddling their thumbs? Sewing sails? Getting sunburns? If the consensus is correct (and we have to make choices to be consistent) at least 6 years (give or take) have to pass until Odysseus finds Achilles.
2. I recall reading that there were TWO calls to war that met at Aulis...the first one which assembled the Greek tribes went to Aulis was a bust b/c they needed Achilles, so everyone went home and waited...then returned...years later? after Achilles was found? This doesn’t make any sense...it would’ve been a monumental feat getting that many ships and men from all across the Greek world assembled just once, but twice? And in all his searching, Odysseus never makes it back to Ithaka to sneak a little love time in with Penelope? I don’t buy it.
3. What makes sense in the human and mytho-historic terms is that Achilles is 9 when he goes to Skyros with Thetis fully aware about Achilles’ dual fate, and that some day he’d have a huge decision to make. When the call to Aulis came, 6 or so years later, that’s when Odysseus and Ajax find him. It gives time for him to grow up, father a son. I do give Achilles a few more years, rounding out his age at 18. Why? Because I used the historic figure, Alexander the Great, as a model. Alexander distinguished himself at Chaeronea at 18, so makes sense that a young man at 18 could indeed be seen to lead an army of warriors (Myrmidons).
Well, Myrmidons, times up for today. Up next time let’s take a deeper look into Helen’s age and how placing her story in chronological sequence was challenging, but not impossible.
What do you think about Paris being 18 years older than Achilles? that Helen couldn’t have been born at the time of the judgment?
How do you think a comprehensive timeline will change up the Greek myths as you know them?
You can find out by reading the Homeric Chronicles
Song of Sacrifice and Rise of Princes
Love to hear your thoughts, answer questions, and connect with my fellow Greek mythology lovers.
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Until next time, let’s take the advice given to Menelaus in the Cypria: “know that the gods made wine the best thing for mortal man to scatter cares.” Drink your wine and be merry Myrmidons.
Start the journey...
I’ve been trying to write the Homeric Chronicles for years. It started as a short story about Odysseus and Penelope. That morphed into this “brilliant” idea (rolls eyes) of 4 novellas focused on the 4 major heroes: Achilles, Hektor, Paris, and Odysseus. In all this uncertainty, I was only certain that I had a story in there (somewhere) to tell that was different from anything out there. I loved the Iliad and Odyssey. As I wrote, I realized the stories overlapped (like puppies in a basket) and wouldn’t progress the way I wanted them to. That’s when it dawned on me that although the Iliad and Odyssey are easily placed in chronological order, the other myths that bleed into the larger framework do not. Crap. Mind. Blown. The story soon took on a life of its own, oozing all over my desk with sticky notes, scribblings on the backs of envelopes, printed articles, and a pin board. I labored like Herakles to construct a linear sequence that wove Homer’s tales together and THAT’S what pulled in dozens of characters I had no idea I’d be writing about. Then, something unexpected happened. I found myself writing more and more about the women. Giving them voice and filling out their storylines. When I was in the middle of working on book three, Rage of Queens, it struck me (TO MY HORROR, I might add)—I was doing it wrong. (The good, the bad, and the ugly of self-publishing).
Feeling like a complete idiot, I was confused how to proceed. I took a huge step back to reflect. Literally, stopped writing. I needed to sort through everything about indie publishing: Was I even a writer? Was I even a storyteller? Should I walk away now? Then, I did what I usually do when I don’t know what to do: clean or renovate my house. (Can anyone else relate to this?) As I stared at my bare concrete bedroom floors, I knew it was time to tile. Bent over the floor, back aching, knees on fire...NOTHING! and I mean nothing happened. No epiphany. No light bulb moment. #F-word again.
By accident, I stumbled onto Alesandra Torre’s marketing class and Mark Coker’s Smashwords podcast. I found the encouragement to NOT give up and that indie authorship is fluid and flexible. I began a podcast (Greek Mythology Retold) which gave me a platform to talk about my research and character development. This invigorated me. (As of today, I have almost 8000 downloads!) Anyway, I dove into the second edition of my first book, Song of Princes, in earnest. Although I’d deleted over 6000 words, I’d added 20,000 more in what ended up as 14 additional chapters and several subplots. The structure of SOP was still there, but it was more than a second edition. By this time, I knew the cover didn’t match an historical fantasy. It was time for some HUGE changes.
Regina Wamba created a new cover that captures everything about the Homeric Chronicles. The title became: Song of Sacrifice, because so many characters had sacrificed so many things: love, time, and relationships to survive.
