Marathon: Freedom or Death
Sequel to the well-received Killer of Men, Marathon‘s publication commemorates the 2500th anniversary of this landmark Greek victory over the Persians. The story of the battle and the months preceding it are told to us by Arimnestos of Plataea. We learn, although not from him, that Arimnestos is famed for his military prowess across the eastern Mediterranean and both sides seek him out to lead their men. As a result, good and bad are blurred, a matter not helped by Briseis, Arimnestos’s love and a source of more pain than pleasure to him, being aligned to the side of the Persians through her marriage. Inevitably, events reach their climax in a bloody pitched battle at the end of which all the Persians are dead.
The battle sequences are vividly described and are both exciting and horrifying. This is largely achieved by how close we have grown to the narrator and main protagonist, Arimnestos. Arimnestos places the reader in the thick of it, sharing his pain and grief as friends fall. However, there is much more to the novel than battle. The complicated political, legal and social rituals of Greece are also brought to life. Over the novel, we have come to know Arimnestos well. His humour and affection for his friends, his ruthlessness when necessary and his acceptance that the gods demand he pay a price for being a killer of men. This is a male world, but we see glimpses of the lot of women, through powerful Briseis and the helpless slave that Arimnestos loses and seeks. You do not need to have read Killer of Men before this but, if you haven’t, you may well want to after Marathon. Recommended.