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Owls to Athens (Hellenistic Seafaring Adventure) Hardcover – Nov 2004


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Forge (Nov 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765300389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765300386
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 16.1 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,875,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
This is the last book in the Hellenic Traders series. I have to say I'm going to miss it despite its episodic narrative and lack of momentum. They offer a leisurely stroll through the Hellenic world unlike any you're likely to see. This time Menedemos and Sostratos are finally getting to Athens. But this isn't the Athens most people think of, the Athens of the 5th Century democracy with their empire. This is the Athens of dictators and sycophants. Philosophers and playwrights too, but they can hardly be compared to the greats like Socrates and Euripides. Only Menander is known today.

As ever we get the guided tour of classical Greece. This time it's in Athens so for a change I can actually put an image to the things that they're seeing. There is a special sort of thrill to reading about something taking place somewhere you can actually go. Most of the rest of these places have been built over so much that there isn't anything left. The big thrill this time is the Dionysia, a debauched festival full of wine and plays and loose women.

The thing that really struck me this time was how lonely it must have felt living in the classical world. It was obvious from the beginning of the series how unfair it was to be a woman in Greece. They weren't allowed to leave the house except on rare occasions and then they wore a veil. Even inside the house they were expected to stay in their section of the house and could only see guests when their husband gave his permission. Love-matches were basically nonexistent. But it sucked for the men too (and not just the boys who so often filled in for women). Both Sostratus and Menedemos are looking for love, although they express it in different ways. Menedemos hunts men's wives.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Turtledove (Turteltaub) Has Done It Again! 23 Mar 2005
By Oldest & Wisest - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Another excellent historical novel by acclaimed science fiction write Harry Turtledove (here writing under the penname of H. N. Turteltaub), the fourth in his series of books about the adventures of Menedemos and Sostratos, two cousins living on the island of Rhodes shortly after the death of Alexander the Great, who once a year take their family's ship on a trading expedition around the Eastern Mediterranean.

As you would expect from Turtledove he combines high entertainment values with careful attention to historical accuracy, following in the tradition of the late great L. Sprague De Camp, another sf author who also wrote a few wonderful historicals. As was the case with De Camp I admire the fact that Turtledove's characters are recognizable human beings, even the historical figures portrayed, who talk and act in realistic ways, rather than being stick figures who recite pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue as in so many other historical novels set in this period.

In this chapter, the two cousins, Menedemos, the man of action (and devil with the ladies) and Sostratos, the intellectual, travel to the great city of Athens, only to find themselves in the middle of a political and military crisis when the city is invaded and occupied by the forces of Demetrious, son of Antigonus, one of the successors to Alexander the Great. It is already a bitter homecoming for Sostratos, who had studied in one of the famous philosophical schools in the city earlier in his life and had dreamed of returning, only to find, as another philosopher put it, that you can't step in the same river twice. Meanwhile, Menedemos continues his roving ways, in this book seducing not only the wife of his host in Athens, but dangerously advancing his flirtation with his own father's young wife Baukis back in Rhodes.

If you have enjoyed any of the first three books, you will like this one. I have heard there will be seven in all, obviously leading up to a climax with the siege of Rhodes itself by the forces of Antigonos in the last book or two. (I am hoping to see cameo appearances of at least some of the characters from L. Sprague De Camp's book on this period, THE BRONZE GOD OF RHODES.)

My only slight reservation is that this is the first book that has failed to put any of the characters in real jeopardy for a dash of suspense (unless you count Menedemos' constant fears that his adulteries will be discovered by the husband's involved) so it is a little less exciting than previous volumes. But in my opinion a mediocre work by Turtledove is usually more entertaining than most others best work. Still highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Fun and logical in the series but needed a kick 5 Feb 2006
By JVerkuilen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read all of the Menedemos/Sostratos books since stumbling across The Gryphon's Skull about two years ago. They are a fun way to spend a quiet afternoon or to keep you interested on the bus, which is more than one could say about a lot of contemporary literary fiction. While I won't say they're *serious* or especially deep, personally I don't need that and they give us an idea of what it would be like to live in that time period.

