Historical inaccuracies

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system1988
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Historical inaccuracies

Post by system1988 » Tue Jul 16, 2019 5:10 pm

.... I dont know which is more preferable ,to laugh or cry ...I havent never read an historical novel referring to ancient Greece ( Hellas, 4 b.C) which mentions names ( new greek- names of our era ) like Alekos, Sakis ,Sandros , and the christian spanish name Dolores !!!
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Jeanne Reames
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Re: Historical inaccuracies

Post by Jeanne Reames » Wed Jul 17, 2019 1:03 am

From the author's note (at the end of book 2):
"Regarding the dialogue, Classical Greek is an elegant language, conversation impossible to render accurately without sounding stilted. This left me with two choices: write something that would send readers into fits of giggles or adopt a more modern style. Obviously, I chose the latter, sprinkling it here and there with Greek to remind. It’s a compromise but will have to do."

The use of nicknames is part of that modification for a modern audience. It was a deliberate choice. I actually consulted several Greek-speaking friends to get help on what might sound natural for names no longer in use (such as Hephaistion). Sometimes historical "inaccuracies" are on purpose and for a narrative reason. ;)

It's hard to know what nicknames (if any) they employed; I know nicknames have been discussed on Pothos before, and how they might have differed from modern notions of name-shortening. That said, I do recall reading somewhere that "Kraton" was the nickname of Krateros, so perhaps they did employ name-shortening, as well. Yet the use of shortened names (and modern ones) was intentional for a modern, English-speaking readership used to these. Some readers familiar with ancient Greek may not like it, but it wasn't a mistake on my part. :-)

(Delores, however, was an oversight on my part. Sorry about that.)
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system1988
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Re: Historical inaccuracies

Post by system1988 » Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:23 am

Thank you for your answer

' I actually consulted several Greek -speaking friends '
'' Then choose your friends more carefully"

I stopped reading when i met Dolores
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derek
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Re: Historical inaccuracies

Post by derek » Fri Jul 19, 2019 6:30 pm

Archaic names are one of the problems when writing historic fiction. You want to be accurate, but you’re not turning out a text book and you don’t want your readers to become bored or confused. So you compromise. Eg: you know the kIng would have had a flowery three sentence title when being addressed, but you have his generals call him “Sir.” It’s easier on the eye and keeps the novel moving. Then there were lots of people named Alexander but you name everyone else Alexandros so there’s no confusion. You know the Hanging Gardens were probably a myth, but they’re great descriptive prose when the army enters Babylon, so you keep them.

It’s Author’s licence and is necessary when writing fiction.

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Jeanne Reames
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Re: Historical inaccuracies

Post by Jeanne Reames » Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:35 am

system1988 wrote:
Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:23 am
Thank you for your answer

' I actually consulted several Greek -speaking friends '
'' Then choose your friends more carefully"
Well, considering a couple of them are colleagues and have PhDs in Greek/Macedonian history and teach at unis there, I did consider carefully.
system1988 wrote:
Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:23 am
I stopped reading when i met Dolores
I'll just say that, for a single named mention of a character never actually seen, that's a pretty high bar. But...

Not everybody will agree with my choices regarding language and names. I'm okay with that, actually. Readers have different preferences. On Goodreads (and Amazon), readers seem mostly to like/praise the use of Greek names and terms, but at least one reader didn't like it. That's par for the course. I have reasons for my choices, and they may not suit everyone. I fully understand.

Again, if readers want to know the rationale behind my choices (whether or not you agree) the Author's Notes is Here.

Also, thanks Derek. And yes, author's license is rather a big deal, which is why I consider an author's note critical, so readers know what choices I made, and why.

"It's a difference of opinion that makes horse races." (Mark Twain) ;)
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system1988
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Re: Historical inaccuracies

Post by system1988 » Sat Jul 27, 2019 10:29 am

Jeanne Reames wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:35 am

Well, considering a couple of them are colleagues and have PhDs in Greek/Macedonian history and teach at unis there, I did consider carefully.
If your friends, who they claim they are the owners of such titles, advised you that the name "Alekos" is a diminutive of Alexander they were right. But, this diminutive appeared at the end of the 19th AD and does not exist in ancient greek literature. You call the main character of your novel, who is no other than Alexander the Great with a diminutive name created 2000 years later. The same goes for the name "Sakis". You write historical novels, not high fantasy where anything goes. Readers' immersion breaks when historical innacuracies of that magnitude occur. And contraty to all this I have seen a genuine attempt on your part to realistically depict the age you are writing about (architecture, objects, clothing etc).

As far as Greek readers are concerned, calling Alexander "Alekos", I am sorry to be blunt, is utterly ridiculous. I again return to your greek friends who suggested calling him that and I have to say that they didn't realize how you damage the character by calling him as such. "Alekos" is widely used in greek contemporary speech as a degrading term for a person called Alexandros to allow for more definition of the named as a comedy relief character. This is not the Alexander you want for your book I am sure. On the other hand you may think that this does not particularly concern you as you aim at a global audience. But in this global audience, since you are an academic yourself - and that some of your readers may very well converge on your work for an accurate depiction of Alexander's world based on your speciality on the subject as a professor- I must inform you that you transmit false information. Younger readers globally will grow up with the idea that Alexander was called privately "Alekos"!!!

