The Olympian, Eighth and Final Movement

The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  A film treatment in eight movements.

theagenes statueEighth Movement – The Exile Welcomed Home: Simonides completes his narrative.  The Thasians are humbled and now understand that it is indeed Theagenes and his statue that the Oracle refers to as “the exile that must be welcomed back.”  A year has passed and the old man returns to the island, thasoswhich has regained its beauty after the statue as been recovered from the sea.   “Thasos is once again a beautiful place … Theagenes’ place in history will be preserved…”

The Olympian, Seventh Movement

The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  A film treatment in eight movements.

go tell the spartansSeventh Movement – The Grave: After Xerxes’ million-man army has moved on, Simonides and Theagenes descend the cliffs to the killing ground.  Exhausted, Simonides cannot resist sleep.  When he awakes, he finds that Theagenes has dug a trench “100 paces long.”  Simonides is reminded of the 12 “Labors of Herakles” and thinks of this as “the 13th Labor of Herakles.”  Together, they carry the Spartan bodies to the grave Theo has created with his raw, bloodied hands using the remnants of a Spartan shield, his hands wrapped in rags like they were once wrapped in himantes, the boxing gloves of an Olympic champion.  When they have buried the bodies, Theo sleeps.  As he rests, the poet composes his famous epitaph “Go tell the Spartans …” and chisels it into a stone marker they place above the grave the next morning.  “We embraced one another for the first and final time,” I wrote, “… he bowed respectfully, turned and walked east …”

The Olympian, Sixth Movement

The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  A film treatment in eight movements.

leonidasSixth Movement – Thermopylae: Simonides follows Theo as the boxer flees from Olympia to Thermopylae carrying his Olympic prize.  They save days by cutting across the Corinthian Gulf where Theo waits for the old man.  As they approach Thermopylae from the southwest, they encounter the Phocian soldiers who were slaughtered by the Persian rear guard that found a way to circumvent the pass at Thermopylae via a goat path to surround the Spartans.  Simonides and Theagenes reach the cliffs overlooking Thermopylae in the final throws of the battle.  They witness the final stand of the 300  as the Spartans fall before a deluge of Persian arrows, but not before they hear the noble Persian offer of clemency from the king, “Brave Spartans, your valor in the face of certain death is unmatched by any men.  There is no shame in what you have done here.  Receive Xerxes’ mercy and return to your wives and children.  Throw down your weapons and be spared by the Great King.”   Leonidas responds with his immortal words, “Molon Labe! Come and take them.”  As Lampis and his Spartan brothers fall beneath the wave of arrows, Simonides turns to Theo and says  “Watch now, Olympian.  Turn your eyes back to the hill, for there is the man you dare call coward.”

The Olympian, Fifth Movement

The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  A film treatment in eight movements.

The OlympianFifth Movement – The Olympic Games: Simonides tells his new friends what the games are like, the rituals, the ceremonies.  He relates the stade, the opening race, a 200-meter sprint, but focuses on the pyx, the boxing competition.  The Pyx is brutal and lasts the day.  Theagenes meets the previous champion Euthymos in the final match.  Theo destroys him in a brutal way.  That night, Simonides encounters Theagenes as the boxer steals his olive crown.  When confronted with his crime, Theo tells the poet that he will take the crown to Thermopylae where he will challenge Lampis to the fight Theo believes he was robbed of.  “When I find him,” Theo says, “we will fight on his terms before the army he has fled to join.”

The Olympian, Fourth Movement

The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  A film treatment in eight movements.

theagenesFourth Movement – The Poet Meets the Boxer: After gaining passage to Thasos with the Egyptian merchant Khepri, Simonides recalls his journey to the 76th Olympiad and his encounter with a pair of Spartans who travel to the games with Leonidas’s message that he and his Spartan knights will forego the games and march to Thermopylae to check the Persian advance.  The first night in Olympia, Simonides meets Theagenes who is extremely irate that the Spartan boxer Lampis has left to march with Leonidas.

The Olympian, Third Movement

The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  A film treatment in eight movements.

herakles bronzeThird Movement – A Boy like Herakles: Episcles, another Thasian relates the story when the boy Theagenes physically carried the large, bronze statue of Herakles from the temple to his home simply because ‘Theo wanted it there.’  His father Timosthenes, the priest of Herakles beats the child mercilessly.  The next morning, the boy has run away, never to be heard from until years later when he brings fame to his homeland from his exploits at the Olympic Games.

The Olympian, Second Movement

The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  A film treatment in eight movements.

heraklesSecond Movement – Divine Birth: As they prepare to rest on their second night in the forest, the eldest Thasian, Parmenides tells Simonides that he has reason to believe that Theagenes is indeed the physical son of Herakles, the divine hero and son of Zeus.  He relates a story told to him by Theagenes’ grandfather who says he was witness to the impregnation of his daughter by the greatest of Greek heroes.

