Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Recommend, or otherwise, books on Alexander (fiction or non-fiction). Promote your novel here!

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Jeanne Reames
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Re: Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Post by Jeanne Reames » Tue Sep 05, 2017 5:41 am

I am somewhat familiar with Alexander fanfiction as a result of researching the "Cult of Hephaistion" article. I did unofficial surveys for it, and quite a few of the respondents wrote Alexander fanfic, or read it.

What struck me is that a number of the authors were fairly well-read (and didn't seem to be high school students, but college or older), although they sometimes produced odd conclusions which may have resulted from a less-broad familiarity with Greek and Roman sources (and biases), as well as Macedonian historiography, some of which is readily available to the curious and committed non-academic, but other things are not. They require diving down the rabbit hole of research, including into other languages and obscure journal articles. So I've found a number of the authors are familiar with my work (which, amusingly, some find derogatory of Hephaistion), and perhaps with Waldemar Heckel, but aren't familiar at all with Sabine Muller (who writes often in German), or with other material, some of it not readily available, or not in English. While Sabine and I agree on many things, not on all--what academics do? ha--anybody doing Hephaistion seriously absolutely *must* take Sabine's work into consideration.

At least Carol King's new monograph on Macedonian history includes a broad look at the current state of the field, even if she skirts some controversial subjects (such as who killed Philip). It still has an pretty up-to-date bibliography for the interested.

Again, my sense was that a lot of these writers/readers were quite interested in the history, and had read a fair bit, so King's new book would be of help in the outlines of larger Macedonian history.

It seemed to me that much of Alexander fanfiction is/was driven by the Stone movie or Renault. As the Stone movie is now over 10 years old, I'm not sure how much momentum it still has. Yet I hope some of those fans will read the novel. As my rendition depends little on either of the other two, however, I hope they won't be disappointed. Where we overlap is because of mutual dependence on Plutarch, Diodorus, or Justin. I will say I think my Hephaistion has more personality. ;) But fanfic authors really attached to Oliver Stone/Jared Leto's rendition of Hephaistion may not like mine much. They aren't at all the same. (I admit, I've never liked Jared Leto's casting as Hephaistion, nor how Stone directed him to play the character. That may owe to having done so much research on the historical man, or what we might know of him.)
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Re: Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Post by sean_m » Thu Sep 07, 2017 12:34 pm

Anyways, it is interesting to hear of another whole world! From visits to my blog I see some forums for wargamers and something called historum, and I still post on forums for reenactors and reconstructors now and then.

It might be fun to explore various fictional Alexanders here.

Figuring out which academic research would be of interest to a wider audience, and publishing and advertising it in a way so that they can access it, is a hard problem. Some British publishers for archaeologists are clever about that, and quite a few European academics publish a pop version of things with Karwansaray and a formal, dry version with an academic press.
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Re: Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Post by Jeanne Reames » Fri Sep 08, 2017 3:34 am

Sean -- I sorta wish more academic publishers *did* that. And it's one reason I prefer to 1) transliterate Greek words and 2) provide translations of Greek (or Latin). I remember BEING an "really interested outsider" and how frustrating it was when the author of the article provided no translations (and not just of Greek and Latin, but sometimes of German and French, as well). That said, I have discovered since that it isn't always the author's choice. When working on the "Mourning of Alex" article (still, I think, one of my best), Peter Green was the editor for Syllecta Classica. He gave me one of the best edit jobs I've ever had (speaking *as* an editor), but he also insisted that I put all the Greek in Greek characters and took out a lot of translations. As a Brit, Peter was of the opinion that anybody reading it would be able to read Greek, and as he was the editor, and I was still a newly minted phud, I wasn't going to argue with him. :-)

But the changes in publishing itself have actually led to less use of foreign characters (it causes a nightmare at the technical level), and more transliteration, at least.
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Re: Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Post by Paralus » Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:07 am

That story about Peter Green does not surprise me Dr. Reames. Green is really a master in the use of the English language and I love reading his prose. He makes the stron point (more than once) in his Classical Bearings that translations of the Greek are a poor reflection of the ancient language and is of the view that one should learn the language. He's probably right but not everyone is so inclined nor has the time. I do like his "alternate" Greek history as he terms his translations and commentary on Diodorus.
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Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Re: Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Post by sean_m » Mon Sep 11, 2017 4:07 pm

Paralus wrote:That story about Peter Green does not surprise me Dr. Reames. Green is really a master in the use of the English language and I love reading his prose. He makes the strong point (more than once) in his Classical Bearings that translations of the Greek are a poor reflection of the ancient language and is of the view that one should learn the language. He's probably right but not everyone is so inclined nor has the time. I do like his "alternate" Greek history as he terms his translations and commentary on Diodorus.
Yes, Peter Green feels like a scholar who sometimes felt chained by academic epistemology and rules of evidence ... although he published some rigorous empirical things too!

