Tros of Samothrace - Talbot Mundy - ebook

Tros of Samothrace ebook

Talbot Mundy

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Opis

The cable that Julius Caesar has made in helping find the best way to attack Britain is to play a double game. He must save his father and encourage the resistance of the British leaders to remove Rome from its legions that are ready to conquer the land of Gaul. Offenses, intrigue, and many murders pose a threat to accompaniment by Caesar’s Caesar in his amphibian landings and battles.

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Contents

INTRODUCTORY Talbot Mundy on Julius Caesar and the Samothracian Mysteries

CHAPTER 1. Britain: The Late Summer of 55 B.C.

CHAPTER 2. “And ye know whether Caesar lies or not.”

CHAPTER 3. Gwenhwyfar, Wife of Britomaris

CHAPTER 4. Fflur

CHAPTER 5. A Prince of Hosts

CHAPTER 6. Concerning a Boil and Commius

CHAPTER 7. Gobhan and the Tides

CHAPTER 8. An Interview Near a Druid’s Cave

CHAPTER 9. Tros Displays His Seamanship and a Way of Minding His Own Business

CHAPTER 10. Caius Julius Caesar

CHAPTER 11. The Expedition Sails

CHAPTER 12. The Battle on the Beach

CHAPTER 13. Hythe and Caswallon

CHAPTER 14. “If Caesar could only know”

CHAPTER 15. Early Autumn: 55 B.C.

CHAPTER 16. Lunden Town

CHAPTER 17. A Home-Coming

CHAPTER 18. The Phoenician Tin Trader

CHAPTER 19. A Sitting of the Court of Admiralty: 55 B.C.

CHAPTER 20. Hiram-Bin-Ahab Stipulates

CHAPTER 21. In Which the Women Lend a Hand

CHAPTER 22. Mutiny and Mal de Mer

CHAPTER 23. Tros Makes a Promise

CHAPTER 24. Rome’s Centurion

CHAPTER 25. “God give you a fair wind, Hiram-Bin-Ahab!”

CHAPTER 26. “Neither Rome nor I Forgive!”

CHAPTER 27. The British Channel

CHAPTER 28. Northmen!

CHAPTER 29. Battle!

CHAPTER 30. Tros Makes Prisoners and Falls in Need of Friends

CHAPTER 31. A Man Named Skell Returns from Gaul

CHAPTER 32. “A pretty decent sort of god!”

CHAPTER 33. In Lunden Pool

CHAPTER 34. Cornelia of Gaul

CHAPTER 35. Tros Strikes a Bargain

CHAPTER 36. Rash? Wise? Desperate? Or All Three?

CHAPTER 37. The Battle at Lud’s Gate

CHAPTER 38. Winter, Near Lunden Town

CHAPTER 39. The Gist of Skell’s Argument

CHAPTER 40. “What shape is the Earth?”

CHAPTER 41. “The world is round!”

CHAPTER 42. Galba, the Sicilian

CHAPTER 43. The Conference of Kings

CHAPTER 44. Caswallon’s Ultimatum

CHAPTER 45. Eough, the Sorcerer

CHAPTER 46. Eough Applies Alchemy

CHAPTER 47. The Start of the Mad Adventure

CHAPTER 48. The Liburnian

CHAPTER 49. Luck o’ Lud o’ Lunden

CHAPTER 50. The Gods! The Gods!

CHAPTER 51. Ave, Caesar!

CHAPTER 52. “I Build a Ship!”

CHAPTER 53. Gathering Clouds

CHAPTER 54. Fflur Pays a Debt

CHAPTER 55. “The Fool! Lord Zeus, What shall I do with him?”

CHAPTER 56. A Bargain with the Druids

CHAPTER 57. Liafail

CHAPTER 58. The Lord Rhys

CHAPTER 59. The Lord Rhys’s Tenantry

CHAPTER 60. Make Sail!

CHAPTER 61. A Letter to Caesar

CHAPTER 62. Discipline

CHAPTER 63. Gwenhwyfar Yields

CHAPTER 64. News!

