There was a sump in front of the burial chamber, just like...
He climbed down the rope ladder for one last look. But his torch lit nothing save their own detritus: empty water bottles, discarded food wrappings, the stub of a candle, a book of matches. Discipline had been an early casualty of failure. Six metres deep already, and still they hadnâ€™t reached the foot! Six metres! He shook his head at the absurdity of the ancients. So much effort! And so pointless too.
After all, who on earth needed a sump six metres deep?
Knox had drifted off into a restorative sleep in the Latin Cemeteries. He woke to footsteps slapping the paving slabs outside. For a moment he feared he was bound to be discovered, but the footsteps passed by without changing cadence. He waited for silence, pushed himself grimacing to his feet, his body stiff. He hobbled out of the cemetery, bought a Menatel card from a general store, then found a secluded phone-kiosk from which to call Augustin.
â€˜Cedric, mon cher ami!â€™ boomed Augustin, the moment he recognized Knoxâ€™s voice.
Knox picked up his cue at once, switched smoothly to French. â€˜There are people with you?â€™
â€˜A fine officer of the law. He speaks some English but I think weâ€™re okay in French. Hang on a second.â€™ Knox heard some muttering, Augustinâ€™s hand clamped over the mouthpiece. Then he came back on. â€˜Weâ€™re fine,â€™ he said. â€˜I just called his mother a fat sow. Not a flicker.â€™
Knox laughed. â€˜What are you doing with the police?â€™
â€˜On our way to Borg.â€™ He gave a quick rundown of what heâ€™d learned about the Texas Society of Biblical Archaeology, their links to UMC, their excavations in Cephallonia. Then Knox filled Augustin in on his mystery assailant, and how heâ€™d made off with his laptop.
â€˜Shit!â€™ exclaimed Augustin. â€˜I only just bought the damned thing. But youâ€™re okay, yes?â€™
â€˜Iâ€™m fine. But I need somewhere to hide out. I thought maybe Kostas. Pick his brains while Iâ€™m there. But I canâ€™t remember his address.â€™
â€˜Sharia Muharram Bey. Number fifty-five. Third floor. And tell him I want my copy of Lucretius back. Bastardâ€™s had it for months now.â€™
â€˜Will do,â€™ said Knox.
This was the time to visit the desert, the late afternoon sun coaxing sharp contrasts from the same cliffs that had earlier seemed a flat monochrome, tinting the western sky fruit-bowl colours. Gaille cut out past the southern tip of the Amarna cliffs then circled north to the eastern end of the Royal Wadi. She pointed away across the sands. â€˜The desert roadâ€™s about five kilometres that way.â€™
â€˜And it runs all the way down to Assiut, right?â€™ asked Lily.
â€˜Yes.â€™ The car ferries would stop â€™ ^running after dark; they needed to head south on this side of the Nile. She turned into the wadi. There was no sealed road this end, just a rock-strewn floor. Gaille navigated it cautiously, while Stafford sat beside her, his arms pointedly folded, sighing every few seconds, until they reached an impassable barrier of scree.
â€˜I thought you knew the way,â€™ he said.
â€˜You can walk from here. Itâ€™s straight ahead. Only a couple of kilometres.â€™
â€˜Then weâ€™d better set off now, donâ€™t you think?â€™ said Lily. â€˜Unless you donâ€™t want this scene any more?â€™ Stafford threw her a caustic look, but got out and strode off down the wadi. â€˜Thatâ€™s right,â€™ muttered Lily. â€˜Donâ€™t help carry the equipment.â€™
â€˜What a prick!â€™ said Gaille. â€˜How do you put up with him?â€™
â€˜Itâ€™s just for a couple more days,â€™ said Lily, getting out. She turned back to Gaille, still sitting there. â€˜Arenâ€™t you coming?â€™
â€˜Iâ€™d better stay with the Discovery. Just in case.â€™
â€˜Sure. I bet this place is just crawling with car thieves.â€™ She tipped her head onto one side. â€˜Please. I canâ€™t take him alone.â€™
â€˜Fine,â€™ said Gaille, just about managing a smile. She climbed out of the Discovery and locked it behind her.
