Another Homeric road trip for Turtletaub’s roguish heroes sends them to ancient Athens in search of fortune, fame, girls—and philosophy.
Menedemos and Sostratos (The Sacred Land, 2003, etc.), merchant cousins from Rhodes, have a frat-boy air but can be serious and sober when occasion demands. As front men for their wealthy fathers, they’re in charge of buying and selling whatever can be bought and sold and moving the loot in the good ship Aphrodite. In the past, this has put them in harm’s way more than once—from pirates, storms, wars, and sirens—but it has also given them a cosmopolitan outlook and a sharp nose for business. This time out, the boys are headed for Athens, once again saddled with a worthless cargo of olive oil taken on as a favor to their dimwitted brother-in-law, Damonax. The sale of the oil (in oil-rich Athens) will barely cover the cost of the voyage, but Menedemos and Sostratos manage to take on some rare rose perfume and fine wines as well—and are glad of any excuse to visit the big city. The scholarly Sostratos, who once studied philosophy in the Greek capital, arranges to linger a while in town during the drama festival known as the Greater Dionysia, where he takes in the latest works of Menadros and other celebrated dramatists. Sostratos is not a fan of the theater, but he’s relieved just to be away from home, where he’s had the misfortune to fall in love with his stepmother. In Athens, however, he forgets that pretty quickly once he’s seduced (and possibly impregnated) Xenokleia, lovely wife of his host, Protomakhos. It’s the usual Frick-and-Frack routine, worldly Menedemos or cerebral Sostratos alternately falling into some trap and having to be rescued by his cousin—who promptly falls into another mess himself.
Quick and fun for newcomers, though fans may wonder whether the series is running out of steam.