The love of Erotokritos and Aretousa
EROTOKRITOS by Vitsentzos Kornaros
1. Form and language
Erotokritos is a verse romance composed by Vitsentzos Kornaros, the son of a Venetian-Cretan aristocrat who was born near Sitia in early 17th century.
It consists of 10,012 fifteen-syllable rhymed verses divided into five sections. 15-syllable iambic verse, also known as the political verse, flourished from the 9th or 10th century, until the 19th and 20th century. Its central theme is the love between Erotokritos and Aretousa. Around this theme, revolve other themes such as honour, friendship, bravery and courage. Erotokritos and Erophile by Georgios Hortatzis constitute classic examples of Greek Renaissance literature and are considered to be the most important works of Cretan literature.
It remains a popular work to this day, largely due to the music that accompanies it when it is publicly recited. A particular type of rhyming used in the traditional mantinades was also the one used in Erotokritos.
It is written in the Cretan dialect of the Greek language. More specifically, it was based on the spoken language of Eastern Crete. The differences between the Cretan dialect and standard Modern Greek are not such that would impede comprehension. Overall, it is an extremely diligent literary language. It is worth mentioning that according to the philological research, there are few foreign words in Erotokritos (we can find only 10-12 arabic words and about 40 Italian or Venetian words) despite the Arabic (9th century) and later Venetian rules (13th- 17th century) in Crete.
The work was very popular and circulated in manuscript form throughout the 17th century. In 1713, it was printed in Venice by some Cretan who had collected several manuscripts of the work. There are no extant manuscripts of the work except for an unfinished one of 1710. It is decorated with elegant miniatures, but is less valid than the Venetian version in its delivery of the text, because it alters the character of the vernacular language at places. Several reprints of the original edition followed, and the first modern edition appeared in 1915.
Vocabulary found in Erotokritos- Similarities with the partners' languages
The first page of the 1710 manuscript
2. Historical framework
The literary production of Venetian-conquered Crete throughout Renaissance is rich, in contrast with the rest Turkish-occupied Greek territories. This literary prosperity is due to the financial and spiritual development that was observed in Crete during the Venetian occupation: the peaceful coexistence and contact with other spiritually and culturally developed people were the main factors that contributed to the development of culture and education as well as the appearance of worthwhile literary production. The period of the literary Cretan prosperity dated back to the late 16th century till the occupation of Crete by the Ottoman Turks, in 1669. Erotokritos is a work influenced to a great extent by the Renaissance atmosphere of this era in Crete, where the greek and western literary tradition of romance are united.
3. The Storyline in a video created by the etwinning students
4.Its literary value
The literary value of the poem (Erotokritos) is inestimable. This is confirmed by numerous Greek writers. The first to give credit to ‘’Erotokritos’’ was a great Greek poet of the 19th century, Dionysios Solomos, who seems to have been influenced at a high degree by this work. The Cretan poem contributed to the formation of the Ionian isles poetry after the settlement of Cretan refugees in the area in 1669.
Later, except for the ones in the Ionian isles, other great Greek poets were affected by Erotokritos as well, and they refer to this work and its creator with high regard and respect.
The great value of the work is recognized, especially, by the Nobelist poet George Seferis. Ιn his known essay about Erotokritos, he specifies the virtues of this work:’’lack of rhetoric, description of detail, control of language and its rhythm’’.
The philological research and critics of the 20th century give Erotokritos the dominant place it deserves in modern Greek literature. Τhe professor of modern Greek literature Mario Vitti in his book ‘’History of modern Greek literature (Athens, 1992) mentions: ‘‘This sensitive artist […], raises the intellectual heritage of the Greek people in art level, by exploiting and imposing on scholars the popular means of expression, which are natural and inherent’’ and “Kornaros provided for modern Greek literature a masterpiece which is representative on a European scale’’. At the entry ‘’Erotokritos’’ of the encyclopedia Papyros, Larousse, Britannica, it is mentioned that:’’Erotokritos is a classic work of modern Greek literature. Kornaros, whose temperament was narrative and lyric, not dramatic, offered us the most beautiful lyric-narrative poem ever written in our language’’.
5.Melody and its evolution
Besides the fact that Erotokritos is a popular reading, it’s also a beloved poem. The two known melodies of the ‘unknown composer’ are written in the rhythm of 5/8, like folk songs are. There is also evidence that the authentic music of Erotokritos was in the rhythm of 4/4 and with the violin, as the prevailing instrument.
