Reader Guides

Gathered here is a collection of information of possible interest to readers. Once upon a time, such "backmatter" would have been placed at a novel's end. Yet in the Age of the Internet and ebooks (with hyperlinks), it can now appear elsewhere, which allows additional information impossible in print matter, including both video and audio.
For instance, hear what the quote from Homer found at the opening of Becoming actually sounds like:
αἰὲν ριστεύειν καὶ πείροχον μμεναι λλων
Always to excel and claim renown over others
(Homer, Iliad 11.780)

Character Lists
Limited Glossary
Macedonian Gods & Months
Exclamations & Obscenity

Cast of Characters

Boys at Mieza:
The [=] indicates brothers or cousins; additionally, Alexandros and Leonnatos are cousins twice removed.

1st Year Only
Both Years
Began 2nd Year
= Alexandros
Attalos Andromenous
= Nikanor
= Hektor
= Erigyios
Lysimakhos of Thessaly
= Derdas





Some of Philippos's Officers (in alphabetical order):

  • Andromenes -- Senior Trooper; father of (young) Attalos (not the general from Dion)
  • Antigonos Monóphthalmos -- A general and notably older half-brother of Marsyas; "monóphthalmos" means "one-eyed."
  • Antipatros -- Philippos's regent (and that of Perdikkas before him); political enemy of Parmenion, friend of Aristoteles, father of Kassandros and Phila
  • Attalos -- Epistates of Dion, rises to prominence later in Philippos's reign; uncle to the king's last wife
  • Eumenes of Kardia -- Philip's Asian Greek secretary
  • Eurylokhos -- One of Philip's generals
  • Kleitos Melas -- Page's drill officer, brother of Alexandros's nurse, Lanikē; "melas" means "dark" (e.g., he's swarthy)
  • Koinos -- Senior Page; later minor officer in the Pezhetairoi
  • Krateros -- Minor officer in the Pezhetairoi; distant cousin to Perdikkas
  • Parmenion -- Philippos primary general and best friend; father of Philotas, Nikanor, and Hektor
  • Polemokrates -- Senior officer; father of Koinos, Senior Page

Significant (non-Macedonian) Others (in order of appearance/mention):

  • Aristoteles -- Aristotle the philosopher, student of Plato
  • Demosthenes -- Famous Athenian orator, Philippos's most outspoken opponent
  • Aiskhines -- Athenian orator, supporter of Philippos, and bitter opponent of Demosthenes
  • Demades -- Athenian statesman, orator, and royal Guestfriend
  • Xenokrates -- Inheritor of Plato's Academy in Athens
  • Kampaspē of Larisa -- Alexander's Thessalian mistress
  • Langaros -- King of Agriana
  • Demaratos -- Corinthian merchant and statesman, royal Guestfriend

Some Significant Former Macedonian Kings

Alexandros I: "The Golden" (for a gold statue of himself dedicated at Delphi), king of Macedon during the Persian Wars. Accroding to Herodotos, he was forced to fight on the Persian side whilst secretly helping the Greeks. True or not, after the war, he certainly wanted the Greeks to believe he'd been coerced. He effected the first significant Hellenization of the Macedonian court, but also adopted some Persian customs, as well. His sister Gygaia was married to the Persian general Bubares.  (He is only later called "the Philhellene.")

Perdikkas II: Son of Alexandros I, during the Peloponnesian War, he earned a reputation for untrustworthiness, as he switched sides eleven times, but that's Athenocentric. From the Macedonian point of view, Perdikkas's masterful balancing act kept Macedon free and independent of Athens's timber ambitions.

Arkhelaos I: Probably the most successful king until Philippos, he was responsible for moving the capital from Aigai to Pella, as well as for the building of roads, forts, and fermenting cultural growth by "importing" a number of southern Greek artists and icons. He was a friend to Euripides, but supposedly few others, being famed (fairly or not) for a vile temperament. He died in a hunting "accident," speared by a Page with whom he was said to have had a love affair but subsequently shamed. (Philippos wasn't the first one.)

Amyntas III: Father of Philippos and his two elder brothers, he emerged to rule the kingdom after an extended bout of civil war, although his rule was reportedly weak and plagued by challenges. Yet he was one of the few Macedonian kings to die quietly in his bed of old age, so maybe he was stronger than he appeared.

