When we last left Evrikles, Emperor Augustus, whom he served well, had rewarded him the island of Kythira as recompense for his efforts, making him the prince of the island.
At that time, the territory of Kythira seemed constricting to Evrikles in every sense of the word. There wasn’t much of a future in Kythira for a man of his ambition whose friendship with Octavius had once held immense possibilities. He dreamt only of leaving his princedom in search of adventures, success, victories… and fortune elsewhere.
That was during a time when Jews and Greeks had close and cordial relations. Evrikles had met Herod the Great of Judea in Olympus where the ruler had come to attend in the Games. And thus, he made his way to Judea, arriving in Jerusalem.
Received at the royal palace, he was welcomed with open arms by King Herod. His Spartan origins and being in Octavius’ favour secured him prestige, while the expensive gifts he brought and his personality assured him true success. In a nutshell, he instantly pleased the court.
However, one observer appeared to be more clearheaded than King Herod. He was called Flavius Josephus. He was on the verge of becoming one of antiquity’s most extraordinary historians. His work is irreplaceable, in that he was the only historian to ever describe characters and events of such incredible importance.
Among the works he would leave behind, he would speak of Evrikles. He described him as someone with a very bad character, but who admirably knew how to flatter those around him all the while seeming the opposite of a flatterer, that is to say, he had what it took to succeed. Moreover, he was a bon vivant who loved the great life, such as that of Herod’s court.
He quickly became a trusted advisor to the king. This king was the head of the Hasmonean family, who constituted the most violent, complex, inextricable hornets’ nest imaginable.
His sons, his nephews, his brothers, his uncles, his cousins, his wives, his daughters-in-law, his daughters, and his nieces spent their days turning each other against one another, trying to get rid of each other when they weren’t sleeping with one another. It was all sex, violence, betrayal and reversals.
The Romans took advantage of this to infiltrate the region a little more, but they themselves couldn’t make heads or tails of the family. No one could be trusted, everyone lied, everyone hated each other, everyone thought only of eliminating each other when they weren’t making love.
Trying to make sense of the escapades of this dynasty was nearly impossible. Somehow, Evrikles managed, playing one member against another, flattering one member and sometimes another, taking one member’s side and then another’s, blazingly lying, incessantly scheming, running from one to the other, persuading one after the other, perhaps even greasing the palms of one, and then of the other.
He succeeded for years in being a strong figure, at times occult, at times very present, but always wealthy, for he received enormous gifts in cash for his services from all parties, and all adversaries. But even he understood that had to end someday.
After having exploited everyone, betrayed everyone, and making his fortune, he sensed the time had come to put some distance between himself and the Hasmoneans. So, he left Judea with an enormous treasure.
Having returned to Sparta, he found himself head of the Lacedemonians again and left evidence of his munificence all over Peloponnese. He had the most luxurious baths in Corinth constructed, as well as a massive gymnasium in Sparta and other public buildings.
Despite his gifts and good deeds, his subjects considered him to be too close to the occupying Romans who were far from loved by all. So, he ended up disgraced and left in the shadows. He left behind no tangible reminder in Kythira, but on the other hand, he did leave behind a memory of one of the most celebrated rulers whose life was an extraordinary adventure novel.
Although no construction has been found that can be attributed to him, Evrikles visited Kythira and lived in the city whose modest remains we had travelled through. Truth be told, this region is particularly stunning.
The magnificent sea with its picturesque beaches, the rich, abundant countryside, the cypress’ and olive trees, the fragrant hedges, the cultivated gardens, the carefully harvested fields where herds graze, the modern villas scattered along the hills…
The roadsides are lined with Mycenae tombs. At the end of a prairie are Roman remains. A Byzantine chapel occupies the top of a hill. There are also legends of villages long since lost to natural catastrophes. This is a place of so much wealth, so many untold secrets.
And yet, Evrikles did not have the opportunity to enjoy this enchanting place. Disgrace had cut him down when he least expected it. Queen Cleopatra, who he crossed, had brought him bad luck, just as the Queen’s well-staged passion for the Roman tribune had brought about her tragic end.