Valerio Massimo Manfredi Odysseus: The Oath

ISBN 13: 9780230769328

Odysseus: The Oath

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9780230769328: Odysseus: The Oath

A man becomes a hero ...As a young boy in Ithaca, Odysseus listens in wonder to his grandfather Autolykos, a man feared by many across the land as a ruthless fighter. He learns of his heritage and a lifelong passion is sparked: to become an adventurer and warrior. In Mycenae, he meets King Eurystheus and learns the terrible story of Hercules - the man with god-like strength who slaughtered his family and punished by the King to undertake impossible tasks to earn absolution. But is Eurystheus the man he says he is? When a child comes to Odysseus in the middle of the night, with another, very disturbing, version of what happened that fateful night, Odysseus embarks on the first of his extraordinary quests ...So begins the epic story of Odysseus, the first of two volumes: an adventure of love, war, courage and heroism, weaving from a small rocky island in Greece, to the mighty fall of Troy.

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About the Author:

Valerio Massimo Manfredi is an archaeologist and scholar of the ancient Greek and Roman world. He is the author of sixteen novels, which have won him literary awards and have sold 12 million copies. His Alexander trilogy has been translated into 38 languages and published in 62 countries and the film rights have been acquired by Universal Pictures. His novel The Last Legion was made into a film starring Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley and directed by Doug Lefler. Valerio Massimo Manfredi has taught at a number of prestigious universities in Italy and abroad and has published numerous articles and essays in academic journals. He has also written screenplays for film and television, contributed to journalistic articles and conducted cultural programmes and television documentaries.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Also by Valerio Massimo Manfredi

ALEXANDER: CHILD OF A DREAM

ALEXANDER: THE SANDS OF AMMON

ALEXANDER: THE ENDS OF THE EARTH

SPARTAN

THE LAST LEGION

HEROES

(formerly The Talisman of Troy)

TYRANT

THE ORACLE

EMPIRE OF DRAGONS

THE TOWER

PHARAOH

THE LOST ARMY

THE IDES OF MARCH

THE ANCIENT CURSE

Copyright

TO CHRISTINE,

This is what went on in the times

in which the chimeras’ shrieks

still echoed over the mountainside,

when the centaurs ventured down to sate their thirst

in the dusky twilight.

GIOVANNI PASCOLI

Prologue

How long have I been walking? I don’t remember any more, I can’t count days or months. Is that the moon, the sun? I can’t tell. The night star will sometimes light up the infinite fields of snow with an intensity like that of the sun, while the daytime star rises from the fog-shrouded horizon like a pale moon. The ice reflects the light like water does.

How long has it been since I’ve seen a man? How long since I’ve seen springtime, the sea, the holm oaks and myrtles that nestle between the crags of the mountainside? I have met wolves. Bears. They haven’t hurt me, haven’t attacked me. I haven’t laid a hand on my bow and I’ve survived all the same. I must; so that my journey may come to an end.

The last journey.

I’ve learned to talk with myself. It soothes me, and keeps my mind from evaporating. I miss my bride, her arms so soft and white. I miss her warm breasts and her black, black, black eyes. I miss my son, my boy, the only child I’ve fathered. When I left him he was still sleeping. Children sleep so soundly. He surely hates me: he had waited so long for me.

I miss my goddess with her green eyes, her perfect lips that have never given a kiss to a god nor to a mortal. She leaves no prints even if she walks at my side. Her breath won’t condense: cold, it is, like the snow. She loved me once. She would appear in disguise but I recognized her anyway, anywhere ... Now she doesn’t speak to me any more, or is it I who cannot hear her?

Are you listening to me? Listening to me, son of a small island, son of a bitter fate? You incorrigible liar ... How often have you plunged your bare hands in the snow to wash them of blood? But you’ve never succeeded. You’re being watched, can you feel it? Walk, walk, journey on, on and on, as the horizon slips away, escapes you, and the land never ends. Vast, boundless, shapeless and sterile as the sea, flat as a dead calm.

And yet, although you may not believe me, I am a king.

You, a king? Don’t make me laugh.

Laugh as long as you like, for I am a king. Without a kingdom, without subjects, without friends, without, without, without ... but I am indeed a king. I carried out great endeavours, commanded a great number of ships ... Warriors. Friends. Comrades. Dead. I’m cold. Can you hear me? I’m cold! Where are all of you? Near me, here? Beneath my feet? Under the ice? None of you can see your cold breath either. All invisible.

