Thursday, 13 January 2011

Digest of Imperial Theology

Alexander not taking no shit from no lion - from a 3rd century BCE mosaic now at Pella Museum, Greece - public domain, via World Imaging at Wikimedia Commons Having read one of Eric Flint and David Drake's Belisarius books before going to bed last night, I should not have been so surprised to be visited as I emerged from sleep by one of my own tough bastards. Cassander is the Kateverse's equivalent of Alexander the Great, and then plenty. For a few insane months before his mysterious disappearance, he did technically rule the entire world. Mwahahaha!

There is (now) a story of him in which his troops have just finished sacking yet another city, and a brave woman reviles him bitterly, demanding what kind of man he is that he does this. Cassander scratches his nose, thinks, and answers,

"D'you know the difference between a god and a piece of shit? You step on the piece of shit!"

And the other one steps on you.

This story is understandably reviled in most places Cassander's legend is revered - because it makes the Emperor sound, by any humane definition, like an even more unmitigated piece of shit than the poets' line that he did it all because Incomparable Cleïs found it such a turn-on.

And, indeed, Cassander really was quite a nasty piece of shit, and (unlike the Olympians) dryly aware of the fact. But if you read the statement with the assumption that he endorsed the distinction between a normal human being and a piece of shit, it does ring a bit differently.

Admittedly the interpretation that he did all that shit to save normal human beings from being perpetually dumped upon by King Shits like himself, only with thunderbolts, seems... extravagant. Further, I as Cassander's author am not quite as partial to magnificent bastards as - say - Eric Flint generally is.

Two things, though, about the Entangler of Men make him a more tempting subject for me than a mere fantasyland Alexander, or even a Belisarius.

So famously intolerant of shit-eaters was he, that even a millennium after he bestrode the world, nobody has yet dared to make him the object of a divine cult.

And from some date within his brief universal dominion, and forever afterwards, all the oracles fell silent.

Which is how he came to speak to me.

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