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Owls to Athens (Hellenistic Seafaring Adventure) Hardcover – November 25, 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
Book 4 of 4 in the Hellenic Traders Series

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Praise for H. N. Turteltaub

"As much fun as its predecessors...Good pacing, a light touch, and a genuine feel for the period."
--Kirkus Reviews on The Sacred Land

"Just enough period detail...It's a lighthearted, whimsical story, another solid entry in an entertaining series."
--Booklist on The Sacred Land

"The reader is engrossed."
--VOYA on Over the Wine-Dark Sea

"Mesmerizing."
--Booklist on Justinian

About the Author

H. N. Turteltaub is a pseudonym of a well-known novelist and scholar of the ancient world.
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Product Details

  • Series: Hellenistic Seafaring Adventure
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; 1st edition (December 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765300389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765300386
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #639,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Another excellent historical novel by acclaimed science fiction write Harry Turtledove (here writing under the penname of H. N. Turteltaub), the fourth in his series of books about the adventures of Menedemos and Sostratos, two cousins living on the island of Rhodes shortly after the death of Alexander the Great, who once a year take their family's ship on a trading expedition around the Eastern Mediterranean.

As you would expect from Turtledove he combines high entertainment values with careful attention to historical accuracy, following in the tradition of the late great L. Sprague De Camp, another sf author who also wrote a few wonderful historicals. As was the case with De Camp I admire the fact that Turtledove's characters are recognizable human beings, even the historical figures portrayed, who talk and act in realistic ways, rather than being stick figures who recite pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue as in so many other historical novels set in this period.

In this chapter, the two cousins, Menedemos, the man of action (and devil with the ladies) and Sostratos, the intellectual, travel to the great city of Athens, only to find themselves in the middle of a political and military crisis when the city is invaded and occupied by the forces of Demetrious, son of Antigonus, one of the successors to Alexander the Great. It is already a bitter homecoming for Sostratos, who had studied in one of the famous philosophical schools in the city earlier in his life and had dreamed of returning, only to find, as another philosopher put it, that you can't step in the same river twice.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read all of the Menedemos/Sostratos books since stumbling across The Gryphon's Skull about two years ago. They are a fun way to spend a quiet afternoon or to keep you interested on the bus, which is more than one could say about a lot of contemporary literary fiction. While I won't say they're *serious* or especially deep, personally I don't need that and they give us an idea of what it would be like to live in that time period.

Owls to Athens is a nice book but it seemed to lack the energy of the first three. As another reviewer noted, our heroes are never in any real danger and it's when they are that the book often comes alive. The scene where they have to escape from the Roman galley in Wine Dark is good, as is the pirate attack in Gryphon, or the bandit attack in Sacred Land. Nothing like a good action scene to get the blood up now and again! Also, the travelogue aspect of the earlier novels is missing as they spend pretty much their entire time in Athens, except the start of and end of scenes in Rhodes. In the area of character development, however, Owls is good. Sostratos finds out that what he thought he wanted he doesn't necessarily and Menedemos finds out that life can get... complicated, sometimes too complicated.

One thing to note about the series generally: These novels don't pull punches when it comes to the mores of the time, many of which are VERY different from ours. Sostratos is a pretty enlightened person for his day but he sees little wrong in slavery, for instance. (He mostly thanks his lucky stars he's NOT one and occasionally muses about how things might have been different if he was.) Menedemos behaves more or less like a Greek man of his day, which involves behavior many of us would consider unexcusable (though many modern people certainly do the stuff he's completely unapologetic about on vacation). If you're at all squeamish about such things, stay away.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the last book in the Hellenic Traders series. I have to say I'm going to miss it despite its episodic narrative and lack of momentum. They offer a leisurely stroll through the Hellenic world unlike any you're likely to see. This time Menedemos and Sostratos are finally getting to Athens. But this isn't the Athens most people think of, the Athens of the 5th Century democracy with their empire. This is the Athens of dictators and sycophants. Philosophers and playwrights too, but they can hardly be compared to the greats like Socrates and Euripides. Only Menander is known today.

As ever we get the guided tour of classical Greece. This time it's in Athens so for a change I can actually put an image to the things that they're seeing. There is a special sort of thrill to reading about something taking place somewhere you can actually go. Most of the rest of these places have been built over so much that there isn't anything left. The big thrill this time is the Dionysia, a debauched festival full of wine and plays and loose women.

The thing that really struck me this time was how lonely it must have felt living in the classical world. It was obvious from the beginning of the series how unfair it was to be a woman in Greece. They weren't allowed to leave the house except on rare occasions and then they wore a veil. Even inside the house they were expected to stay in their section of the house and could only see guests when their husband gave his permission. Love-matches were basically nonexistent. But it sucked for the men too (and not just the boys who so often filled in for women). Both Sostratus and Menedemos are looking for love, although they express it in different ways. Menedemos hunts men's wives.
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