Dreaming Sparta, by Richard Favio
A bold and interesting premise.
Story blurb: In ancient Greece, Demetrios trains to become a Spartan soldier but grows depressed over the loss of his mentor, Andreas. His desire for them to retain their monogamous relationship is overcome by Lysandra’s devious attempts to have Andreas fulfill his duty as her betrothed.
In present day New York, Andrew’s life is in shambles when his father threatens to evict him for being gay.
When, Andrew stumbles into Demetrios’ world through a dream portal, their encounters provide each with the incentive to confront their demons … together.
Cover design: J.M. Snyder, with photography by: Vulkanette, Frenk and Danielle Kaufmann, and Igor Kovalchuk.
Available in eBook format – 197 KB
Review by Gerry Burnie
Richard Favio has an extensive résumé of literary reviews, short fiction and poetry, and I understand that Dreaming Sparta [JMS Books LLC, 2011] is his second novella.
The premise is an interesting one, whereby two pairs of soul-mates—Demetrios and Andreas from Ancient Sparta, and Andrew and Demetri from modern-day New York—somehow intersect spiritually across the continuum of time. Right there we have almost endless possibilities of contrast and comparison, some of which the author exploits quite nicely.
Andreas and Demetrios are erastes and eromenos, a mentoring and hands-on relationship that was accepted and encouraged for the benefits to society and the state. For example, the erastes (mentor) taught his young lover (eromenos) the proper etiquette and duties of a citizen. Indeed, it is believed by some that Spartan militarism and the well-being of the state depended on sexual love between men, i.e.:
“Older men chose young male lovers. There was no real age of consent in ancient Sparta. Childhood innocence had no meaning in the warrior state. All aspects of the life cycle were subjoined to the aim of making soldiers fit for war and the preservation of the common weal. Its practice was such an integral part of Spartan life that Plutarch writes: “By the time they were come to this age (twelve years old) there was not any of the more hopeful boys who had not a lover to bear him company.” Without a realization of the profound male love relations that animated it, no understanding of Spartan society is possible. Sparta was a homosexual state by law.” “Sex and History” a blog by Stanley Pacion.
However, once a certain age had been achieved it was expected—for the benefit of the state—that these would marry and procreate. Nonetheless, this was, once again, a mere extension of underlying male-oriented society, i.e.:
“Though encouraged into homosexuality from youth and conditioned to it by the institutions in which he lived, the law nonetheless required him to marry. Lycurgus [the legendary founder or Sparta] not only excluded bachelors from participation in the greatly appreciated naked processions of women, but also prescribed, “…in wintertime, the officers compelled them [the bachelors] to march naked themselves round the market-place, singing as they went a certain song to their own disgrace, that they justly suffered this punishment for disobeying the laws. Moreover, they were denied that respect and observance which the men paid their elders.” The need for children as well as the preservation of duty to the state inspired this contradictory legislation for Sparta.” Ibid.
The wedding night, as described by both Favio and Pancion, appears to leave a lot to be desired by modern standards:
“The wedding night also fell under the jurisdiction of Lycurgus’ legislation. In a tender passage Plutarch describes the legally prescribed ritual of consummation in Spartan society: “… she who superintended the wedding comes and clips the hair of the bride close around her head, dresses her up in mans’ clothes, and leaves her upon a mattress in the dark; afterwards comes the bridegroom, in his every-day clothes, sober and composed as having supped at the common table, and, entering privately into the room where the bride lies, unites her virgin zone, and takes her to himself; and after staying some time together, he returns composedly to his own apartment, to sleep as usual with the other young men.”” Ibid.
On the other hand, Andrew and Demetri are just discovering their attraction to one another; an attraction that is frowned upon by society (as represented by Andrew’s father), and erstwhile by the state.
Modern technology was a source of contrast explored by the author, making for some humorous observations on the part of a visiting Demetrious.
Nevertheless, for me there were a number of shortcomings. The first is that I never did catch the reason that Andrew was ‘dream-transported’ back to Sparta in the first place. Perhaps it was there and I missed it, but it was a question that stuck in my mind throughout. Secondly, as pointed out by Stanley Pacion, there were some very well established and interesting reasons for Andreas and Demetrios’ loving relationship, and although these are alluded to in Dreaming Sparta, I felt they could have been further developed.
That said, Dreaming Sparta is an interesting concept, and the author does include some interesting details regarding Sparta, so it is well worth the price. Three and one-half Gerry Bees.
 Since I am using the same scenario in my next novel (i.e. spiritual connectedness), I was especially interested to see how the author dealt with it.
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