Is it Aristotle's tomb?

As I write, the internet is abuzz with news that Aristotle's tomb has been discovered.

Well, maybe it has.  Maybe not.  The archaeologist making the claim admits he has no proper evidence.  He does have enough circumstantial evidence to guess that it might be the right place. 

I admit I'm far from convinced that they've got Aristotle's tomb.  Here's the problem:

After Alexander left Macedonia to conquer the world, Aristotle returned to Athens and set up a school called the Lyceum, to rival the other school of philosophy called the Academy.  Which is the origin of both those words in English.

After Alexander died, Aristotle was in a spot of bother. Anyone associated with Alexander was in severe danger of being killed off in the subsequent fighting.  Then apparently someone accused Aristotle of impiety to the gods.  Since this was the same charge that had got Socrates killed eighty years before, Aristotle didn't hang around.  He ran to the ancient city of Chalcis on the island of Euboea.   There he contracted a stomach complaint of some sort and subsequently died. 

Now for the fun game of find the missing dead guy...

Aristotle's will specified that he was to be buried beside his first wife.  If that's what happened then the tomb is definitely not Aristotle's.  Aristotle appointed a very powerful man called Antipater to be the executor of his will.  Antipater was a former governor of Greece under Alexander, so we can expect a man of that ability to get something as simple as this right.  

BUT!  There are four separate sources, all of them Arabic, all writing much later and all using documents that are now lost, that say Aristotle was buried at Chalcis.  Since he died there, this is credible.  

Two of these four then say that later on, after the body had moldered, a committee arrived from Stagira asking for the remains.  Since Stagira was the birthplace of Aristotle, this is credible, but only two of the four Arab sources say this happened.

If they are to be believed then what was left of Aristotle was popped into an urn, (possibly cremated), carried to Stagira, and placed in an area then named the Aristoteleion.

The current claim then is that the Aristoteleion has been found.

To nail this they need to find an inscription that says, Welcome to the Aristoteleion.  Or words to that effect.  Since the site was locally famous there have to be inscriptions.  Without that, all they can say is that they have a lovely looking room that dates to the right period.


Pub day for The Singer From Memphis

Pub day means you can now buy the book in stores.  As opposed to the Australian meaning of pub, a place where you go to drink beer.  Though as it happens, the Egyptians in The Singer From Memphis are totally into their beer. Nico can't get a decent cup of wine anywhere.  But he still has to solve murders and uncover hidden treasures in the trackless wastes of the desert.

Pub day is a weird thing for an author.  We don't fly from store to store selling the books personally.  We didn't print the books ourselves; we didn't ship them to their shelves.  All those highly important things are done by other wonderful people.

So what does an author do on pub day?  Well, he writes the next book.

Death On Delos is finished in first draft.  I've even written the author note that so many people like to read.  It will be Book 7 of the Athenian Mysteries.  The Singer From Memphis is Book Six ... and that's really quite remarkable.

I hope you enjoy reading Nico & Diotima's adventures as much as I like writing them.



Starred recommendation for The Singer From Memphis

Here is the Publishers Weekly review for The Singer From Memphis.  It is a starred review!

The astonishing thing is, the Athenian Mysteries have now earned six starred reviews in a row. 

If you would like to see what happens when a classical Greek PI finds himself in ancient Egypt in the company of a budding history writer named Herodotus, then this might be the book for you.

"Corby’s trademark blend of humor, fascinating historical detail, and accessible presentation of the politics of the time has never been better."

 The Singer from Memphis

Gary Corby. Soho Crime
ISBN 978-1-61695-668-4

Early in Corby’s exceptional sixth novel set in ancient Greece (after 2015’s Deus Ex Machina ), Pericles, the most powerful man in Athens, asks Nicolaos, “the only private agent” in the city-state, to accompany the historian Herodotus on a trip to Egypt.

Ostensibly, Nicolaos will serve as a bodyguard, but his real mission is to aid Egyptians rebelling against Persian rule.  The rebels’ leader, Inaros, who claims to be descended from the last pharaoh, has asked for a “man of cunning and resource” to help take the city of Memphis, the last stronghold controlled by the enemy.

Pericles shares his suspicions with Nicolaos that Herodotus may be a spy in the employ
of the Persians. Later, pirates almost scuttle the journey to Egypt, and Nicolaos nearly loses his client to a master Spartan assassin. Eventually, Nicolaos must solve a murder, but this is more spy thriller than whodunit.

Corby’s trademark blend of humor, fascinating historical detail, and accessible presentation of the politics of the time has never been better.

Janet Reid, FinePrint Literary. (May)

Napoleonic era journal discovered in Tasmania, of all places

Here's a great example of how the most unexpected things can turn up in the unlikliest places.

John Squire was a British army engineer who was involved at the siege of Badajoz in the Peninsular War.  Like all the best army officers of the time, he was a gentleman scholar. He personally knew Wellington, traveled all over the place, and kept a fascinating journal.

Which has turned up in a second hand bookstore in Hobart, Tasmania; about as far from Badajoz as you can get and still be on the same planet.  My family and I were there just last year. I must have walked within twenty meters of that journal and never knew.


A key fact

I'm not sure that anyone really knows where the key and lock were invented. Obviously people have been barring doors from the inside since time immemorial (and is probably the reason why to this day, house doors open inwards).  In a world with house slaves you don't need keys and locks very much: the house slave who watches the door (the janitor, in Latin) identifies the visitor and lifts the bar.

The earliest mention of keys that I know of is from Homer, the Odyssey, book 21.  Odysseus after one or two adventures has made his way home to discover an annoying number of men trying to marry his wife.  Penelope goes to collect her husband's weapons (this will not end well for the suitors).

[Penelope] descended the tall staircase of her chamber, and took the well-bent key in her strong hand, a goodly key of bronze, whereon was a handle of ivory.

Here we have a key, at the time of the Trojan War.  Given the likely dating on Homer, the year is at least 600BC and probably well before.  I want to point out the description of the key as "well-bent", and "bronze".  Because in the late 1800s an art collector named Edward Warren, who seriously knew his antiquities, came across this:

credit: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

You can find this interesting item at the excellent Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  It is exactly like the description from Homer.  The words inscribed in the bronze identify it as the key for the Temple of Artemis at Lusoi, in Akadia. The difference is, this key is dated to the 5th century BC, which is when Nico & Diotima lived. So this is a key as my heroes would have seen them. 

The key fits through a slot in the door, and you then turn it to lift the bar on the other side. 

You can forget about carrying ancient keys in your pocket. This thing is more than forty centimeters long. That's about sixteen inches.