I think I managed to fit a citation to his Diodorus into my Master's thesis somewhere, although I was rushing to finish and had trouble accessing some books which I had read in Victoria.

The Internet and modern copyright laws are a mixed blessing, because when you are in a hurry the most accessible translation is usually antiquated and has often been stripped of the parallel Greek or Latin text which it was meant to supplement. None of my ancient languages are as good as I would like them to be but as a humble historian I do my best ...
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Re: Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Post by Jeanne Reames » Thu Sep 14, 2017 6:52 am

Exactly, Peter can do very rigorous history. As noted, he gave me the best edit I've had to date. Our quibbles were mostly on how to present ancient sources.

That said, he is *also* a master of essay writing. His The Shadow of the Parthenon & Classical Bearings are among his best work. Like Eric Cline (who's 1177 you should read if you haven't), he had a unique talent to convert good scholarship into readable format. I might quibble with his analysis (unlike Cline), but I acknowledge that he knew how to *write* (unlike some of my colleagues).

So I admire Peter, and I'm hugely grateful to him for championing what I still think is among my best published article to date: "The Mourning of Alexander" in Syllecta Classica. But as with Waldemar (whose scholarship I also greatly admire), we will probably always disagree on our assessments of Hephaistion. :-)
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Re: Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Post by Paralus » Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:54 am

Jeanne Reames wrote:That said, he is *also* a master of essay writing. His The Shadow of the Parthenon & Classical Bearings are among his best work. Like Eric Cline (who's 1177 you should read if you haven't), he had a unique talent to convert good scholarship into readable format. I might quibble with his analysis (unlike Cline), but I acknowledge that he knew how to *write* (unlike some of my colleagues).
Yes, indeed, he is a master. Sometimes his prose is almost like sculpture: how does one turn plain rock into that? For Green it is ordinary, everyday words used in far from ordinary fashion.
Jeanne Reames wrote: But as with Waldemar (whose scholarship I also greatly admire), we will probably always disagree on our assessments of Hephaistion. :-)
No doubt. If anything, Heckel's view of Hephaistion is 'darker' than Green's. Oddly enough, I tend to Heckel's viewpoint.
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Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Re: Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Post by Alexias » Sun Oct 01, 2017 3:21 pm

Hephaestion, son of Amyntor, had been a close friend of the King since boyhood. He had been with Alexander as a teenager at Mieza, when Crown Prince was educated by Aristotle. Romantised accounts compared the two with Achilles and Patroclus. Whether they were lovers, as many modern writers like to assert, is not entirely clear. But Alexander certainly promoted Hephaestion's career despite the fact that he seems to have possessed poor leadership qualities and little military skill. He was nevertheless a gifted organiser and Alexander left many matters of logistics - supply, transport of equipment, bridge-building, and the founding of settlements - to him.

By the time the army reached India, Hephaestion's promotion had brought about friction with other officers, especially the fine soldier Craterus. At one point the two came to blows in front of their respective troops and Alexander had to intervene.
Waldemar Heckel "The Wars of Alexander the Great" Osprey Edition

That 'fine soldier' speaks of an unacknowledged contempt for the non-military man. Craterus, it would seem, is the bluff soldier who got where he was by his own integrity whereas Hephaestion got where he was by devious and subtle means.

I wanted to write a defence of Hephaestion but the accusation of nepotism won't go away and Alexander's 'you are nothing without me' doesn't help. It seems to be interpreted exclusively to mean that Hephaestion alone had achieved his position by Alexander's favouritism. Equally though, Alexander might have meant that all of them had only got where they were because of him but because we don't have the details of the quarrel, we cannot be certain.

Yet if we are to assume Alexander's quote was directed exclusively at Hephaestion, that might hint at reasons for Hephaestion's reputation for quarrelsomeness. Evidence for this reputation doesn't appear until after Hephaestion's rise to prominence following Parmenion and Philotas's removal. If it was felt that older, better, more experienced soldiers than Hephaestion should have been promoted to the vacant commands, he may well have had to face accusations of favouritism and an undercurrent of jealousy, despite Heckel's assertion that no one mentioned the nepotism. Jealousy may have been behind the quarrel wth Craterus, or it may simply have been that power went to Hephaestion's head and that he had to be reminded by Alexander who was king. Yet we have nothing to judge these quarrels against. The earlier quarrel with Eumenes is only mentioned because it was followed by the one Alexander was asked to intervene in. Because Alexander didn't become involved in them that we know of, we don't hear about the undoubted feuds and jealousies that must have existed amongst Alexander's other officers, so Hephaestion's reputation for quarrelsomeness may be disproportionate.

