Monday, October 23, 2006

ILIUM RENOVATUM by Brian Hodgkinson

The scene below him from this hilltop was busy and varied.

How rich and beautiful was the city’s architecture! How stately the mansions, the wide tree-lined street and avenues, how imposing the markets and temples!

And then he turned and looked out towards the port. A score of large vessels were either moored alongside, or were waiting their turn at the quay. On the quayside itself, a crowd of carts and drays created an image of almost indescribable confusion, as goods of so many differing kinds, from so many differing lands, all were transferred from the ships to be taken to the many shops and emporiums which spread all over this prosperous land. The busy hordes of porters, the pompous customs officers, the certifying clerks, the taxation representatives and the port police – all created a buzz of sound which could clearly be heard from where he sat. Several of the ships were flying the colours of the Greek confederation, and the brogue of the Greek tongue rose clearly in the morning air.

He smiled inwardly.

What a difference from the scene ten years ago!

He remembered vividly sitting here, on this very hill with the words of his father Priam echoing in his ears - It’s all your cursed fault! You and that damned Greek whore you stole!

And, as a result, all the Greek city-states had rallied round the dispossessed husband and sailed across the narrow sea, to encamp along the shore and surround his city. It really had looked as if they meant war in those days.

But then one or two of their leaders had called for a parley - he remembered Achilles and Odysseus, Ajax and Menelaus, with some others - and had advanced across the narrow coastal plain, preceded by heralds and translators. And his father, with Hector and himself, had donned their whitest robes rather than the battle-armour which had seemed so necessary, and gone out from the city gates to meet these terrifying men.

Again the flicker of a remembering smile. Was it really only ten years ago when they had hidden their city behind those massive walls? So much stone, so much labour. All to be taken down a few years ago, to construct the new trading centres which were the envy of the whole civilised world.

But back in those days, he recollected how uneasy he had felt on the outside of those protecting walls.

Their leader had spoken - a petty-kinglet named Menelaus. We wish for a truce, he had said through the interpreters. We have heard of your new markets and trading places, and desire to bargain for trinkets and luxuries to send back to Greece for our wives and mistresses.

And so they had let them in. And the sudden, unthought-of, friendships and fellowships had blossomed and flourished between the two hitherto rival nations.

Paris stood, and strolled down the hill towards his own luxurious house.

There, outside the gate, was his dearly beloved Helen - she who had almost caused a war back in those old days. But she whose business acumen and foresight had instead been the cause of the incredible prosperity of his country, even to the extent of petty foreigners from Roma and Carthage pleading for trading rights.

Troy was set, it seemed, on a voyage of business richness which would last for ever! And all due to his Helen - the woman whose force had launched a thousand shops.

Brian Hodgkinson 2006 ©


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