Here’s the last part of a chapter form my historical novel, Archimedes of Syracuse. Previously I posted a chapter concerning one of the legends about Archimedes. This chapter is about the legend of Archimedes pulling a ship out of dry dock single handedly. It’s a little long for a blog, so I’ve broken it down in parts. If you missed Part 1 & 2, scroll down. Archimedes lived in Syracuse on the island of Sicily where he worked for King Hieron, a tyrant. Many of the details of his legends are vague, so in my novel, I tried to fill in logical details. Enjoy.
Back in the throne room, the King addresses Archimedes, “Archimedes, I must confess I thought you had made an idle boast but you were right, and I was wrong. I did not trust you. Your father, Phidias, was not only my chief advisor, he was a close friend. I admired his intelligence, and trusted his judgment implicitly. I miss him a lot. You, on the other hand, I did not trust until today. You had not proven yourself the man your father was. Now, I realize, I was wrong. You are greater than your father. You have earned my trust and my friendship.”
“Thank you, my Lord.”
“I want you to join me in celebrating the launching of the Syracusia by dining with me in the palace. I am sending you to Alexandria on the Syracusia as soon as it is ready to sail. I want Barnacle to go with you. He will train the new crew from Alexandria. You can visit the Library and the Museum. Stay as long as King Ptolemy desires.”
“Your word is law.”
“Archimedes,” Queen Philistis says, “May I offer you a word of advice?”
“Of course, your Highness. I would welcome any advice from you.”
“Well, I think this trip to Alexandria is a great opportunity for you. You are not getting any younger, and I think you should consider taking a wife while you are in Alexandria.”
“Yes, your Highness, but why Alexandria, and not here in Syracuse?”
“Archimedes, you are my nephew, and I am concerned for your wellbeing. The truth is, I have been seeking a suitable wife for you for a number of years since your father died, and I have had no success. The women in Syracuse know of you and your reputation, and, quite frankly, they consider you-how shall I say this without offense-somewhat, well, eccentric.”
King Hieron begins to chuckle.
“I have even gone to other cities in Sicily but to no avail. Suitable women there have friends and relatives in Syracuse, and they soon find out about you. I am afraid I have not been able to find you a wife anywhere in Sicily.”
“I am sorry, your Highness. I did not mean to put you to so much trouble.”
“That is not the point. You are family. As near as I can determine, the citizens of Alexandria know of your great work but are not aware of your eccentricities. I think you may have the opportunity to find a wife. I should go with you to help, but I must stay here. You will have to be on your best behavior, and make an impressive appearance.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, for example, don’t go running down the streets naked, and don’t forget to bathe. Try to meet with people and socialize. Don’t work so hard. Enjoy your visit, and make new friends.”
“I have many friends in Alexandria already. Many scholars.”
“I mean outside of the Museum.”
“I will try, your highness.”
“And another thing, shave your beard.”
“Why must I shave my beard?”
“It will make you look years younger. You are a good-looking man, but who can see it? Women are attracted to smooth faces.”
“But, your Highness, I will be meeting with scholars from the Museum. Surely…”
Philistis cuts him off, “You will not find a wife in the Museum or Library. You can discuss your mathematics with the scholars after you marry, and let your beard grow, but for now, shave off your beard! That is a command!”
Looking at King Hieron, “Sire, please…”
Snickering, “Don’t drag me into this, Archimedes. My advice is to do whatever she says. That’s what I do. If you don’t, you will never hear the end of it, and you probably won’t ever get married. Just do it.”
“Yes, your highness. Your word is law.”
“Archimedes, my friend, I think she may be right,” says Hieron, “You are representing Syracuse, and we want you to look your best. I have heard that the women in Alexandria are beautiful. Beside it is a great opportunity for you. King Ptolemy himself has requested your presence. You can study at the great Library, and meet the greatest minds in the world. Then you can return, and share that knowledge with Syracuse.”
“I look forward to it.”
“Just bring back some useful ideas and not that nonsense about the world being round and spinning around the sun.”
Archimedes’ mouth drops open, and he stares at the King. He never realized that he knew anything about the secret body of knowledge.
“Oh, don’t look so surprised. King Ptolemy writes to me often, and has told me all about such things.”
Astonished, “You know that the world is not flat?”
“Whether I know it or whether I believe it is of no consequence. Of course, I know it!”
“And that the earth orbits the sun?”
“Again, it is useless knowledge.”
“Useless, sire? It is of monumental proportions! It underscores all that we know of nature. Surely, you can see…”
“Archimedes, I did not mean to offend you, and I do not want to debate the point. What I mean is that it does not make any difference in the manner in which I rule Syracuse. How would it change my life? How will it aid us in battle? Will it add one day to the number of days that the gods have granted me?”
“The gods, sire?”
“Yes, the gods. Zeus favors me because I make sacrifices to him and honor him. He does not seem to care if the world is flat, round or square.”
Philistis interrupts, “Please, Archimedes, do not get the King all worked up, and then leave him to me to calm down. Have these debates with your peers at the Museum.”
“Yes, my dear, you are right,” agrees the King. Turning to Archimedes, “You will sail for Alexandria in time for the feast of Ptolemy I.”
“And shave off your beard!” interjects Philistis.
“Your word is law.”
The end of Chapter 5
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