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Arimnestos is a farm boy when war breaks out between the citizens of his native Plataea and their overbearing neighbours, Thebes. Standing in the battle line for the first time, alongside his father and brother, he shares in a famous and unlikely victory. But after being knocked unconscious in the melee, he awakes not a hero, but a slave.
Betrayed by his jealous and cowardly cousin, the freedom he fought for has now vanished, and he becomes the property of a rich citizen. So begins an epic journey out of slavery that takes the young Arimnestos through a world poised on the brink of an epic confrontation, as the emerging civilization of the Greeks starts to flex its muscles against the established empire of the Persians.
As he tries to make his fortune and revenge himself on the man who disinherited him, Arimnestos discovers that he has a talent that pays well in this new, violent world - for like his hero, Achilles, he is 'a killer of men'.
Arimnestos of Plataea is a man who has seen and done things that most men only dream about. Sold into slavery as a boy, he fought his way to freedom - and then to everlasting fame: standing alongside the Athenians at the Battle of Marathon where the Greeks crushed the invading Persians.
Sometimes, however, a man's greatest triumph is followed by his greatest sorrow. Returning to his farm, Arimnestos finds that his wife Euphoria has died in childbirth, and in an instant his laurels turn to dust. But the gods are not finished with Arimnestos yet. With nothing left to live for, he throws himself from a cliff into the sea, only to be pulled by strong arms from death's embrace. When he awakes, he finds himself chained to an oar in a Phoenician trireme.
And so begins an epic journey that will take Arimnestos and a motley crew of fellow galley slaves to the limits of their courage, and beyond the edge of the known world, in a quest for freedom, revenge - and a cargo so precious it's worth dying for.