Cover Illustration: Chronos and Cyana by Diana Naneva

Unfinished Novel of a Student (1982)


"... Dilov did address the hypocrisies and excesses of the West, but he himself was a non-partisan and went to great pains in his work to show partiality only to compassion and virtue, as understood by a child, not an ideologue. Like much of Dilov’s writing, themes of pride, guilt, and justification are discoursed over ample alcohol.

But while the thrust of his arguments is universal and communal, the Bulgarian setting of this novel is more than merely a substrate. This piece roars its Bulgarian expression...

...some parts of this book are set in Bulgaria, some in the asteroid belt of the 24th century. In CHAPTER 7 we are taken into the Labyrinth via an elegantly framed, demythologising, super spy adventure story. The “real” Labyrinth was solved using a thread from Ariadne, a detail with symbolic value for which the author doesn’t fail to account. Because Dilov, rather than telling the future facing forward, follows the threads back through the endless maze of tragic lies that brought us here, and reminds us that we’ll be looking back on them just as endlessly when the future arrives.

So enjoy this foray into distant lands and distant times, as Dilov brews his subtle heuristic flavors from esoteric spice and the traditional medicines of the Bulgarian spirit(s). The rest is drawn from the well of a perennial philosophy so I’m sure you’ll catch on..."


-from the introduction

... some cover art from other editions from Bulgarian, Russian, and Slovak...

Bulgarian (1982)

illustrator: Nikolai Pekarev

Russian (1989)

illustrator: Tekla Aleksieva

Slovak (1989)

illustrator: Peter Augustovič

Russian (1990)

illustrator: I. Ivanova

Bulgarian (2020)

illustrator: Vladimir Todorov

from the chapter: "The God From the Machine"


... Cyana also made her first insight after meeting the city guard: in the Hellenistic world, beauty was indeed a great force, but it was not to be relied upon alone. That’s why she was already skeptical when she read the inscription, “kalos kagathos”, above the beautiful frieze on the upper threshold of the portal. Be beautiful and valiant, beauty is good and good is beautiful - this slogan of national education and upbringing which Pericles had started up a hundred years before had given good results in architecture and the arts. The hetairai, as well, were guided by it in their mastery of love, but people like this chief of the guard looked neither beautiful nor valiant. And nothing attractive could be seen, so far, in the three men sitting in the cool of the marble pavilion in the middle of the yard.

Cyana tried to guess which one was Praxiteles, but the three of them had equally shaggy, shoulder-length, sweaty hair. Their himation, also equally worn out, framed disgusting Dionysian bellies. In general, crossing almost the entire city including the agora, Cyana hadn’t encountered a face or a figure that was even approximately as beautiful as the sculptures scattered throughout Praxiteles’s courtyard or in the antiquities departments of museums in the future. She had already snapped thousands of pictures with the mini-camera hidden in her necklace so that the truth of this much-vaunted antiquity would be seen in her age.

Haire,” she cried out the greeting of the free citizens, which in the twenty-fourth century languages had been roughly translated as “Rejoice” or “Be happy”.

The three of them raised their heads from some papyrus but were not happy, and the eldest growled,

“Eeeh, there’s no peace from these whores!”

He used a word that Cyana didn’t understand, but it’s tone placed it firmly in the obscene.

“Are you Praxiteles?” Cyana asked. “I didn’t expect such an attitude from you…”

“What do you need me for?” said the youngest of the three, no less rudely.

“Don’t you need a model?”

The sculptor looked at her like a mule dealer.

“I don’t.”

“I won’t ask you for money,” she said rather cowardly.

What would she do if he didn’t accept her? Her authorization to stay here was limited.

“And what will you want then? You, our sisters, no longer give anything for free, as far as we know.”

His irony indicated to her that either he had experienced some personal disappointment with the hetairai or something had changed with the passage of time.

“Some water for now. I come from afar, and in this heat…”

He motioned for her to enter, pointing to the two skins lying at their feet like slaughtered goat kids.

The overly coquettish gait with which she approached them failed to win them over. “Could it be that they go for boys,” Cyana worried, “does anyone know these Greeks?!” and she felt like crying. The skin with the water, which the sculptor tapped with his foot, swayed in her hands like an animal pulling to run. She hadn’t prepared for drinking from a bag because the museums were full of amphorae, chalices and all sorts of wonderful vessels that were used at that time!

The men erupted into a laughter which, in more recent times, historians would call “Homeric". To Cyana, however, it seemed quite ill-mannered, especially since no one reached out to help her.

“Hey,” Praxiteles slapped her ass after contenting himself with laughter. “Aren’t you a king’s daughter? Come on, drink!”

And he handed her his own huge bronze chalice full of diluted wine. Even though Cyana was immunized against all the diseases of the ancients, she still had to suppress her loathing and disgust. The diluted wine turned out to be cool and tasty. And as she carefully lifted the heavy chalice, her eyes scanned the papyrus spread out in front of the men.

“Is this an aeorema?” she asked, after returning the chalice to the marble bench.

“Look at this pissant,” said the old man, calling her another obscene word. “So now you understand machines, too, girl?”

