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The Mask of Apollo by Mary Renault
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The Mask of Apollo (1966)

by Mary Renault

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911119,650 (3.98)36
  1. 00
    Plato And Dionysius A Double Biography by Ludwig Marcuse (Thorwald_Franke)
    Thorwald_Franke: Both books tell the same story, but from a different perspective.
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Not as enamoured as I thought I'd be with this. Dion of Syracuse [philosopher from Plato's Academy] as seen through the eyes of Nikeratos [Niko}, a tragic actor. Making her protagonist [sounds like that was the ancient Greek word for the leading man in a play] an actor, Renault gave him the freedom to travel all over and comment. Also we got a great description of the nuts and bolts of the Greek theater [much Renault's conception but plausible]. I thought the story dragged until the sack of Syracuse until the end. ( )
  janerawoof | Dec 13, 2014 |
My introduction to Mary Renault was The King Must Die, the first of two novels about Theseus--it was actually assigned reading in high school. What impressed me so much there was how she took a figure out of myth and grounded him historically. After that I quickly gobbled up all of Renault's works of historical fiction set in Ancient Greece. The two novels about Theseus and the trilogy centered on Alexander the Great are undoubtedly her most famous of those eight novels, and I'd add The Last of the Wine, about the Peloponnesian War, as among her best.

By that standard this is one of Renault's, lesser, not as memorable, works. In a way, this feels like a sequel to The Last of the Wine. There Socrates was an important character, here it's Plato. I definitely got the feeling from Renault's novels that she had two historical passions: Alexander the Great and Plato, and the idea that the first was the embodiment of the second's ideal--or would have been, had he had a chance to shape him. The main focus of this novel though is Nikeratos, an Athenian born into the acting trade. And it's certainly interesting seeing the portrait of ancient Greek theater. And compared to much of historical fiction, this is still a marvel. I'd probably recommend The King Must Die as an introduction to Renault, then read the sequel, The Last of the Wine and the Alexander works before hitting this one--but this is definitely a pleasure. ( )
1 vote LisaMaria_C | Aug 26, 2013 |
Story of an actor in tragedies in ancient Greece in the 300s BC --a wonderful scene when a rival sabotages the crane carrying him as Apollo and he thinks he will crash and die but finishes his speech anyway. He acts in a play written by Dionysius of Syracuse; he sees Plato's attempt to educate Dionysius's heir, Dionysius the younger, and the attempt by Dion, a more genuine disciple of Plato, to reform Syracuse. Some emotional byplay--the actor thinks of himself as homosexual but has a brief encounter with one of Plato's female students (they are escaping from political chaos in Syracuse); my impression is that it means more to the actor tan he admits to himself, though they both continue their previous orientations. ( )
1 vote antiquary | Jul 4, 2013 |
Nikeratos, born into an acting family in Athens at the time of Plato, tells the story of his life. An actor's peripatetic life brings him into contact with all types of men (and even occasionally women) and gives him a walk on part in the doomed attempts to build a Platonic system of virtuous government in tyrant ridden Syracuse. Greece is evoked beautifully and Renault's imaginative retelling of one of the most important periods in western history is seamless between fact and very credible imaginings. I never quite, however, engaged with Nikos - and as this is a very linear first person narrative that was a bit of a problem. As an actor he is essentially a passer by, a player on the stage but not in real events and this was mirrored in a rather detached way of narrating. This perhaps also mirrored the conventions of Greek drama that the real action takes place off stage, regardless of the splendid events on it. Recommended, but not - I think - in the same class as her Alexander trilogy (as readers of the last few pages when he blazes over the book will see..)
1 vote otterley | Oct 26, 2012 |
I love the historical fiction of Mary Renault and this is the first of her novels that I read. At the time I already had begun to acquire a love of ancient Greece from a wonderful Latin teacher in high school. Luckily for us in addition to teaching us Latin she imbued a an interest in learning about everything classical that grew for me into more reading and eventually led me to Mary Renault. The story involves the world of live theatre and political intrigue in the Mediterranean at the time. The narrator, Nikeratos, is an invented character, but real historical figures such as Dion of Syracuse and Plato make appearances. It is Renault's seamless blend of real historical characters within her fictional stories that makes her novels come alive for me. I would recommend her to anyone who has an interest in our classical Greek heritage. ( )
3 vote jwhenderson | Sep 12, 2012 |
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Epigraph
Tears were for Hekabe, friend, and for Ilion's women,
Spun into the dark Web on the day of their birth,
But for you our hopes were great, and great the triumph,
Cancelled alike by the gods at the point of glory.
Now you lie in your own land, now all men honor you --
But I loved you, O Dion!
--Plato
(Translated by Dudley Fitts)
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Not many people remember Lamprias now in Athens.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394751051, Paperback)

Set in fourth-century B.C. Greece, The Mask of Apollo is narrated by Nikeratos, a tragic actor who takes with him on all his travels a gold mask of Apollo, a relic of the theater's golden age, which is now past. At first his mascot, the mask gradually becomes his conscience, and he refers to it his gravest decisions, when he finds himself at the center of a political crisis in which the philosopher Plato is also involved. Much of the action is set in Syracuse, where Plato's friend Dion is trying to persuade the young tyrant Dionysios the Younger to accept the rule of law. Through Nikeratos' eyes, the reader watches as the clash between the two looses all the pent-up violence in the city.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:17 -0400)

Nikeratos, an actor of ancient Greece, greatly admires and devotes himself to Dion, a student of Plato, who is determined to bring democracy to Syracuse.

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