Augustin was growing bored on the drive out to Borg. Farooq was hardly the worldâ€™s greatest conversationalist. A few blunt questions about Omar and Knox that Augustin had managed to deflect easily enough, then a slump into almost complete silence. He got out his cigarettes, offered them across.
â€˜Thanks,â€™ grunted Farooq, taking one.
Augustin lit his own, passed his lighter to Farooq, then lowered his window, cupping a hand to catch the passing air. A white pick-up was coming towards them, sunlight reflecting off its dusty windscreen in such a way that it was only when they were passing that he saw the driver and his passenger, a young woman with long fair hair, whose eye Augustin caught for the briefest of moments.
They took a sharp right a kilometre further on, headed down a long lane, then turned left over an earthen bridge across an irrigation channel, pulling up to speak to a security guard. Theyâ€™d just missed Griffin, apparently. That must have been him with the blonde in the pick-up. But Peterson was on site. The guard sent them in to wait by the office. Theyâ€™d only been there a minute when Peterson arrived. â€˜Detective Inspector Farooq,â€™ he said. â€˜An unexpected pleasure. What can we do for you?â€™
â€˜Just one or two details to clear up. You know Doctor Augustin Pascal?â€™
â€˜By reputation,â€™ said Peterson.
â€˜Heâ€™s offered to help me. Explain archaeological terms, that kind of thing.â€™
â€˜How good of him.â€™
Farooq nodded, took out his mobile. â€˜If you gentlemen will excuse me. I need to check in.â€™
Augustin and Peterson locked gazes as Farooq walked off, sizing each other up, neither backing down. It was a good minute before Farooq came back to join them, looking rather pleased with himself. â€˜Well,â€™ he said, rubbing his hands vigorously. â€˜Perhaps we could get started.â€™erha cart
â€˜On what, exactly?â€™ asked Peterson.
â€˜Iâ€™d like to speak to your people. Find out what they saw.â€™
â€˜Of course,â€™ said Peterson. â€˜Follow me.â€™
â€˜Thank you,â€™ nodded Farooq, as they set off across the broken ground. â€˜You told me last night that Knox and Tawfiq visited you yesterday after noon. Thatâ€™s right, isnâ€™t it?â€™
â€˜Did they say why?â€™
â€˜Perhaps you should ask Knox.â€™
â€˜We will,â€™ promised Farooq. â€˜The moment we find him.â€™
â€˜Youâ€™ve lost him?â€™ frowned Peterson. â€˜How could you have lost him? The man was half dead.â€™
â€˜Never you mind,â€™ scowled Farooq. â€˜And Iâ€™d like to hear your version anyway.â€™
â€˜Heâ€™d seen some kind of artefact in Alexandria. A jar...
â€˜And then they left?â€™
â€˜Yes. We thought no more about it until we had an intruder. In fact, not even then. We had no idea it was them. We just assumed it was some petty thief.â€™
â€˜I understood this was a training excavation,â€™ murmured Augustin. â€˜Are you finding things of value here?â€™
â€˜Not of intrinsic value, no. But the locals donâ€™t know that. So thereâ€™s always a danger theyâ€™ll trespass and contaminate our data. Surely you appreciate that, Doctor Pascal?â€™
â€˜So you chased them off.â€™
â€˜It was just as I told you last night, Detective Inspector. Nothing has changed.â€™ They reached the cemetery, dusty young excavators exhuming two graves. â€˜You want to speak to my team,â€™ he said, spreading his hands. â€˜Well, here they are.â€™
Gailleâ€™s thighs were burning by the time theyâ€™d walked along the wadi and climbed the hillside close to the Royal Tomb. They all fell silent without being told, aware that theyâ€™d have a terrible time explaining their presence should they meet anyone. But the door of the Royal Tomb was emphatically closed, and the road deserted. Gaille grinned at Lily in unspoken relief.
