Sons of Zeus

Written by Noble Smith
Review by James Hawking

At first it seems that the young hero Nikias will be involved in a love story, but his grandfather, a tough pankrationist, expresses the ancient attitude accurately. “Love is for girls, not warriors. A marriage is nothing more than a political alliance between families. Everything else is just sheep shit and poetry.”

Treacherous Thebans, allied with Spartans and aided by a perfidious Persian, corrupt a Plataean magistrate who admits them to the town gates. This sneak attack has been called the Pearl Harbor of the Peloponnesian War. Nikias helps rally a resistance to the Thebans, and soon hands, arms and heads are being lopped off in street battles. Girl archers send arrows through enemy breasts, and Nikias (not to be confused with the Athenian general of the same name) helps to recapture the walls and take the invaders prisoner.

Nikias, not yet a confirmed warrior because of a false murder charge, helps to expose the traitor. Nikias’ faction favors remaining loyal to the alliance with a distant Athens. One of the most interesting scenes comes near the end of the book at a democratic assembly where Nikias and his friends overthrow the villain and bring about the election of a new arkon. As the book ends, the threat of Thebes and their ally Sparta still hangs over Plataea, and it is clear that these events are just a beginning, leaving the way open for a promised series of books about the struggle between Athens and Sparta. Those interested in ancient Greek history, particularly warfare, should be looking forward to the sequels.