Owls to Athens is a nice book but it seemed to lack the energy of the first three. As another reviewer noted, our heroes are never in any real danger and it's when they are that the book often comes alive. The scene where they have to escape from the Roman galley in Wine Dark is good, as is the pirate attack in Gryphon, or the bandit attack in Sacred Land. Nothing like a good action scene to get the blood up now and again! Also, the travelogue aspect of the earlier novels is missing as they spend pretty much their entire time in Athens, except the start of and end of scenes in Rhodes. In the area of character development, however, Owls is good. Sostratos finds out that what he thought he wanted he doesn't necessarily and Menedemos finds out that life can get... complicated, sometimes too complicated.

One thing to note about the series generally: These novels don't pull punches when it comes to the mores of the time, many of which are VERY different from ours. Sostratos is a pretty enlightened person for his day but he sees little wrong in slavery, for instance. (He mostly thanks his lucky stars he's NOT one and occasionally muses about how things might have been different if he was.) Menedemos behaves more or less like a Greek man of his day, which involves behavior many of us would consider unexcusable (though many modern people certainly do the stuff he's completely unapologetic about on vacation). If you're at all squeamish about such things, stay away.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An under-rated series 18 Aug 2007
By Breck Breckenridge - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This series by Harry Turtletaub is in my opinion quite under-rated and under-read, judging by the number of reviews. They are a bit sophomoric, but that's just the right age for teenagers who will be this book's best audience. Charming books. Recommended as a light read on the one hand and as an intriguing enticing intro to ancient history on the other.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Trading Season is Over 8 April 2013
By Arch Stanton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is the last book in the Hellenic Traders series. I have to say I'm going to miss it despite its episodic narrative and lack of momentum. They offer a leisurely stroll through the Hellenic world unlike any you're likely to see. This time Menedemos and Sostratos are finally getting to Athens. But this isn't the Athens most people think of, the Athens of the 5th Century democracy with their empire. This is the Athens of dictators and sycophants. Philosophers and playwrights too, but they can hardly be compared to the greats like Socrates and Euripides. Only Menander is known today.

As ever we get the guided tour of classical Greece. This time it's in Athens so for a change I can actually put an image to the things that they're seeing. There is a special sort of thrill to reading about something taking place somewhere you can actually go. Most of the rest of these places have been built over so much that there isn't anything left. The big thrill this time is the Dionysia, a debauched festival full of wine and plays and loose women.

The thing that really struck me this time was how lonely it must have felt living in the classical world. It was obvious from the beginning of the series how unfair it was to be a woman in Greece. They weren't allowed to leave the house except on rare occasions and then they wore a veil. Even inside the house they were expected to stay in their section of the house and could only see guests when their husband gave his permission. Love-matches were basically nonexistent. But it sucked for the men too (and not just the boys who so often filled in for women). Both Sostratus and Menedemos are looking for love, although they express it in different ways. Menedemos hunts men's wives. I never really thought about the dynamics of that before reading these books, but I can well believe that many women in this culture would be so desperate for any sort of affection or outside contact that they'd readily consent to an affair. And for a guy living in a world where they can interact with no women except for family and prostitutes, sleeping with a married woman is really the only way they can find a partner who actually cares. After all, it's not like slaves or prostitutes have any choice in the matter. Stealing men's wives always seems so cruel when it is presented in the texts, but Turtledove has seen through that to the lonely desperation that must have driven such dangerous behavior, though I don't doubt there was a lot of mach posturing as well. Sostratus has essentially accepted that love is impossible, but he is still looking for some sort of intellectual connection with his lovers.

This is the last book in the Hellenic Traders series. The other books in this series consist of Over the Wine-Dark Sea, The Gryphon's Skull and The Sacred Land.
Adventure in Ancient Greece 13 Jan 2014
By chewie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alot more interesting than the modern age claptrap getting published as novels today.
Sit yourself down in front of some pikilia and red wine, and enjoy an accurate historical novel that has got some sex in it, too. Sadly not graphic nor gratuitous. Would have earned another star.
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