I adore Matyszak’s works for bringing daily life in antiquity to the modern reader. Our perceptions of life in the classical era are influenced so much by contemporary writers that were from and concerned with the 1% plus Hollywood’s misappropriation and misrepresentation, that Matyszak’s works are a breath of fresh air.
What to Expect
The intertwined stories of eight everyday people – from a runaway slave to a diplomat, from a farmer to an international trader – in the year leading to the 133rd Olympic Games (248 BCE). Almost a century after Alexander the Great’s conquest, this is the height of the Hellenistic era. Greek culture and trade range from Mesopotamia through Syria and Anatolia, from the Balkans to Egypt, and even westward to Massilia (Marseille).
While this isn’t exactly either fiction or non-fiction, it’s a great amalgam that, together with judicious sidebars and end notes, both teaches and entertains. If you’d like to leanr more about how people actually lived during those times, these in an excellent resource.
What I liked
I love that the focus is shifted away from rulers and battles to the man and woman on the street (or farm track). Combining meticulous research, a basic fictional narrative, and understated humour, Matyszak brings the whole Eastern Mediterranean of the 3rd century BCE to life, in a way that both amuses and educates. With the side-bar and some extra reading, you can quickly learn a lot about life in antiquity.
What to be aware of
Though fiction, don’t expect high drama (and on the plus side, you won’t be bored by a lecturing, academic tone).
Felix felt right at home. This Hellenistic culture at Egretia (Hellica) is on the wan, but the people and sites are very familiar to him. These are the usual suspects he deals with every day. And while he hasn’t had the chance to watch the Olympic Games (he was never keen on travel), he’d certainly love to if he got the chance.
This is an excellent resource to learn about daily life in Ancient Greece. If the subject intrigues you, if you like historical fiction set in antiquity or a lighter read than the usual academic papers, this is a must read.
Enjoying the reviews, but wondering who the heck is that Felix fellow? Glad you asked! He’s the protagonist of the Togas, Daggers, and Magic series, an historical-fantasy blend of a paranormal detective on the background of ancient Rome.