â€˜Weâ€™re only just in time,â€™ said Stafford, nodding at the sun, low on the western horizon.
â€˜Then youâ€™d better get started,â€™ suggested Gaille.
â€˜If youâ€™ll get out of my eye-line.â€™
She turned and walked off, not trusting herself to speak. But it wasnâ€™t easy to get away. To her left was a deep cleft in the hilltop, as though one of Egyptâ€™s gods had attacked it with an axe. And to her right was the cliffâ€™s edge itself, and a vertiginous drop down to the wadi floor. But at least that way was out of Staffordâ€™s line of sight, so she inched as close to it as she dared, saw to her surprise what looked like a ledge a few feet below, a boot-print clearly visible in the dust.
She went a little further along the edge, fittl found a way down onto it. Lily and Stafford were still setting up. Theyâ€™d be a few minutes yet. Her toes tingled as she started out, but her curiosity proved stronger than her fear of heights, so she steeled herself and pressed on.
Kostas always took his own good time answering his front door, blaming either his failing hearing or his failing legs. He took it as a privilege of age to make people wait. But eventually he arrived, patting down his wreath of tangled, snowy hair, producing a pair of half-moon spectacles from his jacket pocket, then peering over the top of them. â€˜My dear Knox!â€™ he exclaimed. â€˜What a delightful surprise.â€™ But then he blinked and took half a pace back. â€˜My! You have been in the wars.â€™
â€˜That bad, is it?â€™ grimaced Knox. â€˜I couldnâ€™t use your bathroom, could I?â€™
â€˜Of course. Of course. Come in.â€™ Kostas shuffled along his obstacle course of a hallway, using his cane as a white stick to help him navigate between the dusty high stacks of academic tomes and packing chests of exotic artefacts, making the place feel more like a bric-a-brac store than a home. His walls were just as cluttered, a collage of astral charts, lurid occult posters, his own watercolours of herbs and other medicinal plants, framed frontispieces of arcane works and yellowed press clippings of himself in the news.
Knox examined himself in the washbasin mirror. A sight indeed: dried blood on his scalp and forehead, his face haggard, his hair prematurely aged with dust. He lathered up some soap, cleaned himself as best he could. A line of Greek text across the top of the mirror made him smile: NIÎ¨ONANOMHMATAMHMONANOÎ¨IN. One of the earliest known palindromes: Wash your iniquities not just your face. He dried himself with a hand-towel, turning it an ugly brown, then went back out.
â€˜Well?â€™ asked Kostas impatiently. â€˜What brings you here in such a state?â€™
Knox hesitated. It wasnâ€™t that easy to explain. â€˜I donâ€™t suppose youâ€™re on the Internet, are you?â€™ he asked.
â€˜Sadly, yes,â€™ said Kostas, leading Knox through to his library, where subdued lighting glowed on the burnished leather of innumerable old books. He opened his bureau to reveal a slimline laptop within. â€˜One canâ€™t do anything without them these days.â€™
Knox logged on, went to his hotmail account. But, to his dismay, Gailleâ€™s email had vanished. That bloody man in his motorcycle helmet must have deleted the photographs. He closed down the browser. â€˜Looks like Iâ€™ll just have to tell you,â€™ he said. â€˜But please bear with me if everythingâ€™s not entirely clear. I took a bit of a bang on the head.â€™
â€˜It seems I stumbled across some kind of antiquity out near Borg last night. Itâ€™s being excavated by some biblical archaeologists, and it seems it might have some connection with the Therapeutae. I took some photographs. There was a statuette of Harpocrates. Six severed mummified ears. A mosaic of a figure inside a seven-pointed star that reminded Augustin of a picture of Baphomet by some French guy whose name I canâ€™t remember.â€™
â€˜Eliphas LÃ©vi,â€™ nodded Kostas. â€˜I know the one.â€™
â€˜And there was a mural of Dionysus. Another of Priapus. Thatâ€™s about it.â€™
â€˜What a fascinating list,â€™ gloated Kostas, his eyes watering with pleasure. â€˜You realize of course that the Therreal k thapeutae lived out near Borg?â€™
â€˜And Harpocrates. The Romans worshipped him as the god of silence, you know, because the Egyptians depicted him holding a finger to his lips. But in fact that had nothing to do with hush.â€™
â€˜No,â€™ agreed Knox. It was one of the ways that the Egyptians had indicated youth, like the curled forelock on a princeâ€™s forehead.
