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The Mask of Apollo

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  1,278 ratings  ·  71 reviews
In her masterful new novel, set in Greece of the fourth century B.C. Mary Renault tells the story of the actor Nikeratos. Through the eyes of this warm, sympathetic and living character we experience the war-weary, self-searching world of his time. Always on his travels Niko, the tragedian, takes with him an antique mask of Apollo, a relic of the theater's golden age, whic ...more
Hardcover, 1st American, 371 pages
Published 1966 by Pantheon Books
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(showing 1-30 of 2,377)
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John Nevola
Most of the poor reviews for this book are from disgruntled schoolchildren forced to read it as a mandatory assignment. One must have a taste for this period and a desire to learn more about it before it could be fully appreciated.

Mary Renault immerses the reader in the art, culture, habits and times of ancient Greece. Told through the eyes and thoughts of an actor (all of whom wore masks on stage), Renault tells of the conflicts between logic and passion, good and evil and power and weakness. S
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Simon Mcleish


The Mask of Apollo is one of my favourite straight historical novels (using the word "straight" to distinguish it from crossover historical crime novels, which seem to have taken over fiction set in the past since the sixties).

Set in the fourth century BC, the narrator of the novel is a notable Athenian actor named Nikeratos, who travels to Syracuse (then a Greek city) and accidentally becomes involved with the city state's turbulent politics. Syracuse was ruled by a tyrant, Dionysius, who is dy
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Margaret
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alicja
rating: 5.5/5

I'm awestruck. In short, this is an (ancient Greek) political thriller. It is probably my new favorite from Mary Renault (although I always get excited when I pick up one of her books); I just couldn’t put in down. For days I carried it with me everywhere, reading every free moment I could find.

Nikeratos (Niko), a 4th century B.C. Greek tragic actor finds himself in a middle of a political drama involving among others the famous Plato and Dion. He carries with him a mask of Apollo,
...more
Christy English
This is one of my favorite books of all time...re-reading it now and loving it yet again...
Jane
Not as enamoured with this one as I thought I'd be. I'm sure this is one of Renault's minor works. This tells the story of Dion of Syracuse [philosopher from Plato's Academy] as seen through the eyes of Nikeratos [Niko], a tragic actor. Making her protagonist an actor, Renault gave Niko the freedom to travel all over and comment on the action and people he meets. Many of them are historical; in the last chapter he meets young Alexander and Hephaestios. Apparently, even the youth Alexander is al ...more
James
I love the historical fiction of Mary Renault and this is the first of her novels that I read. At the time I already had begun to acquire a love of ancient Greece from a wonderful Latin teacher in high school. Luckily for us in addition to teaching us Latin she imbued a an interest in learning about everything classical that grew for me into more reading and eventually led me to Mary Renault. The story involves the world of live theatre and political intrigue in the Mediterranean at the time. Th ...more
Brenda Clough
A wonderful book. Mary Renault is as good as your own personal time machine (if you do not mind only ever traveling to classical Greece). She is also a total whiz at taking you into a specialized world -- in this case, the theater -- and making its thrills and excitements your own.
Christin
My first venture into non-Alexander Mary Renault. I can't help but be sucked in by the first page. Something about her work... it just takes you by the hand and gently leads you into the world and you never ever want to leave. At least, I don't.
Gary Foss
It's taken me a while to write this review, mostly because I'm not confident that I can really do this book justice. My first attempt devolved into a series of gushy praise, so I figured I'd best get a little distance before giving it another go....

Rather than leap into a bunch of blind admiration, I’m going to let you decide for yourself why Mary Renault’s version of Greek history through literature is worth reading. This is the speech attributed to Dion by Plutarch before the battle to retake
...more
Jennifer
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mixal
Interesting but not very engaging book. It might be caused by POV character who is an actor. This allows to describe Hellenistic culture from quite fresh angles, but overall it proved to be a bit hard to get into. I was reading the book very much because of Plato, but he is there always somewhere out of reach or saying something that the actor does not understand so it is not included in the text. What a pity...
Faith Justice
Mary Renault is a favorite of mine and I couldn't remember if I had read this one way-back-when. I don't think I have - it didn't strike any memory chords and I'd like to think I haven't gotten so old, I'd forget the books I read in my youth.

