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Vermeteves

Born: 500 BC

Died: ?

City /Region: Locris, Magna Graecia

Affiliation: Greek

Occupation: ?

Locris was a thriving Italian colony set up in the toe of Southern Italy by Hellenes from Locria, a region situated opposite Corinth on the mainland side of the Greek isthmus. Vermeteves’ mother, Theophilis, claimed to be a member of the one hundred noble families of Locris, but then most Locrians did. She managed to use her all too gregarious nature to gain a position as assistant priestess at the world famous sanctuary of Persephone, goddess of wifely virtues. Unfortunately, while Theophilis’ vivacious nature would have made her an excellent priestess at the nearby temple of Aphrodite, she didn’t quite fit in at the sanctuary of virtuous wives. A series of graffiti scrawled on votive offerings may point to the reason why: “Theophilis daughter of Cleocha, she services everyone, even slaves and foreigners.” Needless to say, Theophilis found herself expelled from the temple and exiled in 501 BC.

Vermeteves’ father was an Etruscan trader from the city of Veii. Not much is known about Vermeti “the Grunter” other than that he married Theophilis in 501 BC, returning with her to Veii. He seems to have considered Theophilis something of a trophy wife, her being Greek, a priestess and able to read, write and speak in polysyllabic words. Theophilis was a big hit in Veii, being very popular with all the top ranking men in the town. Vermeti, a trader by natural inclination, appears to have had a hand in her increasing celebrity status.

Vermeteves was born barely a year after the marriage, and given a Hellenised Etruscan name. In 494 BC at the age of seven Vermeteves began his education at Locris under the tutelage of Timaeus, Pythagorean philosopher and later confidant of Socrates of Athens. Vermeteves was an exceptional pupil, in that it took him less than a year to be expelled from Timaeus’ academy. In 492 BC he was given “a second chance” after yet another of his mother’s persuasive interventions, but alas, he still hadn’t learned, and was expelled for a second time after only a few months. A third chance was procured at great expense in 491 BC, and this time parental admonitions ensured he stayed put.

Until 485 BC, when Vermeteves was re-expelled, this time definitively. Timaeus’ appraisal of his pupil of 9 years was somewhat less than favourable: “a bully, braggart and thoroughly arrogant brat who would even have made a perfect member of the Spartan ruling classes were it not for his inveterate cowardice and lack of any moral principles whatsoever.”

In an effort to complete his education, Vermeteves’ doting father gave him some money to travel the world, which Vermeteves did for the next four years. He is a little vague about what he got up to during this period, and it is unclear how he was involved in the wars which engulfed the Greek mainland. However, it is certain that he began a tour of the Ionian coast, landing at Miletus. He also visited Sardis and may even have seen Babylon and Persepolis.

In 481 BC Vermeteves left the Asian continent in something of a hurry. We can only surmise as to why, though yet again impending wars may have been the reason. He spent the next two years trying to charter a ship to take him back to Italy, no doubt forced to prolong his sojourn in Greece by the frequent shipping disputes between the Great King and the Athenian navy.

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