Alexandros II: Eldest brother of Philippos, ruled only about one year before being murdered by a kinsman (and royal rival) during, of all things, a dance...albeit one in armor.

Perdikkas III: Middle brother who succeeded Alexandros II, first under a regency, then alone. He died in battle against the Illyrians, along with perhaps a third to half the Macedonian army, leaving behind an infant son (Amyntas) and his younger brother who seized the throne as Philippos II.

Limited Glossary of Greek Terms
(readers, where curious, are encouraged to Google items for visuals)

agorá -- marketplace; each polis (city-state) of any size would have at least one, typically in a central location.

akropolis -- literally "high city"; again, each polis capital would have one, which was usually constructed on a raised, defensible position (such as the Athenian acropolis). In the historical period, they held a city's shrines and temples, but once upon a time, they'd held the palace or royal residence...and in Pella, it still did.
(In Aigai, the akropolis was further up the mountain, with the palace on the hillside below.)

daimōn/daimonē/a -- a "little divine thing" (masculine/feminine); these aren't gods, per se, but might be thought of as spirits.

fibulai -- safety pins used to hold closed the shoulders of a khiton, could range from fairly simple to highly decorated.

gymnasion -- technically a park, often but not always outside city gates (where there was space); used for exercise, they contained all manner of buildings from a palaistra (see below) to racetracks, to stoas, to schools.

hēkista -- "not at all."

Herakleis -- "By Herakles!" Used much like the modern "Jesus!" and just as overworn.

Hetairos -- literally a "companion" of the king (Hetairoi, pl.), these men constituted the ruling aristocracy of ancient Macedonia, and would give their title to various army units. To separate the political status from the army units, I've reserved the Greek term for the political role, but used the English translation (mostly) for the army units: hence Companion Cavalry. While many Hetairoi were ethnic Macedonians, that wasn't required

idou -- "Look,..." -- same use and meaning as today.

kataratē -- an especially despicable creature, akin to calling somebody a "son of a bitch."

kausia -- the unique Macedonian hat, almost like a bowler hat with a curled brim not nearly as wide as a petasos.

khiton -- a tunic fastened at the shoulders with fibulai, or decoracted safety pins. Short khitones were strictly for men, while the longer version were worn by both women (in Ionia) and men, the latter as more "formal" wear.

klamys -- a cloak popular among soldiers; in the Greek south, it typically had squared ends, while in Macedonia, the ends were rounded.

Ma Dia -- "My god!" (or "My Zeus"), same use and meaning as today.

O Zeu -- "Oh god!" (or literally, "Oh Zeus"), same use and meaning as today.

oa -- a common emphasis/exclamation, "Woe!": a shorter version of oimoi.

oimoi -- a very common exclamation, literally "woe is me," but used akin to our "dammit."  Oimoi talas was the "godammit" version for men, with oimoi talena for women. I've even seen oimoi translated as "Fuck me!" which is probably fair with the de-escalation of the word's harshness across time.

palaistra -- a large rectangular
colonnaded building that containing a central sandpit, ringed by rooms for various activities from ball games to a pool to a room for "scraping down" (removing oil from the body with a strigil).

peoskephalos -- "dickhead," literally.

peplos -- a specifically female garment popular in Dorian areas, et al., including Macedonia; cut slightly differently from the long woman's khiton, it had a convenient overhang that could act like a "pocket," and was held closed with long pins (closed with cork).

petasos -- a big straw floppy sunhat with a wide brim, worn to keep off the unrelenting Mediterranean sun.

Pezhetairoi -- a crack hoplite infantry unit (Pezhetairos, sing.) differently armed from the sarissaphoi (main pike infantry); in Alexander's day, they became known as Hypaspists (shield bearers) while the title Pezhetairos was transferred to the sarissaphoi, replacing "pezoi," or regular foot.

polis -- a city-state (poleis, pl.). Ancient Greece wasn't a nation, or even a regional empire, such as Persia; instead the landmass dubbed "Hellas" contained myriad independent city-states with their own laws, courts, coins, and magistrates.

sakkos -- one of several hair-bands worn by women; this one covers much of the hair like a peaked hat, sometimes with the hair pulled through the peak.
(Not to be confused with the modern Orthodox church vestment.)

sarissa -- the long Macedonian pike; in Philip's day, it was about fifteen-sixteen feet in length with a large iron leaf blade and a heavy, squared spear butt. This was the chief weapon carried by Philip's infantry phalanx (pezoi or sarissaphoi).