Hephaestion may not have been a first rate battle commander, but that doesn't make him a coward or incompetent, or worthy of contempt. Alexander would not have repeatedly given him independent commands had he been incapable. These commands may not have been as glamorous as leading a decisive charge in a big set battle, but that does not mean that they were any less important in achieving the success of Alexander's expedition. Hephaestion's promotions did not harm Alexander's success, and in appointing him as chiliarch, Alexander may well have recognised that the administrative functions of the Great King required more attention than he could, or would, give them.

Hephaestion was no Sejanus. He may have helped push Philotas off the cliff, but he didn't put him there in the first place. He may have bent Alexander's ear about Eumenes and Eumenes may have been quaking in his boots, but he was neither punished nor lost his position. Ultimately then, Alexander's favouritism for Hephaestion caused no more harm than appointing any other of these ambitious, ruthless men to positions of immense power. We don't hear of him hoarding money like Eumenes, or appropriating funds like Harpalus, or shipping sand like Craterus and Perdiccas. So what was the harm in Alexander's favouritism? All kings and rulers have favourites and friends in positions of power. They rely on them to carry out their will, otherwise they would have to coerce people. Just because Hephaestion did not come from a powerful family and did not inherit a position of power does not mean that he did not merit that power or does not mean that he didn't work just as hard as anyone else to hold onto it. Nor does it mean that he deserves contempt for not being a brilliant soldier who could strut his macho stuff in retellings of the big battles.

Enough. Sorry for going on a bit.

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Re: Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Post by Jeanne Reames » Thu Oct 05, 2017 5:35 am

What I think is one of the more problematic issues for historians is the tendency to regard people's personalities as somewhat rigid, rather than flexible in response to changing situations. This is what (in psych) is called "actor-observer bias."

In short, "actor-observer bias" is the tendency to attribute one's own actions to situational factors--I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk--but other people's behavior to a innate quality--you tripped because you're clumsy.

This is, in fact, normal human response unless 1) the person has some training, or 2) a natural gift for psychology (like my mother, who understood actor-observer bias with no name for it and not a single college class in psychology). But MOST people don't.

This comes into play with Hephaistion (or really anybody at ATG's court).

Also, the unconscious tendency to "back-read"--that is to impose later behaviors earlier into an officer's career. In some cases, that may be okay, in others, not, and in ANY case, we have to be very careful to realize we're doing it.

We hear nothing about a "quarrelsome" Hephaistion until late in his career, mostly post Companions appointment and really, post-India. ALL instances are late. Even the Philotas Affair is (imo) less about being "quarrelsome" (unless one assumes it and back-reads) than about fearing for his best friend's safety. We also can't use "cui bono" as *at the time* Hephaistion had little reason to assume he'd gain command of the Companions. If there's a "cui bono" that fits *Krateros* better, who could expect to step into Philotas's shoes.

But what all this means is that descriptions of Hephaistion seem to indicate a certain diplomatic skill, and he doesn't become a target (or to target others) until he rises significantly in rank. This is important to remember.

Another observation: it's possible for someone to have different presentations, depending on audience. So, in short, Hephaistion may have been "prickly" with certain groups/people, but a golden tongue (Chyrsostom) with others, when diplomacy was required. Human beings are rarely all that consistent, although we like to paint them so because that makes them easier to conceptualize. ;)

(This is why the friend you may find polite and/or loyal and/or kind is viewed by someone else as vindictive, undependable, and/or rude.)
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Re: Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Post by sikander » Mon Oct 09, 2017 10:15 am

Greetings,

Reading through this thread, I tend to agree with Alexias and Jeanne on Hephaestion. I think a trend to color Hephaestion in a certain way, without any proofs, has been fed by that "fundamentally stupid" comment. Nothing about Hephaestion points to him being "stupid", or even undeserving of his position. I suspect a healthy ego clashing with other egos was at play, along with some jealousy, and the way men in general, in a hyper-masculine environment like the military, tend to interact with each other.

