I read The Sand-Reckoner
the other day (the one by Gillian Bradshaw, not the one by Archimedes) and now I have all these feelings
about Archimedes and Syracuse and Hieron.
The novel's about Archimedes as he returns from his studies at Alexandria - it begins with him coming home to a city on the verge of war, his father dying, and a sick sense that coming home will mean he must close off the part of him that lives and breathes mathematics, and do work he hates to support his family. Archimedes comes to the attention of Hieron, the king of Syracuse, as an outstanding and remarkable engineer - outstanding because he can devise new, original, and effective machines that work well from the very outset, because he can derive the basic principles from mathematics. With Archimedes is Marcus, his Italian slave, who looks after his absent-minded master despite conflicting loyalties. Marcus denies being Roman - the affiliation is dangerous - and Archimedes is too * and doesn't think it useful to press.
Like Island of Ghosts
, which is about troops of Sarmatians - having been sent west as part of their treaty with Rome - settling into Roman Britain, this book is similarly more internal and character-driven. Which isn't to say there isn't external conflict; the book is set during the first Punic Wars (paging dhampyresa
- though it's not really about Rome or Carthage so IDK if you're interested?) and Syracuse is caught between the two. Hieron is trying to avoid having to fight either or both of them at once, but needs siege engines to prevent either from eating his city. But he recognizes that Archimedes is brilliant - and also not an engineer by choice, merely to support his family; he knows Archimedes loved Alexandria and the Museum and Library there, and wrestles with how or if he can keep Archimedes in the service of his beloved city.( More discussion with spoilers )
Generally very recommended! I love Bradshaw's writing, the characters are all great and well-drawn (with human, sympathetic motivations), and is set in Classical antiquity if that's a selling point, though it doesn't rely on you knowing anything about it.