CHAPTER 65. The Fight off Dertemue

CHAPTER 66. Men—Men—Men!

CHAPTER 67. “Pluto! Shall I set forth full of dreads and questions?”

CHAPTER 68. Off Gades

CHAPTER 69. Visitors

CHAPTER 70. Gades by Night

CHAPTER 71. Chloe—“Qui saltavit placuit”

CHAPTER 72. Herod Ben Mordecai

CHAPTER 73. The Cottage in Pkauchios’ Garden

CHAPTER 74. Gaius Suetonius

CHAPTER 75. Pkauchios, the Astrologer

CHAPTER 76. Balbus qui murum aedificabit

CHAPTER 77. Conspiracy

CHAPTER 78. The Committee of Nineteen

CHAPTER 79. At Simon’s House

CHAPTER 80. In Balbus’ Dining Hall

CHAPTER 81. Caesar—Imperator!

CHAPTER 82. Rome: 54 B.C.

CHAPTER 83. Politics

CHAPTER 84. Helene

CHAPTER 85. Marcus Porcius Cato

CHAPTER 86. Julius Nepos

CHAPTER 87. Virgo Vestalis Maxima

CHAPTER 88. The Praetor’s Dungeon

CHAPTER 89. Pompeius Magnus

CHAPTER 90. The Carceres and Nepos, the Lanista

CHAPTER 91. Tros Forms an Odyssean Plan

CHAPTER 92. Ignotus

CHAPTER 93. Conops

CHAPTER 94. Circus Maximus

CHAPTER 95. The Link Breaks

CHAPTER 96. Britain: Late Summer

INTRODUCTORY Talbot Mundy on Julius Caesar and the Samothracian Mysteries

Arthur S. Hoffman, chief editor of Adventure from 1912 to 1927, wrote the following article for the magazine’s “Camp Fire” section as an afterword to the first part of “Tros of Samothrace.” The article contains, and is written around, a letter from Talbot Mundy in which the author describes his views of Julius Caesar as a man and a leader, and speculates on the nature of the Samothracian Mysteries.

Thanks and credit for making the text of this article available to RGL readers go to Matthew Whitehaven, who donated a copy from his personal archive for inclusion in this new edition of the book.

When Talbot Mundy first began talking to me about the Tros stories (there are to be others) and about Caesar and his times I began cussing myself for having done what I very particularly hold in contempt–I’d been swallowing whole some other fellow’s collecting and interpretation of facts and the whole conception resulting therefrom. All of us are naturally inclined to do this; that is why our civilization shows so many stupidities. But a minority struggle against this lazy, sheep-like habit and try to think for themselves as best they can. I’d flattered myself I was among those who tried–and then Talbot Mundy came along and made me see what a stupid sheep I’d been.

Since school I haven’t studied history (except for a few years that of ancient Ireland) or even done more than desultory reading–for example, learning from Hugh Pendexter’s stories more than I’d ever known of the history of our own country, and from others of our fiction writers more of the history of various countries. I’d had to translate Caesar’s Commentaries and to absorb more or less history as she is taught. It was impressed upon me that Caesar was a great man, an heroic figure. His Commentaries I accepted as true word for word. Did not other historians accept and build upon them? Were they not everywhere perpetuated in the schools without ever a question raised as to their complete trustworthiness.

In later years, of course, I learned that historians, instead of being infallible, were merely human beings grubbing among scattered bits of facts and trying to build out of them a complete conception of something on which they generally had no first hand information whatever. Also, that if one them made a mistake, many of those after him were likely to swallow the mistake and perpetuate it, and, on the other hand, that the historian of today, having at hand added bits of facts, is likely to consider the historian of yesterday very much out of date and not to be trusted too much in his deductions. In other words, any historian, including him of today, is, by the historian’s own test, not a final authority but merely a more or less skilful guesser at the whole truth from what small bits of it he manages to collect.

