Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Mask of Apollo” as Want to Read:
The Mask of Apollo
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Mask of Apollo

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  1,519 Ratings  ·  84 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
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Mask of Apollo, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Mask of Apollo

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
John Nevola
Sep 10, 2012 John Nevola rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Simon Mcleish
Mar 12, 2013 Simon Mcleish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned

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
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,
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christy English
Sep 12, 2011 Christy English rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my favorite books of all it now and loving it yet again...
Sep 04, 2015 James rated it really liked it
I love the 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 passion for ancient Greece from a wonderful Latin teacher in high school. Luckily for us in addition to teaching us Latin our teacher imbued in us an interest in learning about everything classical that grew for me into more reading and led me to the discovery of Mary Renault and her historical fiction set in ancient Greece. The story of The Mask of Apollo involves the ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 23, 2010 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it really liked it  ·  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
Dec 15, 2014 Jane rated it liked it
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
Brenda Clough
May 17, 2012 Brenda Clough rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
3.5 stars

I am not sure if you could find a better, or more entertaining, tour guide to ancient Greece than Mary Renault. I am constantly surprised by Renault’s ability to balance the fine line between immersing me in a world that is ultimately foreign to my own, and yet one that still often feels surprisingly ‘modern’ and relatable given the era in which the stories are set. I never feel, on the one hand, as though the ancient Greece she has created is simply our world doing cosplay, and yet on
Mar 17, 2011 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matt Benzing
Jun 12, 2014 Matt Benzing rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Faith Justice
Sep 09, 2010 Faith Justice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: given-away
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
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...
Jack Massa
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.
Nov 19, 2010 Rozonda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 28, 2008 Deb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 03, 2013 Care marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
(Because Jenny says this is the best!)
Robert Case
Nov 27, 2016 Robert Case rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, history
The story is narrated through the eyes and heart of a renowned actor during a period of declining power and influence for the Athenian Greeks. The book was a slow start for me because so much of the early chapters focused on classical Greek theater and its leading proponents. Once that was past, the pace of the story picked up dramatically. By the end, I was captivated by the character development and the devolving relationship between Dion of Sicily and main character, Nikeratos. These plot ele ...more
James Sullivan
Dec 04, 2016 James Sullivan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This well written novel revolves around the political intrigue surrounding ancient Athens and Syracuse. Follow Nikeratos, an actor, as his life becomes entangled with that of Plato, Alexander the Great, and others. If you don't mind a slow moving narrative, you'll certainly be delighted with the colorful re-invisioning of the ancient world as dutiful researched by Renault.
Sep 29, 2016 Lara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another in my Mary Renault re-read.

I blow hot and cold on this book, set in the post classical-pre Alexander period of Greek history, a period I know little about other than the history of Plato's Academy.
The story of an Athenian actor and his adventures with the great and near great men of the day, it is richly described and you do come to know the protagonist quite well. The history and hopes of the time are well fleshed out, but I feel that more than any of her other books, she has shadowed
Klara Woodson
Sep 21, 2014 Klara Woodson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Jan 24, 2016 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a wonderful book! I read The Praise Singer, my first foray into Renault's novels of Greece, in September last year and loved it. I wonder why I waited so long to pick this one up! The story is a fleshing out of the history of Greece in the mid-4th century BCE. The main character (who is fictional, like much of the book, but not all!) is an actor. Having chosen such a character for her novel allows Renault to travel all over the Mediterranean and to explore life much more fully than if she h ...more
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
Perry Whitford
Nov 17, 2014 Perry Whitford rated it really liked it
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
Jun 24, 2016 Nigel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Following the life of actor Nikeratos and his various adventures touring the classical world, in particular his friendship with Dion of Syracuse and Plato the philosopher as they try to forge a Republic in Syracuse.

Once again Renault creates and inhabits a character who seems to in turn inhabits and evokes his world perfectly, and more than that who lives and breathes the theatre, which informs every aspect of his life and outlook. It's a breathtaking achievement, seemingly effortless, utterly
Jan 13, 2016 Zoe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 16, 2013 Deb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Flowers of Adonis
  • The Golden Fleece
  • The Sand-Reckoner
  • The Song of Troy
  • Eromenos
  • Achilles
  • Empire of Ashes: A Novel of Alexander the Great
  • Warrior in Bronze (Agamemnon Book 1)
  • Alcestis and Other Plays
  • The Walled Orchard (The Walled Orchard #1-2)
  • The Last King of Lydia
  • Over the Wine-Dark Sea (Hellenic Traders, #1)
  • The House of Death
  • In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great: A Journey from Greece to Asia
  • Memnon
  • The Life of Alexander the Great
  • The Gates of Troy (Adventures of Odysseus, #2)
  • The Trojan War: A New History
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 about Mary Renault...

Share This Book

“In hatred is love, we grow like the thing we brood upon. What we loathe, we graft into our very soul.” 19 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.” 2 likes
More quotes…