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Stephen Marte has gone back to the time period prior to the Persian Wars to Sparta’s golden age to write a carefully researched novel about its people and its part in a seminal period during Greek history that saw the first clashes between East and West and creation of the world’s first democracy. His central character is based on a little known Prince of Sparta named Euryanax. The book begins, “I am called Euryanax and I am a Spartan. In the Dorian tongue ‘eury’ means wandering and ‘anax’ means king. The wandering king. From my name comes my story…”
Euryanax was a grandson of the Spartan King Anaxandridas, and potential heir to one of Sparta’s two royal families. The story starts twenty-four years before the fabled Battle of Marathon, when Euryanax is twelve years old and follows him from his training in the agoge to the shores of Libya where his father Dorieus builds a colony and comes into conflict with the Persian Empire’s allies, Phoenicia and Carthage. This is only the beginning of a lifetime of wandering for Euryanax. During his adventures around the Mediterranean, this Prince of Sparta learns how to fight, how to lead men, how to think, and how to love; all of which is woven across the colorful tapestry of actual historical events.
One of the author’s goals in writing this series was to introduce readers to the intriguing characters found in Herodotus’ great work ‘The History.’ Leonidas, Gorgo, Chilon, Dorieus, Cleomenes, Pausanias, Themistocles, Miltiades, Mardonius, Pythagoras—they are all here and depicted from an engaging new perspective. For example, is Euryanax’s uncle Leonidas the legendary hero glorified in books and movies who sacrificed himself at the pass of Thermopylae to save Greece, or is he a schemer, a murderer, the killer of his own brother Cleomenes, whose daughter Gorgo he married to become king? Was Euryanax’s cousin Pausanias, the strategos of the Battle of Plataea, one of the greatest generals of all time, or was he a simple-minded bully who took credit for the achievements of better men? Was Euryanax’s uncle Cleomenes the madman Herodotus reports, or was he in fact a wise ruler, misunderstood and maligned by his own countrymen and history? What motivated Euryanax’s father Dorieus to leave Sparta and build colonies in Libya and Sicily; was he working under the orders of the Spartan state or was he envious because the ephors had selected his brother Cleomenes king? The answers to these and other questions are a part of the rich fabric of ‘The Wandering King.’
In the first book in the series, 'Summer, Harvest, War,' join Euryanax as he wanders from Sparta to North Africa where he takes part in the siege of the Phoenician stronghold at Oea. Venture with him to the city of merchants, Corinth, fight pirates in the Ionian Sea, and sail with the Spartans to the Temple of Apollo where Euryanax learns his fate from the Delphic Oracle.
As a job of research ‘The Wandering King’ is as sharp and solid as Spartan steel. As a historical novel, it moves as steadily as the tramp of a phalanx of hoplites moving across the sunbleached plains of the Peloponnese.