Somatophylakes -- Bodyguard (Somatophylax, sing.); the Macedonian king traditionally had seven, and their function was as much honorary as literal.

stoa -- a colonnaded walkway which might enclose a building (think of the Parthenon), or a courtyard, or may run the length of a long building that contained shops or other rooms.

strigil -- a bronze cleaning implement shaped almost like a sickle, but instead of a blade, the curved portion was a hollow half-tube used to scrape dirty oil off the body following exercise. The Greeks exercised in the nude and covered their skin with oil.

syntrophoi -- the sons of Hetairoi (syntrophos, sing.) selected as age-mates to accompany royal princes, much as their fathers might accompany the king. The term means literally "brought up with."

Macedonian Gods and Months

Greek gods of particular importance in Macedonia: Zeus, Herakles, Dionysos, Korē-Persephone, Aphrodite-Zierenē, Artemis-Bendis, the Dioscori (The Twins: Kastor and Polydeukes), and Athena

Greek gods barely present: Hephaistos, and maybe Poseidon, especially early-on

Macedonian and other non-Hellene gods: Xandos (light/sun), Thaulos (war), Zierenē (love/sex), Bendis (the hunt), Darron (medicine, equivalent to Aklepios), Kybelē (the Great Mother), Orpheus (Thracian deity), The Rider (Thracian deity)

The Macedonian year, like the Greek, began in midsummer, not midwinter. As their calendar was lunar, their months tend to straddle ours. I've included Macedonian, modern, and Athenian. Why the different names? Month names referenced major local festivals, so they differed across poleis (city-states). Remember, "Greek religion" was not a monolith, nor was it anything like our modern religions with a canon (authoritative sacred text) determining "orthodoxy" (right belief). Thus, each city-state (ethnicity) had their own unique festivals, and their own versions of gods and heroes with sometimes unique epithets found nowhere else.

Additionally, Greeks kept the year in a variety of ways, but reference to the Olympiad (the one at Peloponnesian Ellis, not at Macedonian Dion) was a popular Panhellenic way to date events.

Macedonian Months
Modern English Months
Athenian Months

Greek Exclamations and Obscenity


Although I wanted a colloquial tone for conversation, some words, exclamations or explatives, would lose something in translation, sounding either archaic or too much like modern slang. “Oimoi,” for instance, is best translated as “alas” or “woe is me.” But to a modern reader, “alas” strikes as silly. Using “dammit it” or “bloody hell” would be even worse, so I’ve left these in the original. In context, and with repetition, meanings should become familiar.

The use of obscenity presented a different problem. Greek comedy is full of it, as is the poetry of Archaic lyricists such as Archilochus, but otherwise, its written use is rare. The dichotomy could be misleading. We must avoid putting modern ideas in ancient minds. The Greek avoidance of obscenity in public speaking or writing (sans Old Comedy), was a matter of place, not moral appropriateness.

What was permissible in the barracks or brothel wasn’t on a plinth in the pnyx. It’s no more than that, and the concept of sex as inherently dirty is absent. There wasn’t a word for “obscene,” only “improper,” which should tell us something. We tend to view obscenity through a post-Christian lens that would have struck the Greeks as peculiar, and perhaps amusing.

In some ways, Greek swear words were no different than ours. They employed “the finger” as a sexual insult and had a wide range of terms with differing connotations. “Peos” was to “phalus” what, for us, cock is to penis. Nevertheless, sexual and scatological obscenity was literal. If a Greek broke a cup, he wouldn’t shout, “Shit!” An opinion, object, or behavior could be like shit, but the term itself had no expletive value. Similarly, they didn’t use the language of imprecation as adjectives: “damn dog,” “helluva week,” “fucking good play.” Curses tended to be quite literal. One was damned, or went to hell—or to the crows, which meant the same thing.

Use of the word “damn” itself is problematic due to Christian connotations acquired since. I’ve chosen to avoid it, using “curse you” rather than “damn you,” or katáretē, which means “cursed creature,” unless I was able to state specifically what one was damned to: pursuit by the furies, Tartaros’s Pit, etc.

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