One Thousand and One Nights 6

February 3, 2009

I like that the story here is called “Socrates in Love,” since it invokes a really obscure one-shot manga published several years ago that didn’t quite have the literal meaning behind the title that this story does. Or, at least, it makes me think of that manga. I don’t know about the rest of you.

The Socrates/Alcibiades story was lovely.  I wasn’t expecting a continuation since it ended pretty neatly last volume with the two of them falling in love, and I was even initially put off since I wanted to get back to the main plot about Sehara, Shahryar, and the Crusaders.  But the Socrates story is definitely worth it.  Basically the two affirm their love in a bloody battle, weather some rough times apart, then are drawn back together again in a very cute and romantic way, complete with silly joke.  You know that the story itself won’t end well since… well, Socrates is not known for his quiet death.  The ending is a little cryptic, but Socrates stays true to character.

I like that the story was also set in Ancient Greece.  I felt that the story itself followed its fair share of boy’s love plot devices, but setting it in a society which completely accepted relationships between men and boys is interesting.  I hadn’t seen it done before.

As much as I enjoyed Alcibiades and Socrates, I knew it would come at the cost of Sehara and Shahryar.  There are some maddening plot developments in the main story concerning Shahryar’s brother and Fatima, the Crusaders just barely start making a nuisance of themselves, and the last page with Sehara makes me rather anxious to read the next volume.  I’m glad I’ve grown to love this series so much since it’s relaunch, and I’m glad it got a second chance.  I would have never praised it as highly as I do now if I hadn’t read past volume 3.

9 Responses to “One Thousand and One Nights 6”

  1. […] vol. 2 of Me and the Devil Blues (Comics Village) Derik Badman on Mushishi (Madinkbeard) Connie on vol. 6 of One Thousand and One Nights (Slightly Biased […]

  2. Sara K. Says:

    Heh heh, I remember at the end of my European History class we had a party where we had to pick a historical figure (any historical figure) and role-play that figure at the party. I played Alcibiades :D

    To say that ancient Greece was tolerant of homosexual relationships is a bit of an exaggeration. A lot of it depended on which part of Greece you were in, since Greece was really just a bunch of independent states which were only united by language (and there were a lot of dialects). In Athens, they had mixed feelings about homosexual relationships, though compared to contemporary American society, they *were* tolerant. Probably because they really didn’t have the idea of a sexual orientation – your identity was not based on who you liked to sleep with.

    Sparta was more friendly to homosexual relationships, indeed, it was deeply rooted in their culture. You had to demonstrate your love for your fellow soldiers (and since the women were often left home alone, they kept each other company). This turned into a major problem for Sparta, because not enough babies were being born. I’ve even heard that women sometimes formed gangs to kidnap a man, though maybe that’s just my imagination exaggerating a certain courtship custom in Sparta.

    Anyway, I never heard of this manhwa before. But now I have to try it (though I’m always disappointed by comics about Ancient Greece because I’m very sensitive about how it’s treated).

  3. jun Says:

    Melinda recently reviewed this for Manga Recon and loved it, too. It really sounds wonderful.

  4. Connie Says:

    Michelle: It took me a long time to get into it, and having a really long break between volume three and four was probably not good for it either, but I’ve really been into it lately. I think it’s because the storyteller’s stories keep getting better and better.

    Sara K.: Thanks for the explanation. The notes through this volume and the last sort of mention offhandedly that it wasn’t uncommon to take lovers like that, and mentioned it a few times in relation to student-teacher relationships, which is also something I’d heard before. My lessons came from an art history teacher that had highly sexual/homosexual interpretations for everything, though. It made things far more interesting, and there are a lot of things I just can’t unsee. I think one of the articles I remember reading was that many men did keep young boys as lovers for reasons of… aesthetics, maybe? But they also had wives, and usually the wives stuck around and the young boys didn’t. It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything about it, though, and that’s a pretty general description. Apparently the wives were also very young? Hmm.

    I’m willing to believe what you say about the women in Sparta, though. That whole thing about Sparta is actually pretty awesome.

