The Mask of Apollo

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Name: The Mask of Apollo
Abbreviation(s): MoA
Creator: Mary Renault
Date(s): 1966
Medium: book
Country of Origin: South Africa
External Links:
Cover of The Mask of Apollo (Pantheon, 1966).
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The Mask of Apollo is an historical novel by Mary Renault, set in Ancient Greece in the 4th century B.C. Its timeline lies between The Last of the Wine (which was written first) and Fire from Heaven (which was written later); and a youthful Alexander the Great is seen in the final pages, pointing to the focus of Renault's later work. The book was published simultaneously by Longman (London) and Pantheon (New York) in 1966.

The Mask of Apollo focuses on the life and times of Nikeratos, an actor from Athens. This not only allowed Renault to explore the world of acting in Ancient Greece; but, since actors in the Ancient world travelled a great deal but were (in general) outside the political factions of the period, the use of an actor as protagonist provided her with a vehicle for examining contemporary politics, specifically the reign of Dionysios the Younger of Syracuse. Renault also explored the philosophies of Plato (who had been included as a young man in The Last of the Wine).

The Mask of Apollo is not the most popular of Renault’s books but nonetheless has some devoted fans.

Book Discussion

The maryrenaultfics LiveJournal community has not held any chapter-by-chapter discussion about this novel. However, there have been noteworthy individual discussions.

In Their Own Words

In 2008 maryrenaultfics began a project which involved 'interviews' of characters from Renault’s novels. Extensive interviews were conducted with Nikeratos and Thettalos (the latter being an actual historical character, who—in Renault's book—is Niko’s lover). In addition, the 'As Overheard' thread included a discussion which revealed their shock at learning the differences between the ancient and modern arts of acting, not least the presence of women on the modern stage. The elderly Plato of this novel appeared in a discussion about honour, pride and shame.

Nikeratos and Thettalos have proved a popular pair in subsequent ITOWverse ficlets. They are seen making love in the 'invitations' for the five year celebrations[3], trying strange modern foods at Christmas[4], and winning the tragedy competition at the Lenaia (New Year's) celebration[5].

For more detail, please see the article about ITOWverse.


The Mask of Apollo fan fiction has been written in the context of Yuletide on several occasions.


Notable Stories