The story is told from an actor's point of view during the waning years of Plato's Academy and follows the experiment of democracy in Syracuse after the overthrow of a dictatorship. Although written decades ago, it resonates in today's political milieu. A fi
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Matt Benzing
Many years ago a theater history professor recommended this to me, and I have just now gotten around to reading it. Very enjoyable book for anyone with an interest in theatre or classical civilization. The author creates a credible ancient world and builds her story of political intrigue out of real people and events; her protagonist is just alien enough in his assumptions and attitudes to make a believable citizen of a world far from our own, while being just modern enough to allow the reader t ...more
Richard Wise
Rich with historical detail and the taste and smell of everyday life, at least as Renault interprets it. This is one of the many reasons that I enjoy the genre. The protagonist is an actor, so there is a great deal of detail about the classical theatre. Much of the action centers around Syracuse and Plato's attempt to establish his friend Dion as Philosopher King. Those who have read The Republic will find this plot of particular interest.

Happened on the book in a discount pile at a bookstore in
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Zoe
Interesting historical fiction approach to the Ancient Greek theatrical world. Being in theater I find it particularly fascinating to see how some things never change, and how some things must have due to structure alone. I understand some of the similarities could easily be the author's projections on missing data, but the data she does have and the way it's brought to life are really well done. I know this was written a number of decades ago so I wonder if we have learned any more details abou ...more
Brigi
This was my first Mary Renault novel and I loved it a lot. I read everyone's praises of her extraordinary ability to describe places from thousands of years ago like she had been there, and I agree wholeheartedly. The 400 B.C. Greece comes to life on the pages of this novel. It is so seamless, so perfect, that it is hard to believe that it was written in the previous century. Even more amazing is that most of the characters were real persons.

However, the protagonist is Renault's own creation. Ni
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Jmassa
In one quintessentially Greek moment from this superb novel, the narrator recalls the story of a father of two Olympic champions. At the moment when his sons are crowned, the crowd chants to him to "Die now," because, of course, no moment of his life could ever again be so good.

So, in finishing The Mask of Apollo am I tempted to chant to myself: "Give up reading historical fiction now."

'Nuff said.
Rozonda
A Pagan book if ever there was one. Mary Renault confronts the joy of life and the joy of philosophy in the life of Niko, a Greek actor, who gets to meet Plato and his Academy, philosopher king Dion of Syracusa and , in the end, young Alexander the Great.
Packed with adventure and very deep at the same time, I consider it to be one of Renault's masterpieces.
Deb
This is a fascinating look at theatre in ancient Greece and the part actors played in the politics of the time. I also dig the way the author writes about the sexual mores of the era. Same sex relationships were fairly commonplace and that is how they are portrayed in the novel. A bold move for a writer in the fifties.
Perry Whitford
Nikeratos is an Athenian actor in the years following the states defeat in the Peloponnesian War. He aims always first and foremost to serve the god of art, Apollo, even when the politics of the two men he most admirers, Plato and Dion of Syracuse, get in the way.