On, on and on. I don’t remember the last time I ate.

I don’t know why my fate cannot play itself out, why I can’t live like most men do, in a house, with a family, eating food prepared three times a day.

Athena. Do you still love me? Am I still your favourite? Perhaps this is my madness: my mind is connected to mysteries greater than I am, mysteries that I cannot fathom. The feet that go on and on, wrapped in the hides of rabbits that I have eaten, are my only way of seeing. There is no end to their journey, save the one prophesied by the seer who one moonless night I called up from the nether world. Where are they heading? A place like any other, but I will not know until I get there. I’ve lost count of the days and the nights. I never kept count, actually, and I don’t know how long I’ve been walking. I don’t even know how old I am. Certainly not young any more.

A mountain.

Rising alone like an island in the middle of the sea. And there’s a cave. Refuge from the wind cutting at my face, the sleet piercing my eyes.

A cave. It’s warm inside, on the bottom, where the wind has no room to move.

A rabbit is here. White on white. Hard to take aim, even harder to withstand hunger. How sweet would it be to give in to exhaustion, to let myself die slowly. Death, coming for me softly. Who would ever find me here?

Raw-boned, baring starved teeth ...

Caught. Skinned. Devoured. Me, or the rabbit. What difference does it make? Since then, bones have piled up in front of my cave. And memories in my mind. Spring will return and I will meet a man who will ask me a question that I must answer. I’ll have to remember everything, then. Remember the screams and the groans, the echoes of agony. On the floor of this cave lies the oar I was carrying on my shoulder. I found it abandoned on the shore at Ithaca one morning after I had returned – wreckage from some old shipwreck. How long had it been floating on the sea? Years. I recognized it from the butterfly carved into the handle. A handle once gripped by a comrade of mine. The fourth oar on the right. Old friend, asleep now in the dark of the abyss ... but you sent me a sign. Time to start out again.

My ship. I miss her. Curved flanks like a woman’s, soft and sensual. Like my green-eyed goddess. Lying broken in pieces on the bottom of the sea. My heart weeps. Stop weeping, heart of mine! You’ve been through much worse. Endless misfortunes, yes. Remember, try, at least, in your sleep. Remember it all. Memories are sweet: birth, life. The future is death, the death of a hero, the death of a rabbit. No difference, that is the awful truth.

The dim light is swallowed up by the night. The wind starts racing again over the plain, sighing in the darkness, rousing the long howl of the wolves, demanding snow, snow, snow. What long nights! The night will never end. Was there ever a sun that rose over mountains mantled with whispering oaks? My sun-kissed island, silent under the full moon, fragrant with rosemary and asphodel: did you ever really exist?

And yet one day long ago a baby was born on the island, in the palace on the mountain, an only son. He did not cry, but tried to talk at once, imitating the sounds he’d heard in his mother’s womb.

Me.

1

THEY CALLED ME ODYSSEUS. It was my grandfather Autolykos, king of Acarnania, who gave me that name when he arrived at the palace a month after my birth. I soon realized that other children had fathers and I did not. At night, before going to sleep, I’d ask my nurse: ‘Mai, where is my father?’

‘He left with other kings and warriors to find a treasure in a faraway place.’

‘And when is he coming back?’

‘I don’t know. No one does. When you go to sea you never know when you’ll be back. There are storms, pirates, rocks. Your ship can even be destroyed, but maybe you manage to swim to shore, and survive. Then you have to wait until another ship comes by to save you and that may take months, or years. If a pirate vessel should stop instead, you’ll be snatched up and sold as a slave in the next port. It’s a risky life that sailors lead. The sea shelters any number of terrible monsters, mysterious creatures that live in her depths and rise to the surface on moonless nights ... but now you must sleep, my little one.’

‘Why did he go to look for a treasure?’

‘Because all the most powerful warriors of Achaia were going. How could he not join them? One day the singers will tell of this tale and the names of those who took part will be remembered for all eternity.’

I nodded my head as if I approved but I really couldn’t understand why he had to leave. Why should you risk your life just so someone can sing about you one day and tell of how brave you’d been to leave home and risk your life?

‘Why do I have to sleep with you, mai? Why can’t I sleep with my mother?’

‘Because your mother is the queen and she can’t sleep with someone who wets the bed.’

‘I don’t wet the bed.’