Yet I had been swallowing whole, without question, all the historians had been handing me. To be sure, Shaw years ago had merrily slapped most of the historians in the face and presented a comparatively new conception of Julius Caesar, but by that time I’d reached the stage where I didn’t accept other people’s say-so so easily. Like a true sheep, I relapsed pretty well into my old conception of a very heroic Caesar and a very wonderful and rather admirable Roman Empire.

Then Mr. Mundy, after much delving into books, arose and challenged the whole works and I awoke to contempt for myself. I didn’t mean I just scrapped all my old conceptions and accepted his, but I realized that I, at least, had nothing with which to support the old ideas against the new. Maybe Mr. Mundy is all or partly wrong. I don’t know. Let’s hear the other side in rebuttal. There are plenty of historians, both professional and amateur, among us who gather at Camp-Fire. Let’s hear from them.

One thing seems clear to me. If historians have accepted the Commentaries as completely as Mr. Mundy says, then I’m “off them” and for the same reason as Mr. Mundy–I hesitate to swallow whole the account of himself and his doings that an ambitious man wrote or had written to be read by the voters and politicians he must win to him in order to realize his ambitions. Let’s hear Mr. Mundy’s case:

*     *

*

I have followed Caesar’s Commentaries as closely as possible in writing this story, but as Caesar, by his own showing, was a liar, a brute, a treacherous humbug and a conceited ass, as well as the ablest military expert in the world at that time; and as there is plenty of information from ancient British, Welsh and Irish sources to refute much of what he writes, I have not been to much trouble to make him out a hero.

In the first place, I don’t believe he wrote his Commentaries. His secretary did. Most of it is in the third person, but here and there the first person creeps in, showing where Caesar edited the copy, which was afterward, no doubt, transcribed by a slave who did not dare to do any editing.

The statement is frequently made that Caesar must be accurate because all other Roman historians agree with him. But they all copied from him, so that argument doesn’t stand. No man who does his own press-agenting is entitled to be accepted on his own bare word, and as Caesar was quite an extraordinary criminal along every line but one (he does not seem to have been a drunkard) he is even less entitled to be believed than are most press agents. He was an epileptic, whose fits increased in violence as he grew older, and he was addicted to every form of vice (except drunkenness) then known. He habitually used the plunder of conquered cities for the purpose of bribing the Roman senate; he cut off the right hands of fifty thousand Gauls on one occasion, as a mere act of retaliation; he broke his word as often, and as treacherously, as he saw fit; and he was so vain that he ordered himself deified and caused his image to be set in Roman temples, with a special set of priests to burn incense before it.

As a general he was lucky, daring, skilful–undoubtedly a genius. As an admiral, he was fool enough to anchor his own feet off an open shore, where, according to his own account, a storm destroyed it. (In this story I have described what may have happened.) And he was idiot enough to repeat the mistake a year later, losing his fleet a second time.

He pretends his expeditions to Britain were successful. But a successful general does not usually sneak away by night. On his second invasion of Britain he actually raided as far as Lunden (London) but it is very doubtful whether he actually ever saw the place, and it is quite certain that he cleared out of Britain again as fast as possible, contenting himself with taking hostages and some plunder to make a show in his triumphal procession through the streets of Rome. And whatever Caesar wrote about those expeditions, what his men had to say about them can be surmised fairly accurately from the fact that Rome left Britain severely alone for several generations.

Caesar reports that the Britons were barbarians, but there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. They were probably the waning tag-end of a high civilization; which would mean that they had several distinct layers of society, including an aristocratic caste–that they had punctilious manners, and a keen and probably quixotic sense of chivalry. For instance, Caesar’s account that they fought nearly naked is offset by the fact that they thought it cowardly not to expose their bodies to the enemy. Their horsemanship, their skill in making bronze wheels and weapons, and their wickerwork chariots can hardly be called symptoms of barbarism.

The Britons were certainly mixed; their aristocrats were fair-haired and very white-skinned; but there were dark-haired, dark-skinned folk among them, as well as rufous Northmen, the descendants of North Sea rovers. They can not have been ignorant of the world, because for centuries prior to Caesar’s time there had been a great deal of oversea trade in tin. They used gold, and in such quantities that it must have been obtained from oversea. They were skilful in the use of wool. And they were near enough to Gaul to be in constant touch with it; moreover, they spoke practically the same language as the Gauls.