One of the things Hephaestion offered Alexander was an untouchable loyalty, utterly trusted not to be broken. In an environment such as existed, it was invaluable, and I suspect that those who knew it was untouchable were also prepared to try to undermine that trust, or sow discord. That's politics and human nature. And the value of absolute loyalty in the halls of power cannot be viewed lightly or ignored.. it can mean the difference between life and death.

It's also interesting that so little *is* written of the man. I would suspect this was becasue he *was* a private person, not given to shoving himself out for notice; he would have known who his friends were as well as his enemies and would have kept more to that small circle of trusted friends, knowing full well that, due to his relationship to Alexander, he would be a target. I would suspect he sent a lot of time observing the interrelationships at the court and knew how things worked and who worked them. Again- human nature and politics. A stupid person would blunder along, an intelligent one would be more cautious.

Failure to consider basic human nature, and political positioning, when examining historical persons can lead to strange conclusions about individuals. The idea that Hephaestion was undeserving or less capable for the job which Alexander assigned to him would make Alexander himself somewhat questionable as a leader. He would know full well what each man's qualities and weaknesses were, whether in battle or in leadership, and who could be trusted and who was "ambitious".

This doesn't mean Hephaestion would not have quarrels, or enemies. Amongst a group of powerful men, it is inevitable divisions will occur, there will be gossip and intrigues, quarrels and even potentially deadly arguments. This was not an age of Robert's Rules of Order. And unfortunately, as has been said by others, "history is written by the winners".

I think Hephaestion's story is yet to be written

Regards,
Sikander

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Re: Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Post by Jeanne Reames » Wed Oct 11, 2017 12:48 am

"This was not an age of Robert's Rules of Order."

Best line about the court ever, Sikander. I will have to steal it when teaching my Alexander class (with proper attribution, of course.)
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Re: Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Post by sikander » Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:19 am

Greetings Jeanne,

Thank you. I thought you would understand <smile>. True then, true now.
The veneer of polite civilization is never deep when it comes to politics and power.
And absolute loyalty is still an invaluable character trait. And still rare.

Regards,
Sikander

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Re: Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Post by eclipse » Sat Oct 28, 2017 2:40 am

It's funny (sad) I can only think of rare examples of Hephaestion being sort of developed in fiction. One of them is in this little known novel called The Curse of Ezekiel, which is not great, but has the interesting quality of being written by a Lebanese author and from a Lebanese point of view, where Hephaestion is presented as a smart diplomat.

It shouldn't be so rare for Hephaestion to be more heavily featured as his own person, but it is, so I'm very excited about Jeanne's project. I'll be definitely be getting the novels. Hephaestion as a character and not as an accessory? Sign me up. He'll be in good hands, of that I'm sure.

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Re: Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Post by Jeanne Reames » Fri Nov 09, 2018 3:54 am

I have an update. I now have release dates for the novels. Note, these could *change* between now and then. But:

Dancing with the Lion: Becoming will be out officially at midnight on Monday, May 6th, with an early release on Riptide's own platform at midnight Saturday, May 4th.

Dancing with the Lion: Rise will be out officially at midnight on Monday, June 24th, with an early release on Riptide's own platform at midnight Saturday, June 22nd.

https://riptidepublishing.com/

Once the covers are finished, et al., I'll post new info.
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Re: Dancing with the Lion (novels on the young ATG)

Post by Jeanne Reames » Thu Mar 21, 2019 11:01 pm

I have seen the ARC (advance review copy) for book I (Becoming). It exists! It's going out to review readers soonish. My niece has done a fantastic map, in the 19th Century map style, which I think readers will really enjoy, but I haven't seen the final cover art yet (the cover on the ARC is just a place-holder, not the image that will be on the book).

They have pushed back the date of release to Monday July 1st, although it will be out early on Riptide's own site the Friday before at midnight. (No, I don't know if that's midnight Thursday...e.g., Friday morning, or midnight Friday, e.g., Saturday morning--need to ask, ha.) Book II will be released in either late September or October.

Do be aware there is an author's note, which will appear in Book II. (This is essentially one book they've divided in half due to its size.) Most readers won't care, but some of y'all will know enough to wonder why I did ___? Know the explanation is coming at the end of book II.

Part of the reason for the longer time between book I and book II is that I believe they are going to release it as a "bundle," which means both "books" will be put together (which is how it was originally written). I don't know if that will come out simultaneously with book II, or (more likely?) a little after.

The PRIMARY form of release will be ebook ($4.99), but it will also be available in print as POD (print on demand), if you'd prefer a hardcopy. If enough requests for PODs come in, they may also release it as a limited print-run.

So if you like it, please spread the word. :D
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