The creation story in Greek mythology teaches that in the beginning, there was the primordial god Chaos, the gaping void that encompassed the entire universe. Chaos was the primeval emptiness from which earth and life originated, then finally, from which love was born.

In Dreaming Sparta, Richard Fazio’s debut novelette, Chaos and the Dreamweaver, share the darkness and compete for control of “the shadowed realm of unquenched desires”, taking turns telling the story of Andreas and Demetrios in Ancient Greece, as well as the modern day tale of Andrew and Demetri, two couples from two very different times, whose stories manage to intersect across the blankness of the subconscious.

Andreas and Demetrios are Spartan warriors in the village of Limnes: an inspirer and a hearer, an erastes and his eromenos; the older man and his beloved young lover who are caught between duty and custom and their desire to be together.

In contemporary New York, Andrew Wilson and his friend Demetri Kirianis are awakening to an attraction that neither had ever before acknowledged. Theirs is a relationship complicated by the rejection of Andrew’s parents, who are unwilling to accept his homosexuality, and is a stark contrast to that of Andreas and Demetrios, living in an ancient society that acknowledged, encouraged, and openly accepted the relationships between men.

As Andrew and Demetrios meet in their dreams, each travelling to the others’ worlds, the story takes on a fantastical twist, as the young men ultimately find the strength to confront those who would threaten to complicate and negatively impact their lives. They are “two brothers of the One Spirit, forged in the ancient fires.”

There is no question that Richard Fazio has a talent for language and expression; the passages from Chaos and Dreamweaver were a thing of beauty and the narrative was a pleasure to read, though I felt there were some gaps in the plot and character development that made the story feel somewhat incomplete. The cadence of the dialogue in Ancient Greece was perfect, but that same manner of speaking didn’t necessarily work as well in the contemporary setting, making the conversations feel a bit overly formal at times.

Dreaming Sparta is a story of self-awakening through the power of dreams; its message is one of acceptance and embracing love, which is a message that’s always relevant, no matter the time or place.

Reviewed By: Lisa

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This story follows an interesting premise, of two souls forever connected, soul mates I suppose, and the parallel lives they lead through time. The story parallels two couples, Demetrios and his older lover/mentor Andreas, who live in Ancient Greece and are Spartan soldiers, and Demetrius and Andrew. who are college students and neighborhood friends.

The first interaction between Demetrios and Andrew, happens when Demetrios goes off to lick his wounds because Andreas is getting married (as is expected and the norm) and Demetrios is jealous. He comes across Andrew who has never admitted to gay leanings, but both men are instantly attracted to each other. When Andrew awakes he thinks it was just a dream, however it happens again, and later in the story, Demetrios makes a trip to modern times, which was quite amusing as he’s fascinated by modern technology.

There are parallels in that Andreas’ future wife is determined that she will not sit at home and wait for his man while he has a relationship with his trainee, and she’s not shy about telling Demetrios to get used to it. And when Andrew’s parents, who are conservative family values people, catch him and Demetrius in bed together, they threatens to toss him out of the house. So there are parallels to life, and also some case for “the grass is always greener” to crop up as both men experience the other’s time.

As I said, an interesting premise, and as I have studied ancient Greece, I loved the details about Sparta, and it was interesting to see that some things, like annoying parents who don’t “get it” happened 2000+ years ago as well. However I never really connected with Andrew and Demetrius, as much as Andreas and Demetrious. Maybe it was their use of language. They didn’t sound like American 19 or 20-year-old college kids. Their conversations seem more stilted, using large words and abstract concepts that felt awkward to me. As well, at the beginning of each chapter Chaos and Dreamweaver gave little intros which did explain the soul bond thing but also seemed to make a social statement about accepting your sexuality, however it was done in an ancient Grecian style I suppose, and after a while I just found myself skimming those introductory paragraphs rather than trying to twist my head around to truly understand what they said.

