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The Wreckage of Agathon

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  189 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Laid to waste by drink, Agathon, a seer, is a shell of a man. He sits imprisoned with his apprentice, Peeker, for his presumed involvement in a rebellion against the Spartan tyrant Lykourgos. Confined to a cell, the men produce extraordinary writings that illustrate the stories of their lives and give witness to Agathon's deterioration and the growth of Peeker from a bashf ...more
Paperback, 279 pages
Published December 1st 1974 by Ballantine Books (NY) (first published 1970)
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M. D.  Hudson
Jun 03, 2012 M. D. Hudson rated it liked it
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Jun 14, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it
I have loved Gardner's Grendel since reading it in high school but never got around to reading anything else of his until this. This time the story is set in ancient Sparta, although the chronology is deliberately vague and we have characters from several different periods (Lyucurgus, circa 820-730 BCE, Solon, 638-533 BCE living as contemporaries). None of this really matters though as Gardner's point is not to relate history. Instead we get a vivid if anachronistic picture of life in ancient Sp ...more
Rick Strong
Mar 13, 2011 Rick Strong rated it it was amazing
The Wreckage Of Agathon is historical fiction set for the most part in Sparta ~ 7th century BCE. Sparta has recently been invaded by the Dorians and the semi-historical tyrant and lawgiver Lykourgos is in the process of founding the admirable/horrible social institutions that characterized Spartan society: militarism, a brutal egalitarianism, lack of concern for money enforced by the abolishment of gold and silver currency, and oppression and exploitation of the native Achaians (Helots) whom the ...more
Kirk Macleod
Jun 02, 2016 Kirk Macleod rated it liked it
John Gardner's 1970 novel The Wreckage of Agathon marks my sixth book of the "36 Best novels for a Survey of Ancient Greek History" over at as well as the first story set after the Bronze Age.

The novel takes place in Sparta during the reign of Lycurgus, who transformed the city state from an Athenian trade-based society into the warrior culture we connect Ancient Sparta to today. The novel focuses on a Seer, Agathon, who along with his apprentice, is imprisoned during the c
Oct 11, 2013 Leslie rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 100books2013
On the surface this is the story of a rather silly old man and his foolish follower who tackle the politics and military mindset of Sparta. The real story, though, is far more complicated and concerns the nature of love and loyalty. I can't say this is my favorite Gardner but it is a good book. I gave it three stars because I think most people would find it difficult to hang in with the story. It took me over a month to read it by picking it up and putting it back down.
Erik Graff
Mar 13, 2008 Erik Graff rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Gardner or historlco-philosophical novels set in ancient Greece
Recommended to Erik by: Janny Marie Willis
Shelves: literature
Like Grendel, I read The Wreckage of Agathon (i.e. the Good) too early and didn't get a lot of it, not knowing too much at the time about Agathon's interlocutor, Lycourgos, legendary lawgiver of Sparta.
The book, as one might suppose, is about "the best laid plans" of men, both individually (Agathon) and socially (Sparta).
DJ Dycus
Interesting depiction of a seer/philosopher trying to be a part of the rough-and-tumble world of Spartan politics. Gardner shows many different responses to the tyrannical set of laws by Lycourgos. As with Grendel, Gardner's anachronisms are compelling--he makes the 7th-century BC a world with which we can identify.
Lee Thompson
Nov 24, 2012 Lee Thompson rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everybody
Loved it! Gardner was a genius until sweet, cold Death took his hand. This is a historical I guess. Deals a lot with love/hate directed both inwardly and outwardly, on a personal and social scale. Lyrical, funny, dark and creative.
Evan Kingston
Nov 12, 2014 Evan Kingston rated it it was amazing
Set in ancient Sparta but with strong parallels to Gardner's take late 60's America, this novel has lots to say about our current militarized police state, too. Plus, there are lots of onion-fueled fart jokes!
Jan 11, 2009 Katy rated it it was amazing
After I finished this book, I realized that when I think philosophically, I inevitably conclude that killing myself is the only logical thing to do. This book only intensifies that. But I love this book! What to do...
Oct 08, 2012 Charles rated it liked it
Bought this on the strength of Grendel. Read it. Didn't understand it at the time. Only partially understand the back story now. I seriously recommend reading up on Solon and Agathon (real people from 7th Cent. Sparta) before jumping in.
Kyle Muntz
For some reason, I wasn't able to finish this novel--occasionally, certain sections were very powerful, but the piece as a whole was sort missing something to me.
Feb 08, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing
Gotta love onions!
Mar 24, 2011 Lemar rated it it was amazing
I found this book in a used bookstore having never heard of the author. I loved the journey and the humanity with which Gardner imbues all the characters with shades of gray.
Matt Gaither
Nov 22, 2012 Matt Gaither rated it it was ok
My least favorite of Gardner's novels. The philosophical tone is certainly intentional, but I struggled getting any traction with the narrative.
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Feb 14, 2013
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John Champlin Gardner was a well-known and controversial American novelist and university professor, best known for his novel Grendel, a retelling of the Beowulf myth.

Gardner was born in Batavia, New York. His father was a lay preacher and dairy farmer, and his mother taught English at a local school. Both parents were fond of Shakespeare and often recited literature together. As a child, Gardner
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