I’m hard at work aligning Rise of Princes with its new cover design, too. Thank you for reading this whole thing, if you got this far. Song of Sacrifice is on preorder and as soon as I can get Rise of Princes out of KDP select (big mistake! very big mistake!), I’ll upload it everywhere book are sold.
Click over to listen to a podcast. If you love Greek Mythology, or my series, you might enjoy one or two of them. Oh Hades, listen to them all!
Today, I have a fun surprise that I’d like to share with you. I’ve teamed up with more than 50 fantastic Epic Fantasy authors to give away a huge collection of novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a Kindle Fire to the Grand Prize winner!
You can win my novel SONG OF PRINCES, plus books like Mark of Destiny and Descension .
Enter the giveaway by clicking here: bit.ly/epic-fantasy
Sometimes people think being an historian is all about names and dates and politics, but it’s so much more. My favorite thing about studying ancient Greece is getting to a museum and looking at all the pottery. You get to see these beautiful works of art close up. Pictures just don't do justice to the sheer size of some of the pottery. My favorite place on the west coast to gaze at antiquities is the Getty Museum in Malibu, California. If you get a chance to go, you should. It's amazing not only for its art work, but because it's an actual replica of wealthy Roman villa complete with gardens and a giant pool.
While writing the Homeric Chronicles, I reference amphorae quite a bit because these vessels were commonly used to store wine, oil, and water much the way we use Tupperware. So, one vessel that intrigues me is the two handled amphora depicting Achilles and Ajax playing dice while trying to relax during the Trojan War. The vessel is from the Archaic Period (525-520 BCE).
I love this scene and decided to reference it in Rise of Princes, book two of the Homeric Chronicles. Playing dice humanizes the Greek heroes, making them reachable characters because they too needed reprieve from stress and bad days, as well as the grinding hardships of war. Enjoy the video :)
Start your journey with the Homeric Chronicles grab Song of Sacrifice today!
A generation before the Trojan War begins...
meet the royal families of Troy, Ithaka, Sparta, and Mycenae.
The Trojan War has turned into a bloody seige...
Achilles and Hektor rise to fame and glory.
Good Morning Everyone!!!
Today, I have a fun surprise that I’d like to share with you.
I’ve teamed up with over 45 fantastic historical romance authors to give away a huge collection of novels, PLUS a KINDLE FIRE to one lucky winner!
You can win my novel Song of Princes, plus books from authors like Margaret George author of The Confessions of Young Nero and Elisabeth Storrs author of The Wedding Shroud. I am so honored to be a part of this promotion. I wish you the best of luck and fortune!!
Enter the giveaway by clicking here: https://www.booksweeps.com/enter-win-50-historical-fiction-books-feb-17/
Good luck, and enjoy!
I had a dog named Alex, a chocolate lab I’d had since he was a chubby bear-cub puppy, who would on occasion freak me out with odd behavior. [He died a year and a half ago and I still miss him!!!] He would stand up on the bed, growling at the door or wall in the middle of the night. One time, he started barking furiously. I woke up disoriented and turned the bedside lamp on. My heart was pounding like crazy. Of course, I saw nothing as he continued growling. It was hard to scold him; after all, that was kind of his job wasn’t it? Alert me if he saw or heard something. He’d also growl at people he didn’t like. It didn’t happen very often, but when it did, it always made me think twice and watch my back.
So, is it possible that dogs can sense or see spirits?
I found a reference to this very topic somewhere I’d never really thought to look: Greek mythology. Homer’s Odyssey to be exact. I was re-reading the part where Odysseus finally makes it back to Ithaka and sees his son, Telemachus, for the first time in twenty years. He doesn’t tell Telemachus who he is until Athena gives him the sign. “From the air she walked, taking the form of a tall woman, handsome and clever at her craft, and stood beyond the gate in plain sight of Odysseus, unseen, though, by Telemachus, unguessed, for not to everyone will the gods appear. Odysseus noticed her; so did the dogs, who cowered, whimpering away from her” (Odyssey16.161-170).
First of all, let’s look at Athena. Homer says she basically appeared out of thin air and took on the guise of a tall woman. And she was clearly visible to Odysseus and the dogs, but not to Telemachus. That sounds a lot like the way we’d describe a spirit or ghost manifesting, right? Athena chooses who can see her; just the kind of thing we might say about ghosts, appearing to some and not others. What I find interesting is that in her invisible form the dogs see her and react. They cower and whimper in her presence. So, in this instance, the ancient Greeks found it plausible that their domesticated canines could see things that mortal eyes could not.
I guess I wonder why Homer found it so important to add this part to the story? What is it about dogs? Was this just pure invention on Homer’s part, or is this part of our human understanding that dogs somehow know things we don’t? I guess we’ll never know for sure, but the ancient Greeks thought it could be true. Personally, I think they do.
