Sunday Snippet: Pericles and Aspasia by Yvonne Korshak

Posted January 14, 2024 by Jen in Sunday Snippet Tags:

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Pericles and Aspasia

Author: Yvonne Korshak
Publisher: Caryatid Imprint
Release Date: October 4, 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction


From Chapter 16.  The Gold Cups

Book cover of Pericles and Aspasia by Yvonne KorshakPericles and his wife, Aristocleia, have just divorced and, this evening, he has overseen her marriage to Hipponicus, a man she had always loved. Pericles cannot officially marry his beloved Aspasia because of certain citizenship laws but he wishes to live with her as if she were his wife. Amidst excited celebration and music, Aristocleia and Hipponicus drive off together in one direction as . . .  

Pericles could still hear the shrill pipes when he set off in the other direction.

As soon as he arrived at her house, he took Aspasia by the wrist and led her to the andron—the way a man leads a bride, the way Hipponicus would be leading Aristocleia into his house—to open the gift he’d sent that day. Not that this was a real wedding, but it pleased him to do it that way. His arms locked around her waist, his cheek pressed to her hair, he watched over her shoulder as she unwound the protective strips of linen. Inside was a wine cup of hammered gold.

She held it to the light. Inscribed around the foot were the words, “I Belong to Aspasia.” It was like a workman’s cup with a name crudely scratched into the clay, “I belong to Phidias” or “to Hippodamus,” but Pericles had transformed it into something fine and golden. No, it wasn’t a real wedding, but he had given up a great deal for her. He was putting at risk the lofty view the citizens had of him and giving Thucydides fodder for his nasty analogies. He’d even sold a  piece of land for her, though it wasn’t contiguous with his ancestral property.

“What a beautiful cup!”

Someday she’d like to see that ancestral property. 

“There’s more.”

She kept unwrapping and found the second cup, exactly like the first, but inscribed, “I belong to Pericles.” Two gold cups—expensive. With one for each of them—promising.

He broke the seal on the amphora he had sent in from the cave of his estate. She poured wine into both cups and, checking the writing on the foot, handed him the one with his name on it. But he reached for the other.

This is my cup—the one that says, ‘I belong to Aspasia.’”

It was dizzying, but she recovered quickly because she wanted to remember this moment forever.

“The one you’re holding—read it aloud!” He was grinning. “‘I belong to Pericles.’”

“I wanted to hear you say it.”

Linking their arms as in an χ, they drank from their cups. 

About the Book:

The dazzling debut historical novel from author Yvonne Korshak, Pericles and Aspasia, set in Ancient Greece, brilliantly immerses readers in a time of radical new ideals through the epic love story of a general known as “the first citizen of Athens” and a courtesan with the mind of a philosopher.

A tale of courtesans, philosophers, cunning political statesmans during a period in Greece when democracy bloomed and of architectural wonders, Pericles and Aspasia, is a literary feat, with a love story to rival Anthony and Cleopatra’s.

Korshak’s novel  – is the historical re-imagining of the lives of a brilliant general and statesman Pericles and Aspasia, a courtesan and philosopher’s daughter. In a world of hierarchies, they meet when he is at the top, recently back in Athens after a successful military campaign orchestrated by the general when she arrives as little more than flotsam cast up on Athenian shores – finding initial safety as a courtesan in her cousin’s opulent villa. Fascinated by Aspasia’s educated mind and intellectual ideals, Pericles sees more than the courtesan’s obvious offerings — she has a mind to rival his own. And the courage to create a better society. Their love transcends social sanctions, enduring and deepening despite the grave threat it presents to Pericles’ reputation as a leader of the Athenian democracy.

The novel unfolds against the background of the arts and history of the Golden Age seen through the eyes of two individuals who lent their particular brilliance to make it “golden,” Pericles, the great orator and visionary of democracy and its most influential woman, Aspasia. Their story takes them from the Agora-Athens’ marketplace-to the Acropolis, from the mercantile, raunchy Athenian Port Piraeus across the Aegean Sea to East Greece. Pericles and Aspasia-together and apart-navigate treacherous paths of corrupt machinations to impassioned philosophical inquiry, from high-stakes sea battles to the passions of life.

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About the Author:

author photo of Yvonne KorshakYvonne Korshak received her BA cum laude from Harvard, and her MA in Classics and Classical Archaeology and PhD in Art History from the University of California, Berkeley.

As a professor at Adelphi University, she has taught Art History and topics in the Humanities, served as Chair of the Department of Art and Art History, Director of the Honors Program in Liberal Studies and Director of a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute. She has written and spoken widely on topics of Greek art and archaeology and on European painting, particularly on van Gogh, Courbet and David. Her blog, “Let’s Talk Off-Broadway,” focuses on art and theater.

She has excavated at Old Corinth, Greece and, to write this novel, has followed in the tracks of Pericles and Aspasia, visiting almost all the cities and towns, landscapes and seascapes in Greece and in what today is Turkey that figure in this book.

The Sword of the War God, a sequel to Pericles and Aspasia, will appear soon.

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