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Did Bessus battle PTSD?

By A.K. Patch on Jun 12, 2020 in The Apollo Series

The psychological background and surprising pedigree of this 5th Century BCE warrior.

Readers of the Apollo Series trilogy often remark that they find this Bactrian horseman one of the most interesting characters to follow in the story. I worked on his personality traits with a psychologist, and there’s more to know on the background on this often terrifying, but complicated, warrior.

Bessus is a 5th century BCE brute from Bactria (ancient Afghanistan). He’s vain, arrogant, boastful, full of rage for women, and anyone that gets between him and his desire for plunder and revenge. He especially hates the overlord Persians, who wronged him and his family early in life.

Yet, antagonists, or the villains in a story, whether in movies or on the written page, must be complex characters to be believable. This is what makes them characters, rather than caricatures. Think of the famed villains of the past: Hannibal Lecter, The Joker, Darth Vader…

My reading audience knows that Bessus rides with the invading army of the Persian King Xerxes as they invade Greece in 480 BCE. Bessus, having grown up in a wild and remote area of the Persian empire, is someone who’s had to survive unbelievable hardship as a child. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, can physically and psychologically cripple people for many reasons, but includes traumatic life and wartime experiences.

I reveal these chronic debilitating experiences throughout the plot. He yearns to return home to his young son and will lash out at anyone in his way. After years of hiding in caves, under constant fear of discovery and execution, he’s become claustrophobic. This plays out at different times in the saga. Look for these episodes.

He hates to be bested by anyone, especially a woman. This defect has roots in what happened to him early in life.

When the heroic character, Professor Lauren Fletcher, fights with Bessus, this fuels a blood vow to also end her days.

Bessus becomes valuable In Apollo grand plan, but his insecurities are vulnerable to change. What will become of him when the philosopher taskmaster, Apollo, begins to play with Bessus’s personality defects? Apollo represents education, logic, moderation, and good will. Bessus is his opposite.

Now, one last note about our barbarian: Bessus is a famous name in history. Around one hundred and fifty years later, in 330 BCE, Alexander the Great, having defeated the Persians in many battles, chases King Darius III east across his empire. Finally, Alexander finds Darius murdered by his Bactrian governor named Bessus.

The killer of the Persian king is a descendant of the Bessus that I wrote into this series.  

The downline progeny of the Bessus in the Apollo Series survived, and became trusted vassals of the king. Having murdered King Darius, the 330 BCE historical Bessus claimed the throne and fought on against Alexander. A year later, the Macedonians caught Bessus and executed him.

In the end, our Bessus achieved his ultimate revenge against the Persians.

It’s great fun to write the twists and turns of a plot.

Read about Bessus and his exploits. He’s a character my readers love to hate. But knowing more about him, and with any antagonist, even Hannibal Lecter, a reader should have a shred of sympathy for them. It might be just a sliver with Bessus being the horror that he is, but understand what fuels his rage.