Back in 2010, I started watching this little show on Starz called Spartacus. I love ancient Greek and Roman history, so it was a great fit. I was blown away by the story, the characters, and of course, became a huge fan. One of my favorite characters was: LUGO. A tough talking, rough and rugged Gaul with biceps and abs for armor. And somewhere along the line, I donated to a worthy cause and ended up SKYPE-ing with Barry. He was so down-to-earth and funny. Kind. It made me appreciate him as a person as well as an actor. Ladies (and gents) may I introduce... Barry Duffield!
1. Me: I read that you came to Australia from UK as a boy, and then settled in New Zealand. What was it like growing up in Australia? Is it really the rough romantic place we see in films?
Barry: We arrived in Brisbane in 1968 and it was already a pretty bustling metropolis, even so, it was still a culture shock for my family. Fast forward four years to 1972 and a move to Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory, and now we're talking about the real outback with nine of the deadliest varieties of Snakes on the planet, Estuarine Crocodiles up to twenty-feet long, and just as deadly Spiders [seriously, I just fainted] - Rough and romantic, hmmmm, only if your idea of romance is based in S & M. Despite its ability to kill you in any number of ways; I love Australia with a passion.
Me: I'm terrified of snakes, so I chose a little bit lighter side of Australia's deadly snakes...still, I squealed...
Me: 2. You travel quite a bit. You recently went to Rome and came to the states. What was Rome like after your experience as an “enemy of Rome” in Spartacus? And where are your favorite places in the USA? What do you like to do when you’re here?
Barry: America, Asia, Australia, Europe, only one more continent to go and we've done them all, and I'm far from over the wanderlust. If I suddenly got to a point in life where money was no object I'd keep traveling with Susie, until we'd done it all or died in the process of doing it all. My will would state: "Cremate me where I draw my last breath and spread my ashes in the ocean or the nearest lake."
Rome was fantastic! Walking into the Coliseum was like stepping back in time. Spartacus sparked my interest in ancient history, so it was like a pilgrimage going to Italy. Our amazing guide, Alex Marriotti, put it very well, "You have more in common with these people from two-thousand- years ago than you do with the pioneers of two-hundred-years ago."
We'll always have Paris! We were blessed with an invite to RS3 in Paris and met with the Euro-Spartacus fans. That was a great experience. Then, Susie and I got to celebrate our seventeenth wedding anniversary on the Eiffel Tower, so damn cool! It's an experience we hope to repeat at RS4.
Rebels SpartaCon and the USA; the con that kicked it all off and the meeting place of Barry and Beanie. For that alone I will be eternally grateful to our gracious host, Kelly. Rebels SpartaCon 3 is coming up in April, so I'd suggest getting your tickets for this event. The meet and greets are an absolute highlight for me. I can honestly say that I haven't seen enough of North America to make a call on a favorite place, but I would like to settle in San Diego in the near future and travel a lot more of a country I have such a strong affinity for. [We'd love to have you state-side!]
Me: I just love this picture :) Thanks for sharing it with us.
3. Okay, I mentioned the Starz Spartacus series. I have to tell you I’ve been a fan of that show since it began in 2010. I loved your character: Lugo. The ending! The tears! What was that like being a part of that show? How did you have to prepare for that role mentally and physically? Any funny moments you’d like to share? I see you’re going to the SpartaCon in MD!
First up: I hope to make the Rebels SpartaCon, but as far as I know, I haven't been confirmed yet. Lugo was such a great character and I'd love to have seen the writers grow him more, but it wasn't Lugocus, hmmmm, nice ring to that title though. [I loved Lugo's character! He was so ready to battle anyone!] There were too many funny moments to recall, but two words will suffice: "Dustin Clare." He was behind most of the pranks. As for preparation; I was already a manic gym bunny, but even that didn't prepare me for Alan Poppleton's Boot camp hell.
Me: 4. You’ve walked that red carpet. Tell us what that’s like? Is it nerve wracking? Fun? How do you prepare for that kind of live experience? Have you even met anyone on the red carpet you were star-struck by?
Barry: I don't do "star struck." I've met a lot of big name actors and it's always come down to an appreciation of the work they do. But first and foremost, it’s whether or not they are nice people. An asshole is an asshole; regardless of talent, right? I think I could handle shuffling down a few more of those red carpets, but Susie's not so keen. I could feel her shaking as I held her hand and she bolted as soon as the interviews started.
Me: 5. I saw you took your wife, Susie, with you on the Starz Red Carpet for Spartacus. You two look really happy together. What a sexy couple! How did she conquer that warrior heart of yours? How did you guys meet?