Cyana decided not to react. She crouched over the papyrus, pointing with her delicate finger.

“If you put the polyspast here, and another polyplast there, two of you will be able to service it.”

“If we do what?” the old man was dazzled, but the other two were looking at her finger with interest.

“Polyspast. Like the pulley, only you place two or three on top of each other and run the rope through them crosswise. Immediately the pulling force is multiplied by the formula…”

“Wait, wait,” said the old man. “Draw what you’re saying? And you know formulas too, do you? You think you’re the goddess of wisdom herself, don’t you, girl?”

He handed her the wax plate and the bone graft that lay beside him.

“Are you inventing the aeorema right now?” Cyana wondered, carefully drawing the simplest polyspast. Preparing for her mission, she had naturally learned the Hellenistic technique. But, according to the historical computer, this theatrical machine should have been created much earlier.

The third man, who had been silent so far, was looking at her with obvious lust and said,

“We need to improve it.”

Praxiteles shook his belly.

“The other day, it was in one of his plays, the god dropped on top of the hero right when he was coming down to save him and made the audience laugh more than even at Aristophanes’s comedies…”

“So you write plays, huh?” Cyana said with vindictive disregard because she had come out on top. And when Praxiteles said his name, she added “I haven’t heard of you.”

The sculptor boasted about his other friend, too. The old man turned out to be a philosopher and a geometer whose name is immortalized, but Cyana suppressed her joy at the meeting and said only one “Aha” to get revenge on him as well.

He grabbed his beard and started pulling it as if trying to wake himself up.

“Oh, gods, what hetairai the people have produced! I’ve heard of such, both smart and beautiful… But who would believe it?! All talk! Kalos kagathos!” he snorted, with contempt, the motto that future civilizations would admire so much. “And how do you know about this machine, what did you call it?”

Cyana deliberately hadn’t repeated the name of the polyspast. She was forbidden to interfere in their development but found no other way to gain enough respect to stay with them.

“How could there be no smart hetaira?! What about Aspasia, and your Phryne?” she flung at Praxiteles, who had also appreciated the ingenious simplicity and efficiency of the polyspast and was silently handing her his chalice again

“What Phryne?”

“The one who was your model.” She took the chalice because the excitement and heat made her thirst unquenchable.

“My models are here,” he tapped his forehead. “If you’re so learned, you should know that ideas of true beauty live elsewhere. I take them straight from there, I wouldn’t get them from some*…”

“Hey,” Cyana tapped her right sandal at him on the marble pavement of the pavilion, “I forbid the use of insulting words about women in my presence! And you, my dear sculptor, don’t need to repeat these contrivances in front of me - the realm of ideas and so on! Your grandfather, Plato, won’t be angry with you for sculpting au natural. How are you going to create a leg such as this if you don’t see it, huh?” she shouted with a smile, raising the hem of her chiton above her knee.

There wasn’t a leg so white or with such a graceful calf line even in Plato’s realm of ideas, if there was any independent idea of ​​a female leg at all. The three continued to stare at it even after the purple hemmed skirts had covered it again. Praxiteles was the first to break free from its magic.

“So you do not acknowledge Plato, then? I apologize, but I thought Kostakis had sent you, he’s always sending us various spies. And Plato is a favorite of the authorities.”

“Well, sure, probably because of his treatise on the state,” Cyana agreed. “But about Phryne…”

“I told you, I don’t know any Phryne. What is she?”

“A hetaira! The most respected, most beautiful…” Cyana was already getting worried; could history have confused something again?

“Look here, daughter of Zeus,” the old man giggled absent-mindedly as he continued to study the draft for the theatrical machine she had suggested to him. “If there were one, I would’ve known her first..!”

Cyana got angry with him - his name had survived for millennia, and he was behaving like a satyr with a mid-life crisis.

“Aren’t you afraid to call me that, when it’s only customarily used to address the most wise Athena Paladas?”

“Who should I be afraid of?”

“Of Kostakis, for example,” she tossed out the name Praxiteles had just mentioned.

The old man laughed.

“Look, him, I am afraid of. You can tell him I’m afraid of him.”

Cyana’s cheeks flared, she became even more beautiful. She didn’t know that, even diluted, the wine was pouring fire into her blood, being unaccustomed to alcohol.

“It’s insulting, for the spirit of Ellada, it’s insulting for people like you to be afraid of a guard.”

“I can remember a long time back, clever girl with legs like a deer,” said the old man in a melodious voice, “but I don’t know of any conflict between swordsmen and thinkers ending in our favor.”

The tragedian, who was silently absorbing wine and diligently refilling the bronze chalices, first from one bag, and then the other, suddenly grabbed her by the waist and said in a thick tongue,

“Are you really a hetaira?”

The question found her unprepared. Cyana believed that both her clothes and her demeanor were convincing enough, she had hoped to gain their respect with her knowledge, but it turned out… It turned out that the hot hoop around her waist was tightening menacingly. But in the time of Praxiteles, weren’t the hetairai still respected as equal friends and companions, which had actually been the original meaning of their nickname?

