Set in the 5th century BC it is the first person narration telling the story of Turms from Ephesus a.k.a Lars Turms.
We meet Turms as a young man, an exile who, after burning the temple of Kybele in Sardes has come to Delphi seeking judgement and atonement. Recognised by the oracle as a man of destiny, he is acquitted and then, with his Spartan friend Dorieus, embarks on a journey around the ancient Mediterranean. He tells you about taking in battle with the Persians, piracy and – eventually – a romance with a priestess of Aphrodite, the alluring Arsinoe of many faces and voracious appetites. As Turms follows this beguiling woman from the Greek colonies of Sicily to the nascent republic of Rome, he grows ever closer to his fate – becoming a lukumon, a sacred priest-king of Etruscans who is also immortal.
Another historical book, written in 1956 by Mika Waltari which I have read long time ago and revisited this year.
I liked it mainly because it is one of these rare historical fiction novels which tries to depict the mysterious and old nation of Etruscans, their culture and religion. It covers the period of the Persian invasions of Greece, the conflict between the Etruscans and the Romans, and the early rivalry between Carthage and Rome. Still the main lead and narrator, Turms, I found definitely less endearing than Sinuhe the Egyptian. His short-sighted stupidity was indeed sometimes almost unbearable. He was able to perform serious magic, like calling the winds or the storm, but he couldn’t see through such a shallow seductress as Arsinoe? He was supposed to be a future lukumon but he never stopped to think deeper about his unusual gifts? Or anything at all?
I was really mad at Turms when he allowed Arsinoe to lead him by his cock and then agreed to sell Hannah, SPOILER highlight to read or skip their servant girl he seduced and impregnated and never even tried to find out who was the next owner of the girl. That was either callous or terminally stupid, especially taking into account the fact that Arsinoe was no good friend of Hannah or anybody female in her proximity (to put it mildly). In fact Turms was so blind that he never noticed that Arsinoe was destroying the life of his close friends and causing them a lot of grief. After some time I really wondered whether he was sane at all. Maybe he wasn’t, being a kind of god. By the way the Waltari’s curse strikes again in this book: if a woman is good she dies or at least has to suffer most of her life (see poor Hannah). If she is mean/selfish/conniving/greedy but pretty she lives on and is more or less successful.
Still who cannot be swayed by those Etruscans and their fascinating culture so I read on and on, exactly as the first time, until that mysterious Feast of the Gods. Turms, you stupid wuss, you should have become a lukumon earlier.
If you ever wondered what was the life of those mysterious Etruscans read this book – it sounds so right in places. You might hate the main lead but the rest will transport you to ancient Etruria. Which is no mean feat.