â€˜His name is actually a corruption of the Egyptian Har-pa-khared. Horus the Child. Horus being the falcon-headed god who fused with the sun god Ra to become Ra-Horakthy, rising each morning in the east.â€™
â€˜I am an Egyptologist,â€™ observed Knox.
â€˜Of course you are, my dear boy. Of course you are. Thatâ€™s why youâ€™ll already be aware of the connection between him and Baphomet.â€™
â€˜Aleister Crowleyâ€™s religion of Thelema, of course. Crowley picked up where Eliphas LÃ©vi left off, as you no doubt know. He identified Baphomet as Harpocrates, though to be fair that was mostly due to his extraordinary ignorance. On the other hand, now that I think of it, Harpocrates was associated with a particular â€“ and quite fascinating â€“ group of Alexandrian Gnostics.â€™
â€˜A cup of tea first, I think,â€™ said Kostas, licking his lips. â€˜Yes. Tea and cake.â€™
Khaled climbed back up the rope ladder, then contemplated a final visit to the burial chamber. Crossing the sump wasnâ€™t a comfortable experience. The only access was on a makeshift bridge of two planks, each just a few centimetres longer than the shaft was wide, and which bowed uncomfortably when you stepped upon them.
It hadnâ€™t mattered when theyâ€™d first brought them in, for the sump had still been nearly full of rubble, so the fall would only have been a couple of metres. But now, even with a torch, you could scarcely see the foot. Sometimes he had nightmares about tumbling into that great hungry darkness. Yet he hadnâ€™t wanted to be the first to suggest they get longer planks. And none of his men had either.
He negotiated the crossing safely, however, entered the burial chamber, high heaps of rubble obscuring much of the walls, completed and plastered but not yet decorated, presumably because the tomb hadnâ€™t beenâ€”
He froze suddenly. A voice. A manâ€™s voice. Coming from above. He listened intently. But now there was only silence. He relaxed, smiling at his foolishness, his heart slowing back down. These ancient tombs! Theyâ€™d play tricks on your imagination. Theyâ€™d make you feelâ€”
The voice again. No question this time. He recognized it too. That damned TV man. He must have come back! He looked in horror up at the ceiling, unnerved by how close he sounded. Maybe he was close. There was a cleft in the hilltop above them. And the first time heâ€™d come here, it had been ankle-deep in storm water. So there had to be a fault in the rock. He hurried back across the planks, up the passage to the entrance. Faisal and Nasser had heard the voices too; theyâ€™d turned off their lamps, were squatting there by the mouth, sackcloth curtain glowing russet against the setting sun.
â€˜The TV people,â€™ whispered Faisal.
Khaled nodded. â€˜Theyâ€™ll film and tnodd kilmhen theyâ€™ll go.â€™
â€˜What if they see our truck?â€™
The other side of the sackcloth, a shoe slithered on shale. Khaled went cold. Faisal sniggered with nerves, clenched his jaw in both hands to stop himself, his eyes blinking maniacally. Khaled quietly unbuttoned his holster and drew his Walther. He aimed at the mouth of the tomb. A sudden sharp vision of home, childhood, the way his mother had boasted of him, all those photographs of him in uniform on her walls. Another scuff on the ledge. A mutter of surprise and then the sackcloth drawing back and the woman Gaille standing there, silhouetted against the sunset.
How quickly a life can turn, thought Khaled bleakly, as...
But this time it was Gaille who reacted first. She span on her heel, shouting warnings as she fled.