“Have you taken the exam?” the writer blew his smelly breath into her ear.

She tried carefully to free herself.

“What exam?”

“Ah, if you don’t know, then you haven’t taken it,” the drunk rejoiced noisily. “When a slave wants to become a free woman and a hetaira, the exam is to satisfy three men at the same time and if they’re satisfied…”

“I have never been a slave!” Cyana pulled harder.

“Leave her alone!” said Praxiteles, detaching his mouth from the bronze chalice, but there was a lustful curiosity in his eyes.

The old scientist, on the other hand, paid no attention to them at all, absorbed again in the drawings of the theatrical machine. The drunk tried to untie the top belt of her chiton.

“Hey, darling, we’re going to do the exam now!”

Then, simultaneously with a sound like a fallen sack, came a “Huh!” so it wasn’t clear if it was his body or if he had said it. But he laid motionless, sprawled two meters away from the pavilion. Cyana had cleverly thrown him so that he wouldn’t fall on the pavement.

The other two were watching her just like the naive commoner in the theater watched the god descend from the machine. But their astonishment was justified - the classic wrestling that ended their pentathlon at the Olympics was nothing like twenty-fourth-century judo.

“Let’s respect each other, okay?!” the incredible hetaira offered them, having thrown, without even panting, their huge friend all the way to the grass.

“Goddess...” said the old scientist timidly.

Cyana neatly fixed her chiton.

“Listen, dear friends, I am an ordinary mortal who knows and respects you and wants nothing more than to be respected.” She ran to the drunkard and, helping him to his feet, finished speaking right in his face, his eyes wide with superstitious terror. “Under that condition, we can be friends. And now pour me wine but in a separate chalice! Hey, you, run bring…”

Praxiteles clapped his hands.

“The slave…”

“Not the slave, this one will bring it to me. For redemption! Come on!”

In his zeal to bring the chalice, the tragedian almost knocked down the slave that appeared on the doorstep of the house. The sculptor and the philosopher were looking at her with genuine awe.

“When we sell the aeorema, we’ll give you the money,” said the philosopher. “Definitely, every theater will buy it.”

“So you don’t consider me a friend,” Cyana said bitterly. “I thought we would split it in four…”

“The design is yours…” the sage looked for a beautiful way to address her, didn't find it and allowed himself a joke with the look of a man who has nothing to lose in life, “A while ago I called you ‘daughter of Zeus’, but you seem to be the daughter of Hercules.”

Cyana laughed out loud. She was getting merrier, she felt freer, but she still had no idea that she owed it to the fragrant Corinthian wine.

“Is that why you decided to give me all the money? Shame on you, philosopher, you still believe in the gods, eh?! Praxi… I can call you that, this Prak-si-tel-es is too long for me! So now what, do you take me as a model or not? Hey, don’t spoil my wine!” she shouted in a third direction to the overzealous, finally sober writer, who was adding water to the chalice that had been brought for her.

Frightened, the writer pulled back the skin and splashed the pavement before he could plug its leg.

“Oh, divine one,” exclaimed the famous sculptor, embarrassed, “I wouldn’t dare to dream of such a model.”

“But dream on, dream on!” she raised the huge chalice in front of him and almost halved it in one gulp.

The men were already sufficiently impressed by Cyana that she didn’t need to gain their respect with her hearty drinking, too, but her inhibitions had already been lowered. But she continued to underestimate the wine. She moved with her chalice to the opposite bench beside the philosopher.

“I’m sorry I showed you how to perfect the aeorema. Enough with these gods! You only lie to the people that way and affirm their faith.”

“Do you want to take the writers’ bread?” the sage joked just as cautiously as before. “The people don’t go to the theater to see their plays but to see how the gods distribute justice at the end. Because… where else can they see it?”

Cyana turned in surprise to the writer who was still lying on his back. He said humbly,

“You’re talking dangerous words, my girl. I hope the all-mighty doesn’t hear them!”

“Hey, why are you pretending to be a believer?” She was indignant and condescending because, at least according to the books, none of the thinkers at that time believed in the inhabitants of Olympus.

“Because who else will untangle human destinies in our tragedies?” the writer timidly defended himself, “People only know how to mix things up. After all, the citizen must leave the theater with a strengthened faith in life.”

“They wouldn’t allow it,” Praxiteles added to support him, “I could sculpt you right now so that everyone would gasp in delight, but if I don’t name your statue after some goddess, no one will buy it. And marble is expensive, my girl! So we can blaspheme as much as we want but the money is brought down by the gods…”

“Oh, Praxi, I didn’t expect such talk from you!” she exclaimed, but remembered that she had no right to express an attitude towards their affairs and hurried to correct herself, “I sympathize with you, boys, so tell me which goddess’s name you’d christen me with?”

“Aphrodite’s, of course, but I’m only saying. I’m not allowed, for a mortal woman…”

Cyana jumped cheerfully, remembering her mission.

“What if I’m not mortal? Let’s try it!”

She needed to be alone with him to sort out her stay.

