Phil's Reviews > The Beacon at Alexandria

The Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw
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Jan 21, 08

Recommended for: Historical fiction fans
Read in January, 1992

This is a novel about an aristocratic girl, Charis, in Ephesus around 380 AD. Her father wants to marry her to a crony of the Emperor Valens, who has been appointed governor of the province. Festinus is a cruel and sadistic man and to avoid the marriage Charis cuts her hair, disguises herself as a eunuch (changing her name to Chariton) and flees to Alexandria to study medicine. Chariton is a prodigy and becomes the personal physician to the Nicene bishop Anthanasius (lauded by Gibbon) and involved in the chaos that follows his death. Chariton is exiled to an obscure fort on the Danube frontier and comes to be trusted by Fritigern, the Visigoth chieftain who rules north of the river. She also nurses a secret passion for Fritigern's cousin, Athanaric, who serves as a special agent of the Roman Emperor.When the Visigoths are allowed to cross the Danube to flee the onslaught of the Huns corrupt Roman officials cause them to revolt and Chariton falls into their hands, where she is revealed to be a woman. After the battle of Adrianople, which ends in the total destruction of the Roman army in the Balkans and the death of the Emperor Valens, Athanaric rescues Charis from the Goths and they live happily ever after. A great love story, a great historical novel. This book caused me to become interested in this period of Roman history. Bradshaw brings it vividly to life. She's a great storyteller and a good, solid, unpretentious writer.
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