Review: Champion of Olympia by Margaret Leigh

Ariston is an athlete who dreams of fame and fortune and the chance to open his own Palaestra someday. Iason is an aliptes (masseuse) who dreams of winning the heart of Ariston. Can they overcome the competition of rival athletes and the caprice of fickle gods and attain their hearts’ desires?

This is a lovely short story set in Ancient Greece, between a champion athlete and the man who helps keep him in top physical condition.  Iason is a likeable, if possibly a little typical, protagonist, who thinks himself so unworthy of the object of his desire that he enlists Zeus’s help to win him over – and then is terrified that he may have gone too far and brought disaster on them both.  Ariston is a sunny, confident young man, sure of himself, his athletic prowess, and winning nature.  The romance between the two is sweet and charming, not hampered by any great obstacle other than the fact that neither has dared talk to the other about it yet.

This is not a story which is going to wring you out with angst or keep your heart in your mouth and your nails chewed to the stumps.  It’s a charming, unhurried tale of falling in love, enlivened and made interestingly exotic by its historical location.  The writer conjured up a sense of Ancient Greece – sun, sand, naked young athletes – that I thoroughly enjoyed, and even – in the Temple of Zeus – touched upon some of the fear which the ancient gods inspired.  I think my major criticism is that it ended too soon, and a little abruptly, with the question of Ariston’s health unanswered.  Did Zeus extract a terrible price from the couple after all?  I wish I knew!

A definite feel-good read.  I would recommend it.

Sadly out of print at the moment

One Response

  1. That is a perfect review for this story. That’s just how I felt about it, too. It was a romantic story in a setting that lent a lot of erotic appeal of its own. Iason was so sympathetic with his longing and I could see Aristae’s appeal. And I, too, would have liked more at the end. I guess that’s a sign of a successful story, when readers want more.

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