Greece Literature

LITERATURE. NEO-GREEK AND BYZANTINE LITERATURE, POPULAR SONGS

The beginnings of a neo-Greek literature with characteristics distinct from the Byzantine one, that is, a language and a form of its own, can be traced back to the century. X, even if up to 1453 and beyond it is still possible to find the coexistence of both. The neo-Greek literature was born and developed during the Byzantine Empire and initially took the form of a powerful body of songs, mostly handed down orally. These are popular songs that originate from everyday experience and which are intimately linked to the culture of ancient Greece of which they are direct descendants. These songs are divided into three different cycles. The first includes those whose basic theme concerns life in general: wedding songs, lullabies, party songs (chelidonìsmata) and of love, mirologues, songs of exile, of work, etc. The second cycle is composed of the Paralogès, short compositions of a romantic and epic type, whose very ancient origin is testified by the discovery of similar myths and songs in the cultures of other Indo-European peoples. One of the most famous is the Song of the dead brother which, with its diffusion throughout the Balkan Peninsula, has made the ancient theme of the return from Hades famous.of a deceased person to fulfill an oath. Finally, the third cycle, which includes songs with a marked historical character, including the large and important group of uncritical songs.

According to globalsciencellc, the uncritical cycle is made up of verse compositions describing military life on the borders of the Empire. From this cycle, subsequently, an unknown and learned man of letters, perhaps a monk, drew inspiration for an entire poem, the Dighenìs Akrìtas. The work, which has by now established historical roots, constitutes the greatest expression of the Neo-Greek literature of the Byzantine age and has exercised a great influence on subsequent popular creations inspired especially by the episode of the hero’s death. Other works of a very different character belong to the same period, such as the Prodromal Poems, six satirical compositions in popular language attributed to more than one scholar of the Comnenian court (XII century), among which the best known is Teodoro Prodromowho, through the narration of his tribulations, reconstructs a picture of city life in the Empire Byzantine. Noteworthy are some parenetic-didactic poems: the Spaneas, directly influenced by an isocratean writing; the Grammatical Verses of M. Glikàs; the Ptocholeon. The religious impulse of the time is present in a large part of literary production, with a series of texts including satirical and parodic topics (Philosophy of the drunkard, Ceremony of the beard, Legend of the Honored Donkey). It is also worth remembering the literary genre of chronography, also widespread among the less educated public (Battle of Varna, Cronaca dei Tocco), and, finally, the naturalistic one (Porikologos, Psarologos, Prosaica narrazione dei quadrupedi, Pulologos, very similar to the previous one, Fisiologos, prototype of this type of compositions).

 

LITERATURE. THE “EPTANESIACA SCHOOL” AND THE RETURN OF POETRY

At the end of the eighteenth century, after the French Revolution, also in Greece there is a turning point towards conservation; Voltaire’s works are banned and a rift opens between the Greek Church, which has always been conservative, and the Phanariotes, fascinated by the ideals of the Enlightenment. The return of poetry to the literary scene takes place at the beginning of the nineteenth century with the so-called “eptanesiaca school”. The Eptaneso, which remained under Venice until 1797, had been occupied by the French and later by the English. He had always maintained a more independent cultural environment, more oriented towards European culture, but also more tied to the popular traditions of the country. Already at the end of the eighteenth century some authentic popular voices arose from here, a prelude to a subsequent maturation of the eptanesian poetry: Th. Danelakis (1775-1828), N. Kutuzias (1746-1813), A. Martelaos (1754-1819), author of verses ardently inspired by the love for the country. Among the major representatives of the eptanesiaca school we remember A. Kálvos (1792-1869), who expresses his patriotic sentiment in odes with a classical style, in a demotic language mixed with ancient forms and words. His poems are influenced by the Foscolian influence but do not reach a great diffusion among contemporaries. Kálvos, in fact, was rediscovered much later and finally re-evaluated by an essay by K. Palamâs. With D. Solomós (1798-1857), father of modern neo-Greek poetry and cantor of the Greek revolution, heptanetic poetry is tinged with romantic colors and acquires full artistic and literary dignity in a new synthesis of the elements of popular tradition. The name of Solomós is linked to the Hymn of freedom, which later became the national anthem, and to the Free Besieged, a patriotic poem inspired by the siege of Missolungi. All the other works have remained unfinished and sometimes even only sketchy, due to his paroxysmal tendency to self-criticism and reflection, perhaps partly caused by his not complete familiarity with the mother tongue (he had lived for many years in Italy). His poems are largely inspired by the Cleftica Epic, a group of songs that celebrate the deeds of the clefti, protagonists of the war of liberation. After 1821 many, literate and not, feel the need to write memories to communicate the impressions aroused in them by that unforgettable period. Among the most representative authors we remember P. Skuzès (ca. 1773-1863), A. Gèrontas (1785-1862) and N. Vamvas (1776-1855) for the chronicles of the revolution; I. Makrijannis (1797-1862), who is among the best memoir writers of the time, Fotakos (1798-1878) with a simple and not affected style, Th. Kolokotrónis (1770-1843), hero of the revolution; and finally K. Paparrigópulos (1815-91) who is remembered for a voluminous work that traces the history of Greece from antiquity to his days.

Greece Literature

About the author