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silverr ([personal profile] silverr) wrote2015-05-03 02:10 pm

[FIC] By Sea and Sun Espous'd (The Iliad, Andromache/Hektor)

Enroute to their wedding in Troy, Andromache and her future husband begin to get to know each other.

Pinch hit written for the [community profile] rarelywritten  exchange.

- § - on  - § - on Ao3 - § -

In some ways, this was tough to write.

The "Wife and Mother" Issue
To begin with, as tempting (and easy) as it was, I didn't want to simply superimpose modern sensibilities wholesale onto an ancient relationship. Andromache and Hektor are considered one of antiquity's exemplary married couples: the small glimpses we're given of them shows a relationship that seems—at least to modern sensibilities—to have transcended the formality of arranged marriage to develop genuine tenderness and mutual respect. While they exist within the ancient world's gender roles, I think it's entirely possible to envision an Andromache who is in some ways unconventional for her era at the same time that she is a loving wife and mother..

And now I'm going to do some defensive soapboxing for a moment. I feel that there is at times a tendency for some people to label anyone who presents traditional/stereotypical gender roles in a positive light as misogynist. Such is not my brand of feminism. I became feminist at a young age when I was told that, because of my gender, my life choices were limited. I didn't accept that from sexists and chauvinist pigs, then and I don't accept it from militant 'feminists' now. Whether I want to be a scientist or a housewife, I should be free to choose what makes me happy. (And yes, I know I'm completely ignoring the effect of socialization.) ~ While I strongly believe that marriage should not be presented as the default/only choice for every woman, I also reject any notion that automatically dismisses it as a soul-crushing incarceration.

Alright, soapboxing done. Bottom line is that, to me, as Bronze Age males go, Hektor comes across as better than most, and Andromache (like Penelope) seems to have been one of the few clever women happily married to a man who appreciates her. This is what I wanted to show in this story.

The Eleusinian Mysteries Conundrum
My second problem came about because I do too damn much research. The Eleusinian Mysteries arose during the Mycenean era of the Greek Bronze Age (1600-1100 BCE). While they most likely were well-established by the probable time of the Trojan War (@1260-1240 BC), it is said that they didn't become "pan-hellenic" until Pisistratus (561-527 BCE)—which means that having Andromache and Penelope meet in Eleusis was improbable. But let's just say that they did go: Thebes is only 25 or so miles from Eleusis. Unfortunately, Sparta is over a hundred, a non-trivial distance in those days. Still not impossible if one posits that the  Spartans might be willing to  travel that far for the penteteris, the special celebration of the Greater Mysteries held every fourth year. This made my meeting between child Andromache and young bride Penelope implusible, but not strictly impossible.

The Thebes vs. Thebe Goof
And then, while doing some last minute research and fact-checking  just hours before the story was to be uploaded, to my dismay I realized that Andromache was not from Phthiotic (aka Thessalian) Thebes in Greece, but from Cilician Thebe, a city in the Troad region of Anatolia, Turkey (known in classical times as Asia Minor). Entirely the other side of the Aegean Sea. Strictly speaking, that detail invalidated everything I did in the story—and destroyed the potential for that pre-canon meetup.

In the end, I dodged the authenticity bullet using the Canon Divergent AU defense, because after all to me the important part of a story is the interactions between the characters.