The Missing Years
What We Don’t Know
There is no record of the birth and early childhood years of the legendary warrior/warlord known only as Callisto. And while it is known that she lived in the moderately prosperous town of Cirra, its location is a mystery. There is speculation that after Xena and her invading army all but destroyed it and killed most of its inhabitants, the few remaining survivors abandoned Cirra and relocated to the nearest village or villages.
Also, what is known is that her father’s name was Panko. But whether he was a farmer or merchant or craftsman is open to speculation. Her mother’s name was Arleia, and as was the norm for the times, she was a wife, mother and homemaker. Callisto’s sister’s name is not known. Also unknown is if the sister was older or younger than Callisto, but from the few clues about the day Xena and her army came to Cirra, Callisto was approximately ten to twelve years old.
Taking clues from other writings of Greecian life in the smaller towns and villages during this time period, the following account is one possible scenario:
“Callisto, will you and your sister go to the well and bring back three buckets of water? I don’t think there will be enough when your father comes home for lunch. You know he likes to wash up first. And I suspect you two could also do with a good scrubbing.”
Callisto ran to catch up with her sister, always the more responsible one. Together they walked through the bustling marketplace to the community well located in the center of town, with Callisto dawdling as usual, wanting to see everything there was to see.
“Will you come ON?” Callisto was chided several times. “By the time we get there the line will be so long!”
And as promised when the two arrived, there were more than a dozen women and children ahead of them, all drawing water for the midday meals, which suited Callisto just fine, it gave her more time to look at, and to examine, all the wares offered at the many stalls of the marketplace. When their time came, once again Callisto’s sister yelled for her. Together they filled their three buckets, and when they left, Callisto carried one bucket and her sister carried two.
And still Callisto dawdled, complaining how heavy her bucket was. And she was left behind. And so she moved even slower. At one stall she offered to trade the water for a scarf. The woman just laughed at her.
But before she could tell her to move along, there were sounds of panic and danger. An army of mercenaries was invading the village! The pounding of horses at a full gallop was suddenly heard throughout the town. And then screams of pain and death filled the air. Callisto dropped her bucket and tried running for home. But her way was blocked by the so many horses carrying soldiers with swords and spears.
No! Not soldiers, but thugs, outlaws, and ex-prisoners. All who were laughing as they were striking down anyone in range of their weapons: men, women, and children. It didn’t seem to matter who was murdered.
Stalls selling home-weaved baskets or tools or dried meats or leather goods and more: all were all set afire. But the wind carried the flames to other stalls, and to the wooden buildings. And before anyone could find a safe exit from the village, fire was coursing through Cirra like a flood. Nothing could stop it, and nothing could stand in its way.
Callisto, knowing shortcuts and side roads, made it to her home at the same time as the flames reached her house. But the incredible heat kept her from entering the thatched-roof house she called home. Unable to save her family, she could only stand and watch in horror as the monstrous blaze devoured everything. And through the sounds of the roaring conflagration she could hear the screams of her father, her mother, and her sister as they were consumed by the wall of fire that somehow passed Callisto by unscathed.
How long Callisto stood staring at the charred ruins of her home she had no idea; time had no meaning for her. Vaguely she heard noises of hoof beats, men talking, laughing, yelling to each other. But they were only background noises, nothing that concerned her.
Then a new sound impinged on her consciousness. A woman’s voice, but not one she recognized. And as if she has no will of her own, she followed the sound until she came upon a group of horsemen, and a warrior woman.
Knowing she should stay out of sight, Callisto hid behind the wall of what was left of a burned down building. The woman was berating and cursing and verbally hammering all the men into submission. As Callisto’s watched and listened she realized this woman was their leader. SHE was the one responsible for the death and destruction of Cirra!
“What in Tartarus is wrong with all of you!” She screamed at them. “Are you all so stupid? How are we supposed to renew our supplies if everything is burned to the ground?”
No one dared answer. None dared meet her eyes.
“And if that isn’t bad enough,” she continued. “How many times have I told you we DO NOT kill women and children? How many times?”
“We had no idea the fire would spread like that,” one weak voice answered. “We were only having fun.”
“Great!” she said, her anger still not quenched. “So we have no food, no supplies, and no one to torture into telling us if there is any hidden away!”
With one last angry look around, she shouted, “Let’s go. There’s nothing here left for us here. Nothing at all!”
As she watched the horde ride away, Callisto said softly, “Not yet. But someday. Someday you will discover there is something you will regret leaving behind. Me!”
And from here we have no idea of what became of Callisto until ten to maybe fifteen years later when she started her assault on Xena, the Warrior Princess. But we can make educated guesses about Callisto’s life during those years.
As previously stated, after Cirra was almost completely destroyed, the few remaining people abandoned their burned-out village and most likely traveled to the nearest town, taking Callisto with them.
It is very likely that Callisto may have had relatives if this town was where her father, Panko, met his future wife, Arleia. It is doubtful that he would have found a wife farther away than the nearest village. So Callisto could have had aunts, uncles and cousins who may have taken her in.
Of course, as was the custom of the time, by her fourteenth or fifteenth birthday, Callisto’s relatives may have wanted to marry her off to someone of means who was willing to pay a handsome dowry for an attractive young woman, and a virgin. So there can be an argument made for her running away from home, not wanting to be tied down, a virtual prisoner, and unable to fulfill her vow to make Xena pay for her crimes against Cirra.
How she was able to raise an army at such a young age is anyone’s guess. However there is one other name that seems to be connected with Callisto, Theodorus. But whether he was a childhood friend, a lover, or just a loyal companion cannot be known. Perhaps she saved his life and he swore to always be by her side. Perhaps, even, he was instrumental in her being able to assemble an army that would follow her, a very young woman. However, from other indications, his role in Callisto’s life seems to be that as only an underling, very likely her second in command, or possibly an advisor.
[Continued in Part 2]
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