Author: T.S. Chaudhry
Publisher: Top Hats Books
Gorgo, Queen of Sparta was the only child and daughter of Cleomenes I, King of Sparta during the 6th and 5th centuries BC. She was the wife of King Leonida I, Cleomenes' half-brother who died in the battle of Thermopylae. What is interesting is that Sparta's soldiers and politicians saw her as their guiding light, yet, how much do we really know about this extraordinary queen?
In his ambitious and epic novel, The Queen of Sparta, T.S. Chaudhry mentions in the Acknowledgements that he discovered his narrative “hidden in between the lines of Herodotus,” who has been variously known as the “Father of History and the Father of Lies.” Interestingly, Gorgo is one of the few female figures actually named by Herodotus and is noted for being the daughter of a King of Sparta, the wife of another king of Sparta, and the mother of a third king of Sparta.
Chaudhry informs his readers that in writing the novel he has tried to address two issues, the first of which is to present a more balanced picture of historical events and secondly to show an alternative explanation of a well-known story.
To accomplish the first, he injects into his story a fictional character by the name of Sherzada, who is the Crown-Prince of the Sakas of the Indus Valley. The Sakas are Eastern or Asiatic Scythians who spoke an Iranic dialect related to ancient Persian and Sanskrit. Sherzada acts as Gorgo's foil and sees and interprets matters from a different perspective. As for the second, Chaudhry believes that the Greeks could never have defeated the Persians without some central figure organizing their resistance and hence Gorgo fits this role. As he asserts: “That she did this by following her father's apparently mad policies was too compelling a story for me to resist telling.” Chaudhry does a fantastic job of portraying these two principal characters in this convincing historical fiction.
It is Chaudhry's belief that he does not consider King Cleomenes mad but rather someone who was a visionary and a great unsung hero of ancient Sparta. He was a great practitioner of realpolitik which was something few Greeks of the era understood and as we read the novel we notice how these traits were passed onto his daughter, Gorgo who, like her father, believed that politics was war by other means.
Noteworthy is that not very long after the defeat of the Persians, Gorgo and her young son disappear from history. Chaudhry indicates in his Author's Note that his objective was to offer one explanation of which might have happened to them, as well as how Sparta and Athens descended down a disastrous path leading to the sapping of Sparta's power and its predominance in Greece.
In interweaving historical figures and events with his own interpretation of history, which he has gleaned from various sources including, Herodotus, Livy, Plutarch, and Thucydides, Chaudhry has splendidly fashioned an intellectually stimulating scenario containing complex plots, sweeping historical backdrops, and a cast of dozens of intriguing warriors. The story begins on the Bank of Indus and readers voyage through time and space to Greece, Tuscany, Rome, and the Baltic coast of northern Europe as the main cultures of that time are linked.
Chaudhry is a former Pakistani diplomat and holds a Ph.D from the University of Cambridge, and first and second degrees from Cornell and Harvard Universities, respectively. His passion for history is beautifully realized as you can practically smell and hear the cries and intrigue of battle and the conversations between Gorgo, Sherzada and others as they debate various strategies and discuss politics.
is a novel that takes over as you read it, continually summoning you
back to the page, even if you have difficulty in keeping tab of the
dozens of characters, let alone trying to pronounce their names. Rich
in detail, historical scenes come vibrantly to life all adding up to
an intelligent interpretation of ancient history as readers travel
from the Banks
of Indus through time
and space to Greece, Tuscany, Rome, and the Baltic coast of northern
Europe as the Chaudhry attempts to link the main cultures of that