What I am trying to say is that Author's license is one thing, but should not be exercised at any cost. No historical has ever used a 19th AD diminutive for Alexander and for good reason.
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Re: Historical inaccuracies

Post by Rosegarden » Sat Jul 27, 2019 7:59 pm

I was also curious if they used name-shortening, but I would assume they maybe did? Considering the long names they had, and also that family and friends often give each other nicknames or pet-names... Who knows? For Hephaistion I've seen the nickname "Phai" often, but someone told me it was a girl's name? I've also seen "Heph". I guess in modern times we are too lazy to pronounce names properly.

system1988
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Re: Historical inaccuracies

Post by system1988 » Sat Jul 27, 2019 9:02 pm

Rosegarden wrote:
Sat Jul 27, 2019 7:59 pm
I was also curious if they used name-shortening, but I would assume they maybe did? Considering the long names they had, and also that family and friends often give each other nicknames or pet-names... Who knows? For Hephaistion I've seen the nickname "Phai" often, but someone told me it was a girl's name? I've also seen "Heph". I guess in modern times we are too lazy to pronounce names properly.
For sure they have nicknames : Kleitos the Black ,Kleitos the White ,Demosthenes had a very inapropriate one, Pericles had a funny one and so on. The high level prostitutes had their names changed in tender names with the termination 'tion' and other forms. As for the citizens they most probably had diminutives especially among members of the same family but honestly i don't remember any attested (In Aristophanes perhaps? In letters sent to relatives as the ones written in papyrus ? ( Egypt)) One has to search very much
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Alexias
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Re: Historical inaccuracies

Post by Alexias » Sat Jul 27, 2019 9:32 pm

I would very much agree with what System1988 is saying.

There are two issues here: the breaking of the reader's belief in the world the author is creating; and myth-making. The first is occasioned not just by the names used, but by authorial intrusion (telling us the meaning of Greek words), and words that seem inappropriate. The straw that finally broke my camel's back was the use of 'hashish'. The second is brought about by a professional historian perpetuating inaccuracies such as the names - as System1988 has said - and the use of such myths as Alexander's two-coloured eyes and Ptolemy being his half-brother. Because an historian has said this is so, it must be right.

However, I would prefer not to say too much at present as I am trying to finish the novel and would like to review it properly then. I am struggling a bit with it but the second half does seem better than an exasperating first half.

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Re: Historical inaccuracies

Post by historyjunkie » Sun Jul 28, 2019 5:44 pm

Speaking for myself(an average English reader who knows no Greek) only, I was fully aware when I read fictions. Actually even when I read history text books I keep my skepticism - one needs to look no further than our high school history class materials and compare to those three decades ago. That's why historiography exists as a field. What we know about Alexander is third, fourth, fifth hand materials at best. We have no idea what he looked or sounded like (for that matter what ancient Greek sounded like) or what names they used. Or if he and Hephaistion were lovers. Some recent scholars such as Sabine Mueller think it a Roman invention. "Alexander" itself is Latinized yet we have no issues with it. The historical Alexander had been colored with all shades imaginable. I very much doubt a piece of fiction would change his standing one way or another among fans or foes. Anyone interested can read the author's notes and understand what's probable, likely, or unlikely. One could argue the famed Renault trilogy had many inaccuracies, not the least of which the whole premise of "the Persian boy". However that doesn't change the fact it's Alexander canon literature and sparked much interest among the young.

What I look for in a historical fiction is believability and emotional resonance - whether I could care about the characters. On that front I think Ms. Reames did a fabulous job. Not only did I care deeply about Alexander and Hephaistion, their relationship development and personal growth from prepubescent to young men, I was also rooting for Philip, Olympias, Kleopatra, Amyntor, Ptolemy, even Harpalos and Philotas(maybe with the exception of Cassander :D ). The painful details of geography, rituals and rites, cultures and cuisine, while can be labored, nonetheless weaved a complete ancient Macidonian world for the uninitiated and I thoroughly enjoyed their world.

While everyone is entitled to literary criticism, I'd love to hear what others think regarding the characterization, the prose and pace, the dramatic arc of the book. Historical accuracy, in the case of Alexander, is but an oxymoron imho.

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Re: Historical inaccuracies

Post by sean_m » Tue Jul 30, 2019 1:04 pm

I can't comment on the novel (have not read it yet) but the specialists in Old Iranian think that it was full of diminutives including people like Xenophon's Ariaios. Onomastics is a big field with intimidating jargon and I am not the Greek scholar I would like to be.

Babylonians liked nicknames and short names too, but I don't feel like I really understand them yet. Šamaš-šum-līšir is a mouthful but its quick to write logographically and in documents you want to give people's full formal names ...
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