by Peter H. Salus

Copyright© 2011 by Peter H. Salus

Fantasy Story: A retelling of the history of the bravest of the Amazons.

Tags: Fiction  

[This is a short re-visioning of a Greek myth, modeled on Prince von Vlox [Bruce Bretthauer]'s brilliant Kalliste and Kassandra tales. I appreciate his encouragement.]

There had been a battle in the sea. I could see the Ottoman and the Imperial flags. The Turks were vanquished. The next morning there were bodies and pieces of wood along the shore. And one survivor. A young man. I fed him some watered wine. When the sun neared its height, the power of Apollo enabled me to get him to my grotto.

"I am Stavros. To whom do I owe my life?"

"I am Penthesilea."

"Am I dead? Am I mazed?"

"You live. Yet you may be confused. Why was a Greek among the Turks?"

"The Ottomans took Greece in 1530. Venice regained the Peloponnese a century later. But the Turks retook the Balkans and many Thessalonikans, like me, became part of the Turkish navy."

"And this battle?"

"Russians against the Turks. But you ... Aren't you a shade? Are you real?"

"Sadly, I am real. I await Apollo."

We have a good deed to our credit in fighting the Amazons, who came from the river Thermodon and invaded the land of Attica. – Herodotus, The History 9.27

"Have you ever read Diodorus?"

"Sorry. What did you ask, child?"

"Have you ever read Diodorus?"

"The Sicilian?"

"Yes, ma'am. Diodorus Siculus."

"Oh, yes. I have read his many books. I don't think much of him."

"Do you recall this? Where he talks about the Amazons?"

during the time of the Trojan War, Penthesilea, queen of the surviving Amazons, who was a daughter of Ares and had slain one of her kindred, fled from her native land because of the sacrilege. And fighting as an ally of the Trojans after the death of Hector she slew many of the Greeks, and after gaining distinction in the struggle she ended her life heroically at the hands of Achilles. [II .46]

I laughed.

What good are the historians? They tell fine stories, but they don't get them right. Certainly not Herodotus, nor Diodorus the Sicilian, four hundred years later. And they aren't very good at geography, either. Dramatic and epic poets come nearer to the truth. Aeschylus said we came from Scythia. That was close, but on the wrong side of the Black Sea. Homer, The Poet, wrote that I was born in Thrace. That was too far west. I was born near to where Trabzon was to be founded.

I killed my sister Hippolyta with a spear when we were hunting oryx (Pausanias says "deer" as does Quintus of Smyrna, which shows what idiots they were. We would not hunt those who drew Artemis' chariot.). It really was an accident. My target moved too quickly and my sister-queen, closing on the other side, received my spear, my dory.

I was plunged into grief. My soul was black. The accident caused me so much grief that I wished only to go to Hades. But I was a warrior and an Amazon, and my remaining sisters persuaded me that I had to go honorably and in battle. So I was easily convinced to join in the Danaean siege of Ilium, on the side of the besieged.

The poet wrote: "Such were the funeral games of Hector. And now there came an Amazon, the great-hearted daughter of man-slaying Ares." That was me, Penthesilea. He called us all Antianeirai ("those who fight like men"). And I came to fight.

Achilles was the son of the mortal Peleus and the Nereid Thetis. He was the mightiest of the Greeks who fought in the Trojan War. Originally, I had intended to fight with Ajax, son of Telamon, great-grandson of Zeus. But he laughed at me. He wouldn't fight a woman. But I saw Achilles. And he saw me. We fought. He won. He pierced me – in more ways than one. And I him.

It's strange, Kleist was so confused. Goethe said his drama was unplayable. But Schoeck must have understood. His opera made sense to me.

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