The Ultimate Game
Pankration: The Ultimate Game by Dylan Blacklock is about Nic, an Athenian youth of a privileged family. Nic's father has just died in the Peloponnesian war against Sparta. His mother has married his father's cousin, Gorgias who is a wealthy jeweler. His beloved sister Artemis has been married off to Pittacus and is to do Pittacus's housework. Nic lives a life of luxury, until the influx of a deadly plague and he is sent to Argos for his safety. During Nic's journey, he is captured by pirates and is sold as a slave. Nic is not new to the concept of slavery, but never thought he would be the enslaved one. Artemis's marriage, the plague, and Nic's experiences of being a slave are relevant to the 5th, 1st and 4th World History Themes because they demonstrate the role of women in 5th century BCE Greek society, the effect of disease on the Greek people, and Greece's labor system based on slavery.
The plague relates to the 1st World History Theme because it shows how disease effects the population. Nic woke up one morning to find the slave that usually brought his breakfast absent. After questioning his mother and his slaves, he becomes aware of a fatal disease that has been killing many Athenians. Skeptical, Nic passes it off as some mild disease that has been intensified due to the poor hygiene of the victims. His stepfather Gorgias fears for Nic and sends him to his brother in Argos. After becoming a slave, Nic escapes with Tiso, a quiet middle-aged man. Tiso has a cough and it soon turns out to be a symptom of the plague Nic left home for in the first place. Tiso dies and Nic returns home to find that his mother, Gorgias, and Pittacus have all died from the plague. The plague annihilated a quarter to a third of the population. Even Pericles, Athens's bold leader lost his life to the horrid disease. Coupled with the casualties from the Peloponnesian War, the plague brought a staggering blow to Greece.
Nic's enslavement pertains to the 4th World History Theme because of the prominence of slavery as a labor system. At first Nic had slaves that would bring his breakfast and take him to school, but he is soon captured by pirates and auctioned. He was bought for seventy drachmas (the equivalent of 0.26 U.S. dollars today). Nic's first task was to milk the goats. After figuring out the mechanisms of goat-milking, Nic was expected to take the goats to the pastures up in the mountains. Through a treacherous path with the danger of death at every corner, Nic finally arrives. A hungry mother wolf comes by and threatens the security of the goatherd. Losing a nanny, Nic took the rest of the herd down the mountain. He was beaten and as punishment, given no evening meal. Slaves had difficult and perilous lives. Furthermore, their housing was crowded and unhygienic, resulting to their susceptibility to disease. Since slaves were vulnerable to death, they provided an unstable working class.
Artemis's marriage to her husband Pittacus is an example of the 5th World History Theme. Gorgias decided whom Artemis was to marry, for marriages were arranged by the father. She would be taught the domestic duties she would be expected to perform. Pittacus was twice Artemis age; it was common that husbands would be much older than their wives. The amount of housework a women had depended on the wealth of the husband. Artemis would have to bake Pittacus's bread, do housecleaning, make and mend his clothes, and most importantly of all, bear him strong sons. Female children would sometimes be left to die. Women were regarded as inferior; a female citizen had few more rights than male slaves. The role played by women in Ancient Greece was indispensable and vital to the health of the numerous city-states.
Pankration: The Ultimate Game shows how a society can be affected by factors such as disease, its labor system, and its attitude towards women. These factors are interrelated and are patterns repeatedly found in history. The World History Themes are accurately described by the marriage of Artemis, Nic's enslavement, and the deadly plague.
Blacklock, Dyan. Pankration: the Ultimate Game. Morton Grove, Ill.: Albert Whitman, 1999. Print.
Indiana University. Web. 07 May 2010. 〈http://www.indiana.edu/~ancmed/plague.htm〉.
"The Women of Athens." Web. 07 May 2010. 〈http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/prehistory/aegean/culture/womenofathens.html〉.
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