“I’ve been drinking. And at this time of day…” he tried to divert her but she was already heading to the sheds with a shout that only a goddess could allow herself,

“You guys stay here! And don’t you dare peek or I'm going to turn you into pigs.”

The writer, who had risen after her, immediately sat down. He, of course, didn't believe in the miracles once described by his colleague Homer in his Odyssey but if this thin and fragile girl could toss him away with such ease, then why couldn’t she turn people into pigs?!

The regal gait Cyana had mastered for the occasion was amazingly beautifully folding her long chiton, so Praxiteles followed her mesmerized. She had practiced it for many months, deciding that this was how these beautiful Greeks must have walked. And it turned out they, most often, were short-legged and small. Hadn't they achieved anything with their famous cult of body and sport? Or were a hundred muscular idols roaming their stadiums while the rest remained big-bellied and fat-assed fans..?

“Oh, so many kouroi and korai*!” she said, stopping in front of the first shed, clogged with naked little Apollos and draped Persephones.

She actually shouted it and then bit her lip. That’s what art critics had named these statues twenty centuries later. But her mistake wasn’t that big because these were just the names for girls and boys. Oh, how much beauty there was here, and how little of it would survive! Incomprehensible to the young historian, Praxiteles started to explain himself,

“Just production work! We earn some money from them, but, as you can see, my dear compatriots are ordering them and when it comes time to pay… They’ve tied up so much of my marble! On top of everything, Hermaphroditus has now become fashionable, everyone wants to have Hermaphroditus in their home, and what do they see in him that they want him so much? Can you understand this new cult of Aphrodite’s son? Now I’m going to try to turn these into hermaphrodites, but…”

“Praxi,” Cyana interrupted his complaints, “but your little Apollos are all naked and you’ve draped your Persephones so much that...”

Crossing the courtyard with Corinthian wine in her stomach under the Hellenic sun had finally clouded her brain.

“It is forbidden to portray the goddesses naked.”

“That’s probably why Hermaphroditus is in fashion. Your lustful fellow citizens want to contemplate both in one place. It’s cheaper.”

Praxiteles laughed timidly.

“No, I have never met such a woman in my life! And witty...”

“Praxi, tell me, do you have a statue like a... a satyr pouring wine? And an Artemis who...”

No, these were not the controversial works she was supposed to be asking about! The wine had immersed her entire memory in a shimmering sunny haze.

“I have many Artemises, but a satyr like that… I am about to start it in the coming days. By the way, how do you know I was going to make one?” he said, looking at her in astonishment.

“And the one leaning against a tree?” Cyana quickly tossed at him to avoid answering.

“I sold it, but you…”

“You’re a great sculptor, Praxi,” she said, walking majestically to the other shed, “Although you’re not exactly to my liking.”

The great sculptor got worried,

“Really?”

“You’re kind of sappy to me, and I go for the realists..”

“For who?”

She had really stepped in it, now she had to explain to him what realism is!

“You do everything too beautifully, you know? In life, it’s not like that. You even make satyrs beautiful. And what is a satyr according to your tales? A billy goat! A lewd billy goat! The most he could look like is that little writer out there, and if you started sculpting him, you’d even make him look beautiful!” She finally allowed her antipathy towards the tragedian to show.

Praxiteles looked at her in astonishment - no one had ever dared speak to him like that before.

“But… but… We’re obliged… Kalos kagathos! The unity of beauty with goodness! That’s how we teach them to appreciate beauty. Pericles, who is equal to gods, once even paid daywages to the citizens when they went to the theater just to teach them to love the arts. I’ll be expelled from the city if…”

“I know, I know! It’s not your fault,” Cyana generously spared him the suffering, “After all, your art reflects the crisis of the ancient polis…”

“What, what’s that about the polis?” the sculptor widened his eyes and she turned abruptly. She had uttered a phrase from an art critic again! And a bad art critic!

“Don’t pay any attention to me, Praxi, go on just as you know how! You are lyrical, gentle, contemplative and you should know that you do these light shadows terrifically! You’ve already placed your name after Phidias and Myron… Yes, the previous century was great! Polymed, Cresilaus, Polycleitus… What about Pythagoras of Regia, and your father, Kefizodot..?” She crept under the shed because the sun was still boiling the wine inside her into a dizzying grog. “Well, your century is also okay! What do you think of Lysippus?”

Praxitelles stood before her, pale and sweaty.

“He’s good, isn’t he?" she got ahead of him, guessing that he would ask her how it was possible for a woman, even if she was a hetaira, to know the history of Hellenic sculpture so well.

“Lysippus?” whispered Praxiteles. “He’s still young…”

“He is young, but he will become a great sculptor, hear what I say! Scopas is very good, too. Hey, where did you get that from?”

She crouched beside a magnificent black vase with red figures.

“It’s from Nicostene, isn’t it? Incredibly valuable thing, keep it, do you hear? At least a hundred years ago…”

She had to bite her lips again; if she had personally seen the vase in the museum, then it had survived the millennia! And she ran to the next shed.