“Herakles came to my bed last night and together we conceived a child.  I know it is so.  He said but few words to me and only after the act had been completed.  He said, ‘I give you my son.’  That was all he said, father, and I believe him.”

from The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas


The Olympian, First Movement

The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  A film treatment in eight movements.

oracle of delphiFirst Movement – On his annual pilgrimage to the Oracle of Delphi, the poet Simonides meets a contingent of travelers from the island of Thasos.  This is their second visit to the Oracle where they hope to learn what they need to do so that the gods will lift the famine that has gripped their island.  Simonides is convinced that the Oracle’s direction to “welcome back all exiles” makes direct reference to the fact that the Thasians have taken the statue they raised to their champion – the Olympic boxer Theagenes – and tossed it into the Aegean Sea.  Simonides explains that if they return the statue to its proper place of prominence, the gods will show mercy and end the famine.  The Thasians agree to let Simonides return to Thasos with them so that he can explain why the return of the statue is the only thing that satisfy the Pythia’s instructions to please the gods.

The Germination of Ideas

The OlympianTen years ago, I had completed my first manuscript, The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas and had placed it confidently in the hands of a prominent agent in NYC.  The Olympian was not a retelling of the stand of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, but the incident plays prominently in the final chapters of the book.

With the battle concluded, Theagenes and Simonides watch the Persian host march through the pass from their hidden perch atop the cliffs.

“Midway through the third day, the last of the Persian host was gone, and a rag tag assemblage of carts followed xerxes armythat moved haphazardly and without the discipline and organization of the armed men who marched before it.  Three days it took for the behemoth to pass through Thermopylae ….”

As I begin earnest research on my new project following the publication of my sixth novel, Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ in August, I am reading The Extermination of the American Bison published in 1889 by William T. Hornaday, the Superintendent of the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C.  In his book, Hornaday recounts a personal letter he received from a Col. R.I. Doge who describes a vast herd of buffalo he saw on his travels west of the Mississippi River.

The whole country appeared one great mass of buffalo ....
”The whole country appeared one great mass of buffalo, moving slowly to the northward … The great herd on the Arkansas River was … not less than 25 miles wide, and from reports of hunters and others it was about five days in passing a given point, or not less than 50 miles deep. From the top of Pawnee Rock, I could see from six to 10 miles in almost every direction. This whole vast space was covered with buffalo…”

Hornaday continues,

The number seen on that day was in the neighborhood of 480,00 ....
“According to his [Dodge’s] recorded observation, the herd extended along the river for a distance of 25 miles … This gives a strip of country 2 miles wide by 25 long, or a total of 50 square miles covered with buffalo, averaging from fifteen to twenty to the acre. Taking the lesser number, in order to be below the truth rather than above it, we find that the number actually seen on that day by Colonel Dodge was in the neighborhood of 480,000, not counting the additional number taken in at the view from the top of Pawnee Rock, which, if added, would easily bring the total up to a round half million! … If the advancing multitude had been at all points 50 miles in length (as it was known to have been in some places at least) by 25 miles in width, and still averaged fifteen head to the acre of ground, it would have contained the enormous number of 12,000,000 head. But, judging from the general principles governing such migrations, it is almost certain that the moving mass advanced in the shape of a wedge, which would make it necessary to deduct about two-third from the grand total, which would leave 4,000,000 as our estimate of the actual number of buffaloes in this great herd, which I believe is more likely to be below the truth than above it.


The ancient Greek historian Herodotus tells of the million-man army that the 300 Spartans faced.  Multiply that by four and you get an idea of the vast number of buffE.S. Kraayalo in this single herd that graced the American landscape in the 19th century before Euro-Americans determined that it was in the best interests of American Manifest Destiny to exterminate these beautiful creatures.

Driving with Simonides and Flapjack

As we approach vacation time in the northern hemisphere, think about those long, dreary and weary drives you are apt to face as you travel cross-country.  WAIT!  Here’s an idea.  Check out The Olympian: A Tale of Ancient Hellas and The Sixth Day: A 17,175-Word Novella About Creation and Prizefighting at Audible or Amazon.  At eight hours, The Olympian is good for an entire day for most folks.  At 1.5 hours, The Sixth Day is so good, you’ll want to listen to it four times a day.  Each is a special story in its own genre, and Alistair McKenzie brings both to fascinating life.  Enter the world of the ancient Greeks, or come of age with Flapjack and his brothers.  You’ll be glad you did.  They are great company for that long drive [or those days when rush hour traffic becomes intolerable].


The Sixth DayThe Olympian