The Olympic Charioteer
Helena P. Schrader
Reviewed by Linda Benninghoff for Reader Views (12/06)
This excellent historical novel about two ancient
Greek city-states, Sparta and Tegea, seems to deal with the question of
identity. The hero, Lysandradis, is sold as a slave after Sparta is
defeated by Tegea. Having won the Olympic victory in the games
for Sparta, will he wind up a Spartan citizen or a citizen of the
country who once made him a slave, where he now has found a home?
Who is Lysandradis? Is he more than a charioteer, more than
a Spartan citizen?
This well-researched novel traces Lysandridas’ progress as he
travels from city to city. It also details the Spartan democracy and
contrasts Sparta with Tegea. The characters are as believable as
in any novel set in modern-times, and the world they live in is
filled-in, wonderfully detailed and vivid. The novel is as much
an adventure story as a story about the question of identity--what
makes Lysandradis who he is?
The novel is also about horses, riders and charioteers, and politics.
Although it uses fictional characters, it traces actual events
leading up to the first non-aggression pact in recorded history.
Lysandridas becomes involved in the world of politics, as does
his friend, Ambelos, the club-footed son of one of the Tegean
leaders. One of the meaningful parts of this book for me was to
read about Ambelos as he develops political savvy and gains respect
despite being crippled.
As Lysandridas also gains skill, he realizes he is something more than
a charioteer, more than either a Spartan or a Tegean. One of the
wonderful things about reading the book is to watch him pursue his
quest for identity and for a true home while sometimes fearing for his
life or fearing that an Olympic victory, on which the country’s
fate is hinged, won’t necessarily be won.
Scene followed scene and the action unfolded. “The Olympic
Charioteer” kept me very interested and I learned about ancient
history in the process.