Lion of Macedon

Lion of Macedon by David Gemmell

Book: Lion of Macedon by David Gemmell Read Free Book Online
Authors: David Gemmell
lands. The perils they faced were legion: countless enemies, the threat of starvation, ice-covered plains, and flood-ruined valleys. Yet Xenophon held them together until at last they reached the sea and safety.
    “There is no warrior on earth,” said Xenophon, “to match the Greek. For we alone understand the nature of discipline. There is not one civilized king who does not hire Greek mercenaries as a backbone for his forces. Not one. And the greatest of the Greeks are the Spartans. Do you understand why?”
    “Yes,” answered Parmenion. “Our enemies know—in their hearts—that we are the victors. And we know it in
    “Sparta will never be conquered, Parmenion.”
    “Unless there comes a foe with similar resolve—and greater numbers.”
    “But that will not happen. We have a country split up into city-states, each fearing its neighbor. If Athens and Thebes again joined forces against Sparta, many city-states would fear such an alliance and join with Sparta against it. Our land has a history of such disputes. Alliances made and broken, scores of disparate groups betraying one another endlessly. Never has any city achieved a complete victory. We should have conquered the world, Parmenion, but we never will. We are too busy fighting among ourselves.” Xenophon rose. “It is getting late; you must return to your home. Come to me in three days. We will have supper and I will show you the books of the future.”
    “Do you teach your son?” asked Parmenion as he rose to leave.
    Xenophon’s face darkened. “I will be your teacher, and you will ask me questions concerning strategy. You will not ask questions concerning my family!”
    “I apologize, sir. I did not mean to offend.”
    Xenophon shook his head. “And I should not be so short-tempered. Gryllus is a troubled boy; he does not have a city. Like you he wants to be accepted, he wants to be admired. But he has no mind. His mother was a beautiful woman, Parmenion, but she also was cursed with limited intellect. It was as if the gods, having lavished beauty on her, decided that brains would be a luxury she would not need. My son takes after her. Now, we will speak no more of it.”
    The silence of the night covered the city as Parmenion strolled along the moonlit streets. High on the acropolis he could just make out the tall statue of Zeus and the pillars of the bronze house. He came to the wide avenue of Leaving Street and stopped before the palace, gazing out at the guards patrolling the entrance. The Cattle Price Palace, home of Agisaleus. An odd name for an abode of kings, he thought. One of Sparta’s past kings had run short of money and had married the daughter of a Corinthian merchant in order to obtain a dowry of four thousand cattle. From the sale ofthose he had built his palace. Parmenion stared at the building, at its colossal columns and its long, sloping roof. At first he had thought that the ancient king must have had a fine sense of humor to name it so, but now he realized it was more a sense of guilt. Forced to marry a foreigner, he had left his shame for future generations to share.
    A strange people were the Spartans.
    The only race in Greece to take their boy children as infants and train them for war, the only race to allow their women to exercise and grow strong in order to bear warriors to continue Sparta’s glory.
    Parmenion moved on until he came to the street parallel to his own house. Here he stopped and scaled a high wall, his nimble fingers seeking out cracks in the mortar. Easing himself onto a tiled roof, he slid across to look down on the gate of his own small home. Hermias had said the campaign of hate was over, but Parmenion did not believe it. Keeping low to the shadows, he inched his way to the overhang of the roof and scanned the alleys below for several minutes, listening and watching.
    Just as he was sure that all was clear, he saw a movement from the west and recognized Hermias running up the cobbled

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