The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Was thinking about the Dioscuri hunting down Theseus. This is one place I lose traction in my WIP; I'm not sure what spin to put on it. Yesterday I decided to dig into the subject and really get a grip on the multiple versions of what happened. I was trying to feel out what seemed most reasonable, and (just like when I try to feel out anything to do with Mycenaean thrones and inheritance) it got really confusing.*

Then today I was thinking through yesterday's stuff and realized that although I find it all very interesting, nobody else cares. It would be nearly impossible to get it set down in a story without being boring, and actually I could just boil it down to a sentence where we learn Theseus is dead and skip the rest--and then we're ready to move on. Without all the other stuff, the emphasis would shift to a story point: girls have to keep themselves shut away. This would provide a base for an idea (girls have to control themselves so men don't need to control themselves) that builds as the book moves along. I'm thinking I need to try (once again) to simplify because obviously I could wallow down all these byways for years and never come up with a storyline anybody gives a sh*t about.

*This is boring to everybody but me. I don't advise anybody to keep reading from this point.

Basically the main idea of the Helen/Theseus stories is that Theseus raped/kidnapped Helen, the twins' little sister. So they went after him. Sometimes in the various versions there are little pieces that make you go "Huh? Why's that in there?". Those are the pieces I like to look at, because they're sometimes the pieces that are older or that might be lost bits of history.

In myth the twins are generally considered mariners. (In slightly less exalted mentions they're raiders, kidnappers, rapists, and cattle thieves.) So anyway, I'm thinking if they tailed Theseus to Athens (after all, he was the king of Athens), they would have gone by sea because that was a lot easier.

However, they didn't go straight to Athens. They went to Aphidna, which is kind of north of Athens--it's nearer the far coast of the peninsula thingamajig that makes up Attica (which is where Athens is). Huh? Why would stories say they went around the back way, the long way?

It turns out that Theseus was from that area of Attica, and supposedly Aphidna (in some versions) is where he took Helen. Okay, that makes sense. That's why the twins sacked Aphidna then tailed Theseus to Athens where the Athenians opened the gates to them rather than be sacked themselves.

But then I see a version where the twins went to Athens not just through Aphidna but by way of Decelea, another place I never heard of. Turns out Decelea is a town near Aphidna. It doesn't appear to be on the way to Athens. It seems to have nothing to do with Athens or Aphidna or Helen. To me it still looks much easier to sail to the coast near Athens and go straight inland. To me it also makes sense that Theseus would take his kidnap victim to his home turf. But Decelea? Huh?

Turns out Decelea is the town at the mountain pass where trade goods (especially grain) from Eboeia had to pass before they could get to Athens.

Eboeia? Huh?

Turns out Eboeia is the looooong island north of Attica. If you look at it on a map, you can see that it totally blocks Attica from most of the Aegean Sea. Maybe Eboeia had a lot of grain of its own to sell, I don't know--but you can also see that anything at all coming from anywhere in the majority of the Aegean would have come either through or around Eboeia, then through Decelea, to get to Athens. Later in life, (this really happened) the Spartans took and held Decelea and this gave them a stranglehold on Athens. Supposedly the Spartans were always nice to Decelea because of Decelean help during the Theseus problems.

(My vague impressions that Athens was really not a very important place in pre-classical times have become a very strong feeling. Apparently Athens had to make do with whatever they could get overland via more important ports.)

So, stories say that the Dioscuri sacked Aphidna and were helped by Decelea and went to Athens where the Athenians invited them in and said, "We don't like Theseus either, so please don't sack us and we'll get a different king." The Dioscuri didn't sack Athens (some say the Athenians bought them off), and the exiled Theseus disappeared from the stories. Except for one story that he went to stay with the king of Skyros (an island off the coast of Eboeia!) and at some point the king of Skyros shoved him off a cliff.

So. Let's say that the point of all this blah-blah-blah is that Theseus is exiled and then killed by the king of Skyros (who after all had daughters, just as the Dioscuri had sisters). Let's say that the twins know he's dead, their vengeance is complete, and that the whole thing is over and done. Nothing left hanging.

Today I was thinking about all this and realized that nobody would care or need to know about the above, except for the last paragraph--the end result. And that led to the thoughts re. sticking to a simple point.

And this is a very good example of why I have trouble with transitions. I have to think through everything step by logical step, then try to figure out what's the important part storywise.

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