‘Good,’ said the nurse, ‘so starting tomorrow you can sleep on your own.’ And that’s how it went. My mother, Queen Anticlea, had me moved to a room all my own with an oak bed decorated with inlaid bone. She had a fine woollen blanket embroidered with rich purple threads brought to me.

‘Why can’t I sleep with you?’

‘Because you’re not a baby any more and you are a prince. Princes are not afraid to sleep on their own. But for a little while I’ll tell Phemius to keep you company. He’s a fine young man. He knows lots of beautiful stories and he’ll sing them to you until you fall asleep.’

‘What stories?’

‘Whatever stories you like. Of how Perseus fought Medusa, of Theseus against the Minotaur and lots of others.’

‘Can I ask you something?’

‘Certainly,’ my mother replied.

‘Tonight I’d like you to tell me a story, any story you like. Something that my father has done. Tell me about when you met him for the first time.’

She smiled and sat down on my bed next to me. ‘What happened was that my father invited him to a hunting party. Our kingdoms were next to each other; your father’s was west, on the islands, and my father’s was on the mainland. It was a way they could band together, join up against invaders. I was lucky. I could have been promised to marry a fat, bald old man! But your father Laertes was handsome and strong, and just eight years older than me. He didn’t know how to ride, though. So my father taught him and gave him a horse as a gift.’

‘That’s all?’ I asked her. I had imagined a fierce battle to free her from a monster or from a cruel tyrant who was keeping her prisoner.

‘No,’ she replied, ‘but that’s all I can tell you. One day, maybe. When you’re big enough to understand.’

‘I can already understand.’

‘No. Not now.’

Another year passed with no news from the king, but at least now I had a teacher who knew all kinds of things and told me all about my father. Hunting adventures, booty raids, battles against pirates: much better stories than the ones my mother told me. He, the teacher, was called Mentor. He was young, with dark eyes and a black beard that made him seem older than he was. He had an answer for every question, except the only one I really cared about: ‘When will my father be back?’

‘So you remember your father?’

I nodded yes.

‘You do? Then what colour was his hair?’

‘Black.’

‘Everyone has black hair on this island. What about his eyes?’

‘Sharp. The colour of the sea.’

Mentor looked deep into my eyes: ‘Do you really remember or are you just trying to guess?’

I didn’t answer.

MY FATHER came back at the end of spring. The news reached the palace one day just before dawn and threw everyone into a real flurry. My nurse quickly had a bath prepared for the queen, then helped her to choose a gown and dress her hair. Her jewellery box was fetched so she could pick the pieces she fancied. Then nurse had me put on the long robe I wore when we had visitors, a red one with two golden bands. I liked it. I tried to catch a glimpse of myself in one of the mirrors in the women’s quarters.

‘Don’t get dirty, don’t play in the dust, don’t play with the dogs ...’ nurse called after me.

‘Can I wait under the portico?’

‘Yes, if you don’t get dirty.’

I sat down under the portico. At least from there I could watch people coming and going, like the servants who were preparing lunch for the king. The pig squealed under the knife and then they hung him by his back legs. The dogs licked the trickle of blood that was dripping onto the ground. The servants had collected most of it in jars to make blood sausage. That was one thing I didn’t like at all.

Mentor arrived just then, grabbed his staff and started off down the path that led to the port. I looked around to make sure no one was watching me and took off after him, catching him up near the fountain.

‘Where do you think you’re going?’ Mentor asked me.

‘With you. To meet my father.’

‘If Euriclea realizes you’re not there any more she’ll go crazy and then your mother will have her beaten; she’s only too happy to ...’ Mentor stopped, realizing that what he was about to say wasn’t meant for a six-year-old’s ears.

‘My mother is jealous of Euriclea the nurse, isn’t she?’

Mentor couldn’t believe what he’d just heard: ‘Do you even know what the word “jealous” means?’

‘I do know but I don’t know how to explain it ... I know, jealous is when you want something just for yourself.’

‘Right you are,’ replied Mentor, taking me by the hand. ‘Well, come along, then. Hold your robe up with your right hand so you won’t trip on it and get yourself punished.’

We started walking.

‘Why do you need a staff if you are young and a fast walker?’

‘To scare off the vipers: if they bite you, you’re dead.’

‘It isn’t because you want to look wiser and more important?’

Mentor stopped short and gave me a stern look, pointing his index finger at me: ‘Don’t ask me any more questions that you already know the answer to.’

