A marvelously fluent, evocative historical, and first of a series, from the well-known author of such science fiction/fantasy novels as Free Live Free (1985). In 479 B.C. the combined forces of Thought (Athens) and Rope (Sparta) have defeated the invading Persians under Mardonius. Latro, a Latin-speaking mercenary with the Persian army (he also knows Greek and tends to translate place names literally) has suffered a head wound and lost his memory; he can't even remember from one day to the next. So, every night he records the previous day's events on a scroll, which he must then read the next morning in order to rediscover his circumstances and who his companions are (a splendid and subtle literary device that Wolfe is careful not to misuse). Accompanied by the poet Pindaros, the slave girl Io, and a black soldier from Nysa, Latro consults an oracle and, via a riddling response, learns the reason for his condition: he has offended a powerful goddess, the Earth Mother. So, at Advent (Eleusis) he makes obeisance and, after an eerie portent, is permitted to descend into a cave to chat with the goddess' Maiden aspect. Relenting somewhat, she offers him a choice: he may have his memory restored; he may return to his home city; or he may rejoin his friends. Latro chooses the latter. In due course, then, Latro comes to Sestos, a Persian city beseiged by Thought and Rope armies; at last, Latro is addressed--in Latin--by a soldier who recognizes him, as ""Lucius""; ironically, the soldier is on the point of expiring. Glowing, fascinating, intricate work, full of gods and ghosts and magical metamorphoses, set forth in a modern prose that agreeably captures the rhythm and spirit of the period. Those who prefer neat endings may be a trifle disappointed--but historical regulars and Wolfe fans will plunge fight in.