The first modern greek attempt to compose the poem was made probably around 1935 or 1937.
However, a decisive role for the prevailing implementation and the promotion of Erotokritos to the public played Nikos Ksilouris and the orchestration of Christodoulos Chalaris, both based on old cretan music motives.
Out of a wide range of music and narrative variations, Giannis Markopoulos was another distinctive composer, who combined the literary and the vernacular music style, in 2000, during the Greek Festival in Herodion, and presented the music piece with the participation of a seventy-membered symphonic orchestra and the choir Fons Musicalis, with 16 lyre players and a dance team of both men and women. He also released, in 2003, an opera in two acts ‘Erotokritos and Areti’, whose music, libretto and orchestration was edited by himself.
Erotokritos, has been presented in an opera twice, first under the composition of Alex Alibertis in 1935 in the theatre of Olympia and second, in 1985 by the composer, Nikos Mamagakis.
Erotokritos, is still a living music piece, integrated in our conscience and in our hearts, just like folk songs, present in our feasts, happy moments, griefs, and in love.
The notes for the flute
Rotokritos and Areti - An opera in two acts by Markopoulos
6. Similarities with other chivalrous poems
Erotokritos is the only writing of Cretan literature, which belongs to the kind of erotic poetic fiction-writing (expanded poetic narration with love as a main theme). It constitutes an evolution of chivalrous poetry, which appeared during the 13th century across Europe and particularly in Byzantium, France, Italy, Britain, Iberian Peninsula. Since the 19th century, there have been attempts to conclude which was the model work Kornaros was influenced by while writing Erotokritos. There have been many suggestions: ancient Latin and Greek works and others like the Spanish Cid, 'the Reali di Francia', a known Italian adaptation of the French «chansons de geste». However, researchers agree that the model work of Erotokritos is the French popular medieval romance “Paris et Vienne” by Pierre de la Cypede (1487), which Kornaros read from an Italian translation. He adapted the original creatively and his adaptation displays some merits compared to both the original and other adaptations. The plot is better structured, the characters fewer, some repetitions are reduced and there is more emphasis on the development of the psychology of the heroes. Also, another sharp influence seems to be the narrative Renaissance poem “Orlando Furioso” by Italian Ariosto (1532), particularly when it comes to the epic elements.The work was also influenced by the Greek literary tradition and specifically demotic songs and French influences are also evident in its content, such as the character’s submission to love, the duels, etc.
But, even though the model is foreign, Erotokritos is a writing clearly Greek, since it takes place in idolatrous Athens, and folk modern Greek is diffused in its language, verse and content.
The poet chooses, for his characters, a confrontation with the old medieval world and the predominance of Renaissance values, such as the meaning of personal worth and virtue against origin and wealth or status. This way, Kornaros alignes with important representatives of Renaissance poetry in Europe( Shakespeare, Cervantes) who despite their differences, they all feature the common distinguishing principles of Renaissance: human dignity, free personality, the comfort of meditation and speech.
7. Impact through the centuries
Erotokritos is a heritage for the Cretan and modern Greek people, as well as for global literature.
Erotokritos will forever be a literary symbol, a masterpiece of the global literature, first of all for the perfectly crafted verse-writing, but also because it is a Cretan hymn to the human ideals of friendship, love and gallantry.
It is not a coincidence that its lyrics passed down to the lips of the people and it has been sung for over 300 years both by literates and by simple, uneducated people. Many kids nowadays are baptised to the names of the heroes. Thus contributing to the creation of its excellent cretan music, tradition and to the creation of the school of the Cretan rimadoroi (rimadoros: the person who writes in improvised rhythm). Many people on Crete know the whole piece by heart. There has also been an observed effect on the Cretan mantinades (rhyming couplets which are the most important contemporary poetic expression in Crete.
8. Erotokritos in a graphic novel
Its conversion in a graphic novel was a great challenge!
'I realized that the work has images and action, but no description. it has costumes, but there is no description of them, either. Place is defined, Athens, but no time was specified! This gave me the freedom to create a Greek fantacy!" says the creator of the graphic novel.
There is a pop approach and the characters' form has been taken by ancient figurines! This made it more modern since it brought it closer together to "manga".
References and Bibliography