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Serifos

The island of Serifos, where according to myth the hero Perseus spent his childhood, is part of the Cyclades.  Judging strictly from photographs, it isn't much to look at.  No spectacular archaeological ruins like Crete or Santorini, nothing that special.  It's like many other Greek islands: brown, barren hills, windswept scrub, and brilliant blue water.  Not as iconic or evocative a place as, say, Mount Pelion, where Achilles, Patroclus, and Ajax the Great spent their boyhoods under the tutelage of Chiron the centaur.

Serifos today is the product of drought due to climate change, wildfires, and many years of overcultivation and overgrazing.  This same process, called desertification, can be seen throughout the Aegean.  There have been attempts at conservation, but unfortunately the current social and economic problems in Greece limit these efforts.

Was it always this way?  Archeoecological studies show that nearby Crete, also plagued by the effects of desertification, was much greener and more forested in ancient times; the same can probably be said for Serifos and other Cycladic islands.  We know there was a period of drought/climate change around 1200 B.C. that led to widespread unrest in the Aegean and the Near East, but Perseus would have lived 150-200 years before that; the Serifos I depict in Danae might had more vegetation.

Here are images of some of the places I mention in Danae:

Serifos-Town
Chora is the island's capital.  It overlooks the island's only harbor at Livadi.  A church and the ruins of a medieval castle occupy the highest ground. Archaeologists have found traces of older ruins on the summit as well, so if a Mycenaean Polydektes existed, his citadel would have been there, too.

There are other ancient ruins on the island, including the remains of four great watchtowers and a sanctuary near Ganema.


serifos-hora
A view fit for a Mycenaean king. A southern view from the Chora acropolis, encompassing Livadi and its great bay toward the island of Sifnos.

livadibeach
A beach around Livadi. Pelargos is a fictional fishing village, but it is located in this general area, and would have looked very similar.

ganemabeach
The beach at Ganema where Diktys lands his boat after a midnight escape from Pelargos.

Curious about ancient Serifos, or the Perseus myth?  Head on over to Amazon to read Danae on Kindle.  Also available through Smashwords.

Diktys

Diktys the fisherman is probably the most enigmatic character in the Perseus myth cycle. We're told that he's the brother of King Polydektes of Seriphos.  So why doesn't this royal kinsman live in the palace, or on his own estate?  What is he doing in the surf casting his net when Danae and her infant come floating by in their wooden chest?  Has he been banished from the palace?  Is there a hint of dynastic strife between the sons of King Magnes?

After Perseus turns Polydektes and his followers to stone, he makes his foster father king of Seriphos.  Then, according to some versions of the story, Perseus gives his mother Danae to Diktys in marriage.  The question is: why aren't Diktys and Danae already married?  Does Diktys already have a wife when Danae and baby Perseus come to live with him?  Is Danae not interested in marriage?  She certainly rebuffs Polydektes, but that's because, I assume, she perceives his inner asshole.  Does she only marry Diktys because Perseus as her nearest male kinsman has authority over her, even though he's younger and her son?

Hollywood doesn't do much of anything with the character of Diktys.  In the original, 1981 Clash of the Titans, I imagine he's somewhere just offstage in the brief but often censored scene where Danae breastfeeds Perseus.
VTaylor
Diktys: Somewhere just off camera.

In the 2010 remake, he's played by Pete Postletwaithe, renamed Spyros, and lives all of five minutes the moment baby Perseus turns into Sam Worthington.

pete-poswaithe-clash-of-the-titans
NOT Diktys

I imagine there must have a body of oral tales about Perseus's childhood involving Diktys and Danae (and Polydektes) that didn't make it down to us.  So when writing Danae, I had to look between the lines of what was there and make my best educated guess about Greek mythology's most enigmatic fisherman and his family.

The Legend of Hercules (2014)

Obviously, to judge by this post and the previous one, I enjoyed a sword and sandals weekend.

The Legend of Hercules, which bombed at the box office this past January, was somewhat better than I expected it to be, though still groanworthy in places.

First off, kudos to the writers and set designers for placing the story in its proper milieu: Bronze Age Tiryns.  I was absolutely stoked to see a Tiryns of the Great Walls that looked the way it ought to:

legend-of-hercules-still02
Compared with the real thing:

tiryns2

The megaron is even located in the right place!  That said, however, I want to bitchslap whichever graphic artist rendered the stonework.  It looks so CGI-cheap.  Hell, I've seen better masonry in my favorite video game, Caesar IV.