Knox took the tray back through to the library, set it down on the low coffee table. He wasnâ€™t exactly in the mood for a tea party, but Kostas evidently was, so he tried to master his aches and jitters. He was at least safe here, after all. He poured them each a cup of aromatic pale tea from the silver pot, cut two thin slices of moist chocolate cake. â€˜You were telling me about Harpocrates and the Gnostics,â€™ he prompted, passing Kostas his plate.
â€˜Yes,â€™ agreed Kostas. He nibbled the end of his cake, washed it down with a decorous sip of tea. â€˜You see, there was a group of Gnostics actually called the Harpocratians. At least, they may have been called that, though itâ€™s hard to be categorical. Theyâ€™re only referred to once or twice in the sources, you see. And there was another, much better-known group of Gnostics called the Carpocratians, founded by an Alexandrian by the name of Carpocrates. So it seems feasible, perhaps even probable, that these two were one and the same.â€™
â€˜A spelling mistake?â€™
â€˜Itâ€™s possible, of course. But our sources were the kind of people to know the difference. So my suspicion has always been that these Carpocratians might have been reputed to worship Harpocrates as well as Christ. That the names were therefore interchangeable, if you like.â€™
â€˜Is that plausible?â€™
â€˜Oh, yes,â€™ nodded Kostas vigorously. â€˜You have to realize that Gnostics werenâ€™t Christian in the modern sense. In fact, even grouping them together as Gnostics is really to miss the point, because it implies they had a single way of thinking, whereas in fact each of the sects had its own distinct views, drawn eclectin di ncally from Egyptian, Jewish, Greek and other traditions. But the great pioneers of Gnosticism, people like Valentinus, Basilides and Carpocrates, did have certain things in common. For example, they didnâ€™t believe Jesus to be the Son of God. Come to that, they didnâ€™t believe that the Jewish God was actually the Supreme Being at all, but merely a demiurge, a vicious second-tier creation who mistook himself for the real thing. How else, after all, could one explain all the horrors of this world?â€™
â€˜So who was the Supreme Being?â€™
â€˜Ah! Now thereâ€™s a question!â€™ His eyes were watering freely, his skin flushing. Like many solitary people, Kostas tended to become over-stimulated in company. â€˜The Gnostics held that it was incapable of description, incapable of even being contemplated, except perhaps in mathematical terms, and only then by the exceptionally enlightened. A very Einsteinian God, if you like. And thatâ€™s where Christ came in, because Gnostics saw him, along with Plato and Aristotle and others, as gifted but essentially ordinary men whoâ€™d nursed their divine sparks sufficiently to have glimpsed this truth. But Iâ€™m getting away from the point, which is the similarities between Harpocrates and Christ.â€™
â€˜Oh my dear Daniel! Where to start? Luxor Temple, perhaps. The nativity reliefs. A newborn pharaoh depicted as Harpocrates. Nothing surprising about that, of course. Pharaohs were the physical incarnations of Horus, so infant pharaohs were by definition Horus-the-child or Harpocrates. But the details of this particular tableau are curious. A mortal woman impregnated by a holy spirit while still a virgin. An annunciation by Thoth, the Egyptian equivalent of the archangel Gabriel. A star leading three wise men from the east, bearing gifts.â€™
â€˜Youâ€™re kidding me.â€™
â€˜I thought youâ€™d enjoy that,â€™ smiled Kostas. â€˜In fact, the wise men crop up all the time in divine nativity stories, especially among sun-worshippers. An astronomical allegory, of course, like so many religious conceits. The three stars of Orionâ€™s belt point towards Sirius, the key to the ancient Egyptian solar calendar and for predicting the annual inundation. Gold, frankincense and myrrh often crop up too. Manâ€™s very first possessions, you know, given by God to console Adam and Eve after their expulsion from Eden. Seventy rods of gold, if my memory serves.â€™
â€˜Rods?â€™ frowned Knox. A rod was a unit of distance, not of weight.
