Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Persian Expedition

This book is a couple of millenia old, yet it still has a contemporary feel to it. Part of this may be due to the wonders of translation. (Shakespeare would probably not sound so archaic if translated in to modern Chinese.) However, it may also be due in part to the nature of the story. It is not so much about the details of everyday life in ancient Greek, but instead about the actions and feelings of a large group of people making a journey.

The Greeks are side players in palace conflicts among Persian royalty. They find one of their allies losing and strive to maintain their cohesion and position in spite of it. We get some tales of unity - how the groups attempt to split up, but then find things were better if they stay together. We also see signs of leadership and devotion to a higher being. When the gods tell somebody he should not take sole command, he refuses to accept the mantel, in spite of pleading. However, he does his best to ensure that others will do what is best for the group. He also presents himself as a fair ruler, being quick to counter objections with the "other side of the story", and turn the show of discipline around to his benefit.

We also see the many challenges of leadership. Some people let love interests get in the way of good decisions. The choice of allies becomes a key concern, with difficult decisions needed. Then, when allies start to falter, the leader needs to chose weather to give them the stern talking to, or retribution.

The book was not at all the military adventure that I was expecting, thus it seemed to drag on for a while I was anticipating the action that never really came. Perhaps with different expectations I would have appreciated it more.

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