In the Heroic Age of Basil ll : Emperor of Byzantium
Set at the end of the 10th century and the beginning of the 11th, this story is about two young men during the struggle between the people of the Greek-speaking Byzantium Empire and the Bulgarians.
The story begins with sack of Adrianople by the Bulgarians. Constantine and Michael, his cousin, see Constantine’s parents slaughtered. They themselves are taken prisoner and are made personal slaves to the Tsar Samuel of Bulgaria. But Nikitas, who is living with the Bulgarians but who is actually a Greek spy, secretly teaches the boys his craft, and when they grow up Constantine and Michael become spies for the Greeks too.
On one level this is an exciting historical adventure story as we follow the exploits of the two young men. And there is also the hint of mystery. Who is the strange mute Bulgarian girl? And for whom is Father Gregory searching?
But the story operates on another level, a psychological one dealing with the themes of revenge and forgiveness and of divided loyalties. Father Gregory tells Constantine that he should forgive the murderers of his parents, but Constantine says that there are some things that cannot be forgiven. Later Michael does manage to exact a dreadful revenge but afterwards he is plagued by shame and remorse.
This book also clearly illustrates the cruelty and brutality of the times. There is the description of the Bulgarians killing the unarmed inhabitants of Adrianople and tossing the bodies of babies in the air. There is an account of the Emperor Basil ordering 15,000 prisoners to be blinded. And there are details of the slow death by impaling.
It comes with are maps, historical notes and a glossary. This book was first published in 1911 and is a modern Greek classic. Young Adult.