The Samothracians Mysteries have baffled most historians and, down to this day, nothing whatever is known of their actual teaching. Of course, all the Mysteries were secret; and at all times any initiate, of whatever degree, who attempted to reveal the secrets, or who did reveal any of them even unintentionally, was drastically punished. At certain periods, when the teaching had grown less spiritual, such offenders were killed.

Samothrace has no harbors and no safe anchorage, which may account for the fact that it has never been really practically occupied by any foreign power, although it is quite close to the coast of Greece. The ruins of the ancient temples remain today. It is probably true that the Samothracian Mysteries were the highest and the most universally respected, and that their Hierophants sent out from time to time emissaries, whose duty was to purify the lesser Mysteries in different parts of the world and to reinstruct the teachers. At any rate it is quite certain that all the Mysteries were based on the theory of universal brotherhood (any Free and Accepted Mason will understand at once what is meant by that) and that they had secret signs and passwords in common, by means of which any initiate could make himself known to another, even if he could not speak the other’s language. The Mysteries extended to the far East, and travel to the East, for the purpose of studying the Mysteries was much more common that is frequently supposed.

Caesar loathed the Druids (who were an order–and a very high one–of the Mysteries) because his own private character and life were much too rotten to permit his being a candidate for initiation. In all ages the first requirement for initiation has been clean living and honesty. He admits in his Commentaries that he burned the Druids alive in wicker cages, and he accuses the Druids of having done the same thing to their victims; but Caesar’s bare word is not worth the paper it is written on. His motive is obvious. Any any one who knows anything at all about the Mysteries–especially any Free and Advanced Mason–knows without any doubt whatever that no initiate of any genuine Mystery would go so far as to consider human sacrifice or any form of preventable cruelty.

Kissing was a general custom among the Britons. Men kissed each other. The hostess always kissed the guest. It was a sign of good faith and hospitality, the latter being almost a religion. Whoever had been kissed could not be treated as an enemy while under the same roof.

The spelling and pronunciation of common names presents the usual problem. Gwenhwyfar, of course, is the early form of Guinevere, but how it was pronounced is not easy to say. Fflur was known as Flora to the Romans, and the accounts of her beauty had much to do with Caesar’s second invasion of Britain, for he never could resist the temptation to ravish another man’s wife if her good lucks attracted his attention. (But I will tell that in another story.)

To me there seems no greater absurdity than to take Caesar’s Commentaries at their face value and to believe on his bare word that the Britons (or the Gauls) were savages. It is impossible that they can have been so. The Romans were savages, in every proper–if not commonly accepted–meaning of the word. The only superiority they possessed was discipline–but the Zulus under Tchaka also had discipline. The Romans, in Caesar’s time at any rate, had no art of their own worth mentioning, no standard of honor that they observed (although they were very fond of prating about honor, and of imputing dishonor to other people), no morals worth mentioning, no religion they believed in, and no reasonable concept of liberty. They were militarists, and they lived by plundering other people. They were unspeakably corrupt and vicious. A Roman legion was a machine that very soon got out of hand unless kept hard at work and fed with loot, including women. They were disgraceful sailors, using brute force where a real seaman would use brains, and losing whole fleets, in consequence, with astonishing regularity. They were cruel and vulgar, their so-called appreciation of art being exactly that of our modern nouveaux-riches; whatever was said to be excellent they bought or stole and removed to Rome, which was a stinking slum even by standards of the times, infested by imported slaves and licentious politicians.

But they did understand discipline, and they enforced it, when they could, with an iron hand. That enabled them to build roads, and it partly explains their success as law-makers. But Rome was a destroyer, a disease, a curse to the earth. The example that she set, of military conquest and imperialism, has tainted the world’s history ever since. It is to Rome and her so-called “classics” that we owe nine-tenths of the false philosophy and mercenary imperialism that has brought the world to its present state of perplexity and distress, long generations having had their schooling at the feet of Rome’s historians and even our laws being largely based on Rome’s ideas of discipline combined with greed.

