If you’ve just started reading my blog since last summer, you may be unfamiliar with Aella the Amazon; if so, this story will make little sense to you unless you first read “A Decent Boldness“, “A Haughty Spirit” and “Glorious Gifts“, in that order.
Wise to resolve, and patient to perform. - Homer, Odyssey (IV, 372)
To My Dearest Friend Phaedra, May Tethys Protect and Enrich Thee:
I pray this letter finds thee well, and that thou wilt forgive my poor grammar and worse penmanship. I have written it in Tarshi because it is of the utmost importance that its contents are kept a secret between us, and I know that no one in my country and few in thine can read it. My people already believe me to have become somewhat erratic due to my years spent in Man’s World, and I fear if they knew what I was planning I might not escape as easily as I did that unpleasantness about the spring festival six years ago.
Thou wilt remember that I conceived by the wealthy Scythian who gifted me with the beautiful kine, and bore a healthy son; thou wilt also remember that by the ancient pact between their people and ours, sons go to live with their fathers while we keep the daughters. Most of my people see a son as no more than bad luck, a necessary but unfortunate side effect of the lottery which might also produce a daughter. But somehow I could not be quite so unconcerned; even in the three months between his birth and the Spring Festival I had become very attached to him, and though I spoke it not aloud I gave him a secret name in my heart, Asterios. I suppose my Aunt Laomache is right, and I have been contaminated by outlandish ideas; I’ve known so many good men, both in Tartessos and during the months I spent at thy mother’s in Knossos, that I can no longer think of them merely as a necessary evil (no matter how bad most of them may be). Furthermore, his father Niall and I have mated every year since at the festival, and he always makes me a present of more kine; I thus see my son (whom his father named Hemek) every spring, and again on the occasions when our clans have met for trading after harvest, and every day (or so I fancy) in the faces of the two daughters I have borne since, who strongly resemble their brother.
So though it is not considered proper among my people to care about the fates of sons, the heart cannot be commanded by mortal woman. I know not why I feel such a powerful concern for his health and happiness, but feel it I do, and I have come to the conclusion that it is wrong to deny him the advantages his sisters will have. The Scythians are great warriors and horsemen, but they are not civilized like we Amazons; they spend most of the year roaming the steppes, living in tents and grazing their herds hither and yon. They have no writing and little in the way of art, and even their music and poetry are crude. So though my son is already strong and skilled for his five years, I want more for him than to be a mere herdsman. If wandering be the way of his father’s people, so be it, but let him wander among the cities of the West rather than the endless seas of grass in the East. Let him go forth and learn about all the wonders of the world as I have, and come home a wealthy, important and learned man, perhaps one able to bring culture to his noble but naïve race.
I have spoken to Niall about this, and we are in agreement; he is very impressed with the knowledge I gained in my travels, and he would like his son to have similar learning. If it meet with thy approval, we will send Hemek to thee two springs hence with the same captain who bears this letter; in the years I have known him I have found him to be an honorable man, and I believe I can trust him to deliver the boy safely into thy keeping in Knossos. I also know thou hast important kin who can secure the necessary seals and papers to doubly insure that he not be abused or sold into slavery before he reaches thy house. I charge thee to love him as thou lovest me, and to rear and educate him alongside thine own son; once I receive confirmation of his safe passage I will also pay the same captain to carry thee a sum of gold sufficient to pay whatever sum his teachers demand, and a like sum every year until his education should be complete.
Though I am a loyal Amazon and love my family and my mother country, I am no longer the pigheaded provincial I was when we met so long ago; I have learned that there are many ways for men and women to relate to one another, and have grown wise enough to understand that our ways are not necessarily the best. Legend says our first queen established our laws so that we would never be dominated by men, and while I saw the kind of society she wished to avoid in several of the places we visited, in Crete I saw men and women living together as equals. Perhaps thy people are morally superior to all others, yet I know them to be just as mortal; I therefore assume this to be the result of superior teaching and wiser laws. That is the other reason I wish my son to be educated there; perhaps he can bring that wisdom back to his father’s people, and his mother’s people can in turn learn from them. I do not believe that even a son of mine can create a new Golden Age singlehandedly, nor that such a thing is even possible. But if change is to happen it has to start somewhere, and who better to start it than one of Amazon blood?
With Sincere Love and Gratitude, Thine Own True Friend Always