Taylor Caldwell's "Glory and the Lightning"
Michael D. Fried, PhD
For almost 30 years Athens kept the aristocratic Pericles in power. They loved him for his smartness, his altruism and his personal avoidance of corruption. The details, though, matter. In the tradition of Solon, at a most turbulent time of engagement with the enemy City-State Sparta seeking advantage, Pericles exemplified a particular ideal of democracy. We know it as the Age of Pericles for good reason.
Taylor Caldwell lavishes credit on his magnetic consort Aspasia. She was much more than a standout promulgator of higher education for women. On her own recognizance Aspasia established herself in Athens as the spirit of a French salon. Hers was the epitome of rejection of typical marriage. That this life style flourished in Athens could serve as the symbol of the contrast with the despised and feared Sparta.
Athens' famous comic poets, foremost Aristophanes, constantly attacked her. Think Donald Trump if he had a vocabulary. Yet, she charmed many of Athens' best, who had but one regret. Unable to pick between his love of art and philosophy, Pericles chose instead Aspasia -- after parting amicably from his then wife -- as the light of his life. No greater battle between conservative and liberal sentiments can one find in ancient Greece than the opinions that centered around Aspasia and Pericles' attachment to her.
Pericles defended her to his limit when she was charged with corruption. Though the charges were dismissed he seems to have lost his will to serve the Athenian people, and died broken three years later.
A perspicacious reader will come away wondering about Taylor Caldwell's reputation beyond the usual accolade of a good story teller. Here there is ammunition against regarding Taylor Caldwell as an ultra-conservative.