Rome rooted out and destroyed the Mysteries and gave us in their place no spiritual guidance but a stark materialism, the justification of war, and a world-hero–Caius Julius Caesar, the epileptic liar, who, by own confession, slew at least three million men and gave their women to be slaves or worse, solely to further his own ambition. Sic transit gloria Romae! –Talbot Mundy

*     *

*

The last paragraph gives this little brain a mighty lot to think about. Is it the Roman Empire we are to thank for much of our present-day materialism? I wonder what our world would be like now if some other people or peoples had brought to the front another kind of civilization and standard? After all it is the moral standard, the mental point of view, that endures. The Roman Empire has rotted into mere history that we argue about. But, after all these centuries, is its moral and social standard gripping and guiding us today? What will our own moral and social standard do to the future of the world?

These Mysteries of Samothrace and elsewhere–what if Rome had not crushed them out? Or did she? Are they and their teachings still among us, our backs turned to them or out feet ground on them as backs and feet were in Rome’s day?

After a thousand or two years we are not quite so material as Talbot Mundy paints the Romans, but still, considering us as a whole, isn’t materialism our controlling influence? The magnificent Roman Empire is rotted, gone, wiped out. The world has pretty well employed itself in proving that materialistic nations can not endure. Some time will it get tired and start developing the other kind so that they in turn can have their trial? Will our nation ever do that, or will it just go on doing what the Roman Empire did and become what the Roman Empires is–a thing wiped from the physical earth but sending its curse of materialism down the centuries?

We’re not a materialistic nation? Well, if we’ve gone so far we don’t even know we’re materialistic, we’re in worse shape than I thought.

(Source: The Camp-Fire, Adventure, February 10, 1925)

CHAPTER 1. Britain: The Late Summer of 55 B.C.

These then are your liberties that ye inherit. If ye inherit sheep and oxen, ye protect those from the wolves. Ye know there are wolves, aye, and thieves also. Ye do not make yourselves ridiculous by saying neither wolf nor thief would rob you, but each to his own. Nevertheless, ye resent my warning. But I tell you, Liberty is alertness; those are one; they are the same thing. Your liberties are an offense to the slave, and to the enslaver also. Look ye to your liberties! Be watchful, and be ready to defend them. Envy, greed, conceit and ignorance, believing they are Virtue, see in undefended Liberty their opportunity to prove that violence is the grace of manhood. –from The Sayings of the Druid Taliesan

TOWARD sunset of a golden summer evening in a clearing in a dense oak forest five men and a woman sat beside a huge flat rock that lay half buried in the earth and tilted at an angle toward where the North Star would presently appear.

At the southern end of the clearing was a large house built of mud and wattle with a heavy thatched roof; it was surrounded by a fence of untrimmed branches, and within the enclosure there were about a dozen men and women attending a fire in the open air, cooking, and carrying water.

Across the clearing from a lane that led between enormous oaks, some cattle, driven by a few armed men clothed in little other than skins dawdled along a winding cow-path toward the opening in the fence. There was a smell of wood smoke and a hush that was entirely separate from the noise made by the cattle, the soft sigh of wind in the trees, the evensong of birds and the sound of voices. Expectancy was in the air.

The five men who sat by the rock were talking with interruptions, two of them being foreigners, who used one of the dialects of southern Gaul; and that was intelligible to one of the Britons who was a druid, and to the woman, who seemed to understand it perfectly, but not to the other men, to whom the druid had to keep interpreting.

“Speak slowly, Tros, speak slowly,” urged the druid; but the big man, although he spoke the Gaulish perfectly, had a way of pounding his left palm with his right fist and interjecting Greek phrases for added emphasis, making his meaning even more incomprehensible.

