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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Turtledove Harry

«The Sacred Land», Harry Turtledove

H. N. Turteltaub is a pen name of Harry Turtledove


I have, as best I could, used in this novel the weights, measures, and coinages my characters would have used and encountered in their journey. Here are some approximate equivalents (precise values would have varied from city to city, further complicating things):


1 digit = 3/4 inch

4 digits = 1 palm

6 palms = 1 cubit

1 cubit = 1 1/2 feet

1 plethron = 100 feet

1 stadion = 600 feet


12 khalkoi = 1 obolos

6 oboloi = 1 drakhma

100 drakhmai = 1 mina

(about 1 pound of silver)

60 minai = 1 talent


As noted, these are all approximate. As a measure of how widely they could vary, the talent in Athens was about 57 pounds, while that of Aigina, less than thirty miles away, was about 83 pounds.


Something between drizzle and light rain pattered down out of the sky onto the city of Rhodes. Every time a raindrop struck the flame of the torch Sostratos was carrying, the drop hissed out of existence. “ Hymen! , Hymen!” Sostratos called as he and his father led his sister’s wedding procession through the streets toward the house of Damonax son of Polydoros, Erinna’s new husband.

Lysistratos waved his torch, too. “ Hymen!” he called, as Sostratos called. Then, in a lower voice, he grumbled, “Miserable weather for a wedding.”

“Winter’s the most auspicious time,” Sostratos said, “but it’s the rainy season, too. Chance we take.” He was a tall, gangling fellow in his mid-twenties who, unlike most men of his generation, let his beard grow rather than shaving in imitation of Alexander the Great. He’d studied at the Lykeion in Athens and thought the beard lent him the appearance of a philosopher. On a good day, he was right.

Relatives and friends capered in the procession. There was his cousin, Menedemos, only a few cubits away, calling out to the god of marriage just as if he didn’t enjoy adultery more. Menedemos was only a few months younger than Sostratos, the son of his father’s older brother, Philodemos. Sostratos was most of a head taller than his cousin, but Menedemos was handsomer and more graceful.

And people like him, too, Sostratos thought with a mental sigh. He knew he perplexed people himself; he thought too much and felt too little. He read Herodotos and Thoukydides, and aspired to write history himself one day. Menedemos could quote long stretches of the Iliad and Odyssey, and of Aristophanes ’ bawdy comedies. Sostratos sighed to himself again. No wonder people like him. He entertains them.

Menedemos, swaggering along with a wreath of ivy leaves and bright ribbons in his hair, blew a kiss to a slave girl carrying a jar of water up the street. She giggled and smiled back. Sostratos tried not to be jealous. He didn’t have much luck. If he’d done that, odds were the girl would have laughed in his face.

“May the marriage bring you grandchildren, Uncle,” Menedemos told Lysistratos.

“I thank you,” Sostratos’ father answered. He gave Menedemos more leeway than Sostratos was in the habit of doing. But then, Menedemos had been known to complain that his own father held Sostratos up to him as an example of good behavior. That made part of Sostratos-the philosophical part-proud. It embarrassed the rest of him.

He looked back over his shoulder. There was Uncle Philodemos, not far from the ox cart that carried Damonax and Erinna. Like the rest of the men in the wedding procession, Menedemos’ father wore garlands in his hair and carried a torch. Somehow, though, he didn’t look as if he was having a good time. He seldom did. No wonder he and Menedemos have trouble getting along, Sostratos thought.

Damonax dwelt in the southwestern pan of the city, not far from the gymnasion. Since Erinna, after the death of her first husband, had been living in her father’s house near the northern end of the city (and the northernmost tip of the island) of Rhodes, the parade went through most of the polis. Plenty of people had the chance to cheer and clap their hands and call lewd advice to the bride and groom. Knowing his sister, Sostratos was sure she blushed behind her veil.

With a final squeak from its ungreased axle, the ox cart stopped in front of Damonax’s home. His mother should have received Erinna into the household, but she and his father were both dead, so an aunt did the honors instead. The men in the procession trooped into the courtyard. His slaves had wine and olives and fried squid and barley cakes and honey waiting in the andron, the men’s chamber, where the rain couldn’t spoil them.

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