In the middle of it stood a huge block of marble near a half-arched wooden podium. The trampled earth around it had turned white with dust and marble pieces. At the far end, however, the wall was lined with many, many amphorae, each more beautiful than the last. Cyana crouched before them to admire them, unmistakably identifying, from the style of their paintings, which were Corinthian, which were from Samos or Rhodes. The sculptor’s face froze in superstitious fear. Noticing this, she suddenly jumped on the podium.

“Come on, make me more beautiful, too!”

“Goddess, do you really..?”

Cyana chuckled,

“Hey, which of the goddesses do you take me for?”

Although asked as a joke, the insidiousness of her question didn’t put him in any better a position than Paris had been in, facing the three goddesses. Preferring Aphrodite, he gave the golden apple to her, greatly confusing European civilization.

“Maybe A… A… Athena,” Praxiteles muttered. The wise virgin was still the more powerful goddess.

Cyana straightened, stern as Athena Paladas,

“Take a good look! Do you think my sister is as beautiful!” and with a theatrical swing she pulled off the chiton.

Praxiteles collapsed to his knees in front of the podium. He had probably never seen such a beautiful female body in person. After all, he took his ideas from the kingdom of Plato!

“G... goddess,” he stretched out his arms towards her, “have you come to destroy me?”

It is known that Aphrodite hadn’t wiped out any less people than her militant sister had.

“Come on, sculptor, grab the chisel and hammer!”

“Just like that?” he was even more horrified.

“How many times will I tell you that I am no goddess! Come on!”

He picked up a clay plate from the ground, brought a wooden box with black and red ink from somewhere, and examined the tip of the reed brush. Cyana watched his hands curiously because in her century they barely knew how or with what the Greeks had painted.

“Then… then she’ll need some motif, otherwise… allow me.” Praxiteles ran to the vases, grabbed the first of them, and set it upright on the podium beside the left leg of the nude Cyana. He lifted her chiton with such reverence as if he were touching the goddess herself, but he did not fail to test the fabric with appreciative fingers. What mortal could possess such a chiton, and where could it be gotten if not from the looms of Olympus? He spread it over the vase and deftly shaped its folds. “Like this, goddess! As if you’re entering the sea to bathe. Because otherwise… You know what people are like, don’t you?”

Then he took a few steps back and narrowed his frightened and fascinated eyes.

“Step forward a little, please, goddess, yes, yes, step down from the podium with one foot, like stepping into the sea, you understand?”

Cyana reeled.

“Well, if you think I can stay like this forever...”

“Just for now, only a sec!”

His hand flickered over the plate and, occasionally dipping with the reed swiftly into the thick red ink. Wide sweat ran down his two temples. His pupils devoured with professional greed, one by one, all the wonderful folds and curves of her body. He examined the sketch, held the plate away from himself, turned it over, and with the same lightning speed started a second one.

“Just a bit more, a little bit more… I’ll need a sketch of the back, too.”

He picked up a second plate and walked behind the podium. Cyana listened with a smile to his panting behind her until she suddenly seemed to also feel his gaze. She knew she had no reason to be ashamed of her backside, but she was embarrassed nonetheless. She shouted over her shoulder,

“Hey, you didn’t decide to make Aphrodite Kallipygos, did you?”

“Oh, is such blasphemy possible?!” exclaimed the sculptor hoarsely, as if he were not drawing the very thing at that very moment.

“What, don’t you know that sculpture? That’s what it’s called: Aphrodite with a nice ass! Two famous ladies from Syracuse specially built a temple to Aphrodite and commissioned such a statue for it. The goddess is standing with her back to you, she’s dressed and has only flung off her chiton so that her butt can be seen. The two had married richly and happily thanks to the fact that Aphrodite had gifted them with beautiful backsides, so in her honor... Oh, you are a cheerful folk, aren’t you?!”

“Well, those in Sicily...” the sculptor muttered. “And who made the statue?”

“I forget right now. This wine of yours…” she got out of the awkward question. Not only did she not know the author, she didn’t even remember the time period of the sculpture, but she almost spit out in which museum this Aphrodite was located. “What’s going on?”

“Done, goddess! I will do the rest from the image that is in me for life…”

She stepped off the podium and picked up the plate with the first two sketches. Praxiteles froze once more, mesmerized by the grace of her bending.

“But this is the Aphrodite of Knidos!” Cyana was astonished, having recognized the vase and the cloak on it, and the posture of the beauty entering the sea.

“Which Aphrodite?”

Yet again, she had let something slip that she shouldn’t have, but still, in most of those cases, it was the wine talking instead of her. And again, that’s what the art experts would name the famous statue.

“Have you done another one like this?”

“How would I dare, oh, wonder among the goddesses?! And now only with your permission…”

“Enough of these epithets! You haven’t read anything but Homer! And you don’t know any Phryne, do you?”

He continued to wonder at her insistent question but, according to history, it was Phryne who had inspired him for the Aphrodite of Knidos. But history had claimed quite a few untruths!

“This will be perhaps your greatest work, Praxi,” she declared to him prophetically.

“Oh, you, born of foam! If you allow me not to cover it… Because with the goddesses, we haven’t dared…” the great sculptor pleaded in a trembling voice.