However, as I said, despite the niggles about the modern-day interaction and the chapter intros, I loved the Andreas/Demetrios storyline, and I would have been quite happy to see an entire story just about them, how they came to be paired up, the development of their relationship, and more about the Spartan life, and of course Andreas dealing with his shrewish wife. That I think would be an interesting story in itself. Those who like ancient Greece will appreciate this, or if you like the concept of soul mates through time.

Reviewed by Tam on Brief Encounters website

Richard Fazio has an extensive résumé of literary reviews, short fiction and poetry, and I understand that Dreaming Sparta [JMS Books LLC, 2011] is his second novella.

The premise is an interesting one, whereby two pairs of soul-mates—Demetrios and Andreas from Ancient Sparta, and Andrew and Demetri from modern-day New York—somehow intersect spiritually across the continuum of time. Right there we have almost endless possibilities of contrast and comparison, some of which the author exploits quite nicely.

Andreas and Demetrios are erastes and eromenos, a mentoring and hands-on relationship that was accepted and encouraged for the benefits to society and the state. For example, the erastes (mentor) taught his young lover (eromenos) the proper etiquette and duties of a citizen. Indeed, it is believed by some that Spartan militarism and the well-being of the state depended on sexual love between men, i.e.:

“Older men chose young male lovers. There was no real age of consent in ancient Sparta. Childhood innocence had no meaning in the warrior state. All aspects of the life cycle were subjoined to the aim of making soldiers fit for war and the preservation of the common weal. Its practice was such an integral part of Spartan life that Plutarch writes: “By the time they were come to this age (twelve years old) there was not any of the more hopeful boys who had not a lover to bear him company.” Without a realization of the profound male love relations that animated it, no understanding of Spartan society is possible. Sparta was a homosexual state by law.” “Sex and History” a blog by Stanley Pacion.

However, once a certain age had been achieved it was expected—for the benefit of the state—that these would marry and procreate. Nonetheless, this was, once again, a mere extension of underlying male-oriented society, i.e.:

“Though encouraged into homosexuality from youth and conditioned to it by the institutions in which he lived, the law nonetheless required him to marry. Lycurgus [the legendary founder or Sparta] not only excluded bachelors from participation in the greatly appreciated naked processions of women, but also prescribed, “…in wintertime, the officers compelled them [the bachelors] to march naked themselves round the market-place, singing as they went a certain song to their own disgrace, that they justly suffered this punishment for disobeying the laws. Moreover, they were denied that respect and observance which the men paid their elders.” The need for children as well as the preservation of duty to the state inspired this contradictory legislation for Sparta.” Ibid.

The wedding night, as described by both Fazio and Pancion, appears to leave a lot to be desired by modern standards:

“The wedding night also fell under the jurisdiction of Lycurgus’ legislation. In a tender passage Plutarch describes the legally prescribed ritual of consummation in Spartan society: “… she who superintended the wedding comes and clips the hair of the bride close around her head, dresses her up in mans’ clothes, and leaves her upon a mattress in the dark; afterwards comes the bridegroom, in his every-day clothes, sober and composed as having supped at the common table, and, entering privately into the room where the bride lies, unites her virgin zone, and takes her to himself; and after staying some time together, he returns composedly to his own apartment, to sleep as usual with the other young men.”” Ibid.

On the other hand, Andrew and Demetri are just discovering their attraction to one another; an attraction that is frowned upon by society (as represented by Andrew’s father), and erstwhile by the state.

Modern technology was a source of contrast explored by the author, making for some humorous observations on the part of a visiting Demetrios.

Nevertheless, for me there were a number of shortcomings. The first is that I never did catch the reason that Andrew was ‘dream-transported’ back to Sparta in the first place. Perhaps it was there and I missed it, but it was a question that stuck in my mind throughout.[1] Secondly, as pointed out by Stanley Pacion, there were some very well established and interesting reasons for Andreas and Demetrios’ loving relationship, and although these are alluded to in Dreaming Sparta, I felt they could have been further developed.

That said, Dreaming Sparta is an interesting concept, and the author does include some interesting details regarding Sparta, so it is well worth the price. 

Reviewed by Gerry Burnie
Nov 06, 2011
Gerry Burnie rated it 3 of 5 stars
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