    As for One Thousand and One Nights, “Socrates in Love” is actually only the story in volumes 5 and 6. The series itself is sort of in the tradition of Arabian Nights. There’s a sultan who kills a woman from his harem every night, and one night, a boy tells him a story instead so that his sister, who was taken into the harem, wasn’t killed. The stories the boy tells are a big chunk of the series, and they usually relate to something the Sultan is doing at the time. The Sultan becomes less cruel, he and the storyteller start hanging out more, the Sultan has family issues… there’s a lot of stuff going on in the framing story, but most of the storyteller stories are pretty entertaining. “Socrates in Love” is the best one so far, though. Alcibiades was quite a hedonist, and Socrates was far prettier than any other interpretation I’ve seen of him.

  5. Sara K. Says:

    During the golden age of Athens, there was a definite structure to boy/man relationships – there was the “lover” and the “loved”. Some Athenians, such as Plato, said such relationships should be strictly non-sexual (hence the term ‘platonic love’). We know less about other homosexual relationships in classical Athens. The historical Socrates/Alcibiades definitely was a “lover/loved” relationship, at least for a while.

    The Athenians interpreted the Achilles/Patroklos relationship in the Iliad as being a ‘lover/loved’ relationship as well. I don’t particularly care if Achilles and Patroklos were sleeping together, but casting them as an Athenian-style “lover/loved” makes little sense. However, the fact that the Athenians made this assumption indicates that they were less open about other types of male homosexual relationships.

    However, other Greeks (and this was before Christianity) claimed that there was nothing sexual between Achilles and Patroklos, and went so far as to claim that all lines which suggested that they did have that kind of relationship were not Homer’s words. This reflects a less than kind view towards homosexuality.

    So, make of that what you will.

    By the way, do they mention Alcibiades’ affair with the queen of Sparta?

    I figured that “Socrates in Love” was just one of the stories. I am considering only getting volumes 5 & 6, especially since you say that it’s the best part. Or maybe just 5 so I can see if I like it.

  6. Connie Says:

    That actually tells me a lot. Most of my background in the culture of Ancient Greece is related to art history and some history of philosophy, so I’m not as familiar with the topic as I should be. What you say makes a lot of sense though, and having the relationships defined as “lover/loved” actually makes a lot of sense. I’ve never heard it put in such terms before.

    In this story, Alcibiades and Socrates were definitely in a “lover/loved” relationship, though I’m not sure how historically accurate the rest of it is. Alcibiades is quite a hedonist, and seems kind of useless when he goes into his first battles. The story wraps up with Athens under siege by Sparta, and Alcibiades is still depicted as fairly young at that point. I guess he didn’t have time to meet up with the queen of Sparta yet, which is a real shame, because that sounds like fun. It cuts from this to the death of Socrates, with a very young Plato mourning him, but no Alcibiades. Let me see, the story also has… Anitos, a lover that Alcibiades spurns at the beginning of the story, a brief appearance by Pericles, Protagoras in a challenge with Socrates, Critias, a little boy named Sharmid, and Hippocrates. The story starts in the second half of volume 5 with that chunk of it being about Alcibiades trying to figure out how to get the attention of Socrates, and then the first half of volume six has the parts with the wars and the end of the story.

  7. Sara K. Says:

    Most scholars call the relationship “erasthes/eraomenos”, but that only means something if you know Greek, so I changed it to “lover/loved”.

    I can understand why they didn’t bring the Spartan queen into the story. That is almost a separate tale. The most interesting part is the conflict over the succession of the Spartan throne which happened when the king died, since one of the heirs was apparently Alcibiades’ son.

  8. Connie Says:

    Actually, I think Alcibiades uses “erasthes” and “eraomenos” at the beginning of the story. The book defined it as an age distinction, but I think your definition makes slightly more sense since Socrates doesn’t seem to be that much older than Alcibiades in the story. He doesn’t call Socrates his “erastes” though, I think Alcibiades only uses it in reference to a man he rejects at the beginning.

  9. Sara K. Says:

    Well, it’s only an age distinction within the context of Athenian culture (and some other Greek cultures as well). It literally means “loving/loved”, though it is specifically sexual (you would not use it of a sibling unless, well … I’m reading Angel Sanctuary now). It’s where the word ‘erotic’ comes from.

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