What made me sit up next: Amphitryon's bitchin' double axe in the climactic fight scene between him and Herakles.  Not so much along the lines of historical accuracy, because the labrys was a ritual object, unlikely to be used in combat, but it's not like this Amphitryon is big on piety, so maybe...

No.  My one thought in this scene was I needed that prop for my badass Queen Clytemnestra costume!

Okay, onto the film itself.

What's with Hollywood's obsession with Roman armies and gladiators?  Especially gladiators.  Gladiatoral combat started as a Roman funeral practice to honor the dead.  Greeks did not have gladiatorial games, though sometimes in the myths two opposing forces sent out champions to stomp the piss out of and kill each other to decide the outcome.  That's featured here at the beginning of the film, where Amphitryon body slams and stabbinates the king of Argos in single combat and takes Argos because, well, it's Tuesday, and that's what asshole kings do on Tuesdays.

(Argos is on a high hill, by the way, so those horses dashing toward the gates at the beginning?  No.  Although I did say to myself: damn, now if those horses were Mycenaean chariots, this scene would be badass awesome).

But gladiator combat such as Herakles (I refuse to use the Latin version of his name) and Sotiris are consigned to?  Absolutely not.  If you want to excuse yourself to use the bathroom or get some more popcorn during these scenes, you're not missing anything, except maybe the sight of Herakles waving around an anemic-looking club.

(By the way, this film could have used Liam McIntyre's Spartacus, because I just wasn't feeling his Sotiris.  It could have used Crixus and Gannicus, too.  And hell, Agron and Saxa and Oenomaus and that Syrian kid with the hots for Agron--Nasir?  Oh, yeah, and throw in some Ashur, too.)

Amphitryon was never this big an asshole in the myth that he is in this movie.  The son-in-law of the king of Tiryns, he accidentally killed his father-in-law, King Elektryon of Mycenae and had to be cleansed of his blood guilt by King Creon of Thebes.  Who among the heroes didn't kill a relative and have to be purified?

Myth-Amphitryon never had the issues with Alkides/Herakles that he has in this movie, probably because he had no idea Alkides wasn't his son; Zeus appeared to Alkmene in the form of her husband the same night she had sex with Amphitryon.  And Alkides himself never had the strained relationship with his brother Iphicles that this film portrays.  Why, Iphicles's son Iolaus was Herakles's charioteer, and maybe something more, according to the legends.  Well, if Iolaus was as hot as Reece Ritchie's take on him in Dwayne Johnson's Hercules, who could blame the big guy?

But if you walk into your bedchamber and your wife is writhing around and moaning with pleasure to the sight of bedsheets fluttering and the sound of a disembodied thunderclap getting it on, and nine months later...well, you just don't mess with that.  You slowly back away from the god getting his rocks off and make sure you're very, very nice to his divine offspring.

Princess Hebe in the myth was not a princess of Crete but a daughter of Zeus and Hera to whom Herakles was married upon his ascension to Olympus.  Yeah, he married his half-sister.  The immortals were apparently okay with incest among themselves, but woe to the stupid, inbreeding mortal who tried to emulate them.

Please, Hollywood, stop with the slow-motion 300-style fight graphics.  It's been done, and overdone.  The sight of Kellan Lutz whipping around lightning and some very fake looking rocks at the ends of his chains didn't thrill me so much as have me wondering how Herakles managed to avoid taking out his own guys.

The ending with Herakles and Hebe cuddling baby prince in connubial bliss?  Was I the only one who kept thinking, enjoy it now, Megara Hebe, before hubby goes nuts and kills you and the kids?

Having said that, what's with Hebe's distinct lack of servants/chaperones, etc?  A princess of Crete gets to ride around unattended in the woods where satyrs and other horndogs might be waiting to rape her?  And by other horndogs, I mean her betrothed's hot but thickheaded brother who keeps making moogly eyes at her.  I'm not sure I could even trust myself alone in the woods with Kellan Lutz.  Please, it's not like I'm interested in his intellect or anything.  If he's going to open his mouth, he might as well put it to good use.

No, I have to say, poor, dear Kellan isn't very charismatic in the role of Herakles.  I mean, it's not like I would drop everything and follow him into battle.  Dwayne Johnson's Herakles, definitely--especially if I could hang out with Mr. McHottiePants Rufus Sewell (Autolycus) and Junior McHottiePants Reece Ritchie (Iolaus).  What?  Keven Sorbo's Hercules, maybe, if I didn't have anything better to do that day.  Kellan Lutz's Herakles?  Oh, hell, no.

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