Here we are again, friends! I promised you a hunt, and Thrake is the place to hunt. The game is better here than it ever was in my boyhood on Kitheron, or in the hills of Attika. By Hera, there are still lions and bears here, and we’ll not be clubbing rabbits for our meals!
And since you’ve been kind enough to fill this two-handled cup to brimful with unwatered wine, and to have my pais bring it to me, I feel that you honour me. And what can I give you in return but a story?
Well. I am well-known for my stories, I think. So set your hunting spears aside, fill your cups and place them by you, stretch out by the fire, and let’s have a tale. Ineed, we’ll have a circle fo tales, will we not? For I am not the only voice speaking at our fire circle, and others will tell you of far off places and other wars, other ships, other men and women, heroes and cowards and victory and defeat.
There are some new faces here, so I’ll remind you of how we got here. You may recall that at my daughter’s wedding, I told you of the Long War, from my boyhood on the slopes of Mount Kitheron, where my father was a great bronze smith and my mother was a hard-drinking aristocrat, to the greatest events of the modern age; the great defea of the Greeks at Lade, the stunning victory of the Battle of Marathon, the tragedy of Thermopylae,the wasted victory of Artemesium and the desperate victory of Salamis. And finally I told you of the day of the Rage of Ares, the greatest battle of our time, fought in my home town of Plataea between Mardonius and the Great King of Persia’s mighty army, and the coalition of all the Greeks.
Well, almost all. Thebes joined the Medes, and a few other states, and some stood aside and took no part. But enough of us stood our ground and fought, and in the end, the Spartans and the Athenians defeated the Persians.
At my daughter’s wedding feast, I ended my story by talking about the rebuilding, and that, my friends, is where I’ll take up the tale tonight. I’ll miss my daughter’s friend with hair of fire, who blushes so freely and so brightly, and I’ll miss my wife’s soft hands reminding me to keep the story within the bounds of social accepotance. And perhaps I’ll drink too much. These are times for wine, and friends.
And tomorrow we can run off our wine fumes and kill a boar.
But, as is so often the case, I’ve left my course.
It was the year after the end of the Long War to free Greece. It was the year that Timosthenes was Archon Basileus in Athens. It was the year my friend Astylos of Croton won every running event at Nemea and established himself as the greatest athlete of my generation. It was the year that I was Archon in Plataea. It was the year in which the Spartan Strategos, Pausanias, the victor of Plataea and Greece’s greatest commander, betrayed us to the Great King of Persia.
This is the story of that year.