The mask of the actor in Ancient Greece is all important to his understanding and approach to the role; they would star looking at it for hours before a performance.
After watching a company of Etruscan players, who act without masks, N
...more
El Segoviano
Hace 7 años que lo leí junto con otro libro dela misma autora.
Este lo leí una semana después del otro y el mismo comentario que allí hice puede darse aquí por reproducido.
La autora describe fenomenalmente bien el ambiente de la Grecia antigua y aqui hecho mano de la contraportada para intentar recordar ciertos aspectos. Es verdad que la cultura griega que demuestra recuerdo que era impresionante.
Al igual que el otro el libro se lee muy bien, es entretenido y como siempre que algo toca la novela
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Alcornell
This tells the story of Dion of Syracuse [philosopher from Plato's Academy] as seen through the eyes of Nikeratos [Niko], a tragic actor. Making her protagonist an actor, Renault gave Niko the freedom to travel all over and comment on the action and people he meets. (Nico is a fictional actor in the time of Plato.) This is another great Renault read. I love reading about Ancient Greece and this is another that brings that age to life. In this book the craft of acting is portrayed in the context ...more
Klara Woodson
Davvero, di Renault ho letto tantissimo, ma credo proprio che questo sia uno dei miei preferiti in assoluto.
Non solo spicca, in tutto il suo splendore, quello stile che rende questa scrittrice tanto particolare, ma qui ho apprezzando anche molto di più la caratterizzazione dei personaggi, piuttosto che quelli, per dire, della sua trilogia su Alessandro Magno (e considerando quanto abbia amato quella seria meravigliosa, devo proprio dire che questo libro ha davvero superato ogni mia aspettativa
...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 23, 2010 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of Historical Fiction
My introduction to Mary Renault was The King Must Die, the first of two novels about Theseus--it was actually assigned reading in high school. What impressed me so much there was how she took a figure out of myth and grounded him historically. After that I quickly gobbled up all of Renault's works of historical fiction set in Ancient Greece. The two novels about Theseus and the trilogy centered on Alexander the Great are undoubtedly her most famous of those eight novels, and I'd add The Last of ...more
Cody VC
3.5 stars, more like. felt like the prose was much better than in "the persian boy" - simple, straightforward, with some nicely plain descriptions here and there. ("he was thinnish, and held himself like a man with a stoop who had never before pulled back his shoulders. sometimes he forgot, and let his neck poke forward.") the environment is richly detailed; you can tell that she's done her work in both research and imagination, and i particularly enjoyed her incorporation/presentation of the co ...more
Deb
Renault's classic tale gives us Greek actor Nikeratos, who participates in and observes the fall of the tyrants of Syracuse. Nikeratos is an admirable character--talented, loyal, compassionate, insightful into human frailty, and capable of understanding philosophy. This leads him to cross paths with one of Athen's great treasures, Plato's Academy. He meets Plato and many of his followers, becomes a trusted friend, and an acolyte of sorts to Plato's "ideal king," Dion of Syracuse. Dion was the la ...more
Anara Guard
I didn't enjoy this one nearly as much as Bull from the Sea. Perhaps because it was more political and philosophical than mythical and dramatic, which is ironic for a tale centered around the theater. There were many characters to keep track of, so that every time I put the book down, I had to re-orient myself when I picked it back up. She is a wonderful writer and I look forward to the next one, but I would place this one at the bottom of the list of Mary Renault novels to explore.
Kit Dunsmore
Aug 14, 2010 Kit Dunsmore rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of classical Greek culture
Shelves: fiction
I'm currently on a ancient Greece/Roman kick, having just finished a lecture series on Classical archaeology, so this seemed like a good time to read this. Enjoyed it, although it feels a lot more uneven than I remember her other books, which I really liked (The King Must Die and Bull From the Sea). Of course, it's been years since I read them.

The main story is about political events happening around the main character, who is an actor and only indirectly involved. She has to work to get her cha
...more
Gabriel
Interesting, but messy and ever crippling itself with its own split focus. I liked Nikeratos's acting and Dion's rise and fall as plots individually, I'm not sure how well they did crammed together. I would've read each book dedicated to one of the things alone. Dion and Plato especially might've benefited from a book helmed by Speusippos--but I really would've just read that Athenian theater book.
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Mary Renault was an English writer best known for her historical novels set in Ancient Greece. In addition to vivid fictional portrayals of Theseus, Socrates, Plato and Alexander the Great, she wrote a non-fiction biography of Alexander.

Her historical novels are all set in ancient Greece. They include a pair of novels about the mythological hero Theseus and a trilogy about the career of Alexander
...more
More about Mary Renault...
The Persian Boy (Alexander the Great, #2) The King Must Die (Theseus, #1) Fire from Heaven (Alexander the Great, #1) The Last of the Wine The Charioteer

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“In hatred as in love, we grow like the thing we brood upon. What we loathe, we graft into our very soul.” 5 likes
“Speak for me, Nikeratos. Someone's soul is always listening." Someone's always is, I suppose, if one only knew. Plato never forgot it.” 1 likes
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