The following is an except from the upcoming book: The Homeric Misadventures of Phidias and Tekton
Look for it summer of 2022
Prolegomenon: A goddess falls from Mount Olympus
The shepherd and his son were startled by a loud thump as Atë landed in the middle of his herd of sheep. His amazement turned to worry when a woman crawled out of the crater in the ground.
“Boy, hurry home!” The shepherd knew that only gods and goddesses fall out of the sky and when the gods come, trouble surely follows, and he wanted his son Aristophanes to have no part of it.
“Don’t just stand there!” The strange woman shouted. “Lay down your cloak for me to walk on. I am Atë, the goddess of mischief and mayhem and I have no intention of walking through your sheep dung.”
The shepherd obediently laid his cloak before Atë. “Mistress Atë, I am Timaeus, my wife Hyacinth and I welcome you to our village. We don’t have much, but I would be honored to share my bread, grapes, and cheese with you.”
“What I need Timaeus, are directions to the workshop of the renowned builder and mathematician Daedalus and his apprentice Asterion the Minotaur.”
“Daedalus and Asterion! Mistress Atë, you will only find trouble with them!”
“Trouble?” Atë sneered, “I don’t find trouble, Timaeus… I bring it!”
“Tekton! Hold this wooden tube in place while I make the final adjustments on this water screw.” The young centaur walked over to Phidias’s workbench and held the tube in place.
“Tekton, today is a special day.” Phidias smiled at his young apprentice.
“Master, is it because we are finishing the water screw for the village?”
“Well that but even more importantly, it has been ten years today since I welcomed you as my apprentice.” Tekton remembered the first day his adopted human parents brought him to Phidias:
“Master, tell me about your teacher.”
“Thales? He was a second father to me. He taught me all I know about Mathematics, Engineering, and History.”
“Above all else Thales taught me that talent and hard work must be infused with virtue and purpose toward the common good. For example, look at this water screw.”
Phidias placed one end of the water screw into the tub and let the other end rest above a bucket. Turning the handle caused the screw to rotate and bring water up from the tub and flow out from the top.
“Mechanical ingenuity is for naught if this screw remains in our workshop. But placed in the canal, the screw can be used to irrigate the farmer’s fields and feed the village. The same goes for living beings, we must direct our talents towards the common good.”
Tekton placed his hand in the running water as he studied the screw. “But Master, this screw doesn’t seem big enough and we only have one. We will need more for an entire village!”
“You have correctly observed Tekton! This screw is a model with which we will use to show the farmers how to use it and teach the village craftsmen how to build it. We have too much to do to go into the water screw business full time.”
“But Master, we can make a lot of money building and selling these water screws throughout Greece.”
“The villagers will pay us a just reward for our efforts, Tekton. If we charge too much, we will hurt the village and poison ourselves with greed. On the other hand, if we did the work for free, we would not be able to support ourselves, buy new materials for our workshop nor would I be able to support my aged Master Thales.”
“You support Master Thales?”
“Of course, Tekton! It was the great physician Hippocrates who taught us: To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents; to live in common with him and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine.”
Tekton reflected for a moment: “I see now Master, justice is giving to others what they are due or receiving from others only what you have earned, no more or less.”
“Tekton, you will be a fine teacher when you take on an apprentice of your own! Now, let us get ready, the Mistress of Mathematics herself, Athena, will be here soon to take us to the Corinthian Games.”
Chapter 2: A new client for Daedalus and Asterion
Long ago, when the world was young, there lived in ancient Greece a brilliant builder named Daedalus and his young minotaur apprentice Asterion. From all around the world criminals, robbers and con artists sought out Daedalus and Asterion, paying handsomely for their ingenious devices. Kings feared their power and philosophers despised their ill gained fortune. Daedalus and Asterion’s workshop was beside a rock face just outside the Greek city of Dion at the foot of Mt Olympus.
Daedalus bent over his workshop table. “Asterion! Come here and hold this gear in place while I make the final adjustments to the Antikythera mechanism.”
Asterion held the gear in place.“ With this device Mentor Daedalus, anyone can predict the movements of the sun, planets, the moon and determine when the next eclipse will occur. Kings and philosophers will make us richer than Croesus to buy one from us.”
“Sell the Antikythera? Oh no Asterion, that will not do. Knowledge is power and knowledge shared is power shared. No, we will make much more money selling the knowledge we gain from the Antikythera. You have been in my service now for ten years, you should know this.”
“You are wise, Mentor, I will study harder.” Asterion reflected on when Daedalus first found him on the street, alone and weak.
Suddenly the workshop door flew open, and a fearsome woman filled the entrance.
“Are you Daedalus the Builder?”
“Yes I am.”
“I am I am Atë, the goddess of mischief and mayhem and I seek revenge on my sister Athena for convincing our father Zeus to throw me off Mt Olympus.”
Daedalus did not have time for theatrics, “We have a rather select clientele Mistress Atë, I am not sure that I…” A bag of gold crashed onto the top of the worktable.
“Oh, my apologies, glorious Atë… how may we be of service?”
“Athena and her bumbling protégées Phidias and Tekton will be at the Games in Corinth so we are going as well.”
Asterion’s eyes lit up. “It’s Phidias, Mentor Daedalus! We now have a chance to put him in his place!”
Atë sighed, “Yes, I am sure the Corinthian Games will provide many opportunities for you to settle old scores.”
Atë turned her eye towards the Antikythera. “I’m sure you have seen the owl that Athena has perched on her shoulder?”
“Yes Atë, Mekros the Small Owl”, answered Asterion, “He is a symbol of her wisdom.”
Atë smiled at Asterion and then turned to Daedalus. “As of today, you are in my service, and today you can start that service by fashioning my own owl… with that!” Asterion looked with horror as Atë pointed to the Antikythera.
Daedalus barely finished with “As you wishMistress Atë” before Atë disappeared from their sight.
Asterion spoke up first as Daedalus stared at the Antikythera. “Mentor! The Antikythera is your life’s work! She can’t do this to you!”
“Oh yes she can Asterion. Life is what my teacher Hieron the Tyrant taught me: “The strong take what they can and the weak suffer what they must”.
“As much as we expect those weaker than us to bend to our will, we must in turn obey those stronger than us.”
“But Mentor Daedalus! The gods are dangerous!”
Daedalus began to laugh, “Yes Asterion, the gods are dangerous. But as my teacher Hieron always said: “For the wise, great opportunity often lies hidden within danger.”
Daedalus glanced at the bag of gold. “Atë is a great opportunity for us!”