‘I was just trying to guess,’ I offered lamely.

The sun was already high when we arrived at the port. The royal ship had been sighted when it was still far from shore thanks to the standard waving at its stern. A great number of boats had gone out to escort it festively to land.

‘There he is,’ said Mentor, pointing a finger. ‘That man with the light blue cloak and the spear in his hand is King Laertes: your father.’

When I heard those words I wriggled my hand free and started running fast down the slope in the direction of the port. I ran like the wind until I found myself standing in front of the warrior with the sky-blue cloak. Then I stopped and looked at him, panting. Eyes the colour of the sea.

He recognized me and picked me up into his arms.

‘You’re my father, aren’t you?’

‘Yes, I am your father. Do you still remember me?’

‘I do. You haven’t changed.’

‘Well you’ve changed quite a lot. Listen to you: you sound like a grown-up. And what a fast runner you’ve become! I was watching as you came down the mountain.’

A servant brought a horse, the only one on the island, for the king. Laertes mounted and pulled me up to sit in front of him. A whole procession followed us: my father’s friends, his bodyguards, the noblemen, the representatives of the people and the foremen in charge of the royal properties and livestock. As the procession advanced, people started pouring out along the path that snaked its way up to the palace. Mentor walked alongside the king’s horse, a position of respect that showed how highly he was thought of, but from my new perch I was seeing him from a completely new point of view, and that really made me feel like a prince.

The celebrations went on until late, but I had to go to bed right after dusk. I stayed awake a long time because of the din; all that laugh...

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Valerio Massimo Manfredi
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Descrizione libro Pan MacMillan, United Kingdom, 2013. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A man becomes a hero .As a young boy in Ithaca, Odysseus listens in wonder to his grandfather Autolykos, a man feared by many across the land as a ruthless fighter. He learns of his heritage and a lifelong passion is sparked: to become an adventurer and warrior. In Mycenae, he meets King Eurystheus and learns the terrible story of Hercules -- the man with god-like strength who slaughtered his family and punished by the King to undertake impossible tasks to earn absolution. But is Eurystheus the man he says he is? When a child comes to Odysseus in the middle of the night, with another, very disturbing, version of what happened that fateful night, Odysseus embarks on the first of his extraordinary quests .So begins the epic story of Odysseus, the first of two volumes: an adventure of love, war, courage and heroism, weaving from a small rocky island in Greece, to the mighty fall of Troy. Codice libro della libreria AA79780230769328

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Descrizione libro Pan MacMillan, United Kingdom, 2013. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A man becomes a hero .As a young boy in Ithaca, Odysseus listens in wonder to his grandfather Autolykos, a man feared by many across the land as a ruthless fighter. He learns of his heritage and a lifelong passion is sparked: to become an adventurer and warrior. In Mycenae, he meets King Eurystheus and learns the terrible story of Hercules -- the man with god-like strength who slaughtered his family and punished by the King to undertake impossible tasks to earn absolution. But is Eurystheus the man he says he is? When a child comes to Odysseus in the middle of the night, with another, very disturbing, version of what happened that fateful night, Odysseus embarks on the first of his extraordinary quests .So begins the epic story of Odysseus, the first of two volumes: an adventure of love, war, courage and heroism, weaving from a small rocky island in Greece, to the mighty fall of Troy. Codice libro della libreria AA79780230769328

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Descrizione libro Pan Macmillan. Hardback. Condizione libro: new. BRAND NEW, Odysseus: The Oath: Book One, Valerio Massimo Manfredi, A man becomes a hero .As a young boy in Ithaca, Odysseus listens in wonder to his grandfather Autolykos, a man feared by many across the land as a ruthless fighter. He learns of his heritage and a lifelong passion is sparked: to become an adventurer and warrior. In Mycenae, he meets King Eurystheus and learns the terrible story of Hercules -- the man with god-like strength who slaughtered his family and punished by the King to undertake impossible tasks to earn absolution. But is Eurystheus the man he says he is? When a child comes to Odysseus in the middle of the night, with another, very disturbing, version of what happened that fateful night, Odysseus embarks on the first of his extraordinary quests .So begins the epic story of Odysseus, the first of two volumes: an adventure of love, war, courage and heroism, weaving from a small rocky island in Greece, to the mighty fall of Troy. Codice libro della libreria B9780230769328

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