“How could you cover such beauty?!” Cyana strapped on her chiton. “Lie to them that Aphrodite appeared to you personally and gave you permission. And stop calling me that, I told you, I’m an ordinary woman! Even Protagoras, so many centuries ago, told you that humans are the measure of all things! Now, let’s have a drink for your future masterpiece!”

Praxiteles hid the plates with the drawings in a cupboard.

“It was easy for Protagoras! Now we are again obliged to believe in the gods.”

Cyana had already started running - more like the hunting goddess Artemis because no one had seen Aphrodite run - to the pavilion. She slumped on the marble bench, leaned against the column, and opened her mouth,

“Who will give me a drink? I’m dying of thirst!”

The old geometer and the tragedian knocked their heads in the race to pick up the skin to pour for her. Since, even in those distant times, writers were always more diligent in serving gods and rulers, the tragedian won.

“With a skin, with a skin,” cried Cyana. “I’ve never drunk directly from a skin!”

The tragedian raised the goat’s bagpipe, which made people start singing, over her and carefully uncorked it’s leg. Cyana greeted the pink stream which, undiluted, was so sweet that it was sticky, with charming greed. She choked, the wine poured over her lovely neck, entered her bosom, the girl screamed merrily.

The three atheists no longer knew what to think of her. Whatever atrocities, according to legend and fairy tales, the daughters of Zeus and the other inhabitants of Olympus had done, none had behaved so loosely in human society. But this non-Hellenically beautiful creature, drunk as a maenad, obviously knew things that, not only women but no other mortal seemed to know. The philosopher-geometer decided to try her once more,

“Daughter of Zeus, a while ago you have spoken rather contemptuously of Plato, but what do you think of Aristotle?”

“Huh, what did I say?” Cyana was startled that she may have committed another historical blunder, but she still didn’t sober up; the portion of undiluted wine completely entangled her thoughts. “He’s a glorious old man, where would idealism be without him?! Besides, de mortuis aut bene, aut nihil. Sorry, that was in Latin! The Romans have said: for the dead, either good or nothing. I don’t like him, however, mainly because of ‘Republic’; he can’t imagine the state without the slavery. And Aristotle, the brute, chimed in. He may be your greatest, and the boy really knows a lot because he took everything that was smartest from all of you. And from Plato, and from Zeno, and even from you, but… Not like that, dear!”

Her tongue, painted pinker than normal by the wine, began to blur the ancient Greek words,

“Not like that! If you want to sit in the shade and drink raisin wine and philosophize about it, don’t let it be at the expense of others! Because slaves are just like you and me! You will strain your genius brain, invent various machines to work for you, don’t live on other peoples’ backs…”

“Oh, unearthly one,” the host exclaimed timidly, “We are not allowed even to listen to such words about slaves!”

“Why, Praxiteles, you have a democracy, don’t you? You may be a genius but if I cut you to pieces right now, I won’t find anything that your slave doesn’t have, is that clear? And Aristotle...” she turned fiercely to his aged colleague. “Just look at his mind, he even took up writing against women! The man was the sun, the woman was the Earth, he was the energy, she was the matter, but even at birth, she wasn’t equal to him…”

“Where has he written that?” inquired the old philosopher, “I don’t know…”

“If he hasn’t written it yet, he will,” Cyana snapped at him but suddenly chuckled like a neighborhood gossip from later centuries, “And he let Phyllis the hetaira ride him! Eeeh, but don’t you know the story? So, she undresses him, she puts a bridle on him like a mule, climbs on top of him and with a whip… you see, with a whip she makes him run on all fours! This Phyllis must be very beautiful, huh?”

The three men were stunned by her story. The philosopher, though envious of his colleague, tried to defend him.

“We don’t know any Phyllis. Aristotle has long been attached to the hetaira Herpila, a very worthy woman who has also borne him a son, Nicomachus…”

“But I’ve seen it with my own eyes!” Cyana urged on. “I mean, in pictures! Do you know how many works there are with this plot: beauty riding wisdom! Here’s a topic for you too, Praxi! But no, you don’t like realism.”

“I’ve heard such a story told in Asia but not about Aristotle,” the philosopher said.

“And we know it about Aristotle!” said the historian, “I don’t love this philosopher of yours whatsoever! True, he has done many things for mankind but, a thousand years after him, people will believe in all his mistakes and won’t dare to look elsewhere for the truth, and every age wants its truth, you should know that from me, philosopher!”

The old man nodded, shocked by her prophecy.

“I’ll tell him too,” she threatened. “Is he in town now? Praxi, why don’t you go call him? Tell him not to be afraid, I won’t ride him! I’m for equality.”

“I’ll go,” jumped the still zealous tragedian, and by the time she came to her senses to stop him, he had already left the yard.

“Hey, boys, there’s a lot of nonsense going around the table,” she said in a non-Hellenic expression, forgetting there was no table in the pavilion. “We’d better have a song! Praxi, don’t you have a guitar? No, no, you will bring it yourself! I don’t want slaves to serve me but a person I love, because I love you, Praxi.”

