Alexandria, Egypt / AD 391 ─ When the great temple of Serapis and its library annex are destroyed by the Christian mob, the Neoplatonist philosopher Hypatia becomes concerned the Great Library might suffer the same fate. She vows to save as much of the ancient knowledge as she can, especially certain telling documents concerning the origins of Christianity. But rather than merely hiding the heretical scrolls and codices in desert caves and hoping for the best, Hypatia contrives a far more ingenious plan. She sets up an elaborate sequence of burials, each of which is governed by actual ancient linguistic and geometrical riddles which must be solved to gain access. Only one steeped in Platonic mysticism would be capable of finding and unlocking the buried secrets.
Oxford, England / June, 2006 ─ American Rhodes scholar Lex Thomasson is sent by his professor to Alexandria to aid a mysterious Vatican group known only as “The Commission.” They require a specialist in ancient languages to solve a sequence of Greek Mystery puzzles in what soon becomes evident is an ancient treasure hunt. The Oxford paleographer demonstrates his unique talents by unlocking the secrets along the trail. It does not take long, however, for him to become suspicious of the Commission’s true motives, and the trail becomes a trial fraught with danger.
The scene alternates between the two time periods. In both, assassins lurk and fanatics abound. And all along, religious Faith and historical Truth struggle for supremacy.
Edwin Herbert is president of his local freethought society, has been a regular op-ed newspaper columnist on topics concerning science, skepticism and the mythical roots of various religions. He has a busy optometric practice in Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife in their empty nest. Mythos Christos is his debut novel. For more info about Mythos Christos or the Christ myth in general, visit www.MythosChristos.com .
As half of Mythos Christos takes place circa 400 CE, I thought I'd give the reader a glimpse of a shipboard scene through the eyes of the philosopher Helladus, an actual historical character, who is traveling to Alexandria, Egypt for the Saturnalia festivities.
Scaphilos emerged from his slumber below decks, took one look past his ship’s brazen prow and roared, “Hard to port!”
Jovian repeated the order in a deep-throated bellow that reverberated through the timbers. In response the galley slaves plied the oars and sailors at the stern pulled the ship’s great rudder.
“I’ve no idea how the captain reckons sou-sou-west from nor-nor-east in this soup without a single star to guide him,” Jovian murmured to Helladus, who sat amidships observing the sailors’ activities. “But I’ll not question his judgment. Scaph has always steered us aright in the past.”
Jovian then sent a boy to the crow’s nest on the main mast, but he reported the view was no better.
On they rowed for hours, the creak of the oars and the rhythmic beat of the drum were all that could be heard, other than the captain’s periodic course correction and his first mate’s booming echo. Jovian and Helladus watched as Scaph stared ahead into nothingness.
“Think you he summons the guidance of Poseidon to divine the next change of tack?” Jovian whispered.
Helladus shrugged. They watched as Scaphilos intermittently consulted a strange stone’s effect on a tiny scrap of iron.
“Claims it’s a magical device a Phoenician friend gave him, who in turn procured it from a peculiar people who come from the land of the rising sun,” Jovian explained.
“Probably a lodestone,” said Helladus.
“Well, how this lodestone helps him determine his galley’s orientation, I can’t fathom. But I know the Phoenicians to be a secretive lot and so it’s futile to question the captain about it. If the rest of the crew doubts his sanity, they best keep it to themselves.”
Before the dawn goddess took her golden throne, a dim beacon light shimmered through the nearly opaque billows. It came intermittently at first, then stabilized into a bright point off the right of the ship’s bow.
“The Lighthouse of Alexandria!” Jovian shouted. “Now there’s a true guiding light. A real savior.”
The saturnine sea skipper exhibited a rare smile, and a cheer from the deck of the Artemis rose up over the wine-dark sea. Helladus smiled too as he watched the great tower loom ever larger in the glow of morning.