The Ionia Sanction by Gary Corby is a rough read. In rough I mean savage in its description of the very common practice of anal impalement as a form of execution, which was replaced by crucifixion. In addition because Nico, our Athenian PI or agent who works for Pericles, finds himself in Ionia, specifically Ephesus and Magnesia, the western coast of today’s Turkey, he witnesses and is almost subject to this barbaric form of execution. They have much different habits than their Greek counterparts, so it is an education for Nico as much as it may be for us. The practices of the ancients were horrendous and cruel. Sexual practice in Ionia is as unbridled as was in Greece, but there seems to be more incestuous relationships in Ionia than in Greece. Diotima has moved to Magnesia and is one reason Nico takes the assignment for Pericles. Women’s desire to have Nico has helped Diotima figure out that she wants Nico and breaks her vows to marry him in a rather rushed marriage, since they both believe they will die.
Socrates, Nico’s younger brother, provides some humor as he pretends to be Nico’s slave for a night so he can go to his first and certainly not last symposium. He is a hit and the lead philosopher of the time, thinking Socrates is Nico’s slave, proposes to buy Socrates. The ensuing action with their dad is very funny. But then what older brother might not want to sell his younger brother? Another very interesting part is Nico’s interaction with Themistocles, who is the leader of Magnesia and a brilliant man, similar to a Winston Churchill in cunning, politics, and genius. Nico learns more from him about politics than he does from Pericles. Much is made of loyalty in this novel. Hector is the model of loyalty for the Greeks whereas; Themistocles is for the Persians and other non-Greeks. The Greek of course consider the state to be the first loyalty and non-Greeks start with self, then family, then state. The stories of different family members in this novel provide unique and clever commentary for all of us to chew on and ruminate over. The culmination of the wedding for Nico and Diotima is important as it lifts this tension between the two and allows for the two to work together more fruitfully.
Now on to the next adventure of Nico and Diotima, Sacred Games.