Sacred Games (An Athenian Mystery)
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The third book in the critically acclaimed series set in Classical Athens, featuring the historically inspired amateur detective Nicolaos.
It is the Olympics of 460 BC. Nico's best friend, Timodemus, is a competitor in the pankration, the deadly martial art of ancient Greece. Timo is hot favorite to win. His only serious rival is Arakos from Sparta. When Arakos is found beaten to death, it is obvious Timodemus must be the killer. Who else could have killed the second-best fighter in all Hellas but the very best? The Judges of the Games sentence Timodemus to be executed in four days' time, as soon as the Sacred Games have finished.
Complicating everything is the fact that Athens and Sparta are already at each other's throats, in the opening stages of a power struggle for control of Hellas. If an Athenian is found to have cheated at the Games by murdering a Spartan, it will be everything the hawks in Sparta need to declare open war the moment the Sacred Truce is over. And that's a war Athens cannot hope to win.
Nico and his partner in sleuthing, the annoyingly clever priestess Diotima, have four days to save their friend and avert a war that would tear their world apart.
over, bring him to the iatrion as quick as you can. I’ll wait there for you.” I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. Heraclides picked up the skirts of his ground-length chiton and ran out of the stadion and down the path like a woman. One-Eye walked to the center of the ring. I thought he too might collapse, but he picked up his son, who was entirely limp, and carried him to the altar where the Olympic crown waited. One-Eye laid his son on the altar as if he were a sacrifice. There was
that message—not only my own city, but all of them. Do you take my meaning, girl?” “I understand you,” Diotima said. Her voice quavered. Gorgo looked into Diotima’s eyes. “I’ve waited twenty years for a Spartan woman of the next generation, one to whom I could pass these bits of wood. Now I find they must go to an Athenian.” Gorgo looked to Pleistarchus and me. “Leave us,” she said, in a voice that commanded kings. “This young lady and I have a few things to discuss.” IT’S NOT EVERY day you
seeing virgin girls at the Games. Let’s think about that. We have a stadion filled with thousands of drunken, sports-crazed men, and in among them are a bunch of teenage virgins. I don’t think so. What is very likely is that fathers brought along unmarried daughters to matchmake them with eligible bachelors from other cities. In fact, I consider it certain that the Olympics was a major matchmaking event. But there’s no way teenage girls were in the stadion when the contests were held. It’s
the man at my right. He pushed me back and I fell against the men on the other side. This went on so long I became dizzy. It was like a boys’ ball game, but played by men and with me as the ball. If they’d done this on the grounds of Olympia, passersby would have interceded at once to stop them. But no one could see us here. “You don’t mess with the Spartans,” the leader said. “And you don’t cheat them either. But you’re an Athenian, you always cheat, don’t you?” “He needs a lesson, Skarithos,”
Pericles talks, people listen.” Gorgo grimaced. “I know the type. I wager he’s untrustworthy.” “Er …” “That’s the problem with these elected rulers,” Gorgo said. “They always make short-term decisions to make themselves look good. The ephors are the same. Now if Athens had a king to run things, no one would be under pressure to get re-elected, and the people could be ruled well for the long term.” “What if the king’s not too bright?” I objected. “Then they listen to me. I’ve advised the