He looked a giant compared to the others although he was not much taller than they. His clothing was magnificent, but travel-stained. His black hair, hanging nearly to his shoulders, was bound by a heavy gold band across his forehead. A cloak of purple cloth, embroidered around the edges with gold thread, partly concealed a yellow tunic edged with gold and purple.

He wore a long sword with a purple scabbard, suspended from a leather belt that was heavily adorned with golden studs. His forearm was a Titan’s, and the muscles on his calves were like the roots of trees; but it was his face that held attention: Force, under control with immense stores in reserve; youth unconquerable, yet peculiarly aged before its time; cunning of the sort that is entirely separate from cowardice; imagination undivorced from concrete fact; an iron will and great good humor, that looked capable of blazing into wrath–all were written in the contours of forehead, nose and jaw. His leonine, amberous eyes contained a hint of red, and the breadth between them accentuated the massive strength of the forehead; they were eyes that seemed afraid of nothing, and incredulous of much; not intolerant, but certainly not easy to persuade.

His jaw had been shaved recently, to permit attention to a wound that had now nearly healed, leaving a deep indentation in the chin, and the black re- growing beard, silky in texture, so darkened the bronze skin that except for his size, he might almost have passed for an Iberian.

“Conops will tell you,” he said, laying a huge hand on the shoulder of the man beside him, “how well I know this Caius Julius Caesar. Conops, too, has had a taste of him. I have seen Caesar’s butchery. I know how he behaves to druids and to kings and to women and to all who oppose him, if he once has power. To obtain power–hah!–he pretends sometimes to be magnanimous. To keep it–”

Tros made a gesture with his right fist, showed his teeth in a grin of disgust and turned to the other Samothracian* beside him. “Is he or is he not cruel, Conops? Does he keep Rome’s promises? Are Rome’s or his worth that?” He snapped his fingers.

Conops grinned and laid a forefinger on the place where his right eye had been. Conops was a short man, of about the same age as Tros, possibly five-and-twenty, and of the same swarthy complexion; but he bore no other resemblance to his big companion. One bright-blue eye peered out from an impudent face, crowned with a knotted red kerchief. His nose was up-turned, as if it had been smashed in childhood. He had small brass earrings, similar in pattern to the heavy golden ones that Tros wore, and he was dressed in a smock of faded Tyrian blue, with a long knife tucked into a red sash at his waist. His thin, strong, bare legs looked as active as a cat’s.

“Caesar is as cruel as a fish!” he answered, nodding. “And he lies worse than a long-shore Alexandrian with a female slave for hire.”

The druid had to interpret that remark, speaking in soft undertones from a habit of having his way without much argument. He was a broad-faced young man with a musical voice, a quiet smile and big brown eyes, dressed in a blue-dyed woolen robe that reached nearly to his heels–one of the bardic druids of the second rank.

It was the woman who spoke next, interrupting the druid’s explanation, with her eyes on Tros. She seemed to gloat over his strength and yet to be more than half-suspicious of him, holding her husband by the arm and resting chin and elbow on her knee as she leaned forward to watch the big man’s face. She was dressed in a marvelously worked tunic of soft leather, whose pricked-in, barbaric pattern had been stained with blue woad. Chestnut hair, beautifully cared for, hung to her waist; her brown eyes were as eager as a dog’s; and though she was young and comely, and had not yet borne a child, she looked too panther-like to be attractive to a man who had known gentler women.

“You say he is cruel, this Caesar. Is that because he punished you for disobedience–or did you steal his woman?” she demanded. Tros laughed –a heavy, scornful laugh from deep down near his stomach.

“No need to steal! Caius Julius Caesar gives women away when he has amused himself,” he answered. “He cares for none unless some other man desires her; and when he has spoiled her, he uses her as a reward for his lieutenants. On the march his soldiers cry out to the rulers of the towns to hide their wives away, saying they bring the maker of cuckolds with them. Such is Caesar; a self-worshiper, a brainy rascal, the meanest cynic and the boldest thief alive. But he is lucky as well as clever, have no doubt of that.”

The druid interpreted, while the woman kept her eyes on Tros.

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This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.