Sweet Muse of Madness
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While only a teenager, Educas, son of Cybele and Attis, bid farewell to the beloved farmhold of Thessalia, and to the Clutch of the Sun Stones, and set off on a solitary exploration of Graia.  He journeyed south to what he called the Southern Hand, then west to the Pindos Mountains, and followed the River of Life back across the Plain to where he had begun.  The adventure took many months, and along the way young Educas made maps and drawings of the types of vegetation and animals he came across.  These drawings were made on pieces of smooth bark and animal hides, and when he returned to Thessalia, Educas put his accumulated observations into a box, which he called the Chest of Knowledge.

As the years went by, Educas’ musings about the nature of the world gave rise to the appellation, Ponderer.  But the sibling of Corybas and Ilithyia was more than a mere dreamer, and indeed invented many practical tools to help his fellow flatlanders.  He improved upon the plow, the olive press, and various other mechanisms, and these designs also went into the Chest of Knowledge.
To most of his contemporaries, Educas was an eccentric who always seemed to be distracted with one observation or another, but to others, like the zealous merchant-priest In-Shushinak, Educas was a potentially dangerous individual who sought to explain reality without any inclusion of either Earth Mother or Heavenly Father. In his view of a Cosmos without deities, Educas was alone.  It was the price of being ahead of his time.

When we first meet Educas in Sweet Muse of Madness, he is about to enter a territory for which none of his explorations have prepared him; the realm of love.  Despite his brilliance, the Ponderer’s naïve heart will pull him into a complex web of passion involving his two nieces, Parthenia and Gamelia, as well as In-Shushinak’s young acolyte, Hypsistos.  And in this web, much more than Educas’ heart is at risk.


Of all the characters in the novel, Sweet Muse of Madness, Educas is the only one whose name is not drawn from the world of mythology.  His name is derived from the Latin roots of our modern words “educate” and “educe.”  “Educare” means to rear or train a child, and in the word, “educere,” the “e” means “out” and “ducere,” to lead, draw or bring.

It is fitting that the “Ponderer of Thessalia” has no specific mythic namesake, for Educas is an individual who has advanced beyond the description of natural forces as personifications.  He seeks to explain those forces as phenomena that have no conscious intent, rather than as deities who have an agenda.

While this secular mindset puts Educas at odds with his religious contemporaries, it also makes him a precursor by many centuries to the so-called “Ionian Greeks.”  These Ionians lived in what is now the west coast of Turkey, but over time, their colonies and centers of thought spread to other parts of the ancient world, including Sicily and Egypt.  Indeed, the Ionian Sea lies far to the west of Turkey, between Greece and Italy.  Beginning in the Sixth Century Before Common Era, these Greeks had a tremendous influence upon what later would be called the “scientific method.”  Like the fictitious Educas generations before, the historical Ionians were dedicated to taking the measure of the earth and of the forces of nature with limited references to the gods.

Thus, Sixth Century “scientists” such as Thales and Anaximander studied the earth’s composition, while Anaximenes considered the nature of the stars.  Phythagoras was a pioneer in the world of numbers and their relationship to music.

The Fifth Century B.C.E. in Greece was a time of Persian invasion and civil war between city-states, but those hardships did not stop investigators like Empedocles from discussing the four elements:  earth, air, fire and water.  Nor were Democritus and Leucippus dissuaded from suggesting the universe was composed of tiny units of matter called “atoms.” This was also the century of Hippocrates and his great strides toward the profession of medicine.

Aristotle is primary in the modern popular imagination for many reasons, not the least of which are his observations in astronomy and biology.  But he was by no means alone among Fourth Century Greeks in his search for truth in nature.  There was his disciple, Theophrastos, who is considered the founder of botany, and Eudoxos, who claimed the heavenly bodies traveled around the earth in circular “orbits.”

In the Third Century, Herophilos advanced our knowledge of human organs, and Erasistratos focused on heart and brain function.  Aristarchus argued that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the universe, and the physics of Archimedes refined the definitions of mass, density and weight, and resulted in inventions like the water screw.  Euclid furthered our understanding of mathematics.  Appolonius mapped the starry sky, and Eratosthenes not only helped establish that the earth was round, but calculated its circumference with great accuracy.  On a smaller but important scale, Ctesibias designed water clocks and pumps.
Hipparchos in the Second Century B.C.E. fully realized astronomy as a science with his catalogue of solstices, equinoxes and solar eclipses.

Our Common Era saw pneumatic devices and surveying techniques invented by Hero in the First Century.  And in the century following, the Greek-Egyptian Ptolemy utilized longitude and latitude to further clarify the dimensions of the earth and its geography.

Tragically, this monumental wealth of knowledge was lost to us during the dark ages and medieval centuries.  It wasn’t until the Fourteenth Century Common Era that scholars began to translate ancient texts from the Greek and Latin, and thus rediscovered the brilliance of classical civilization.

Educas the Ponderer is the fictional embodiment of that wondrous world, and although his name does not refer us to a specific mythological figure, surely his commitment to reason brings to our attention essential characters from the Greek imagination; Athena, goddess of wisdom and justice, who sprang from the mind of Zeus as rational intellect fully formed, and of course Prometheus, who was willing to endure any torture in order to capture the fires of truth for humankind.  And so, alone as he is in his early Bronze Age environment, deemed by his spiritualistic contemporaries as being not quite right in the head, Educas is nevertheless driven by his passion for knowledge which, for the Ponderer, is the sweetest muse of madness.