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3.4 Runaway priestess Kalliope


Only female character that is presented in this bachelor thesis and simultaneously is not based on Homer’s Iliad or works connected following events of it is a runaway priestess from isle of Thera and former princess Kalliope. The name Kalliope is inspired in Greek mythology by one of the muses, mother of legendary musician Orpheus, presented for example in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, named Calliope and character’s destiny was loosely based on mythological wife of her book father Peleus, nymph and goddess of water Thetis, who was captured by her future husband on the beach and seized by force (Vernant, The Universe, the Gods, and Men: Ancient Greek Myths, 70). Kalliope is a daughter of king Peleus of Thessaly and as such a younger sister to a legendary hero Achilles. In the first book she is several times mentioned by Andromache but she does not appear in it as a character. Chronologically taken her story begins at the start of her puberty with events happening in Thessaly.

When Kalliope was twelve and her brother fifteen she still used to swim with him in the sea like when they were children because none of them had seen anything wrong with it and they were used to it for years. Her father, who she loved with all of her heart, could not hold his pedophilic tendencies anymore when he saw her, stormed down the hill to the beach, commanded Achilles to take his clothes and immediately leave and proceeded to grab his daughter by her hair and forced himself upon her. After the act was done he confronted her that it was only her fault because she was asking for it by cavorting naked before the eyes of a man (Gemmell, Shield of Thunder, 148). Peleus, having major influence on his young son who still saw him as a giant and a glorified hero, convinced him that his sister Kalliope wants to dominate him with her femininity and Achilles without any further thinking repudiated her. These events broke her spirit and she started to not only hate and loath men, but also wished only the worst on their kind, because she started to be convinced that all of them, from baby boys to old men, are just waiting for their opportunity to rape, murder and enslave as her father did to her. Peleus unable to look at his daughter anymore without lust sends her to sacred island of Thera, which doesn’t mean that he stops raping children, but rather replaces his daughter with children of his subjects who are defenceless against their lord’s wish. On Thera, Kalliope meets Andromache and after an unspecified amount of time becomes her lover. The time they spend together is the happiest in her life because there is not a single man she would fear and her only contact is with other women. Months of rituals, dancing and love making ends when Andromache is against her protests forced to leave Thera to be wed to prince Hector. Kalliope tries to persuade Andromache to run away with her, but she refuses her. Unlike Kalliope for Andromache family comes always first and she never loathed a man. After her lover left the Blessed isle, Kalliope forced herself to focus on her duties and not on the sorrow she felt from being separated from her love. Approximately half a year after her lover left one of the priestess, Melite, who had a power to foresee the future, collapsed and the former princess of Thessaly was assigned to her as a nurse. When Melite was dying she gave one last prophecy, saying that there is going to be a fire and Andromache will be pursued by wicked men with Kalliope by her side to save her (Shield of Thunder, 93). Loving Hector’s imminent more than her own life she stole a small fishing boat and decided to sail to Troy by herself, despite the fact that the last priestess that was caught running away from her duties was buried alive. Thera was from Troy a few days of sailing but because the ships that were supposed to patrol the waters were preparing to be turned into war ships for the war pirates were able to roam freely and Kalliope became a victim of them. After being captured she was repeatedly raped by them and used as a sex slave, which continued even after their landing for supplies. Having nothing to lose she decided to kill one of the pirates when she had the opportunity and ran to the nearby hills, hoping she will be able to hide in caves. Disoriented by the blood loss from what she had to endure and sleepless nights following her capture she passed out just after she found a place to hide. Because the pirate that was killed by her was captain’s brother the crew was forced to divide into smaller groups and organise a hunt to get her back, so she could face a torture and eventual slow death. Luckily for her she was found by two renegade Mykene warriors, Banokles and Kaliades, who decided to protect her instead of turning her in. After she woke up, the first thing she saw was two men in full armour sitting nearby and her first instinct was that they were going to violate her as their comrades did on the ship. Because of that she took a knife and tried to kill them while they were facing opposite direction. Her attempt failed and she learned that they are not planning to hurt her in any way. Kaliades and Banokles accompanied her until the end of their story because Kaliades had subconsciously connected her destiny to the one of his deceased sister and Banokles had his own code of honour, whose most important principle was that he should always follow and protect his sword brother. Risking their lives in a sword fight they managed to kill the ship captain and ask the king of Ithaca, Odysseus, who had his ship moored in the same bay, if they could be his passengers to Troy on which he agreed, because he recognised the girl even though he had not seen her for years. Even though the two warriors had saved her life, they had no idea whom she truly was, what situation she was in or why she planned to go to Troy. On the other hand Kalliope knowingly exposed them to the risk of being indicted as someone who helped her in her escape which would mean painful death by being burned alive, if they were to be caught, and refused to communicate with them beyond what was necessary. This shows how deep her distrust towards men was because she not only gave them a fake name Piria, which was her nickname from childhood, when they asked how to address her but she had not even thanked them nor felt any gratitude towards them for risking their lives to save her. Unlike in the case of previous character, Laodike, this is justifiable attitude with its beginnings when she was twelve and was caused by the action of her father and the experience that had happened just a day ago assured her in her opinion. Less understandable is why she got on a boat full of sailors she didn’t knew when there was a city with a port nearby and it would surely be possible to rent a boat there or ask Kaliades, who promised to accompany her on the journey, to demand a sculler from a newly voted pirate captain, since he was the one that secured his position by killing his predecessor. Possible argument would be that she treasured more a chance to save her lover Andromache and wanted to get to her as soon as possible, but Odysseus told her that they will make a detour for a trade and on ship was also present king Nestor of Pylos who was known to still own slaves working on his flax fields. On the ship she started to bond with Kaliades, who fell in love with her even though he knew that she will never be able to love him back, because she had nothing to do for days except to at sea. That however did not change her general attitude towards men but she rather took advantage of the situation to secure that her bodyguards will finish the journey with her and will not leave her side until she is reconnected with the girl she loved. After her arrival to the city she is forced against her will to wait on the boat for another few days because there are currently wedding games in progress and her father, brother and other ambassadors from Thessaly are attending them. This additional waiting is however not her decision and is forced upon her by Odysseus who reminds her that although she does not care about her life if she were to be discovered it would in consequence kill him, his crew and both of her companions. After the games were over they set out to finish the last stretch of her journey and they found Andromache in grave danger as was foretold. This love story does not unfortunately have a happy ending because Piria is killed by an archer while protecting the one she loved.

As is seen from her story, the reception of this character develops and dynamically changes. Starting as a princess she quickly becomes a burden to her father’s sub-consciousness and is sent to the only place on Earth without men where she is able to live without fear and is widely accepted because her way of thinking is similar to the rest of this micro culture. In events following her escape from this paradise, the reception changes again to a wanted fugitive with her life at stake, sexual object of men, friend of two male warriors and back to the princess who got help from Odysseus more because he loathed her father than a compassion towards what she endured. Her story became a main story for a fair portion of the second book and although the main part of it could be left out without any real consequences to the rest of the series, the finale of it is vital and without her help Andromache would be dead which would lead to weakening the political position of Troy in several different ways – Troy would be perceived as unable to protect its own royal family, citizens of the city would be demoralized because Andromache was loved by them and it would strengthen the stance of Mykene, allowing them to recruit more allies for the upcoming war.



In conclusion Kalliope is a very strong and for the most part male-independent female character and although her story did not have a happy ending she changed whenever it was necessary for her and proved that she was not only brave but also willing to do anything for a girl she loved. In the context of the books she is also the only female who is not a bisexual but rather a homosexual and although she was often not received as equal she never bowed her head.


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