Barry: Surprise, surprise, we met in Les Mills gym in Auckland. It was in 96, just before I started at the South Seas Film and Television School. We went on one date together and we've been together ever since. She is my sun and my moon, my heart. She is the one voice I listen too and trust above all others. She's a warrior in her own right, so I guess it takes a warrior to conquer a warrior. [Swoon-worthy!!!]
Me: All those cameras clicking and people telling you "look here" or "look there"...you and Susie handled that with grace! And yes, we can see you holding her hand. A true romantic. Your fans also want you down many more red carpets, for damn sure!
Me: 6. Okay, now for the furry love of our life, Alfie. I love seeing you and your dog. How did you get Alfie? What made you a dog person? What’s the funniest Alfie story? Does he literally go everywhere with you?
Barry: I was a police dog trainer/handler in the Royal Australian Air-Force for thirteen years. I guess I chose that path because of my love of dogs. When my police dog, Boots, died at the age of thirteen I discovered the true meaning of grief. I was broken. I think this loss and a desire to pursue my childhood dream of being in the entertainment industry was the catalyst for leaving the RAAF.
Alfie came along by pure luck. My dear friend Robyn knew of my canine history and suggested I become a guardian for a Guide Dog breeder. We met with the Guide Dog’s rep, Helen, and passed the criteria and found ourselves with a hump happy Labrador. [Hahaha! I just got that...hump happy. Haha.] Having Alfie on set was a huge plus, but he did gain unwanted pounds with everyone feeding him. He's heading towards ten years old now and retired from his stud duties. [Based on your pictures, he looks like he's enjoying the good life. Hugs for Alfie :)]
Me: 7. Not only are you an actor, but also a writer. Recently, you’ve published Deadman’s Land and Tandoori Apocalypse: Bombay Rounding. What made you want to write a comic book/series? I just read DL. Loved it. It’s not like anything I’ve read before. What made you choose the werewolf/WWII combination? It’s like Game of Thrones when you don’t expect zombies, but there they are!
Barry: I trained in screenwriting at film school and I've been honing my craft ever since. Someone a lot smarter than I once said, "You'll write your first ten screenplays and they'll end up in the bin." They were so right. The Deadman's Land graphic novel is based in the screenplay of the same name. I entered it into the Final Draft Big Break and Scriptapalooza screenplay competitions in 2013 and 2014 where it reached the quarterfinals in both. After doing so well, I decided to have it adapted by Steve Stern Graphic Novel Adaptations, LA. Tandoori Apocalypse is a four part graphic novel. My new GN, Hellion Rising, is in the works right now. All of these titles are under the distribution banner of Comics'2'Movies in Melbourne, Australia. [If you dig WWII stories and werewolves and don't mind a little "blood and sand" ...pun entirely intended... you'll love this graphic novel! Grab a copy at Amazon.]
Me: 8. You also have a production company: Dreamchaser Productions. You’re definitely a busy man. I see you’re working on a Viking project, as well as Hellion Rising and Hard Out. What can you tell us about these new projects? Any sneak peaks?
Barry: Because of the stage of development they're in the answer would be; no. We don't talk about anything that isn't funded and as yet none of these are. I can say that I currently have two TV series pitches going through the process and should know one way or the other, by the end of March. I'm co-creator, co-producer, and writer, on both. [Damn :) I guess we'll have to wait...]
9. Do you have any special interests or talents outside of acting and writing? Obviously, you’re a weight lifter. How did you get started on that path? Do you train by yourself, or have a workout partner/routine? How was it training for Spartacus? How do you find the time to stay on schedule? Any other talents you can share?
Barry: I am a total geek cinephile when it comes to film. One of my first jobs was in the projection booth of my local cinema. I collect antique movie posters, lobby cards, and other memorabilia. I grew up racing Moto-X and Speedway, so put me on a bike and get out of the way! I have a keen interest in martial arts and a basic skill set at best. I love languages and I'm currently immersed in learning Italian. I'm a Scrabble fanatic. I'm also a keen water skier. I'm pro-gun and anti-gun laws, meaning, I don't think any private citizen has the need or right to own a fully automatic military grade weapon and screening should be paramount. I'm not a bad shot by any standard. I was a competition bodybuilder and now I just train to stay in shape and screen ready. I train better alone, but I have had a few training partners over the years.
Me: 10. Final question, and it’s down to your philosophy of life. When all else fades away, what is the only thing that’s real?
Barry: "Nothing is more important than the love you share and the friendships you forge." ~ Barry
Me: Thank you Barry for sharing about your work and family life. It was so much fun working on this project with you. I wish you and Susie and Alfie all the best. We love you! #barryduffield #lugoforever
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