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Books by the Blogger:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Kindle | paperback (UK)

KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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Kindle | paperback (UK)

READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Twain, Mark: A Murder, A Mystery, and a Marriage | Main | Robotham, Michael: Lost »

Galloway, Priscilla: The Courtesan's Daughter

  

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Laurel-Leaf Books © 2002, 259 pages [amazon]
4 stars

Priscilla Galloway's young adult novel The Courtesan's Daughter, set in Athens in the mid-fourth century B.C., tells the story of a young girl, Phano, who has been raised in Athens by her citizen father Stephanos and his paramour Nera, a former courtesan. ("Nera" is Galloway's Anglicization of the Greek name more usually spelled Neaira or Neaera.) Phano's upbringing has not been typical for an Athenian girl, in large part because of her step-mother's licentious past. In particular, when she was nine Phano had had to live virtually as a slave in the house of a certain Phrynion, an abusive character who had figured in Nera's past, this after legal troubles had forced Stephanos to flee Athens. Phrynion claimed that Nera was his slave and that Phano, whom he maintained was Nera's daughter rather than step-daughter, was likewise his property. Galloway follows Phano's story as she marries Theo (short for Theogenes) and settles into her husband's family, during which time Phrynion continues to cast a shadow over Phano's future.

In making his case against Neaira the prosecutor in the case, Apollodoros, dredges up all manner of dirt about Neaira's sordid past as one of ancient Greece's most infamous courtesans.Galloway's novel is based on a true story. Neaira, Phano, Stephanos, Theogenes, and Phrynion were all historical figures whom we know about primarily because of a still extant speech that was delivered in an Athenian court in the 340's B.C. Neaira was brought to trial on a charge of living with an Athenian citizen (Stephanos) as his wife--an offense because Neaira herself was not a citizen. In making his case against Neaira the prosecutor in the case, Apollodoros, dredges up all manner of dirt about Neaira's sordid past as one of ancient Greece's most infamous courtesans. Apollodoros had a lot to say about Phano in his speech as well.

The speech against Neaira is a highly biased account, and much of what Apollodoros says in it cannot be taken at face value. The text thus leaves readers with a great many perplexing questions about Neaira's history--and Phano's. Galloway, whose novel is set in the decade before Neaira's trial, has done a wonderful job of filling in the blanks in her account of Phano and Neaira. Much of her plot revolves around the question of Phano's parentage, for example, which is likewise one of the principal questions raised by Apollodoros' account. Galloway very neatly makes Phrynion a stooge of Philip of Macedon--who at the time was an increasingly menacing presence to the north of Greece--and pits him against Stephanos and Theogenes in the political arena. At the same time Galloway simplifies Phano's story, leaving out the brothers we know her to have had as well as a first, unhappy marriage.

Sticklers will find a few causes for complaint in Galloway's book. The author writes that Theogenes became a member of the Athenian Areopagus Council, in which "most citizen men could expect to serve," but she is presumably confusing that august body with the Athenian boule. It is hard to imagine, too, that an Athenian girl of the period would entertain the thought of becoming a courtesan in order to earn a few dollars, er, obols, as Galloway suggests Phano does. And I believe that Galloway attributes too much political authority to the office of archon basileus, the position which Theogenes held.

These are minor complaints, however. There is much to celebrate in Galloway's well-written and richly-imagined account, not least that her book may interest young adults, as well as their parents, in learning more about the society of which Phano and her family were a part.

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Book-blog.com reviews by Debra Hamel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.