The sculptor nearly ran away from her declaration of love, which was threatening to materialize into an embrace. And after he had returned with the guitar, he was surprised yet again because he had never before heard of any goddess playing any type of instrument.

“Goddess, have you..?”

“Stop goddess-ing me! Come, see here what a hetaira I am!”

Ambitious, she insisted on demonstrating everything she had learned with such difficulty in preparation for their time. She struck the strings, checked the tuning, and enthusiastically embarked on Pindar’s first Pythian ode, created a hundred years earlier. Somewhere in the middle, she paused and looked at them triumphantly,

“Do you recognize it?”

Then she played two hymns, one after the other, giving a hint,

“Mesomed!”

“He must be someone young,” said the old philosopher.

Cyana abruptly moved the guitar away from herself - Mesomed had lived two centuries later, somewhere in the second century BCE!

“Oh, I’m all filled up with the god!” she stood up in blissful remorse. “Entheos! Isn’t that what you yell out when you get drunk? All of you are fine, it’s always someone else who’s responsible for everything! May Dionysius live long and prosper! Praxi, take me somewhere to have a nap! And a shower, if possible…”

The sculptor didn’t know what a shower was, but he led her to his home. Cyana hung on to his arm and continued to pour out her difficult-to-understand, and therefore, as it sounded to him, truly divine tales.

“Is the house yours? Yes, you artists are poorly paid, but, in class societies, that’s how it is. Well, it’s enough for bread and wine, so you don’t have any complaints, my boy! You’re a genius, you mustn't doubt that! My friend, she bows to the other muses, but I have sworn allegiance to Cleo, the muse of history, you’ve heard of her, haven’t you, so, I mean, she’s studying art history and she fancies you quite a lot. Oh, she says, if this Praxiteles could be here with me now, his hands I would kiss, finger by finger…”

“Goddess, I…” the sculptor was already completely faint leading her to his bedroom, and she shamelessly giggled in his ear,

“And what else do you want me to do to make you believe I’m a hetaira?”

“You will prove it to me, to me!” someone shouted behind them.

The chief of the city guard, this time accompanied by four heavily armed warriors, swayed in front of her with the sunny haze in the courtyard.

“Ah, Monsignor!” rejoiced the drunken historian, who had completely confused centuries and epochs. “How are you, did your kiria allow you..? Praxi, isn’t that what you called your wives?”

“You’re under arrest!” the chief roared, as if mortally wounded.

“Kostakis, you can’t arrest a goddess!” said Praxiteles.

“You must be that Kostakis they’re so afraid of,” Cyana chuckled, poking him in the belly with her finger. “Kostakis, I’ll turn you into a pig! Or into something else. I leave it to you to choose for yourself, I am generous.”

A good chief of the guard was obliged not to be afraid even of the gods. And Kostakis was also a secret atheist.

“Come with me!”

“What has our lady friend done wrong?” the old geometer intervened with philosophical calm.

“She spoke against the state system, saying that slaves were equal to citizens, etcetera. Besides, she blasphemed and… I have information on everything!”

The sculptor and the philosopher looked at each other, crushed; so their friend wasn’t just writing tragedies?!

In the interest of historical truth, however, we must say that Kostakis had repeatedly used this method to intimidate some more stubborn hetairai and forced them to work for the benefit of the state. And since hetairai were usually freed slaves, accusations of blasphemy and talk of equality always sounded plausible to their mouths. The great Aspasia had suffered a hundred years ago because of the same accusations. Therefore, in this case, there was no conclusive evidence that the writer had slandered their guest. But such ambiguity, unfortunately, envelops most historical facts.

Of course, Cyana wasn’t afraid of him. Apart from the supply of judo, in one of the secret pockets of her chiton she had a highly intoxicating aerosol can with which she could quickly put the chief to sleep with his entire guard, but she said to herself, “If history has christened me as Phryne because I was the one who posed for Aphrodite of Knidos, then I must be arrested and put on trial before the Areopagus. There, the lawyer will undress me in front of everyone to prove that such beauty cannot be blasphemous because it itself was created by the gods, and it cannot be bad because the exquisite is good and the good is exquisite, and the old men in the Areopagus will agree with him…”

“Rejoice!” she shouted cheerfully. “Come on, Kostakis, let’s go to the Areopagus!”

This confused the chief more than the possibility of being turned into a pig. He commanded the guard,

“Take her away!” but he himself did not move from his spot.

“Kostakis, is the charge so severe?” the philosopher asked him, sensing that the chief hadn’t accidentally fallen behind his guard, who had taken the unusual hetaira away with drawn swords.

“She hasn’t paid her tax, either!” the defender of the law sighed anxiously.

“If it’s just the tax, I’ll pay it.”

“But she blasphemed, I tell you, I have evidence! And you haven’t fulfilled your own civic duty…” Kostakis carefully tried the method he had named after the delicious dish!

“Have you reported it to the archon yet?”

“I have not.”