â€˜According to The Book of Adam and Eve,â€™ nodded Kostas. â€˜Or was it The Book of the Cave of Treasures?â€™ He sighed wistfully. â€˜My memory, you know.â€™
â€˜I donâ€™t think it was The Cave of Treasures,â€™ said Knox, whoâ€™d wasted countless glorious summer afternoons in a forlorn effort to master Syriac by studying that particular text, about a cave in which Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses and most of the other leading Jewish patriarchs had supposedly been buried. â€˜Anything else?â€™
â€˜There are some startling parallels between Horusâ€™s mother Isis and Mary the mother of Christ, of course. You must be aware of those. And Harpocrates was believed to have been born on a mountain, the hieroglyph for which was the same as that for a manger. Ancient Egyptians used to celebrate his birth by parading a manger through their streets. Easier than carrying a mountain.â€™
Kostas nodded. â€˜The Gospel of Matthew claims that the Holy Family fled to Egypt when Jesus amil sen was a child to avoid the Massacre of the Innocents. According to Saint Edward the Martyr, they got as far south as Hermopolis, city of Thoth. Which brings us neatly full circle, for Hermopolis was directly across the Nile from the city founded by this pharaoh I mentioned, the one in those Luxor reliefs.â€™
â€˜You mean Amarna?â€™ asked Knox. â€˜The pharaoh was Akhenaten?â€™
â€˜Indeed,â€™ agreed Kostas, allowing himself a little chuckle. â€˜Just think of it! The New Testament accounts of Christâ€™s Nativity borrowed from the birth of a heretic Egyptian pharaoh. Not something the Church has sought to publicize, for some reason or other.â€™ He held out his cup. â€˜You couldnâ€™t pour me some more tea, could you?â€™
â€˜Come back!â€™ yelled Khaled, hurrying after Gaille, almost losing his footing in his haste. â€˜Come back!â€™ he shouted again. But Gaille did nothing of the sort. A flash of movement and colour above, a cascade of grit and pebbles. Khaled glanced up to see Lily bringing her camera to bear. Khaled felt sick. He had to stop them getting away, contacting the outside world. He scrambled recklessly along the path, feet slipping on the limestone, clinging on desperately with one hand, trying to holster his Walther with his other. Faisal came up behind and hauled him back to safety, but valuable seconds had been wasted, allowing Gaille to get further ahead.
He reached the top to see her fleeing helter-skelter after her companions, Stafford way out in front, Lily flailing inelegantly with the camera on her shoulder. Khaled put in a burst, closing the gap a little, but not enough. They ran down the hillside into the wadi, clambered east over the scree towards the desert. Khaled couldnâ€™t sustain his pace. He slowed, came to a halt. â€˜Wait!â€™ he panted, hands on his knees, his leg muscles fibrillating wildly. They slowed and turned, if only to catch their breath. â€˜Letâ€™s talk,â€™ he shouted, holding up his hands and smiling in an effort to convince them he was no threat. â€˜We can sort this out.â€™ But even he could hear the falseness in his voice.
They began to hurry again. He scowled, drew his Walther, fired a single shot into the air. It made them run all the faster. Nasser and Faisal came up alongside him, wheezing for air. They set off again, legs heavy with exertion. The Discovery came into view ahead. Lily looked around to check on their pursuit and promptly stumbled on a stone. Her camera went flying and hit the rocks hard, shattering into component pieces. Stafford reached the Discovery. He tried the door but it was locked. â€˜The keys,â€™ he yelled at Gaille, who was hauling Lily back to her feet. â€˜Throw me the bloody keys.â€™
Khaled heaved for breath. His shirt had tugged free from his belt, he felt obscurely furious at the indignity. He fired another shot but the women didnâ€™t even break their stride. He put in a last burst, giving everything to the chase. Gaille took out her keys, pressed the remote. The corner lights on the Discovery flashed orange. Stafford opened the driver door and climbed in. They were going to get away. Khaled stopped, aimed as best he could, squeezed off three rounds. Metal pinged. The driver-side window disintegrated and fell out. The two women stopped dead, as though they believed Khaled some kind of marksman who could pick them off at will. They raised their arms and turned to face him.
