Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stealing Athena

"My embassy shall be known throughout history for its benefits to the Fine Arts in Great Britain. You and I together shall be responsible for elevating the taste of the nation." -Lord Elgin in Stealing Athena (p. 21)

Stealing Athena is the story of two women in two different times, dealing with sort of the same problems. Aspasia is in Athens, although she is considered a forgeiner, during the Golden Age, when the Akropolis was being built. Because of her status as outsider she cannot be married to any Athenian men, so instead she becomes the courtesan of Perikles, the leader of Athens and man who began the project of the Akropolis. While they are in love, it makes no difference to the other citisens who simply see Aspasia as a whore and troublemaker because she is too outspoken. Mary Nisbet is another sotry. Married to the ambassador of the Brittish Empire to the Turkish Empire, who has bigger ambitions to rescue all the art of Athens from the French. Lord Elgin believes that be taking apart the incredible monuments and taking them home, he will be rewarded with fame for bringing so much art to the English. Along the way it seems the gods don't agree with him, and he runs into a lot of problems including disease, prison, and the death of a child.

Both women are thought to be too outspoken, too open minded, too curious. In times when women were expected to be seen and not heard, these women were determined to be heard, even if it was only by their husbands. And things would have been easy if they had husbands who understood that need. Well, Aspasia did get a good one, Perikles could understand that she needed to be her own person. Mary on the other had, got a husband that, while seeming to be completely in love with his wife, was unable to focus on anything other than his pet project of bringin down a whole culture.

This book sure got my mind moving. At first it seemed to be a slow book, not what I had expected or hoped for. Luckily it was what I had hoped for and the book sooned picked back up. Before I knew it, i was pulled into issues that I feel passionately about: women having a right to speak up, and the arts dedicated to the gods. I read as a man tore down beautiful monuments that praised the Athenian people as well as the amazing Goddess that they worshiped. A goddess who stood very firmly for the right sof women and their abilities. As Lord Elgin tore down the gifts her people gave to her, Athena begins to take revenge on him, and maybe even for the way he treated his wife. It gave me a lot to think about, to talk about, and a lot of reasons to sit down with the book and continue to read until I had finished.

I recommend that everyone take a chance at reading this wonderful book. Some of the things I discovered, about the characters and what I felt, I believe that others would like to read about as well. If you do get a chance to read it, let me know what you think, what your feelings are on the issues I was drawn to.

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