“Sit down, sit down and have a drink,” the philosopher pushed him towards the pavilion. “It’s Corinthian and it hasn’t warmed up yet. Sculptor, send the slaves for fresh water while we talk here with this worthy servant of the people…”

Cyana continued to enjoy herself, anticipating the historic show in the Areopagus, but the warriors, tortured by the heat in their tin armor, cheered her up even more.

“Hey, put all that iron away,” she told them as they stepped outside in the street. “Don’t you know what one of your sages has said: Whoever draws a sword, dies by a sword..! Ugh, the hell with this wine! This sage wasn’t yours, but anyway, one of you might trip… I won’t run from you, don’t be afraid! I deliberately want to go to the Areopagus to rub the nose of this crooked-legged chief of yours in it.”

The warriors readily put away their swords because this hetaira - they had never led one so beautiful to their boss before! - really wouldn’t be able to escape from them, and if she was a goddess and wanted to turn them into pigs, their swords wouldn’t stop her anyway. And at the same moment, the thick necklace around her throat seemed to start humming softly. After which, it said something in a language incomprehensible to the guards.

Cyana raised her head to the sky. The four warriors also raised their heads, only to freeze in their burning hot armor; a dazzlingly shining machine was descending silently from the milky blue sky above them.

“Don’t be afraid, kouroi!” Cyana told them, because they were about to run away or fall on their faces when the machine came down just above their heads.

The machine stood in the air a meter from the burnt earth of Ellada and a round window opened in the middle of it. It was as if Adonis himself, Aphrodite’s spring lover, had peeked out of it - so smooth, beautiful and young was the face of the man who held out his hand,

“Get in!”

“But why, I beg you ...” the detainee objected.

“Order from the Institute!”

And she took his hand, which vigorously pulled her up. The window closed and the machine immediately fired itself like an arrow in the direction of Olympus and entered the sun itself.

“But why are you interrupting my assignment? I haven’t learned anything yet!” Cyana shouted as she slumped in the second pilot’s seat.

“Looks like they’ll interrupt many more things of yours,” Alexander said, easing down beside her. “They may even remove you from the Department of Ancient History altogether. The art critics have their doubts about you. You have improperly interfered in the development of ancient Ellada. Girl, girl, how did you manage, in such a short time?!”

“But I haven’t done anything!”

“Come on, come on, we know each other well enough!”

“What can I do on my own? History is very stubborn, Sasho, it constantly insists on its own way...” said the young historian sadly. “A hetaira named Phryne will appear after me… And even if she doesn’t appear, history will make her up. She will inspire the great sculptor during the feast of Poseidon… Oh, how I wanted to wait for that! There, Phryne will undress to bathe in front of the whole city - notice: this is probably the first public striptease in Europe! And Praxiteles will find the courage to sculpt her naked. And then this wonderful Phryne will be prosecuted, but, glory to Olympus, beauty has always ridden wisdom and the old men of the Areopagus will acquit her… Ugh, I’ll tell you another time, I’m very tired!”

Looking at her, Alexander imagined her without all the draperies of the double-breasted chiton and thought that she would probably make a wonderful model of an ancient goddess. Then, in the end, he realized that he too would always find it difficult to prosecute beauty. But he still dared to ask,

“You really didn’t... with this Praxiteles?”

“Of course not. You know you’re the one I love!”

“Ah!” Alexander said, astonished. “This is the first time I’m hearing it!”

“These things aren’t meant for auditory perception, dear!” she held out her hand to him and immediately started crying.

“But why? Don’t...” the young man was confused. “You’ve told me yourself... haven’t you? How an ancient philosopher once said that we should part with the past with laughter…”

He didn’t quote it either accurately or aptly, but he could be forgiven because he wasn’t a historian but a most common engineer in the maintenance of time machines. He was also a wonderful boy and Cyana laughed through her tears. And as she watched the speed and indifference with which the digital timer marked the years they were passing, she sighed as if she really were saying goodbye to them.

“Ugh, I’m sick of this history, too, where nothing in it is the way they tell it to you..!”


........


After they snapped out of their numbness, Kostakis’s warriors stormed Praxiteles’s courtyard with tragic cries. Kostakis stepped out of the shadow of the pavilion with a bad feeling. He had just agreed with the famous Hellenic philosopher and geometer that it wasn’t worth occupying the whole Areopagus with a hetaira when things could also be settled in private, and now the deal seemed to be in jeopardy.

“The go… the god from the machine and… and…” the guards stammered.

“Just one of you, report!” Kostakis ordered.

The man who was appointed couldn’t calm himself down and continued to tremble like he had malaria as he recounted how the god had gotten out of the machine and kidnapped the prisoner entrusted to them.

“Ahh, you idiots! I’ll give you a god from the machine!” Kostakis roared. “How many times have I told you to stop wallowing in the theater?!”

Praxiteles and the philosopher probably weren’t such absolute atheists because they stared at the sky in the direction of Olympus with great reverence. There, however, as before, there was nothing but the fiery face of Helios, that purely Hellenic god who nevertheless baked in his oven both the beautiful and the ugly, the wise and the wicked, the truth and the myths, with an equal diligence incomprehensible to the people…

Learn more about how history is really made! Be on the lookout forUnfinished Novel of a Student !