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QUAINT #23: The Hellenes in “Gobi or Shamo: A Story of Three Songs” by G.G.A. Murray

Hellenes. The Hellenes were created by G.G.A. Murray and appeared in Gobi or Shamo: A Story of Three Songs (1889). George Gilbert Aime Murray (1866-1957) was a scholar of the Classics, a Fellow at Oxford, a playwright, a translator and popularizer of Hellenism, and a passionate liberal, campaigning tirelessly for the League of Nations.

Gobi or Shamo is the search for a lost colony of Greeks. Mavrones is a young English scholar who yearns to discover an unknown historical curiosity or treasure. He stumbles upon the possible existence of a lost group of Greeks while perusing a set of manuscripts in a former Byzantine monastery on the Greek island of Arganthus. Mavrones sets out to locate the Greeks, assisted by his friend Quentin Baj, “a man of six feet two, with dark moustaches and a crushing manner, and…further…the possessor of an acer et contemptor animus, with few good-natured weaknesses to spoil the edge of a resolve.” Mavrones, Quentin Baj, and their annoying friend Wibbling set out for Mongolia, and after a series of life-threatening adventures they find the Hellenes.

The Hellenes are the descendants of Milesians taken prisoner by Darius the Great after the Ionian Revolt of 499 B.C.E. After five generations of slavery the Milesians fled northward, joined with a group of Ionians, and fled “from the kingdom of the Persians, Northward and Eastward, over the great mountains that lie by the sources of the Indus and Oxus…” They ended up in a remote, mountainous part of Mongolia (“shamo” being the Mongolian term for the Gobi) and settled there, on top of a steep plateau, driving off the local Sanni tribe and forcing a peace on them. The Hellenes have an interesting civilization. They retain the essentials of Classical civilization, but have developed advanced technology.
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