He walked towards them, his hand against his side, heaving for breath, trying not to let it show, wanting to appear in control. Beads of sweat dripped down his forehead and trickled chillily down his flanks. Faisal and Nasser came up behind, but he kept his eyes firmly on the fo kep son reigners, the sag of their shoulders, their shiny faces and bedraggled hair, their dread-filled eyes, that poignant dash of hope. He scowled, hardening his heart towards them. These werenâ€™t people. They were problems. Problems to be solved. Problems to be eliminated. He drew to within a few paces, wondering which one to take out first.
The one with the car keys. Gaille.
He was raising his gun to kill her when a mobile phone began to ring.
Knox poured more tea for Kostas and himself, watched his sugar dissolve in the whirlpool of his stirring. â€˜What about the Therapeutae?â€™ he asked. â€˜Did they have any links to these Carpocratians?â€™
Kostas pulled a face. â€˜Iâ€™ve heard it claimed that Carpocrates was a devotee of the teachings of a Talmudic figure called Jehoshua Ben Panther. A fascinating character. You may have heard of him, because heâ€™s been conflated with Christ by some, but he was most probably an Essene leader.â€™
â€˜Linking him to the Therapeutae.â€™
â€˜Quite,â€™ nodded Kostas. â€˜And their doctrines mesh too, though admittedly with one major discrepancy. The Therapeutae were famously chaste, you see, whereas the Carpocratians were notorious for licentiousness and orgies. But almost everything we know about the Carpocratians was written by their enemies, so itâ€™s quite possible that that was nothing but malicious propaganda. And if you discount it, the two groups prove a remarkable fit.â€™
â€˜In what way?â€™
â€˜In every way. Long initiations. Water baptisms. The rejection of materialism. Carpocrates is credited with the phrase â€œProperty is Theftâ€�, you know. Both abhorred slavery. Both believed in some kind of afterlife or reincarnation. Both accorded unusual respect and power to women. One of Carpocratesâ€™ most celebrated followers, Marcellina, even became quite a figure in Rome. They both had very Hellenic elements, and shared a great deal with Pytha-goreanism. Both included traces of sun-worship. Both studied angels and demons. Both believed in and practised magic. Both prized numbers and symbols. And both were hideously persecuted too. Maybe thatâ€™s why they both lived outside Alexandria. And, now that I think about it, the Carpocratians appeared around AD one hundred and twenty, around the same time we lose track of the Therapeutae.â€™
â€˜Youâ€™re suggesting the Therapeutae became the Carpocratians?â€™
â€˜Itâ€™s not inconceivable, I suppose. But all Iâ€™m really saying is that itâ€™s quite possible they overlapped in some way. Bear in mind that this whole region was fervid with philosophical and religious energy back then â€“ everyone borrowing, sharing, arguing. Religions hadnâ€™t yet set in the way they have today. Places that were sacred to one were holy to others too. Many early churches were built on old pagan temples, you know. Even the Vatican. So perhaps they lived together for a while, or perhaps the Carpocratians took over this antiquity of yours after the Therapeutae moved on.â€™
Knox nodded. It seemed plausible enough, though plausibility was a very different beast from truth. â€˜What else do we know about the Carpocratians?â€™
â€˜Founded in Alexandria, like I say, but they flourished elsewhere too. In Rome, as I mentioned. And I believe they also had a temple in â€¦â€™ He pushed himself to his feet, went over to his shelves, plucked down a volume, leafed through it, then put it back, shaking his head.
â€˜Come on, Kostas. Just tell me.â€™
â€˜Patience, young man. Patience.â€™ He pulled out a weighty church encyclopaedia from his shelves, hefted it over to the corner table, licked his thumb and forefinger to turn the thin leaves until he found the page. â€˜Yes,â€™ he said. â€˜They had a temple on one of the Greek islands.â€™
Knox frowned as he recalled his recent phone call with Augustin. â€˜Not Cephallonia, I donâ€™t suppose?â€™